Adventure, baby!

California

Review: LEGOLAND Hotel California

LEGOLAND Hotel California

LEGOLAND® California Hotel

The LEGOLAND® Hotel is a unique, family-friendly resort located in Carlsbad, California. The deluxe 250-room hotel opened in April 2013. 

For any true LEGO fan, a stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel is an absolute must. A stay at the hotel includes themed rooms, free buffet breakfast, nightly children’s entertainment, and an in-room treasure hunt with LEGO surprises.

LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel vs the LEGOLAND® Hotel

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

There are two LEGOLAND® hotels, the LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel and LEGOLAND® Hotel, both located a few steps from the park entrance. They both offer similar benefits: LEGO-themed rooms, exclusive early morning access to the park (when you book a package including tickets), free breakfast, nightly entertainment in the lobby and a daily in-room treasure hunt with LEGO surprises.

Both hotels are three-story with 250 rooms, so have the same amount of guests in each.

LEGOLAND Hotel
LEGOLAND Hotel

Compared to the LEGOLAND® Hotel next door, the LEGOLAND® Castle Hotel is a bit smaller and quieter. The lobby and play area is smaller, the evening entertainment a lot quieter and there is one restaurant vs two and a cafe at the LEGOLAND® Hotel. Both are excellent hotels, however, and guests can use the restaurants and facilities at both quite easily.

Both hotels have swimming pools but only the Castle Hotel has play equipment and an outside movie theatre. The Castle Hotel’s pool is also considered the better of the two pools with its zero-entry and interactive water play features.

Both hotels offer package deals to stay that include park tickets. 

Read about our stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel.

LEGOLAND Hotel themed rooms

The hotel offers five choices of themed rooms, each with an added “deluxe” option. 

Pirate

LEGOLAND Hotel California

Ahoy there, mateys!  A breath-taking step into Captain Red Brick and his first mate’s pirate cabin. Your whole ship will be decked out with pirate bedding, curtains, wallpaper and even Polly, a LEGO parrot, can be found watching over you as you sleep! After a jolly adventure on the rides in the Park, send your junior shipmates up to their private bunks while you relax in the king-size cabin. So, me hearties, book your pirate room today for an unforgettable family treat. Shiver me timbers!

Adventure

LEGOLAND Hotel California

Spend the night where the adventure never ends! Dare to follow in the footsteps of the famous LEGO hero adventurer, Johnny Thunder, and explore this adventure themed room… Send your junior explorers off to their very own bunks for a well-deserved rest as you kick off your desert boots and settle down in your comfy king-size bed, safe in the knowledge that Johnny is guarding all exits! Get ready for the ultimate adventure!

Kingdom

LEGOLAND Hotel California
A royal welcome awaits you in the Kingdom themed rooms, fit for a king and his court.  Bask in your luxurious surroundings and relax in your king-size bed, while your junior royals head off to their own sleeping quarters. With bunting, shields and flags above the bed, this LEGO kingdom is certainly up to royal standards. Little knights and maidens will love the LEGO models dotted around the room, but remember… whatever you do, don’t let them kiss the frog!

Friends

The LEGO Friends have invited you to the ultimate sleepover! Step into the world of Heartlake City where the girls are awaiting your arrival. After you and your friends spend the day in the Park, stay the night at Heartlake Stables with your favorite Friends. With a king-sized bed for parents and private bunk bed for the kids, it is sure to be a sleepover your family will never forget!

NINJAGO

Welcome young Ninja!  Step into the temple courtyard, the cliff top overlooks all of NINJAGO as far as you can see. The bed lies at the bottom of a large shrine that holds all four of the epic elemental weapons. After a day in the Park, send your little Ninjas to their own private Dragon Cave while you relax in your king-sized bed.  Ninja alike will love exploring the different powers of each Ninja… Which power will you choose?

Lobby

LEGOLAND Hotel

The LEGOLAND® Hotel lobby is a sensational space with a castle play area and giant pit of LEGO bricks. 

LEGOLAND Hotel

This is also the area where the evening entertainment happens. Expect bright lights, lively hosts, plenty of music and dancing games.

