Diehard DW fan to do DL for the first time - lots of questions

Discussion in 'Disneyland (California)' started by Beckyb3, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Beckyb3

    Beckyb3 Earning My Ears

    Dec 30, 2015
    So I am an East Coaster and a diehard Disney fan. I love all things Disney. World, Cruise, Movies, Store, etc. I have never been to Disneyland though. Friends of mine who are also Disney obsessed have told me they actually prefer DL to DW so I am really looking forward to trying it out. We (my sister, and my two young girls 7 and 5) are planning a trip to San Diego in April and initially I was planning on just spending one day in DL since it is close but after having read a bunch of stuff here it felt like we should plan for more so now the plan is three nights. We will be there either April 23-26th or April 22-25th. My first question is, how difficult will it be to get from Anaheim to the San Diego airport on a Friday? I have heard traffic can be really rough and am debating whether I plan to stay the last night in San Diego versus Anaheim? If we do spend the last night in San Diego, does anybody have a recommendation for a good hotel nearish to the airport? Second question is on hotel. I have read so much up on this and am still struggling with the decision. I know there are good neighbor hotels that are just as close as some of the Disney hotels but I am still fairly interested in staying at a Disney hotel (partially I know because it is ingrained in my head from Disney World and I know the perks aren't as significant in DL). I don't necessarily mind spending the extra money but I do also like a good deal. Will I find that in some ways it is a waste to spend so much on the hotel? I had initially thought we would stay at The Disneyland hotel as a happy medium but the fact that the one pool is under renovation is a big deterrent at such a high price that I thought it might make more sense to stay at Disney's Grand California. Also, am I overthinking the pool part because it may not be warm enough to swim anyway? Finally, are there any not to be missed experiences at DL? I am sure I have a million other questions that I am forgetting at the moment. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am super excited for our first foray into DL.
  2. Beckyb3

    Beckyb3 Earning My Ears

    Dec 30, 2015
    Sorry I have already thought of another question. We use touringplans.com for our DW planning not really for the touring plans but more for all the other information and their wait time app. I know they offer a DL one as well but I have heard it isn't as good. What is the popular version of this for DL?
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  4. SteveH

    SteveH Earning my Mai Tai

    Sep 8, 1999
    My son lives in San Diego, as far as hotels any along I-5 are fine just don't got for a super cheap one. Stick with the major hotel chains and then check them out on Yelp. Lyft/Uber can get you to the airport in just a few minutes so I wouldn't worry about being super close. What time is your flight out of SD?

    IMHO if y can swing the Grand Cali just do it. The construction at Disneyland Hotel is pretty annoying from some friends that were just there. I like the location of the Sheraton, besides the Sheraton there is the Marriott, SpringHill Suites all right on the corner. Then you can walk up and enter through Downtown Disney.

    As you got to WDW I would say a couple rides that are essential are the Indy Ride, Pirates, Small World and Matterhorn. Space is different enough I'd put it in that list too. There are so many I could just say everything. But you won't find the Indy or Matterhorn rides at WDW and IMHO the Pirates and Small World at WDW feel more like an after thought.
  5. Gaugersaurus

    Gaugersaurus Mouseketeer

    Jan 11, 2018
    For planning advice check out HydroGuy's DLR for WDW vets guide if you haven't already.

    The drive to San Diego on Friday will really depend on when you plan to leave. Morning rush hour will be the worst, midday shouldn't be too bad but you're looking at a minimum 2 hour drive. If your flight is in the late morning/afternoon I you shouldn't have any issues staying at DLR and driving down.

    This DISboard is probably your best source of info for DLR. As far as the lines app between Maxpass and the DLR app you should be able to get a good feel of lines. Since so much of the crowds at DLR is comprised of locals and AP holders it's much more "go with the flow" than WDW.
    BlvInMagic, HydroGuy and SteveH like this.
  6. dieumeye

    dieumeye Mouseketeer

    Feb 17, 2019
    Stay at Grand Californian if you can. If you want a slightly less costly option, then stay at Disneyland Hotel.

    If you are going to be in the parks for several days and are a huge Disney fan and want an “only at Disneyland” experience, then I recommend doing the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour.
    SteveH likes this.
  7. a7xmouse

    a7xmouse Earning My Ears

    May 7, 2018
    It's hard for me to warrant paying Disneyland Hotel prices when there are really nice hotels all around the area, but I understand if you want the full Disney experience. Traffic from LA to San Diego can be hit or miss. I've driven from LA to that area of San Diego many time and I've had times where I can get there in just over an hour, and I've had a few times it took me 3 hours (with the worst possible traffic). So just be prepared to leave fairly early. Just make sure you ride all the original Disney rides that Walt created. Guardians is probably my favorite ride right now, but that's probably because I've ridden every other ride so many times already. Also I recommend the San Diego Zoo. Probably the greatest zoo in the world. Coronado Beach in San Diego is my favorite beach.
  8. VandVsmama

    VandVsmama DIS Veteran

    Mar 28, 2011
    It'll probably be warm enough to swim because they heat the pools, but it won't be 89 degree Florida bath water sort of temperature.

