10 Things Walt Disney World Regulars Should Know About a Disneyland Trip

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One thing I’ve learned over time is a Disney cruise can be very intimidating for even the most seasoned of Disney veterans. It’s a whole different vacation! Well, Disneyland isn’t a “whole different” vacation than Walt Disney World, but there are enough differences it can confuse Walt Disney World vets. I know I was confused the first time! So here’s some info which may help you out.

1. Staying Offsite – I’ve said before staying offsite at Disneyland is totally different than staying offsite at Disney World. At Disney World, I don’t like staying offsite. It alters the homing signal and that’s not good. DINOSAUR reference, anyone? Too obscure? Okay, moving on… Offsite at Disney World is too far removed from the magic for me. While I prefer onsite at Disneyland as well, I don’t mind staying offsite when I have to. Some of the offsite hotels are a closer walk to the main park entrance than some of the onsite hotels. Disneyland knows this and is trying to make staying onsite more enticing with the addition of an Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure only for onsite guests. The good news is offsite guests can still get into Disneyland early on select days by purchasing a ticket or three days or more..

2. FASTPASSes Are Still Old School – No FastPass+ yet at Disneyland! FASTPASSes are still old school, rush-around-the-park-to-acquire-them adventures. Ending times are now enforced, but other than that, it’s the FASTPASS of old we all knew and loved. Disneyland also “disconnects” some of their machines from the central system from time to time enabling you to hold more than one FASTPASS at once. If, say, California Screamin’ is disconnected you can get a FASTPASS for it and then get another FASTPASS immediately afterwards. It’s worth a try when you visit! Radiator Springs Racers is always disconnected by the way.

3. Reservations Aren’t Always Necessary – Unlike Walt Disney World, if you are visiting Disneyland you do not have to try to decide what you may want to eat 6 months before you visit. With very few exceptions, during slow times you can walk up to almost any restaurant the day of and get in without much waiting. During the summer? Sure, you’ll want to plan ahead a little more, especially if you want to eat at one of the more popular restaurants like Blue Bayou. But if you’re not set on a particular place, you’ll likely be able to find something even the day of. And in more good news, counter service at Disneyland is quite good! Many options are on par with table service meals!

4. All Rides Are Not Operating From Park Open to Park Close – At Disneyland, an open park does not equal all open rides. Mickey’s Toontown and all of its attractions, for example, open one hour later than the rest of the park most days. At nighttime, most of Fantasyland will close during the fireworks. Over at California Adventure, much of Paradise Pier will close during the World of Color. It’s certainly not the end of the world, just something to be aware of while planning your days.

5. You’ll Need to Prepare For Fantasmic! – Fantasmic! at Disneyland is something you do not want to miss, no matter how many times you’ve seen it at Disney World. Unfortunately, it does take more preparation than it does at Disney World. On quiet days at Disney World you could enter the stadium a few minutes before the show starts and still get seats. But that’s the key difference right there. The stadium. There is no such animal at Disneyland. Fantasmic! is staged on Tom Sawyer Island, which is a magnificent place for it by the way, but it is definitely harder to see. On weekends and in the summer people will start camping out a few hours before the show starts. You read that right. Hours. That’s not to say you can’t walk up right before and have a view of some sort. But if you want an unobstructed view, you’re going to have to plan to sit for a while and stake your spot. And FYI, what seems to be a good location while everyone is sitting down waiting for the show to start can suddenly turn into a completely blocked view when everyone stands in front of you. #shortpeopleproblems

6. There Is No Dining Plan – Okay, that’s not actually true. There is a dining plan. But it’s lame. Yeah, I said it. Lame. O. Depending on your eating habits, the dining plan at Disney World can actually save you money. At Disneyland it will not. Disneyland’s dining plan is just a voucher system. While you can possibly save $2 to $3 dollars on a character meal by buying a character meal voucher, the other vouchers are dollar for dollar trades. In fact if you trade in a $15 voucher for a meal that cost you $13.85, you just lost $1.15. And here’s an even bigger downer for me, restaurants at Downtown Disney do not take the vouchers. Until Disneyland can offer something better, just say no to their dining plan.

7. Annual Passes May be Worth it Even if You Only Go Once a Year – There are many reasons an AP at Disneyland can be a good deal for you. For one thing, you can’t buy more than a 5-day ticket. If you want to stay 6 or more days, and people do, an AP is going to make a lot more sense than buying another set of tickets. Also, as I’ve discussed before, AP holders get lots of discounts! Food, merchandise, rooms – it can really add up! And you don’t have to buy a discount card (a la Tables in Wonderland at Disney World), you just get the discount by flashing your card!

