First time

So I am a frequent visitor to WDW but have not been to Disneyland in over 30years so at this point I would call it my first time. I live on the East Coast and both of my sons are moving to CA over the next few weeks. One will be located just outside of LA so now I really want to plan a few trips to Disneyland. Out first trip wont be until early 2020 and will only allow 3 park days.
I have been researching all there is to do and hopefully I now have a grasp on how Maxpass works. Weird going without pre-booked FP’s like at WDW. Yet seems like one less thing to worry about.

So here are my questions: I have a good idea of what rides I would like to do but really don’t have much of an idea about the shows. What are some of your favorites? Also have no clue on where to eat so would love a couple of recommendations for quick service restaurants ( do they call them that there?) and also some nice places for dinner. Lastly, I would like to stay at the Grand Californian how far in advance would I need to book? Do the std view rooms sell out?

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First of all, you will thoroughly enjoy DLR. DL is still my favorite park in the world. Sorry guys, MK is very pale in comparison. I lived 25 mins from DRL for 45 years. The Grand Californian is a speculator hotel with plenty of quality dining and its own access to CA. Book ASAP. THE DL Hotel is also great. I don’t know much about the third DLR hotel Paradise but the lobby was simple but cute. Most of the time we stay off site because it’s more reasonable and still in very close proximity to the parks unlike WDW. We just Uber to the parks. I first used the MaxPass last October and I wouldn’t visit again without it. I love how you can get a FP from anywhere in the parks every 90 min. It’s kinda a relief not to have to plan FPPs 60 days in advance. I never make ADRs (except for a special occasion) because I like flexibility the day I visit. If you do ADRs, book Blue Bayou as it’s a must. There’s nothing at WDW to compare it to. Tomorrowland Terrace (a QS) has great burgers and you can watch Jedi Training from your seat. We like the pizza, pasta, and salads at the pizza QS next to Space Mtn. Plaza Inn is a good sit down cafeteria you can just walk into. The River Belle in Adventureland is good too. The Monte Cristo sandwich at the Orleans Cafe is a go-to. Last time I was there you needed an ADR for this sit down. My favorite show is at the Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland. Hope this helps!

Thanks so much for all the info. I have read about the Blue Bayou but wanted to hear an unbiased opinion, think i will give it a try. Thanks for the QS recommendations. I know i am going to feel out of my element after being so familiar with the WDW parks but i am looking forward to exploring DLR and DCA.

Welcome to the laid-back West!

FPs are definitely a different beast here but also usually much less of an ordeal than pre-booking, so definitely one less thing to worry as much in advance about. And you’ll find with DLR that a lot of it is easy-going on the pre-planning.

As a preface for all of the below, it’s important to note 2 things:

  1. Early 2020 is light-years away in terms of DLR planning and,
  2. A little thing called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its impact to all things DLR (FP or MaxPass as we know it, nighttime shows offered, etc) is very much TBD.

So with that in mind, here are some answers for things as they are now:

Fireworks are usually at the top of our list but not all shows are created equal. The Disneyland Forever fireworks show that will be running this summer is one of my fave Disney fireworks shows ever so if that (or a similarly wonderful fireworks show like Magical or Remember, Dreams Come True) is running they are worth seeing for us and are our top priority. On the flip side, if one of smaller fireworks shows are running (Fantasy in the Sky, or the new Mickey’s Mix Magic that debuted this year but is ending June 6th) fireworks become much less a priority as neither of these give a good Disney umph of emotion like we love from a fireworks show.

Fantasmic! at DLR is top-notch and has some great effects that make the DHS version pale in comparison (but we love having a seat at DHS vs. DLR where it is is much more difficult to position for the show). If we are seeing F! at DLR, we need a dining package to enjoy. The FP section is just nuts and even though it’s free, it’s not worth it & standby is usually a better option than being packed to the gills for 1-2 hours for a FP spot with an ok view. The dining sections on the other hand get the front sections closest to the effects where they are best viewed and are seated (on the ground so if that will be a concern, you may want to consider the one dining package option that allows you to watch from seated in an actual chair- the River Belle Premium Package, but it is a premium price & the view while very good, is just not the same as being up close since you will be at the River Belle Terrace that is set back from the Rivers of America).

