Disneyland (CA)

What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go

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Fireworks Over Sleeping Beauty Castle

A few years ago, I was a Disneyland Rookie. I grew up going to Walt Disney World and knew all the tricks and shortcuts from an early age; but when I finally made the pilgrimage to the Disneyland Resort, all of my Walt Disney World prowess went out the window. I was a total Disneyland Rookie as I explored the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, and loved every minute, but it’s taken a trip or two since that initial visit to avoid those beginner mistakes and experience the park like a pro. To give all of you fellow Disneyland Rookies a step up, here’s are What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go.

Photo - Brian McNichols
Disneyland Hotel by Brian McNichols

There Is No Wi-Fi

The struggle is real. Yes, there is currently no Wi-Fi at the Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure. Fortunately, free WiFi is offered at the Disneyland Hotel, even if you’re not a resort guest! So head over to the hotel when in need of a break, kick back in a teacup chair, and upload those pics to social media, check your email, or just check-in with the outside world for a bit. I also discovered that there are empty outlets in the lounge areas of the themed Disneyland Hotel towers if you need to charge up.

Different Layout Than Magic Kingdom

If you’re as familiar with Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom as I was during my first to the Disneyland Park, don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t need a park map or that Pirates of the Caribbean is in Adventureland. Contrary to what many may believe, the Disneyland Park and the Magic Kingdom have very different layouts. Attractions you’re familiar with at one park may not be the same place, or the same experience, at another. Also, the Disneyland Park offers its own unique lands! In addition to Fantasyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Tomorrowland, the Disneyland Park also offers Mickey’s Toontown, Critter Country, and New Orleans Square. What Disneyland Rookies should know before they go is the Disneyland Resort offers its own unique offerings to experience!

Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.
Disneyland Resort offers a host of new experiences for the Disney World veteran, such as World of Color at Disney California Adventure.

Attractions Close for Weather and Nightly Entertainment

Southern California is known for its gorgeous weather, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to rainy days. As many Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure attractions are outdoors, not all can continue to operate when sunny California fails to live up to its name. The Disneyland Park attractions which may close for inclement weather are Fantasyland’s Alice in Wonderland, Mad Tea Party, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, as well as Frontierland’s Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (currently closed) and Toontown’s Gadget’s Go Coaster. Weather can also delay or even cancel the Disneyland Park’s parades and fireworks. High winds are also a cause for cancelled fireworks; but if the fireworks continue as scheduled, a number of attractions close down for the display, including the Disneyland Monorail.

Over at Disney California Adventure, attractions that close for weather include some Cars Land attractions and the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Also, just like at the Disneyland Park, a number of attractions close for the park’s nightly World of Color performance, particularly those on Paradise Pier like California Screamin’, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the Golden Zephyr and Silly Symphony Swings, and even games on the Boardwalk, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, and the King Triton’s Carousel.

Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds

Not All attractions Offer FASTPASS

As of today, not all attractions within the Disneyland Park offer FASTPASS, including several popular attractions which could certainly benefit from the service such as the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Peter Pan’s Flight. I should mention too that not all FASTPASS attractions have their machines next to their entrances, most notably Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure. It’s definitely what Disneyland Rookies should know before they go.

Printed Tickets Are Exchanged at the Turnstiles

Before my first visit to the Disneyland Resort, I purchased a 3-Day Base Ticket online and brought a print-out proving my ticket purchase to the park. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do to exchange my print-out for my park ticket. Honestly, I was expecting a hassle, and most likely a lengthy wait at a ticket counter. Surprisingly, all I had to do was hand my print-out to the Cast Member at the turnstiles. There, my photo was quickly taken and I was issued my paper ticket to sign before being allowed to enter and begin my day at the Disneyland Park!

It can be an annoyance for guests who already have their tickets to wait behind a group just receiving theirs, but it’s definitely a convenience for Disneyland Rookies that the ticket process can be handled at park entry.

Disneyland Gate
Disneyland Resort Entrance on Harbor Boulevard

Uber To and From a Disneyland Resort Hotel

During my last visit to the Disneyland Resort, I relied on Uber for getting to and from my offsite hotel. I personally prefer Uber over taxis, and I love the reasonable fare; although, taking an Uber to the Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure can get a little complicated.

Even though there is an entrance right on Harbor Boulevard, it’s for guests on foot only. In fact, the only way to reach the esplanade, which is the space between the two parks and Downtown Disney, is by walking or via Disneyland’s parking structure trams.

So, when my Uber driver was driving me to the Disneyland Park, his GPS screen had difficulty fulfilling the request and actually showed my drop off location to be somewhere inside the Matterhorn Bobsleds! Later on in my trip, I decided to call an Uber to pick me up from Downtown Disney. Simple enough, right? Well… I learned that getting into the Downtown Disney parking lot can be a lengthy process and one of my drivers had difficulty finding my location in the area!

Grand Californian Hotel
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

So through trial and error, I discovered that the simplest location to be picked up or dropped off by Uber, or even a taxi, at the Disneyland Resort is at one the Disneyland Resort Hotels. Cast Members are on hand to direct the vehicles in front of the resort and overall appears much more accessible and convenient for drivers.

