Amazing Disney secrets most people don’t know about! We thought it would be great to let you guys in on little Disney secrets we know about that not many people know about. How would we know? Well, we usually visit the parks about 200+ times a year, so we see Disney quite a bit and have learned a thing or two about how to save money, save on waiting times and best of all, how to get the most out of our visits. If that is something that would interest you, then keep reading! It was hard to narrow our list to only 18 spectacular ideas, but that might give us reason to create another list in the near future. So, without further ado, the list of Amazing Disney secrets most people don’t know about.
Most people don’t realize this, but if you’re looking to save time to get into the parks, it really does matter in which parking lot you park at Disneyland. Many people think that the Mickey and Friends parking lot is a quick way to grab a parking spot, immediately go through security and bag check, then cruise in on the trams. In our experience, that’s not always true. On popular days or around the holidays, the line into the parking lot is sometimes backed up all the way to the interstate 5 south freeway exit. It’s possible that you could be in that line for longer than an hour before seeing an available parking spot.
So, which parking lot should you consider? The Toy Story parking lot. This saves us, on average, about 10 to 15 minutes getting to the parks. Not only are there multiple routes to getting into the parking lot, but the parking pay booths are a little more efficient and you get to a parking spot much quicker.
Once parked, there are two options for getting to the park. One is the buses, which if there is a long line, it’s still possibly faster than waiting in line for the trams at the Mickey and friends parking lot since the Toy Story parking lot loads two to three busses at a time and the turnaround is about every two to three minutes.
Option two is walking to the park. Though not recommended for families with little ones unless you have a stroller, the walk will take you roughly 20 minutes from the Toy Story parking lot to the park entrance. On the way, you’ll pass a number of local markets that will sell you snacks and drinks for a fraction of the price that you’ll find in the parks. Since you can bring food into the parks (no alcohol or glass containers though), this option might be a good one for those who want to pick up some goodies before your day begins.
Park Entry Lines
This Disney secret is a good one, especially on crowded days. Have you heard, “how long is this going to take” while waiting in an entry line? You haven’t got all day to wait in a line just to get into the park! Well, if you followed my advice in secret number 1, I can tell you about this little secret. After getting off the bus (or walking) from the Toy Story parking lot, head straight for the leftmost line of the security bag check tents. This line is most undoubtedly shorter and quicker than the other lines. Why? Because there is a wall that blocks two of the four lines for that tent, so if you’re standing in a single line, that line feeds into two security checkpoints so it will move twice as fast until you have to choose to be in the left or right lane of that tent. Normally, the security personnel is pretty quick in the leftmost tent as well.
Once you’re through the checkpoint, if you’re heading to Disneyland, there are three-time saving options. Gate 14 and 20 both move pretty quickly since they have line ques that feed into two gates. If those gates are both closed, we suggest using the middle main entry gate. It’s not only limited to those that require wheelchair access. It’s just as good of an option as any other gate, except that since most people in that line have either strollers or wheelchairs, there effectively are fewer people in that line to check in.
Bringing Food into the park
Families are always curious to know if they can bring food into the parks. The answer is yes, in moderation. Basically, you can bring in your own food and drinks but they cannot be alcoholic or in glass containers. You can also bring in mini coolers, but nothing with wheels or full-size coolers you have to carry with two people. Who wants to carry a cooler that big around Disneyland anyway? If you forgot your own drinks, no worries! Any quick service restaurant will give you ice water in a standard cup for free whether you make an order or not. Just ask. If bottled water is your taste and you’re a pass holder, make sure to go to a quick service restaurant to order your bottled water since they honor the pass holder’s discount. It might not be big in savings, but if you’re 10 bottles in on a hot day, that’ll add up!
