Most go to Disney to race from attraction to attraction, stand in lines for hours for a 5-minute ride, shake hands with a character, rinse repeat. Part of this is to feel you are getting your “money’s worth” for the ticket price paid (and rightly so). If you have the opportunity to visit Disney on a pass, as a chaperone, or really want to step back and truly experience the magic in the little details, which Walt was so fond of focusing on, but often overlooked, I have some suggestions. The caveat being when you go when it is not in “peak season” although I captured our visit on June 12th at Disneyland and California Adventure in California. To give you a sense of time, we arrived around Noon.
Tips to plan your day: Reservations are your friend for the restaurants. Comfortable shoes. Bring your own water. Sunscreen.
- Just stroll. Don’t have a particular destination in mind. We wanted an “adult” day so we stayed away from Toontown, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland and stayed in Adventureland and Frontierland. As we purposefully took our time to just walk leisurely, I was surprised at how much I had never noticed before. There are many little alcoves and nooks that are away from all the hustle and bustle. We found this exotic spot tucked away in Adventureland, giving us a moment to grab such much-needed shade and enjoy our…
- Dole Whip. It is important to pick a “Disney-esque” guilty pleasure treat, I recommend Dole Whip because it is simply more sophisticated than crunching on a churro (although that is my typical go to) or biting the head off a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. That might dampen the romance. The Dole Whip stays with the “we’re off on an exotic adventure” theme.
- Ok, if you want to ride a ride…my suggestions, since we are now already in Adventureland, strolling through the land, is to take advantage of something nearby (because the point is not to chase around the entire park). I recommend Pirates of the Caribbean or Indiana Jones, especially if you want part of your wait in line to be in a cool, enclosed air conditioned space. Now if you want to say you rode a ride at Disney, you can. The waiting area for Indiana Jones almost makes it worth the wait. The Jeep you pass was actually used in the filming of the movie I have a thing for Jeeps anyway).
- You want to see a Princess or Mickey? By now, it’s probably Parade Time. Start heading back towards Main Street and the parade will come right at you. There. You saw a Princess and probably felt like a little kid again. What would be the point of coming to Disney without that feeling?
- 5. Now it’s late afternoon. We exited Disneyland and headed over to California Adventure, aka where you can get cocktails.
- I suggest first stopping over at Soarin to see if you can get a FastPass to return to the ride at a designated time and not have to wait in as long. I know, you already did a ride back in Adventureland. Soarin is more of a trip through the skies across the globe (simulating a hang glider) exploring foreign lands and landmarks (Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower). Romantic, sophisticated, exhilarating and adventurous, without being jarred around. If Fast Passes are gone, or the wait is still too long, don’t worry. Your California Adventure has only begun.
- You can’t miss Carthay Circle. The tall, stark white building in the center of the square. Inside is a luxurious lounge created by Walt to capture the glamor of going to the movies. Deep-seated leather wing chairs, marble tabletops, surrounded by rich, finished wood is a perfect place to grab cocktails and appetizers (although the upstairs dining area takes it to a whole new level). We were able to get a table in the bar lounge area without any wait, and the twice cooked Vietnamese beef tacos with pineapple-mint salsa, well, I dream about those. Paired with a “fancy” margarita.
- Around the corner from Carthay Circle (to the right), be sure to visit Grizzly Falls. A scenic spot with benches to sit, people, watch, take it all in. Capture a photo or selfie together if that’s your thing, as a memento.
- Just a little further up, are the vineyards. That’s right, Disney has their own winery and wine tastings. It’s all part of Wine Country Trattoria Restaurant serving Italian dishes. Now the secret to the magic of your evening is this: I believe it’s up to 60 days in advance, you can reserve a dining package at Trattoria (as well as other restaurants) that includes a fast pass with a reserved viewing area for World of Color (the magical spectacular in California Exploring that is the complement of the fireworks show in Disneyland). Packages can vary and include full dinner and dessert, plus your pass for viewing, but they also have World Of Color Desert packages as well.
- And for the grande finale, may I present World of Color. A mix of laser projections on the dancing water fountains, animations across the water screen from all of the mist, coupled with music and the ever-changing color patterns on the Mickey Ferris Wheel.