We had a 4 Day Pass – entry to one park per day which is the cheaper of the tickets and was perfectly fine! You definitely couldn’t fit everything from one park into one day anyway!!
We arrived at Disneyland on our first day around lunchtime – on a Saturday. First tip: Saturdays are very busy, queues to enter (bag checks/security) are very long, there is no shade/shelter from the sun, and the park is very crowded and busy with everyone from everywhere! Expect to queue for at least an hour or more on most rides and to be seated at any cafes/restaurants in the park. It is full of atmosphere, but there are people and prams everywhere!
We were pretty tired after our long flight, but wanted to make the most of our day! Where do I start?! Disneyland was just like what you see in the pictures, the castle, the characters, the shops, the themes and atmosphere! Everything was decorated in a Halloween theme with pumpkins everywhere!
As it was so busy, most rides had at least a 60-90 minute wait period and majority of lines were in the beating hot sun. We spent a bit of time walking around, just taking in the park and sights.
Tip: On a busy day, even if you buy a FastPass (US$10 per person per day) there may not be any benefit as rides book out so quickly. At 2pm the first available ride I could book was for 10.30pm at night!! You cannot book another ride until you have used the current FastPass booking. On the plus side – Purchasing FastPass enables you to download for free on the same day any park photos taken by a Disneyland Staff member.
Our very first ride was the famous Teacups!! Absolutely loved it!! From there we explored some other rides, churros for the first time (yum!!) and a show at the Fantasyland Theatre. We also meet Mickey Mouse in person at his house!!
The afternoon went quick and we made our way (approx. 20 min walk) to the Disneyland Hotel for our 6pm character dining reservation at Goofys Kitchen. Fabulous dinner option, there are different characters from Chip n Dale to Goofy and Daisy walking around tables meeting everyone. The food was a buffet menu with plenty of choices for mains and deserts to suit everyone. It was a great atmosphere and choice and I would definitely recommend this to anyone.
Once we left the restaurant, we made a short walk to the Monorail Station located just outside the hotel and Downtown Disney. Here we caught the monorail back to Disneyland Park which was pretty cool as it travelled through the park. We caught a few more rides over the evening and visited The Haunted Mansion which was decorated in a Halloween theme. The evening parade made the park very busy. People were saving their spots on the curbsides and outside shops at least an hour before the parade was due to start. They had areas cordoned off for people to sit in around the harbour/waterfront area, and if you weren’t sitting or had a spot you had to keep moving in the direction of people walking – and find a spot! We decided to line up for Splash Mountain and take advantage of shorter queues! We could still hear the parade, and in parts see the parade from our que. As we came out of the top of Waterfall and down, the Disneyland fireworks went off in the sky and it was an absolute awesome view! By 11pm we were exhausted and called it a night. As we left the park, there were hoardes of people walking like us. It felt very safe and the walkways and streets were all lit up for 10 minute walk to our hotel.
Tip: Stay somewhere close and within walking distance as the queues for buses and taxis were horrendous at the end of the day - with a wait time of at least an hour plus.
On our second day we visited California Adventure Park – this was my favourite park. Everything was decorated for Halloween.
It felt a little more relaxed and spread out, maybe not so crowded as Disneyland Park. We arrived early in the morning and there were plenty of rides available with small/no queues. It had some great rides from the Incredibles Roller Coaster to The Guardians of the Galaxy Break-Out! and the Grizzly River Run – these all seemed a little bit more thrill-seeking and exciting than what was on offer at Disneyland.
We had our faces painted as part of the celebration of Mexicos ‘Day of the Dead’ and ate the best piece of cake I have ever had (!!) from the Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill. It was filled with different flavoured layers – like cinnamon and had a type of cream cheese flavoured icing…it was delicious!! All whilst listening to some Mariachi music and watching some song and dance performances in celebration of the Coco movie.
Pixar Pier was a great area to hang out. It offered some great snacks from ice creams to churros, Pixar Games which were fun to play and anyone can easily win a small or big prizes! You easily top-up one of their game-cards with money/credit at a machine, then swipe away at your selected game area when ready to play. You can play against each other or against other players with games like horse racing, water pistol shooting, basketball, fishing etc. There were plenty of rides to suit children from mini roller coasters to flying Zephers, a merchandise store with some cool toys and then there is the magnificent Pal-A-Round (Ferris Wheel) which came with great views over the parks and surrounding areas and can be enjoyed by everyone in either a swinging or non-swinging carriage!!
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the shops at Hollywood Land and Buena Vista Street where we purchased some merchandise along the lines of Minnie Mouse Earrings each! And a few presents for others.
