Ever wanted to throw a birthday party at the Disneyland Resort, but can’t afford one of the restaurants in the parks or hotels? The price of admission can make it difficult to splurge for extras while in the parks. Luckily, you can throw your own birthday party in the resort picnic area. The picknic area is located outside the parks, to the far west side of Disneyland’s main entrance, and you can either stop there on your way in for a quick celebration or take a break away from the parks for a mid-day break. While clearly things like over-the-top decorations and a pinata out of the question, you could very easily bring your own food, paper goods and cake to the shaded and very clean picnic area and have a nice party. It’s the perfect way to have your cake and eat it too on a budget.
The FASTPASS has been in use at Disneyland Resort since 1999. It is a virtual queuing program for certain popular attractions that allows guests at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to receive a voucher listing a computer-assigned boarding time to return and enjoy the attraction. This popular program was first used during the 1999 holiday season on “it’s a small world holiday.” FASTPASS options on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin” quickly followed in early 2000, and additional attractions have been added to the program since then.
Here’s how it works:
· FASTPASSES are distributed at terminals near each attraction that offers FASTPASS. (With these exceptions: Star Tours FASTPASSES are located near the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, World of Color FASTPASSES are distributed at Grizzly River Run and Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASSES are distributed near It’s Tough To Be A Bug.)
· FASTPASS is available to all guests with theme park admission.
· A guest inserts his or her park ticket into the FASTPASS terminal, which reads and returns the park ticket along with a FASTPASS ticket indicating a time period during which the guest may return to the attraction and enter a special FASTPASS priority queue for the attraction. Guests are free to enjoy the park and its attractions while waiting to return to the attraction.
· After a guest has obtained a FASTPASS on one attraction, he or she cannot obtain a FASTPASS on a second attraction for at least two hours or the beginning of the return window on the first FASTPASS, whichever comes first. The exception is World of Color. Guests may obtain other FASTPASSES in addition to the World of Color FASTPASS used to reserve seating for the show.
· For certain popular attractions, FASTPASS return times may be filled early in the day. After that, no further FASTPASS return tickets will be issued for the attraction.
· Children under the age of 3 do not need a FASTPASS.
FASTPASSES are available for the following attractions
- The Indiana Jones Adventure
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Matterhorn – NEW!
- Haunted Mansion Holiday (Holiday version only – September through January)
- California Screamin’
- Grizzly River Run
- Soarin’ Over California
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (upon opening 5/27/17)
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Toy Story Midway Mania – NEW!
Want more ways to make most of the lines at the Disneyland Resort? Check out our information on single-rider lines and the rider-switch program. (And yes! Rider switch can be used in conjunction with FASTPASS.)
Editor’s Note: Updated on 5/9/17. This article was originally posted on June 6, 2013.
While I’m very reluctant to admit that my kiddos are well passed the pre-schooler age, I recently had the opportunity to re-live my early years as a parent at the Disneyland Resort with my Nieces; Amelia (age 4) and Evelynn (age 3). In advance of our trip, I booked two character dining reservations, one for dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen and another for breakfast at Storyteller’s Cafe. As the ‘unofficial’ Babes in Disneyland Contributor with the most visits to Character Dining restaurants, I am very familiar with the ins and outs of the reservation system, the food, the characters, and most importantly, the overall dining experience in general. I have to admit that while traveling with my nieces was an entirely new and different experience for me (click here for my previous post regarding taking young children to Disneyland), seeing their eyes light up as the characters came to our table made my heart beam with pride and joy! Helping them choose the items that they wanted from the buffet, taking photos and videos of every moment, and even trips to the potty took me back to the days I experienced as a young parent. Our trip also reminded me of some of the challenges I faced and that many families encounter with young children face when dining with toddlers.
If you’re planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort and are wondering how best to enhance your character dining reservation, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks, which I hope will make your dining experience much easier and more magical!
Do Your Homework
Each of the character dining restaurants at the Disneyland Resort offer a multitude of different experiences, characters, meal times, and menus. As such, I very much encourage you to research each restaurant prior to making your reservation. As an example, if your child is a Princess fan, I highly recommend you make a reservation for breakfast or lunch at Ariel’s Grotto where the only characters your children will meet will be Princesses. If the only time you have available on your itinerary is dinner, I highly recommend you book a reservation at Goofy’s Kitchen, as they are the only dinner character dining restaurant.
In my humble opinion, making reservations prior to your visit is crucial to maximize your enjoyment of character dining experiences — especially when traveling with toddlers. Reservations help you avoid long wait times and ensure that you are eating at the time that is most convenient to you and your family. Additionally, during peak travel seasons (i.e. spring and summer breaks), Disney restaurant reservation spots fill up quickly, and they allow very few, if any walk-ins. You can get ahead of the game by booking reservations well in advance either online and via the Disneyland Resort App up to 60 days prior to your visit. You can also call the dining hotline at 714-781-3463.
Know When to Go
During peak dining times, Disney restaurants tend to get a bit overcrowded. I recommend making a reservation earlier in the morning or later in the evening for less of a crowd factor and the opportunity to maximize interactions with the characters. This is also true for days of the week and/ or times of the year. Disney restaurants are generally more crowded on the weekends, so in my experience, booking on a weekday is a better option. I realize that it might be difficult to book during a non-peak travel season or on a weekday, but rest assured, no matter when you happen to book, all the characters at the restaurant on your chosen day will make it to your table and will do everything they can to make the experience as magical as possible, for your kids, and for you too!
