The Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn is one of the best places to stay near Disneyland. Location, location, location! It’s 1/2 block from the DLR Transportation Hub, on Harbor Blvd, along the east side of DLR (for reference, Downtown Disney is on the west side of the Parks). Walking time is literally 4 minutes from the hotel to the DLR security gates and ticket booths, and one more minute to the Disneyland and California Adventure gates. See thispost to find out why you should have your passes in hand before you get to security and why….)
The hotels along this part of Harbor Boulevard–on the east side of DLR–are actually as close or closer than staying on Disneyland Resort property. These hotels are usually less expensive than the DLR Resort hotels. And many offer Automobile Club, Senior Citizens, Annual Pass, Military, Government Employee, and other discounts.
TIP: Be careful when booking any hotel that says it’s walking distance to Disneyland: often the hotel is close to the Parks boundaries, but not very close to the Park entrance.
First impression: The rooms are newly remodeled, with new furniture and lighting and VERY CLEAN. My room had two queen sized beds, a desk, flat-screen TV, microwave and refrigerator. I love that the three lamps in the room (one on the desk, and one on each of the two nightstands) each had at least one USB and one electrical outlet. We all need to charge our electronics, right?
Other amenities included a coffee maker (with coffee and tea), iron and ironing board, and a full-length mirror (in the bathroom).
I really like the layout of the bathroom. The the toilet/tub & shower are in a separate room from the sink and mirror, which makes it easier for more than one person to get ready at the same time.
The breakfast was GREAT!
Seriously, this is one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a hotel this close to Disneyland. (click on the arrows above to see all the choices)
Breakfast foods included a very impressive assortment:
hash brown potatoes
scrambled egg patties;
fresh fruit (apples and oranges that day)
nonfat Greek and low fat regular yogurt
donuts, bread, sweet rolls, bagels & cream cheese, and muffins
4 kinds of cold cereal (both healthy-ish and sugary)
Instant oatmeal (3 flavors, with raisins, chopped peanuts, CHOCOLATE CHIPS, dried cranberries, granola and brown sugar toppings).
Three kinds of juice, milk, coffee and tea (4 flavors of TAZO tea, both with and without caffeine).
The breakfast room was clean and staff worked hard to keep the food well-stocked.
Tip: get to the breakfast room early to avoid the crowds. How early? 45 minutes to one hour before you plan to leave for the park. See this post to learn what time to arrive at the parks. It’s safe to assume that some people staying here will have 3+ day passes, which entitles them to Extra Magic Morning (park admission 1 hour before the official park opening time).
Another really great service is that the hotel staff will store your luggage while you are at the parks on the days you check in (if your room isn’t ready) and after you check out. This service saves you money (Lockers at DLR are $12-15 per day) and effort because you won’t have to haul your luggage through DLR security (and yes, they look inside). I’ve been to another hotel on Harbor Blvd that charged $2 to leave your luggage in a locker on their property (I won’t mention names, but it’s near this one).
Pricing (always important): I paid about $169 plus the DLR resort fee for a total of about $195. I figure I save at least $30 over some of the other hotels, because I don’t need to get a locker at DLR on day of arrival ($12-15/day X 2 days) and my breakfast is included with the room rate ($10+). If you drive to DLR, you’ll save even more because you won’t pay for parking at DLR ($20/day).
LAST TIP (I promise!): Don’t get the Anaheim Inn confused with the other Best Western on Harbor (BW plus Mini-suites). It’s actually closer to the crosswalk leading to DLR, but it’s a bit more expensive and I haven’t checked out the breakfast there. Please let me know (in the comments) if you have stayed there and what you thought.
All in all, it was an enjoyable stay, made great because of the Best Western Anaheim Inn’s close location to the Parks. I will definitely stay there again!
Schmoozies is a Counter Service dining option at California Adventure (in Hollywood Land) that has a menu full of (wait for it..) SMOOTHIES. During the Summer of Heroes, they offer smoothies themed to coordinate with the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout ride in Hollywood Land.
Here’s the menu:
Rocket Fuel is probably named after the Guardian who denies that he’s a raccoon.
