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How to Experience the Magic on Your First Trip to Disneyland® Resort

Tips on getting the best first taste of “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

disneyland resort -firsttime6_contThe thought of taking Julia, our 2-year-old, on a family trip to Disneyland® Resort was troubling at first.

My husband and I would also have our 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter in tow, and we feared the toddler would hold us back from a lot of the fun. We’d miss out on the high-speed thrills of Space Mountain unless one of us stayed back with Julia. But we hated the idea of splitting up, because we enjoyed the bonding that happened when experiencing the park together on our past trips.

What were we going to do? Leave her at home with the grandparents?

In the end, we brought her along. And once we entered those storied gates, I couldn’t believe I’d even considered leaving my baby behind. She stepped right into the path of Cinderella and gently tugged on the back of the princess’ silky pale blue gown. Cinderella turned around, gave Julia a delightful look of surprise, and knelt down to be at eye level with her.

I was immediately reminded of the magic of visiting Disneyland® Park for the first time, and throughout the rest of the day, we enjoyed many more moments like that.

As we walked down Main Street U.S.A., Julia lifted her hands into the air and gave high-fives to passers-by, starting first with Mickey Mouse and then acknowledging everyone with a friendly hand slap and a shout of “Yay!”.

She was drawn with intense curiosity to everything—the colors, the music, all the details. Standing in line for Alice in Wonderland became a game of pointing out everything that’s pink. At the Coca-Cola-sponsored Refreshment Corner, where we enjoyed cream cheese-stuffed soft pretzels, she danced to the playing of a ragtime pianist. On the King Arthur Carrousel, she closely examined the sparkly jewels adorning the horses, wanting to touch them all with her tiny fingers. “So pretty,” she squealed.

Experiencing the magic of Disneyland resort

Experiencing the magic of Disney

Photo Credit: As to Disney artwork/properties © Disney

The day made me recall the sheer joy I experienced on my first visit to Disneyland®  Park, when my mom literally grabbed my hand and encouraged me to skip along with her down Main Street, U.S.A.

Tips for Experiencing the Magic at Disneyland Resort

For those visiting for the first time or bringing a newbie to the park, I’ve put together a list of ways to enrich the experience and capture the magic.

Arrive early.

They say the early bird catches Space Mountain. The park is least crowded from when it opens at 9 a.m.—8 a.m. for those with Extra Magic Hour admission (Guests staying at a Disneyland® Resort Hotel and multi-day ticket holders)—until about 11 a.m. This is the time to avoid lines and a hit a few of the most popular attractions, such as Indiana Jones™ Adventure, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Star Tours—The Adventures Continue and the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.

Ride the classics.

A dozen of the original rides that Walt Disney presented to the world on Disneyland® Park opening day in 1955 still remain—the King Arthur Carrousel, the Jungle Cruise and the Mad Tea Party (a.k.a. the spinning teacups), to name a few. Peter Pan’s Flight is a must-ride, as it transports you from a children’s bedroom, takes you over the rooftops of London to Neverland and shows how Walt Disney brilliantly brought his stories (and dreams) to life through his attractions.

Visit Disney California Adventure® Park.

A Disneyland® Resort Park Hopper® Ticket gets you into Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure®. You’ll want to visit this newer park so you can take a stroll through Cars Land before entering a high-speed race on the Radiator Springs Racers and depart on an adventure soaring through the sky, from one land to the next. It’s Soarin’ Around the World!

Radiator Springs Racers at Cars Land Disneyland resort

Radiator Springs Racers at Cars Land

Photo Credit: As to Disney artwork/properties © Disney

Take a break.

It’s easy to spend all your time waiting in line and running to the next attraction. Be sure to slow down and settle into the experience. Some great places to do this include a café table at Refreshment Corner, where the piano music is always lively; and the Main Street Cinema, where Walt Disney’s original cartoons, including Steamboat Willie, play continuously on the big screen.

Buy a pair of mouse ears.

You’ll find everything from Minnie Mouse ears adorned with a red-and-white polka-dot bow to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit hats with extra-long ears, but on a first visit nothing beats the classic Mickey Mouse style with your name embroidered on the front.

Meet the characters.

You might bump into anyone from Pluto to Princess Tiana just walking around both theme parks, but you’ll have a more intimate experience by visiting a character in his own home. Find Mickey Mouse at Mickey’s House in Mickey’s Toontown, and Tinker Bell and her fairy friends at Pixie Hollow.

Catch a show.

During the polished musical performance Mickey and the Magical Map at the Fantasyland Theatre, Mickey Mouse and a cast of beloved Disney characters embark on a series of adventures through the magical powers of a sorcerer’s map.

Enjoy the evening.

It’s during the late-evening hours when the crowds lighten, the temperature cools and the entertainment wows you. The skies over Disneyland® Park’s Sleeping Beauty Castle explode with color during the “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks show, and the World of Color at Disney California Adventure® Park includes images from beloved Disney and Disney-Pixar films, all set to a musical score.

Pick up a First Visit button.

Available at City Hall, the badge is the perfect souvenir for remembering your first time at “The Happiest Place on Earth”.

Inset photo: As to Disney artwork/properties: © Disney

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David Kallas, AAA Travel Counselor, Murray, Utah

I'm all about once-in-a-lifetime trips to destinations such as the Cook Islands, Australia or an African safari. I love to plan trips that my clients return from not regretting anything.

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