After our long arrival day the day prior my original plan was to have a lazy day for the first official day of our trip. But once I started doing the Disney planning I realized we had to use the first day of the vacation to visit Disneyland park if we wanted to be able to see all the night shows during our stay. So we made it work!
I mentioned in my packing post that I packed a lot of food for the trip, especially breakfast stuff. The kids were so excited about the poptarts I packed…even if we didn’t have any plates or napkins or anything for them haha!
Kye also started the day off with one less tooth! He lost his tooth during the night in his bed so it was quite the adventure hunting it down (and now speaking about it I’m pretty sure we left the tooth there or it go tossed at some point. Oh well!).
Here is the thing about the common Disneyland vs Disney World debate. They are two completely separate experiences. Yes, some of the rides are the same or similar but overall it’s just SO different that it’s hard to even truly compare the two.
I know that the hardcore Disneyland people love it because it’s “the park where Walt walked.” And don’t get me wrong…it is AWESOME to see parts of Disneyland that Walt loved. To hear him talked about during rides and experiences and knowing he was hands on in each and every detail of the Disneyland design and execution up until his death.
But I also agree with the flip side of that argument. Disneyland may have been where Walt walked…but Disney World was Walt’s dream. It’s everything he ever wished for and beyond even his wild imagine. The night before he died he spent time laying in a hospital bed with his brother outlining his plans for Disney World on the hospital ceiling. No, he never walked in the parks. No, he didn’t live long enough to be hands on in its development but it is the park he always wished for and it was built in his legacy.
The bottom line is…people who were raised up visiting Disneyland, prefer Disneyland. And the ones who were raised up visiting Disney World, prefer Disney World. All of our family had an INCREDIBLE time on this trip. But when we left? We all agreed. Disney World is HOME for us and no park will ever surpass the love we have for it in our hearts!
A really, really cool thing about Disneyland is that you can walk to the parks from many of the area hotels. We had less than a 5 minute walk from our hotel to the gates of the parks and it’s something I just LOVED back when Zach and I visited so I was so excited for the kids to have that experience too.
We’re all used to a super long trek across a parking lot when leaving the parks at Disney World so getting to walk less distance than we just walk in a parking lot and be at our room? SO. COOL.
I will go ahead and share our outfit details! I really wanted each of us to look very “California” for the day so I went with bright colors rather than the traditional red and black Mickey color scheme.
Both of the girls’ dresses are from Kohl’s (one of my fav places to get Disney clothes)
Kye’s shirt is Target
Mine and Zach’s shirts are both from Oh Yeah Apparel.
Ready for the BIG DAY!!!
Not only are the parks within walking distance from a ton of hotels…but they are also literally right across from each other in distance. When you are standing at the turnstiles for Disneyland…you can turn around and be facing the turnstiles for Disney’s California Adventure. Both parks share bag checks which makes security check-in easier too. If you were to hop from one park to the other you wouldn’t have to go back through security!
When we visit Disney World we are in a routine of arriving to the parks a solid hour before park opening. I didn’t really see a whole lot of recommendations regarding when to arrive at the California parks (there just isn’t as much planning help available for those parks as there are the Florida ones). So I went with what I know: get there an hour early.
By being there so early we were at the front of the entrance line with no problems and we were right beside the family who was chosen to open the park that morning. I was almost super bitter about it because if yall remember my lifelong DREAM was to be the park opening family at Magic Kingdom. A couple years ago they stopped doing the opening show (which still has a piece of my heart…I miss it!) and they also did away with any sort of family helping to open the park. When I saw the family get chosen at Disneyland I about died. But thankfully their park opening is just the family actually saying “the park is open.” No characters or special song or anything to cause me to be envious haha!
Disneyland is “old school” in a lot of ways. They still have paper tickets which were pretty awesome. They also JUST started doing a new system for fast passes (last time we visited they were still doing the paper fast passes…which you can still get there too) called MaxPass where you pay $10 per day per person and choose the fast passes on your phone.
I’m not gonna lie. This stressed me OUT. I’m used to securing our fast-passes 30 days in advance at minimum. With MaxPass? You can’t schedule any fast passes until the moment you enter the park. Once they scan your ticket at the gate, you can start booking them.
