We all know one of the main attractions people come to L.A. is for Disneyland. Well, it's not quite in the heart of Los Angeles but more like adjacent in Anaheim. It's about a 45 minute drive from my place, so it isn't too far out to get there! I've been to Disneyland several times throughout my life and I've seen the progression it has made during this time. The parking lots have become bigger, fast pass got introduced, they added in California Adventure, and much more. Yes, young folks, California Adventure was an additional add-on to the theme park. I guess I really wouldn't have much to say about Disneyland since EVERYONE has been there. But I'll try to dole out some pointers as a local. Like, you should definitely try to get there first thing in the morning (as in 15 minutes before posted hours). For California Adventure, you would actually be able to go as far in as Carthay Circle until the park officially opens. If you have a multi-day pass, SoCal pass, or staying at their resort, you should be allowed access to Magic Morning where you get to enter the park an hour before it opens to the public. This would allow you to go on some of their rides quickly with little to no wait. Just be mindful that only certain rides are available during the Extra Morning Hour, which in my case was limited to Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land. If Fantasy Land is open during your Magic Morning schedule, head straight over to Peter Pan Flight for your first ride. It’s very popular with kids and adults, so it is best to ride that first and get it out of the way. Otherwise you’ll be in line forever later in the day. If you don’t have Magic Morning access, I'd recommend starting in Adventure Land to try and get on the Indiana Jones ride before it breaks down. I believe that's the main ride that breaks down all the time, so you should try to get on it before it does. In regards to food, Disneyland is known for their corn dogs and churro’s. The corn dogs are delicious but greasy and the macaron’s were too sweet for my tastes, but my favorite were the churro’s. Some of the not-to-miss rides for me would be: Indian Jones, Space Mountain, Storybook Land, Matterhorn Bobsled, Big Thunder Mountain, Star Tours, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Also, the best show to watch is Fantasmic at night, with usually two showings (the later one is less crowded). It is hands down the best show I've seen at Disneyland, or any other theme park for that matter. You can buy a prix-fixe dinner package at a participating restaurant inside to score fast pass tickets to the show or you can get different fast passes at the machine. There aren't that many bad viewing area’s to watch it from, but since it's the best show out there, I would think to get the best spots possible.
For California Adventure, I admit I've only been to this part of the park just twice. In the beginning, I felt like it didn't offer as much rides and attractions as Disneyland did based on their equal ticket price. But I was wrong. Since I'm so used to Disneyland's rides and attractions, its nice to stray away and experience a new "land". I feel California Adventure has the newer and more current rides or attractions (Guardians of the Galaxy, Cars, Incredibles), while Disneyland is still more classical (Snow White, Peter Pan, Indiana Jones). Some of my recommended go-to rides here are: Goofy’s Sky School, Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, Pixar Pal-A-Round Ferris Wheel (Swinging), Radiator Spring Racers, Soarin’, and Toy Story Mania. The Pixar Pal-A-Round is not your ordinary ferris wheel either. There are two lines for the ride, where one is for the regular ferris wheel cabins you are used to and the other is a swinging one. So the cabin moves and slides as you go around! You would think its not scary, but it is! If you arrive during opening hours, you should be able to go on almost every ride by mid afternoon. And just like Disneyland, you can get the priority pass for the World of Color show (at 10 pm) by eating a prix-fixe course dinner at one of the participating restaurants. However, do not scramble to go up to the front to see the show. We arrived extra early to be right up front for the show and all we got was cold wind and water misted at us. Yes, we got to see the show up close, but the payoff wasn't worth it. If it's a hot night, then I would probably be fine with it. If not, I wouldn't. And it's probably a better view from the middle to back end anyways.
If you’re looking for some hotel accommodations, I can recommend the two hotels we stayed at while visiting the theme park. The first hotel would be the Fairfield Inn by Marriott Anaheim. It is literally less than a 10 minute walk to the entrance of Disneyland from the hotel. It doesn’t offer free breakfast for guests, however there is a Panera Bread and Mimi’s Cafe stationed right out front of the hotel. If you’re not a Marriott member, there were 2 other hotels right beside the Fairfield Inn, that’s even closer to Disneyland, you might want to look into as well. The other hotel we stayed at was the Embassy Suites by Hilton Anaheim South. Even though this hotel was further out than the Fairfield, it offered a free breakfast buffet spread in the morning and had $6 all-day shuttles to the park. This hotel only had Buca di Beppo located on property, but a Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, and Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles was a short walking distance away.
Universal Studios, closer to Hollywood, is the most convenient out of all the theme parks for me. It feels like a hidden city within Los Angeles, but also because it is. It has its own zip code, fire station, post office, and is incorporated. And, if you're a local, one of the most common promotions Universal offers is its Annual Pass that comes with a year's admission when paying for the day admission. Since Universal Studios is a smaller park than Disneyland, you will be able to finish the entire park fairly early. Of all the rides at this theme park, I would say The Mummy ride is my favorite. It's like their version of Space Mountain. Enough said. And you definitely have to experience the Studio Tour Tram ride. Universal Studios also has its own version of Downtown Disney called Universal Citywalk. The strip has a bunch of restaurants, fun stores, smaller attractions, and a movie theater. Sometimes Universal Studios closes around 6 pm, so it's very convenient to exit the park and just walk to one of the many restaurants for dinner.
Side note: Watch a movie at the AMC Theater and you can get a $15 cash rebate from your $20 parking ticket.
If you will be in Los Angeles for at least 3 days, I highly recommend getting the Go Los Angeles Card. With the 3-day Go Card, you get admission into Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, and even Legoland! So you'll be able to save time by not having to buy tickets individually, and you'll save money since it will all be at a discounted rate!