Questions while Planning 1st Trip to DLR for next summer

20+ trips to WDW, but this will be my first to DLR. Tagging @Jeff_AZ and @lolabear_la because I know they have been to DLR many times, but I’d love to hear other opinions too.

DW and I have decided to plan a family DLR trip for next summer. DD will be 9 y/o and DS will be 6 y/o. We are thinking of spending a week in the area so possible Universal Hollywood too.

We will stay at Grand Californian (at least for the DLR part of the trip).

Here are my initial questions:

  1. Should we do 3 or 4 park days at DLR? We will get G+ and ILLs each day. Should we get park hoppers? I keep going back and forth between 3 days with park hoppers, 4 days without park hoppers, and 4 days with park hoppers.

  2. If we go to Universal Hollywood for 1 day, should we continue our stay at Grand Californian and drive back and forth? Or relocate to the Hilton to Sheraton Universal City? And if we relocate, which would you recommend … Hilton or Sheraton?

  3. Anywhere else within a reasonable driving distance we should go while in the area? I’ve been to California many times, but never the LA area. I’ve been to San Diego, Palm Springs, Ojai, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, and Napa, but somehow only driven through LA.

Thank you!


3 is sufficient but 4 is better for someone who has no plans to come back. In fact for a fanatic, 5 might be worth the added cost depending on how much it is to add a day (sometimes it is really cheap). I wouldn’t recommend 5 whole days and certainly no more than 5.

I always recommend hoppers but especially for 3+ days. It’s a flat price to add hoppers regardless of number of days so it’s especially worth it for longer stays. The parks are so close, even more so than USF / IoA. Hopping time is 11am and after that you don’t have to tap into your APR park so it really makes your plan much more flexible.

If you can swing Universal toward the beginning (or end I suppose, but that would be a downer IMO), I would stay somewhere closer to USH. I don’t know much about the hotels in that area. Do any have Express Pass privileges? If so, definitely do that! Also, be there for early entry for MarioKart. Make sure to join the Virtual Queue to get into Nintendo World if they’re using it when you enter the front gates.

This is really a personal preference thing — there are beaches (Huntington is probably the easiest to visit), other studio tours, celebrity tours, Hollywood Blvd / Walk of the Stars / Graumann’s Chinese, Griffith Observatory, Rodeo Drive, La Brea Tar Pits, Forest Lawn Cemetery, and many many museums and other sites that you may enjoy seeing depending on your interests.

Oh I recommend eating at Duke’s in either Huntington or Malibu and get the Hula Pie for dessert. :yum:

Peruse this thread for more info comparing WDW to DLR:

Feel free to ask more questions if you have them!


In this post I listed all the differences between DLR and WDW Genie+:


We usually go to WDW and are doing our first DLR trip in September. We’re planning three days with hoppers at DLR and one day at Knott’s Berry Farm.


YAY YAY YAY I’m Soooo glad you’re heading out west!!!

  1. The Disney nut in me wants to say, without question 4 days with park hoppers. However, if you have G+ and ILLs it can be done in 3 with the park hoppers and that is the minimum I would recommend. I do usually tell people that if you have kids and will need naps/midday breaks that 4 days is ideal (and if you will be around for a partial 5th day the additional cost of a partial 5th day is so nominal that 5 days is worth it!).

  2. I think it will depend on what day you pick to Universal & where that fits around your Disneyland days. If you stay at GCH & leave for Hollywood at an optimal traffic time the drive is 40 minutes, but in traffic it’s easily 1 hour if not 2+. If you pick a weekday (recommended I believe because Universal Hollywood crowds will be generally lower) then that means leaving extremely early to beat the morning rush (like 5:45am) & then being there early for park opening. It does look like Universal Hollywood is open starting at 8am everyday this summer so being there around 6:30am might not be so super early that it’s problematic. Personally, I’d weigh in the fact of paying GCH prices for not getting full use of the amenities/perks of DLR onsite by being at Universal that whole day & would almost assuredly stay somewhere else. Whenever we get ourselves to Universal Hollywood, it will be a day before our Disneyland days and I would totally stay somewhere in the vicinity before moving to DLR. We haven’t ever stayed at a hotel near LA so I’m not sure where to start there.

  3. I only like LA ok. There’s Hollywood which is iconic and definitely noteworthy to say you’ve seen it, but it’s definitely a tourist destination and parts of it are super sketchy so my first time there I was not impressed. We have gone to the Disney Ghiradelli Studio Store & Soda Fountain shop attached to the El Capitan theater and that was fun, but most of that fun for us was due to the limited/unique pins they used to sell more often at the store. We have also enjoyed The Grove and Farmer’s Market in LA. I haven’t done them personally but I do hear good things about the La Brea Tar Pitts, the Children’s Museum in LA and Griffith Observatory (technically I have been to Griffith Observatory but it wasn’t a stop I planned on the trip and it was years & years ago in college going with a friend so all my info on it is likely outdated, but it was cool). If I had several days around DLR/Universal my top choices would be Legosland in Carlsbad & San Diego Zoo and Zoo Park. Legoland because it’s on the top of our list of things we haven’t done in SoCal and want to do and the zoo and zoo park because I love them both so much. Also, most people I know pair a trip to DLR with at least one beach day. We’ve done Huntington and Newport and both are fantastic, Huntington is a lot easier to access. We’ve also considered but never yet tried, Long Beach and Long Beach Aquarium.

