Why does this seem so hard?

Planning a WDW trip is an awesomely fun puzzle to me. But for some reason, I am really struggling with my DL plans. We’re almost 60 days out so I need to make some decisions. I’d love input on my preliminary plans if you are willing.

When: 12/4 - 8
Where: Staying at Grand California
What: 5 Day Hoppers with Genie+
Who: Me (41), DH43, DS10, DS7, DD5, DD2, DMom70, DAunt71
Why: It’s Disneyland!
The (very) loose plan:

Saturday 12/3 - Stay at DFW hotel for easier access to early morning flight

Sunday 12/4 - 8:40am flight arriving at 10:02 at SNA. I’ve arranged for a private van pick up through Anaheim Town Car Service. We have a stroller and ECV being delivered to GCV from ScooterBug. I figure we will arrive at GCV by noon, but we probably won’t have a room yet. We’ll be hungry. I don’t want to make an ADR because timing of flights is always so iffy. Our park reservation is for Disneyland. I figured we should start with the original. So, we can eat at any QS at GCV or DD. I’m wide open for suggestions. Well, wide open as long as it has something basic for my mom. She doesn’t do Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, Cajun, or pretty much anything that isn’t American, Italian, or Mexican. After we get some food in our belly we will start exploring DL. I suppose we could eat at DL for lunch, but I think it might be a bad idea to walk into the park hangry. We won’t be able to focus on the magic. I have no touring plan at this point.

Monday 12/5 - Park reservation for DL again. I think it’s a good idea to RD Fantasyland? Again, no touring plan at this point.

Tuesday 12/6 - Park reservation for DCA. RD RSR? No touring plan yet.

Wednesday 12/7 - Park reservation for DL. RD not Fantasyland? Or what we want to repeat from Fantasyland? Still no touring plan.

12/8 - Park reservation for DCA. We’ll be running around doing whatever we didn’t get to yet, or want to repeat. Our 6:55pm flight has been switched to a 4:40pm flight :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: What time do you recommend having the car service pick us up? Flying out of SNA again. Or I could try to switch to the 6:30pm out of LAX, but I’m not sure how much time that would actually buy us, and I’m not sure it’s worth the headache of LAX.

So, I basically have nothing planned. I have a list of to-do’s though:

Events:
Christmas Party (not announced yet, but I’m assuming)

  • I am a sucker for paid events that get me a reserved spot. I see that for the Halloween Party there are 2 - one for the parade and one for the fireworks. Assuming it will be the same for the Christmas party, would it work out logistically to do both in one night, or should I plan on attending 2 parties (assuming there are 2 during my dates)?

WOC - I’m thinking Dessert Party because you can reserve it ahead of time. I’m open to hearing why the Dining Package might be better though.

Fantasmic! - I’m leaning toward the River Belle Terrace Premium Package because you get an actual seat. But I’m worried about a crappy view if we don’t get a table on the front rail.

Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour (assuming it ever returns)

Tomorrowland Skyline Terrace - I think this is like a reserved spot for the fireworks? Anyone ever do it? Is it worth it?

And whatever seasonal stuff is going on

Meals:
Blue Bayou - will probably just have dessert here, but want to for the atmosphere
Lamplight Lounge - brunch
Napa Rose - maybe the Princess Breakfast?
Storytellers - brunch
Plaza Inn - Minnie character breakfast
Wine Country Trattoria - lunch dinner
Carnation Cafe - lunch/dinner
Goofy’s Kitchen - dinner
Craftsman Bar/Grill - lunch or dinner
Trader Sam’s - need to find some downtime to meet a colleague

And I feel like I’ve heard that QS is actually excellent at DL, so please hit me with your best suggestions for snacks. Or meals. Whatever.

Attractions:
I obviously want to do all the things that are unique to DL, but I also want to do all the things that are “better” at DL. We can probably skip Galaxy’s Edge as it’s essentially the same, right?

I’m not sure we’ll be able to do all the meals that I’ve proposed. I sure would like to try though!

So I’d love any input y’all are willing to give about what to do on what day, when to hop, when to eat where, etc… I feel like a fish out of water trying to plan this trip!

Thanks in advance for any and all advice! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Relax! You are in great shape with your planning and you will have an incredible trip. Five days is plenty to experience everything and have repeats. You’ll finish almost everything in two days and then you’ll be veterans and will have smooth days three through five.

