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First-timer's guide: Disneyland

Learn to maximize your fun, not stress


Check out our first-timer’s guide to all things related to Disneyland.  The following is a compilation from some of the best and reputable contributors who know everything there is to know about the “Most Happiest Place on Earth.” You’ll be able to find information regarding admission, parking, restaurants, Downtown Disney and so much more!


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The best time to visit mainly depends on what type of experience you’re looking for.

The crowds, short lines and weather are some of the key factors when determining when it’s best for you to visit.

Avoiding the crowds

September-October; April-May

September is considered to be one of the best times to visit Disneyland, according to an AOL article. Summer’s perfect weather is still present well into the month. Kids are back in school. Few crowds are found throughout the resort starting from Presidents’ Day to Easter. Crowd-relief is offered again from Memorial Day to early summer before the peak season begins.

Avoiding long lines


Attendees can enjoy their favorite rides sans the long waits between the second week in January to Presidents’ week. Another secret? Maybe you’ll want to skip Black Friday and head out the park instead. The winter holiday season is a prime time to visit the parks.

Wonderful weather


It’s no surprise, as far as weather goes, that the best time to visit is during the summertime. Naturally, this happens to be the parks’ main peak season as well. The days are longer and parades are in full bloom. Are the lines long? Yes, but you’ll always have the weather.

So, now you know when to go but do you know how to maximize your fun while there? Bob Sehlinger, author of “The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2009” shares his tips with the Disney Frontier.


Sally Tully from the Around Disney site tells us where’s the best place to eat in and outside the theme parks.

Wine Country Trattoria

Experience the relaxed spirit of California wine country's Napa and Sonoma valleys in this family-friendly eatery. The menu includes lasagna, soup baked pastas and grilled sandwiches.

Indoor and outdoor patio seating provide diners with the ambiance of a California winery.

Ariel’s Grotto

This royal restaurant is hosted by Mermaid Princess Ariel. Diners are joined by Ariel and her royal friends including princesses Snow White, Belle, Aurora, and Cinderella.

Open for lunch and dinner, the meet-and-greet restaurant serves American cuisine including soups, salad, burgers and pasta.

Lucky Fortune Cookery

Lucky Fortune Cookery’s menu focuses on Asian rice bowls. Guests start with a bowl of rice and vegetables and then can choose to add chicken, rice, or tofu. After, they select a sauce - either Mandarin orange, Thai green curry, teriyaki or spicy Korean.

Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney Restaurants

House of Blues

The House of Blues Restaurant is located within the House of Blues venue in Downtown Disney. This Southern-style, plantation estate restaurant serves a combination of Cajun cuisine and Southern favorites.

La Brea Bakery

La Brea Bakery is a casual family bakery that claims it is "bringing bread to life."

The menu includes sandwiches, pastries and desserts. Counter or waiter service is available with seating at the restaurant's outdoor patio.


If you're looking for the ultimate place in Anaheim to dine and watch your favorite games with friends and family, you've found it. ESPN Zone is for sports enthusiasts of all types and ages.

Top 3 Favorite Dishes at Disneyland Resort

Food writer Pam Brandon weighs in.

  1. The tender, pan-roasted diver scallops with a lobster-lemon sauce with a hint of vanilla at Napa Rose at Disney's Grand California Hotel & Spa.
  2. Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder at Storyteller's Café at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Creamy goodness with chicken, bacon and just enough cilantro to make it interesting. Call it lunch in a bowl.
  3. It’s more than a sandwich, it’s a cultural icon – Le Special de Monte Cristo at Blue Bayou  in Disneyland park.


The Downtown Disney District, Disneyland Resort and theme parks each have their own parking facilities. The Disneyland site shares everything you need to know when it comes to parking.

Downtown Disney District Parking

Parking is free for the first 3 hours in the Downtown Disney District parking lot. An additional 2 free hours can be added with validation at AMC Theatres or at select table-service dining restaurants. Each additional hour costs $6, charged in 20-minute increments. The maximum parking fee is $30.00.

Valet parking is available from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. for $6. The valet price is in addition to any parking fee, bringing the maximum fee with valet up to $36.

Guest with disabilities are eligible to park in the first row in the Downtown Disney District North Lot near the Rainforest Café and in the first aisle in the Simba Lot, near Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel.

Hotel Parking

For an additional fee, Disneyland Resort Hotels offer self-park and valet service for registered hotel Guests. Follow the "Hotels" signs directly to your destination; do not park in the theme park lot.

Interested in breakfast, lunch or dinner at a Disneyland Resort Hotel restaurant, including multiple Character Dining options? Select hotel restaurants, such as Napa Rose, offer parking validation for up to 5 hours at the hotel.

