Disneyland Review

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly-My Disneyland Review: Is Disneyland the Superior US Theme Park?

Disneyland Review
One-stop Shop!

Let’s get into it, shall we? Now that I’ve returned from the West Coast, I’m ready to give my full Disneyland Review, and settle the “who does it better” debate once and for all! Well, maybe not once and for all, but at least for this moment in time. Ok, maybe you won’t be swayed until you take your own trips to compare. Whatever. So for years, I thought Disneyland was tiny and trashy and not at all interesting after visiting Walt Disney World. But we are big Avengers fans and wanted to visit Avengers Campus, so we decided to head out to Anaheim and check things out. Let’s get into it!

Disneyland Review

HOW TO GET TO CALIFORNIA

First things first, you will obviously need to get to California. You could drive, like the Griswolds, across the country, but we decided the convenience of a flight was a much more appealing option, so we booked our flights on Southwest, our preferred airline.

But first, we had to decide which airline we wanted to fly into. There are five or six viable options in Southern California: Santa Ana/Orange County/John Wayne (SNA), Los Angeles (LAX), Long Beach (LGB), LA/Ontario (ONT), and Burbank/Bob Hope (BUR). There is not really a “bad” airport, per se, but there are some that will be better for your sanity than others. Ultimately, we chose to go with John Wayne.

  1. SNA/Orange County/John Wayne: this is the only airport in Orange County, which happens to also be the home of Disneyland. It is a short 14 miles from Disneyland and, by far, the most convenient. We landed at 10:50 and were in our hotel room by 11:45. It does not get any better than that! John Wayne is smaller, easier to access, has a fast TSA checkpoint, and car rental available right at the terminal. There is also an overabundance of cabs and ride share. Disneyland is a $60 cab ride or $30 Uber/Lyft away! Two thumbs up! Highly recommend!
  2. LAX: if you like big, massive, chaotic airports, or really wanna catch the Hollywood sign, this is where you should go. Located 30 miles northwest of Disneyland, this is the number one origin and destination airport in the world. It is massive, chaotic, crowded, and you have to deal with LA traffic to get anywhere. But it may offer more flexibility with your flights. But be warned!
  3. LGB/Long Beach: a short 22 miles from Disneyland, this might be the second-best option for fans of quiet airports with fast and efficient TSA checkpoints. JetBlue usually offers great deals for LGB.
  4. ONT/LA-Ontario: 33 miles away from Disneyland, this airport is incredibly small, quiet, and, again, a fast TSA checkpoint. About 20% of the time, you will get a deal to fly into this airport, especially with Delta and Southwest.
  5. BUR/Bob Hope: if you REALLY want to see a Kardashian, this is your best bet. This airport is 40 miles away and you will have to go THROUGH the LA traffic to get to Disneyland. I would say this is the airport of last resort.

Where to Stay

While there are not as many Disney properties available, there is no shortage of hotel options. Whether you choose a Disney Resort or a Good Neighbor Hotel, you’re not likely to be disappointed.

disneyland resorts
Disneyland Review - Grand California

Disneyland has three “on site” properties: Paradise Pier, Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, and the Disneyland Hotel. Paradise Pier is considered the “Value” Resort, and rumor has it, it’s being rethemed. Currently, there are no open restaurants and the pool is being refurbished. It is also the furthest from the parks. So right now? I’d say that’s a hard pass.

Up next, you have the Grand Californian. This is as Deluxe as you get at the Disneyland Resort. I would say this is the Wilderness Lodge bumped into the Grand Floridian category. You will have a private entrance into California Adventure (with valid theme park admission AND park pass reservation) and Downtown Disney. This is the closest Disneyland Resort to the theme parks. If you can afford it, I say go for it! This is also home to Princess dining, which you can, of course, attend without a resort reservation.

And finally, the Disneyland Hotel. Not gonna lie, I love it. Even with all the construction currently happening. It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Even the bathrooms are perfectly themed! But, even with this being the flagship hotel and the moderate resort, it’s still a bit of a walk to the theme parks. This hotel is on the other side of Downtown Disney.