8. Park Hours, Dining Reservations, and Discounts are Much Slower – Another reason for the non-planners to rejoice, park hours and dining reservations come out much later than Disney World! It’s not unusual to not know the park hours until three months before your trip. That can cause outright panic among uber-Disney planners! But it’s okay! They’ll come. It will all be okay. Breathe. Unfortunately resort discounts (if there are any) are released much closer to their effective dates as well. That one does make it harder to plan in a bad way!

9. Some Bygone Disney World Classics Still Exist at Disneyland – If you’re feeling particularly nostalgic for some Disney World rides which have disappeared, you may still find them at Disneyland! Toontown for example! And as a friend of mine said, Mr. Toad is still having Wild Rides and Snow White is still having Scary Adventures in Disneyland!

10. Weekends Make a Big Difference – At Disney World the crowd levels do not change exponentially on non-holiday weekends. At Disneyland, the slowest weeks of the year end with super high crowd levels on the weekends. Why, you ask? Disneyland locals treat Disneyland like their own personal theme park. They come out in droves on the weekends, and really, who can blame them? So if you’re debating days to visit, go during the week!

Are there any other tips you think Disney World regulars should know about Disneyland?

Tammy Whiting

Tammy has been a lover of all things Disney for most of her life. There’s nowhere on this Earth she’d rather be than on a Disney cruise with her family. She’s an Air Force wife and proud mom of two wonderful children and one beautiful daughter-in-law . She fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2008 and became a travel agent specializing in Disney vacations. She now owns her own travel agency - Storybook Destinations. You can reach Tammy at Tammy@StorybookDestinations.com.

37 thoughts on “10 Things Walt Disney World Regulars Should Know About a Disneyland Trip

  • May 12, 2014 at 7:43 am
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    And Toy Story Mania does not have the same crazy wait times that the WDW version does!

  • May 12, 2014 at 8:35 am
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    We were surprised to still have to wait 25 minutes in line for Space Mountain and Autopia when we had FASTPASS . At Disney world you are usually on the ride within 5 mins.
    Also realize that most of the ques are outside in Calfornia

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:20 am
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      Good points, Angela. I’ve had some longer waits with Fastpass at Disneyland. Not every horrible, but longer. It seems to me that now that they’ve started enforcing ending times it’s gotten better, but some of the older rides have the Fastpass merge point so early in the line that you will wait longer at times.

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm
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      Autopia seems problematic but that long for Space is an anomoly, I usually wait about 10 minutes. May have been down earlier when you experienced 25.

  • May 12, 2014 at 8:36 am
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    Buy a hopper ticket. I can see where doing one park a day makes sense at Disneyworld but you can literally walk from Disneyland to California adventure.
    Disneyland is more compact.
    Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Carribean, and Space mountain are different experiences, and I hate to say this but Pirates at Disneyland is a much better ride.

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:20 am
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      I totally agree! We don’t always buy hoppers at Disney World, we wouldn’t think of going without them at Disneyland.
      Pirates at Disneyland is a better ride! Don’t hate to say it! 🙂

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:08 am
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    Great piece!

    Know that some rides are similar, but not at all the same! (Pirates at DL rules!, Haunted Mansion has amazing Nightmare Before Christmas layover oct-dec! Thunder Mountain isn’t in the same spot!) so even if it isn’t your fave at Disney world – worth a look!

    The other one is that understand you can see both entrances from the same spot, walk between them in about 2minutes in fact. Hopping is your friend!!

    Finally, just like Disney World some of the best eats are tucked away inside those Disney resorts.

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:20 am
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    Another one – if you’re used to WDW summers, even on a hot day at DL, you’ll feel fine 😉 Hehe.

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:36 am
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    This one confused me. You must insert your park ticket into the FastPass machine in a specific way or it won’t work. At WDW, you could insert it any way you liked and the FastPass would spit out.

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:22 am
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      Interesting, Jean! Of course those machines are a thing of the past at Disney World!

  • May 12, 2014 at 10:10 am
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    Mickey’s Toontown is not open an hour after park opening. In fact, they shut it down and hour before fireworks and it remains closed for the rest of the night, most nights

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:13 am
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      I re read your comment. It opens one hour after park opening. Sounded like it stayed open one hour after the rest of the park from the wording. Also, sometimes Roger Rabbit is disconnected from the Fastpass system

      • May 12, 2014 at 10:22 am
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        Ah, I see how you could read it that way. I’ll change the wording to make it more clear. 🙂

  • May 12, 2014 at 10:21 am
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    How can you tell if a fastpass machine is disconnected?

