Four weeks ago our family were lucky to visit and spend five days creating memories in Disneyland in California! We have been to the parks before with our two big kids about 8 years ago, but only for one day (no way near long enough!) so this visit was really exciting for us taking our biggest Disney enthusiast Ruby for her first time! Staying for four nights so we could fully explore both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park was an absolute treat. We have always loved all things Disney I unashamedly have always been caught up in the magic, but this trip has converted our whole family, my husband set off expecting to check this off our bucket list, and has returned admitting that we will definitely go again! a Disney fam for life. So excited to share our experience, pics and a few tips for planning your own family Disney adventure!
First up! Disney California Adventure Park
Home to Cars Land, Pixar Pier, Pacific Warf, Hollywood Land, A bugs Land, and Grizzly Park, we LOVE California Adventure Park. Because of our base on both visits to Disney being the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, this park is always the first we explore. It’s not always possible but for the most part we found it was best to spend majority, if not all of each day, in just one of the two parks. The travel time between the two, even though super easy and pretty quick, can chew up time especially if you have little ones with sore legs or cop a line up on entry to the alternate park, so planning your days predominantly focused on one park at a time will help you get maximum out of your stay. Speaking of planning….
PLAN PLAN PLAN!
I can’t stress this enough and as a fly by the seat of her pants kind of girl it does not come naturally to me but – it is SO worth it. The Disney FastPass system when we visited years ago involved physically visiting each ride you wanted a FastPass for, grabbing a ticket, and then returning at your scheduled time. Enter Disney MaxPass! The whole system has since gone digital. It’s as easy as downloading the Disneyland App before or when you arrive, and from there you can easily plan out every hour of every day!
More on Disney MaxPass (the supercharged Fast Pass)
This is kind of like house keeping but trust me, so important if you are planning a trip to any Disney venue! They will save you so much time! Digital fastPass are free and included with every ticket but I would highly recommend the Disney MaxPass. These cost an extra $15 per ticket per day, but you can pick and choose which days you need them for, or could even just allocate them to some members of the family if you are planning to split up and the passes aren’t needed for all. For us it was well worth it for all family members and we would never do Disney without splurging a little extra on a MaxPass! Using FastPass via MaxPass you can schedule all your rides, shows and parades all via your smart phone. It also includes a photopass which means if any photos are taken of your family around the park they will appear within the app ready for you to download at the end of the day at no extra cost!
There are a few quirks to the system you’ll get used to and you’ll work this out quickly once you arrive. FastPass via MaxPass can only be booked in (always via your app on your smart phone) once you are physically in the park and you can only schedule one ride per person at any given time. So, you book into a ride at a scheduled time and you can’t book any more fastpasses until you have checked into that initial booking. This is all pretty straight forward but the trick is that the more popular rides have much longer wait times (even using fast pass) so, don’t waste your fastpasses on rides with shorter waits. You’ll get a feel for which rides are super popular and you can book into them and then plan your day around it. It seems organisation heavy but by doing so you will save yourself hours of waiting and it will mean you can then zip around to the rides with shorter wait times (plenty of these!) while you wait for the ones you’ve scheduled! Luckily for us the rides Ruby wanted to spend her time on didn’t have large wait times so we struck a really good balance and didn’t miss out on anything we wanted to do OR get stuck in a single long line the whole time we were there. I’ve found a really helpful article explaining the fastpass / maxpass system and differences and have linked it here.
Some really popular rides that we wanted to visit included Cars, Indiana Jones Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, Midway Mania, Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain and Star Tours. While waiting for these in Disney Land California Adventure we would jump on family friendly rides, Soaring – wow just wow you won’t go on this just once it was one of our absolute faves and barely any wait time at all!, Ariel’s Beginning (Ruby’s favourite of course!) Goofy’s Flight School, Pixar Pal-A-Round are just a few we loved as a family. We also used the scheduled MaxPass rides as an opportunity to do other things around the park. One thing I’ve really worked out about Disney in our years of visiting – it’s not just about rides!!! With our Disneyland App we could then build our day around our rides leaving plenty of time for things like character autographs (ruby lived for these!!) shows (street and theatre) workshops (our fave was the Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure Park! so much fun learning to draw Mickey and something we could enjoy as a family with broad age range and interests!)
Frozen at the Hyperion
Our favourite theatre show in Disney California Adventure Park would have to be Frozen at the Hyperion. For an included show at no extra cost (the ticket price to get into the entire park where I live would equal just this one show in value!!!) was astounding. It was the perfect break from walking and hustling to sit in a dark theatre and watch this awesome interpretation of this musical unfold. Ruby absolutely adored it but honestly so did I! If you loved the movie and your kids are fans, you’ll love Frozen at the Hyperion! If we are lucky enough to get back to Disneyland we will definitely see it again! Other shows we really enjoyed were of course World of Colour (unmissable!) the fireworks and the epic street parades held daily. Hard to miss these and trust me you don’t want to 😍.