Speaking of food, how can you buy food without taking out a loan? Disney’s food options have really gone up in quality over the years. It’s not all the fried, sugary, bland food that other parks sell. Don’t get me wrong, they have those options as well but for those that really love food, Disney has some really great options. For example, Downtown Disney has really nice restaurant choices that feature a variety of cuisines. Most of these places also have a quick-service version next door to the main restaurant. The menu might be limited to what you can get inside the main restaurant, but the quality is great and the prices are a little more economical and you don’t feel as if you have to tip since you order over the counter instead of being table served. Great options include La Brea Bakery, Tortilla Jo’s, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and Napoli’s Ristorante.
One thing I love about Disney is how they tie in all of the history the park has gone through to get to where it is today. For example, you can sit on the original park bench from Griffith park that Walt sat while he dreamed up the idea of Disneyland. It can be found on Main Street U.S.A.
Another detail I really love is the fire station. The upper story of the fire station used to be Walt Disney’s apartment. Now, there sits a candle placed in the window for everyone to see. It symbolizes the ever presence of Walt Disney. If you want to visit Walt’s apartment, you can book the Walk in Walt’s footsteps tour which is available daily for around $100+ per person.
Another Disney secres we the First Aid Department. Sometimes the parks can get a little overwhelming and you may find yourself in need of some aspirin, band-aids, an ice pack, or even an antacid. You’re in luck! Head over to the First Aid station near the Plaza Inn in Disneyland and you can request assistance from the RNs for free. For more serious circumstances, they can help get you situated too.
Discount Annual Passes
Disney doesn’t offer discounts for their annual passes. Though if you know you want to get one for your next visit you can purchase a multi-day ticket at a discount before you travel and get all of the perks that come with the pre-arrival tickets. For example, at Get Away Today, you can save up to $16 per ticket depending what specials they have going on. Then upgrade your ticket to an Annual Passport at the park while you’re there. You’ll get the full ticket value, not the discounted price you paid, and you get to keep all the extras that came with your package. So far, it’s the only option for a discounted Annual Passport. Make sure to upgrade at the beginning of your vacation and then take advantage of the annual pass discount at many of the Disneyland Resort restaurants and merchandise stores.
Ever look at the Disney balloons and wonder if it’ll last all day? Well, if it pops during your visit, you’ll be glad to know that Disney will replace any popped balloon for free. Just bring the damaged balloon to any balloon vendor and they’ll replace it with a brand new one.
All-you-care-to-eat dining experiences
Disney has buffet-style restaurants too. Mostly all the character dining experiences are set up like a buffet. You may have known that kids 2 years and younger get into the parks for free, but did you know that they eat for free at the all-you-care-to-eat dining experiences too? The only exception is the Ariel’s Grotto Princess celebration breakfast and lunch because it is a table service restaurant where you order off a menu. They can share off your plate, but if you order for them from the menu, then you’ll have to pay.
Magic Morning isn’t so much of a secret, as there are a LOT of questions about it. Magic Morning comes with a 3-day and longer multi-day Disneyland ticket only and is good for an hour of early theme park admission on select days. For Disneyland, right now is Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, also only to select areas of Disneyland Park, normally Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. For early entrance into select areas of Disney California Adventure Park, it’s currently on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels is the only way to get into Cars Land before it opens to the public. Extra Magic Hours are a perk exclusive to guests staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels and includes an hour of early entry each day of your stay.
Did you know that you can approach the conductor for the Main Street Station railroad and ask if you can ride up front? Once the next train comes, you’ll be escorted past security to the front of the Tender where there is a special (very small) seat for two. That also goes for the Lilly Belle train car in the back of one of the trains. You’ll have to go quickly as soon as the park opens because they only keep Walt Disney’s most prized train car connected until it either gets too hot or too busy.
Disney has a few things you can actually take home for free, just ask. On main street, don’t forget to visit city hall to pick up a free celebration pin. They have pins commemorating a first visit, birthdays and pins for couples. Ask for one, or one of each! Another free souvenir is the unique jungle cruise map you can collect if you ask a cast member after exiting the ride. If visiting the Haunted Mansion, make sure to ask the host/hostess for your death certificate when you enter the foyer, and if you’re lucky they’ll tell you to come back to the front of the Haunted Mansion after your ride and they’ll have a copy waiting for you. Another free souvenir you can actually make and take home is a drawing from the Disney Animation building, taught by a real Disney animator. This is located in Hollywood Land in California Adventure park.
