Disneyland First-Timer

Hi all!

I’m mainly a lurker on the Disney World forum (we’ve visited ~1x year since 2017 and are DVC owners). DH travels for his job and due to COVID he has an excess of AA miles and Marriott points. I’m also on maternity leave currently so we’ve decided to make an impulse trip to Disneyland with points/miles while I don’t need to take PTO (7/31-8/5). We’ll be staying at Courtyard Marriott Theme Park Entrance.

The traveling group is myself, DH, DD5, DD2, DS3m.

A few questions:

  1. How far in advance of RD should we arrive at the turnstiles? Our kids wake up early so any time shouldn’t be a problem :rofl:
  2. Do we need park hoppers? We’re planning 4 park days - 2 for each park. My inclination is to get them but not sure if it’s worth the extra $$$.
  3. Of the attractions that are at both DW and Disneyland - which should we prioritize? We’ll be visiting DW about a month later for 8 days so plenty of time to visit all attractions there.
  4. Any must-have snacks we can’t get at DW?

I’ve done some research already but wanted to get opinions from a group of people I trust :grin:


Lots of folks swear by hoppers. We never used to get them. We’d get three day tix and do two days at DL and one at DCA. But in your case, maybe I would get hoppers. I don’t think you’ll need two full days at DCA and might want to re-do rides at DL.

I would skip SWGE unless you’re hard core Star Wars fans. Or don’t spend too much time there. It’s virtually identical to HS (although three entrances rather than two).

To my mind these are rides that are the same (or better) at WDW so would give them lower priority. Only problem is they might also be rides your kids really want to do!

Soarin’ (unless it’s California version)
Peter Pan

These rides are slightly better at DLR or different enough you might want to prioritize.

Gadget’s Go Coaster

Unique to DLR or just superior.

Finding Nemo Submarine
Toon Town in general
Roger Rabbit
Everything in Fantasyland not mentioned elsewhere
Everything in Cars Land
Other rides in DCA like Emotional Whirlwind, Silly Symphony Swings, Fun Wheel, Goofy’s Sky School

Adult rides to do if you can.

Edited to add Indiana Jones!

I have not experienced the Avengers Campus yet.


I have a thread for you to read, especially this post!

I would definitely recommend getting park hoppers. It is just so easy to hop, and there will be multiple occasions over 4 days when you will want to and will be disappointed if you can’t.

That said, if you’re on a budget and are really questioning that extra cost, you can totally do 2 days at each park without hoppers and be happy. (The problem is you will probably only need 1.5 days at DCA and 2.5 at DL, hence why hoppers would be nice.)

As far as snacks, get a churro (people say they are better at DL - don’t know if it’s true, but they’re good) and beignets at the Mint Julep Bar. Also I recommend getting a Dole whip and eat it while watching the Tiki Room, which I don’t think you can do at WDW. I know those are boring recommendations for WDW vets, but they’re must do’s.

I can’t tell you what time to rope drop so I’ll let someone else answer that one.

Have a fabulous trip! Let us know it you have more questions.


Thank you for this - really helpful!

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I’m going as a first timer next week! I have DS2 and DS6, and I’ll be doing a trip report (probably not live though) so i can give you some feedback on my experience as well.
But so far, all the lovely liners have been great answering my questions.
Have a great trip!


I will definitely look for your trip report - hope you have a blast!

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I agree with most of @Jeff_AZ assessments. Yes to park hoppers! We usually go annually (if not more frequently) and get 5-day passes with park hoppers. This gives us the freedom to eat where we want and other opportunities as they come up.


In the last decade I have been to the DLR dozens of times, but never more than three days in the parks. 5 days sounds heavenly! One day I will get there for 5 days!


We have only been to Disneyland once, in 2017. We had 5 day park hopper tickets and I loved the flexibility of walking from one park to the other. It also allowed for multiple options every day for dining.
We were staying at Paradise Pier so we were able to take advantage of the early entry for Disney resort guests, so I never saw the lines at regular rope drop.


This post was so helpful - thank you! I go overboard and create spreadsheets for everything also :rofl:


We love it because there is no rush for anything! Our routine usually is start in one park, well after rope drop, (alternating days), have lunch, move to the other park, late afternoon at the pool, dinner and close out DL.

And because we have been so many times over the past 10 years, there is no push to do the Dumbo Do or Die. We might wait in line for the new rides or shows and then just go on the rides that are either single rider or have short lines.

It really turns it into a resort vacation opposed to just an amusement park one.


I really love the hotel you picked, I haven’t had a bad stay yet and we’ve been going since they they opened.

The beauty of DLR is the proximity of DL/DCA/DTD to each other. Everything is truly walkable, which makes the hoppers super convenient.

The other’s have the attractions pretty covered, I will say that DLR has DW beat when it comes to children’s play areas. Both DL and DCA have dedicated areas for the littles to run around and let off all of the stress they build up from waiting in lines all day.

DCA’s version has an obstacle course that includes climbing netting and various obstacle course type runs. Those nets eat everyone’s flip flops/sandals for lunch, so you may want to just be aware!

Toontown is where the other children’s play areas are. My DS used to love running around Mickey’s house, pushing all the buttons and trying to trigger whatever effects he could find.

Car’s Land is super fun and easily my family’s favorite land. At dusk there used to be a special lighting of the area, I’m not sure that it’s still being done, but you might be able to ask.