LEGOLAND Hotel

The lobby is also filled with amazing little LEGO details like minifigures, and the merchandise store.

LEGOLAND Hotel

Bricks Family Restaurant

LEGOLAND Hotel

This fun restaurant is filled with cute restaurant-themed LEGO sculptures. A buffet breakfast at Bricks is included for hotel guests which features fresh fruit, smoothies, omelet station, bacon, sausage, hot and cold cereals and more.

LEGOLAND Hotel

Bricks is also open for dinner with a fab buffet for anyone who wishes to dine there. We loved the buffet because it had a huge range of food, including plenty of healthy options.

LEGOLAND Hotel
Kids’ buffet

The dinner buffet includes homemade soups, a California fresh salad bar, carved meats sliced to order, a variety of hot and cold entrees, side dishes, desserts and sweets and a “Just for Kids Buffet”. As a vegetarian I found loads of food to choose from. Children 2 and under eat free.

LEGOLAND Hotel

There is plenty of entertainment throughout the dining period too. We had a photo opp with a LEGO character on arrival, and a hilarious act by a few of the LEGOLAND® Hotel Heroes as we dined.

Skyline Cafe

LEGOLAND Hotel California

This bright little cafe is a great spot for a casual meal or snack, offering a variety of made-to-order appetizers, lunch and dinner options. You can also order tap beers, wines and spirits here. We really liked the decorating – the cafe features a LEGO® skyline.

Mini’s Lounge

LEGOLAND Hotel

The lounge is located right next to the play area, so it’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee or snack while the kids are playing. Mini’s Lounge offers hot and cold beverages, fresh fruit, pastries and snacks.

Swimming Pool

LEGOLAND Hotel California

The LEGOLAND Hotel features a large, heated swimming pool.

On-Site Amenities

LEGOLAND Hotel California

24 Hour Front Desk and Security
Check-In: 4:00pm
Check-Out: 11:00 am
Concierge Desk
Full Breakfast Buffet Included
Bricks Family Restaurant
Skyline Cafe
Room Service 7am-10:30am, 12pm-10pm (Children’s Options Available)
Wi-Fi Included
Outdoor Heated Pool
Poolside Cabanas
Nightly Children’s Activities
ATM
Gift Shop
24-Hour Fitness Center (Treadmills, Elliptical, Weights, etc.)
ADA Accessible Rooms Available
Suites Available
Video Arcade

Resort Fee

LEGOLAND Hotel California

All reservations are subject to a nightly Resort Fee of $28 plus applicable tax which is not included in your reservation total and will be collected upon check-in. Resort Fee includes nightly in-room refreshments, nightly surprises for the kids, luggage service, standard wireless internet, children’s entertainment, fitness center, pool access, pool towels, and local and domestic long-distance phone calls. Subject to change without notice.

Parking

Self-Parking: $25 / night
Valet Parking: $28 / night

Read about our visit to LEGOLAND California Resort.

LEGOLAND Hotel California

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad,
California USA
legoland.com

Additional photos care of LEGOLAND California Resort.

Review: LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, California

A stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, California

Hotel Review: LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

The LEGOLAND Castle Hotel is located at LEGOLAND California Resort, Carlsbad. The deluxe 250-room hotel opened in April 2018. 

A stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel is a must (in our opinion) for anyone visiting LEGOLAND California Resort. With every room given a LEGO theme and 2,100 LEGO models made out of more than three million LEGO bricks scattered throughout the hotel, an overnight stay turns a park day trip into an immersive LEGO experience.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel vs the LEGOLAND Hotel

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

There are two LEGOLAND hotels, the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel and LEGOLAND Hotel, both located a few steps from the park entrance. They both offer similar benefits: LEGO-themed rooms, exclusive early morning access to the park (when you book a package including tickets), free breakfast, nightly entertainment in the lobby and a daily in-room treasure hunt with LEGO surprises.

Both hotels are three-story with 250 rooms, so have the same amount of guests in each.

