1. Pack like a PRO!
The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to pack the most essential and lightweight things that will enable, rather than slow down, your day. As you can see from this incredible collage above (that took me around 14 hours to make), most these things you won’t be hard pressed to find. Confused by some of this stuff? Let me explain.
First off, you’ll need a bad ass backpack. Then make sure to pack a reusable water bottle, snacks to keep your energy up and debit card transactions down, a chapstick, a hair tie, sunglasses, an extra pair of socks (possibly an extra pair of pants), a sweatshirt for when it gets cold at night (it will always get cold), a plastic grocery bag for holding wet clothes from too many Splash Mountain/Pirates of the Caribbean rides, and your other essentials. Trust me, there is nothing more miserable than having to wear wet clothes around the park when it’s freezing cold, so bring the extra clothes. And if you should find yourself in this wet situation, go to the first aid center and ask to use their blow dryers. I know from experience that this works.
2. To the fast pass!
You made it in the park! HOORAY! First, enjoy your walk down Main Street, taking in all the iconic sights and sounds of Disneyland. And that smell! There is nothing like that Disneyland smell. And if you listen closely, you’ll even hear character voices chatting through the windows — each of which is painted with the name of an influential Disney employee. Take it all in and then set your sites on Space Mountain or Indiana Jones for a fast pass. These are the most popular rides in the park meaning their fast passes sell out super quick and their regular lines are usually 100 minutes long. As much as I adore Space Mountain, that line has no source of entertainment, besides watching junior school kids try to flirt with each other.
3. Things not to miss.
No matter who you are or how many times you’ve been to the park, an iconic castle photo is a must. Rides such as Thunder Mountain (their renovations are amazing!), Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Small World (just to call your family from and leave outrageously long messages), Roger Rabbit, Toon Town for a photo outside the fire house, the Matterhorn, Star Tours — all make the top of my list. In my family, the tradition is whoever wins the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride gets to choose dinner — which brings me to my next point:
The plus of bringing your own snacks to the park is that you won’t spend a fortune solely on food. Of course, splurge on popcorn or a pretzel or something covered in chocolate, but a few snack bars and a bag of carrots will go a long way in between meals. I would argue the best food in the park is the cafe in New Orleans. Order the gumbo, sit back and people watch, and take in this rare moment of relaxation during your crazy day. Other great choices are the kabobs outside Indiana Jones, the sandwiches across from Pirates of the Caribbean, or taking a trip outside to downtown Disney for pizza, burgers, or the Rainforest Cafe.
Sidenote: No one, and I mean NO ONE, looks attractive eating a turkey leg. Just remember that fact when you ripping that turkey tendon off the bone.
Double sidenote: Disneyland doesn’t serve alcohol. If you’re my dad, you’ll find this very troubling.
5. Things to miss:
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
I have so many questions about this ride. One: How is this a children’s ride? The ride ends with him dying in a train crash and going to hell. Two: Why is there always such a long wait?
Unless you’re with a little kid or want to reminisce about your childhood, I recommend avoiding Fantasyland and Toon Town until after 6pm, a.k.a. when all the littles are asleep. If you’ve never been to the park, definitely go on everything! But things you only need to go on once in your lifetime: Winnie the Pooh (it’s like being inside an acid trip), the canoe ride (I hate that ride so much), the Tarzan treehouse, the Jungle Book cruise (unless you love bad puns), the Snow White ride, Finding Nemo, and Autophia. Especially Autophia. We drive all the time in LA, there is no need for us to drive more.
Obviously I have A LOT to say about Disney, so for more Disney tips on the park’s biggest secrets and the biggest surprise hanging in Pirates of the Caribbean view my part two post here!