World of Color we enjoy a lot but it’s definitely 3rd on this list for me & since we’ve seen the current version showing on multiple trips, it’s not a must every trip. For the dining packages on this, we felt like fools wasting our money on the dining package the one time we did it because our view was horrible & we saved no time at all compared to the free FP section where we normally watch WOC. On the other hand, the premium dessert party was so nice but came with an oh-so-VIP price so we’ve only done it once, but if you really want to splurge on World of Color do the dessert party over the dining package. World of Color seems to have people who either love or don’t care for it so it’s hard to say which camp you’ll be in without seeing it. For us it has a lot of songs/clips from classic movies my husband & I enjoyed as kids and young adults so we enjoy it. Others feel that watching movie clips on water gets boring/old so it’s not as spectacular.

Now onto the smaller shows, my absolute favorite is Storytelling at the Royal Theater. It’s a very fun, well done re-telling of a princess tale (usually either Tangled or Beauty & the Beast) where the princess comes to visit the theater to re-tell her story with the help of the comical personas of Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones and an assortment of fair maidens. There’s a live piano player and many puns and jokes both Disney and theater related. I love it every time I see it, and there’s some audience interaction that makes it really fun if the audience gets into it.

My other favorite smaller show is Mickey & the Magical Map, it’s a great stage show & is my 2 yr old toddler’s ABSOLUTE favorite bit of Disney-parks related material ever. There are some fun stage effects with the projections & characters & a chance to see some less accessible characters that you don’t really see much of all the time at Disneyland (Stitch and Mulan for example).

Frozen at the Hyperion is a fine show but is LONG (60 min runtime plus the time it takes you to queue up for a seat which if you want orchestra or mezzanine then 30 min is recommended for queuing) so I wouldn’t recommend trying to fit into just 3 days, even if you are a Frozen fan. We usually only see it if we have a 4 day or longer trip as it’s just such a time commitment.

I think I’ve hit all the major shows, but if I think of anything else, I’ll come back to it.

Yes they are totally called QS here (well at least I call them that to anyone who knows what that is…). There are lots of snacks too at DLR that are my favorites and I put together a decent list of those in a post that I’ll look for & link when I get back to my computer. I believe that list also included my few select fave table services but if not I’ll come back to add those after I link it.

We don’t usually stay on-site so I don’t know how soon you would need to book GCH but look for discount rates on Orbitz & add on their 15% off code to get a little bit more savings too. These rooms are limited so booking right when the discounts come out (I believe Mousesavers keeps track of historical releases of these discounts).

Any other specific questions, ask away!
Happy planning till then!

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Thanks for taking the time giving me the details I was looking for.
Not too concerned about seeing SWGE since I will be in DHS on 4 trips before heading to DL so I will see how the crowds are. Could just do a walk thru.

Great idea for a dining package for F!. I was not even considering this cause it is not something I will usually do at DHS. Glad to hear it is a better version. How far before start time do I need to get there with a dining package?

WOC I think is something I have to try. Seems that you feel about it as I do about ROL in AK. I have done all the dessert parties in WDW so I would do that.

I am a Frozen fan but did not realize it was such a long show, so I will have to see if it is possible. I really am looking forward to things like this that I cant do in WDW. Love the sound of the other 2 shows you mentioned so I am in on those.

I would love to see your list of favorite QS to me a few options. As far as GCH I hope to rent DVC points, very soon

You’re quite welcome! Sorry I didn’t come back last night to finish answering, but I’m now back on my computer, so I can more easily link things.

Here’s a recent thread that answers this: How Early to Get to the F! Viewing Area

I made a list here in response to the same question of the food at DLR. This list includes all food, mostly snacks, a good amount of QS and a majority of the TS restaurants we’ve tried. Reading this list again, it is missing a few good ones that we more recently tried for the 1st time or re-tried since they became available again so I’ll would add to above:

  • Tortilla Jo’s (TS in Downtown Disney) as a must if you love Mexican food, especially guacamole- their tableside guac is amazing!
  • Paradise Garden Grill- I love their skewers and rice plate as a healthier fresh option to all the heavy theme park food. However, Paradise Garden Grill is also used quite frequently as an extension of the food booths offering specialty plates related to the festival so their “regular menu” is hard to come by with Nov-April being pretty much a straight food booth festival season in DCA anymore.

We haven’t been to WDW since RoL started and I go back & forth wondering if we’d like it or not but you saying this makes me think that I probably do need to make the time to see it when we finally get back.

