Over the past few decades, I have been fortunate enough to visit Disneyland in California well over 100 times. I lived in Southern California when I was a young child plus my grand-parents had a house only 30 minutes away from Anaheim while I was growing up (and after I moved to Washington State) so I was able to visit frequently. I believe that my perspective is very different than those of you who are experiencing Disneyland for the first time as an adult because when you see Disney's magic through a child's eyes, it alters something inside of you in a very special way. I have been to Disneyland with boyfriends, husbands, best friends, employees, my children, my siblings, my parents, and one year I even went alone. I would say that my favorite visits have been with my children over the years, but they still have a hard time keeping up with me! If you are a parent now, I highly recommend that you take your children to any of the Disney theme parks at least once before they turn 9 so that when they revisit later, it will be a highly enjoyable experience. If you're trying to choose between Disneyland (California) and DisneyWorld (Florida) I always recommend Disneyland because it has better rides, is much less exhausting than DisneyWorld, and you can enjoy everything there is to offer in just a few days, whereas with DisneyWorld, you would need at least 5-7 days to take it all in, you would spend a lot more time transporting from park to park instead of enjoying the parks, and it requires a lot more planning.
Disneyland is actually two theme parks now. The entrances of both Disneyland and California Adventure are facing each other and are a mere 300 feet from each other which is super convenient. You have the option of buying a ticket that only allows entrance to one theme park, or a park-hopper ticket that allows you the flexibility to go between the parks all day. If you are only visiting for one or two days, you would only need to buy the regular tickets because you need at least one day in each park and it's a hassle to jump back and forth, not to mention a big time-waste. If you're staying for longer than two days, I highly recommend that you purchase the hopper tickets to take advantage of hitting the best shows and rides. When it was originally built, California Adventure was a bit of a let down, mostly because it lacked the Disney magic that its fans are so fond of. Luckily, the imagineers at Disney got busy remodeling and now it is almost as popular as its counterpart (although it only sees about half of the guests that Disneyland does).
So let's chat about where to stay! There are three resorts at Disneyland that are all within walking distance of each other and your budget and preferences of convenience, comfort, and amenities will determine where you stay. In order of cheapest to most expensive, is Disney's Paradise Pier, the Disneyland Resort, and the Grand Californian. I was always a fan of the Disneyland Resort when my children were ages 5-11 because it's the most fun resort, but now I prefer the villas at the Grand Californian since my girls are all young adults now and I can afford more luxurious accomodations. As a DVC member, I can use my points to stay in the gorgeous villas at the Grand Californinan or for standard rooms at any of the Disney Resorts. The most obvious perk to staying at the Grand Californian is the secret-squirrel entrance into California Adventure! This is a huge advantage and keeps walking and transporting children and strollers to a minimum. The Disneyland Hotel has the perk of being close to the monorail which is a great way to head into Disneyland and arrive in Tomorrow Land. Paradise Pier is the furthest away from the parks but has a great roof-top pool that has a view of the fireworks show. To read my reviews about each resort and view lots of pictures, click here.
There are great airport options when arriving in Southern California. From Seattle, my favorite is the John Wayne (SNA) airport because of its proximity to Disneyland. It's a smaller airport plus it's the closest to Disney so once you land, it's only about 30 minutes to my hotel and the parks. I typically stay in the Grand Californian but if that's fully booked I will move over to the Disneyland Hotel. You can read my article here about which hotel to stay at while visiting the parks. I am a HUGE fan of the DVC (Disney Vacation Club) and own four properties.
Here is a rundown on the airports:
John Wayne Orange County Airport
The John Wayne Airport, located 14 miles from Disneyland, provides a simple flying experience with just one building that is split up into a Terminal A and Terminal B. Upon arrival at the airport, the walk from your gate to the baggage carousel is quick and easy. The airport is second in the area only to the Los Angeles Airport for the amount of flights and destinations served each day.
Los Angeles International Airport
The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), located 35 miles from the Anaheim Resort, is HUGE (the fifth biggest airport in the world!). When visiting from anywhere outside of the US, you will most likely find the best rates and flight options by flying into the Los Angeles International Airport and they are often cheaper than SNA, even when I'm flying from somewhere relatively close such as Seattle.
Long Beach Airport
The Long Beach Airport, located approximately 19 miles from the Anaheim Resort area, is a tiny airport that serves only Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and US Airways. Because it is smaller, the airfare to fly here from most destinations is higher compared to SNA and LAX but if you are able to find a decent price with one of the four airlines, you will have an easy experience in this small airport.
Ontario International Airport
The Ontario International Airport, located approximately 35 miles from the Anaheim Resort area, is the third largest airport in the Anaheim area. This is a quaint airport that is quick and easy to navigate.
And now for the part you've all been waiting for....The BEST snacks at Disneyland!
The New Orleans Square area of Disneyland offers two options for the Crescent City-inspired, mouse-shaped pastries. If you want to sit down for your snack, go to Cafe Orleans, where your order includes vanilla crème anglaise and fruit-coulis dipping sauces. Fans also rave about the non-mouse-shaped beignets in Downtown Disney at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen.
