Help! A Walt Disney World Vet’s First Time at Disneyland – Part 5

| May 19, 2013 | 9 Replies

Last blog before the trip!  We leave in just a couple days for our first-ever trip to Disneyland!  We’re really getting excited, but we still had a few questions we needed answered by the podcast team.  Read on to hear what we talked about on this segment of the DIS Unplugged Disneyland edition.

Here’s a recap of who’s traveling and what we’re doing: I’m the Senior Editor on the DIS and am planning my family’s (my husband David and I, plus Jacob – 7, Jonah – 5, and Lydia – almost 2) first trip to Disneyland! We’re Walt Disney World experts, but are relying on the Disneyland podcast team to help us plan this trip.  Read my first four blogs here: Planning the Southern California portion of our vacation, general questions about the Disneyland Resort, dining options at the Disneyland Resort, and touring plans for Disney California Adventure.


Image: David, Jacob, Lydia, Jonah and Leah Zanolla, March 2013

We started out by discussing Downtown Disney.  I’ve only ever heard good things about this area, and how people like it so much more than Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World.  But, I had never heard specific reasons as to what makes it so much better.  The team said that it’s really more user-friendly than its Orlando counterpart.  It is a throughway to get from the hotels to the parks, so there are always people there and a lot of people will even leave the parks to go eat at the Downtown Disney restaurants.  Due to the proximity of Los Angeles, the quality (and quantity) of musicians is much greater.  A lot of locals will come to the area for a date night of a great meal and a stroll while enjoying the music.

Image: Downtown Disney

Speaking of restaurants, I asked if there were any “can’t miss” meals at Downtown Disney.  Nancy had a couple of suggestions that were good for kids, and everyone had meals they enjoyed there, but no one really had a “can’t miss” suggestion.  One of Nancy’s suggestions was Naples, because her kids like to sit up on the balcony and watch the action down below.  This would be a good idea with our kids, because a) it’s always fun for kids to change up their vantage point and discover things from a new angle and b) they LOVE pizza.

Image: ovens at Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria

She also suggested Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, because they offer some different choices for kids’ meals, such as sides of peas and carrots, corn on the cob and smiley fries.  Kids meals also come with celery, carrots and ranch dressing for an appetizer.  We did talk briefly about Rainforest Café, but I really don’t like that restaurant.  Too loud and too overpriced.

Image: Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen

The rest of our discussion was a mish-mash of random questions that I needed answered.  I asked the team their advice on how to determine which park to visit on which day.  We have already planned to go to Disneyland Park on Monday and Disney California Adventure on Tuesday, but after that, we don’t have specific plans.  The consensus was that we can really decide what works best for us.  We can go with the Extra Magic Hours or we can just go to whatever park we need to “finish.”  Since the parks are so close together, we can just park hop back and forth whenever we need to.  So, we’ll just play it by ear on what we do those last three days.

Image: Disneyland monorail

I asked if we could bring food into the parks and the answer was yes (no glass bottles or hard-sided coolers).  This is great to hear, because we do this a lot at Walt Disney World.  We pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, juice boxes and applesauce pouches for the kids.  It really works out well for us, because sometimes they decide to be extra picky for the day, and sometimes they want to eat earlier than we do.  They aren’t very big eaters, so this way we’re not wasting the money on a meal that they will end up wasting most of anyway.  Nancy said that kids’ meals are about $5.99 in the parks.


Image: Jacob and Jonah eating their packed lunch at Cosmic Ray’s, Magic Kingdom.

Some other things that we may want to do while staying in the Disneyland Resort area are Gardenwalk and the Discovery Science Center.  Tony did a segment on this week’s podcast all about GardenWalk, so we’ll make sure to listen to that during our travel.  The Discovery Science Center is currently featuring an exhibit called the Lego Castle Adventure.  We love children’s museums, so this sounds really fun, but it would probably take more time than we’re willing to give.  We’re also staying at the Legoland Hotel earlier in the week, so we may be Lego’d out by then.

A couple more suggestions were made for food off-site: Mimis Café, In-n-Out Burger (which has been on my list since the beginning!), and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.  Now that I’m writing all this out, we really talked about food a lot…

The last discussion may be one of the most fun – how should we surprise our kids with this trip?  We’ve done surprise trips before, so that part isn’t really new, but we still want to do something fun.  In the past, we have had “Mickey” call them on the phone, played a “Blues Clues”-type game where they had to put clues together to guess where we were going, and even just loaded up the car and took off!

We can’t wait!  I’ll check back in after our trip to let you all know how it went!

Update:  Between the writing of and the publishing of this blog, we told our kids!  Yesterday (3 days before we leave), we sat them down at the kitchen table and told them that Monday would be their last day at school.  They looked at us and were really confused.  I handed them a photograph of an airplane and Jonah immediately said, “Are we going to Disney World?”  Jacob asked if we were going to Alaska.  Um, no.  Next, I handed them a photo of the Legoland Hotel, so they asked if we were going to Legoland in Florida.  Nope.  The next photo was the Hollywood sign.  Jacob started grinning!  Then I handed them a photo of Cars Land and they both screamed, “We’re going to Disneyland??”  When we said yes, Jacob immediately picked up my phone and said, “I gotta start calling people!”  Mind you, he’s 7.  “People” meant Grandma and Grandpa, who pretended to be surprised.  It turned out to be a great reveal!!

You can also listen to our full planning segment on a recent episode of the DIS Unplugged Podcast: Disneyland Edition.

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Category: Dining, Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Dining

  • Camille Francis

    I’m sorry if this was already mentioned, but you need to go on POTC in Disneyland where it’s twice as long and a much better storytelling experience than WDW’s! And of course you need to eat at Blue Bayou which is also inside that amazing ride. Also, I’d take my time strolling through the portrait gallery on HM, that’s another thing WDW lacks. When you go on Winnie the Pooh and just start to enter the honey room, turn around and look above the doorway in which you just entered. I could go on & on. Have fun with your family!

  • disqus_novdD2cmto

    Ive found it interesing that in every one of these posts I’ve found that i disagree with the recommendations in some capacity. Just goes to show that Disney parks have so much variety for a reason, I guess.

  • Deb Benbow

    A must eat while at Disneyland, that Walt Disney World does not have is the Blue
    Bayou or French Market for the Monte Christo sandwich. Our entire family from adults to kids have to have one everytime we go to Disneyland. Also Bengo Barbecue, really good
    grilled asparagus, which WDW does not have. Also on the Pirates of the Carribean the ride is lnger, and more items to see than in WDW, and of course the Buzz Lightyear ride
    is better at Disneyland. You can actually aim the guns, and they are more accurate than the WDW one. They are fastened down like at WDW, and you will see as many adults as children enjoying it. If you like mexican food, there is a little hole in the wall called Alerto’s, very small place, but great authentic California style mexican food for very inexpensive.

  • Esther Thomas

    I’m writing a trip report on this right now as last May at this exact same time we were the Disney World Vets taking their first Disneyland vacation. (It’s called Top Ten Reasons you know you have a Disney obsession.) You sound just like us. Wish I had it 100% done for you! You will have SOOOOO much fun.

  • susan lawless

    Have a wonderful time!!! Though I live on the West coast, I have only been to Disneyland once, because I am so addicted to WDW! I plan to go again soon, though. Cant wait to read your trip report. Oh, and you WILL love In N Out burgers!!!

  • Jodi Pontius Strock

    I can’t wait to read & hear all about it! We are 2 months behind you so all your planning has help me plan too! Thanks! Hope the trip was perfect!

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