As far as QS locations, I would recommend:

  • Docking Bay 7
  • Hungry Bear
  • Red Wagon or Corn Dog Castle
  • Black Tap (Downtown Disney)
  • Napolini Pizzeria (DD)
  • Paradise Garden Grill / Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta (LOTS of shaded seating here)
  • Flo’s V8 Cafe
  • Pym Test Kitchen

I also kind a like Alien Pizza Planet, though the pizza is uninspired.

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I recommend you use your first day to experience as much as you can of Disneyland and don’t hop unless you really want to. Prioritize Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Matterhorn. Next tier is Splash (LL goes fast when it’s hot), HM, Jungle Cruise. Go to SWGE in the late afternoon or evening. If you’re getting ILL, keep an eye on return times but they don’t usually run out super quickly anymore.

Use your second day mostly hit DCA. Prioritize Webslingers, GotG, and TSM. Second tier is Incredicoaster, Grizzly (LL goes fast when it’s hot) and Soarin’. Get ILL for RSR if it’s in your budget (return times are usually immediate). That one is very hard to ride standby unless you rope drop it. On our recent trip, we used early entry for Webslingers and then got in line for rope drop at RSR, and that worked really well.

You will probably be able to hop on day two if you want since DCA doesn’t have as much to do as DL, and maybe you’ll want to see Fantasmic that night or something if you haven’t yet.

On the remaining days, hop whenever you like, but keep in mind that lines at the taps will be longest right before the 1pm hopping time and just before nighttime entertainment.

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Tortilla Jo’s Lunch Menu | Disneyland Resort (go.com)

They make guac fresh at your table, to your order. So, if cilantro tastes like soap to you then you can opt out and have soap-less guac. If you like lotsa’ garlic… more for you. Their food and the margarita’s were good too.

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There probably won’t be a hard ticket Christmas party-DL experts have said the one last year was very likely a one off. But it’s possible?

You have a lot of table service meals planned and I think it’ll be challenging to get them all for 8 (I think?) people. I’d personally leave some openings for quick service-typically very good at DL-and give yourself an opportunity to play it by ear and go with the flow. We are traveling with 8 in November, including my mom, and I am definitely not planning to eat all meals together-really, I do not want to be responsible for shepherding everyone out and determining who will do what next. I think we will split up in different groups sometimes and then have some meals together. The great thing about GCH is how close it is-nothing in WDW is this close to a park-so it’s easy to have the early risers rope drop for instance, and meet others later-heck-you can send a teen back to get grandma if needed.

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Plaza Inn has the amazing fried chicken quick serve- so great.

We loved the Bengal BBQ quick serve so much, but it may be too exotic for your mom. It’s so delicious though!

I love all the Mexican food offerings at DL- quick serve, limited menu, Tortilla Jos, etc. They have to do a decent job with Mexican food to survive.

Remember, if rope drop is important to you (and for RSR it IS!)- the early entrance or rope drop from the Grand CA is a total impediment to getting towards the front of the line. We were being lazy and just entered the park from the Grand CA just before they started EE, and we were there early enough we should have walked over to the main entrance. We were about 30 min back in the line for the RSR. It was still worth it to get that done at the start of the day, but it was frustrating because I just knew that the main gate opened much before our gate did.

My daughter and I were pretty impressed by the food and characters at Storytellers Cafe. It was great!

We didn’t care for the Docking Bay 7 at DL because they didn’t have the spicy tip-yip. So we didn’t even eat there- what a bummer!

I have heard amazing things about the Princess Breakfast. I’m just waiting to have a granddaughter (or maybe my nieces) because my kids are too old. (Their words, not mine). If your kids are at all interested, I’d do it!

Goofy’s kitchen is fun! We won’t eat there anymore because our son has a peanut allergy and he won’t eat in the presence of peanuts, even though they did a reasonable job with keeping things clean. But I have great memories from there, although not recent experience.

I’ve heard pretty poor reviews on the Craftsman Bar/Grill lately. Can get the same food by quick serve, or walk over to DL hotel and get the pupu platter and some of their tasty options at the Tangaroa Terrace. That’s my plan for my October trip!!

