- I’m a California native who’s been visiting Disneyland since 1989.
- When I need an energy boost, I grab a baked potato or Dole Whip and people-watch on Main Street.
- I always send a cast compliment to spread kindness and celebrate helpful Disneyland employees.
My very first trip to Disneyland was in 1989. My family loaded up our car and drove down to Southern California.
In the 33 years I’ve been visiting, the parks have expanded and certainly look different. But there are still magical things to do around every corner.
I always rope-drop the parks and hit the Fantasyland rides first
I’m an early riser, so rope-dropping (getting in line at the parks before they’re officially open) is something I always do.
I grab a coffee, and once I’m in, I always head to Peter Pan’s Flight since it usually has longer wait times in the afternoon.
If you don’t even want to deal with the morning Peter Pan line, head to the other Fantasyland attractions and see how many you can ride before the wait times stretch above 15 minutes.
Try the new flavors of Dole Whip at the Tropical Hideaway
The Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland often adds new Dole Whip flavors to its menu, and trying them is one of my favorite things.
The quick-service spot doesn’t offer mobile order, so just head to the Dole Whip counter on the left side.
Grab a new-to-you flavor (my favorites are raspberry and mango) and sit near the talking parrot for a cold snack in a fun environment.
If the seating near Tropical Hideaway is too crowded for you, head toward the tables near the exit of Enchanted Tiki Room. There are usually a few open seats there.
Take in the sights on the Mark Twain Riverboat
One of my favorite late-afternoon experiences is a leisurely ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
The 14-minute boat ride is one of the most peaceful attractions at Disneyland, especially when I need some shade or a place to rest my feet.
Seating is very limited on the boat so make sure you line up early in the queue to get a chair on the main deck.
I always snap a photo with my favorite characters
When my favorite characters are in the parks, I make a beeline for the queues.
In the fall, California Adventure transforms its Paradise Gardens area into the “Coco”-themed Plaza de la Familia. Miguel can be found in the Recuérdame (Remember Me) area.
While you’re in this area, check out the food and merchandise options, or leave a remembrance note on the Memory Wall to honor loved ones.
Fill up on a carb-loaded baked potato
When I’m hungry but don’t want to eat at a sit-down restaurant, I head to Troubadour Tavern near Fantasyland.
The tavern has one of the best and most filling snacks in Disneyland: the loaded baked potato. For $8.49, it’s the perfect balance of well-cooked potato with lots of bacon and cheese on top.
I like to pair it with a Joffrey’s iced coffee from Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, especially when I need a late-afternoon pick-me-up after a full day at the parks.
Collect pressed coins for an affordable souvenir
Save your change and bring it to Disneyland, where you can find pressed-coin machines in nearly every store.
It’s no secret prices are rising at the parks, but pressed pennies are still one of the most affordable souvenirs. You’ll just need quarters and pennies, as the average price is $0.51.
Disney changes out the designs regularly and the themes vary across each land.
Roam through Galaxy’s Edge and interact with the park employees
I could spend hours in Batuu (the fictional planet that serves as the setting for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) checking out the unique aspects that make it one of the most detail-oriented spots in the parks.
My favorite thing to do in Galaxy’s Edge is interact with the cast members, what Disney calls its park employees.
I’ve had Disney cast members ask me about my Batuu animal purchases or stop mid-sentence to swat a projected fly on the wall. If you hang out in the land long enough, you may get to snap a pic with Chewbacca, Vi Moradi, or even Kylo Ren.
And if you get hungry after those interactions, pair a Ronto Wrap with a Meiloorun juice for a refreshing snack.
Challenge a friend or family member to see who can get the most points on Toy Story Mania
California Adventure offers Toy Story Mania, which is the perfect ride for some friendly competition.
I usually challenge my husband and kids on who can get the most points on the ride.
It’s immense fun, and after aiming and shooting your toy gun at the massive screens, a sore arm is worth it for the bragging rights.
I usually try a new cocktail every time I visit the parks
During every visit to Disneyland, I try to sit and enjoy a new cocktail from various eateries.
My favorite one I’ve come across so far is the seasonal watermelon margarita with a tajin rim from Lamplight Lounge.
Other favorites include the boozy Dole Whip with rum from Tangaroa Terrace at Disneyland Hotel and the mai tai from Craftsman Grill.
I always take advantage of the fun photo opportunities in Disneyland
My favorites are the empty teacup in front of the Mad Hatter shop, the It’s a Small World blue wall, and the empty car in front of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
More often than not, there are cast members nearby who you can ask to take a photo of you and your group.
If the photographers ask you to do something odd like stick your hand out, make sure you do it because that usually means they’re adding a special effect or character to your finished photo.
Splurge on a character meal — they’re worth it
I love a good splurge, and for me, dining with Disney characters is such a fun thing to add to a trip to Disneyland.
My favorite character dining is Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park inside the Plaza Inn on Main Street. Over the years, I’ve seen characters like Minnie, Captain Hook, Fairy Godmother, Pinocchio, and Rafiki.
It’s a buffet-style breakfast, but there are hot options like Mickey waffles and made-to-order omelets as well as pastries, juices, and desserts.
Don’t be afraid to let the servers know about any special requests, the chefs are happy to accommodate allergies. And don’t forget to collect your special button before you leave.
Stroll around Downtown Disney with a sweet treat
Every single visit, I try to walk through Downtown Disney and simply take in the sights and smells.
The shopping, dining, and entertainment district located outside of the theme parks has a mix of stores, restaurants, kiosks, and the occasional food truck.
There is usually free entertainment and there’s nothing better than people-watching with some fresh beignets from Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen or a shake from Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes.
I like to give a cast compliment before I leave
Every time I visit Disneyland, I try to give at least one cast compliment, which is a quick and easy way to recognize a cast member who was helpful or added a bit of pixie dust to your visit.
The majority of the park employees are helpful and sweet, so I usually take the time to praise them in the designated section of the Disneyland app.
Just go into the app, hit the spyglass to search, and type in “cast compliment.”