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Disneyland Newbie needs advice


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  • [Question] Disneyland Newbie needs advice

    Planning my first trip to Disneyland this December after many trips to WDW and I have a few questions for you Disneyland experts. We expect to arrive December 11 and we are unsure exactly how long we want to stay. More than likely, we will do just DL, CA and Downtown. How many days should we plan to see all three, not rushing? How are crowd levels in early December?

    About temps. I am from Middle Tennessee and in here in early December, it can be snow one day and 90 degrees the next! Will shorts be okay?

    Best, must-do character meal?

    Is a car necessary if one doesn't plan to leave Disney property?

    One more thing-I am concerned about the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay in the Haunted Mansion. I am NOT a fan of NBC. Will this overlay totally ruin my Haunted Mansion experience?

    Thanks for you time and insight!!


  • #2
    Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

    I have visited Disneyland from Utah during December several times, my pieces of advice:

    California weather is moderate during December compared to snow, but colder than 90 degrees. There is little humidity. Shorts are okay some days. Expect high winds. Don't be surprised if the weather is cold enough you don't want to ride Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run, although if you do the lines are short. ;-)

    <strike>It is actually cheaper to rent a car than ride the specialty Anaheim Airport to Park Shuttles. To justify your car rental, take a day away from the parks and visit Newport Beach or Hollywood.</strike> After some research the only shuttle my family looked into was an expensive one recommended by our booking agent, so as the poster below said; take a cheap shuttle. Everything you need for a vacation is only a block away from Disneyland.

    I enjoy the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay, but not as much as the regular Haunted Mansion. I would recommend just riding it and seeing if you liked it or not.

    Check to see if your plans are before or after Christmas break starts (I would check school districts in the LA area, if not more), before Christmas Break starts the park feels EMPTY. After Christmas break starts expect moderate to severe crowds.

    Other Tips:
    See Cars Land first thing on the day you visit California Adventure.

    Park Hoppers, while expensive, are very practical in DLR because the two parks are right next to each other. For example, you could start in Cars Land, jump over to Disneyland, and then come back to DCA for World of Color!

    If possible, eat breakfast outside Disney, it is cheaper.

    Get a hotel on Harbor, it is cheaper and walking in from the Harbor entrance is easier than navigating the Disney tram system.

    Be prepared to encounter LA gridlock in-between your airport and Disneyland. Adjust your arrival accordingly.

    And lastly, enjoy Disneyland!
    Last edited by xboxtravis7992; 06-29-2013, 08:14 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

      1. The weather in CA is waaaay up and down, and December is colder here than you might expect. Some days you might be fine in shorts, but at night the temps go down and it can get cool. You won't need a parka, of course, but it would be wise to bring some long pants, a light jacket, or a hoodie so you won't be miserable at night.

      2. I disagree on what the poster above said about renting a car. You don't need one. If you rent a car, keep in mind you will be tacking on gas and parking (which is $16/day) to your other expenses, you will be dealing with Southern California freeways and it just won't be fun.

      If you're coming into LAX, you can get the Disneyland Express for $32 round trip, and I believe it's similar from SNA. The Prime Time shuttle is $30 round trip. Just take a shuttle from the airport to the park and forget about a car. You're close enough at any of the Disneyland hotels to just walk over to the parks. If you want to explore off property, there are a couple of local buses and the Anaheim Resort Transit - or a cab for a pretty reasonable rate.

      Crowd levels are up and down in December. Weekdays are always better than weekends in terms of crowds, but the park might not be open as late at night. The closer you get to Christmas week the larger the crowds will be. Also watch out for Candlelight weekend - that is usually early December - because that can be crowded.
      Merida looks like this. Not a Barbie doll!


      • #4
        Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

        I took newbies to Disneyland in December last year, pretty much the exact same time you plan to go this year.

        That time of year is usually really great crowd-wise. We crammed almost every ride into 2 days. I was leading the way and know my way around pretty well, so I would say you'd want at least 3 to 4 days to see it all without feeling rushed. As for temperatures, we're all from Arizona so we found it to be chilly. We wore jeans and jackets, with layers so we can remove some if it gets warm during the afternoon.

        If you do not plan to leave the resort, there is no need for a rental car. At all. Take one of the suggested busses or even split a cab if you're in a hurry.

        I have never done a character meal, so sorry can't help you out there!

