Just Got Happier! 5 Things Not To Miss At Disneyland & Disney California Adventure

Are you ever someplace, experiencing something and you take a mental step back and think "This is so amazingly cool I can't handle it?" That was me a few weeks ago at the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure. Standing there at the entrance to the new Cars Land area, amongst the sea of press and VIPs, watching the one yellow street light flashing in the middle of a darkend Radiator Springs, I became overwhelmed with emotion. 

This was seriously one of the coolest things EVER. 


I wax poetic about Disneyland all the time. I can't help it. Being from LA, I grew up with Disneyland. It's comforting and familiar and one of my favorite places on earth. Over the past few weeks, I've written about about what to wear to Disneyland, what to eat when you are there, and even reported on other's expriences. So for this post I'm going to expand a bit and give you my top 5 tips to make your trip to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure complete. 

1) Purchase the Photo Pass Plus Package

I'm personally a fan of the Photo Passes in general. You get a nice, professional pictures of your whole family when a great background. Before this past trip, I purchased the images after the fact a la carte on the website. For this trip we were gifted the Photo Pass+ - a package that puts all your Disney’s PhotoPass photos PLUS select Attraction photos AND Dining Print Packages – All for one price of $100 (at Disneyland Resort. Prices higher at Disney World). 

While yes, spending $100 on pictures when you have your camera may seem high, this is what you get: 

  • PhotoPass+ Card and Lanyard
  • A gallery CD with over 300 stock photos
  • A unique code to create and order a PhotoCD with all your photos online at DisneyPhotoPass.com
  • Print Packages at select Dining locations
  • Digital Downloads of select Attractions

But even better, you GET all the prints from the rides such as:

  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
  • California Screamin’
  • Radiator Springs Racers

AND the character dining locations like:

  • PCH Grill
  • Goofy’s Kitchen
  • Ariel’s Grotto
  • Plaza Inn

I loved coming home to over 100 great pictures - with me IN THEM! :)

2) Stay for the MadTParty

Growing up, we used to love when it got dark and what we called "Club Disney" would start. If you are the parent of a tween, or just an adult looking to chill out and have a drink, the MadTParty is the place to do so. Think of Alice's tea party on acid. Giant walking flamingos, light-up adult beverages, oversized brightly colored furniture, Alice singing on the mic and the White Rabbit spinning some tunes. The MadTParty is FABULOUS. While it is a "club-like" atmosphere, because it's Disney it's still 100% kid friendly. 



3) Get the Flashing Light-Up Ears for MadTParty and World of Color

In celebration of the grand reopening of Disney California Adventure, Disneyland introduced new, interactive light up Mickey ears called "Glow in the Show Ears."  

These new Mickey Ear hats incorporate the infra-red trigger technology to engage the audience during “World of Color” and Mad T Party. The Ear hats feature iridescent lights that change to complement the imagery and beat of the shows. When not activated by the shows, more surprises are in store for guests as the magical ears glow with other settings around Disney California Adventure Park.

During our sneak preview at the park, all 3,000 or so attendees were given these ears to wear to be worn during a showing of World of Color. If you've seen WOC before, you know that in itself it's an amazing experience, but when you are surrounded by thousands of syced Mickey ears, it becomes surreal. The Glow in the Show ears cost $25, but once again SO worth it for that added experience. 

4) Breakfast or Lunch at Ariel's Grotto

If you are bringing a little Princess with you to the park (or a big Princess for that matter), plan ahead and make a reservation for Ariel's Grotto dining with the Princesses. Here's why: you get A GOOD filling meal*, time to stop and relax, and about 5 princesses come to YOUR table and spend a few minutes with you. Forget chasing the Princesses all around the park or waiting in line for over an hour at the Princess Fiare - this place is a one stop shop: Food, Princesses, BAM. Mission Accomplished.

*It's a multi-course meal with a veggies and cheese starter, a good solid meal and a dessert platter like you won't believe. And if your child is 3 and under - they eat free. 

5) Visit Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland

While all my other tips have been DCA-centric, this tip is for when you are in the Magic Kingdom proper. On the path from Big Thunder Mountain to Fantasyland you pass by Big Thunder Ranch. I say "pass by" because many people walk right on past it...but this one of the best places to stop in the park. 

Big Thunder Ranch is shaded, hardly ever crowded and a great place to see Mickey and Minnie and pet a goat all at one time. The characters, dressed in western attire, do Meet-n-Greets. Tables have coloring activities for kids and it's a great place to chill out and have a snack. And there's a petting zoo.

Disneyland doesn't do anything half-way, and the petting zoo here is a great example of just how amazing Disneyland is. The goats are clean, friendly and wearing bandanas or leather collars. The space is impeccably neat and I didn't feel the need to sanitize the kids from head to foot with foam sanitizer after we left. 

We ended up spending about an hour here, just hanging with Donald and Daisy and having one of those momentous memory-making moments Disneyland is famous for. 

You may notice I didn't include Cars Land in these tips. That's because that is a NO BRAINER. Of COURSE you will go to Cars Land - and you will love every moment of it. But adding on a few other things here and there and remembering to stop and check out ALL Disneyland has to offer will make your visit even happier. 


*disclosure: Disneyland Resorts provided myself and my family with tickets to the parks, the glow Mickey ears, the PhotoPass+ and a stay in the Disney Grand Californian Hotel. The opinions expressed in this post are my own.