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Disneyland : Planning a Trip to the Original Disney Destination

by Sarah Mudd, PassPorter Message Board Guide (Moderator)
Last modified 06-02-2011

PassPorter.com > Articles > Disneyland Resort > Planning  

I grew up in Southern California, going to Disneyland, so the park affectionately known as “The Original” will always have a special place in my heart.

Over the years, I have heard many people, when asked their opinion on the Disneyland Resort, say things like, “There’s only two parks, so it’s not really worth it.” and, perhaps the most negative comment I have seen: “We went there last year and I felt really ripped off. I’d rather go to Disney World.

I overheard a conversation in the grocery store recently where one of the involved people said, when asked if they enjoyed their trip, “You know, there really wasn’t much to do there.” NOT MUCH TO DO THERE?! It was all I could do to not talk the lady’s ear off to prove her wrong and help her plan a return trip! So, since I couldn’t help her, I am hoping to help you faithful PassPorter readers, over the course of the next few articles, to see that there is, in fact, plenty to do at the Disneyland Resort and help you plan a trip to the place where it all began.

I’d like to start by pointing out the obvious: Compared to Walt Disney World, the Disneyland Resort is small. There are really no two ways about that. I think that is the one thing that the resort has always had going against it and what ultimately, and unfortunately, turns those seasoned Walt Disney World visitors off from visiting. Let me assure you, however, that while short on size, Disneyland is big on magic!

Disneyland pedestrian entrance - Harbor Blvd. photo
Disneyland pedestrian entrance - Harbor Blvd.

- photo by DopeyGirl

Consisting of two theme parks, three resort hotels and the Downtown Disney District, the Disneyland Resort is more intimate than the Walt Disney World Resort. Park Hopping is very easy as you can exit one park, walk across the Esplanade plaza and enter the other park in just a couple of minutes. Getting around the parks is just as easy, especially Disneyland Park, as the rides and attractions are generally within close proximity of one another so you really don’t have to go too far to get from one ride to the next. There is no resort transportation as everything is within easy walking distance. The monorail is more of an attraction (taking you from the west end of Downtown Disney into Tomorrowland inside of Disneyland Park and back) than a mode of transportation. In fact, the only transportation you may need at the Disneyland Resort is a shuttle bus back to your hotel if you are staying offsite at one of their 40+ Good Neighbor Hotels! Even though the resort isn’t as spread out and isolated from the outside world as Walt Disney World, I still feel as if I am inside my “Disney Bubble” the minute I step on to Disneyland property.

So, where should you start to plan? Well, nail down a time to visit, of course! Generally, the Disneyland Resort has two seasons: Peak and not-Peak. The Peak seasons are June through Labor Day, Christmas time and Spring Break. The rest of the year can be pretty mellow, as far as attendance is concerned! If you want to visit when the weather is nicest, April and May would be your best bet, in my opinion. Crowds will be low on weekdays and the weather should be agreeable!

The next logical step is to choose your hotel and this is where it can get tricky, as you aren’t just dealing with the three resort hotels but also the 40 or more Good Neighbor Hotels that Disneyland partners with, just off-site. There are several that are just across the street (and a couple that are within closer walking distance than Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, believe it or not!). The Good Neighbor Hotels are broken down much like Walt Disney World’s hotels in the levels of Economy, Moderate, Superior and Suites, so your first step would be to choose the amenities you’d like or need in a hotel. The official Disneyland website has a page dedicated to the Good Neighbor Hotels with clickable links for each of the hotels showing the amenities offered, check in and check out times, facilities and services. You can also enter the specific amenities that you prefer and the site will match hotels with those choices and list them for you.

If you are one who likes to stay completely immersed in the “Disney Bubble,” the onsite Disney resorts are hard to beat. A benefit to staying at the onsite hotels is that you will be able to participate in Magic Mornings (early entry into Disneyland park) on any or all of the days that it is offered during the length of your stay. Magic Mornings are offered to folks staying at most Good Neighbor Hotels or those with 3-4 day Park Hopper tickets as well, but they are only entitled to use it on one morning.

The Disneyland resort offers three beautiful on-site hotels. The more moderately priced Paradise Pier Hotel has a California beach theme and you are greeted by a statue of Surfer Goofy just inside the lobby. The hotel has a total of 481 guest rooms, some with views of Disney California Adventure. It also offers kids activities, a fun rooftop pool and waterslide, as well as the Surf’s Up character breakfast with Mickey and Minnie. The mid-range Disneyland Hotel is the original. It was built in 1955 and has been expanded, renovated, and downsized several times over the years, but still has never lost its charm. The hotel is currently undergoing another major renovation (but it is still open!) including remodeling the 990 rooms and suites, improving the Never Land pool area, opening new eateries and renaming the tower buildings. The Disneyland Hotel offers two penthouse suites, kids activities, a character meal with Chef Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen, and elegant dining at Steakhouse 55. The grand-daddy of them all is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, with architecture based on the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s. The Grand Californian has 745 rooms that offer views of either the Downtown Disney District or Disney California Adventure park. Like the other hotels, the Grand Californian offers kids activities as well as a character breakfast at Storyteller’s Café (and, if you ask me, it is the best character meal at Disneyland!). It is also home to the most elegant, popular and award-winning restaurant on Disneyland property: Napa Rose. All three Disneyland Resort hotels offer free internet access to guests but two perks that the Grand Californian offers that the other two do not is a “private” entrance into Disney’s California Adventure park, and direct access into the Downtown Disney District.

