My family and I headed down to Disneyland a few weeks ago. It was to reward my kids for a successful year at school and a way for all of us as a family to do something together before we splintered off in different directions during the summer and even the coming years. So, I figured it would be good to write one of those “Tips” or “Did You Know…” or “How To..” or “Disneyland Secrets” articles about visiting the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland. But as my kids and I started doing research prior to our trip, we realized that there weren’t any secrets left, or at least none that hadn’t been covered a million times over. That got me thinking about something else…if there are no secrets or surprises, could the Magic Kingdom still be magical for everyone?
As people get older, they move from the innocence and excitement of being a kid to the jaded, cautiousness of being an adult. Not everyone, mind you. It’s a choice that you make. But adults and kids look at Disneyland with different lenses. For kids, breaking through to the imaginative and magical memories of Disney content they have seen elsewhere is easy. But to get through the layers of “reality” built up over time in adults is much more difficult. For example, I simply thought about how darn expensive the whole trip would be. And it wasn’t until I was immersed in the Magic Kingdom experience did that layer melt away.
I think for little kids who are enchanted by princesses or other Disney and Pixar characters, there is lots magic to be found. In my mind, these are the easy targets, the ones where a simple smile by a costumed princess can be the highlight of the trip. Sort of a funny anecdote here, about a week or so after our trip to Disneyland, we were sharing a bench and table outside of our local Home Depot. Across from us was a family with 3 cute, young boys, the oldest being about 6 years old. Our conversation, for some reason, turned to how we were both at Disneyland at the same time the week prior. One of the boys kept saying “Mickey Mouse is real! I saw him!” It’s not just the princesses that make an impact.
My kids were excited to go. They hadn’t been to the Magic Kingdom in quite a few years. For them, it was going to be a chance to re-live experiences and memories that they had from years before. Part of the experience is planning out our attack of the lines and the rides. (Here’s a tip, plan your strategy ahead of time.) But another part of the magic was also rekindling their own bonds within the family. During the school year, our family scatters in many directions with school, activities and social events. And, when summer begins, often the daily schedules govern the splintering of the family. But at Disneyland, our family was suddenly contained within a magical bubble where the main concerns were who would get to ride with whom, which ride would be the next and would we be able to get on each and every ride.
My kids saw the magic and they dove right into experiencing it. And my wife and I weren’t far behind. We simply had to shed off the worries of reality. For my wife, it was being sure that we rode the trains, the monorail and It’s a Small World. For me, it was experiencing the rides. And that’s an important word to contemplate here – rides. They are more than just rides…they are experiences. Disney had a vision to move beyond just a ride, you have to be immersed. When you are waiting in a long line for Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion or the new Radiator Springs Racers, just look around you. There are details that begin your journey on any ride, well before that safety harness is lowered onto your lap. The next time you go to Disneyland, look for those little details.
For those looking to experience Disneyland again, I put together a short video (available directly on YouTube as well) that captures the sites and sounds of a few magical moments we experienced at Disneyland. I purposefully did not narrate the video so the you could re-experience the magic and fun yourself:
Some Disneyland Tips
As I said, every tip seems to have been covered ad nauseam. And plenty of bloggers and vloggers have pointed them out. But I figured that I have to drop a couple in here for good measure.
- Stay at a local hotel – If your kids are good walkers, you might want to consider some of the local hotels/motels that are close to the main entrance. Not only can you save on a daily hotel rates, you also save on parking. And considering that most of your time is spent at the parks, your hotel or motel is really used for sleeping. There are benefits to some of the on-park hotels like early access to the park and the convenience, but if you are on a budget, some of the local hotels or motels can be quite good.
- Get Fast Passes – Especially with some of the popular and/or new rides, you will definitely want to get Fast Passes immediately. Plan out which rides you MUST go on and get those passes early. Then come back during your designated time and your wait is extremely short (5-10 minutes at times). Be sure to get a Fast Pass for The World Of Color (in California Adventure) as well, you will get better access to the viewing. (Fantasmic! doesn’t have Fast Passes, by the way.)
- Little kids – There are lots of tips if you have little kids (which, luckily for this adventure, I no longer have). There is a good First Aid and Baby Care station on Main Street that has diapers, changing tables, nursing tables, etc. If you have medication that needs to be refrigerated, you can store them there. Use a permanent marker to write your mobile phone number on your child’s arm. Kids do get lost or wander off (it happened to us a couple of times a few years ago). If you buy things, save your receipts. You can even check some of your purchases in so that you don’t have to carry them around all day. And if you lose something that you purchase, you can often get it replaced if you have your receipt. For example, if a balloon floats off or a toy breaks, you can often get it replaced assuming you have your receipt.
- Rider’s Switch Pass – If you have little kids that can’t go on some rides but the older kids or parents want to go on rides, the ones who are watching the little ones can hop the lines after the first group goes through. One parent can go with some of the kids and then the waiting parent can hop the line and go while the first parent waits with the little ones.
- Free Refills – there are 3 places where you can get free refills on your drinks: Plaza Inn, Rancho Del Zocalo and Pizza Port.
- Eat at the bar – while eating in the parks is convenient, many times you can get a better meal outside of the park. Often, these restaurants have long wait times during peak eating hours. If you can, see if you can eat in the bar area. We were able to bypass a 45-minute wait at the Rain Forrest Cafe (right next to the Monorail exit) by just going over to the bar and grabbing an empty table immediately. Same food, same price, but with no wait.
There are many, many more Disneyland tips out there. Plan your visit ahead of time by reviewing maps and where you want to go. Look at some of the other tips (some are completely obvious while others are quite good).
Disneyland and California Adventure resorts can definitely be magical. For children, it is a lifelong experience that will be cherished and remembered well into adulthood. And even adults can find some magic amid the lines and the search for the closest restroom. For me personally, Pirates of the Caribbean is an experience that I never get tired of. But on this trip, it was the new Cars Land that made me feel like a kid again. When I walked around Cars Land, I felt like I had stepped into the movie, Cars (one of my favorite Pixar movies). For me, it was truly magical.
When I started writing this article, before our visit, I had convinced myself that perhaps the magic was gone from the Magic Kingdom. After two days there with my family, I realized how wrong I truly was. From experiences to rekindling the family dynamic, Disneyland had that magical pixie dust that stripped away preconceptions, worries and concerns and replaced them with awe, wonderment and pure entertainment.
What are your favorite memories from Disneyland? Leave a comment!
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received two complimentary, multi-park, single day media passes for consideration in preparing to write this content. All opinions within this article are my own. More information can be found in my About page.
HTD says: Disneyland remains magical for kids and parents alike!