For more portable versions, go to the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square, where an order of three comes in a paper bag and is dusted with plenty of powdered sugar. (Note: Those lime-and-mint beverages in question are non-alcoholic.) With the return of the Fantasmic evening pyrotechnics show in Frontierland, the Mint Julep Bar is now also serving purple-sprinkles-covered Blackberry Beignets.
This non-dairy frozen treat debuted at Disneyland in 1976, created exclusively for Adventureland by the folks at Dole Pineapple. It has developed a passionate cult following—it has been called “a work of art” and has a podcast named after it—and is now offered at other Disney parks, as well as a few other scattered locations. The original, though, is at the Tiki Juice Bar stand outside the Enchanted Tiki Room. Order yours as a soft-serve, a float with pineapple juice, or be a rebel and ask for the lone pineapple spear. A pleasant surprise: the classic Dole Whip soft serve has only about 100 calories.
These mountain-shaped coconut treats—covered with white-chocolate icing and sugary “snow”—are a rarity among Disney-themed goodies in that they’re based not on a character, but an actual ride. The classic Matterhorn coaster is even within view of the macaroons’ Main Street home, the Mary Poppins-themed Jolly Holiday Bakery Café (look for the telltale weather vane on top).
For anyone who gets confused about the difference between chewy macaroons and the airy sandwich-cookie macaron, try one of the bakery’s Raspberry Rose Mickey Macarons to settle the matter for good. A bonus: The Jolly Holiday has been applauded for having the best coffee in the parks.
Premium Mickey Ice-Cream Bars
The much-beloved Mickey bars, found at kiosks around the two parks, are like the little black dresses of frozen treats: Mickey-shaped vanilla ice cream dipped in Nestlé chocolate. To broaden your horizons, try the Premium Ice Cream Sandwich version, whose wafers get raves for having a little more crispiness than typical ice-cream sandwiches, and whose ice-cream center is comprised of cookies ‘n’ cream.
Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs
While corn dogs may seem like basic fare at theme parks, Disney superfans and foodies alike swear by the Disneyland version, found at an old-school-style food truck, the Little Red Wagon, near the Plaza Inn on Main Street. The secret: These chicken-and-beef dogs are hand-dipped in a house batter, helping them achieve that crunchy-on-the-outside, sweet-on-the-inside perfection. You can also get the same dogs at the Stagedoor Café, in Frontierland, and Award Wieners in California Adventure's Hollywood Land.
The jumbo drumsticks offered at hot-food carts around the two parks—like Edelweiss Snacks in Fantasyland and the hot-foods cart in Hollywood Land—have inspired so much awe that an urban legend once floated around that they actually came from ostriches (they don’t). Granted, the hickory-smoked legs look large, even for a turkey (they come from male Toms) and the salt curing gives them an almost ham-like flavor. To be sure, they are a commitment: Each one weighs 1.5 pounds.
There are more than a dozen churro carts dotting the parks—from outside The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland to A Bug’s Land in California Adventure—and the fried-dough treats have even inspired their own souvenir shirts over the years. Keep an eye out for limited-release variations, like golden-sugar-dusted churros in honor of Pirates of the Caribbean, or the Jedi-worthy, red- and blue-sugared “light-saber” churros in Tomorrowland.
They’re almost too pretty to eat. Disneyland Resort’s caramel apples offer a canvas for edible artistry, like the Mickey and Minnie apples at Trolley Treats in California Adventure, Winnie the Pooh apples in Disneyland’s Pooh Corner, or the Gourmet Apple of the Month (like a dark chocolate raspberry apple) at the Candy Palace & Candy Kitchen on Main Street (watch staffers making the apples through the confectionary’s window).
In its cultural and culinary rendering of the Golden State, Disney California Adventure Park has embraced one key representative of San Francisco: Ghirardelli Chocolate. The Disney branch of the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, located in the Pacific Wharf section, offers up scoops and chocolate-doused sundaes, as well as the clearly-meant-for-sharing Earthquake, with eight scoops of ice cream, eight toppings, bananas, whipped cream, and more. Don’t miss the mural of San Francisco in the shop, which reacts to your order: Buildings shake when you order an Earthquake, and a prospector pans for gold if you get the hot-fudge-and-peanut-butter Gold Rush.
In the Cars Land area of California Adventure, “refueling” takes on new meaning at the Cozy Cone Motel, a snack stand with five different cone-based treat options, from the chili-filled Chili Cone Queso to the flavored-popcorn Pop Cones. Reviewers have especially loved the stand’s Chicken Verde Cone and the Red’s Apple Freeze, a slushy made with apple juice, passion fruit, toasted marshmallow syrup, and mango foam.
http://disneyland.disneyfloralandgifts.com/home.do to order floral arrangements, balloons, and gifts to have in the room when you arrive. GREAT for birthdays or when celebrating any holiday or special occasion! You can have a cake brought to your table at Goofys Kitchen for $45.