Since the cast members make these beverages to order, I asked if they could substitute some ingredients. Fortunately, the CM at the order window said ok. Here’s my healthier version of that smoothie:
Frozen Espresso (don’t mess with my coffee!), Deleted the whipped cream Add yogurt (they use low fat vanilla yogurt—see it in the Strawberry -Banana Breakout on the menu) Add banana and strawberries.
OMG…It was delicious. Could this be an “off the menu” item during the Summer of Heroes?
Note: I asked for this variation when Schmoozies had only a few other customers.
They also serve some crazy (dare I saw “out-of-this-world?”) doughnuts with the GOG theme. The Gamma-Sized Donut (has blackberry and black currant filling) is HUMONGOUS! I assume that’s a GOG thing too… or Incredible Hulk? (Yes, the donut is sitting on a teenager’s leg—it is not forced perspective!). Donuts are served until 11 AM.
Schmoozies also serves some more normal beverages, such as Caffe Latte and Mocha, Espresso, Iced Coffee, Hot Tea, and bottled water. Flavorings are available too. Lavender lemonade with a glow cube also appears on the menu.
This is a great recipe for taking with you to the DLR. It makes a lot, tastes yummy, has lots of protein, no added sugar, can be made in advance and is easily adaptable for different flavors. It’s part of my “Eating Healthy at Disneyland” plan. Enjoy!!
1 cup rolled oats (I use Whole Foods bulk organic or Trader Joe’s gluten free rolled oats, too. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, Amazon.com sells Trader Joe’s gluten free rolled oats.)
½ to 2 tsp EACH ground ginger, cinnamon and/or pumpkin pie spice (to taste)
12 large egg whites (equivalent amount of refrigerated egg whites works too)
4 servings vanilla protein powder (I use MetRx Protein Plus Vanilla from Trader Joe’s. Optimal Nutrition Cinnamon Bunflavor (from Amazon.com) also makes this recipe really tasty)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
Approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups water (or milk of choice, or combination); see directions
2 tsp vanilla extract
OPTIONAL: (either one; I haven’t tried both together)
1 tbsp psyllium husks
1 tbsp chia seeds
1.Preheat oven to 360° F.
2.Prepare two 8- or 9-inch square baking pans by spraying with cooking spray (bakes faster and more thoroughly in two square pans than in one larger pan).
3.In a large mixing bowl, use a whisk to mix the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and spices (and psyllium and/or chia seeds, if desired). Set this mixture aside.
4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in another medium bowl (on medium to high speed) until very fluffy; then mix in the pumpkin puree and vanilla extract (on medium speed) until no pumpkin lumps are visible.
5.In another medium bowl, use a spoon to combine the protein powder with 1 to 1 ½ cups water–a little at a time, mixing well to remove all lumps. You’ll want the mixture to be like a barely-pourable pancake batter or soft pudding. (The amount of water used will depend upon your protein powder. ****VERY IMPORTANT: Use a protein powder that you like, since it really affects the taste of the final product.)
5.Add the protein powder mixture to the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla mixture, beating well with an electric mixer (or spoon) until smooth (no lumps).
6.GENTLY fold the pumpkin/protein powder/egg mixture into the dry ingredients mixture (use a bowl scraper, aka spatula. . . not a pancake turner), and mix until the dry ingredients are just combined with the wet ingredients (too much beating will make the dough very tough).
7.Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-28 minutes, checking at 25 minutes for doneness. Top should brown nicely and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted in the center.
Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm; room temp is good too. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.
OPTIONS: Try adding shredded carrots and pineapple for a carrot cake-like taste. I’ve made it with chocolate protein powder too (I wasn’t crazy about it, but others might like it). Bananas are also a good flavor addition.
8/13/2016 UPDATE: Yesterday I made this with shredded zucchini and it was absolutely fabulous! Tastes a bit like zucchini bread.. but not as heavy (and much healthier!).
I think I’ve finally come down from the wonderful World of Color dessert party (and it was months ago!). Here’s the info on how you can enjoy this special and decadent event.