Disneyland Review: for on-site hotels, the edge is obviously with Walt Disney World. There are some 27 on-site hotels to choose from, value to Deluxe Villa. HOWEVER, with the hotels ALL within walking distance to the parks? Game changer. The edge in convenience goes to Disneyland.

good neighbor hotels

What if you can’t find a reservation at one of the Disneyland Resorts? Or what if you just can’t afford them? Not to worry, there are a TON of great hotels near Disneyland, and most of them are a short walk away.

Disneyland Review - Guardians from the Anaheim Hotel

In fact, many of the good neighbor hotels are actually CLOSER to the parks than the Disneyland Resorts. We stayed at the Anaheim Hotel, which recently went through a complete overhaul (which is still somewhat in progress) and I can honestly say it’s closer than the Contemporary is to the Magic Kingdom. You can see Guardians of the Galaxy from the hotel and it is LITERALLY across the street. We were able to take an hour break one day that was actually almost a whole hour spent in our room napping, instead of at a bus stop.

Disneyland Review - Anaheim Hotel
Front Room Lounge – Anaheim Hotel

There are literally a bunch of great hotels within the Disneyland area, and, again, many are walkable and closer than the Disneyland Resorts. There are water parks and free breakfast (locations vary, of course) and even views of the fireworks. While they are quite plentiful, they are not nearly as nice as the Disneyland Resorts. But if you’re just looking for a place to rest your head at night? They’ll do just fine.

DISNEYLAND REVIEW: the edge is obvious. With Good Neighbor Hotels, Disneyland wins. While Walt Disney World has much larger and much nicer Good Neighbor Hotels, they are not walkable, the transportation to the parks is very sketchy, and you do not feel like you are “at” Disney. For lodging overall, I put Walt Disney World as the better option. There are nicer, more affordable on-site hotels, and enough of them that you don’t actually need to consider Good Neighbor Hotels. But the WDW point only applies if you’re there for more than just theme parks!

Transportation

I don’t even need to think about it. Disneyland wins AND IT ISN’T EVEN CLOSE. Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland is a pedestrian resort. Other than to and from the airport, I didn’t get in any vehicles at all, and it was amazing. EVERYTHING is walkable. There is only ONE checkpoint to get through for both theme parks and Downtown Disney. The parks are so close to each other we saw the projections from Disneyland Park while getting off of Radiator Springs back in CarsLand. I don’t feel like any time on my vacation was wasted waiting on a bus. GAME, SET, MATCH: Disneyland.

Theme Parks and Downtown Disney

Let’s start with logistics. Disneyland is absolute PERFECTION. Completely walkable. Park Hopping takes SECONDS, not hours. If you want something to eat in Downtown Disney? 5 minute walk, tops. If you want to take a SHORT break midday for a power nap? No waiting over an hour for a shuttle bus. It’s as amazing as it sounds.

Starting with Downtown Disney, and I have no complaints. It is much, much smaller than Disney Springs, but there are plenty of options. For food options, I do give the edge to Walt Disney World, because it has the Boathouse, Erin McKenna’s, Polite Pig, and more. But the dining options in Downtown Disney are nothing to laugh at! We ate three meals here and they did not disappoint. And I don’t remember ever seeing a massive pickle dog at Disney Springs!

Downtown Disney Pickle Dog
Hand-Dipped Pickle Corn Dog

Disneyland Park. Alright, the 100% honest Disneyland Review: it’s the same but so different. But right off the bat, what is that castle? I feel like I’ve built things with legos that are more impressive. Castle hands down goes to Walt Disney World. And, again, it’s not even close. Moving on, though. My first impression was literally awe. I was walking where Walt Disney had walked and that is a bit overwhelming. Problematic as he may have been, without him, we do not have these places. So, thanks Walt.

