The “Happiest Place on Earth” can also be one of the most crowded—and expensive—places on the planet. Whether you’re a first-timer or a Disney pro, these insider tips will help you have your best visit yet.
Find some quiet in the crowd
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First, a quick primer for true first-timers: Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California includes two theme parks, the original “Happiest Place on Earth” Disneyland (the one with Sleeping Beauty’s iconic castle, Space Mountain, and the Matterhorn), and Disney California Adventure (the one with Cars Land, the Pixar Pier, etc.).
Most of the tips in this insider’s guide will be about Disneyland, but every so often, we’ll throw in a California Adventure tip or two. like this one from the bonafide Disney experts at DIS: If the crowds at California Adventure are closing in, grab a snack and look for the quiet lower level of the Silly Symphony Swings ride. This covered space with lots of benches overlooks the lake and is usually almost empty.
At Disneyland park, head for a cute (and usually empty) seating area next to a tiny lake between the Matterhorn and It’s a Small World rides. Even more hidden is a “secret” walkway with view of Tom Sawyer Island, Splash Mountain, and the Rivers of America. It’s located right behind the Harbour Galley food stand across from the Haunted Mansion. Find out all the differences between Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World you never knew existed.
Get in the driver’s seat
VIPs and celebrities aren’t the only ones who can access exclusive, “secret” experiences. Want to steer the Mark Twain Riverboat? Before boarding the ship, just ask a cast member (that’s “employee” in Disneyspeak) if you can see the captain’s quarters. They don’t have to say yes, but if you’re lucky, they’ll lead you upstairs for a bird’s eye view, says Disney super fan JJ of the Mousertainment blog.
If you play your cards right, you can also sit in the “nose cone” of the famous monorail for amazing views as you zoom through an atrium of one of the Disneyland Resort hotels. Mouse for Less blogger Vikki Turner recommends staying to the left of the ramp as you enter the monorail line in Tomorrowland and standing at the first entry gate to your left. At that point, ask the cast member if you can sit up front with the driver—it’s not guaranteed, so good luck!
Eat like a caveman
When you think of theme-park fare, visions of fried dough and towering ice cream cones probably dance in your head. Disneyland has plenty of those. But it also boasts savory snacks and meals that even a Paleo, vegan, or low-carb eater can munch, like meat-and-vegetable skewers at Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland, organic chickpea puffs and plantain chips at The Tropical Hideaway by the Enchanted Tiki Room, and a vegan hot dog with spicy lentil chili at the Harbour Galley by the Rivers of America. And don’t forget: You can always get an entree salad at one of the big sit-down restaurants—or a quick-service Greek salad at the Paradise Garden Grill in California Adventure. These are the 25 healthiest foods at Walt Disney World, many of which are also available at Disneyland.