Everyone likes to use their phones while waiting in line for a ride. But not all line ques are the same. Before getting on one of the following rides, make sure to turn your phone to Airplane mode. The phone killer rides are Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion, Pirate of the Caribbean and Space Mountain. These rides are well insulated and your phone’s battery will drain quickly while looking for a signal. Of course, you can always bring your own external phone battery, which would solve this problem. Our favorite phone charger is this one, which can charge a phone up to 6 times!
Most regular Disneyland visitors know about the Fastpass, but it’s one of the most frequently asked questions by Disneyland newbies. For those unfamiliar with the Fastpass system, it’s available for everyone with any type of Disneyland ticket. Just look for an attraction with a Fastpass distribution area, slide your ticket into the machine, and you’ll get your ticket back with a Fastpass ticket with a return time to ride the attraction using the much shorter Fastpass line. Although it’s one of the most popular Disneyland ticket features offered, there are some misconceptions, even among Disneyland frequenters. Many Disneyland goers assume that you can only have one Fastpass out at a time. Not necessarily. Pay attention to the small print on the bottom of your Fastpass ticket. It will tell you when the next Fastpass is available, normally two hours after collecting a Fastpass. That way, if your return time is six hours later, you can get a Fastpass for a different attraction hours before using your first Fastpass. Also, Fastpass tickets for Fantasmic and World of Color don’t count as a Fastpass attraction ticket, so you can grab another one right after collecting your show Fastpass.
Late for your fast pass
Keep in mind, there is a 15 minute grace period for late entry on each fast pass.
Rider Switch is your best friend if you have young kids who don’t measure up to certain attraction height restrictions. One person in your group will stay back with the small kid(s) while the riders collect a special pass at the beginning of the attraction, wait in line as usual, and then get a Rider Switch ticket before boarding the attraction. Then, whoever stayed back with the smaller kids go to the front of the line with up to two ride partners. Rider switch passes can be combined with Fastpass tickets, and Rider Switch passes don’t have a specific return time offering ultimate flexibility. UPDATE: With Disneyland’s Fastpass tickets going digital, Rider Switch is now digital as well and has approximately an hour return time.
Single Rider Option
Single Rider is another lesser known option to reduce wait times, and it works especially well with adults or families with older kids. Select attractions have a single rider line option where your party can wait in a MUCH shorter line together and then take the next available seat on the attraction. It works especially well with Radiator Springs Racers and goes really quickly in the morning.
Save $$$ on meals
One of my favorite restaurants at Downtown Disney is Earl of Sandwich. It is tasty and inexpensive. What you might not know if you can get a full-sized sandwich free for everyone in your party who is 13 and over. Just sign-up for their e-club a couple of weeks before your trip and you’ll be emailed a one time use coupon just for you. If you’re traveling for your birthday, you can get a free sandwich and a free brownie! Keep in mind, you can sign-up for discounts for many of the area restaurants before you go and that will help you save too. Their offers change from time to time, but right now they also have a $5 sandwich of the day.
Meet Mickey before your day begins
The Surf’s Up Breakfast with Mickey and Friends is definitely one of the best kept Disneyland secrets. It is one of five Character Dining experiences offered at the Disneyland Resort and it is the ONLY character dining location where you’ll meet Mickey Mouse. Save your time waiting in line to meet Mickey and let him come to you at breakfast. As an added bonus, it’s inside Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, so you don’t need park admission the day of your character breakfast.
That does it for our first list of Disney Secrets. There are so many more, you’ll have to check in again for another list. I’m sure we’re going to write you guys another. Want additional tips or need help booking your vacation, Start at Get Away Today or call 855-Get-Away to speak with one of their super helpful agents. Don’t forget to use the promo code ACPhoto to get $10 off any 2-night or more Disneyland package.
Once you book your vacation, don’t forget to contact A&C Photography to book your photo session so you can take your memories home with you.