The first trip to Disneyland can be such a magical experience but it can also feel really daunting. There's so much to know about before you go and so many different things to choose from. One of the most common questions I get is "What do you recommend for our first time?" Although everyone's preferences will vary, there are some experiences that really need to be at the top of your list and help you really feel like you've become a Disney pro!
Get a "1st Visit" Button
Before you do anything else, stop by City Hall in Disneyland or ask any Cast Member in a store for a free "1st Visit" button! It may sound lame to some people, but it's an easy way to celebrate and it lets other CMs know throughout the resort that you're experiencing everything for the first time. There could be added benefits to that...
Link Your Ticket to the Disneyland Mobile App
To make things easier later, I would suggest creating an account inside the Disneyland mobile app and linking your park tickets to your account. They are then right there for convenience if you don't want to always be pulling them out for everything.
Disney’s Genie+ system is one of the most important things to know about. Make sure you know how the system works before you arrive so you get the general idea of how to navigate it. In a nutshell, It allows you to receive a specific return time for an attraction allowing you to go and do other things and wait in a minimal line when you return. It can be helpful to enjoy many of the most popular attractions in the Disneyland Resort. Keep in mind that this service costs extra and is not required to be able to ride everything in the parks.
Get a Picture with Sleeping Beauty Castle
The most iconic thing you can do is get a picture of yourself in front of the castle! No matter what time of year, it's always so magical and so special! You can choose to wait to have a Disney PhotoPass photographer take your picture for you (you don't need to purchase PhotoPass to do this, they're happy to use your phone or camera), take a selfie, or ask someone to take your picture from a different angle. Any way you choose, you'll treasure the shot for a long time!
Meet Your Favourite Character
You can't go to Disneyland and not meet your favourite character! Whether it's Mickey, Cinderella, Tigger, or Spider-Man you will likely be able to find someone you love and get a picture with them. Characters can occasionally be difficult to find, so keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to talk to Cast Members about them. Note that princesses and Mickey tend to have the longest lines but I'll let you decide how long you'd be willing to wait for them. I've waited for Mickey for 20 minutes or longer and enjoyed it but some of you may feel differently.
Get a Dole Whip
I'm sure you've heard all about the Dole Whips sold by the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland. They are delicious and even dairy-free! The only way you will not love these iconic treats is if you really hate pineapple in which case... get a churro...?
Take the Grand Circle Tour
Make sure you take the Grand Circle Tour of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom aboard the Disneyland Railroad. Hop on at any of the four stops (Main Street, USA, New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown, or Tomorrowland) and take it all the way around. You'll be able to look around the entire park and even see some things not visible by other guests. It's a classic and it's a great experience!
Shop on Main Street, USA
The shops on Main Street, USA are some of the most well-known and eclectic in all of the Disneyland Resort. You can find jokes and props at the Magic Shop, watches and jewelry at the Fortuosity Shop, Disney art and memorabilia at Disneyana, or just a huge selection at the Emporium. Whatever you choose, shopping on Main Street is fun and a great way to end your day since it's open an hour later than the rest of the park - literally end your day here!
Explore Cars Land
There's a reason why everyone talks about Cars Land at California Adventure - because it's amazing! You really feel like you've stepped into the movies and are a part of the little town of Radiator Springs! Get a picture in front of the sign or in the middle of Route 66, grab something to eat at Flo's V8 Cafe, or watch the neon come to life each night at sunset.
Watch Frozen - Live at the Hyperion
Whether you're a big fan of Frozen or not, the Frozen- Live at the Hyperion stage show in California Adventure is an incredible experience! The music is great, the cast is always fun, and the effects are breath-taking. There are a few shows each day so make sure you catch one of them because I guarantee you won't regret it.
Ride the "Dark Rides"
"Dark rides" are those slower rides that take place in the dark and typically follow the story of a classic animated film. Some people skip over them because they think they're just for kids, but they're actually really fun and offer a taste of the classic Disneyland. Many of these attractions have been around since the park first opened in 1955, though they've been updated since then. Give them a try and you'll have a lot of fun. These dark rides include:
- Snow White's Enchanted Wish
- Peter Pan's Flight
- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
- Alice in Wonderland
- Roger Rabbit's CarToon Spin
- The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure
- Plus many more!
Catch a Nighttime Spectacular
Walt Disney always wanted to send his guests home at the end of the night with a "kiss goodnight" and they're still doing that with a variety of nighttime spectaculars which light up the night and leave you with great memories. Watch at least one but, if you have time, try to watch them all because they're always the best entertainment the resort has to offer, such as World of Color, Fantasmic!, nighttime parades or the fireworks.
And this list is just the beginning! There is so much more to explore and enjoy while you're at the Happiest Place on Earth! If you're just starting to plan your first vacation then check out our friends at Get Away Today who specialize in planning personalized magical vacations for you and your whole family! You can find some great discounts with them, too, to save on tickets and hotels. Happy planning!