Countdown to Disneyland: A Newbie’s Point-of-View

Sleeping Beauty Castle

Well the countdown is officially underway!  In six weeks from today I will be arriving in Disneyland for the very first time!  I am both excited and a little over whelmed.  As a Walt Disney World veteran who knows the the entire 42 square miles of Disney property like the back of my hand, I’m actually overwhelmed by this much smaller resort…go figure!

Disneyland is like the motherland for Disney fans everywhere.  It’s the Happiest Place on Earth.  It’s Walt’s park.  I want to see and do EVERYTHING!  But where do I begin?  What do I do?  Most importantly, where do I eat???  Not only do I have these things to worry about, but I will be running in the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge while I’m there!

So I’ve come up with a list of a few MUST DOs while in Disneyland and I’ll be going into everything in a little more detail over the next six weeks as I countdown to my trip…so exciting!


  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • It’s a Small World
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (squeeeeeeee!!!)
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Storybookland Canal Boats
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage


  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
  • Aladdin Musical
  • California Screamin’
  • Radiator Springs Racers


  • Blue Bayou
  • Carthay Circle Restaurant
  • Napa Rose
  • Trader Sam’s
  • Flo’s V8 Cafe

Now my hope is to get to ALL the attractions, but these are the things that must happen or I will be inconsolably sad.  We will be there for 4 1/2 days, so I’m hoping this is possible and that I won’t be too exhausted before and after the races to get everything done.  And let’s not forget about those races!  I am beyond excited to run a brand new course through 2 parks, the city of Anaheim and Angel’s Stadium.  I’ve heard the half marathon is flat and fast and I can’t wait to take that on!

As I mentioned, I’m going to be diving into each one of things in more detail over the next few weeks as I prep for my trip, but what I really need is YOUR help.  I want to hear what your Disneyland must dos are.  Are you a newbie with the same overwhelming excitement as I have?  

Oh and how fitting that I’m starting this series today…Disneyland’s 58th Birthday!!  Let the party begin! 🙂

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  • It’s interesting to hear a WDW veteran having trouble planning Disneyland. I feel a little overwhelmed trying to figure out planning the WDW Marathon Weekend. I’ve started giving tips on my blog about Disneyland and DCA. The thing I would add to your DL list is Fantasmic. It’s way better than the DHS version of the show. Oh, also, I would add the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters to your list. My wife and I prefer the attraction here to the one at the MK because you get to take the gun out of its holster. At the MK, we didn’t like that the gun was stuck in the console. Also, the DL version allows you get a FREE photo of you on the ride to email yourself. To your DCA list, I would add the World of Color show. Book a World of Color dining package at the Carthay Circle Restaurant and cover both in one shot.

    I’m working on a blog post for dining at DL and DCA that will be up tomorrow or Friday. I like your lists thus far. Except the Nemo Subs is one that is not a “must see” because it’s essentially the same ride as Nemo and Friends at EPCOT except that you’re in a submarine and in the water. If the wait time is more than 30 minutes, you might want to try back later. This ride is not worth longer than a 30 minute wait.

    • Thanks so much for all the tips!!!
      I definitely want to catch Fantasmic! and I completely forgot about the guns on Buzz at DL…must do that!
      I’ve actually already made a World of Color/Carthay Circle res…can’t wait for that!
      I think I want to do the Nemo Subs solely for the nostalgia factor of being on one fo the subs 🙂

  • Must do: RAD meet up.

    … Just saying!

    I too am feeling overwhelmed.

    I called and booked us for dining at: Ariel’s grotto, plaza inn, goofy’s kitchen, and cafe Orleans.

  • I’m quite the opposite of you- I have been to Disneyland more times than I can remember, yet have never made it out to WDW. 🙂 Even being a DL veteran, I still have must-dos when I visit. I always see Fantasmic and always eat at the Carnation Cafe for breakfast (sometimes every day of my trip!). The Carnation Cafe is the only table service breakfast inside Disneyland (you can call for reservations) and it’s so good. You might also get to meet Oscar- Disneyland’s longest tenured cast member!
    Your list looks great! I do have to agree with Greg that you could skip Nemo. The wait can get up to an hour and IMO, it’s not worth it. Definitely make sure you see Aladdin- that is worth the wait! 🙂 As for where to begin? Start where Walt started it all- Disneyland’s Main Street. Can’t go wrong. 🙂
    Maybe I’ll see you there- I’m running Dumbo as well.

    • I’ve heard Carnation Cafe is good for breakfast, so I’m definitely going to have to check that out.
      Thanks for the tips…it’s so great to hear from all these DL vetrans!
      I hope to meet you as well!

  • I’ve never been either, but I go to WDW a few times per year. That said, I’m thinking Coast to Coast in 2014, so let me know what to do out there!

  • Oh my goodness, you are going to LOVE it! Last year for the DL 1/2 was my first time and I still can’t believe how much I liked Disneyland!

    You MUST see World of Color! It was hands down the best Disney show I have ever seen, my only regret was that I saved it for the last night of my trip last year (with the Carthay Circle dinner package), had I seen it sooner I would have gone back EVERY night of my trip to see if again and again!