LEGOLAND Hotel
LEGOLAND Hotel

Compared to the LEGOLAND Hotel next door, the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel is a bit smaller and quieter. The lobby and play area is smaller, the evening entertainment a lot quieter and there is one restaurant vs two and a cafe at the LEGOLAND Hotel. Both are excellent hotels, however, and guests can use the restaurants and facilities at both quite easily.

Both hotels have swimming pools but only the Castle Hotel has play equipment and an outside movie theatre. The Castle Hotel’s pool is also considered the better of the two pools with its zero-entry and interactive water play features.

Both hotels offer package deals to stay that include park tickets. 

What you can expect during a stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel California.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

The LEGOLAND Castle Hotel is shaped like a castle on the outside, which makes for an exciting experience from the moment you pull up into the car park. Note that parking is NOT included in the stay, nor is the daily resort fee.

Grand Hall

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Inside the lobby, called the Grand Hall, the fun begins, with a large Merlin-themed brick pit and fun features to be discovered while waiting for your room key. The brick pit is also excellent for entertaining kids if it’s raining outside.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

There are great photo ops in the lobby and up the stairs including tiny jail cell and a silly chair that makes funny comments. There is also a knock-knock wall that tells jokes and a Harry Potter located chair up the stairs.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

The slide is a really fun way for kids to get back down to the lobby instead of taking the stairs. We suggest taking the elevator at least once as they’ve put a lot of effort into make the elevator ride itself a fun experience.

Themed Rooms

There are three different themed rooms to choose from: Knights & Dragons, Royal Princess or Magic Wizard. 

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
(PHOTO / LOCK + LAND, Chip Litherland)

Knights and Dragons Room: Guests will defend the King’s Castle and help protect the King’s treasure from the approaching bad Dragon Knights and their fire-breathing dragons!

(PHOTO / LOCK + LAND, Chip Litherland)

Royal Princess Room: The Princess is no damsel in distress and she uses the help of the jester to prepare to sneak into the tournament and compete with the knights.

Magic Wizard: Full of curious potions, spell books, wands and magic mirrors, kids can use their imagination to believe their help is needed to protect these treasures and keep them safe from any bad Wizards or Dragon Knights.

Magic Wizard Room

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

We chose the Magic Wizard theme and loved our room, which was filled with spell books, wands, potions and even a magic mirror. 

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Each standard room as two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and one with single bunk beds. Both rooms have their own LCD TV screen.

The main bedroom has a light-up headboard that can be turned off thankfully at bedtime.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

The room with bunk beds has a cool feature that, when turned on, shines stars onto the roof like a night light. 

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

In between the two bedrooms is a bathroom. The bathroom had one sink and a combined shower/bath.

The room was a tight fit for the three of us with our luggage, but the theming was just incredible.

If you have a larger family, you might look into one of the 20 family suites at the hotel. The suites are roughly one and a half times larger than the standard rooms, sleeping up to seven people and including a lounge area with sofa bed, children’s sleeping area with a bunk bed and trundle and a king-sized bed for the adults.

The bathroom features two sinks and a separate bath and shower. There are closing doors for the children’s sleeping area and adults’ – something the standard rooms don’t have.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

A cute added bonus of staying at the hotel is a daily treasure hunt. Reception hands over a map with four clues that are located around the lobby and restaurant. Find the answer to each clue and you will receive the code to the in-room safe. The safe is filled each day with a different LEGO surprise.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Also included in each room is a box of bricks and a cute LEGO ice bucket.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Dragon’s Den Restaurant and Bar

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

There is one sit down restaurant located inside the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, the Dragon’s Den Restaurant and Bar.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Dragon’s Den Restaurant and Bar is a full-service sit down restaurant. In the evenings guests can choose from an a la carte menu.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

There is a large brick play area in the restaurant which makes is a great choice for families who want to linger over a meal while the kids play happily.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

In the mornings there is a full, hot buffet breakfast on offers featuring fresh fruit, smoothies, omelet station, bacon, sausages and pastries.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Entertainment is offered inside the restaurant including singers and actors.

The Royal Courtyard

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
The Royal Courtyard area is located directly outside from the Dragon’s Den Restaurant. It has a DUPLO play area for younger kids, play structures movie screen for nighttime movies, a stage for live plays and shows, a gradual incline pool and hot tub. 