Again, I’m so thrilled you’re going! Do ask away as you plan with anything else you can think of!


We just did a similar trip in late May with my DD6, DD10, DS14 and DS21. My last trip there had been in 2018 and my younger kids had never been. We loved experiencing the differences at DLR and actually it’s just a whole different animal with the parks plopped in the middle of a city rather than isolated in the Orlando “bubble”.

I had the same quandary and ended up getting 4 day hoppers with G+. It was definitely worth it having both G+ and PH. There are so many rides/attractions that are different from WDW that even though we rarely repeated rides, we still left many rides undone. A 5th day would not have hurt. Also, we discovered the joy of the Golden Ticket on this trip and were able to get one nearly every day, as rides at DLR go down frequently. So having G+ was essential to making that happen. The parks are so close together that we were much more inclined to hop than we are at WDW.

We did Universal Hollywood our first day before heading to DLR which was a good change from my original plan of going midway through the week. Traffic in the LA area is a bit of a nightmare, and USH is on the opposite side of the city from DLR so it’s not a short drive especially if you happen to be going at rush hour. I highly recommend staying near USH before your day there. We found the hotels near there to be either sold out or too expensive so we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express North Hollywood-Burbank which was a great experience for us and only a short drive to USH in the morning.

One thing I was not fully aware of was that the DL fireworks show is not shown every night, in fact it was only on weekends the week we were there. The other nights are laser only. And apparently fireworks frequently get cancelled due to atmospheric winds or some non-obvious reason to those on the ground. So spending Mon-Fri at DLR we only had the opportunity to see the castle fireworks one time (Friday), and they were cancelled at last minute although the weather seemed fine to us. So if it’s important to you to see, look into when fireworks are scheduled if it’s announced ahead, or plan to be there on more than one weekend day.


If you go after Labor Day or before Memorial day that’s generally the case. But if you go in between the two holidays that’s DL summer season and FWs are nightly. They do have to cancel somewhat frequently, specially in non-summer months. The issue is the direction of the winds at the elevation where the FWs will burst. The very busy I-5 is RIGHT behind the launch spot and just beyond the I-5 is a residential neighborhood. If FW debris hits those areas not only does Disney get a hefty fine from the city, but it could be potentially devastating. So they have very little wiggle room for where the debris can land & it doesn’t take much wind at the higher elevation to deter that. It sucks, but I think they’ve found a much better solution in the projections & lasers still running rather than having absolutely no show at all (which was happening a lot before they switched over to projections).


That settles it. 4 days with G+ and PH it is!

Very good point. I think we will stay at GC for 5 nights, and then drive to Universal for the last 2 nights at one of the Universal City hotels. I checked pricing and it is about 1/2 the price of GC.

It appears they do not, but we will buy express passes and go early entry for Mario Kart…

I love the San Diego Zoo and the Wildlife Park. DW and the kids have never been to either, but I think we will save this for a separate San Diego trip in the future.

So, here is where I am at after reading the helpful replies to my post:

Day 1 - Travel Day - arrive at GC - pool/dinner/early to bed
Day 2 - RD DL (hop as desired)
Day 3 - RD CA (hop as desired)
Day 4 - sleep in, DL, hop as desired and watch a nighttime show.
Day 5 - sleep in, CA, hop as desired and watch a nighttime show.
Day 6 - pool in the morning, drive to Universal Hollywood
Day 7 - RD Universal Hollywood
Day 8 - fly back home


Any outdoor dining you recommend? We are still trying to avoid indoor dining (for Covid reasons). We generally like quick service for lunch and a good sit down place for dinner, but are open to anything outdoors (or delivery to our resort room).

This looks like a great plan! Personally I would reverse the order of USH / DLR, but if that’s the way it’s gotta be, so be it.

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Lucky for you, almost all dining at DLR is outdoor. We like Cafe Orleans for lunch/dinner and Carnation Cafe for breakfast (both at DL). In DCA we like Lamplight Lounge for brunch on the weekends, or lunch/dinner any day. All of these are table service and offer both inside and outside dining. Most/all of the quick service is outside dining as well. You might enter the building to order, but always eat outside. Our favorites are Pym’s Test Kitchen, Bengal BBQ, Little Red Wagon corn dogs, Plaza Inn lunch/dinner for their famous fried chicken, and breakfast at Jolly Holiday on Main Street (make sure to mobile order early for most of these). Most of the restaurants in Downtown Disney have outside as well- Naples, Tortilla Joe’s, La Brea, etc. You will still eat very well at DLR only eating outside. The ones that don’t have outside- Goofy’s Kitchen, Storytellers, and Napa Rose and probably others too but that is what comes to mind.