        I LOVE Nightmare Before Christmas, but I also LOVE original HM. The Nightmare lay is... well... Nightmare themed... so if you aren't a fan at all I guess you could say it's "ruined". However, I would suggest you go in with a better attitude, experience it for what it is, and maybe try to appreciate the theming, atmosphere, and excellent aspects that it has to offer. I have found rides to be enjoyable even if I'm not a fan of the movie (I don't like Cars at all, but the land is done so nicely that I still really enjoy it).

        Hope this helps!

        Thank you to Poisonedapples for my awesome signature!
        KellyMcG86's Disneyland To Do List


        • #5
          Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

          Originally posted by wdwleesa View Post
          One more thing-I am concerned about the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay in the Haunted Mansion. I am NOT a fan of NBC. Will this overlay totally ruin my Haunted Mansion experience?
          As a fellow Mansion fan I suggest not even thinking of there being a "Haunted Mansion" at DL then, you'll just be disappointed. It's not a matter of a few added props, it's a complete redo. The only possible reason to ride through once (early in the day to avoid the long lines the NBC overlay brings) is to see what is physically different between the WDW and DL Mansions. Our stretch rooms travel downwards as opposed to WDW's and lead to a hallway which takes you under the train tracks to the show building, for example. But the NBC audio is completely different and the HM scenes are covered or replaced with NBC sets and characters to the point of not being recognizable. If you're planning to ever come back during the 7/12ths of the year when the HM is itself then I'd say skip it.
          Last edited by bigcatrik; 06-29-2013, 11:30 PM.


          • #6
            Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

            Originally posted by bigcatrik View Post
            As a fellow Mansion fan I suggest not even thinking of there being a "Haunted Mansion" at DL then, you'll just be disappointed. It's not a matter of a few added props, it's a complete redo. The only possible reason to ride through once (early in the day to avoid the long lines the NBC overlay brings) is to see what is physically different between the WDW and DL Mansions. Our stretch rooms travel downwards as opposed to WDW's and lead to a hallway which takes you under the train tracks to the show building, for example. But the NBC audio is completely different and the HM scenes are covered or replaced with NBC sets and characters to the point of not being recognizable. If you're planning to ever come back during the 7/12ths of the year when the HM is itself then I'd say skip it.
            I think it's worth a ride, but as stated I would just consider it a separate ride than HM.

            Thank you to Poisonedapples for my awesome signature!
            KellyMcG86's Disneyland To Do List


            • #7
              Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

              Welcome (in advance) to Disneyland!

              I second the advice to skip renting a car. The shuttles from LAX or John Wayne are totally affordable, comfy, and easy. I've always taken the Disneyland Resort Express (run by Grayline), and they're clean and reliable. Being used to WDW, you're going to be amazed how much closer everything is! Of course if you decide you want to take any trips off property, you may want to look at other options, but if Disney's your sole location, leave the driving to someone else.

              If you're staying on property, you'll have an easy stroll to the parks through Downtown Disney. If you're not staying on property, I also recommend staying in one of the many close hotels on Harbor Blvd...there's a cluster of them right across from the entrance. I've stayed in most of them (Carousel, Park Vue, Tropicana), and had great stays at all of them. Friends have also said good things about Fairfield.

              I'd want at least 3 or 4 days. Especially since it's your first visit, it'll be nice to have time to ride all the rides, but also soak in the atmosphere, sit and have a nice meal, enjoy a parade or other entertainment.

              Temps can be a bit fickle that time of year. There's a good chance you'll have shorts-worthy temperatures during the day, but you'll definitely want layers for the evening (and maybe first thing in the morning). It's also not out of the realm of possibility that you'll get some rain. I'd be prepared for it, just so it doesn't catch you off guard and ruin your trip -- of course the silver lining is, if it does rain, it'll clear out the crowds. And it's still plenty of fun to do DL in the rain!

              We've done a couple of the character meals, one at Goofy's Kitchen, and the other at Ariel's Grotto. The winner, hands down, between those two was Goofy's. Food, atmosphere, character interaction, service -- all of it was infinitely better at Goffy's. The kids had a blast and the grown-ups had a decent meal (and plenty of laughs too). Ariel's was unfortunately one of my least favorite dining experiences in the park.

              As for the Haunted Mansion, as previous posters have noted, it's not a hint here and there of Nightmare Before Christmas, it's a fairly comprehensive overlay. I'm the sort that would want to see it anyway (and wouldn't be able to skip the Haunted Mansion, no matter what), but only you know your tolerance for Jack Skellington. If it'll just make you mad or ruin your experience, than skip it. But if you can take it with a grain of salt and satisfy yourself with experiencing the differences between the DL and the WDW versions, then give it a go.

