Why does this seem so hard?

I don’t have any specific advice besides don’t stress too much. I can pretty much guarantee you will have a great time at Disneyland no matter what plan you come up with or how closely you stick to it. That’s something I wouldn’t necessarily be able to say about WDW these days.

We were there on almost those exact dates last year. Except for vaguely following optimized touring plans on our first full day at DL and first half day at DCA, and our handful of dining reservations, we mostly just winged it. You aren’t going to know what you’ll want to do again (and again, and again…) until you’ve done it the first time.


We had nine last October and at many restaurants I booked a table for four and a table for five and then once there asked if they could put us together. They always could.

Btw this is a pain because you have to use two accounts to do it or it thinks you already have one and won’t let you book another and you have to find close to the same time for both reservations but i was successful last year except Carthay circle.


I use mousewatcher because it had more things like the dessert parties for fireworks that mousedining did not.


WDW is totally a puzzle that you get to figure out & I love planning it like that. But DL with its much less planning is a choose your own adventure that unfolds with even more magic than you could possibly have planned. Having basic bones structure and only that is :100: recommended.
My plans tend change frequently anyway partly because so many things in DL unfold with such short notice so I try never to plan more than half of a trip (that way we have plenty of buffer time fit in all the extras that we find). So as long as you have your park days reserved, know which harder to get dining you’re doing at 60 days & know what your must do’s are, you’re in really good shape.

And disclaimer here, I’m diving in here to give you day by day advice now without reading the whole thread (or your whole post in its entirety yet), but I have lots of info for you so wanted to get it out rather than come back and tackle more of this and read the whole thing so sorry if anything is a repeat.

For 12/4

Almost all of the dining options at GCH are really accessible as hotel guests. The one QS (Craftsman Grill) has mobile order, the Hearthstone Lounge is walk-up & had great flatbread options (and we loved the one we picked the charcuterie pizza) & 2/3 table service restaurants (Storytellers & Craftsman Bar - different and separate than Craftsman Grill but very similar menus) may even have availability on the app to join the walk-up list. And even if the app doesn’t have availability, ask as a hotel guest and check if they can accommodate you. Storytellers will do brunch until 1:30 (maybe 2:30?). And if none of those menus suit you or you want back-up options in DTD there’s Black Tap and Napoli’s that are great and would be “on the way” so to speak.

Solid agree with this.

If you’re getting G+ for the day, start getting rides to stack for the ones that are available that you know are at or near the top of your must do list (to get them accomplished early & leave room to re-ride). In between any G+ (or if you aren’t getting it) take in ambiance/shows/walk-in attractions. Some of our favorites in this category are: Train, Fire Station, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the whole lobby with the exhibition of Disneyland history and the neighboring Disneyana Gallery with lots of fun Disney art to peruse, Storytelling at the Royal Theater, Tiki Room, Royal Hall (princess meet) & any other character meets you happen along on the way.

ETA for a couple tips for your arrival day that I thought of right as I hit reply. First, do any rides in between those ambiance/walk-in attractions that have lines you’re willing to wait in (for us that’s usually 20-25 minutes unless it’s an e-ticket thriller then maybe we up that to 45 min). And secondly, I totally forgot one or our favorite walk-throughs: The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, it’s a beautiful re-telling in dioramas and a few fun small special effects of Sleeping Beauty’s story and not to be missed for any Disney or fairy tale fan.


One thing I want to stress that is different from WDW:

Since you can’t book a LL until you are inside a park, return times tend to get distributed more slowly in the morning. So if you can knock out the 3-4 most in-demand LL attractions in the morning, whether through LL, early entry, rope drop, or early morning low waits, you will be in great shape for the rest of the day. LL return times for the remaining attractions will likely be immediate.

Also, locals tend to show up for the evening for parades, fireworks, nighttime shows, etc. So morning time is much more productive and essential at DLR than WDW, where everyone seems to wake up early and rope drop.


I will add a thought as a WDW planner who loves, loves, loves DLR. The sheer size difference of these two parks makes pivoting and being spontaneous so much easier at DLR. Especially with you staying so conveniently at GCH. It is all right there.

The parks themselves also have more of a spontaneous feel. There are more random characters walking around. Its easy to just get drawn into something random to see.

On a different note. My first visit to Disneyland, I continuiusly got disoriented because the relationship of frontierland, adventurland, critter country and new orleans square feels like it should be similar to WDW with liberty square, adventureland and frontierland. But it isn’t. Just enough different to be disorienting. I heard they were doing some renovations to smooth this out (this would be great) but my first visit I would perpetually get turned around near the fantasmic stage area. So have patience learning a new layout and by day 2 you will be fine. And DCA is a breeze.