So . . . bet you didn’t think your decision would be that hard to make, did you? Now that I have given you some food for thought for the initial part of your planning phase, let it all sink in and consider your options and choices. When we meet again, we’ll break the parks down one-by-one and land-by-land to see just how much you have to choose from inside the parks!

Disneyland Hotel - Downtown Disney District entrance photo
Disneyland Hotel - Downtown Disney District entrance

- photo by DopeyGirl

About the Author:
Sarah is a busy stay-at-home mom, Travel Consultant with Ears to You Travel, PassPorter Message Board Guide and Navy wife whose family is currently stationed in Washington state. She has made many trips to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Her family is excited to be heading to Disneyland (her husband and 2-year-old son's first  trip) in August 2011!

Recent Disneyland Resort Articles:
Planning for a Disney Vacation - The Coast to Coast Difference - A Disney Parks Planning Article last updated 09-10-2015
Welcome to Dizzy-Land - A Disneyland Park Review last updated 09-03-2015
How to Have a Sense-Ational Day at Disneyland - A Disneyland Park Review last updated 07-16-2015
Fantasmic Dessert Party - A Disneyland Special Event Review last updated 04-30-2015
Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland - A Disneyland Special Event Review last updated 04-16-2015

More Related Links:
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Reader Comments:

Thank you for this series of articles on Disneyland. I had never seriously considered it, guess I'm a World snob, but just in the last two days I've been hearing a lot about the wonderfulness of this park, and your article just topped it all off. I'm very much looking forward to the details about the parks!! smiley for :D Thanks again!

     Sunshine Family on June 2, 2011 @ 12:11 pm
I loved this article. I live in AZ and love that I am ily a six hour drive from Disneyland. Since we are DVC members the Grand California Hotel is where we stay and love it. There is so much to do and we always stay at least a week there. We actually prefer to go to Disneyland over Walt Disney World because it is more of a slower place to be. Don't have to wait for transportation to get anywhere.

     emilykm on June 2, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

     disneyfreak1928 on June 2, 2011 @ 12:50 pm
I also have grown up in Florida the majority of my life. My husband and children visit Disney World often. Last August we had the opportunity of going to Disneyland and all 4 of us all agreed that Disneyland just has that "spark" missing from Disneyworld. You cannot forget the fact that Walt built that park and walked that pavement. We are also heading out again to Disneyland in August 2011 and are looking forward to many new adventures. Thank you for the great article and I am looking forward to hearing more.

     ilianapdl on June 2, 2011 @ 1:17 pm
Great article! smiley for :waytogo: I can thoroughly recommend Disneyland - it's the one park that was built by Walt and I love it for that.

     chezp on June 2, 2011 @ 1:37 pm
Wife and I met in 1969 and took our first trip together in 1970 to "The Original"... We've been back off and on a few times since then, but not for the past 6 years, as we now do WDW every other year since opening... How time flies, and how things have changed! I could go on and on, but, it seems to me, "the environment makes the park"... I'll explain.. Both the Land and the World were built in, at the time, rural areas. As time marched on the areas around both became urbanized. The difference is there is a buffer in the vast size of the World not available to the Land. Subsequently, fewer people can make the smaller area seem much more crowded. Case in point, our visit to Disneyland, was for the "slowest" day of the week during the "slowest" month and the park was packed. Yet more curious, the crowds while huge, the lines were short. As is our wont, we asked. Seems Disneyland is the local hang-out, mothers with kids, people at lunch, couples after work, go to the park and just hang out. I'm sure this is also the case at WDW, but because of the seer size, the local invasion is invisible. We had a great time, we've been to both parks when they were full to the point of being closed. It was nice to see the little and big differences and to eat at old favorites, but it will be a while before we return.

     truckdriverfritz on June 2, 2011 @ 2:06 pm
Great article! We went to Disneyland for the first time in 2009 - we loved it! living in Atlanta, GA we are very close to WDW and go as often as we can - but we are planning another trip to Disneyland in 2013! smiley for :D

     queenofheartsfan on June 2, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
We have family there...so we don't stay on property. On a whim we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. Fun times...but I had a hard time of it. Why? It costs almost as much to stay there as it does a top tier WDW property. I know they have the "good neighbor" programs with non-disney properties for lower costs, but I sure wish down the road they could figure out the range of accomdation options like they had the space for at WDW.

     reambt on June 2, 2011 @ 2:43 pm
Thank you so much for this article! We live in Va. and this August will be our 9th trip in 4 years to WDW (more if you go back from 2007!). We LOVE WDW, but in 2013, the family is going to venture out west to "see where it all began." My first and only trip to Disneyland was in 1988 and I wasn't the Disney fan I am today. We know WDW like the back of our hands, but I've been feeling a bit anxious about not knowing much about DL. We are so excited to go to CA. Thank you for breaking it down for us Eastcoasters!

     disneyrunningmom on June 2, 2011 @ 10:02 pm
We have been to the "World" many times because we have family in FL. We just got back from WDW & I felt like I was done with Disney for a while. We just found out that we will be making a trip to CA & I since I have read your post, I MUST check Disneyland out! Maybe I will become enchanted again! You are giving me just the right info by starting with the basics first - Thanks!!

     jodistrock on June 20, 2011 @ 12:22 am
50 years of Disneyland and thought I pine for a home next to WDW there will always be my first love. Thanks for the article, very interesting.

     mechurchlady on June 20, 2011 @ 1:11 am
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Updated 06-02-2011 - Article #644 

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