Next up, can we talk about the SIZE of Main St? Amazing. Even when it’s packed full of people for fireworks or rope drop, YOU CAN BREATHE. It is what? Double the size of the Magic Kingdom? And, unlike Florida, it wasn’t 100% built in the sun. There is actually shade! AND TREES! There are trees in California! Magic Kingdom really lost something when they took all the trees out of the Hub area. Yes, it opened up the visuals for nighttime spectaculars, but it was visually amazing. Main St USA goes to Disneyland. It’s fantastic. All of it.

Walt's Apartment
IYKYK

California Adventure gives off Hollywood Studios vibes IMMEDIATELY, which I love, because Hollywood Studios is my favorite park. But DCA was the most shocking part of the trip for me. I. Love. It. For starters, it is MUCH bigger than it looks. When you walk in the gates, it looks like it’s all squished together, but it is really quite large! Secondly, you could easily get through all the rides here in no time, but this park, like Hollywood Studios, is SO MUCH more than just the rides. Take time to explore the details, the shows, the shops, the exhibits….it’s all magnificent. CarsLand is HANDS DOWN the best land in any American Park. And, shockingly, IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE. Do NOT miss this place at night. You WILL feel like you’re in the movie. It’s incredible. For the purposes of this Disneyland Review, I was pleasantly surprised.

Lightning McQueen
How do the rides compare?

Can you have a Disneyland Review without talking about the rides? Not a chance. Everything you’ve heard is true. The duplicate rides in both parks are superior in Disneyland. Except maybe Peter Pan. It’s still overrated in BOTH parks (sorry, not sorry. It’s not worth it unless you have a lightning lane). Disneyland’s unique rides are fantastic. Things you should NOT skip: Indiana Jones, Guardians of the Galaxy, WebSlingers, IncrediCoaster, Monsters Inc, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Matterhorn, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, and Storybook Canal Boats. You can pass on Snow White, she was better when it was scary.

I think Disneyland would be PERFECT with EPCOT. That’s the only thing that is missing. The California Food & Wine Festival was delicious (AND full size drinks, not shots for $8), but EPCOT is SO much better.

Final thoughts, on this, my Disneyland Review: while both parks are amazing, I really love Disneyland. I was not run over by a stroller once. The people were so chill and nice, not overly entitled at all. When I did get hit by an ECV, the person apologized (I thought I was dreaming). Disneyland was a vacation. Yes, we were exhausted. Yes, we walked about 10 miles a day. But we were able to relax. We could sit down and enjoy ourselves. Everything being walkable is the complete difference. There’s no feeling of “IF WE DON’T GO NOW WE’LL MISS THE BUS!” I will most definitely go back!

Ready to book your trip? Contact me today!!!

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Disability Access Service

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Read Time:5 Minute, 25 Second

My Personal Experience with Using Disability Access Service, DAS, Pre-Registration at Walt Disney World and Disneyland

The Disability Access Service at Disney Parks, or the DAS Pass, is available for those guests that cannot wait in traditional line queues for extended periods of time. This does not include people with mobility issues, requiring a wheelchair or ECV. Many line queues are actually ADA Compliant. This is for the Guest with cognitive disabilities, like autism or ADHD. Or diseases like Crohn’s Disease, where a Guest has to have immediate access to a restroom.

Disability Access Service
Space Mountain – Disneyland

How to Qualify for DAS

In order to qualify, you will be required to explain why you, or your child, cannot PHYSICALLY tolerate long lines. For example, a child with sensory issues may become triggered by crowds and the loud noises they come with. Or a child with ADHD may not be able to physically stand still, and could become aggressive when forced to do so. Whatever the reason, be prepared to explain it in as much detail as you feel comfortable with. Disney cannot and will not accept a Physician’s Note, so don’t waste time with that. Just kindly and clearly explain your needs. Approval and denial is entirely at cast member discretion.

What is the Difference Between DAS and Genie+? Do I Need Both?

Disability Access Service - Genie+

DAS is a free service only available to those guests with disabilities. Genie+ is a paid service that anyone can use to skip waiting in line. That’s the first difference! The second difference is how/when you obtain the return times.