For your starting plans: you’ll have Early Entry as a hotel guest. What will be available in DL for early entry will only be in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland so if you’ll be up and at 'em those are your two starts. One of those mornings though I would really stick to just using the 30 minutes to getting 1 or 2 headliners out of the way and then getting to the west side (Frontier/Adventurelands & New Orleans Square) at or just after rope drop since that is a part of the park I especially like to be in & out of before 10:30-11am.

For your DCA start. RSR isn’t available during early entry but a bunch (almost all the others) e-tickets are so pick 1-2 to do and then queue up for RSR ahead of the RD crowds. If you can be up early enough to position for first on Webslingers & then dash to Guardians & if it’s little or no wait for it those are your best options, but to really do both in the 30 min & be ahead of the crowd these both have to be almost walk-on, so if either of those isn’t a walk-on, move along to the next step & come back later.

And the great thing about touring plans on the west coast, if you know your first few steps you really don’t need an optimized ordered list to go off of for the day, since almost all of it changes on the ground anyway. But if you do take the time to make them can serve as a checklist. I do still like to make them (if I have time in my last minute laundry & packing frenzy) so I have one place with one screen that shows me showtimes for the shows on my list alongside the attractions (and as a bonus TP’s input on the expected wait which I only half-trust as they have some good ideas of trends, but things change so quickly and without explanation at DL that true patterns that really identify low wait times is much harder, and they collect a lot less data so all this to say, I don’t go out of my way to chase a wait TP has said will be low, but will check it outif it’s on the way to the next certain step & that certain step isn’t at a set time that can’t be re-arranged).


Oh yeah. My sense of direction is bad enough as it is. I don’t need HM and BTM in the wrong locations making it worse.


The DL layout makes much more sense. Distinct Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Critter Country areas. And good luck explaining Tiana’s presence in Frontierland vs annexing to New Orleans Square.


That’s probably right, but they’re still in the wrong locations in relation to my entire life leading up to that point. :upside_down_face:


Parties/Events & Table Service Dining stuff

Just a quick callout there are no Halloween party fireworks bc the Halloween party is in DCA, but since your trip is at Christmastime and there are Christmas fireworks that will be in DL there may be an upcharge event to get a seat (still nothing announced yet, but doesn’t mean they won’t add a Plaza Inn Dining package of some sort).

Somoene who went to the party last year (it was its first year ever in DL), should correct me if I’m wrong, but if I recall, the fireworks & parade in the party are the same fireworks that run on non-party nights for day guests, so I would not do two parties just to split these up. And the parade usually runs in the daytime as well so fairly easy to split up in one day.

If you want the seat, then this is the only official option. The seat & the view there are what you’re paying for & the desserts are really ho-hum. But it’s really the seat & the view that you want, so if it’s in your price range, it’s the best option by far. The dining package has you in sections with theoretically better views but you’re in a standing room only section just like anyone else and to get a good (railing) spot will want to arrive 45-60 min early.

For an unofficial sitting option (not guaranteed you’ll get a view of the show, but another option we’ve used), you can try for a 7 o’ clock hour Lamplight Lounge reservation and ask for an outside seat when you check in & if you’re still at the table for the 9pm show start-time (they close at 8:30 officially but we’ve dine 3x in the 7 o’clock hour and it’s always at least an hour for us to dine so anytime after 7:30 we’ve never felt bad about staying for the show), you can absolutely stay at your table to watch the show. The view is only phenomenal if you’re right at the railing, but it’s half the price of the dessert party, much better foods & drinks (& service) and you’re right next to the show so you have views of most of the fountains and definitely can hear absolutely all of it. The full scale of the show will be hard to see from any one table so I wouldn’t recommend it for your first viewing of WOC, but if you place a heavier premium on having top quality food/drink AND want to enjoy it outside of the crowd, it’s a very solid option. Otherwise, do the dessert party.

We got a railing seat and I liked it just fine. But we have been gun-shy to re-book it for the exact fact you list: I only want to pay the premium to sit at a rail table and anything else would feel like I got cheated. I do also much prefer to see F! closer & any later show (10:30pm) dining package will get you the front & center view in what has lately been a very sparsely populated section and of course they have dining packages for the 9pm show as well that will have their own distinct sections with Blue Bayou front & center, River Belle non-premium to one side towards Big Thunder and Hungry Bear to the other side to the left. Any of the front sections will have a great view so I would pick which restaurant/menu you most want to try (or best fits your budget in the case of Hungry Bear).

:heartpulse: I hope it does. It’s a great little way to get some history & magic at DL.

They specifically don’t advertise it as fireworks viewing bc they get cancelled so frequently for high winds. And you’d have to book it on your Sat or Sun to get a chance for fireworks since Mon-Wed will like NOT have fireworks. And for me, that view seems too far back & unimmersed to be any good. I love watching in the middle of the projections with the fireworks going off framed center over the castle so Main St is my favorite place to watch. Small World’s projections are so good & you are close to where they launch the fireworks so you get stunning bursts too so that’s my 2nd favorite. The Tomorrowland skyline feels like it would be off center of any of that AND the review I read that was the nail-in-the-coffin to me paying to try it out said they don’t pipe the fireworks music for you. But they may pipe it in Tomorrowland in general??? I’m not sure since we’re rarely in Tomorrowland during fireworks because we like to watch them most nights.