Here’s what’s included:
A reserved seat at a table for the World of Color show
A basket of bread (for the table to share)
A drink or two. Either a) sparkling wine or a World of Color special mixed drink (Made of Sprite, Lemonade, a blue liqueur and coconut rum) for adults; A pomegranate lemonade (or lemonade) in a World of Color sipper for the non-drinkers. Disney says it’s for kids 12 and under, but I’d definitely ask your server if you can have one if you don’t drink alcohol.
Cheese (Manchego, a mini brie and mild cheddar on the night I was there)
Desserts (and more desserts!) A full plate of desserts for each person.
Disney recommends that you make reservations for this party early…before you get to the park. In the summer and during the Holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas through New Years Day), you’ll need to make your reservation days or even weeks before your park visit date. You can make a reservation up to 60 days before your visit. See this page on the Disney website (or call 714-781-DINE) to make your reservation.
As part of the reservation process, you’ll have an opportunity to list any food allergies that you might have. I don’t eat soy, so I made sure that was on my reservation. More about that later.
The World of Color (WOC) Dessert Party begins about 30 minutes before the World of Color show. The Disneyland website recommends that your arrive at least one hour before the WOC showtime. The line for the Dessert Party will look long, but you will get a table since you’ve made a reservation. I recommend you arrive a little earlier than 1 hour before the show so that you can choose your table type.
Two types of tables are available: bar-height (with bar-height director’s chairs) and regular dining table height (with metal folding chairs). The bar height tables definitely have a better view– and less chance of getting wet, since the lower tables are nearer to the water area. (When the wind blows, the water does too.) The lower tables also have a good view. Each type of table has the appropriate height chair. Yes, you read that right: you’ll be sitting before the show starts and all the way through the World of Color show. Everyone else will be standing while waiting for the show to start and while watching the show. Yes, it’s an awesome show, but after walking all day, the last thing I want to do is stand for an hour to wait for a show and then stand for another hour during the show. Munching yummy desserts and having a drink (or two) is much more my style.
Back to the WOC Dessert party: You’ll give your name to the cast member at the front of the line podium (I took a screen shot of my reservation confirmation just in case), then another cast member will show you to the “Preferred Seating Area,” where you will be handed off to another cast member, who will take you to your table. Please note: if you are a party of 3 or less, another person might be asked to join you at your table. I sat with a wonderful family of grandparents and their young teenage daughter from out of state (oops, I wish I remembered which state). We had a great time exchanging information and I shared some tips for their next day at the parks.
After you are seated, a cast member takes your drink orders. Each person is given one drink (or two), and non-alcoholic beverages are refillable. If you want a second drink, be sure to ask the cast member before the show starts since they won’t be available during the show. The grandparents I sat with asked for a second drink (and so did I!) and the cast member brought them cheerfully. The cast member hesitated when the husband asked for a third drink, but then smiled and brought it promptly. They also serve hot chocolate. The colored lights in the World of Color sipper change with the music, which distracted all of us.
After I had eaten two cookies and some fruit from my dessert plate, a cast member came to give me my “Special” plate (with no soy). It was just as wonderfully yummy as what I saw on my first plate.
The huge chocolate-covered strawberry, the gold-leaf painted macaron, and the rice pudding were super delicious, and very pretty.(click on the arrow to see that I just nibbled…NOT!)
We chatted and enjoyed our delicious fruit, cheese, desserts, and drinks. And then it was almost time for the show. The current version of the World of Color show celebrates Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, and is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse. I’m always amazed by the 80-foot tall colored streams of water and the images projected on a huge screen of water. It’s a great show and this is a great way to watch it. UPDATE 11/20/16: During the Holidays at DLR, WOC becomes a Holiday show. Same lights and water show, just a different theme.
By the way, the World of Color Dessert Party is $79 per person, for both children and adults, and it must be prepaid in advance. No Annual Pass discounts are provided. But here’s a way that you can get $50 off your ticket. I’m not sure I will do the Dessert Party again, unless I have a special occasion or I’m with a person who has never seen the show.
Just to clarify: I highly recommend the show and the Dessert Party.
(This post covers the time of day to arrive at DLR. For choosing what day to go to DLR, see this post.)