Visiting Elsa & Anna
Elsa and Anna are currently located in Hollywood Land within the Disney California Adventure Park. The set up in the waiting area is awesome, huge screens on the walls with Frozen playing and other movies and activities to keep the kids occupied while they wait to meet the princesses. That said the first afternoon we popped in to check the line – it was two hours long. This is not uncommon as, let’s be fair, these are major celebs we are talking about here😜but with several days ahead of us in the parks we were in no rush to see them so went up and asked the Cast Member at the entrance when the best time to come was to reduce wait time. They told us first thing in the morning or last thing at night! So that is what we did! The next morning we had a character breakfast scheduled at 7am. We were running a tad late leaving that so got to the Elsa & Anna meet and greet at about 8:20 (20 mins after they opened). we were first there! Literally walked straight in, no line at all. Was so fast it almost threw us I wasn’t prepared and was grovelling in my bag for my camera ha ha! It was so awesome though and ten minutes later we were wandering off to our next activity! Once again planning was so important to making this a smooth and efficient activity. Managing wait times as much as we could really did make the trip that extra bit special. Handling it this way meant we did not have one single 5 year old melt down the entire time we were in the park. I would have forgiven many given all the excitement but nope, not one!
Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique
Prepare yourself for the most adorable tear jerking memory making moment with your little prince or princess ever!! This experience is so close to our hearts. Those of you following our journey on social media may have seen this on my instagram stories. If not it’s saved to my highlights under “Disneyland” I have linked my instagram page here. If you think your little boy or girl would love this don’t hesitate! Again, plan ahead and book it into one of your days and work around it so that you can make the most of your time. We didn’t plan ours super well because Ruby was so tired that day and we had a night show planned so she went straight to bed in the resort afterwards ha ha! But it didn’t matter, I would honestly take her back just for this. The fairy god mothers make such a fuss, the photoshoot afterwards is just adorable. And included in our package was express entry to visit all the princesses in their castle! No line up! Worth the money for that alone in my eyes lol! We walked straight out of the boutique and into the arms of cinderella, Ariel and Snow White ready for hugs and autograph signings. If you can’t tell from my crazy rambling – we LOVED THIS! xx
This was a massive highlight for Rubes. Throughout our entire stay her autograph book was never far from her reach and the excitement on her face when we ran into one of her favourites was worth the trip alone. When we visited Disney Aulani 18 months ago she was a little tentative around characters. This time, a little older – aged 5, she was super confident (albeit still a teeny bit shy which is her nature) in running up and hugging talking and holding out her book to add signatures to her collection. Since returning home i’ve printed her photos and stuck them in next to each autograph and it has become one of her most treasured possessions.
You can easily book into character dinners, breakfasts, and other restaurants via the Disneyland app when in the park, or if you want to plan ahead then via the website before you leave home.
A short walk from Disney California Adventure Park is Disneyland Park. We didn’t get here until day 2 and because of our itinerary we did do a bit of back and forth across the parks. To be honest because we had the four nights it didn’t matter losing a bit of time walking to and fro for particular shows etc that we wanted to see. But if you are on a shorter time frame I would definitely recommend sticking to just one park per day so that you don’t waste any time walking between. It’s worth noting too that for $15 a day you can hire a pram. We actually did this one afternoon for Ruby when she was needing a break and it was an absolute life saver. A good option for people with kids too old for a pram so not worth packing one, but who may end up needing one for a rest when things get a bit much.
Ruby LOVED DL park. Both the girls did. Home to Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, New Orleans Square, Critter County, Frontierland, Tomorrowland and Main street there is soooo much to do in Disneyland! Ruby loved it because she’s really still quite little at heart and her favourite rides were the teacup and carousel 🤣! She also loved Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight (absolute magic!). And exploring Minnie and Mickey’s houses and Goofy’s Gardens were also a hit. I LOVED the pop up Mary poppins show. And like Disney California Adventure Park, loads of awesome restaurants to stop and revitalise.
Mickey’s Magical Map
This was awesome!!! An essential addition to your Disneyland Park itinerary no matter what age . I was so impressed with the quality of both the street and stage shows in Disneyland. Such a great way to break the day up and experience things other than rides. We packed a lot in but believe it or not there are still things on our list we want to go back and do! The entertainment is non stop. I can’t believe we attempted to do the parks in one day all those years ago. There really is enough to fill five amazing days and more!
Our Video Highlights…
We took so much video on the trip and I’ve attempted to compile some of them into this clip linked below. I think I probably had more success using my instagram story highlights and next trip I will def be purchasing a go pro to make this easier! I’m inspired now! But I’m glad to have these phone memories to treasure all the same.
To book your own trip visit the Disneyland, talk to your local travel agent in Australia – they have all the info available that you will need. xx
*Our visit was hosted by Disneyland and AirCanada. All images videos and thoughts on the trip are my own. x