There's a reason Disneyland is "the happiest place on Earth." But if you don't have a solid game plan for hitting the park, you might just become the crankiest person on Earth. Luckily for you, we're here to help. We got the inside scoop from Disneyland cast members on tips, tricks, and hacks for the parks so that you can have the best visit on Earth. And while most of this information is specific to Disneyland in California, some of it can definitely be applied to other Disney parks worldwide!
• Be aware that Disneyland recently introduced a Fastpass system for Fantasmic — there is no more camping out for spots allowed around the Rivers of America.
• If you plan on catching one or both of the nightly shows (Fantasmic and Disney California Adventure's World of Color), plan on getting a Fastpass first thing when you get to the parks, as they tend to run out quickly. The Fastpass for Fantasmic is presently located in front of Big Thunder Ranch.
• You can get a Fastpass for the nightly shows and it WON'T block you from getting Fastpasses for actual attractions at the parks.
• Be aware: Fastpass is connected between both California parks, so if you're park-hopping you will be blocked from using a Fastpass if you have one already out at either park.
• All attractions' height restrictions are listed on the Disneyland Resort website — this is a great way to check ahead of time and avoid disappointing your kid at the park itself.
• Restaurant reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance of your visit. For more popular spots — like the Blue Bayou Restaurant, where you actually eat INSIDE Pirates of the Caribbean — you should DEFINITELY book this far ahead!
• There are phone-charging stations located in the locker rooms on Main Street, U.S.A. (and Buena Vista Street in DCA). They even have cords if you forget yours.
• Useful tip: You DON'T have to lug around items you purchased at the parks the entire day. Instead, if you're staying on-site at a Disneyland property, you can send them straight back to your hotel room.
• Walt Disney's apartment above the firehouse — which was once part of "Walk in Walt's Disneyland Footsteps" tour — is no longer open to the public.
• The Disneyland Railroad's Lily Belle car is only occasionally open. If you want to check if you can ride, ask City Hall.
• The special "magical moments" that Disney is famous for are spontaneous — for instance, we saw a random couple handed a pair of free ice cream cones outside Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor. You can't really plan or "hack" them. So hit the parks, and hope for a surprise!
A candy-maker at the Candy Palace making fresh English Toffee, and Chef Oscar Martinez, Disneyland employee since 1956.
• At the Candy Palace, be sure to get a candy cane during the holiday season. They're only available on certain days, and once they run out…they're out for the day!
• Looking for a unique treat? You can get a special-flavored candy apple for each month at the Candy Palace. March's flavor? TRIPLE CHOCOLATE!
• There is a really cool hidden photo opportunity by the piano player at Coke Corner — Alice, the Mad Hatter, and Mary Poppins frequent the spot (Alice especially when the park opens).
• And if you want to meet Disneyland's longest-employed employee (and actually, all of Disney parks), then head to Carnation Cafe and meet Chef Oscar Martinez. He's been working at the park since 1956!
• The Matterhorn Bobsleds have a Single Rider queue that allows you to come face-to-face with the yeti even more quickly.
• If you want to ensure you get a photo with a few of the Disney Princesses, then head over to Fantasy Faire, where at Royal Hall you can get your photo taken with them. Also, try doing it early in the morning when the park opens — that's when the lines are the shortest.
• The area by It's a Small World is a good alternative location from which to watch the fireworks.
• Space Mountain (one of the park's most popular attractions) does not have a Single Rider queue, so try to ride it first thing in the morning or get a Fastpass.
• You can ask to ride with the Monorail pilot up in the front of the train.
Space Mountain is one of Disneyland's most popular rides.
• If you're a Marvel fan be sure to check out Innoventions, it houses authentic props used in the Iron Man and Thor films. Best of all? There is no wait to enter.
• Another great alternative to view the fireworks — instead of the very crowded Main Street, U.S.A. — is to watch them near Innoventions.
• Don't want to wait, but want to get wet? Lucky for you, Splash Mountain offers a single rider line.
• Splash Mountain also adjusts its water based on the time of year, so you're likely to get less soaked during the winter as opposed to summer when it's hot.
• If you want to get to New Orleans Square quickly, use the Frontierland entrance instead of Adventureland; it's not only less used, but you can also avoid the bottlenecking that happens near the front of the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones attractions.
• If you want an intimate — and luxurious-smelling — shopping experience steeped in Disney history, check out Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie. It offers personalized perfume bottles, which make great unique gifts.
• Scary, but true: "Death certificates" are no longer handed out at the Haunted Mansion.
• From October through January, during its The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay, the Haunted Mansion offers Fastpass, which is located to the left of the entrance.
• They no longer regularly hand out maps at the Jungle Cruise.
• If you're craving a Dole Whip (and you SHOULD be!), you should order from the inside queue while waiting for the Enchanted Tiki Room. Not only is the line always shorter than the opposite side, but you're allowed to enjoy your treat inside the attraction!
• Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple of the Forbidden Eye has a Single Rider queue — so you can trek on to your adventure quicker!
• If you want to ride in the pilot house of the Mark Twain Riverboat, be patient! It's still available to guests, but it's first-come, first-served. So maybe get there early?!?
• Big Thunder Mountain is another of the park's most popular attractions, it does not offer Single Rider queue, so either try to ride it early in in the morning or get a Fastpass
• Big Thunder Ranch is a really cool, quiet seasonal spot to check out…WITH ANIMALS. (It does have shorter hours than the park and is likely to be closed, for the animals' health, if the weather is too warm or cold.) But it's a great to relax, especially if you have smaller kids (the human kind, although there are the goat kind too!).
• Big Thunder Ranch also sometimes plays host to park characters at various times throughout the year. It's a great place to not only see your favorite characters, but also rarer characters that no longer roam the park.
• The River Belle Terrace is the only restaurant that offers the iconic Mickey Mouse pancakes inside the park. It's also very popular, so try to eat there at an off hour.
• If you want to view Fantasmic but don't want to deal with the Fastpasses, consider dinning at The River Belle Terrace with their reserved dinner packages. You can eat at the restaurant and then relocate to a reserved viewing section from which you can watch the show from. If you choose to go with this plan it's important that you make reservations through the website quickly as spaces are limited.
• Lastly, all though this sounds like common sense, it's important to remember to be patient, especially during peak seasons. It's easy to get frustrated with long lines and crowds, but just remember that you're there to have fun.
Sorry we needed a little bit of pixie dust to get this right. Fantasmic cannot be seen from The River Belle Terrace patio as part of the dinner package. The dinner package actually offers a reserved viewing area in a different area.