Just one callout on the WOC dessert party that differs greatly from WDW. As I understand it at WDW they are usually a lot more options and all you care to enjoy and you serve yourself. When we did the WoC dessert party, I had only read about dessert parties at WDW and it was fairly new at the time and we hadn’t ever seen another dessert party offered in DLR so I mistakenly gave my family the expectations of a stuff your face full of dessert event. When in reality it was a plate (a very full plate that we brought at least half of each plate back to the hotel for us) of treats & cheeses along with a basket of bread, crackers & one more kind of cheese in the middle of the table to share. So just know it’s slightly different. But the chair, the view and even half the food they give you would make it worth the price. It also comes with 2 alcoholic drinks (sometimes they don’t enforce the 2 so you may get extra there) and unlimited non-alcoholic options including hot options (hot chocolate and I believe coffee as well) which is nice since even in summer it can get surprisingly cool near the water where they show WoC and weirdly, even though they offer soda they don’t offer Coke (Diet Coke, yes, but not regular or Zero or any other option of Coke).

We saw it opening weekend bc we are also Frozen fans and the stage effects are gorgeous but with the runtime (it was even longer than at 70 min but they’ve chopped it down some) it’s hard to justify that time. One idea to fit it in is to use it as a midday break. It’s a nice chance to relax & be entertained (and out of the midday heat!).

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I agree, this alone makes it worth it to me.

Some people love it, most are like me, meh. I do see it every now and then. I do recommend giving it a try once. They do offer a dessert party for it.

Also thanks for the posting the links to your threads. I will check them out tonight. I am pretty active in the WDW section here but this is my first time on the DL threads, so glad there are such friendly and helpful people here as well. I am sure I will be asking more questions in the future.

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We are huge Frozen fans, so we make it a point to see the show every time. My daughter loves it. It is a nice break during the heat of the afternoon when the parks are especially crowded. It can also double as a nice nap for anyone who passes out.


I am a huge fan of “Mickey and the Magical Map” found in the Fantasyland theater at Disneyland. I also get a lot of amusement out of the retellings of the princess movies that are available in the small theater in Fantasy Faire.

Finally, it’s absolutely worth stalking the Disneyland Band to see them do a set or two - they’re pretty fantastic.


If you ask me, Fantasmic! is best enjoyed at Disneyland on nights when there are 2 showings - go to the second show, which you should still be able to get a good spot for after the main fireworks at the castle are finished.


We also love the Disneyland band but there’s many other little live entertainment bands that are equally as fantastic & add a lot to the atmosphere. My other favorite is the Pearly Band in Fantasyland, especially when they hop on the carousel and play atop a horse!

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Yes, the second show (and if it’s super busy & you can hang late enough for it if scheduled), the third show is even better. My kids are useless to sit down for shows after 9-10pm so we try to catch the earlier shows & if they make it through they will happily ride till they drop!


But that would mean DW will have to stay up later, then out early the next day. OK for me, on short trips I am all about chugging along open to close, just going to see if this idea will fly.

I was going to put this down! It was I only on weekends when we were there and we hopped from DCA to see it (and ride a reopening Indy) because a friend recommended it highly. She was right. It was fabulous and worth the hop.


Also - I barely like F! in DHS, but it’s wonderful IMO at DLR. SO CLOSE!


We more often than not are watching Frozen with hopes that at least one of the kids does this double up.

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I second The Magical Map show, it is a fantastic show for all ages. And Fantasmic is great if you can get a good view (lolabear is the better expert so take her advice to heart). I just wanted to add a couple thoughts, Award Weiners (QS) in DCA is delicious and deserves a mention. And, in case you did not already know, you can Mobile order for many of the QS locations in both parks and it can be a real game changer…


Thanks for the thoughts, yes I am aware of the mobile order. I am a frequent user of it in The World.

If @galuchies doesn’t mind too much :grin: could I piggyback a quick question?

I will be at Disneyland after a long delay (by 45 years for me!). I could stay with my son in LA (sleeping on his couch, ok but ick) – is there a significant advantage to staying in one of the hotels? I can still get any of the three for $ reservation, and/or I could waitlist GC with DVC, but I have no clue on whether staying on property is much worth it. (Its always worth it to us for WDW, which is why we are DVC).

thanks for your thoughts, and for everything you all wrote above which is helping me with my planning – I’m very excited!

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It depends on who you ask. My family always stays on property and we feel it is well worth it, however there are many others who stay off property and do not feel it is. You get hotels that are just as close, if not closer to the parks than the on property hotels, except for DGC!

Speaking only for myself and my family, we feel the Disney “bubble” by staying on property. I love walking through an empty DTD on our way to our EE/EMH. We love getting in the parks an hour early each morning of our stay and can usually get a ton done. We also love popping back to the hotel via monorail when at DL for a quick break. I love the history, pool, and grounds at the DLH. If your budget allows it, I highly recommend it, especially staying at DLH.