Theme Parks Parking

A blogger from the Disney Frontier shares his tips on where to park and, most importantly, how to get to the theme parks:

Anaheim Resort Transit:The trolley is a quick and efficient way to get from most good neighbor hotels to the park. They will pick you up at the hotel’s entrance and drop you off at the main gate. They run every 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on the time of year. The cost is reasonable: Kids nine and under are free. Nine and over can get a pass at the following rates:

1 Day – $3

2 Day $6

3 Day $8

5 Day $12

Remember, this is per person. Most good neighbor hotels sell the tickets. The biggest drawback is you have to catch the trolley. If you miss it, you may have to wait 20 or more minutes before it comes again. The single-rate pass allows multiple round-trips between the parks and hotels. Also, if you go during peak season, fitting everyone on with strollers and such can become a mess.

Pumba Parking Lot: The entrance to this parking lot is off Disney Way. It’s a decent size lot but may only be open on busy days (Fri-Sun) depending on the season. There is no tram or shuttle from this lot to the main gate so be prepared for the walk. The walk isn’t too difficult and is probably faster than catching a shuttle in pure time. You basically have to walk down Disney Way and Down Harbour to the main gate.

Timon Parking Lot: Take the Lion King tram to and from Disneyland. Entrance is off Harbor Blvd. $11 per car. This is the best lot for quick shuttle access and the shuttle ride is short. Use this lot if you can. It may fill up fast and close early.

 Mickey and Friends Parking Structure:This is a massive parking garage. Once there, take the tram to Downtown Disney (this puts you as close to the main gates as you can get). $11 per car. The garage is huge with lots of spaces but you’ll have to deal with stairs, elevators or escalators. Shuttles run frequently but will get full. The tram ride is scenic with a few decorations but rather long.

Pinocchio Parking Lot: Located right outside the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure, this lot is usually unavailable. However, if you are returning to the park after 3 or 4 pm, give it a look. It has the same pros and cons as the garage except you don’t have to mess with the going up and down floors.

Still confused? Don’t be! The Disneyland Resort provides maps for each of the previously mentioned parking lots and how to get there.


Disney-owned hotels

All hotels are within walking distance of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure

Disney‘s Grand Californian Hotel

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa is a hotel in the Disneyland Resort styled to create the atmosphere of the California Arts & Crafts era at the turn of the 20th century.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Inspired by the breezy, beach lifestyle of Southern California, the Paradise Pier Hotel is one of three hotels in the Disneyland Resort. With 481 hotel rooms, the beach-boardwalk themed hotel offers views of Paradise Pier in Disney’s California Adventure.

Disneyland Hotel

In operation since the year of Disneyland's opening in 1955, the Disneyland Hotel features the same feeling of "Disney magic" - from the oversized Sorcerer's Hat at the hotel's Downtown Disney entrance to the Never Land themed pool based on the animated film "Peter Pan."

Nearby Hotels

Anaheim Marriot Suites

This all-suites hotel offers nice perks for its guest, like a shuttle schedule to the Disney parks. Relax by their year-round pool, spa tub, or work out at a nearby 24-hour fitness gym. The spacious 2-room suites feature private baths, a sitting area and internet access.

Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort/Convention Center

The Doubletree Hotel is ideal for families wanting to visit the Disney-themed parks since its approximately 2 blocks away. Another incentive: Kids eat free at the Italian-inspired Agio Ristorante and there’s a Disney Welcome Center officers tickets at discount rates. Amenities include a game room and outdoor pool.

Embassy Suites Hotel Anaheim South           

This jungle-themed hotel is a mile away from the happiest place on Earth. A complimentary hot buffet breakfast is included throughout your stay and there’s a restaurant also on site.

For a complete list of good neighborhood hotels click here.


Here’s our final series of tips for the world-renown Downtown Disney. Have fun!

  • Avoid crowds by visiting Downtown Disney in the morning.
  • Parking is free for the first three hours. An additional two hours are free with a validation from the restaurants and AMC Theatres. Each additional hour costs $6. Valet parking is available in the evenings.
  • There is no admission cost to visit Downtown Disney.
  • Reservations for the restaurants can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling Disney Dining at (714)-781-3463.
  • There is a Monorail  station located across from the Lego Store, which takes riders to Tomorrowland  in Disneyland.
  • Guests who are also staying at any of the Disneyland Resort hotels can have purchases made at The World of Disney or Marceline's Confectionery sent directly to their hotel room.
  • Some stores that are great for kids are: Build-A-Bear Workshop,Studio Disney 365 , The LEGO Imagination Center and the World of Disney.
  • Disney’s California Adventure can be accessed through an entrance in the Grand Californian Hotel. There is an entrance to the hotel in Downtown Disney, located between and Sephora.
  • In the evenings various musicians perform, providing free, live entertainment.



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