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

The zero-entry pool has interactive water play features and whirlpool spa. For those that like to dine by the pool, Castle Pool Bar & Grille will offer smoothies, sandwiches and salads prepared fresh to order.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel Amenities

24 Hour Front Desk and Security
Check-In: 4:00pm
Check-Out: 11:00am
Concierge Desk
Full Hot Breakfast Included at Dragon’s Den Restaurant
Wi-Fi Included
Outdoor Heated Pool
Hot Tub/Jacuzzi
Poolside Cabanas
Nightly Children’s Activities
ATM
Laundromat
Gift Shop
Fitness Center
Service Animals Only
ADA Accessible Rooms Available
Suites Available

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Resort Fee

All reservations are subject to a nightly Resort Fee of $28 plus applicable tax which is not included in your reservation total and will be collected upon check-in. Resort Fee includes nightly in-room refreshments, nightly surprises for the kids, luggage service, standard wireless internet, children’s entertainment, fitness center, pool access, pool towels, and local and domestic long-distance phone calls. Subject to change without notice.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

Parking

Self-Parking: $25 / night
Valet Parking: $28 / night

Read about our visit to LEGOLAND California Resort.

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel LEGOLAND Castle Hotel

A stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, California A stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel, California

LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad,
California USA
legoland.com

12 reasons to visit LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort

12 Reasons to Visit  LEGOLAND California Resort

Have a LEGO-lover in your family? Then a visit to LEGOLAND California Resort in absolutely has to be on your family’s bucket list. 

LEGOLAND California Resort is located in Carlsbad, about 30 mins north of San Diego or just under two hours south of LA. The resort has two official LEGOLAND hotels attached to it, however visitors are able to self-drive or get a day tour from San Diego or LA for a day at the park. 

It’s designed for little kids

LEGOLAND California Resort

This is an excellent theme park for little kids. LEGOLAND California is aimed at 2-12 year olds, with the “sweet spot” being 4-9 year olds. What this translates to are rides and facilities geared towards this age group throughout the whole park, so kids who are at the older end of the age bracket will be able to go on every single ride and enjoy every attraction.

It’s really nice for little kids to have a park geared towards their needs and entertainment. We found as a result the whole atmosphere of the park was calmer, a result of the younger aged visitors (mostly families with kids under the age of 8), easy to manage, and also very do-able to see all the attractions in one day.

Big kids will love it too

LEGOLAND California Resort

If you’re an adult who loves LEGO, then you will enjoy your experience at the park, too. When we visited in December there was a dedicated Star Wars-themed Miniland area (which has sadly since been removed) which my Star Wars-loving husband absolutely geeked out over. As adults we also appreciated the incredible work that goes behind building the LEGO masterpieces. They are such works of art!

There is LEGO literally everywhere

LEGOLAND California Resort

There are 30,000 LEGO models scattered all around the park. We wanted to stop and take photos of or with basically everything. 

Inside the front entrance, visitors meet Bronte, the dinosaur. Bronte is made from 2 million bricks, the most of any model in the park. In total, sixty million LEGO pieces have been used throughout the park.

Ride your heart out

LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort is filled with more than 60 rides, shows and attractions. There are rides to suit kids of all ages and interests, from very gentle rides to thrilling rollercoasters. 

LEGOLAND California Resort

Our daughter’s favourite however was the new Deep Sea Adventure, an interactive ride featuring more than 2,000 life sea creatures. We spotted sharks, rays and plenty of fish interspersed with sea-themed LEGO models. 

LEGOLAND California Resort

Burn off steam in the play areas

LEGOLAND California Resort

There are several play areas around the park for kids to run and climb, as well as a dinosaur dig area and the popular LEGOLAND Build-a-Boat – a water play area where kids (and adults!) can build a LEGO boat and sail its around a water play table.

LEGOLAND California Resort

Get tiny at Miniland USA

LEGOLAND California Resort

It’s hard to tell who loves Miniland USA more, kids or adults! The incredible detail in the recreated famous buildings appeals to big and littles alike. 