When checking the Disneyland Resort Park Hours & Schedule calendar, you’ll see the opening and closing hours of each park. Does this mean you should arrive at the Park opening time posted on the calendar?
Example: Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Disneyland Park: 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Disney California Adventure Park: 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Wellll, noooo. Here’s why.
First reason: Most people driving by car to DLR (including you) will park at the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure. It’s HUGE (holds over 10,000 cars; it’s reported to be the second largest in the world). So it will take longer than you thought to get to a parking space, gather the stuff you are bringing into the park (someone will forget something, or decide that they really DO NEED their sweatshirt), and take the escalators down to the Mickey & Friends tram loading plaza. Your tram takes you to Downtown Disney (about a 5 minute ride), and a 5 minute walk to the security gates leading to the theme parks’ actual entrance. The security lines can be long, since Disney Cast Members are required to inspect all bags, backpacks, strollers and other items carried by people entering the park. After clearing security, you will see ticket booths with people in line to buy their tickets. (Ticket booth lines can be long and they always seem to move slowly, no matter which line I’ve chosen.)
From the ticket booths, you’ll walk 2 minutes (max) to the entry gates (turnstiles)–and these might have a line too–where tickets are scanned and you (finally!) enter the park.
All of the above can take 30 minutes or more, so you’ll enter the park at least 30 minutes AFTER the posted opening time. And others will enter before you do. How many others? Well, it depends.
People who are staying overnight at the Disneyland Resort hotels may enter the park 1 hour before everyone else. This is called Extra Magic Hour. So if the park opens at 9 AM, DLR hotel guests can enter the Park gates at 8 AM. Specifically, Extra Magic Hour is at Disneyland on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and at California Adventure on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
People who buy certain multi-day tickets (three or more days, as of this writing) also receive one Magic Morning as part of their ticket. This allows them to enter Disneyland (only Disneyland) one hour before posted opening time on one day of their visit.
All Park ticket holders are allowed to enter a limited area of each park about 30 minutes before the posted opening time (only Buena Vista Street in California Adventure, and Main Street in Disneyland), and prohibited from entering other areas by ropes (and Cast Members) located at strategic locations. People gather at these ropes. At the posted opening time, Disney music plays over the loudspeakers and the rope is dropped (Rope Drop) to allow excited guests to enter the rest of the park.
Based on exceptions to the Parks’ opening and closing times above, here is my strategy for getting into the parks before most other people:
Time Saver #1: Buy your ticket before you get to the park. You can buy park admission tickets online (from Disneyland Resort site , the Disneyland app, and at many other legitimate locations, such as ParkSavers, most Auto Club offices, and the “Gift Card Mall” at many grocery stores). If you are coming from out of town and booking a vacation package, your travel agent may be able to include your tickets in your package. IMPORTANT: You’ll want to buy a ticket that allows you to bypass the DLR ticket booth. Some tickets are vouchers that require you to visit the ticket booth anyway. Don’t order one of those. WARNING:Never buy a ticket from anyone on Ebay, CraigsList or other unofficial website, even if they say the ticket has several days on it. It could be counterfeit, used up or otherwise not valid (aka not a money saver).
Time Saver #2: Check the Extra Magic Hour days for each park and go to the other park in the morning. For example: I’ll start my Tuesday visit at California Adventure, since Extra Magic Hour on Tuesday for DLR hotel guests is at Disneyland.
Time Saver #3: Arrive at the Mickey & Friends Parking structure one hour before the park opens. This extra time allows you time to make sure you’ve got everything you need for the day before you leave your car, travel down the escalators to the tram plaza, stop at the restroom at the ground floor of the parking garage, walk to the tram boarding area, take the tram to Downtown Disney, go through security, and walk directly to the turnstiles of the park you’ve chosen for that day. And arrive before the Park opens.
Time Saver #3: Eat breakfast before you enter the park. If you’ve gotten up early to get into the park before everyone else, don’t waste these less crowded hours by sitting in a restaurant at DL or DCA when you could be in a short line for your favorite ride. If you are staying at a hotel before your visit to the Parks, pick a hotel that serves a good breakfast that you can grab and go (try the Grand Legacy at the Park), or get to your breakfast breakfast earlier than with a to-go breakfast.
