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One day at Disneyland and California Adventure

No vacation rerun to LA is complete without spending one day at Disneyland and California Adventure.


While visiting friends in LA this summer, we left a day open for Disney. The bad news is that there are not a lot of deals on one day Disneyland Park Hopper tickets. Park Hopper means you can go to both Dineyland and California Adventure in the same day. The good news is that a lot of the surrounding hotels can accomodate 5 or 6 people in the same room since they are so used to families visiting Disney.

Disneyland is one theme park that I don’t think you absolutley need to stay “on property” at a Disney hotel. In an attempt to force hotel guests to walk through (and spend money) in Downtown Disney, there are very few shortcuts to the parks from the Disneyland “on property” Hotels. Last year we stayed at the Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites, which is right across the street from the parks and you don’t have to walk through Downtown Disney to get to them. But the doors open up to the outside and the rooms are quite small. That year we stayed on points without any cash outlay for the hotel, so I’m not complaining, I just thought you should know.

This time we stayed at the Doubltree Hilton Anneheim. The rooms are much bigger than the Marriott Fairfield Inn we’d stayed in before. Although the Doubletree was 2 blocks west of the parks (further than the Marriott), we knew we were only walking it one day of our trip. The Doubletree has a Disney office in the hotel lobby that sells tickets, etc. so it was nice not to have to stand in the lines to purchase tickets at the park. Not to mention the fact that I have Hilton Gold status, so we got free breakfast buffet (which was huge and yummy). So this 3 night stay would help me maintain Gold Status next year too.

Hubby and his college friends operate through the Disney theme parks with military like precision. The tools of their trade are: a wait time app, their family’s theme park tickets, coordinated fast pass usage, and the willingness of children to follow their lead so that the maximum number of rides can be experienced during their allotted time in the park.

If you have never used the fast pass system, it’s basically a way to get an allotted hour to skip the long lines for a ride. Just swipe your park ticket and it spits out a time you can return for faster access without waiting in the long standby line. You can google some of the limitations, like only holding so many fast passes per park ticket at a time. Also understand that the kids in our group ages ranged from 10-14. No one wanted to see characters up close, or do kiddie rides, they were there for the thrills and a little nostalgia.


So this was basically how we proceeded through each park: Hubby and I took turns going to get fast passes being “the runner”. Then the other parent would head off to a ride with a low wait time (based on the app) or a ride that doesn’t take fast passes. The key to this method is keeping track of the time indicated on the fast pass that says what time you will be able to get another fast pass. Hubby was in charge of maintaining all of the tickets, and even set alerts on his phone to remind him when “the runner” could head out for more fast passes. When wait times were high, we’d stop for sustinence or bathroom breaks.

Here is an example of how the game plan began: Kids and Julianna hit Toy Story mania as soon as the park opens. Hubby takes all tickets to obtain Fast Passes for Radiator Springs ride and then meets us in Toy Story Mania line to ride. Sometimes the runner will miss a ride while obtaining fast passes for another, but that is the price of being a parent. After Toy Story Mania ride, go to California Screamin ride right next door and we’re done on that side of the lake at California Adventure. Now start referring to the wait time apps to see which way to go in California Adventure park next. Tower of Terror wait time was less than 20 minutes so that’s where we headed. There are several wait time apps available, so if you get one and your spouse/friend gets a different one, it might confirm your choice if you can’t decide.


I don’t want to take away the magic that is Disney. We still ride the Pirates of the Carribean, and Jungle Cruise because we love them. The fact that our boys are now old enough to get all of the hidden movie tie ins and jokes so horrible they are funny make these rides all the more fun. When the boys were little we visited for multiple days, lingered with the characters, and meandred through all the “lands”. I think because we shared the magic with them early, they still love the Disney parks. Other friends that waited until their kids were older ended up liking the thrill rides at Universal more than Disney. To each his own, right?

We ended up working our way through both parks with the same plan of attack I described above. Our group of ten even got an extra fast pass when we got stuck on a ride and had to be escorted off the coaster and out the back door of the ride. You’d think we’d have to stay from open to close to get all these rides in. But we didn’t. And some of the rides we rode several times. After we had all the fun we could take in one day, we made the 2 block walk back to the hotel and put our feet up. What a great day!

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