In Disneyland & Disney California Adventure
2 Perfect Fall Days at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park
We stayed at the Hilton Anaheim (because I had the Hilton points). The hotel is very clean, and the amenities and facilities are beautiful and about a 20-minute walk (1 mile) from the entrance gates to each park. We had a theme park view room which was an extra perk!
Pro tip: The Hilton Anaheim is right across the street from the Toy Story Parking Lot. So, you can actually walk over to the lot and take the Disney Bus to the park entrance if you want to make the walk 5 minutes instead of 20 minutes.
Our first night we decided to go explore 2 of the resorts on property – Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Disneyland Hotel. The Disneyland Hotel was our first stop, this hotel was the 1st Hotel built on Disney property and it is rich in history and Disneyland memorabilia. Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is located at the Dinseyland Hotel (you will NEED to make a RESERVATION). We are big fans of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto in WDW, so we had to try it! I can confirm the drinks and theming is equally great in both locations! Recommendations:
- Shipwreck on the Rocks (bourbon based)
- Liquid Luau (more on the sweet side)
The Grand Californian is a gorgeous resort. We had dinner by the pool at the GCH Craftsman Bar (make a RESERVATION) and it was a perfect way to enjoy the hotel area while having yummy food!
Day 1 – DCA
Rides: My focus on this day was to do all the rides that my beloved Orlando parks DON’T have, and this is how I targeted the day:
We arrived 1 hour before the advertised park opening time to make sure we got all our must do rides in early before the crowds arrived. This is a method that has been tested and true for me with the WDW parks as well.
- Rope drop & how it works: Basically for Orlando and California parks this is my ultimate tip/trick. The advertised time for park opening is not necessarily true. Usually, 1 hour before that time they will let you in to start security checks and ticket check. Then, about 30 minutes before the advertised time they let you actually ENTER the park. They will rope you off from getting to the actual rides until the park actually opens and then you basically walk over to whatever ride you want to do first. Give or take that out of the maybe 100 people who rope dropped with you only 1/4 go to the same ride as you so therefore you get to ride the first couple of rides almost at 0 wait time.
I will say I did not anticipate how much smaller the parks in California are, so they are definitely much more doable than their Orlando counterparts without needing to get up early for rope drop.
DCA Park Hours: 8am-6pm then the park closes and hosts the Oogie Boogie Bash from 6-11pm.
- Guardians Of the Galaxy Monsters After Dark – Avenger’s Campus, *ROPE DROP!*
- Web Slingers – Avenger’s Campus
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue – HollywoodLand
- Animation Courtyard – HollywoodLand
- Radiator Springs Racers – Cars Land
- Incredicoaster – Pixar Pier
- Toy Story Midway Mania – Pixar Pier
- Mickey’s Fun Wheel – Pixar Pier
- Silly Symphony Swings – Pixar Pier
- Soarin’ Around the World – Entrance
There is NO competition in this department. The food in the California parks is 100% superior to the food in the Orlando parks (I’m sorry WDW, I still love you more though)!
DCA Quick Service Dining:
- Schmoozie’s – Across from the Animation Courtyard
- Great breakfast spot, try their iced coffee!
- Pym’s Test Kitchen – Avenger’s Campus.
- Not So Little Chicken Sandwich
- Drinks: The Experiment at the Tasting Lab (alcoholic)
- Cozy Cone Motel – Cars Land
- Churros (cone #1)
- Soft Serve (cone #2)
- Chili Cone Queso Cone (cone #3)
- Lamplight Lounge – Pixar Pier *MAKE A RESERVATION*
- FAVORITE meal of the trip: LOBSTER NACHOS. LOBSTER NACHOS. LOBSTER NACHOS.
- Drinks: Melrose Place, Cotton Candy Lemonade, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel
- Carthay Square Restaurant (closed during Oogie Boogie Bash days so we did not get to try it)
- Known for their fresh pastas
Day 2 – Disneyland
Rides: Like with DCA we made sure to arrive before the park opened to make sure we were through security, check in etc. and able to rope drop our first rides.
The Matterhorn bobsleds are the ideal rope drop for Disneyland because the line gets extremely long here since the sleds are small and therefore only very few people ride at a time. It is also a very popular ride and one we don’t have in Disney World so we were excited to ride it! This attraction is special to Disneyland as it is the only one in the world and came from the mind of Walt Disney himself.
Disneyland Park Hours: 8am-11pm with Halloween Screams Firework Show at 9pm.
- Matterhorn – Fantasyland, *ROPE DROP!*
- Disneyland Railroad – Main Street USA
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln – Main Street USA
- Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough – Fantasyland
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish – Fantasyland
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey – Fantasyland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – Fantasyland
- Alice in Wonderland – Fantasyland
- Storybook Land Canal Boats – Fantasyland
- It’s A Small World – Fantasyland
- Mickey’s ToonTown – ToonTown *CLOSED FOR REFURB CURRENTLY
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage – Tomorrowland CLOSED FOR REFURB CURRENTLY
- Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters – Tomorrowland
- Space Mountain – Tomorrowland
- Jungle Cruise – Adventureland
- Indiana Jones Adventure – Adventureland
- Pirates of the Caribbean – New Orleans Square
- Haunted Mansion – New Orleans Square
- Splash Mountain – New Orleans Square.
- Millennium Falcon – Galaxy’s Edge
- Rise of the Resistance – Galaxy’s Edge
- Thunder Mountain – Frontierland
Disneyland Quick Service Dining:
- Jolly Holiday Bakery – Main Street USA
- Jolly Holiday Combo (Grilled Cheese and Tomato Basil Soup)
- Red Rose Tavern – Fantasyland
- River Belle Terrace – Frontierland
- Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread for Dessert
- Cafe Orleans – New Orleans Square
- Monte Cristo Sandwich and Pomme Frites.
- Beignets and Mint Juleps (alcoholic or non-alcoholic).
- Tropical Hideaway – Adventureland
- Dole Whip!
- Blue Bayou – New Orleans Square *MAKE A RESERVATION*
- Chicken Jambalaya and the Monte Cristo Sandwiches here are delicious.
The night ends at Disneyland with a fantastic firework/projection show on the Castle and all down Main Street USA. During the fall it is a Halloween themed show and I just love that they change it up with the seasons! On your way out from Main Street USA look above the Town Square Fire Station for Walt’s Apartment. Easily invisible to those who don’t know of its existence, while remaining an iconic part of Disneyland to those who do…
Another thing the California parks beat out WDW in is their character interactions.
There are sooooo many characters out at all times roaming the parks that you’re always bound to catch someone for a photo op and I love that! I feel like at WDW you have to go to specific areas and make massive lines for character meet and greets and at Disneyland they’re just always around.
Another area where Disneyland and DCA Parks excel.
To start the Avengers Campus is super cool, even if you’re not a Marvel fan (like me)! There are so many different interactions/shows with the characters throughout the day here that really makes the whole area come to life.
Next up, my favorite area of DCA that we sadly don’t have in WDW; Cars Land. Okay, I have to say I am not a fan of “Cars” in general but this area is just so cute and well thought out (and the food is superb).
Walt Disney World Resort will always have my heart but there’s just something about Disneyland and the fact that Walt MADE this park himself that brings me so much joy.
Theming: WDW < Disneyland
Character Interactions: WDW < Disneyland
Rides: WDW > Disneyland
Resorts: WDW > Disneyland
Parks (size/amount): WDW > Disneyland
Food: WDW < Disneyland