              Finally, crowds will depend on all those factors others have mentioned...special Christmas events, California's school holiday schedule, etc. So you'll just have to check out the specific calendar.

              Have a great time!

              (a bit of unsolicited advice, I highly recommend the Animation Academy in DCA. I'd always bypassed it till my last trip, when -- based on a Micechat recommendation -- I decided to give it a try. SO much fun!)


              • #8
                Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

                If you are staying at one of the three Disney Resort Hotels you will be treated to EMH ( Extra Magic Hour ). You can enter Disneyland one hour early on Tue. Thur. and Sat. and can enter DCA early on Mon. Wed , Fri. and Sun.. You can also take advantage of DCA`s entrance from the GCH ( Grand Californian Hotel ). When we do a character breakfast we usually do Storytellers Cafe in the GCH about an Hour and a half before EMH. then get in line for DCA . The entrance is right there near Storytellers. Keep in mind that the lines form early and can be quite long with resort guests for the GCH entrance. For example, if the park opens at 10am, EMH is 9am, the line starts to form at 8am and by 8:30 can stretch to Whitewater Snacks and double back to Storytellers. We get a 7am reservation for Storytellers then I usually finish first and stake out a spot in line while everyone else finishes. Dec 11and 12 are Wed and Thur and should be the best crowd wise. Candlelight will have passed the previous week. You will probably see more crowding Fri night and on the weekend and the following week since some schools are out beginning the 16th. I`m not a fan of NBC but its inclusion doesn`t ruin the ride for me. The holiday overlay is special and I suggest don`t miss it.
                Last edited by Jerryp49; 06-30-2013, 05:38 AM.


                • #9
                  Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

                  First and foremost Disneyland is AMAZING at Christmas time! You will have an awesome time. You picked the perfect time to enjoy Disneyland at the holidays without the enormous crowds. Granted, during December, the crowds on a weekday are larger than other times during the year, but they aren't out of control large. The fact that schools will still be in session, prior to winter break will really help during your visit. Expect lower crowds Wednesday-Thursday and by Friday the crowds will be heavier, come the weekend Disneyland is packed the entire month of December, but so worth the experience. Sunday morning the crowds are lighter than Saturday, and then into Monday still somewhat crowded. By Tuesday-Thursday the crowds die down some, but some of the schools will be letting out by then, and that will increase the crowds.

                  If you truly want to experience all that Disneyland has to offer...shows, parades, rides, etc I would recommend two days at Disneyland and one day split between Downtown Disney and DCA. You definitely do not need a full day for Downtown Disney and DCA can be accomplished in almost a full day.

                  Temperatures are hit or miss in December. The nights are on the cooler side, so you will definitely want to have a jacket or sweater. During the day, it can be anything from mid 50s to low 80s, and there is really no way to know what will happen. I remember a couple years ago it was 47 at night and 82 during the day, I know, crazy right for the month of December. You definitely won't see snow, but the nights can be cool and crispy. When visiting Disneyland in the month of December, I always recommend that you dress comfortably. I wear long pants in December vs shorts, but always have a pair of shorts handy if I need them. Definitely pack a jacket, or a sweater because you will need it when it starts to get dark. The typical temperatures are more like high 40s-high 60s for that time of year. Keep in mind that December can also be cloudy and rainy, so to have a rain jacket or poncho around can be helpful, but you will know closer to your trip what you need to have weather wise.

                  The best character meal will really depend on who you are as a person, the characters you like, and the type of food that you like. Personally, my favorite character meal is at Ariel's Grotto at DCA because I am a Disney Princess fanatic and Ariel is my all time favorite character. Storyteller's Cafe is great for the food, but I am not really into the character experience, sure Chip N Dale are cute and cuddly, but they don't top my "favorites" list of characters. I really enjoy the food and the atmosphere of both Goofy's Kitchen and PCH Grill.

                  A rental car in my opinion is a waste of money if you are only planning to visit the Disney Resort and it's properties. There is a great bus/shuttle system in Anaheim that is $4 a day if you plan to ride back and forth between your hotel and the Disney Resort area. Many of the hotels are within walking distance of Disneyland. If you stay closer to the convention center, you can use the ART system (the system I mentioned) or you can walk to the Toy Story Parking Lot a few blocks from the Convention Center and take those buses to Disneyland free of charge. Shuttles to and from the airport run all the time and depending where you are staying, your hotel may even have a shuttle to and from the airport.

