IHi & welcome to the laidback West coast that requires much less planning compared to WDW!!!
Here’s a bit of my input to answer your questions:
How Early Entry Works at Disneyland
If staying in one of the 3 onsite hotels you will be eligible for early entry/Extra Magic Hour every day of your stay including check-in and check-out day. Each day 1 of the 2 parks will open for this extra hour.
Typically Disneyland will open early on Tue/Thur/Sat while DCA will open early Mon/Wed/Fri/Sun. Every now & then they can deter from that standard schedule to accommodate private events and/or other scheduling needs so double check the hours for your dates to verify when EMH will be for which park.
If you are staying off-site there is still a way to obtain early entry (called Magic Morning in this case) good for 1 single early entry to Disneyland on a day that Disneyland is open early (so will coincide with the same day that onsite guests are accessing the park early). This benefit comes with the purchase of 3 day (or longer) tickets IN ADVANCE. The key is to make sure you purchase the tickets almost anywhere except for the ticket booths on-site at DLR to include this one Magic Morning. Magic Morning cannot be used at DCA.
Because Disneyland Magic Morning is included with tickets purchased in advance AND coincides with early entry for onsite hotel guests it’s not anything like the low crowds at the WDW morning paid event. However, the earlier the extra hour is, the less crowded it is & the 7am Magic Mornings are some of my favorite times to be in Fantasyland! The 9am Magic Mornings are much less valuable as most people can be and are up & ready to rope drop the parks.
Pre-Park Opening Breakfast
The sole early breakfast reservation is breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn inside Disneyland Park. However, it typically only runs on mornings that Disneyland is open for early entry and starts at the same time as the early entry hour. As such, the only time it’s an advantage to book is if you don’t have early entry and it’s better to have a time towards the end of the early hour so you can first do a few rides (with the rest of the early entry crowd) prior to your reservation.
With a pre-regular park open reservation, if you go to the Character Dining entry line & show proof of your reservation, you’ll be able to enter at the start of the early entry hour even if your reservation isn’t until the end of the hour. Also, in the first 30 minutes of that early entry hour will not need to provide further proof to access lands/rides. After 30 min, they’ll start letting regular day guests through the turnstiles to hold at ropes in Main St/hub & if you have gone back back over to the ropes where they holding regular entry guests for regular park opening, you may not be able to access the lands on a dining reservation alone (YMMV very heavily on this one).
If you will have Magic Morning on one day but want another early entry day to Disneyland, then a Plaza Inn breakfast at the end of the early hour is a great way to get that. However, these reservations aren’t always available & can be hard to come by, I would look right as dining opens for your dates & keep checking every day as sometimes DLR is slow to release their schedule & not everything is ready right at 60 days before.
Hard Ticket After Hours Events
Disneyland doesn’t have any early morning paid events like WDW but on occasion will have after hours events called “Disneyland After Dark”. They don’t have anything scheduled for April but have 1 night in Feb (themed as Sweetheart’s night) and another night in March (themed as 90’s night). There is a possibility to get limited crowds with low ride wait times at these events as generally the people coming are there for all the special event stuff that’s not there during the day (like photo ops matching the themes which people come dressed up for and/or exclusive to the event character meets, souvenirs or food).
Dining & Reservations
Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast is our favorite and I highly recommend it. We usually ask to sit in the circular room to have better light for photos and also we like to have a time near the end of the “breakfast” (which most days goes until 11am or 12pm so is really more like brunch). Since the restaurant is a lot slower at this time, the characters come around a little more frequently & are super interactive each time. Also, when we have been there late, once Goofy has met all the guests at the front photo op, he has come around to the tables which he doesn’t typically do, so that’s been an extra treat. We haven’t done Goofy’s for dinner in some time as both times we did it was only OK.
Breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn (same as the breakfast described in the pre-park opening bfast section) is a lot of fun as well and a great way to meet tons of characters in a very short amount of time. We typically see 7-8 characters in addition to Minnie and I have heard of some getting as many as 9 or 10 plus Minnie. And usually at least 1-2 if not more are rarer characters so it’s really a treat for any character loving members of your group.
If you have a splurge you’d like to add I would recommend the Blue Bayou F! dining package. The show area for F! is packed to the gills in the FP and standby sections and often people begin lining up to be let in 2 hours before showtime. The beauty of F! dining packages is they eliminate a lot of stress/time/hassle of crowds & a long wait. The section for Blue Bayou dining packages is front & center (but will require you to sit on the ground which isn’t the most comfortable but gives a great view if you can withsand the seating position for the duration of the show & 15 min. prior). Prior to the show you also get to dine in the beautiful ambiance of the Blue Bayou which a must do at least once. And the food is great so it’s a win-win-win!
There are additional options for F! Dining starting with the River Belle. The section for the dining package in llis next to to Blue Bayou section so a great view & options for food are all great here too. Also there is a premium option that is only available by phone reservation where you eat dinner on the patio facing Rivers of America & get to watch F! from your seat at the end of your meal). Lastly, Hungry Bear has an on the go/quick service package that is relatively affordable & also gives a front section (to the other side of the Blue Bayou section).
If WOC will be back by your dates, the WOC dessert party is also a nice splurge which again gives you a seat for the show that is otherwise standing room only but if’s not nearly as necessary as a F! Dining package as great spots can be obtained for WOC 45 min before the show. We avoid WOC dining packages as the one time we did one the view from our section was worse than the view we get for free with a FP & required the same amount of time to camp out to get anything comparable to what we do when we watch with a FP.
Any other questions you have, ask away!