Genie+ – Walt Disney World

In order to obtain a return time, or Lightning Lane, for Genie+, you need to first BUY it. Then, you need to get onto the My Disney Experience App at 7:00 am every day and start booking your Lightning Lane return times. (This is for guests that are staying on-site at a Walt Disney World Resort). Next, this is only for those attractions that have the Lightning Lane included in Genie+. If it is an Individual, i.e. paid, Lightning Lane, that is a different process. If the attraction doesn’t have Lightning Lane but there is a line, you just wait.

Genie+ – Disneyland Resort

Now, on the West Coast, you can only buy Individual Lightning Lanes or book Lightning Lane return times once you tap in to the park. PERSONAL OPINION: Genie+ is MUCH better on the West Coast. Don’t shoot the messenger!

do i need both?
Rise of the Resistance

The answer to this one is complicated. So, if the person that the DAS is registered to is NOT riding, and you want to ride, you will need Genie+. If the person that the DAS is registered to is fully intending to ride every single ride, you can double up with Genie+. But if the wait times and crowds are low? You might not need it. It will all depend on how much you want to do and how quickly you want to ride. We use the waits, sometimes, to sit down and rest, use the bathroom, or gets snacks and drinks. It will all be a matter of preference!

DAS Pass – Pre-Register

Before you use it, you must register for DAS and get approved. You can do this in two ways. First, you can pre-register by taking part in a video chat here for Disneyland and here for Walt Disney World. With pre-registering, you can get your pass between 2-30 days before your first PARK PASS RESERVATION (not the first day of your stay, unless that is also your first Park Pass). Once approved, you may also reserve up to two one-hour return times per day with the Cast Member on the video chat. The Attractions eligible for pre-registration are LAND and WORLD.

das pass – on-site register

You may also choose to wait until you arrive, and obtain your DAS Pass on-site. To do so, you will need to visit Guest Relations (Disneyland – City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, or any Guest Information Location. Walt Disney World – City Hall at Magic Kingdom or Guest Relations at any park). Once there, the person that needs the DAS will need to be present, you will explain why you need the pass. If approved, the Cast Member will take your (or your child’s) photo and link your party to that DAS Pass. Make sure everyone who will be in your group is all linked together. Then you can obtain your initial return time. You cannot pre-register for more than 1 attraction at that time unless you do so in advance via video chat.

Disability Access Service
DAS Return Time in Plans
DAS Return Time in Plans
das-personal experience

I have had the opportunity to visit both parks since DAS became available for pre-registry, so let’s talk about it. I have sat on hold for the video chat for over 6 hours 3 times and have yet to get an actual person. In both instances, though, we were able to obtain the DAS pass in the parks in under 5 minutes, and that includes the technical difficulties we temporarily experienced at Disneyland, and our first return time. I don’t know that we will ever go through with the pre-registry, simply because it is so simple to just do it in the parks, and we have become big fans of waiting until we’re there to start choosing our attractions. I’ve heard tales that if you do want to pre-register, early Sunday morning has been the most successful.

They have added the option to obtain Return Times for Disability Access Service on the My Disney Experience App, rather than running all over the park at each attraction. This was a GAME CHANGER. As soon as you tap into your return time, you can obtain the next one. It is exactly like Genie+ except that you cannot stack return times. Like I said previously, if the wait times are low, you will not likely need both. We were able to do everything at Disneyland and California Adventure, including Radiator Springs (twice), Rise of the Resistance, Web Slingers (twice), Guardians (three times), and more!

The Disability Access Service process is incredibly simple and it’s great that Disney Parks offer this option to people who cannot physically wait in line. I can’t wait to get back to Walt Disney World and use the updated service, just to see how the two locations compare! Are you ready to book your Disney Parks vacation? Contact me today!

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Mint Juleps & Mickey Beignets!