Festival of the Holidays in DCA is top-notch. ALL the entertainment is magical & fun & lively & festive & representative of a whole globe of holiday traditions so it makes my heart sing. Definitely carve out time for it. And the food is always so good too. First year of the festival I started out with a total “why are all these food carts up-charging for fancy bites of food crowing onto my perfectly good parade route that could be doing Paint the Night every night?” attitude that’s since turned to “Ok, which of these 16 things are we going to narrow down to 8 for our Sip n Savor pass that we are for sure getting and maybe should we get 2?”

Not sure if the policy has continued but pre-pandemic they set out to make a policy that each member of the party had order an entree or be refused service. I think they’ve dialed it back some but your server may not be thrilled as they get enough of these in a shift that the policy was set to help alleviate the problem of wage losses they were experiencing by the volume of these types of reservations AND the demand for reservations in general being so hard for Blue Bayou overall, so just a caution that you may want to clarify/investigate and be prepared with what you’ll do if that’s the case still.

This was an experience in all the best ways. It was a forkload of money, but if you have the budget (both time & money-wise) and wont’ be back to DLR in any foreseeable future, I recommend it. The service was the 2nd best service we’ve had in all the world in any restaurant ever, and the whole experience is truly is one-of-a-kind. There’s nothing like this that I’ve heard of at WDW. Or any other Disney park. And just to point out, you’ll be doing this for the princess experience in an upscale setting. The food was all quite good, but the highlight was definitely the princesses & service. The starters & desserts were all so beautifully prepared (and most were pretty good too) but in terms of the actual food, we preferred the buffet at Storyteller’s so it definitely isn’t the food that justifies the price tag here.

This is a lot of character dining with repeat characters, except for Plaza Inn. I would pick Plaza and then one out of Goofy’s or Storyteller’s (and when push comes to shove I have to stay Storytellers even though Goofy’s is so sentimental for us & I love the DLH). Especially if you want to do some of those other meals bc you’ve got all the good sit-down represented. And there’s SO MUCH good QS/snacks that you won’t have room for with all this food.


Quickly reading through everyone’s posts since I see you’ve got some solid ride recommendations and I agree with them all. And before I try to help tackle narrow down the food options with all the great TS you already have and with recommendations of QS, a couple of quick replies on things.

Sadly Tortilla Jo’s no longer does the tableside service for the guac. BUT I’m pretty sure they do make fresh to order still because it was just as delicious as ever, and I’m certain you could ask your sever to have any of the same customizations as it was when made tableside. Tortilla Jo’s is one of our faves too but we usually save it for non-park day or if we have time as our last meal before we leave.

So either gate you use you want to arrive early as both security checkpoints backlog easily. With the main gate, our experience since they have brought back early entry is that they: a) don’t have dedicated lines for early entry or regular park guests and b) don’t let any guests through the main gate turnstiles until exactly early entry start (7:30). The CMs do arrive to their turnstile station at 7:25 or so & may scan the first couple groups but don’t let them through the turnstile until right at the start of early entry. So you definitely have to arrive early to not be mixed in waiting at the turnstiles. I would be ready to line up at security at 6:45-6:55 maybe 7am and get going to be first at the main turnstiles. Once in the parks they hold regular day guests at Carthay Circle with checkpoints for hotel guests to go one of 3 ways: 1. Grizzly Peak/Soarin (near the churro cart on that side of Carthay Cir), 2. partway down Hollywood Blvd (this is the way to go for Guardians or Monsters but NOT Webslingers) or 3. everything else all the way to the left under the Carthay Circle overhang to get down the main walkway - this is the way to go for Webslingers & for everything else beyond Carsland as well, Webslingers is just the closest to it). The checkpoints just have you present your hotel key or hotel stay in the app & ask how many people are included & count you as you go through. That part’s really quick. If doing the main gate, the key is to avoid being queued up with regular day guests.

With the dedicated DCA entrance from GCH, it’s only for GCH guests. It does get backlogged quickly though so again you have to arrive early to maximize your early entry. I would recommend the same 6:45-7am at the latest timeframe. They do spit people through the turnstile starting sometime before 7:30 but they hold early entry guests on a pathway area before it joins the main DCA pathway & they do the hotel key check there where they hold you but don’t start the check until exactly 7:30 and as such they can only let through so many people as fit on that pathway before 7:30 (another reason why the security checkpoint here backlogs). I’ve illustrated below with yellow being the turnstiles and blue being the pathway. The end of it is right where it joins up to the main pathway that passes by Redwood Creek Challenge Trail/Grizzly River Rapids if you go right & of Soarin’ if you go left. If you use this pathway & want to head towards Avengers Campus or Hollywood land you’ll need to pass through a room key checkpoint again as described above.