Blue Bayou was basically so not worth it for us when we went. I don’t know about just having dessert there. I’m sure that it’s frowned upon, as it’s still one of the hardest reservations to get. It’s just super quiet and dark in there, so YMMV but I don’t know if a 2yo would love it. We went when my kids were all older (old enough to have to pay adult rates) and they all were disappointed by the meals. It didn’t help we had to wait over an hour to be seated, and we missed fireworks because of that. I have resolved to try Blue Bayou again someday, but maybe in another 5 years or so. I’m that bitter lol.

We enjoyed the Hungry Bear F! dining package so much that I’ve booked it again for my next quick trip. I liked the food, it was so convenient, and the sitting area for F! was very nice. You do have to sit on the concrete, so if that’s a non starter, maybe get the seated dining option for those who want to be seated, and have the better view using the Hungry Bear for the others.

Mobile order for your mint juleps and beignets!

Flying out of SNA- it only took us about 20 min or so to drive down there at about 530P, and it’s a small airport. So I would say if they pick you up by about 240 you should be good. Just depends on your comfort level with TSA and what not, but we didn’t have a wait or anything for TSA. Our flight was delayed by about 3 hours once we got there, which was incredibly annoying, but that’s travel these days… On your departure day it’s fun to do the Brunch at Lamplighters. Leave on a high note! You’ll have experienced everything by then!

Don’t miss out on the Animation Academy-- I think there’s a meet and greet there but there’s also a cool little sorcerers area in the same building, I believe, if the youngest two don’t want to draw. I think Crush is there too? I don’t know. I just go for the animation academy. It’s how it SHOULD be done (compared to the academy at the rafiki planet watch, which is not great.) I think it is a high value option for anyone older than about 7.

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DLR is tiny compared to WDW. With 5 days, you will have time to leisurely enjoy the parks and get on rides multiple times. With so many days, I don’t think you even have to prioritize for DLR only rides first.

I’m meeting DD24 at DLR on Tuesday for 2 days and she’s supposed to lay out some plans. Tonight, I got a list of must eat Halloween treats! More seriously, we will probably start left at DL and work our way counterclockwise, using Genie+ as needed. For CA, we’ll probably start at Carsland and go from there, using Genie+ as needed.

I think, like @Limace said, it may be challenging to get ADR for 8 people. Some of the sit downs are rather small. I just stalked the website. The only reservations for November 8 for 8 people is at Goofy’s Kitchen for dinner. If I changed it to 6 people, a bunch of other places open up. You may want to play with it before your ADR reservation date.

Did I say that DLR is tiny compared to WDW? Well, the seating areas for QS may be challenging for 8 people also.

I agree with the foods already recommended. I would add that we love the following also:

  • Bengal Barbecue for skewers

  • Ronto Roasters for Ronto wraps

  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe for Fresh Raspberry Macaron, Toasted Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Basil Soup

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I am right there with you - so I am totally going to spy on this thread.

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In DCA it’s the Festival of the Holidays so there’ll be food booths there that would make for a great snack a lot to make a full lunch. Good idea for a quick service lunch that I’m planning on Nov 11-17 visit.

Also, right on the 60 day mark at 8am my time so 6am Cali time I got a ping on my phone for the Skyline Terrace fireworks viewing which I’ve booked. I think I’d prefer the Plaza Inn one for the view in front of the castle though so I’ll still holding out they’ll release that. Today my Uva Bar came through at 8am so 6am Cali time exactly on the 60 day mark. WOC Dessert Party did not come through on 60 days…it came at 55 days and at 4am my time (ping ping, wake up Jenny!!! said my phone at 4am!) so I cannot imagine west coasters at 2am. So weird but that’s how DLR is with dining. None of the my other choices are open yet and I’m past 60 days for all of them. I’d prefer the Plaza Inn fireworks so I’ve got a res finder for that, also have one for for the lunch for the Christmade Parade. I’m also waiting on the River Belle Terrace Fantasmic Premium dining and La Brea (I’ve wanted to eat forever and never have) and Carthay Circle (also been wanting to eat here forever). I didn’t mind that DLR was so bad at actually being on time with their ADRs back when it was easy to get them but post covid it’s much harder. So for DLR I think it’s even more important to use a reservation finder if something is super important to you because last time I wasn’t able to ever get Carthay Circle because it probably dropped at 4am and by the time I checked when I woke up that day it was gone and it never ever opened. This time I preset up my reservation finders before the 60 day mark and I’m glad even though my phone dang at 4am! Does touringplans res finder work at DL?

