I recently spent the day at Disneyland’s Resort California Adventure and Downtown Disney. As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, I grew up in the Midwest and watched Disney’s Sunday night program faithfully, watching Tinkerbell light the fireworks or color splashing over Cinderella’s castle, wondering if I’d ever get to visit Disneyland. It seemed so far away. I never thought I’d end up living about 45-minutes away as an adult. I think about that every time I visit, and it makes me smile.
Here are my ten tips for doing a solo day trip to the Disneyland Resort, specifically for a visit to the California Adventure theme park.
On this particular visit, I chose to go alone. I got to decide what to do and when. No compromise. Pure entitlement. Feeding my selfish dark side. Yes! This was the day! The night before, I made my list of what I wanted to do there. Making lists makes me happy. Perhaps you are a list maker, too. I went prepared to check things off that list. As an introvert, doing things alone is often fun for me.
Alone in the crowd, but not lonely.
If you ever go to such a great place by yourself, these ten tips may be of interest to you.
Tip #1: Take a book or your Kindle and plan to do some reading.
My first attraction for day was Soaring Around the World, one of my most favorite things to do at Disney’s California Adventure, formerly Soaring Over California, also a favorite. I chose the stand-by line with a 45-minute wait. Standing in line can be especially tedious when you are alone with no one to chat with, so I came prepared and brought a book.
I passed the time reading and standing and reading and standing for a while, when the cast member made an announcement. One of the two theaters was having technical difficulties. The guests in that line were moved into the other theater. That would add a five to seven minute delay. OK. Whatever. I was reading.
I love to read. For some of us, extra free time to read is a luxury, so that was my perspective. The long time of reading was great. But the standing time, and standing still, became tiring. Finally, I got seated on the ride, loved it as always, and was relieved to be sitting down for a few minutes.
Tip #2: Choose to do those things you want to do that those who love you and normally go with you might not care about missing.
For me, that included going to see Frozen. The park information states “The dazzling theatrical interpretation of Disney’s global film phenomenon Frozen…at the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park!” My husband would not typically agree to do this, unless he could tell I really wanted to go or it was my birthday. I’ve wanted to see this for a while. I was looking forward to the 2:00 performance, according to my carefully crafted plans for my day.
I walked over to the theater at about 1:15, casually early, anticipating a line. I rounded the corner and what did I see? No line. I could only assume something was wrong. In spite of the obvious, I still asked the cast member the same question, “What?” Sadly for me, the 2:00pm performance had been cancelled. I’ll have to wait to another day.
I also went to the the Animation Academy, and learned how to sketch Piglet. (Photo below with ice cream) [Note: Glen actually would do this one.]
Tip #3: Take advantage of the “single rider line” at Radiator Springs Racers, and get on the ride with less waiting time.
“Zoom through the desert landscape of Cars Land, inspired by the Disney•Pixar movie Cars,” the online information proclaimed. I do like this ride, so I made the hike over to Cars Land to take a ride through the Disney Pixar desert.
I got to the single riders line and approached with a spring in my step, all smug that I’d avoid a long wait. The cast member greeted me with “It’s a one hour wait.”
“What? Really? For single riders?,” I gasped in disbelief, all pride in my brilliant strategy fleeing.
She nodded yes. I crossed that ride off my list, walked away, and decided that was not going to happen that day either.
Tip #4: Enjoy having the whole side of a ride vehicle to yourself.
Mid-morning, I picked up a “fast pass,” a ticket for a shorter wait in line if you return later in the day, for Toy Story Midway Mania. The park information describes this as, “Ride and take aim at moving objects during this midway-inspired, 4D game starring popular Disney·Pixar Toy Story characters,” and it is another favorite of mine. No skill required.
I went over to the ride at the designated time, about 4:15. I got the whole side of the car to myself, of course. So fun! But that car tosses and spins you around a bit. It is much more fun to sit next to some one you love to bounce off of in the competition. I definitely have room for improvement, and maybe some competition (a.k.a. Glen) would help motivate me.
Tip #5: Choose when and where to stop to eat your favorite foods, because you are in charge. And all alone.
I stopped for coffee and something with cinnamon in the morning. I ate a not-on-any-health-food-list corn dog for lunch and completely enjoyed it. A little birdy sat nearby (see photo) watching for crumbs to drop. I took an afternoon break for ice cream and people watching. It was fun to pace the day my way and choose foods that I don’t usually include in my day-to-day meals.
Mint chip ice cream & my Piglet sketch
Tip #6: If you like to take photos, take all the time you want to stop, observe, find, and photograph anything that catches your interest and your eye.
You will not be slowing anyone down. If you like to take photos, you will know what I mean. It’s bliss. I was fascinated by clouds, pines, and lamps on this day for some reason. No need to explain. No need to apologize to the group for taking yet another photo and dragging out time.
I also photographed some of the humor I noticed in Bugs’ Land. Now I know what lightning bugs do for a living and where candy corn grows.
Tip #7: Beware of people who do not understand how to properly stand in crowded lines.
I experienced two different groups that missed that day of Disney Park Etiquette orientation. There is really no such thing, but evidently we are not all born with an understanding of cooperating in lines. Both groups violated these unspoken rules of crowd behavior in line:
a. Always stand as close as possible to the person in front of you to prevent people from crowding in and cutting, seeing a gap. And to give a better sense of how long the line truly is.
b. Do not stand single file with your group, one behind the other, making the line extend back another six or seven feet unnecessarily. Come on, people. Clump together. Move as a pod, like an advancing amoeba. We are not waiting in the drinking fountain line in kindergarten.
c. Don’t all freeze in place in line to watch the baby being cute, bringing forward progression to a halt of the rest of us. Baby stare and maintain a shuffle toward the front. It can be done.
Tip #8: Don’t go in the off-season like February thinking the parks will for sure be low in attendance without checking what conventions and big activities are happening in Anaheim.
Check online to make sure Anaheim is not in the midst of hosting a national high school cheer competition. Or else be prepared to spend the day surrounded by multiple small mobs of enthused teen girls on the move all. Day. Long. The park will be crowded. However, on a positive note, you will leave the park with new fashion and make-up insights. And can possibly photo bomb all sorts of selfies to entertain yourself.
Tip #9: Dress warmly.
A sunny California day is not necessarily always warm. This is a whole different version of California cool!
Tip #10: Need a quiet moment? Stop and rest in the Disney Grand Lobby.
Located next to Downtown Disney and California Adventure is the Disney Grand Hotel. I love drifting through the Disney Grand Hotel – the decor, the ambience, the charm, the fireplace, and the beautiful piano music of Disney classics.
I have a secret place in the small lobby on floor three. I stop at a little desk, open to the lobby. I catch my breath, charge my phone, read, plan, journal, while listening to the wonderful background music wafting up from the main floor. The arts & crafts decor is perfect for the historic time period style of this hotel.
Glen met me for dinner at Downtown Disney. We enjoyed dining at La Brea Bakery Cafe restaurant, which got us validated parking and made parking free. We ended the day sharing a bag of beignets from Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express. Glen had dropped me off in the morning on the way to work, so I hitched a ride home with him, tired but happy. And I had over 11,000 steps on my pedometer.
Beignets come with enough powdered sugar to fairy dust a small forest!
I do enjoy living so close to the Disney Resort. It comes in handy any time I’m feeling like I need to wish upon a star. By myself or with family or friends. Would you ever go alone? What are your best tips for the day?
Stay charming, my friends!