DD4 heard that there is another “Disney World” in California from a friend and asked if we can go there next time. I have been to WDW many, many times, but I’ve never been to DLR.
We are booked to go to WDW for fall 2019, but I told her maybe we could go to California next year. My wife and I are considering DLR for 2020.
In general, how will the overall experience compare to WDW with a 5 y/o and 3 y/o? Worthwhile or should we plan to return to WDW in 2020 instead? We usually spend 5 nights at WDW. How many nights would you recommend at DLR?
First of all, get over the “Disney World California” concept. It is Disney and wonderful but a totally different vibe.
My DH and always go for a minimum of 4 days so 5 nights sounds good to me with small kids. You don’t have to stay on the property as there are many Good Neighbor hotels within walking distance. And there are so many other fun things to do in California!
I recently went to DLR on a solo trip and loved it. For full disclosure, we’re east coasters, so we’ve been on several WDW trips with DS4 and DS2.
Tbh, I was expecting DLR to be a mini (lesser) version of MK/WDW. It was totally not! DL is now my favorite Disney park, hands down! Enough so, that I’m thinking of not renewing my WDW AP and going to DLR for our 2020 trip.
There are tons of things for a 3 and 5 year old to do. DL Fantasyland is waayyyy better than at WDW. I could easily spend 4 or even 5 days between the two parks.
I know that later this year when I tell my daughters that I’m taking them to Walt Disney World in November, it will inevitably be asked “Can we go to Disneyland instead?” Once we get there they won’t mind, of course; but Fantasyland was so much better.
Fun fact: The characters walk around freely in Disneyland. We found ourselves regularly just coming up on a character and having some tremendous interactions.
DL is my favorite US Disney park too. For your age children, I would say DLR is much better than WDW. Smaller more compact parks, less overwhelming, roaming characters. I wish that is where I started with DD when she was 5 (as WDW overwhelmed her in a bad way).
I love WDW and each trip has been so different, it offers so many choices. But DLR is much of the joy, with less stress and work. Do it!
Go to DL! As everyone has said already, it is amazing and perfect for younger kids. Get 5 day tickets so you have plenty of time to see it all and relax some too. My kids are teens, so I will leave the ride recommendations to those with younger kids, but I have lots of recommendations for food and hotels, and knowing when to visit for lowest crowds (hint, it is not the same as WDW and best days to visit are days there are lots of Annual pass blocks, Saturday is often less crowded than a Monday for example). Disneyland visitors are mostly local AP holders, and they don’t really ride that much so the ride lines are generally short. But, the walkways are small and crowded, so it will feel crowded, even when it really isn’t.
This complaint shows up on Chat a lot…“It is so crowded here, I cannot move. How can this be a crowd level 1, it has to be a 10! Oh, and we rode 56 rides and never waited more than 5 minutes for anything.” People struggle with the crowd levels and the line length…if you never waited more than 5 minutes, it’s a 1 despite how many people were in your way. That seems to be very difficult for frequent WDW visitors to wrap their head around when they visit DL.
On my phone not laptop today so I will be brief(er)!!
To everything above & the consensus of GO especially while they are little & will love DLR, I agree 1000%.
There’s a great thread here about a lot of your questions. The link above is my specific response & includes (scroll down to where the bold text starts) a comparison of DLR & WDW rides, all with little kids in kind as the whole thread is about taking kids to DLR.
What are the best times to go? I’d be looking at 5 nights. Sometime in September/October/November 2020 would be ideal for us, but we may be able to make other times work if those are bad months to go to DLR.
Also, which days of the week are best? We have flexibility on that.
This is great! Thanks! So much detail on the rides!
My inclination is to stay at the Grand Californian due to proximity to the parks and being in the “bubble”. I know it’s pricey, but we can make it work for 5 nights in our vacation budget and I love the idea of being so close to the parks with the two little ones. Other than price, is there a reason to prefer one of the other hotels?
I’ve stayed in all three of the properties and though The Disneyland Hotel is a little bit more of a walk to the parks, it’s my favorite hotel. I love the theming and the nostalgia. The pool is great too.
Staying at the GCH is amazing. I have only stayed twice (both times 2 nights each) and both times was great! Depending on where you are in the hotel, you can be a 2-5 minute walk from your hotel room to inside the DCA. The first time we stayed and I counted 47 steps from our elevator to the private park entrance. This can be especially helpful for those with littles (and bigs) who may need a nap or rest. I love getting EE (early entry) for every morning of your stay. This is especially nice at DCA, where only DLR guests have access. At DL guests who get a 3 day park hopper get one EMH for their stay, so it can be more crowded when access EE at DL
I will be honest I have stayed at all three onsite hotels and like each for different reasons. The grounds and pool at DLH cannot be beat and I love the displays at each tower, and Traders Sam’s, need I say more? Paradise Pier usually has the best price, although it is the furthest away and the most inconvenient of the “on-site parks.” I do like the brightness of the rooms and the amazing views of DCA. To get the most “in the bubble feel” GCH is your best bet IMO, So if it is in your budget, I say go for it.
Many of the DLR regulars say that there is not as much of Disney bubble feel as there is at WDW, but for me it was the opposite. I think for me, having to travel so far to go from one park to another, it felt like I was going to a different park/resort. Having everything so close together at DLR gives me that “bubble” feel. It is different for everyone I suppose.
As far as when, traditionally to avoid crowds, I would say early September or early November. Take into consideration that some rides may be down for holiday overlays though. We had a great trip this last year the week before thanksgiving. The crowds were manageable and we got to see DLR decorated for Christmas, which is my favorite time of year there (Halloween is a close second). I normally won’t ride IASW, but after dark during the holidays it is a must do!
As SoCal natives, we started taking our two children to DLR when they were 2-1/2 and 6 mos. We have the best memories. Fantasyland is amazing so quaint and intricate. New Orleans Square is lovely too. The park is better laid out than MK so you don’t have as much walking and wasted space. I’d say 4-5 nights is good because there is California Adventure too. If you can stay on site at the Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian, or Paradise Pier, it adds to the magic. But staying off site is less expensive and easy. We were about a mile away and used Uber/Lyft for less than $7 to get to parks. Consider an extra day to go to Knott’s Berry Farm which is America’s first theme park.