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One Day in Disneyland

Ah…Disneyland.  The one place that will make two full grown women jump up and down and squeal like six-year-olds.  When my coworker and I had to travel to Santa Monica for a course, we decided to go down a day early so that we could spend a day at Disneyland.  I had been to Disneyland before when I was 11 years old, but my friend had never been.  I was so excited to see her reaction to “The Happiest Place on Earth.”


We were staying at a hotel in Santa Monica for the week as it was nice and close to the course we were attending, so to avoid a $100+ cab ride each way (plus the $100 it costs to enter the park for a day) we booked a transport and admission combo tour through Starline Tours.  While Starline was reliable and accommodating in picking us up right at our Santa Monica hotel, we did feel like we lost hours of our day waiting at the depot to transfer to the correct bus and in transit to the park on a stop-and-go bus.  However, 8 hours in the park proved to be quite exhausting anyway, so really, we probably would have been happier with several days to explore the park.  But who wouldn’t?

Disneyland -

Here’s what I learned / was reminded of during my one-day whirlwind trip to Disneyland…

1. Go to Disneyland for the magic, but go to California Adventure for the thrill

Disneyland is amazing.  It feels like another world altogether, and the magic is definitely real as you stroll through avenues of the park with names like “Tomorrowland” and “Mickey’s Toon Town”.  While Disneyland does have some thrilling attractions (such as Space Mountain or Indiana Jones’ Adventure), many of the rides are designed to be on the gentler side, which appeals to the younger crowd of Disneyland-goers.  If it’s thrill you’re after, and you don’t have time to experience both parks, your time may be better spent in the California Adventure park located right beside Disneyland.  See rides such as “Grizzly River Run”  or “California Screamin”.

A quick Selfie on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
A quick Selfie on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

2. Bring your own snacks…

It’s amazing how the hunger for more Disney magic takes over all other basic needs while you’re in the park – such as actual hunger.  I was grateful for my protein bar that I was able to choke down while waiting in line for a ride, although I wish I had brought even more snacks with me.  I quickly learned that food at Disneyland is obviously absurdly expensive.  And why wouldn’t it be?  It makes perfect sense.  However, if you’d like to save yourself from spending $4 on a bottle of water and $12 on a mediocre hamburger, pack your own snacks.

3. …but if you don’t, bring lots of cash

My previous point pretty much sums this one up…but really…if you’re spending an entire day in Disneyland, I’d budget close to $30USD at an absolute minimum for food, snacks and drinks per person.  Some of the food items are definitely a novelty (Chocolate-Covered Bananas, Turkey Legs, Churros, Frozen Lemonade, etc.) and it’s just plain fun to eat them while you’re in the park.  But be prepared to pay the price.

4. The “FastPass” is very useful, but takes careful planning

Something that Disneyland didn’t have the last time I was there is the FastPass.  Essentially, it is a system that allows you to wait in line for two rides at the same time.  You can read more about the details here.  The FastPass is a fantastic idea in theory, but it does take some careful planning and prioritizing.  Since the fast pass will give you an hour-long window when you can return to your desired ride, you’ll need to plan accordingly to make sure that you can make it back there on time.  It’s easy to kill more than an hour waiting in line for a ride, so be prepared to think on this one.

Waiting in line for
Waiting in line for “The Haunted Mansion” – 1 Hour and 15 minutes

5. Plan your priorities

If your time in the park is as limited as ours was (one day is hardly enough to even begin to see the sights), some planning ahead may be useful.  Hop on the Disneyland Website a few days before you get to the park, and decide what your absolute Must-Do’s are.  It’s smart to get these rides and attractions done first, especially if you’ve never been to Disneyland before, because it’s amazing how quickly a day can go by in the park.  We were at Disneyland for 8 full hours, and I think we only managed to get on about 6 rides.

Disneyland Castle -

When it was all said and done, I was very happy that we got the chance to spend a day at Disneyland.  Given the chance, I’d probably plan to spend 5 full days spread out between Disneyland and California Adventure in order to experience everything that I would want to.  That being said, it was still worth the time and the money for us to enjoy our short trip, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Ashley Dempster is a twenty-something Canadian Travel and Adventure blogger based in Calgary, Canada. Her passions include good food, minimalist packing, running, music, and chasing down every opportunity for adventure.

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