Pirates (imo) is better in DL than MK. It was also the last project Walt worked on before he passed. Also, I like Matterhorn better than EE, but I have nostalgia from that ride as it was my first roller coaster (also, I don’t get motion sickness as bad from Matterhorn as I did on EE)

As for snacks, the offering at the Cozy Cone motel may be DLR specific. I can’t remember seeing anything similar at WDW. I also love the various filled bread bowls from above Pirates and over in DCA at the Pier.

You’re going to love your time there. It’s different enough in the best possible way.


Matterhorn was my first coaster too! :heart_eyes:


Good to know about the play areas - we’ll be doing a decent amount of rider switching (DD5 is tall enough for everything but Incredicoaster). We’ll definitely plan to let DD2 burn some energy at play areas when she can’t ride.

We just got back from a two-day quick trip and used a lot of tips from here so thought I would share our experience. We visited 6/29 and 6/30 (a Tuesday and Wednesday). We usually do one park/day but did park hoppers this time and love the flexibility especially for food options and we were able to ride both Rise and Webslingers each day (twice for each ride). We loved that! We do have older kids though (ages 10-15) so the extra walking wasn’t as big of an issue.

First morning we arrived at bag check at 7:45 on Harbor. We were surprised to see the turnstiles open that early and extra surprised when the rope dropped at 8:00am for a published 9:00am opening. I thought our plan was toast (as we were pretty far back) but it worked out great. Next morning we showed up 30 minutes earlier but didn’t see much advantage as a lot more people weren’t behind us at the rope.

I agree with what others have said regarding the ride differences. Our experience with rides this time was a little strange though. Most of the indoor rides were remarkably dimmed this time, to the point it was hard to see some of the scenes. I’m wondering if that will continue or it was a short term issue with the extreme heat in the northwest.

As far as food is concerned we really enjoyed the offerings in Avenger’s campus. Our favorites (not so little chicken sandwich (shareable), quantum pretzel, cosmic orb, and definitely the Chocosmash bar). I didn’t love the Shwarma wraps (but others do).

Hope you have a wonderful trip. We loved being able to go in the summer and do everything we’ve been able to do in the past in mid-September!


With 5 days you are going to be shocked how much you get done and how well you know those parks before you leave. These parks are just more compact and somehow just more accessible than WDW. You will not have to skip anything with that much time; I personally think comparing the rides at the 2 parks is a blast so wouldn’t recommend skipping anything since you have the time.

Have a wonderful trip!


First, welcome to the forum! Congratulations on your first post!

Second, when we went at the end of May my friend and I were talking about how dark it was in some of the rides most especially in HM. Glad to know it wasn’t just us. I was thinking I know I am getting older, but seriously :flushed:???


^^^^^^^^ So much this!!!


I’m leaving tomorrow for our trip, first day in parks on Thursday!! Can you tell me more about the lines at security? How long did it take you to get through bag check? I’ll have one backpack and a stroller.

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If I remember correctly you’re staying at GCH? If so, they typically restrict both the security entrances from GCH to only GCH guests. Pre-covid the one that takes you straight into DCA can get backed up unless you head down early, but not so sure what the procedure is now. But you can always try it first and if the line is starting to get past Napa Rose or Storyteller’s head to the other bag check that spits you out in Downtown Disney very near the esplanade. You can get to either DL or DCA from that way.

We never made it near the GCH/DCA bag check but we passed the other GCH bag check walking through DTD several times and it never looked like there was a line. If there’s no line security is as quick as 2 min. even with a stroller and a bag, but there are things you can do to make the bag efficient to look through.

This last trip we had all the following and the actual security process never took longer than 5 min for us:

  • 1 Zoe double stroller
  • 1 Umbrella stroller
  • 3 Loungefly backpacks (my older kids each have one that they carry themselves all day so they can have some snacks/supplies without having to ask me and have a place to hold the little things they end up collecting throughout the day- mainly park maps, but also any buttons, stickers, etc they end up)
  • 1 reusable tote with misc. big items that may be needed (things like a Spiderman Halloween costume that DS4 was SO happy to have for Avengers Campus but no way in heck would keep on all day, etc.
  • Two diaper bags (one big one packed with the majority of what we need for being in parks all day & a 2nd much smaller one with just enough diaper bag supplies for 3 diaper changes and a change of clothes for each of the smaller kids)

One thing that one was super easy to get through security was having my 2nd diaper bag be a small clear bag that they could see everything in & most times they didn’t even need me to unzip it. And then in my big diaper bag I’ve learned to put a lot of stuff that sits in the middle in a ziploc so I can just pull out the ziploc(s) and it makes checking the pockets and sides of the bag so much easier for them. They love it too and remarked several times how we had done this before. So making all the contents easy to see goes a long way to zipping through. And I LOVE it when they check the stroller before the bags so that I can start re-loading bags onto it as they check them off so once they are done with me I can just walk forward to the metal detectors.

We also have the older kids tie their sweatshirts around their waist just for security (instead of cramming them into a bag making it harder to look through) and everyone is still wearing their ears (eventually they end up in either the stroller basket or in the misc. tote cuz my kids love ears but have about a 30 min. tolerance for wearing them).

And lastly I make sure there’s no bulky blanket-like items in either the basket underneath the double stroller or resting on the handle-bars up top so they can quickly check-off the stroller itself without you having to rifle through the basket (for me I bring a Moby wrap to easily wear my babies & it’s a lot easier if I have it neatly tucked or wrapped so it’s clear that there’s no bulk within it vs. it being a big bundle of cloth that they ask me to lift up to see within/under).