A Day Trip Guide To Disneyland

The world’s happiest place on earth is approximately one hour away from our Carlsbad and Oceanside properties and one hour and a half away from Encinitas and Solana Beach properties. If you want to take a break from the beach to go explore Disneyland, we have created a guide to help you make the most out of your day at Disney!

What time does Disneyland Open?

Depending on the time of the year Disneyland typically opens between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM and closes between 10:00 PM and midnight. As we write this article in April, Disneyland opens up at 8:00 AM, so we recommend hitting the road around 6:30 AM or so if you would like to get there right when the gates open. To check their most recent hours click here.

Where do we park at Disneyland?

There are three parking structures near Disneyland:

  • the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure
  • the Pixar Pals Parking Structure
  • the Toy Story Parking Area.

Parking rates vary between $30 to $45 depending on if you want standard or preferred parking (closer proximity to elevators and escalators). There is also a limited number of EV parking spots that require a ChargePoint card to use. Trams service is provided to the Mickey & Friends and the Pixar Pals parking structures. We recommend the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure (located at the star in the below picture) that has tram service to shuttle you over to the front gates of Disneyland.

Where to eat breakfast at Disneyland?

As soon as you hop off the tram to your right we recommend grabbing breakfast at La Brea Bakery Café (circled in yellow on the map below). Located steps away from the gates of Disneyland and California adventure. Their menu is very simple (pancakes, croissants, French  toast, eggs, etc.) their food is good and the prices affordable (when compared to Storytellers Café inside the Grand Californian where breakfast is $44 per adult – ouch).

Make sure you have the Disneyland App

Before you head to Disneyland, make sure you have downloaded the Disneyland app on your cell phone. The app is a must have when visiting Disneyland. It has a ton of features such as:

  • A map showing all rides, wait times, and height requirements.
  • Mobile food order option (similar to a Door Dash or Uber Eats but for pick-up).
  • Photopass if you want to have your photo taken by the professional photographers at Disney.
  • The most powerful feature is the Genie Pass.

Why we highly recommend getting the Genie Pass

You only have so much time to spend at Disneyland and not enough time to ride all 29 rides. You can however significantly save time buy purchasing a Genie Pass for each ticketholder in your group.

For the cost of $20 per a ticket, you can reserve access to Lighting Lanes which allows you to skip a large group of people who are in standard lanes. This can cut down your wait time for a ride from sometimes over a hour to just ten or fifteen minutes max. The Genie Pass is a MUST to maximize the amount of time you are riding and not waiting for rides.

Tip: The Genie Pass gives you a one hour window to access the lighting lane of a ride, such as 9:00AM – 10:00 AM. Your lighting lane pass can actually access the lighting lane five minutes earlier than the listed time in the app. So you can board the ride at 8:55 AM.)

What are the best Disneyland rides for toddlers (3 to 5 years of age)?

Fantasyland has many of the best rides for toddlers such as:

  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • King Arthur Carousel
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Peter Pan’s Flight

Steer clear of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey which can be scary for the little kiddos. Other fun rides for toddlers in Disneyland are:

  • Jungle Cruise
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • It’s a small world

What are the best Disneyland rides for adults?

Disneyland is not just for kids with many fun rides for adults. Here are our top rated rides for adults in no particular order:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Splash Mountain
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Haunted Mansion (especially at Christmas time with the Nightmare Before Christmas Theme)
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Space Mountain

Where should you eat lunch and dinner at Disneyland?

If this is a last-minute trip to Disneyland you will want to have the app downloaded so you can do Mobile food orders. We have had lunch at the Bengal Grill in Adventureland which was good, and the Docking Bay in Galaxy’s Edge which was ok.

If you are looking for a restaurant reservation, Disneyland does not have many restaurants in the park and they book up fast. They release reservation dates 60 days in advance. So, if you are going to Disneyland in the future, mark your calendar 60 days in advance to book a restaurant reservation in the park.

For a sit down lunch at a restaurant we have tried Café Orleans and River Belle Terrace. Both of which are good and it is nice to have a reserved sit down table. Instead of searching the park for an available table or seating, which can be difficult at times.

The most popular restaurant in Disneyland is Blue Bayou Restaurant and it is the hardest one to get a reservation. We have heard when the restaurant reservations open up 60 days prior to your arrival you need to be on the website at midnight minutes after they open the reservations to the public to try and get a table here.

Outside the park there are some good dinner options in Downtown Disney. We have had dinner at Catal Restaurant, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (make sure you book a reservation after 6:00 PM which is when they have live music), and Splitsville (a bowling alley). Recently Disneyland announced they are constructing a new dining area that will include the popular Din Tai Fung restaurant.

Explore Disneyland at night

Once the sun goes down there are some impressive lighting effects to be discovered in Disneyland. Disneyland truly transforms at night. Especially in Galaxy’s Edge and in Tomorrowland.

Depending on the time of year you visit Disneyland they have fire work shows at night and sometimes parades. Disneyland at night is not to be missed as it creates a different experience than during the day.

Get a good night’s rest with Haustay

After a long and fun day at Disney head back to your Haustay Vacation Rental to recharge your batteries. More adventures await, or just spend the following day relaxing at the beach.

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