Time Saver #4: Get FastPasses for the most popular rides and shows before you ride anything. (I’ll cover maximizing FastPasses in another post later).
WHY SHOULD I GET THERE THAT EARLY?
Most people don’t know all the tips I’ve given you about getting to the Parks early. They’ll do what I used to do: get to the parking structure whenever I got up and go through the tram, security and enter the park (finally). As the day wears on, more people come to the park, with the heaviest crowds in the mid-afternoon through about 7 pm. You WILL be able to ride the most rides (attractions), see the best shows, and get the best (earliest) FastPass times if you enter the Parks before “Rope Drop” or at least right when the park opens. I’ve had mornings when I’ve been on two rides and gotten 3 FastPasses (for the Frozen show, Soarin’ Around the World, and World of Color), all before 8:20 am.
Three fast passes and two rides done– all before 8:20 AM. (and this was during the third week in June… typically a busy time at the Parks)
Before you pick a date to visit the parks, know that you will have a much better day (or days) if you arrive at the parks early. I’ll cover what is meant by “early” in another post (this one).
The dates you pick for visiting the Parks will have a huge influence on how much fun you will have (I bet you don’t want to stand in line all day or feel like you can’t walk 3 feet without getting run over by a baby stroller.). I use a number of sources to decide when to visit.
Annual Pass Blackout dates
USUALLY the least crowded days in the parks:
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during the following months:
Early January through mid-May, with some exceptions (see Special Events below)
First week in June
After Labor Day (second week in September) through third week in October
Early November until (but not including) Thanksgiving week
The week after Thanksgiving through middle of the second week of December
Of course, all of these can be more crowded if there’s a race, a new or upgraded ride or attraction, or some other huge Disney event. So keep reading.
Touring Plans has a “crowd calendar” that’s a great resource for determining the best dates to visit DLR. They rank “crowdedness” of Disneyland, California Adventure and the overall resort on a scale of 1-10. They define a crowd as “the average posted wait time for the key attractions between 10:00 am and 5 pm.” And that’s important because you want to ride as many rides as possible, rather than standing in lines all day and feeling like a sardine. (no offense to sardines).
Touring Plans’ crowd index is related to the following:
How hard is it to walk around the parks?
How far in advance do I have to book my hotel to make sure I get a room?
How long do I have to wait to experience the most popular attractions?
What is the total attendance across the resort?
When I tour around the parks how does it feel? Do I feel like people are in my personal space or is there room to breathe?
Theircrowd indexes are based on scientific formulas and historical data, as well as calendars, and it is right MOST of the time. I’m ok with that, since at least I have some idea of how crowded the parks will be.I highly recommend that you subscribe to this service (here) to help you plan your visits. ($7.95 for an entire year) Bonus tip: install the iPhone or Android app on your smart phone to check crowd levels anytime.
Generally, a lower Crowd Index number means a much better day for you because fewer other guests are in the Parks. You’ll experience shorter lines for rides, attractions, restrooms, and food, so you’ll get to do more things–and get run over less often.
As an example: a day where the overall DLR is ranked as a 10 would be one of those days when you can hardly move because there are so many other people in the park all trying to go someplace other than where they are; the lines for all the rides are at least 45-60 minutes long; the FastPasses distributed in the morning tell you to return really late (if there are any left at all!); and the Parks start running out of your favorite foods. On some of these “10” days, DL management could close the turnstiles because too many people are in the park.
In contrast, a day predicted to have a Crowd level of 2 or 3 is what we all love and wish for. Lines for most of the rides in each park have wait times of 5 to 10 minutes; the restaurants have no or minimal waiting time; and you can actually take good pictures without waiting for the crowd to walk by. On a really low attendance day, some FastPass machines will not even be turned on because the wait time is so low. I’m really picky about how crowded the Parks can be when I visit. In general, I will not go to the Parks on a day with a crowd index of 7 or more. Your experiences may vary, depending upon your tolerance of crowds (and stroller derby parents).