I understand why you would; reverse the order, but I want my kids to be fresh (and not tired) at DLR so I would rather have the long day at Universal and the potential long drive in traffic after we are done with Disney.


Fair enough!


Seconding Lamplight Lounge! That is our most favorite and was one we started doing before we were comfortable doing indoor dining. You do have to request outdoor and they will give you the spiel that it’s not guaranteed but every time we’ve requested it, they’ve given it to us.

Carnation cafe also is a favorite but their seating is soo limited (both inside and out) we’ve only done it once since Covid and when we were more comfortable with the possibility of being indoors. And as somewhat expected they weren’t at all visibly happy to accommodate a request but did end up honoring it. I made to sure to let them know we were happy to wait too because I knew they would be a little fussy about a request of where to sit because we aren’t an easy party number (6) and their seating is very limited. But with your party number I wouldn’t hesitate one bit on requesting outside. We love Carnation lunch/dinner.

I think the only obvious indoor dining that Karen didn’t mention is Blue Bayou but I personally feel it’s overrated. I do like combining it with F! dining but I have very little desire to look for the hard to get dining without combining it with a F! reserved section.

(SORRY hit reply to soon so editing to add all the stuff from here on out)

Staying at GCH I would definitely take advantage of being close to Craftsman Bar & Grill as one of your sit down options for dinner. That was an awesome place. And it’s all outdoors by the pool! But that could also be more options on your arrival/departure day. Also, we loved the flatbreads at any of the GCH lounges/restaurants and they are the same ones offered on room service so at least once get flatbread from literally any lounge, restaurant or room service while at GCH.

And as for a fourth possibility for dinner check the menu of Carthay Circle and if that appeals to you it’s a great one. Definitely still have to request outdoors but it’s an awesome ambiance and characters will be passing by on the way to from their meet locations around Carthay Cir fountain and Buena Vista St. If the menu at Carthay isn’t your jam, wine country trattoria is well liked and has plentiful outdoor seating. And New Orleans cafe is also great outdoor ambiance but the only standout food there is the money cristo and it is heavy so we don’t get there as often.

In downtown Disney our fave is Tortilla Jo’s for table side guac (they didnt make it tableside when we last went but they did make it fresh to order at the bar so it was essentially the same delicious taste). One thing we love about the guac there is a) we don’t have to make it ourselves and b) you can customize it how to want, want more cilantro & onion? They’ll do it. Their food is standard as far as Americanized Mexican food goes but they do have a really good mole enchilada and their fajitas are decent. Not the best but far from the worst. Requesting outside is fairly easy here too.

As for quick service, I do believe literally every single place has outdoor or at least the option of outdoor seating. Except Golden Horseshoe BUT it is close to seating options that are outdoors (Stage Door Cafe & Rancho Del Zocalo). Our favorite quick services are: Corn dogs (from anywhere. Some people swear by Little Red wagon but we’ve had amazing fresh ones from all 3 locations that serve them & our favorite is the spicy link at Corn Dog Castle), Bengal BBQ, Pym’s kitchen, Award wieners, plaza inn fried chicken, Harbor Galley, Cozy Cones (both the chili “cone” queso & bacon mac n cheese cone), jolly holiday sandwiches and depending on what they have at the Paradise Garden Grill that may be worth trying (sometimes they’ll have favorites from the festivals become a standard or limited offering there).

And snacks is whole other bunch: Flavored Dole whips and Dole Whip floats from Tropical Hideaway, churros anywhere, bread pudding at what will be called Aunt Cass’s cafe in the new San Fran Sokyo area by the time you come, ice cream at Ghirardelli’s, Gibson Girl, Clarabelles or Schmoozies. And I’m sure there’s more I’m missing. I’ll come back if I think of more tho.


Totally forgot about Blue Bayou. We rarely go, I am just as happy with 2-3 skewers from Bengal BBQ as I am with the food at BB, for so much less money!


Wine Country Trattoria is another great dining option that is almost all outdoor seating. It’s a little on the fancy side but it’s fine for kids. Some of my favorite meals at DLR have been there.


Same. Literally much happier. I do like getting the F! Front and center section so that’s the only way I go to Blue Bayou.


I’ll have to give it another chance. We went there for my first time at DL for my birthday and I was not impressed. I think we had a chat liner meetup there once and I was definitely happier with the company than the food/service so I haven’t ever given it another shot. But a lot of people like it and I generally love Italian food.


We did the Hungry Bear package last September for the later show, and they mixed all the dining packages into the same area. Same view as the BB people at a much better price. We were thrilled, not sure the BB people were though.


We have done that a lot too!! Another reason why we’ve only been to Blue Bayou the once haha. But the kids have asked to do it again and we’ve tried looking for ADRs for it but we never know we’re going 60 days out so it’s really one I just need to set alerts for all the time and just try to watch alerts. And of course have F! back. That would definitely need to happen first.