It was much less stressful in practice than in preparation. When I made our daily itineraries for each day of the parks I just set up the day assuming we wouldn’t have any fast passes. I also set it up to spread out the rides where fast passes are available as you can’t have more than one fast pass in a given amount of time. This all worked out super well. When we arrived at the parks I’d look over the itinerary and know which fast pass I wanted to book first etc and just followed it throughout the day. Sometimes we had to rearrange a bit but overall it all went super smoothly with no issues!
I will also say that people say “Disneyland is the park where no planning is needed.” Everyone acts like it’s SO laid back and SUCH smooth sailing that you can literally just walk in and do whatever you feel like.
FALSE. Yall SO FALSE.
In fact setting people up with that expectation is so awful because it lead me to tears our first day visiting Disneyland a couple years ago.
Disneyland still has super long lines. And super huge crowds. And super long wait times. To walk in with no plan may be possible, but I don’t personally think it’d be all that enjoyable (at least not as people visiting for a trip that we may never take again for many years to come). We wanted to see and do IT ALL and you simply can’t achieve that without being planned out.
So I planned just as hardcore as I do a Disney World trip and that combined with us having four full park days AND going at a VERY low crowd time (week of Labor Day) ended up making the parks beyond our expectations. We never had a long wait. We got to do it all and do it all multiple times. It was truly FANTASTIC. So if you’re going to Disneyland. Plan. Ignore the people who say you don’t have to and PLAN ANYWAY. (As always I have to recommend Touring Plans Site…they have one for Disneyland too)
First entering Disneyland as a hardcore Disney World visitor is a bit strange feeling. It’s so familiar yet also so different. It feels the same and feels like I know where everything is but then I need a map and feel all out of sorts when I remember I actually don’t have a clue where anything is!
I wanted our first ride of the trip to be something familiar and that we ALL could ride and ALL would enjoy. So we waited in front of Tomorrowland until the park opened so we could ride Buzz first thing!
You knew the first visit pins had to happen!
Among the first people on Buzz! Kye is like “NO TIME FOR PHOTOS LET’S GO”
There are a mixture of rides at Disneyland that are similar or the same as ones at Disney World. When the parks first opened of course Disneyland had things first and Disney World had them second. Sometimes though the opposite has been true. In the case of the Buzz ride…Magic Kingdom had it first and then it was approved upon before being added to Disneyland.
At Disneyland the guns are free to point, shoot and aim rather than being attached to the vehicle. The game is MUCH harder with different shapes to hit and having to look for targets that are well lit. All of our egos took a beating at our low scores haha! We LOVED it though and it was a great way to kick off the day!
A BIG difference between Land and World are the number of photo pass photographers. As part of our MaxPass purchase all of the photos were included so naturally I wanted to see out as many photo opportunities as possible. This wasn’t really easy to do and the few photo pass photographers we were able to find always had MASSIVE lines.
I think part of the reason for this at Disneyland itself is that the castle is so little. On Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom you can see the castle alllllll the way down the street so photographers can line the street and snap great shots. It’s not really possible at Disneyland. We were super close with the statue and still had to go back to get better pics of the actual castle later in the week!
We did prep our kids prior to the trip regarding the size of the castle. A fun fact that I didn’t know is that Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland was actually built for the park prior to the movie being made! The kids knew it’d be small but Britt was still vocal in her disbelief about it “that’s it?”
I also want to go ahead and give big props to Tess on this trip. I talked to her about it multiple times. I let her know that a HUGE gift to MOMMY would be if she’d smile pretty for the pictures on the trip. I talked about how special this trip is and how important it is to me for her to have cute photos of herself to look back on. She ROCKED IT. I love love love so many of the photos we took on this trip. It makes all her pouty faces at Disney World worth it to have these!!!
Magic pictures are at Disneyland too!
I also want to comment on the weather…it’s phenomenal. When Zach and I came before it was April and we wore JEANS and were COLD as soon as the sun went down. During this visit we were the first week in September and we weren’t sure what to expect but it was fantastic. It was in the mid 60s in the mornings and a tad cool while walking but then it was beautiful all day and we only had one day where we even had any sort of sweating (the last day) and even then we never needed our cooling towels or anything. We did use jackets in the evening!
We had a fastpass for Indiana Jones which is a really well themed rollercoaster at Disneyland that is not at Disney World. Although a couple fun facts for you…it is the same track as the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom so that means they are the same ride just with different scenery and experience. Also the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland was built over a parking lot and one of the signs from the parking lot is still hung in the line for the ride as a memory.
