Disneyland is not a place that usually comes to mind when you are thinking of where to take a date. But, I’ve had some wonderful times at Disneyland as an adult going with someone special. If you’re willing to shell out the dough for admission, or if you have an annual pass, you might want to consider it for that special date. Here are some important tips to make your date go well at Disneyland.
1. Stay till closing – night-time is best!
I recommend staying at Disneyland until it closes, because Disneyland is most romantic at night, and the ride lines get shorter near closing time.
Check the Disneyland website to see what time the park closes when you want to go. Depending on the time of year and day of the week, the park can close anywhere from 8PM to midnight.
If it does close at 11PM or midnight when you go, I suggest arriving later in the day rather than first thing in the morning. Don’t get burned out in the morning only to miss the evening and night experience.
2. Make reservations at The Blue Bayou for dinner
Disneyland is known for overpriced mediocre (at best) food. One relatively tranquil exception is the Blue Bayou restaurant in New Orléans square, which is, in my opinion, the nicest publicly accessible restaurant inside the park. You’ll see people dining there if you go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which in itself is kind of a romantic ride.
Make a reservation for the Blue Bayou as early as you can (online or 714-781-DINE), as it does fill up. Even if you do have a reservation, there will be a bit of a wait, but at least you will have a table. Once seated, you’ll score big points for being in this relative oasis of calmness amidst the chaos of the park. The Blue Bayou is generally regarded as the best publicly accessible restaurant in Disneyland.
One crappy thing about making a reservation there though is that a credit card is now required, and if you don’t show up, Disney will charge you a $30 fee. That really sucks, so make sure to cancel 24 hours in advance if you need to.
Okay, let’s say you F’d up and didn’t make a reservation. The next best places to eat inside the park are Cafe Orléans and then Mexican place in Adventureland (Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante). Yes, these are “cafeteria-style” but the food is better than in the rest of the park.
Note that Downtown Disney has better restaurants than inside the park, if you don’t mind exiting for a while. The general consensus is that Catal is the best (I highly recommend making reservations). Naples Ristaurante is next best in my opinion.
3. Download the Disneyland App
The Disneyland App will make your experience at Disneyland better in these ways:
- It will allow you to buy tickets using your phone, bypassing the ticket lines near the entrance gate (which can get very long). You then just show your phone at the entrance. VERY COOL!!!!
- It will show a map of the park with your location indicated, so you’ll know how to get to the next ride you want to go to.
- It will show schedules for performances. I highly recommend the fireworks!
- It will allow you to get up to three Fastpass+ selections in advance (see below)
- And finally, it will tell you wait times for the rides, so that you don’t walk all the way across the park only to find out your favorite ride has a three-hour wait.
4. Make sure the rides you want to go on will be operating
Wouldn’t it suck if you went to Disneyland and your favorite ride was closed? Well, that has happened to me before. So, before you finalize what day you want to go on, check the Disney website to see which rides are closed on the days you want to go. This can help you avoid huge disappointment, say, if Space Mountain is closed.
If you’re into Swing dancing or other kinds of dancing, Disneyland does have live bands, so check on that if you’re so inclined.
5. Bring a light jacket or sweater – it will get chilly
This is a mundane tip but easily forgotten. Remember that Southern California can get chilly at night even if it was hot during the day, so bring a light jacket or sweater for you and/or your date, even if it’s hot during the day. Wear good walking shoes.
6. Use Fastpass, Fastpass+, and MaxPass to beat long lines
The first thing you should do after you get inside the park is get a Fastpass for your favorite ride (or your date’s favorite ride), whether that is Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, or whatever. The goal is to get as many Fastpasses as possible during your stay, so start early. Later that evening you’ll be able to go on that ride without having to wait in the regular long line. Get another Fastpass after that.
Having said that, there is now a way to get three Fastpasses before you even set foot in the park! You’ll need to get your tickets in advance, get a Disney account, and link your admission to your account. This will allow you to use “Fastpass+“, which lets you select up to three Fastpass rides in advance on the website or mobile app. After those three, you use the kiosks like you did before.
