Confounded by Cast Members? Flabbergasted by FastPasses? A visit to Disneyland Resort means there’s a whole new lexicon out there to learn.
A trip to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California takes careful planning, my friend. Only Hei Hei the chicken in Moana would think to just turn up and wing it.
So you can make the most of your time at the Happiest Place on Earth, we’ve created an alphabetical list of all the things you need to know about Disneyland Resort before you go. You’re welcome!
In this digital age, asking a Disney character for their autograph seems almost quaint, yet if you have kids it’s a mandatory part of the Disney experience. Lines for photos and autographs with Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars characters are de rigueur and the kids get a kick from the messages and signatures collected from their fave princesses, action heroes and villians. You can purchase a Disney autograph book at many outlets in both theme parks.
All Disney staff are referred to as ‘Cast Members’ from housekeeping staff at the three onsite hotels to wait and retail staff and ride and attraction attendants. While the uniforms (ahem) costumes vary, each Cast Member has a badge with their name and hometown on it as well as if they can speak another language other than English. There’s around 30,000 cast members across both parks at Disneyland Resort. The varying costumes are themed according to where the cast members work and are part of the amazing attention to detail.
Talking of character autographs, a great way to bypass the lines for character meet and greets in the parks is to book a table at a Character Dining restaurant where the Disney characters will come to your table while you dine (note: reservations are recommended). Disneyland Resort offers Character Dining at Plaza Inn, and at the resort hotels at Napa Rose, Goofy’s Kitchen, Disney’s PCH Grill and Storytellers Cafe.
Disney California Adventure Park
One of the two theme parks at Disneyland Resort, Disneyland California Adventure Park is home to Cars Land, Hollywood Land, Pixar Pier and Pacific Wharf. Head here for rides and attractions such as the Incredicoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, Radiator Springs Racers, Frozen Live at the Hyperion and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission – BREAKOUT!
Disneyland Resort has 119 dining options, including the offerings in the Downtown Disney District, ranging from quick bites on the go available at kiosks and carts to buffets, bars, casual dining and fine dining restaurants. If you have downloaded the Disneyland app, you can take advantage of mobile ordering to have your food and drinks ready when you want them at 25 select quick-service restaurants. Note: reservations are recommended to make sure you don’t miss out on your dining preference at table service restaurants. You can make and manage your dining reservations on the Disneyland app.
This theme park is Walt Disney’s original vision with nine themed lands: Main Street, U.S.A.; Mickey’s Toontown; Fantasyland, Frontierland; Adventureland; Tomorrowland; Critter Country, New Orleans Square and the brand-new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (opening 31 May, 2019). Here you’ll find a mix of classic rides and attractions (Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain) as well as thrills at Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue plus new rides such as Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Download this app for an easy, breezy Disneyland experience. You can see wait times in real time, find out showtimes in both parks, link your tickets and passes, purchase mobile food orders (and when you want to pick them up), access Disney PhotoPass, and make FastPass selections and dining reservations on the go. The park maps and live minimum wait times for rides, attractions, shows and parades make planning so easy.
Located between the Disneyland Resort hotels and the theme parks, Downtown Disney is a retail district with dining, shopping and snacking options, including major chains and a huge Disney merchandise store. There’s also nightly entertainment here.
Extra Magic Hour
Stay at any of the three onsite hotels – Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa – to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hour, when hotel guests can enter the theme parks one hour earlier than the general public. It’s like having Disneyland all to yourself! Check the app or your hotel lobby to find out what time Extra Magic Hour starts each day for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.
The Disney FastPass service is your new BFF – one that helps you skip the queue – and is free with any Disneyland Resort ticket. Get Disney MaxPass (see below) to save time in line and make FastPass selections for rides, attractions and entertainment via your mobile phone on the Disneyland app while you’re in the parks. If you don’t have MaxPass, you can use Fastpass Distribution points near the entrance of select rides and attractions at both parks. Check the return time on the sign at the front of the attraction and insert your ticket into the FastPass machine and retrieve the printed reminder to scan when you return at the scheduled time.
For USD$15 per day, per ticket, add Disney MaxPass to your ticket via the app once you arrive at Disneyland Resort to get even more out of your time. MaxPass allows you to book FastPass selections on the Disneyland app and also access unlimited digital PhotoPass downloads and share any photos taken on rides, attractions, Character Greetings, select dining venues or from Disney PhotoPass Photographers in the parks.
Like the hidden Mickeys you can spy all over the theme parks (ask Cast Members for secret sightings), Mickey and Minnie eats and treats are one of the highlights of a Disney visit. From Minnie chocolate-chip cookie cupcakes and mini Mickey waffles to souvenir sippers and buckets and our fave, Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels, eating all the old-school Disney character treats is part of the fun.
PSA: If you don’t wear your Mouse Ears at Disneyland Resort, you’ll feel left out. Seriously, everyone wears some sort of Mouse Ears and there’s heaps of styles to choose from: sequinned headbands, caps with Mickey hands and those classic skullcap Ears (you can even get your name embroidered on the back). Wearing all the themed merchandise is pretty much the go, so to avoid FOMO (and for the ‘gram) don’t forget your ears!
The Park Hopper Ticket option allows you to go between both Disneyland Resort theme parks on the same day and offers the best bang for your buck. With a Park Hopper Ticket, you can make FASTPASS selections for attractions and entertainment in both theme parks via the Disneyland app. Don’t forget to pack your comfy shoes – you’ll easily rack up 20,000 steps a day at least going between parks!
If you’re wondering about all the guests wandering around with lanyards studded with copious amounts of enamel pins and badges, collectable pins are a thing at Disney. In fact, there’s more than 60,000 different pin designs! Along with the ubiquitous Mouse Ears that pretty much every visitor wears, pins are part of the Disney experience and you’ll find a huge selection to buy in the Disney merchandise shops. The tradition of Disney pin trading started at the Millennium Celebration launch in 1999 and you can trade with Cast Members and fellow collectors – the rules are to swap a Disney pin that they don’t already have.
Forget fumbling with your phone or setting up your SLR, Disney PhotoPass is a super-handy tool that collates all your photos in the one place for you to download and share. Add Disney MaxPass to your ticket for unlimited digital downloads you can access on your phone. And if you see a roving PhotoPass Photographer in the parks, get them to snap your picture or group shots then they’ll simply scan the code on your Disneyland app to link the images to your profile. Step out from behind the lens and make memories, people!
Wondering which ticket is best? Opt for a Park Hopper ticket so you can go between parks on the same day – this option offers the best value. To make the most of your time, purchase a 3-Day or longer ticket to access more than 100 attractions, shows, parades and more between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Aussies can also buy the exclusive 10-Day ticket to really make the most of your time at the Happiest Place on Earth.
All images: Cassandra Laffey