Welcome to Theme Park Tourist’s Disneyland Secrets blog! This series is going to highlight tips, tricks and little-known facts about Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Check in each week to become an expert in Disney park lore and your inner circle’s go-to Disney guide!
*Please note: many of the tips in this blog series are based on personal experience. This means that while some tips may seem inaccurate, they are indeed tried and true! Sometimes park employees bend the rules, and we're here to let you in on the secrets!
Our first post is going to help you find your way into the most magical place on Earth. With several parking options and more than one way to enter the parks, you’ll be able to save time and play sooner.
There are a few parking options which cover varying price points. Obviously, the more you pay, the more convenient the experience…but everyone deserves options!
Shuttle Buses – it's possible to leave your car at off-site parking lots and ride the free Disney shuttle buses to the property . Simply park at the Toy Story lot (located at 1900 S. Harbor Blvd. Anaheim, CA 92802) and board the next available bus for a short ride that leads you to the Esplanade between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. Buses leave every few minutes, so the wait will never be too long!
Downtown Disney – If you’re just looking to spend a few hours at the theme parks, you can park in the Downtown Disney parking lot. The first 3 hours are free, and then you’ll be charged $6 an hour in 20 minute increments. Some people leave the parking lot and re-enter every 3 hours to ensure that parking remains free for them all day, but that can be a huge hassle if you’re in line for a ride or happen to lose track of time.
*If you see a movie at the AMC theatre or dine at any of the restaurants in the Downtown Disney district, you can have your parking validated for 2 extra free hours, totaling 5 hours of free parking.
"Mickey & Friends" Parking Structure - Prices for 1 day parking pass:
- $0 – Premium annual pass holders
- $15 – cars & motorcycles
- $20 – oversized vehicles
- $25 – buses
Lucky for us park-goers, Disneyland has a very efficient parking structure system in place. The line to get your parking pass moves quickly and it is usually handed to you with a smile, and employees are strategically placed to guide each car to the next available spot. The only downside is that these guided directions leave you without a choice of how far to walk from your car to the escalators that lead you to the trams. Sometimes you get lucky and end up on the side closest to the trams, but Murphy’s Law pretty much always leaves me as far away as I can possibly be.
*Freeway Tip – if you take I–5 to Disneyland, the freeway will lead you directly to the parking structure! It’s the perfect way to get from point A to point B.
Tram vs Walking Path
If you chose to go the "Mickey & Friends" parking structure route, you will be in a position to either take the tram to Downtown Disney or use the designated pedestrian walkway and go by foot.
Personally, I love taking the tram. It’s like a mini ride in itself and I don’t mind waiting 5-10 minutes to board one. I like that it drops me off reasonably close to the main security check between both parks, and happens to stop right next to one of my favorite restaurants at Downtown Disney.
I have friends who hate to wait and opt to be pro-active by walking along the pedestrian path, which leads you to the very end of Downtown Disney near the ESPN Zone. This is a great option for those who want to check out every store, vendor, musician and restaurant at Downtown Disney as you make your way to the front entrance. Alternatively, it works well for guests who want to take the shortcut from Downtown Disney to Disneyland’s Tomorrowland via the Monorail system.
Once you’ve settled on a parking destination and transportation to the park, you’ll need to choose an entrance. There are three ways into the parks:
Downtown Disney Entrance – This is the main entrance to both parks. Simply have your bags checked by security and then enter the Esplanade between the parks. Turn left to get in line for Disneyland or right to go to Disney’s California Adventure. This Disneyland entrance will spill you out onto Main Street, U.S.A. (inspired by Walt Disney’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri), and the Disney California Adventure entrance will soon lead right into the under-construction Buena Vista Street.
Monorail Entrance to Disneyland – This lesser known entrance grants you access to the middle of Disneyland, rather than the very front. The wait for the Monorail tends to be lengthy, but the fact that it allows guests to disembark in futuristic Tomorrowland is a huge plus to Disney thrill-seekers who want to ride Space Mountain. Space Mountain often has the longest wait time out of all the Disneyland rides, so the Monorail entrance is a huge help in getting to the front of the line before everyone else using the main entrance.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa Entrance to Disney California Adventure – Hotel guests may enter Disney California Adventure park through the beautiful Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. This is the least known entrance and leads you into the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. There’s not a significant perk to using this entrance. It’s just fun to explore the little hidden nook.
*While policy says that you have to be a guest at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa to use this entrance, I was let in by showing my hand stamp that I received earlier in the day. I wasn't a hotel guest, so I got lucky!
So now you’re in the park of your choice! What’s the first thing that you’re going to do?! Oh, what would I do, you ask? I would make a beeline to the lockers, but that’s for another post…
This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.