We headed to us our fastpass and loved all the cool theming of Adventureland along the way!
I visited Disneyland when I was a little older than Kye. My dad and I came together and one of the memories that stands out most to me is Indiana Jones. I was TERRIFIED. I remember in line Dad kept promising me it wasn’t a rollercoaster but omg that ride was def more rollercoaster than not. I rode it again when Zach and I came and it was the highlight of his trip because I screamed so much haha
Since we didn’t have plans that morning that would be messed up if I was a little frazzled I figured I’d ride it again with Kye and Britt because I wanted to see them experience it for the first time and knew they’d get a kick out of me freaking out.
We used our fast pass and Zach and Tess went to walk around and check things out in the area. The line for the ride is REALLY neat. SO well themed with tons of little hidden gems. It’s an experience in itself!
Tess and Daddy explored Tarzan’s Treehouse while they waited for us! Such great views!
The kids and I were in the fastpass line for Indiana Jones for over 20 minutes which just doesn’t typically happen, especially so close to park opening! They announced some technical issues that they’d hope to fix quickly so we took the gamble and waited longer. But then ended up just having to leave. They did issue us an all day fastpass for it to be able to return back anytime that day to ride.
It was a bummer to start off the day wasting to much time in a line not to even end up riding it (same thing happened to Zach and I on our first day at the park too!) We really didn’t have any more time before our breakfast reservation so we just let the big kids explore the treehouse with Tess and then headed on our way!
When planning the trip I knew we’d be pretty tired on the first day and would FOR SURE need naps in order to be able to stay up as late as was needed for the first night. So in my planning I tried to keep the morning low-key. When researching different dining options for our stay I learned a lot about The Plaza Inn (same name as a restaurant at Magic Kingdom but totally different experience).
I heard that it was an AWESOME mix of TONS of characters so I was IN. Especially when it meant meeting characters we’re never able, or very unlikely able, to meet at Disney World. I read that it’s best to book it around 10:30 so you get the end of breakfast and that way have time in the morning to knock out some rides and such before the reservation.
As we walked up, Rafiki greeted us!
Yall know I’m not a fan of the whole meet-a-character-before-you-eat thing. The character interaction just isn’t as great in this situation. Minnie was just standing there. We posed and smiled and moved on. No real cute moments or fun memories. Just a picture. Although I must say it ended up being one super cute picture 😉
If you have MaxPass then the photos they take will be able to be added to your account for free. Just be sure to tell the staff member who comes around the to table trying to sell you the printed photos. I wasn’t sure what would happen so I asked the cast member to take some photos with my phone too just in case!
The Plaza Inn was GORGEOUS and we had a beautiful indoor table with seating by the windows to see out and have such nice lighting. The style of food was different…it was not a true buffet but more of stations that required waiting in a line for what you wanted to select from each one. We much prefer a true buffet but did realize they had it set up this way to be able to better monitor the guests.
There are a LOT of open doors at the restaurant and with several entrances it’s hard to control the random park guests from just wandering in and eating when they didn’t purchase the meal!
Pins are a bigger deal over there and they handed each of us a special one for our breakfast!
There is something just SO MAGICAL about a first visit 🙂 And it was super neat that all three kids had their first visit together!
Mickey waffles never disappoint no matter what coast you are on 😉
I’ve read anywhere from 6 to 11 characters come to the tables while you eat. That’s a TON of characters for one meal! It’s an eclectic mix which I think added to the fun. They are also all SO INTO IT. And remember we were a later breakfast time but yet the characters were all still very “on it” and super, super fun. I have to say this was probably THE BEST character meal experience we’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot as we love us some character dining!
We met Minnie out front and we also saw Tigger roaming around but didn’t wait for him to come to our table since we’ve met him before at 1900 Park Fare at home. By the end of the breakfast we met, or at least saw, 10 total characters including Minnie and Tigger! That’s pretty legit!
I was really excited to meet the Fairy Godmother. She does roam at MK but always has such a long line that we’ve never met her before. She did NOT disappoint. She stayed at our table for a solid 10 minutes. She talked and talked and gave us all sorts of tips and pointers about the parks and kept offering to come along with us for the day. She did break character a little which you know set off all sorts of Disney alarms in my head haha but overall she was just precious and we wished she could just hang with us!