Bring an Autograph Book
Autograph books are a great ice breaker for kiddos who might be a bit more cautious when meeting their favorite Disney characters. They are also a great way to capture your kiddo’s age, growth, and development, especially those that happen to have autograph books with a photo sleeve on one page, and the autograph page on the opposite side. Over the years, my kiddos were overjoyed when characters wrote personal notes, drew photos, and intricately autographed their books which, to this day, we lovingly look back upon as amazing Disney moments we shared of the characters we met.
Prepare Your Kids
For some toddlers, meeting a character for the first time, or even for the tenth time, might be a frightening experience. In the eyes of a young child, characters can sometimes seem a bit larger than anything they have ever experienced and even intimidating — especially if your child doesn’t associate the character with a movie or cartoon they are familiar with. If your child is unfamiliar with any or all of the characters who happen to be at the restaurant you choose, I recommend you enjoy the experience of watching the movie(s) in advance of your trip, or, if you’re short on time, searching the internet for photos to share with your child prior to your reservation to familiarize him/her with the characters and get them excited too!
Take Tons of Photos
I cannot stress enough the importance of bringing along a camera and taking as many photos as possible. As the lighting in each restaurant is different, I highly recommend taking a few test shots and adjusting your camera settings as necessary so you can capture the magical moments of your child’s first Disney character interaction! Taking video is also a good idea if you are able and many cameras these days have the option of allowing you to take photos while taking video. Lastly, if your camera has a continuous shutter option, this is a great way to capture the fast movements of toddlers and characters alike and ensures that you won’t miss the special hugs, games of peek-a-boo, and blown kisses.
To sum it all up, my most recent Disney character dining experience with my adorable Nieces and the priceless memories they evoked, has not only reinvigorated my love of all that is Disney but reminded me of all the wonderful experiences I shared with my own children and the many more memories we will share in the future! So much so that I look forward to re-visiting each of the restaurants soon to experience the magic all over again with my own kiddos, Nieces, and my soon-to-be Disney indoctrinated Nephew! As future trips unfold I’ll be sure to bring you along for the ride and offer up more tips and tricks too!
If you have been to Disneyland enough then you probably already know your favorite rides… and maybe your favorite boat/train/vehicle on that ride… and maybe even your favorite location to be seated on that vehicle on that ride! I know I do!
But after speaking to a friend who recently took her family for their first Disneyland trip I learned that she hadn’t thought to ask to be seated in the front of the roller coaster, until someone told her she could do that! She was so pleased because she wanted to use her PhotoPass package to get all of the best pictures of her family on the rides.
This had never even crossed my mind as a must-tell piece of information, but oh man! what a handy tip it is to know that you can ask to be placed in a certain spot on each ride.
When you get the front of the line, where a cast member directs where to stand as they prepare to load the ride, politely ask for your desired area (ie. front car, back car, etc.) and Cast Members will accommodate you. But know that you may have to wait through an extra round or two to get that spot, but if you’ve waited that long in line already then why not wait an extra minute to get the best experience?!
Not all of the rides have “best” spots and certainly these are up for debate! For example I prefer to sit on the last seat on a Splash Mountain log to avoid the big splash – and some people prefer the front (crazies!). But if you are curious about what I think are the best places to sit on some of the rides throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, then keep reading!
- Matterhorn: Last Car – you go faster if you ride in the back!
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Last Car – more thrills
- Space Mountain: Front Seat – better for getting a good picture of your screaming face
- Indiana Jones: Front Row, Driver’s Seat – best view, more fun to “drive”
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Front Row – best view of the ride, especially for little ones
- Radiator Springs Racers: Front Row – best view, best picture
- Soarin’: Middle (B) Section, Front Row – I never ride this one without making this request – I don’t like to see feet!
So, there’s my two cents… now what are yours? Do you always ask to ride in a particular spot like I do? Do you have any extra to add? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page!
I LOVE that Disney is a born and raised all-American company, and they are showing their love for our active and retired military by offering a pretty spectacular deal on theme-park tickets. Currently, through December 16, 2017, Disney is offering 3-day Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Tickets for $156 AND new this year is a 4-day Park Hopper Ticket for $181! Each of these Military discount tickets will save you $139 compared to the regularly priced 3 and 4-day hopper tickets – even a 1-day hopper ticket costs more than the 3-day military pass at $169! The Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be used now through Dec. 19, 2017, except for block-out days April 9 – 23, 2017.
Disney Military Promotional Ticket details:
- The tickets may be purchased with valid military identification by the military personnel or their spouse. Identification will also be required for park entry.
- No more than 6 promotional tickets may be purchased at one time and the military personnel or spouse must accompany guests using the tickets to the parks.
- Tickets can be purchased at participating U.S. military sales outlets (military bases) or the main entrance ticket booths at the Disneyland Resort.
- Tickets are nontransferable, each ticket must be used by the same person for each of the 3 or 4 days.
- The tickets are not valid for Magic Morning early entry.
- For more information on ticket discounts click here to go to the Disneyland website.
This is such an amazing deal – my family has taken advantage of it on several occasions and hopefully we will be again soon!