Disneyland Resort sponsors several special events that affect how crowded the parks are. These include:
Any day of a Disney race at DLR. For those who don’t know, the Disney sponsors many themed 10Ks, marathons, and half-marathons running/walking races, such as the Princess, Star Wars, Avengers, and a bunch of others that start at end at the DLR. During the early morning hours on the day (or days) of the race, the Parks can be less crowded. But within an hour or so after the first racers finish, guess where they go? (I hope you didn’t say “home.” That’s wishful thinking.)
Superbowl Sunday. This WAS a good day to enjoy the parks. Not anymore. But since the SuperBowl starts so late (4 pm, Pacific time), crowds are at the same level as a regular Sunday, and some people will leave to go watch the game around 3 pm. Of course, not everyone watches football, so the parks stay full.
The first day of a new, upgraded, or reopened “key” ride. For example, Soarin’ Over California recently became Soarin’ Around the World, which resulted in a very busy day at California Adventure.
ANNUAL PASS BLACKOUT DAYS
Disneyland Resort Annual Passports can be purchased at various prices, each with a corresponding number of days that the pass can be used for admission to the parks. The most expensive DLR Annual Pass (AP) allows the passholder to visit EVERY day of the year; second most expensive AP allows every day except the 14 days of Christmas vacation; and so on, down to the Southern California Select Pass, which doesn’t allow visits during most of summer, and many weekends, in addition to the Christmas vacation days.
Disneyland Resort publishes a calendar on their website showing the days when the various levels of Annual Passes are not admitted to the park; these days are “blacked out.” The passes are blacked out on specific dates because Disney Parks management expects the crowds to be heavier on these days. Therefore, a handy way to check how crowded the parks will be: view the Annual Pass Black-out calendar. If no APs are blacked out, the day will be less crowded than if one level is blacked out. And if one type of pass is blacked out, the parks will be less crowded than if two or three levels are blacked out.
Disney has recently adopted crowd-based ticket pricing, which has become another clue to predicting Park crowd levels. One-day tickets are sold at three prices, based upon predicted crowds:
Value for less crowded days: $95
Regular for average crowds: $105 (can be used on Value days also)
Peak for most crowded days: $119 (can also be used on Regular and Value days)
See this page for more information, including the calendar. As of this writing, the price of multi-day tickets does not change based on the date and predicted crowds.
Many people who live in or visit Southern California will not go to Disneyland on a rainy day. Use this to your advantage. For example, if you purchased Regular-priced tickets and heavy rain is predicted, this would generally be a really quiet day at the parks (assuming some special Disney event isn’t scheduled). Be prepared (see WHAT TO BRING), and you will be rewarded with shorter lines + fewer other people in the parks.
WHEN NOT TO GO
In general, you’ll want to avoid the typically crowded days at the Disneyland Resort.
The two weeks around Christmas and New Years (known as Christmas vacation, winter break, or some other name). Disney calls it “The Holidays.” These are absolutely, positively, with 100% certainty THE MOST CROWDED DAYS at Disneyland Resort. (check out the crowd calendar and the blackout calendar)
Spring Break, which can get really complicated when you’re planning your vacation. When I was growing up, we always had Easter break the week before (or after) Easter Sunday. Not as simple now. Some schools get the week after Easter, some get a break 10 weeks after the winter semester starts, some 8 weeks after the end of Winter break, and many more variations. When I start planning a Spring season trip, I usually review online school calendars for the University of California, California State University, Orange County Schools, and Los Angeles Unified School District to determine if any of them will be on Spring Break.
Thanksgiving, including the day before Thanksgiving, and the Friday through Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Most summer days between the first week of June and the third week in August. Yep, that’s when the kids are on summer break from school. And so one (or both) of their parents take a day off work and guess where they go? Yep. Enuff said. Grad nights are also scheduled during the end of May through mid-June.
Second week of December to third week of December. Same reason as summer, but not as bad as during winter break (aka Christmas vacation).
First few days of January. Most schools don’t resume until at least a few days after January 1, so these days fall into the school break category, but worse than summer.
Of course, there are days that defy the crowd calendars and logic: July 4, 2016 was widely reported to be a low attendance day. Peak-day (highest price) one-day tickets were sold that day, and it is a national holiday. Go figure!