Kye’s face is so accurate to how a pre-teen boy feels about character meetings hahaha
I have met Rafiki (with Katie earlier this year) but it was a first for the kids and he is so fuzzy that I just wanted to snuggle him!
Random Parker Family Fact: Zach loathes anything related to Winnie The Pooh and he won’t even let our kids watch any of the movies or anything. Such a random thing to feel so passionate about!
Eeoyre feeling left out through the window!
Eeoyre was one of my favorite Disney characters growing up (Zach says that zero percent surprises him haha) so I was over the moon about getting to meet him! I had to explain to the kids who he even is!
I know people often feel like non-face characters just aren’t as fun for interacting but our experience at Plaza Inn completely proved the opposite to be true. ALL the characters were above and beyond in their interactions and personalities and just making every moment special and fun and unique! Maybe we just lucked out with our seats or our vibe attracted them to us in a different way than the other guests but I left feeling like we had the character royal treatment that morning!
When Eeorye says to get a group selfie, you get a group selfie!
I’m not a huge fan of signature books because I think they take away from the interactions. But for the characters our kids have never met (and may not get to again!) I let them use the signature books. Eeorye had so much fun with it! (here’s a video of him signing on Britt’s head and one signing on Kye’s!)
This morning was SO FUN to just watch Kye. He was LOVING IT. To see my preteen son light up at character meet and greets made my heart overfill with joy. Again this is a credit to the cast members and characters who really went above and beyond in making the moments so magical for us ALL!
Britt is alllll about kissing alllll the characters. Sometimes it can be awkward haha!
We got to meet both Chip and Dale. Dale always loves our family no matter where we meet him (and he always tries to steal Britt…remember at Garden Grill?)
Tess’s face is so cute too watching Dale with Britt!
Villains are just always such FUN! I got all the kids to make a pirate face with Captain Hook. He had SO much personality yall. We were in tears laughing at him and all of his antics!
I thought we had an instant bond and connection and he felt it too because he put his arm around me and walked off with me!
He lead me through the crowds and tables and I thought “this is it, my dreams of being a pirate maiden have come true.”
And then he showed me the door, pointed for me to go through it, and turned around and LEFT ME THERE. REJECTION.
Of course I don’t give up that easily. I came back and he hugged me so sweetly to apologize…
And then he escorted me out another door!!! Double rejection!!!
Even when Max came up (MAX yall MAX. Isn’t that AWESOME?!?!) Captain Hook just didn’t want to leave us alone haha!
At least Max would never reject me…I let him know he’s totally my favorite and Captain Hook can go find some other wench 😉
Sharing our pins! The breakfast food was just okay. My favorite thing were the awesome caramel cookies. SO GOOD.
We took our time and truly enjoyed the breakfast and then planned to hit up one ride before going back to the hotel for naps. Told yall it was a chill first morning. Out of all of our days at the parks Sunday was supposed to be the most crowded since it was a weekend, the last day of Pixar Fest and was over Labor Day weekend. I opted for us to have the breakfast that day knowing it would be more crowded and we stuck to keeping it simple and avoiding the crowds!
We headed over to Nemo which is a re-imaged 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I remember when 20,000 Leagues was at Magic Kingdom and I LOVE that they kept the experience at Disneyland but just recreated it into a Nemo ride.
This was BOTH Tess’s and Britt’s FAVORITE ride from the whole trip. Out of all the rides we rode they wish Disney World had THIS ONE. Kinda hilarious but they were ALL about it! You do get to ride in a submarine under the water so it is pretty epic!
After Nemo the girls and I went ahead and walked back to the hotel. We had a fastpass for Zach and Kye to ride Space Mountain and it just made more sense for me to go ahead and head back and get the girls settled while the boys rode.
Such a tiny castle!
I loved seeing all the posters at the entrance/exit of the park…super pumped to ride Mr Toads Wild Ride later in the trip!
Space Mountain is somewhat different at Disneyland. I’ve never ridden either of them and never will so I don’t even know what the differences are but Zach and Kye enjoyed it!
We had a GREAT first morning. It wasn’t a TON but it was enough to just get us ALL that much more excited for the days ahead! If you visit Disneyland I do highly recommend purchasing MaxPass AND doing a breakfast at Plaza Inn. You won’t regret it!