    If you can afford the GCH, then totally stay there. Otherwise, there's some great options across the street along Harbor Blvd which cost way less money. Some even include free breakfast. And that would leave you extra $$ for extras like a World of Color dessert party, character meals, etc. In terms of off-site hotels, we've stayed at a few:
    1. Hojos (Howard Johnsons) - they have great customer service. No free breakfast, but free parking until 3 pm on your check out day. The splash pad area is awesome for children. My kids loved it. The cheapest rooms only have a fridge, not microwave, too.
    2. Park Vue Inn - we stayed here last weekend. Pool is in the parking lot. It's no comparison to the DLH or GCH pools, of course. But free parking and free breakfast. Breakfast starts at 7 am. Beds were comfortable & the room was clean. I'd stay here again. This is right next to the Best Western Park Place Inn. <5 min walk to the Esplanade. My DH wants to stay here next time.
    3. Best Western Stovalls - has 2 pools, is on Katella Ave. Long walk. Room VERY clean. Free hot breakfast every morning. Parking is ~ $10-$11/day. You have to move your car out of their lot by 11 am on check out day, so consider that if you're going into the parks on your check out day. Not an ideal location if you want to take an afternoon break.
    4. BW Plus Pavilions - a little farther down from Stovalls on Katella Ave. Pool was nice. Room VERY clean. Longer walk than from BW Stovalls. Free parking. Room rate includes free breakfast for 2 at Denny's next door, but I think it only starts at 7:30 am. So if the park opens at 8 and you want to be there for rope drop, then you miss out on the free Denny's breakfast. Rooms have fridge and microwave like at BW Stovall's. Marri's Pizza is next door...local place with good Italian food at reasonable prices. Enormous portion sizes. 1 adult meal can feed 2 people.
    Touring Plans - don't use it for DL. I used RideMax a LOT on prior trips. RideMax is GREAT and is very good at helping you maximize rides while minimizing wait times. I used it a lot when my kids were the same age as your kids. It TOTALLY made for successful trips.

    I followed the advice of other DISers when our kids were your kids' ages. Here's what we did to take advantage of limited time there:
    • Use your Magic Morning entry if you're staying off site. Assuming that you'll have 3 day or more tickets. MM is on Tues, Thurs, or Sat. Try to make your MM day earlier in your trip, which is when your kids will have more energy.
    • Devote that MM hour to Fantasyland. Go on rides all morning until ~ 10:30 am...
    • Then go have a late breakfast at the Plaza Inn...it's a character meal and it's the best value in my opinion of all of the character meals. Plus it's the cheapest and it's the only one IN either park. We often see 6-8 characters there. This will be just about the time that you and your kids are ready for a break.
    • You'll probably finish up breakfast by 11:30. 11:30 am is when it switches over to quick service for lunch. Use a FP that you've grabbed earlier and go on that after your late breakfast. Go on other rides until ~ 1-1:30 pm.
    • Then leave and go to the hotel, rest, swim.
    • Return to the parks ~ 4:30-5:00 pm. Go on 1 or 2 rides, then eat dinner early ~ 5:30 pm (you beat the dinner rush this way). Then more rides after dinner.
    • If seeing fireworks is a priority, do that earlier in your trip because sometimes they're cancelled.
    • If you want to see Fantasmic and don't want to have to stand, do a dinner package for that.
    If your kids are into princesses, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is fun...it's pretty much the same as at WDW.

    Peter Pan & Captain Hook often roam around in Fantasyland for the 1st couple of hours that the park is open. Peter plays games with children. There's no photopass photographers with them. No FP to see characters.

    Best way to meet Mickey Mouse with out a wait:
    Be at the gate to Toon Town 1 hour after regular park opening.
    Walk to Mickey's house and wait <5 min to meet him.
    Meet the other main characters who will be out walking around in Toon Town. They likely won't have PP photographers with them (Mickey's meet & greet will).
    Go on Roger Rabbit with no wait.
    Go on the Gadget's Go Coaster with very little wait.

    Then when you're done in Toon Town, go on It's A Small World with a wait probably < 15 min. Or if FP are available for it, use the Disneyland app to check for return times for it and get a FP for it ~ 9:30-10:30 am.
    Sunclytie and keishashadow like this.
  9. dieumeye

    dieumeye Mouseketeer

    Feb 17, 2019
    This is a great plan for people with young kids. Reading this makes me want to go to DL and do this tomorrow! I LOVE being in the park early and going hard to get things done, then taking a break post lunch. When you return to the park in the evening, it's almost like it's a totally different place, and so wonderful to realize you can spend another 5-6 hours there!
    VandVsmama likes this.
  10. motor58

    motor58 Mouseketeer

    Oct 22, 2009
    One thing that stood out to me in your post " I know there are good neighbor hotels that are just as close as some of the Disney hotels "

    DL is very different from DW in that many good neighbor hotels/not disney hotels are closer than the disney hotels. With the exception of the GCH, those hotels across the street on Harbor are a fraction of the walk than DLH and PP. And GCH is close, but if you get a room way back in the hotel, Best Western Park Place Inn is a shorter walk. Just so you can compare apples to apples on the whole 'how far of a walk is it'.