For an additional $10 per day, you can get MaxPass, which allows you to get Fastpasses on your phone while you’re in the park. Ostensibly, this is good for when you use up your first three Fastpass+’s. OK, I know, this is all kind of a pain, but so is waiting three hours in line, and Fastpasses are wonderful when you have them!
7. Do the Jungle Cruise after dark
I’m not going to tell you what rides to go on, but I’m going to make one suggestion. After it gets really dark, go on the Jungle Cruise with your date. During the day, this is a pretty kitschy ride. At night, it feels like a totally different experience. Yeah, the safari guide jokes are still corny, but the experience takes on a different dimension at night. The line for this won’t be very long, so it’s a good “filler” in between the more crowded rides.
8. See the fireworks – they are awesome
I really love fireworks, and Disney’s are absolutely top-notch. Check the Disney website to make sure there are fireworks on the day you go.
The best place to see the fireworks is from somewhere in the Main Street area, but it can be insanely crowded. I sometimes go to Fantasy Faire, although there are trees in the way.
Proper timing to see the fireworks can be tricky as well. What if you’re stuck inside of “It’s a Small World” during the fireworks? When in doubt, I always go on an outdoor ride like Big Thunder Mountain if there is a chance the fireworks will happen during the ride. With Big Thunder Mountain, you won’t miss the fireworks even if you’re in line or on the ride itself. In fact, the view of the fireworks while you’re riding B.T.M. is actually pretty good!
Disney’s water shows (Fantasmic) and parades are good as well. Take in as many as you can between rides. If you want a prime viewing spot, you might have to stake one out early. It’s up to you. I tend to play it by ear.
9. Know the crowd situation beforehand
Check out the Disneyland Crowd Forecast Calendar at IsItPacked.com. This awesome calendar will tell you how insane the lines will be on the date that you want to go. Of course, holiday weekends are the worst. On the days listed as “Ghost Town”, you’ll be able to walk on many rides with only a 5-10 minute wait. But beware, those are the usually the days that the park closes early and has no fireworks. You make the call on whether you want fireworks vs. shorter lines.
If the lines are really out of control, I sometimes go in a less popular, but charming, ride so that it doesn’t feel like we’re standing in lines the whole time.
10. Get some pins
Generally, I avoid any kind of souvenirs. But, if you want to get something to remember the day by, tell your date that you want to get them a Disney pin.
Unlike most souvenirs, these have some lasting charm and actually hold their value better than other souvenirs, because there are a lot of pin nerds people who collect them. These also can spur conversation with your date because you get to talk about who your favorite Disney character is and why. They are a little more dignified than Mickey Mouse hats and don’t require carrying bulky things like stuffed animals. Plus, you might get to pin it on your date, which is an added bonus!
The pin store is on Main Street, near the entrance, on the right as you enter the park. I suggested visiting it on your way out (because Main Street is open longer than the rest of the park).
11. Know the best make-out rides
Since Adventure Through Innerspace has long since closed, the Haunted Mansion has been voted the top make-out spot at Disneyland in an Orange County Register poll. Peter Pan is good too. It’s a short ride, but makes up for it in charm. Pirates of the Caribbean has good ambiance and but to get any privacy you need to ask to be seated in the back of the boat with no one next to you.
Remember that there are cameras EVERYWHERE at Disneyland, and especially inside the rides, so keep it rated PG-13.
12. Go to the shops on Main Street Last
Main Street stays open for an hour after the rest of the park officially closes, so you have time to get souvenirs at the end of your day. In other words, stop by Main Street last, especially if you want to make the most of the night-time hours.
What Are Your Best Disneyland Tips?
If you follow these suggestions, you’ll be on your way to an amazing time at Disneyland! Please leave any comments or questions below. What are some of your favorite Disneyland experiences? – Brian