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Read Time:1 Minute, 49 Second

Head to the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square to Enjoy Mint Juleps & Mickey Beignets!

If you’re anything like me, you want to know where to go to get the most unique food offerings a place has to offer. Well, if you’re heading to Disneyland, you will want to head to the very back of New Orleans Square. That’s where you will find the Mint Julep Bar. As there is no alcohol in Disneyland Park, this is not actually a “bar,” but this food kiosk is the only place you can find the refreshing mint juleps & Mickey beignets!

What is a “Mint Julep?”

Mint Juleps & Mickey Beignets

You’re probably wondering what the heck is a mint julep, you crazy person? Well, it is described as “a refreshing mint drink with a hint of lime flavor” on the Disneyland Website. Basically, club soda with mint and lime. It is the perfect refresher for a hot day.

But What the Heck is a “Mickey Beignet?”

Mint Juleps & Mickey Beignets

A beignet is a fried dough doughnut coated in powdered sugar. A MICKEY beignet is a beignet shaped like Mickey Mouse! Everything tastes better when it’s Mickey shaped!

Unique Offerings and Seasonal Must-Haves

As is tradition, Disney offers seasonal flavors of both the mint juleps and the Mickey beignets. Currently, guests who visit the Mint Julep Bar can order a Passion Fruit Mint Julep and Sugar Cookie Mickey Beignets! Other flavors include pumpkin and gingerbread beignets and watermelon mint juleps.

Tell Me More Tell Me More!

Beignets are available in 3-packs and 6-packs, and you can also order an assorted 6-pack, that will come with regular and seasonal beignets. As for the beverages, you can order the seasonal or traditional mint julep, either in a plastic cup or a take-home stainless steel tumbler. Coffee, tea, Coca-Cola products, hot chocolate, and bottled water are also available. And, in the case of having someone who can’t or won’t eat beignets, you can also order Cuties! And this location offers mobile ordering!

So tell me, do you love Mint Juleps & Mickey Beignets?! Go here for more information about Disneyland Resort and to talk about planning YOUR vacation!

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15 Ways to Pass Time In Lines

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Read Time:4 Minute, 14 Second

Even with the most meticulous planning, chances are you’re going to spend time in line at some point on your Disney vacation. Here are my tried and true tips for keeping everyone happy while waiting to get to the front of the queue!

  1. GRAB A PARK MAP OR TWO! It may seem counterintuitive to grab a park map or two, and not very environmentally friendly, but remember they are great free souvenirs and can be repurposed as other things (I, myself, have decoupaged several vases with park maps to add that Disney magic to my home decor!). So when you enter the parks in the morning, regardless of which park you’re in, grab some maps. As you wait in line, have each member of your group pick out and rank what rides they want to do that day, from must-do to want-to. Then you can compare lists and make sure to do something everyone wants to do! You can also play “I Spy” with the maps, or see who can find secret pathways from land to land or who can come up with the best shortcuts for avoiding crowded areas.
  2. PLAY THE “HEADS UP!GAME ON YOUR PHONE.

“Heads Up!” is a game that is basically Super Password meets Taboo. The app puts the game on your phone, so all you need is that! You open the app, choose your deck, and then start the game. You hold the phone to your head and everyone else sees the word. They give verbal clues to get you to guess the word. We LOVE to play the Disney Parks deck while in line, and we usually get lots of “hey what is that?!” questions from our fellow line-mates.

To get the deck, it is $.99 on iOS or free on Android. You can also get it for free if you “check in” to the Disney parks online via the Heads Up social media.

3. PLAY GAMES ON THE DISNEY PLAY APP

Did you know that Disney has made an app full of games and trivia? Well download the Disney Play app now! There are games to play in line queues that interact with the queue, trivia, badges for rides, and more!

4. HYDRATE/SUSTENANCE Lines are a great place to refuel and rehydrate. Pack small snacks, like fruit snacks, trail mix, goldfish, and keep yourself going. It is very hot in Central Florida, and it’s easy to get dehydrated and then you forget to eat. While you’re standing there, take advantage of the time to drink up and snack up! You could also grab an ice cream treat or popcorn or pretzel, etc. before hopping in line, but beware, it may last longer than the line or make an incredible mess!!