                  Haunted Mansion decorated with Nightmare Before Christmas for the holidays in my opinion is one of the best things at Disneyland, next to It's A Small World Holiday (what can I say, It's A Small World is my all time favorite ride and the holidays only enhance that). I am a person who does not like the movie Nightmare Before Christmas, but I love the Haunted Mansion decorated for Christmas. Even though it is definitely different than the regular Haunted Mansion, it is not "too Nightmare Before Christmas" to make a person who dislikes the movie. In my opinion, Zero is kind of cute as the ghost dog reindeer and I don't mind Jack Skellington as Santa Claus. The opening room is way over the top with Nightmare Before Christmas decorations, but for the most part throughout the ride, I love the gingerbread house in the ballroom (which is different every year), the pumpkins in the graveyard, the snow, the Christmas tree, I don't mind these things. Plus, I love the addition of Oogie Boogie where the hitchhiking ghosts usually appear. If you are a real Haunted Mansion "snob" you might think it ruins Haunted Mansion all together, but I think it makes it a unique ride experience and truly something that I enjoy having be part of my holiday season. If you don't mind bright colors, pumpkins, and a few changes, I think you will like it, whether you are a fan of the movie or not.


                  • #10
                    Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

                    I also am not a fan of the movie NBC. But the HM overlay of NBC is happy, bright, and fun, I ride 3-4 times ( waiting for the FP window on Thunder). I do not ride HM on other visits, I find it to be boring but alas I like GRR while others find GRR boring, such is the diversity of this chat site.

                    WEATHER: When I arrive from oregon we have already had two months of 32-52 range of temps, so anything above 58 is warm. I do find it a tad uncomfortable in the mornings and past 7 in the evenings, but I wear shorts all day and heavy sweatshirt that comes off at noon or as soon as the fog leaves. ( DL is not far from the ocean as the crow flies) I do leave the parks around 2:00, so I am not loaded down with the sweatshirt when it is warm and I am wet by 12:30 anyhow with splash and GRR.


                    • #11
                      Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

                      I'd do a 4-night stay, off site. Use the first night just to walk about Disneyland and DCA and DTD. Take pictures, pose for pics, window shop, take in the Christmas atmosphere. And get on just a few attractions. You'll then be ready for going bonkers the next three days.
                      I don't think you'll need to rent a car unless you will be going to other places. The price of a rental could go for other expenses.
                      December weather is more pleasant than other USA places. Warm days in the 60s and 70s, cool/cold evenings. There's chances of rain but no snow unless it's a weird cold freakish storm passing through. I always wear short pants for Disneyland visits. I just bundle up and layer for the colder evenings.
                      The only character meal I've done has been Ariel's Grotto because my daughter wanted to see princesses. Meal was very good and she got to see all of the princesses. Your savings on the car rental could probably pay for one character meal.
                      I wouldn't fret the Nightmare overlay. Ultimately, it's your choice, and that's the more important thing.
                      I've taken newbies into Disneyland and I've always had to slow the pace so they could stop and smell the roses. That's what was more important to them, even if it meant that they would not be riding everything.
                      Don't forget to look up at the window over the Main Street Fire Department and see the lighted lamp. That means Mr. Disney is home.
                      I am old. But still love Disneyland.


                      • #12
                        Re: Disneyland Newbie needs advice

                        You didn't mention if you are a completionist and if duplicate rides are a must or a pass.

                        DCA has some major attractions you can skip if you don't care about doing duplicates: Tower of Terror, Midway Mania, and Soaring. Which means you could easily do the park in a day. However, if you are a completionist there are several attractions that could require a chunk of time that others may choose to pass: Mater's Junkyard and Luigi's Tires.

                        For me, I wouldn't plan on spending much time in Downtown Disney. If you have seen one mall, you've seen them all. However, a walk through Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel grounds with a return through the Grand California lobby can be fun. But I wouldn't expect that to take more than an hour or two unless you want to stop at Trader Sams for drinks.

                        As others have mentioned a jacket and/or sweatshirt is highly recommended in December. It can get very chilly at night and if you want to stay for one of the outdoor shows (Fantasmic or World of Color) you are going to want something warm. It is not uncommon to see people wearing gloves and hats to stay warm at the late shows.

                        I would recommend 3 days in the parks. I believe the parks close at 8pm during the week. I can't remember if they are open until 10pm or Midnight on the weekends. I would think about pushing it to 4 days if you want to see all the shows and parades.


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