Tip: I personally recommend Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel as it offers a backdoor entrance into Disney California Adventure and the esplanade is only a short walk away in order to access the Disneyland Park.

All Guests Must Pass Through Bag Check

At Disneyland, everyone goes through the bag check line. Yes, even if you are visiting the parks with no bag at all, you must wait in the bag check line which then funnels into further security before releasing guests into the esplanade.

So that’s What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go to avoid the confusion and mistakes that come with a first time visit. After all, the more you know in advance the better you can maximize the time in the magic! So are you planning your first trip to Disneyland? Or are you a Disneyland Pro and have any tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

11 thoughts on “What Disneyland Rookies Should Know Before They Go

  • Sort of following on Daffystardust’s comment, I’d note that traffic control becomes a HUGE issue during/right after a parade or (when it’s showing) Fantasmic, and that a lot of paths become one-way only (usually not in the direction you want to be going), enforced by an army of flashlight-waving cast members.

    So don’t be surprised to get diverted all the way past Star Tours when you’re trying to get to Frontierland, or make the mistake of thinking you can follow the nighttime parade from Small World to the hub for fireworks viewing.

  • (Sorry to keep adding so many comments, I keep thinking of more things to mention!)
    It’s not noted in the article above, but it’s worth clarifying that despite their Paradise Pier locations, Toy Story Midway Mania, Little Mermaid, and Goofy’s Sky School do NOT close for World of Color. Also, on nights where two shows are offered, Silly Symphony Swings and the Golden Zephyr will often reopen between shows; Screamin and the Fun Wheel stay closed.

  • The Monorail, entire castle courtyard complex (Peter Pan/Mr Toad/Snow White/Pinocchio/Carousel/Alice), and all of Toontown are closed for the fireworks and reopen afterward. Even if the fireworks are canceled due to high winds, that’s usually a last minute call, which means these areas still shut down. On occasions where winds are somewhat elevated, but the fireworks can safely continue, Small World and the Disneyland Railroad will be closed too.

  • Regarding getting picked up and dropped off at Disneyland, there is a special zone for this along Harbor Blvd. It’s marked on Google Maps as “Disneyland Guest Drop-Off” if you need to find it. If you are going specifically to the esplanade, that’s the best spot to use, and there are often a couple taxis waiting there to give you a ride somewhere (if you don’t want to wait for or use Uber).

  • Definitely agree with Daffystardust regarding closed park. I’m the type who thinks of parades and fireworks as great opportunities for shorter lines on rides because everyone is huddled somewhere staring at stuff. At Disneyland, it doesn’t really work too well because so many rides (pretty much all of Fantasyland) are closed at the same time.

    Concerning esplanade access for those staying at off-site hotels, something I’ve done successfully (though I may be unique in this): bicycle. Of course, this requires driving to Disneyland with bike(s), which has logistical considerations of its own (easy for me in my CRV). But there are ample, public, well-lit bike racks near the ESPN Zone and by Harbor Blvd. No traffic, no parking fees, easy access, plus I was able to save money by staying at a hotel a bit further away. Worked out great for me, though I don’t think I’ve heard of anybody else trying it.

    Two other things I’d tell Disneyland rookies/WDW vets:
    1. Food options are WAY more diverse than at the Magic Kingdom, and there is NO need for advanced reservations. If you want, you can book them a few days prior, but it’s not the 6-month adventure it is at WDW.
    2. Everything’s in walking distance. The park itself is much smaller. Park to park is walkable. Even the walk from certain off-site hotels is only 15 minutes from your bed to the turnstyles. (Granted, others are farther, hence the bicycle.)

    • Great tips, Tom! Thanks so much for commenting and sharing your experiences!

  • That little bit about portions of the park shutting down during the fireworks should NOT be understated. When I was there last summer, half the park closed down not just during the fireworks, but also for the preceding parade. This results in absolute crowd stagnation through most of the park, with enormous swaths of people up and down Main Street and very little ability to walk from one part of the park to another. If you are not a big parades and fireworks fan who doesn’t mind the terrible standing crowds you should plan to either leave the park entirely before then or get yourself into the New Orleans Square area in anticipation of it. If you get stuck in Tomorrowland, which is mostly closed, your time will be wasted and you will not enjoy it.

    • Things are a little better right now with Fantasmic out of commission, but everything above is very true. Especially next year when Fantasmic returns, the crowds for that, PLUS parade & fireworks crowds bring the whole park to a deadlock and make getting around very difficult. we usually follow the “7:30” rule – if we’re not planning on watching Paint the Night, Fireworks, or Fantasmic, we make sure to get out of the park and down to DCA (or over to a hotel bar) by 7:30.

    • Excellent info! This is definitely something Disneyland Rookies should be aware of. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Good to know! I want to get out there soon. I went a lot as a child since my Grandma lived nearby but haven’t been since I the year Splash Mountain opened! Thank you.

    • So glad you enjoyed the article and I too hope you get to visit Disneyland soon! Thanks for commenting!

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