    That said, yes if you can swing GCH, just do that.:cool1:

    I love DW, but the charm of DL is lovely. And how easy it is to get around, you will love it!
    RecursiveColor likes this.
  11. bumbershoot

    bumbershoot DIS Veteran

    Mar 5, 2007
    Im a Disneyland person, but we’ve been to WDW bunches of times since late 2010.

    It’s late April in Southern California. I less there’s some weird weather, it’ll be warm enough to swim.

    Matterhorn is like Orlando’s Space.

    Space is totally different and awesome in Anaheim, so that’s first on my list.

    I personally dislike the Grand. I’d go Paradise Pier if staying onsite because of the big bright rooms.

    But I usually stay offsite. I like Hilton Anaheim and Desery Palms. Candy Cane Inn would give you a POR/POFQ feel.

    When is your flight? That’s key.

    The thing that jolts me every time at MK is not having New Orleans Square. So that might jolt you the opposite way. :)
    CateinPhoenix likes this.
  12. Mike_M

    Mike_M Mouseketeer

    Mar 8, 2008
    That was odd for me too on my WDW trips.

    New Orleans Square in DL is for sure my favorite land across all of the Disney Parks I’ve been to yet.
    bumbershoot likes this.
  13. Sunclytie

    Sunclytie Earning My Ears

    Jun 20, 2017
    I love staying in the Grand Californian - it’s a beautiful hotel - but I agree that being in a Disney hotel is not as important at DL as it is in WDW. You don’t feel like you’re in the Disney bubble so much at the other hotels, in my opinion, and you’re further away. If you don’t want the Grand, I’d book a hotel on Harbor and enjoy just walking everywhere.
  14. HeyKoolaid

    HeyKoolaid Mermaid off the port bow!

    Sep 20, 2007
    Grand Californian is our preferred at DL. Last trip to DL we booked at the last minute and couldn't get into a DL hotel. Ugh. I feel there is a big difference between staying on property vs off property (I need the full magic experience). Grand Californian's big advantage is that you can walk out of the hotel directly into California Adventures. When Cal Adv first opened, I was skeptical that it could hold its' own, but with the addition of Pixar Land and the Wonderful World of Color, it is an amazing park. We are returning in May and have booked the GC, so I am stoked. Have a Magical Trip!
  15. AP1209

    AP1209 Mouseketeer

    Apr 28, 2015
    I am a WDW vet that just did DL for the 1st time last week. If you want to get a table service restaurant book now! We had 4 reservations booked on our trip and wanted to change the time of 2 of them while we were there but nothing was available. Also make sure to get max pass. It's worth every penny. You don't want to be running around to fast pass machines especially since you wont be familiar with the layout of the park. Get that fast pass for Radiator Springs Racers early!
  16. TyRy

    TyRy <font color=blue>Part of the problem is I wear my

    Sep 12, 2004
    Be careful - you may find yourself falling in love with the DL compared to WDW. :) I am also a WDW vet who finally gave in and went to DL thinking it'll make my DH happy and I can get back to only going to WDW. Ummm...I've already informed him I need more time at DL so I can experience all the great entertainment and everything else we missed. That our yearly Disney trips may be out there for the next couple of years. He knows he has created a new monster, but is at least a little happier about it since he loves CA in general.

    We did a crazy split stay of a couple nights at the HoJo, then the DL hotel and finally GCV on our points. All were great, but really really liked the size of the DL rooms and it was just the two of us. We were in the Frontier tower and loved that we were what felt like just steps away from the monorail. That worked great at the end of a long day, we'd hop it in Tomorrowland (I think) and be close to the room when we exited. Everything about DL was easier from the dining reservations to FP. We used Maxpass and the parks were empty but we got on everything. Even the rides that didn't have FP did not have long waits. They have not experienced the long waits that every ride in WDW seems to have thanks to FP+.

    I got home and had to make my FP's for an upcoming WDW trip and called DH to say what a pain it was and how much easier our trip to DL was. I think it's the intimacy of the resort in general and the ease of getting everywhere. The hopping between the two parks was unreal - 136 steps from one gate to the other.

    The only dining reservation we could not switch was Blue Bayou and they were not taking walkups...grab that if you want to dine there.

    Happy to answer any questions you can think of!
    chickapin parterre likes this.
  17. chickapin parterre

    chickapin parterre DIS Veteran

    Dec 18, 2014
    Yep.....that is why folks have an annual pass...to visit every day, week, month......and for the rest of us who live far away for any advantage to a pass....have Disney withdrawal

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