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:27 am
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      If you already have a Fastpass in hand and are not in your window to get a new one yet, insert your ticket into another ride
      s Fastpass machine. If it’s disconnected a valid Fastpass will pop out. If not, something that looks like a Fastpass will pop out, but it says it’s not a valid Fastpass.

      Here are some good Fastpass tips at Disneyland:
      http://touringplans.com/disneyland-resort/fastpass

  • May 12, 2014 at 10:44 am
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    ‘Fantasmic! is staged on Tom Sawyer Island,’

    Just to be nitpicky, there is no ‘Tom Sawyer Island’ at Disneyland. It’s the ‘Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island’. 😉 But it is definitely worth a visit for WDW vets! There is almost nothing left of Tom Sawyer, but there is a terrific POTC (movie version) overlay!

    Tip for Fantasmic: if there are 2 shows, you can go to the second show without the multiple-hour wait. When the fireworks begin, make your way to New Orleans Square to the rope. They will hold people back for a bit, but you can watch the fireworks while you stand and wait. Once the fireworks have finished, they will clear out the area and let you in, and then you have about a 45 minute wait for the second show. Another possibility is to move through the area just before the first Fantasmic show and ride Haunter Mansion, Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh, until the first Fantasmic show ends, then move in to snag a prime seat for the second show as people clear out!

    • May 12, 2014 at 11:48 am
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      You can nitpick, Helen! I should have included the entire title. I was a lazy blogger. 🙂
      Great tip for the second show. That’s definitely the way to go!

    • May 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm
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      Always do 2nd show. The only thing I would add is to be aware the 1st show exits through Adventureland so go through Frontierland for 2nd.

  • May 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm
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    Thank you for an excellent primer for WDW folks.
    Not that I have the money at this time…but I wouldn’t make the trip this summer simply because so many attractions are going to be closed for extended refurbishments…in my opinion, of course.
    I agree about Fantasmic! I do so enjoy WDW’s version and watch it every opportunity. But at Disneyland when Peter Pan duels Captain Hook on Hook’s ship? O.M.G. 🙂

    • May 12, 2014 at 7:43 pm
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      There are a whole lot of refurbishments happening right now. It’s a bit of a bummer!
      Yes. Peter Pan > Pocahontas. 🙂

  • May 12, 2014 at 6:03 pm
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    We made our first DLR visit this past March and loved it! We were surprised that there were no fireworks offered throughout the week although I completely understand given the location. My question is, do the offer fireworks during the week in the summer or still stick to the weekend only schedule? We were not there over a weekend so missed all fireworks.

    • May 12, 2014 at 7:45 pm
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      It’s true, the fireworks schedules are very different! In the summer Disneyland generally does go back to a nightly schedule which is great!

  • May 12, 2014 at 6:30 pm
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    Also there isn’t always fireworks. Especially in the fall. We went in September and were crushed that there was no fantasmic or fireworks. We asked a cast member who rudely said no we close at 7. We were like what does that mean? We came on weekdays so we could have lower crowds but missed out on what would be normal at WDW. Also they won’t serve mickey bars after 7. We were really disappointed. Everything else was awesome though.

    • May 12, 2014 at 7:47 pm
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      That would have been a good number 11. There are not always fireworks at Disneyland!

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm
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    Cast members, generally, are snarkier at DL. Not uncommon to hear them complaining or gossiping with each other.

    DL is more manageable on younger kids feet because it is comparatively compact with higher density of rides (also makes is more cramped on very busy days). Not a super big deal to cross park from Splash to Space in DL. Much bigger trip at DW. Older kid was also shocked that in DW Star Tours was not right around the corner from Space Mountain but in a completely different park.

    Growing up on the East Coast, I never thought I would prefer DL to DW, but they each have their charms. Now I like them both for different reasons. DL is certainly an easier short trip.

    • May 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm
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      I would agree that Disneyland is easier with smaller kids exactly for the reasons you named! It’s much less tiring when the hotels and parks are all together.

  • May 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm
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    Your Dinosaur reference was not too obscure. I even read it the way it’s narrated before seeing you cited it. Seatbelts-use them.

  • May 16, 2014 at 3:21 pm
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    Great info. As I am a WDW vet, September will be my first DL visit ever. Need all the insider tips I can get. Thanks!

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