Disneyland puts on a show for the holidays. You can enjoy a festive time here, but of course the magic of Disney at Christmastime is no secret. Alas, thousands of others have the same idea for Christmas fun. So if you plan to visit Disneyland in December, here are a few tips. And if you’ve missed out this year, why not look ahead to next year and start saving and setting aside vacation days now?!
1. Check out the official Disneyland website before you go. Opening hours change, so the only way to know when the parks will open the day you plan to go is to look at the official calendar. You can also note which rides are closed for maintenance and when parades and shows will take place. Disneyland is the 61-year-old park in Anaheim, and next door is California Adventure, the newer park. Figure out the price of tickets to one or both parks before you get there to avoid confusion.
2. Install apps on your phone before you arrive in the parks. Use the official Disneyland app along with at least one or two others, such as MouseWait. These will allow you to look up wait times for rides in real time. You can change your itinerary throughout the day as you see which rides have the longest wait times. You can also look up restaurants and snacks near wherever you happen to be. You can even read menus and find hours for a promising restaurant. You can also find out where Disney characters are scheduled to appear.
3. Arrive before the stated opening time. On the day we visited, Disneyland’s opening time was 8 a.m. We went into the park about 7:30. Main Street is open and people bunch up, ready to “walk, not run” to the rides when opening is announced. You can look at the castle while you wait. Here’s the scene from our day at Disney, about 7:45 a.m.
4. Head first for your favorite ride that tends to have long wait times. For us, that was Indiana Jones, and we wound around for about 10 minutes before boarding the car. Later in the day, wait times for this ride showed up on our apps as about an hour.
5. Use the Fastpass system for rides that have long wait times. You can get a Fastpass for some of the rides and these will give you a time to return to the ride. At the return time, you go to the front of the line. We used a Fastpass for Star Tours and it worked beautifully. The catch is you can pick up only one Fastpass at a time. It’s a great system if you have a planner in your group who can keep track of time!
6. Go on some rides that change for the holidays. Some rides are different in December, and some aren’t. So be sure to take advantage of this and go on at least a few that are so much fun at this time of year. The Jungle Cruise, for example, is spiffed up with all kinds of decorations and new jokes by the boat drivers.
Small World is the most remarkable. The famous (infamous?) song is rearranged to include Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls, and holiday sentiment is found throughout the ride. In light of all that’s going on in our world, we can appreciate this scene.
7. Enjoy the parades and fireworks, even if that’s not usually your thing. Folks line up two hours or more ahead of time, so don’t be surprised. Just find a spot and hang out for a while. Holiday songs, characters from all your favorite movies, and being part of a crowd of happy onlookers is really worth the wait.
8. When you’re tired, get away from the crowds. The lights, music, fast rides, colors, and throngs of people are bound to wear you out at some point. We like to take the Monorail or walk to Downtown Disney, just outside the parks, and relax a bit. At one point we headed to the Grand Californian hotel’s lobby, with its fireplace and Christmas tree. We ate dinner at the Storyteller Café, the hotel’s buffet-style restaurant. Then we returned to Disneyland for the evening, refreshed and rested.
10. Pack your patience (mentally) and enjoy a day at this “merriest place on earth.” You may not fit in as many rides during the holidays at Disneyland, but charm is everywhere. Enjoy yourself and let go of any notions of seeing “everything.” If a line is long on a ride you love (why is the line for Peter Pan always 40 minutes from opening to closing?), don’t fret; plan to return in the New Year!
How about you? Have you been to Disneyland? Do you have any advice on how to beat the crowds?