Disneyland 2013: Lessons Learned from Disneyland Newbies


This month, I’m writing a series titled 31 Days of Disney! In this part of the series, I’m reviewing past Disney trips and lessons learned along the way. Today’s post is unique in that we’d been to Disney World five times as a married couple, but this was our FIRST trip to Disneyland! If you’re considering a family vacation to Disneyland, love all things Disney or just want a fun, interesting and informative read, this post is for you!

Quick Summary of Our 2013 Vacation to Disneyland

Apparently, my memory is really failing me this week! A few posts back, I told you that I joined my husband for business travel once and only once. Then, in another post I told you I made a mistake, that we actually joined my husband for business travel twice. Now, I’m having to eat my words again and tell you that in reality, I’ve joined my husband for business travel three times to date. Ugh! I guess I need a little refresher course on our own life history! Thank goodness for photo albums!

In 2013, we had the incredibly unique opportunity to join my husband on a trip to the Kids Choice Awards in Los Angeles. My husband had to work all weekend, so I was alone with the kids much of the time. But as part of the gig, we received four tickets to the Kids Choice Awards. It was pretty amazing and most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us.

As if that wasn’t enough.

We decided that as long as we were purchasing airfare for me, my son and my daughter, and were already in Los Angeles, that we might as well make it our annual family vacation. So we added 2 1/2 days at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park to our trip.

My husband went off work duty the morning after the Kids Choice Awards. We promptly caught a taxi and headed straight to Disneyland. We arrived at Disneyland on Sunday morning, and were flying home by Tuesday late afternoon. So basically, we had most of the day Sunday, all day Monday, and a chunk of the day on Tuesday to visit Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park. While it was a lot to cram into 2 1/2 days, it was enough time to see and experience everything the parks have to offer.


Lesson 1: Disneyland has a much different feel than Disney World.

Disneyland is in California, and Walt Disney World is in Florida. Both have marvelous rides and attractions. Both have character meet and greets. Both have parades, dining plans and character dining. Both have beautiful landscapes and grounds. Both have excellent guest service. Both attract guests from around the world. But after having been to Disney World several times and then visiting Disneyland, I was surprised at how different Disneyland was from Disney World. Maybe it’s just me, maybe not?! Disneyland feels compact. Whereas Disney World feels more spread out and spacious. Disneyland feels classic. Original. Wholesome. Walt Disney World feels like an experience you need a week to truly get through. Disneyland is easily navigated. Disney World requires a little more planning. Disneyland’s castle is wider, shorter, more quaint. Disney World’s castle is taller, narrower, more stately. Disneyland is quick and easy to get into. Disney World takes a bit more effort to get in the gates. You can see ALL of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in two to four days. You can see ALL of Walt Disney World parks and waterparks in one full week. Perhaps I’m making generalizations, but they’re also my humble opinions and observations. These are the big differences that come to mind when I think of Disneyland and Disney World. The point is, if you’ve been to Disney in California, don’t assume it’s exactly like Walt Disney World in Florida. If you’ve been to Walt Disney World, don’t assume it’s exactly like Disneyland. If you’re Disney fans, both California and Florida parks are worth visiting for their unique offerings and specialities.

Cars Land Disneyland

Lesson 2: Disney California Adventure Park is modern and beautiful.

I really loved Disney California Adventure Park. It was incredibly beautiful. I’m not sure why, but I was continually amazed by how gorgeous the park was. For someone who’s really visual, it’s a true delight for the eyes. Disney has gone above and beyond as far as making this park feel modern. The colors, the textures, the waiting lines, the signs…pretty much everything was gorgeous. I felt like I was walking in a movie. Yes, I felt like I was IN a Disney movie. I would go so far to say that there were a couple areas where I felt like I was a character living in a Disney movie. For example, “Cars Land” and “A Bug’s Land” were both amazing and memorable. The roller coaster and ferris wheel near the entrance are also stunning. I think I could stay at any of those places all day and take photographs upon photographs of all the beauty. In short, Disney California Adventure Park far exceeded the expectations I had for it coming in. If you ever go to Disneyland, you MUST also plan at least one day at Disney California Adventure Park. It’s worth every penny and couldn’t be more accessible to Disneyland. It’s literally across the way. A hop, skip and jump from Disneyland. Highly recommended.

Disneyland dining

Lesson 3: The dining plan at Disneyland is NOT necessary.

We bought the Disney dining plan for our stay at Disneyland because we’d grown to LOVE the Disney dining plan at Walt Disney World. However, I have to say we would not recommend the Disney dining plan at Disneyland and will not purchase it again next time we go there. Unlike Disney World, when you purchase the dining plan at Disneyland, you get pre-paid dining plan “vouchers” that have a certain dollar value for each meal and snack. You aren’t necessarily saving money with these vouchers. By purchasing the dining plan, you’re just paying in advance for the meals and snacks you’re already going to buy. If you don’t use the full dollar amount listed on the voucher, you don’t get change. Variety and accessibility was also an issue. There weren’t as many sit-down restaurants. There weren’t as many options for character dining. And at the end of the trip, when we looked at where we ate and what we ate, we felt we would have paid similar or less for meals and snacks if we had just paid cash outright. This is an incredible learning coming from us, as we’re HUGE advocates for the Disney dining plan at Disney World. But for Disneyland? We weren’t quite sure. Wouldn’t do it again. One note – the food at Disneyland is, of course, AWESOME as always! The reason he was making a funny face in the picture above? So much amazing food, so little room in the stomach! Yes, that’s an order of Mickey waffles in addition to the steak, eggs, hashbrowns and toast breakfast. Pretty sure he didn’t have much for lunch that day.


Lesson 4: Staying on property at Disneyland is totally worth it.

There are currently three hotels on property at Disneyland – Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel & Spa. We chose to stay at the most affordable of those three hotels. Let me tell you. Staying on property at Disneyland is totally worth it. Disneyland is NOTABLY more compact than Disney World. So when you stay at a Disneyland hotel, you are RIGHT next to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. We got up in the morning, literally walked out the front door of our hotel, across the street, through the lobby of one of the other hotels, down a little shopping area, and there we were at Disneyland and California Adventure! It was super easy and incredibly convenient. I would definitely stay on Disney property next time I visit, and highly recommend it to future travelers as well.

That wraps my review of past Disney trips, friends. Tomorrow, we’re moving on with the 31 Days of Disney series! So looking forward to sharing the journey with you.





31DaysofDisney_medium2This post is part of a month-long series titled 31 Days of Disney! If you’d like to read more posts from the series, click here and you’ll be directed back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page. ALL posts from the series are linked within the body of that post. Find a title or topic that intrigues you, click on it, and the post will pop up for your Disney reading adventure!

I also placed the series graphic on the right sidebar of my blog’s home page, so click it anytime and it’ll bring you back to the 31 Days of Disney landing page where all 31 posts are listed and linked.

You can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/AmyBPederson where I’ll tweet links to all 31 posts using hashtag #write31days, and I’d LOVE to connect on Facebook at facebook.com/AmyBPederson. You can also find me on Instagram at instagram.com/AmyBPederson, and I might even do a few scopes live from Disney World, so follow me on Periscope at @AmyBPederson to see if I get brave!

So glad you stopped by! Make yourself comfortable. Take a peek around the place, and know you’re welcome back anytime.

  1. Tom Baunsgard says:

    I loved this post Amy! This was a great comparison of Disneylsnd/California Adventures and Disney World.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.