If you are a California local or have just one day to enjoy Disneyland and California Adventure on your vacation to Southern California, you may wonder how to maximize your visit in one day without exhausting yourself. Well, let’s be honest, if you only have one day, you will be exhausted, but you’ll come away with some very nice memories that make it worth it. You can experience both parks with the Park Hopper Upgrade.
Disneyland and California Adventure don’t have to be every parent’s nightmare. So without further ado, here are my tips:
1. Do get there early. The lines are much shorter (especially at CA Adventure), and you have a shot at the Fast Passes that help cut your wait time for the popular attractions (like meeting Anna and Elsa at California Adventure). If you aren’t staying in a hotel to get the extra Magic Morning (when parks open an hour early for hotel guests), visit the park first that doesn’t have the Magic Morning so that you can beat the hotel crowds.
2. California Adventure has fewer crowds, and the attractions are just as fun as Disneyland. In fact, California Adventure is an excellent place to meet the characters that stroll along Buena Vista Street (the main street of CA Adventure). After waiting for an hour to meet Mickey at Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland, we went straight to California Adventure only to find Mickey on the main street with a very short line waiting to meet him.
3. Maximize your time by choosing in advance which characters you’d like to meet. Some great tips to plan your meet-and-greets can be found here at Finding Mickey and at Character Central. Also, check out some great tips for meeting the Disney princesses at Disneyland here.
4. Find the places to cool off. There are several great options for escaping the summer heat…feel free to take full advantage. There is the Main Street Cinema, showing old Mickey Mouse cartoons including “Steam Boat Willie.” Then there are Minnie’s, Mickey and Goofy’s houses in Mickey’s Toontown: air conditioned, a perfect to relax while your children play before meeting the character. (Tip: Put your face inside Minnie’s refrigerator to cool off!) Take advantage of shows at California Adventure like Disney Jr. Live and Aladdin to relax in the cool air. Of course, you can also cool down with lots of rides like Disneyland’s Splash Mountain, and for little ones, Princess Dot Puddle Park at California Adventure.
5. Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen. As usual, I left the park with bright red cleavage, having failed to cover myself adequately. Don’t let this happen to you.
6. Have a plan but be flexible. It’s a great idea to plan out the attractions you want to visit the night before. However, don’t be afraid to be a bit spontaneous and diverge from your plan if circumstances allow. When we found out the Disneyland’s Pixie Hollow would only be a meet-and-greet with Tinkerbell, my five-year-old made the executive decision to go on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage instead. Turned out to be her favorite experience of the whole day.
7. If you have a preschooler, or even if you just love the Disney princesses, consider splurging on a meal at Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park or at Ariel’s Grotto. You can usually meet Ariel at Fantasy Faire, but it’s fun to have a special meet-and-greet with her followed by each princess visiting your table. The food is actually quite good and a bit gourmet. Yes, it’s pricey, but again, with your single day at the parks, this will be a special memory with tons of photo opps.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The parks staff goes above and beyond. I saw a security guard walking the length of Buena Vista Street at California Adventure carrying a stroller with a missing wheel for a mom with a toddler. Heroic! Such a sight let me know that it’s a good idea to ask for help no matter what your dilemma. The bus transportation staff lent an extra, much-appreciated hand with our own heavy stroller.
9. Pack your own snacks and drinks/water–it is allowed. Dining options at Disneyland are plentiful and fun, but they can add up. Having your own drinks and snacks on hand, especially while waiting in line, can be the perfect pick me up (and you’ll save your cash for souvenirs and other fun stuff).
10. Park on Harbor at the Gardenwalk parking lot (levels are reserved for the parks). This was a discovery we made that helped us get into the parks much sooner than if we had used the more popular and well-traveled option on Bell. Convenient shuttle service is available. Directions can be found here.
I hope these tips help you enjoy a FANTASTIC time at the parks!
* Special shout out to Justin Callaghan for his awesome Waltograph font. It can be downloaded here!