5. PLAY GAMES!!!

  • Pack a small pad of paper and play hangman, Pictionary, tic tac toe, etc.
  • Play “I Spy” using the line queue
  • Play Disney “Would you rather?”
  • Play Disney 20 Questions

6. PACK A DECK OF DISNEY EYE FOUND IT CARDS

Basically a deck of cards to play “I Spy,” but it takes the leg work out of you having to come up with the thing you spy. Get it here on Amazon.

7. DISNEY MAD LIBS There are TONS of Mad Lib books available, including Disney Fab 5, Marvel, Star Wars, Princesses, and more. Find one (or more) that your whole group will enjoy and pull it out in line for a fun game to pass the time.

8. LOOK FOR HIDDEN MICKEYS You can do this on your own, or get one of the MANY books that list in great detail where the Hidden Mickeys are and go from there!

9. ORDER YOUR NEXT MEAL ON MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE Figure out where everyone wants to eat, and place your mobile ordering order while waiting in line, so you can just quickly pick it up after you finish riding. Read more about Mobile Ordering here!

10. JOURNALING! Get a travel journal and keep track of your adventures (or let the kids journal, a good way to keep up with writing skills!). Kid’s Travel Journal: Mouse Edition

11. LOOK AT YOUR LATEST PHOTOS Take the downtime to check out your latest Memory Maker photos posted to the app! OR talk about what you’re going to do as a group for your next EPIC ride photo!!

12. PLAN THE NEXT ADVENTURE Talk to each other (GASP) and decide what you’d like to do next!

13. SMALL TOYS! Sometimes, small toys are a life saver! Get your kids a fanny pack or a small cinch sack and whatever they can carry, they can play with!

14. REAPPLY SUNSCREEN/FRESHEN UP Again, it’s hot in Central Florida. Pack additional sunscreen, wipes to clean up your sweaty self, even a travel size deodorant. Don’t be the smelly family!

15. TALK TO EACH OTHER/OTHER GUESTS IN LINE I know, how dare I suggest communication. How very old-fashioned of me.

Ready to book your vacation? Contact me today for your free, no-obligation vacation quote!!

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Blue Milk vs Green Milk

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Read Time:1 Minute, 35 Second

If you’re any kind of Star Wars fan, “blue milk” is not just what’s left in the bowl after you finish your Boo Berry cereal. Many GenXers have wanted to drink milk since the release of Star Wars – A New Hope. Disney has made this dream a reality with the creation of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Once you get to Batuu, your senses will be overwhelmed by this incredibly authentic, immersive land. But more on that another day. Let’s head to the milk stand. The milk stand has mobile ordering, which is a plus, because the lines can get super long, and I’m not sure it’s worth it. Speaking of “worth it,” the price is $7.99. My suggestion, assuming you’re not traveling solo, is to get one of each and share. If no one likes it, you’re not literally throwing your money away. If someone does fall in love with one or the other, it is always easier to order more and go back. It is certainly an acquired taste. So both milks are plant-based, dairy and gluten free. The blue is flavored with dragonfruit, pineapple, watermelon, and lime; the green is flavored with mandarin orange, passionfruit, mango, and orange blossom. Of the two, the blue is BY FAR more popular. I’ve heard the green described as “tastes like how Flight of Passage smells,” which, I think, totally nails it.

The also come alcoholic, which does pretty much improve things. If you’d like your milk flavored with adult-ness, they offer Blue Milk Cooler, which is Blue Milk featuring Bacardi Superior Rum; and Green Milk Cooler, which is Green Milk featuring Corazon Blanco Tequila. These are $14, each.

I wouldn’t say this is something that you have to have every trip, but I would say it’s something to try at least once. Have you had milk in Batuu? Leave your thoughts in the comments!!

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