After living in the Bay Area for a year and a half now, Mo and I decided to embrace our inner child, and book a trip to Disneyland. I have distant memories of Disney World in Florida as a 1st grader (when I was absolutely terrified of every ride), and 20 years later, here we are. Practical Wanderlust’s “How to do Disney” blog had great tips to navigate Disney and was extremely helpful in planning our trip.
I know people who are absolutely Disney-fanatics. I’m talking weddings, bachelorette parties, annual trips, family vacations, etc. that are centered around Disneyland. People RAVE about the corndogs, the “Dole Whip,” and churros. So we wanted to check out what all this hype was for ourselves.
After experiencing three theme parks in two days – I’m going to give you my honest thoughts and what I learned:
- Wear the most comfortable shoes you own – “kinda comfortable” shoes will not cut it. My feet felt like they do after running a marathon from standing literally all day. #dramatic BUT TRUE.
- Dole Whip isn’t all that amazing. Ice cream is much better than Dole Whip. In fact, a lot of things are better than Dole Whip. Maybe would have been better if I snuck some rum in… Pina Colada anyone?
- The Fast Pass app will save you hours of your life. If you don’t sign up for a fast pass, you will wait in line over 3 hours.
- Waiting in line for 3 hours really tests your patience. And marriage.
- Wear layers! Or plan on stopping back to the hotel. Disneyland is hot during the day, and cold at night… especially when you get soaked by a water ride after the sun goes down.
- It will likely be another 20 years before I step food back into Disneyland.
To be fair, Mo and I did both Disneyland and California Adventures in the same day, which most people are surprised by. We took a lunch break between the two parks, and later stopped at our hotel to change into warmer clothes after the sun went down. At that point, I needed either a strong drink or ice cream before going back into the park, and we ended up with the latter. Coldstone for dinner! Sorry not sorry, Dole Whip. We watched the fireworks in Disneyland at the very end of the night. They were great. But maybe I just liked them because we were finally sitting down. I’ll never know.
Overall, I enjoyed California Adventures more than Disney. Walking through Cars Land made me feel like I was in the movie! And the Incredi-Coaster was my favorite ride by far. I concluded, however, that I did not receive the Disney-fanatic gene. Luckily, Mo made the experience a good one. And he also verbally committed that he would “take one for the team” when it comes time to take our kids one day. Thank you Lord.
We did Universal Studios on a separate day, and I actually really enjoyed it! The City Walk area has great music, restaurants, and donuts. I also found GREEN FOOD! It’s apparently hard to find vegetables in theme parks, but I found a poke place hiding on the second floor of the city walk. I highly recommend doing the Studio Tour around Universal Studios, where you listen to a fun navigator and tour guide, see past and current movie sets, learn about how the sets are made, and get a backstage experience of movie effects. We drank butterbeer in Harry Potter land, dodged the T-Rex on the Jurassic Park ride, marveled at the HUGE donuts in “Springfield” (from The Simpsons), and took pictures with characters.
Inside the Park
Hollywood / L.A.
The second half of our trip was spent in LA – walking down Hollywood Avenue, hiking to the Hollywood sign, eating good food, swimming in the ocean and eating fish tacos in Santa Monica, riding a Bird scooter on the beach boardwalk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach, getting the best manicure of my life at Color Camp (and running into one of my most favorite bloggers at the salon, Shut The Kale Up), relaxing at Huntington Beach, and walking around the cute town of Newport Beach.
Favorite Places to Eat:
- Universal Studios: Voodoo Donuts
- Hollywood: JaneQ at Kimpton Everly Hotel
- Santa Monica: C&O (The waiters pass out “It’s Amore” lyrics for the whole restaurant to sing and cheers together. Make sure to eat as many garlic knots as you possibly can. No regrets.)
- L.A.: Café Gratitude
- Huntington Beach: Duke’s
- Newport Beach: Zinque Cafe
Favorite Things to do:
- Universal Studio: Studio Tour
- Disneyland/California Adventures: download the fast pass app, Cars Land, Incredi-coaster, take breaks throughout the day
- Hollywood: Runyan Canyon Hike, Hollywood Blvd. (stars, wax museum)
- LA: Manicure at Color Camp
- Santa Monica and Huntington Beach: walk on the pier, swim in the ocean, hang out at the beach
If you have more suggestions or think I missed something important, comment below with your ideas and suggestions. I may not be back at Disneyland anytime soon, but I’d go back for more of the food and hiking!