One last thing (don’t know how much of a DLR veteran you are). Fireworks get cancelled A LOT in Cali. It’s always too windy up high. I have seen them less times than I’ve waited by more than half. I once waited two nights in a row and nada…the one night I had WOC planned they actually went off. SMH. It can be frustrating and if you book Skyliner Terrace or the Plaza Inn version should those become available, it clearly states they are nonrefundable.

Oh yeah, I chose the WOC Dessert Party this time because I’ve done the dining and I still couldn’t see more than half the stuff you’re supposed to cuz I’m 5’5". The Dessert party comes with bar or counter height tables and chairs in that area so I chose that this time because I thought nice to sit and probably makes it more likely I can actually see the show as its intended to be seen.

I really loved the Fantasmic Dessert party they used to do back in the day for this reason. It was center and had chairs. I could clearly see the whole thing. I am concerned for the River Belle Terrace side view but I’m gonna give it a shot because I know standing in the crowd even in the reserved dining area I probably will see even less. I love these shows but I wish Disney had planned seating better.

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I actually love Blue Bayou, especially if you get a waterside table. I go at lunch for the Monte Cristo. I think if you just want dessert, just do dessert. Restaurants are for us to enjoy and eat what we want, not be intimidated into ordering more because it’s a hard to get reservation. If you work hard and get up early in the morning to snag this or stalk the site to get it, eat what you want!

I haven’t eaten at Lamplight Lounge since it was its previous version but I liked it there too.

Napa Rose is hands down the best dining in DLR…DO IT! The dinner is phenomenal as is the Princess Brunch. Even if you don’t have kids, do the brunch!

Storytellers is a good brunch and better than Goofy’s as is a solid choice.

Plaza Inn - the breakfast is meh but there are sooooo many characters. Like 10 or something insane. And sometimes hard to find ones. So if you love characters, hands down it’s a great choice. Also, once I couldn’t get a reservation here and then I called the dining line. They said that they reserve a small number of reservations for resort guests, so if you can’t get this online, try the dining phone line.

Wine Country Trattoria - I recommend this place too. It’s a solid choice.

Carnation Cafe - for me it’s a breakfast choice because they have the HUGE mickey waffles for $10-$15.

Goofy’s Kitchen is meh to me…one and done.

Trader Sam’s is alright food wise, not memorable to me. But The atmosphere is superb.

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Jeff and I and some others once listed this on here… @Jeff_AZ I can’t find the post…can you?

But I will say with respect to SWGE, I prefer this version to WDW’s for the land itself. I like the layout better. But yes the rides are mirror images (though I’ve had more luck with Kylo working in DL than in WDW).

Rides that are only in DLR or significantly different or better:
Disneyland
Fantasyland:

  1. Alice in Wonderland
  2. Casey Jr. Circus Train
  3. Fantasyland Theater currently showing Tale of the Lion King
  4. it’s a small world (both for the disney characters and the holiday version when you’re going) oh yeah, and it does a holiday light show worth seeing after dark
  5. Matterhorn Bobsleds
  6. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  7. Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  8. Pixie Hollow (I like to just walk thru here at night when the characters aren’t out)
  9. Royal Theater at Fantasy Faire (I’ve only seen the Tangled show but there are two. I think the first three of the day are one and the next three are different. The Tangled one was cute and the other one is Beauty and the Beast)
  10. Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough (try to open the door in the top floor, midway down on your left. It looks like a creepy old door)
  11. Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  12. Storybook Land Canal Boats

Tomorrowland:

  1. Autopia is better here than Speedway
  2. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is better here. The ride is the same but the guns are different.
  3. Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  4. Space Mountain (I prefer this version)

Frontierland:

  1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is better here
  2. Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island has these neat interactive piratey effects in the caves
  3. Sailing Ship Columbia

Critter Country:

  1. Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes

Main Street, U.S.A.:

  1. Disneyland Railroad is far superior to the WDW version
  2. The Disneyland Story, Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
  3. Main Street Cinema

Adventureland:

  1. Indiana Jones Adventure (I think this is my favorite ride in the park)
  2. Tarzan’s Treehouse if it’s open by then

New Orleans Square

  1. The Haunted Mansion Holiday
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean (significantly better than WDW)

Toontown will still be closed but it has some different rides.