We also managed to catch some action from some of the characters from Guardians of the Galaxy – Star Lord, Gamora & Groot, who were out and about on the street. They had a little performance going for 20 minutes or so and were selecting members of the public to join in with them…they had my daughter up dancing in front of the audience!!
We spent the evening on a few more rides in the park before heading to Cars Land where we ate dinner at Flos V8 Café and afterwards we took a ride around Radiator Springs on ride Radiator Springs Racers.
The park closed early tonight due to other Halloween Celebrations, and as we left the park we stood and watched at the main entrance the magnificent fireworks of Disneyland go off!! What a fabulous view!
Tips: Arrive early to get on rides and use the Disney App with FastPass at US$10 per person per day to book your ride times. Spend the busiest rides times of the day either dining or shopping and make sure you already have your ride booked for afterwards.
Today we skipped Disneyland and opted for Universal Studios Hollywood. We booked our return transfers with LuxBUs who were a great service, arriving at Universal at approx. 10am (park opening time) and departing at 6pm. This offered the whole day at the park.
The best tip: I pre-purchased my Universal Studios tickets – I would definitely recommend the Express Pass ticket rather than the standard ticket. This gives you one ‘skip-the line’ entry to each ride which is sufficient to be able to get around the whole park in one day.
We started with shops/rides at the beginning of the park and worked our way around. I would recommend taking the Studio Tour earlier in the day. Normal Ticket holders need to queue approx. 1.5-2hrs before set departure times. On our Express Ticket we waited for approx. 5 minutes before the first shuttle arrived, which we were then boarded and seated straight away and were off! We took a drink and churro to eat in the line while we waited :-)
All the rides seemed suitable and enjoyable for children and adults. My favourite ride would have to be both the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey and Transformers: The Ride-3D. Also, the Raptor encounter outside Jurassic World was amazing – and Blue looked absolutely real!!
If you are looking for something a little bit more thrill-seeking without sitting on a ride, make sure you visit The Walking Dead attraction to get your heart pumping!!
Universal had plenty of characters roaming around ready for photo shoots – everywhere you went you would see one you knew from Hello Kitty to Homer Simpson to ALL of the Scooby-Doo characters. Photo shoot queues were only about 5 minutes long, but the downfall was the cost of purchasing the photo (approx. US$15 each) if you didn’t have someone taking one on their phone for you.
Eating wasn’t a problem either – heaps of churro stands and places to eat. I would recommend dining for lunch in the ‘Upper Lot’ as there were minimal choices in the ‘Lower Lot’ where Jurassic World, Transformers and The Mummy rides are located.
Tip: If you are wanting to purchase the largest donut ever, make sure you buy these early in the day and either eat them(!!) Or carry them with you or you will miss out! They can be purchased form the Kwik-E-Mart or at Lard Lads Donuts – the queues at the end of the day are long and if you are restricted for time and getting back to the bus, you will miss out.
We managed to make the last show of the day at Waterworld. This was an entertaining show, full of laughs and excitement. My biggest tip for this would be when the seats at the front are painted a different colour and are in the ‘wet/soak zone’ dont take this mildly! You will literally get soaked, right through to the bone - backpack and all!! We were at the last show around 4pm, which meant being wet through at the end of the day and it made it hard to dry out and it got cold quickly.
One day at Universal Studios on an Express Ticket can be explored at a leisurely pace and still cover everything. If you have the time I would recommend 2 days to make the most of everything, ride your favourite ride a second time and to explore the Universal City Walk located next to the park which I didn’t have enough time to do unfortunately.
Our last day we decided to spend at Disneyland again as we missed so many rides on our first day due to jet-lag and Saturday crowds!
We arrived reasonably early around 9am, which was good as we bet the crowds and late risers. We didn’t buy a FastPass today, we queued for rides instead as it was nowhere near as busy as Saturday. Ques were approx. 10 minutes long and we finished all the rides in the Park by early afternoon. We even managed to meet 3 Princesses – Cinderella, Tiana and Sleeping Beauty and were lucky enough to see a Star Wars performance where Kylo Ren appeared and had a light sabre fight with Rey. We wandered around eating Churros (again!), watched a theatre show, shopped at the shops, ate candyfloss and rode the rides. This was a very leisurely paced day and more enjoyable making it easier to appreciate the park in a different way without the crowds.
Tip: Visit Disneyland on a weekday not a weekend day or public holiday. Allow yourself an extra day or two so that if you need a rest you can spend a couple of half days visiting instead.