    • I’m going to World of Color on the first night with the Carthay Circle dinner package! I’m so excited 🙂

  • I would suggest adding Bengal Barbecue to your list of eats at DL. Just thinking of the Banyan Beef Skewers (spicy) and Safari Skewers (bacon wrapped asparagus!) makes my mouth water! Good luck with DDD, I’ll be there too!

    • Oooohhhh bacon wrapped asparagus?!?! MUST get some of those!
      Hope to see you at DDD…good luck to you too 🙂

  • You will have sooo much fun!! I love the park that Walt built! 🙂 If you are eating at the Blue Bayou, I would highly recommend asking for a water-side table. The ambience is amazing and complete made the experience for me! Also, I ate at Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventures last time I was there….it was delicious and I loved that atmosphere there as well (sit outside though). One last thing that was my ABSOLUTE fave from Disneyland (and I have only done once). I am not sure what hotel you are staying at, but if at all possible, I would recommend at least one night at the Grand Californian Hotel in a Theme Park Room. I stayed there for my honeymoon…it was INCREDIBLE! I loved being able to watch California Adventures with all it’s lights on from my balcony in the evening. In the morning, we ordered room service and had breakfast on the balcony while the park woke up. You can’t experience that anywhere else b/c no other hotel is so close to the parks. INCREDIBLE! 🙂 Have a blast!!

    • Thanks so much for the tips! I have a reservation at Blue Bayou so I will definitely ask for the water-side table 🙂

  • I just got back from a 4 1/2 day trip to Disneyland and I think you’re list is definitely feasible! Don’t worry. Our list was much longer and we got to everything, and we even took the first two days really slowly.

    I echo everyone’s sentiments about Fantasmic, World of Color, and Buzz. Those are all much better than at WDW.

    I’d also recommend Toy Story Midway Mania. Yes, it’s the same as DHS, but the lines are so much shorter! And Jolly Holiday! They had a great salad with cranberries and the Matterhorn macaroons live up to the hype!

    • That’s a good point about Toy Story…I never ride it at WDW because the lines are always so long. Thanks for all the tips!!

  • As one of your CA readers who grew up going to Disneyland and has been more times than I can count recently I will give the first tips that come to mind.

    1) The parks are small and most AP holders are locals. This means that popular ride fast passes (FP) run out earlier in the day. I think these are typically the “mountains” (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain), and Star Tours.

    2) There are no ways I have figured out to get around waiting for Fantasyland rides…. *le sigh* Worth it and the lines usually go pretty fast. Dumbo is tradition in my family for first time visits to DL. It was my first ride there way back when!

    3) Utilize the single rider lines to get on many popular rides with little wait. In DL this includes the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Indiana Jones (I NEVER wait in line!). In DCA this means CA Screamin’ and Radiator Springs Racers (so worth the 45 min instead of 3 hours!!!)

    4) I think your list of restaurants is interesting 🙂 I would add Wine Country Trattoria in DCA. The prices per glass of wine are not as terrible as you would think ($9 – $12). I live in Napa and think our wines are top notch, of course! There is a sparkling red that they only serve in DCA.

    5) WORLD OF COLOR — omg!!!! Make this a priority incase something random happens so you can make sure to see it. This show is unparalleled!!!!! I go see it every time I am there because they make small changes to keep it interesting.

    6) Okay, last one. Because the parks are literally a few 100 yards apart you should park hop. In my experience DL is super crowded in the early hours and thins a bit when toddlers need their naps 🙂

    I hope you do have a RAD meet up! I would love to meet you in person. Hope your training is going well!!!!

    • Thank you so much for all the tips!!! It’s always good to hear these insider tips from locals 🙂
      I keep hearing about Wine Country Trattoria…I’m thinking that might be good the night before the half 🙂

      I’m definitely going to have a meet up…still need to figure out the details, but it will happen! Can’t wait to finally meet you 🙂

  • I love Disneyland. One our favorite “attractions” is listening to Ragtime Robert play at Coke Corner. His our favorite. Alan is our second favorite. At 2:30 each day the Mad Hatter and Alice play Musical Chairs at Coke Corner. We are there most days when we are at DL. Maybe we can finally meet there.

    • I didn’t know about either of these things, so thanks so much!!
      I’m planning a meet up, so hopefully we’ll be able to say hi!

  • Definitely agree with the Bengal Barbecue suggestion! The Banyan Beef skewer is amazing. Also, the soup bread bowls at Pacific Wharf are pretty great 🙂

    The only attractions I’d add to your list are the Enchanted TIki Room (it’s a classic, and you can take your dole whip into the show!), and possibly Winnie the Pooh- it’s tucked away a bit, so there’s never much of a wait, and it’s pretty cute. Who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh? Also the Sleeping Beauty’s castle walkthrough- it’s not earth-shatteringly awesome or anything, but I enjoy it.

    • Oh yeah! I heard you can take your Dole Whip into the Tiki Room…have to do that!
      The castle walk through sounds pretty neat since you can’t really walk through Cindy’s Castle.
      Thanks so much!

  • I am also a tad overwhelmed with DL and what to do. I love the idea of starting a list of things I need to do.

    PS- Just read that Thunder Mt and Haunted Mansion will definitely be closed for refurb and possibly Matterhorn and The teacups. Super bummed!

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