I prefer DL’s Fantasmic to WDW’s. I don’t know if the Christmas parades are the same or if they do the same Christmas fireworks? There are lots of live performers in DLR not in WDW like the New Orleans performers and their is a Fantaysland band called The Pearl band.

DCA:

Buena Vista Street:

  1. Red Car Trolleys
  2. Mickey’s Happy Holidays show
  3. Five & Dime show

Hollywood Land:

  1. Turtle Talk with Crush is a different version here
  2. Sorcerer’s Workshop is a fun walkthrough/interactive exhibit
  3. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  4. If there are any live shows in Hyperion Theater or the Hollywood Backlot Stage

Avengers Campus (I mean everything here is unique)

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout
  2. WEB SLINGERS - A Spider Man Adventure
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man (I’m aiming to see this and hopefully he won’t crash!)
  4. Avengers Assemble
  5. Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milage
  6. Dr. Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic Arts (I’m aiming to see this after dark as it’s supposed to have neat lighting effects)

Pixar Pier:

  1. Incredicoaster
  2. Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  3. Jessie’s Critter Carousel
  4. Pixar Pal-a-round

Paradise Gardens Park:

  1. Golden Zephyr
  2. Goofy’s Sky School
  3. Jumpin’ Jellyfish (not that I recommend you ride it…)
  4. Silly Symphony Swings
  5. Disney Viva Navidad Party
  6. Live musical performances for the holiday at the Paradise Garden Bandstand
  7. Mariachi Divas
  8. Holiday Toy Drummers

Cars Land (everything)

  1. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (has a Christmas overlay)
  2. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (has a Christmas overlay)
  3. Radiator Springs Racers (best ride in the park)

Pacific Wharf

  1. The Bakery Tour
  2. Live holiday performers on the stage set up there

Grizzly Peak:

  1. Grizzly River Run
  2. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (with Santa meet and greet)

World of Color - Seasons of Light

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See the post below for my list. That whole thread has lots of good info for WDW veterans who are visiting DLR for the first time.

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Also found this to give you some idea of the different perspectives of the fireworks:
(60) Believe…In Holiday Magic MEGA MIX | Goosebumps Guaranteed Full Spectacular @Disneyland! - YouTube

There is a clip after the 6 minute mark of what I think is the Skyline Terrace view. It’s really just the fireworks from there with no other effects. Honestly, in front of small world looks the best for digital displays, followed by main street. And right in front of the castle looks the best in general. I think I’m gonna cancel the Skyline Terrace. If I can’t get a Plaza Inn section, I’m just gonna hold out my spot (but I’m just one person compared to your 8! and don’t have littles)

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Just to clarify re above-the Fantasmic dinner designated viewing areas are seated on the ground, not standing (except for Riverbelle premium which is at tables but inferior view).

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I agree with this, however if your personality is anything like mine, you will feel much less stressed the rest of the time if you knock out as many rides as you can that first day. Then you will be able to relax and enjoy the remaining days.

At least make sure you hit your absolute must-dos early in your trip that your family would be disappointed if you leave without riding. Maintenance and other issues could pop up unexpectedly.

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Words of wisdom always coming through your keyboard!

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Sounds like an awesome trip with a good amount of time to see and do a lot! If I were you, I’d hit Craftsman Grill on arrival day. It was a big hit with my group and seems like it meets your mom’s criteria. Also, we had great Fantasmic! seats, albeit on the ground, with our Hungry Bear box meal a few years ago and the price point felt more tolerable than the other options. I don’t love the food at River Belle and don’t find the seats there to be all that great.

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We have travelled to WDW as a group of 8 a couple of times together. Other than my DA on occasion keeping the youngest at the hotel, we all stick together. Certainly for meals. I think I’ve read something about the hotels having a separate pool of ADRs or something? Who do I call to access that? And when? We’re staying on DVC points if that matters.

The oldest of my 4 kids is 10, which is probably why we all stick together. Keep the ratio 1:1! :laughing:

I don’t think I was aware of this. Thank you!

Which res finder did you use?

I’m pretty sure I have that one bookmarked!

Does anyone have any experience with ECVs in this section? My DA will have one.

I think that will be me.

Thank you for all the amazing input everyone!

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I am booking our trip for 8 right now and have only seen two restaurants-Plaza and Goofy’s kitchen-show reservations for a party that large. Three days in a row.

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That’s where I’m hoping being a resort guest will come in handy. Hopefully they can help me get 2 tables at the same time when necessary.