7 Insider Disneyland Tips from Annual Passholders

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disneyland tips

For any holiday, Jason and I always love to give experiences rather than “things”, which is why we decided Disneyland tickets for Valentine’s Day were better than flowers, chocolate, or a steak dinner. Since we hadn’t been to Disneyland in over 5 years and one of my best friends and her boyfriend (Alicia and Chris) are annual pass holders, we wanted to be shown the tips and tricks from the best. I mean, they even make and sell their own interchangeable ears for goodness sake! So thanks to Alicia and Chris, we are able to share the below Disneyland tips to make your next visit as smooth as ours was.

1. Buy Tickets on Sale

Now, not all of us can or want to be Annual Pass Holders. Maybe you’re only visiting or even if you are local, you just don’t have the time or desire to visit Disneyland more than once every few years. Thankfully for us, Alicia let me know that Disneyland is currently having a SoCal Residents Promotion and we jumped on the three-day park hopper for only $259 per person (a one-day park hopper is normally $219 in peak season so this was a steal!) Even if you’re not a SoCal resident, you can get discounted tickets from AAA if you are a member.

Disneyland Entrance

2. Don’t Park in the Parking Structure

Before we even got off the freeway, Alicia and Chris gave us their first Disneyland insider tip: don’t use Disneyland’s parking structure! Our savvy friends showed us a neighborhood right outside the park that didn’t have any posted street signs against all-day parking. We dropped the car off here and took a $6 Uber ride straight to Downtown Disney! Much better than the $30 parking structure. Another reason to avoid the parking structure is the long tram lines to and from the park. They take valuable playtime and aren’t organized very well, leaving you with grumpy crowds on the return tram.

playing around at Disneyland

3. Use the Lockers in California Adventure

The lockers in California Adventure are bigger and less crowded. They are also located closer to the front of the park than the ones in Disneyland, making it easier to run across parks if you need something. We stopped at the lockers multiple times a day and never once had to wait to get in. We purchase the jumbo size for $15 and it fit three backpacks and an over the should cooler bag.

Lockers in California adventure

4. Get a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers

This ride is a must do, but you’ll be waiting for hours if you don’t get your FastPass first thing. They go quickly too, which is why you need to do it early in the day. After getting our locker in California Adventure we headed over to Radiator Springs Racers to get ours, we got there at around 10 am and our return time wasn’t until 2:45 pm! That shows you how popular this ride is (a normal FastPass return time is an hour or two). The other ride we suggest getting a FastPass early in the day for is Space Mountain in Disneyland.

Radiators Spring Racers at California Adventure

5. Take a Break in the Animation Academy

If you need to take a load off at some point in the day (and you will) the Animation Academy in California Adventure is the place to do it. Here they teach you how to draw a popular cartoon character step by step. The best part is you get to sit down for about 20 minutes and it’s in an air conditioned building. Also, it’s not that easy to find so normally it’s not very crowded either, which is always a plus. You can find it in Hollywood Land, on the right side of the street when facing the giant fake Hollywood background.

Animation Academy in California Adventure Park
Animation Academy is on the left

6. Make a Reservation for at Least One Meal

So, maybe it’s just me, but I had no idea you could actually make reservations at a majority of the restaurants in the park! Anytime we’ve gone in the past, we normally just grab food from one of their many kiosks or cafeteria-style eateries. Our friends surprised us with breakfast reservations at Carnation Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland. It was really pleasant to be seated (instead of desperately hunting for a place to sit with all your food on a tray!) and surprisingly, the prices here were cheaper than what we had paid in previous visits for much less quality food. Most of the restaurants in the parks take reservations in advance and we highly recommend taking this route, otherwise, you’ll find yourself waiting an hour or more for a sit-down restaurant.

Rae drinking coffee at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland

7. Skip the Dole Whip Line

Yes, you read that correctly. If you want to get your hands on that delicious pineapple frozen treat but don’t want to stand a mile-long line, then this tip is for you. It’s almost too simple to be true – but all you have to do is go inside the Enchanted Tiki Room and there is another line that is much, much shorter! You’re welcome.

Castle in Disneyland at night

Hidden Mickey Game

This isn’t a tip but a game that we found fun to play throughout the day. Alicia and Chris told us about “hidden Mickeys” throughout Disneyland Park, which are basically everyday objects shaped like Mickey’s head. Keep your eyes peeled and be on the lookout for his classic shape in the following areas. Mind you, these are only the ones we found so I’m sure there are a TON throughout the entire park:

  • Pirates of Caribbean
  • Dining room in the Haunted Mansion
  • Speaker in one of the seats on Space Mountain
  • Magic Shop Window Display
  • Antique Scale in the Penny Arcade
  • Indiana Jones Ride – there were multiple here!
  • Steel drum in Tarzan’s Treehouse
  • Blue Bayou Restaurant
Paradise Pier at Disneyland California Adventure

We hope you take advantage of these tips and put them to use for your next Disneyland visit! We had so much fun exploring Disneyland Park and California Adventure and know we used our time wisely by following the above pointers. Lastly, we can’t thank our friends, Alicia and Chris enough for showing us the ropes and even making our custom Getaway Couple ears!

Did we miss any tricks or tips? Let us know in the comments so we can try them on our next visit.

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