Yes, yes and so because of this, if it’s a fireworks show we love, I like to plan 2 nights we definitely will steak out spots (one on Main St., one at Small World) and leave a 3rd night flexible to squeeze it in. Ideally my 3rd night of squeezing fireworks is with plans to see F! as the early show (with a dining package) and then stay and watch FWs (at least projections on the water screens there) right after the 9pm show ends. That way with that many times of trying, we’ll hopefully see it at least once maybe twice. And then on any of those nights plan for WOC at its later showing. If we have a 4th night (rare for us as we usually do quick weekends), I’ll dedicate that to watching the early show of WOC so that our younger kids that would probably fall asleep at a later showing can see it. If it’s not a FWs show we love then we’ll just walk up to see what viewing we can get at either Small World or Rivers of America or just watch from wherever we are when FWs start.

I second this as it makes so much sense for your arrival day plan & it’s one on your list you want to do.

For any of the dining sections along side the Rivers of America, she will able to take her EVC in & stay to the back of the section (still a good view) & everyone in front of her will be seated. Anyone who does need to stand, is able to do so at the back of the dining sections as well.

There is also a dedicated mobility section just next to the Mark Twain docking station. I don’t know how many of your party will be allowed to go but I’m fairly certain it’s limited.

Ok, phew. After coming back to this a couple of times between working I think I have most of my advice out except for trying to narrow down food. I’ll see if I get some time for that tonight.


Thank you for all this info- I’m headed there in 2 weeks and staying at the GCH. Would you recommend for rope drop early entry at DCA to go to the main turnstiles then? Getting there at 645ish would be OK with me (early riser). We were only 5 back in line at the GCH for rope drop (regular rope drop- just before they started early entry), and ended up way way back for Radiator Springs.



I have a reservation to eat there this Friday. I’ll try to remember to ask.


Racers is such a sprint. As soon as they give the go ahead it’s a full on sprint. If you’re trying for Racers again this time, just a note that it isn’t open for early entry, but by having early entry you can do a ride (2 if there’s time) and then head to Racers around 7:45-7:55 to be in the line up prior to the rope drop scrum.

And then as for using main gate vs. dedicated DCA/GCH entrance. I think it depends on which one is closer to your room bc it could be a hike to get to one or the other (when we stayed in August our room was a hike to the Downtown Disney security entrance so getting to & from Disneyland always felt a little bit of a hike to what I was expecting being the hotel right smack in the middle of the bubble). It might also depend on what you want to accomplish during the 15-20 min. before you position for Racers too. If you’re going to stay in Carsland (for Luigi’s and Mater’s that are open during early entry) or want to do Inecredicoaster on the pier, then the DCA entrance puts you closer. Anything else open during early entry (Avengers Campus & Monsters Inc) will be closer to the main gate.

If you’re already going to be very early to be there & now the dash to the rides for early entry is strictly only the other hotel guests, it won’t be as stressful as your previous Racers experience (where you were also contending with regular day guests there at opening).


Great point— We didn’t ever get on Webslingers in July (it was down a lot the 2 days we were there) so we’ll likely make that our EE priority and then if Racers works out, great. If not, we’ll try to catch it later.

One time (2019) my son, daughter and I were the FIRST on Racers-- back in the good old days. It was an early morning entrance, and we were not running, but walking with a purpose. It was amazing.

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You know we’re going to be there, right?



You CAN just order dessert. If you get a regular dining reservation here, you can switch to the Fantasmic Dining package when you arrive, Friday-Sunday. $89/person, prefixe menu.


I think my goal is to have an ADR, nighttime show, and RD plan for each day. And a list of must-do’s for both parks.

Maybe I should consider this for arrival day. I can also book it later in the week as a back up too. Can you bump and run at DL like you can at WDW?

My understanding is that Fantasyland doesn’t have a lot of G+, so it will be a good idea to use one of the early entries to knock out as much of that as we can. Is that accurate?

Great intel, thanks!

I’ve done enough Disney Dessert Parties to know what I am and am not paying for! :rofl: :roll_eyes:

I think we may go with this option. Even though we’re not overly excited about the menu, I chalk it up to paying for the viewing spot.

EEK! We only get one shot at fireworks then - Sunday night. We arrive Sunday and leave Thursday. I will keep my fingers crossed for a Plaza Inn event.

This is how I’m leaning. I’ll be meeting a colleague at Trader Sam’s one afternoon, so I’ll get my chance to explore DLH then.

The F! package is only available Friday and Saturday at Blue Bayou? Ugh.