Around 32,496,352 LEGO bricks have been used to recreate landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the capital building in Washington D.C., Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Grand Central Station in New York and the strip in Las Vegas. 

LEGOLAND California Resort

Also in Miniland USA is the Model Shop, home of the LEGO builders and more than three million LEGO bricks. The workshop is the headquarters for maintaining and repairing the models in the park, as well as the creative centre for developing new models and displays.

Cuddle up to a character

LEGOLAND California Resort

The LEGO character meet and greets are adorable! We met a very cute gingerbread LEGO character when we visited and it made for a very cute photo opp.

Enjoy seasonal delights

LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort is even more fun during the holidays. We visited at Christmas for example and enjoyed the special LEGO decorations, builds and character meet-and-greets at that time of year. Halloween would be an amazing time to visit.

Get a driving licence at Driving School

LEGOLAND California Resort

Driving School is technically a ride but it was the absolute favourite activity at the park for our daughter, so it deserves its own mention. Kids ages 6-13 can drive their own car and earn your own LEGOLAND Driver’s license. 

Make a mini figure (or 10!)

LEGOLAND California Resort

Make mini figures to your hearts’ delight at the Minifigure station!

Go under the ocean at SEA LIFE® aquarium

LEGOLAND California Resort

Attached to LEGOLAND California Resort is SEA LIFE® aquarium, a great option for kids who love aquatic creatures. SEA LIFE® aquarium is a combination of active hands-on learning with up close encounters with sea creatures including sharks, octopi and rays. SEA LIFE® aquarium also has a new exhibit, Sea at Night, where visitors can stroll in a gentle surf under a starry sky, and frolic in a simulated bioluminescent tide.

SEAL LIFE Aquarium LEGOLAND

Admission to SEA LIFE® aquarium is included in a LEGOLAND SEA LIFE Park Hopper ticket, or any LEGOLAND ticket can be upgraded to include SEA LIFE Aquarium admission for $25.

Splash in the water parks

LEGOLAND California Resort

During the warmer months, a visit to the LEGOLAND and CHIMA Water Parks are a must! There are plenty of slides and rides to enjoy – admission to the water parks is an additional $30. 

Tips for visiting LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort

Buy tickets online in advance. If you book through Klook you can get a discounted rate.

Plan your visit by looking at the height restrictions map for attractions at LEGOLAND California Resort.

LEGOLAND California Resort

Pack lunch or try one of the restaurants.

LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort

We found plenty of healthy choices throughout the park including salads and toasted sandwiches.

LEGOLAND Hotel

Stay at a LEGOLAND Hotel for the full experience. We loved staying at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. You can also drop into the lobby of either hotel and play in the brick areas if you’re not a guest of the hotel.

Read about our stay at the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel.

If it look like rain, take a poncho and wear waterproof shoes! Rides can stop running during the rain however that are still plenty of inside rides that can be enjoyed, plus the SEA LIFE® aquarium.

LEGOLAND California Resort

Visit the LEGOLAND store! They have the most amazing LEGO merch, including some LEGO sets that are only available in LEGOLAND California Resort.

If you’re visiting with a disability, get tips on LEGOLAND California Resort’s accessibility from my friend Julie at Have Wheelchair Will Travel.

LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort

LEGOLAND California Resort
1 Legoland Dr, Carlsbad,
CA 92008, United States
+1 888-690-5346
https://www.legoland.com/california/

We received admission tickets to LEGOLAND California Resort for reviewing purposes. Additional images thanks to LEGOLAND.

Top Tips for Visiting San Diego Zoo

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

Top Tips for Visiting San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo, located in Balboa Park, San Diego California, is a world-renowned, innovative zoo, with a strong conservation focus.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,500 animals from over 650 species and subspecies. It’s often described as having set the standard for modern zoos with its natural habitats for animals, often with different species living together, and lush landscaping.

San Diego Zoo is 100-acres in size, making for a big day out if you want to see everything on offer. 

San Diego Zoo Conservation Focus

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

Both San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park are havens for endangered species where animals are cared for and breeding programs are in place to help protect them against extinction. Studies of animal behaviour and health are also conducted at the zoos which would be difficult or impossible to perform in the wild, which provides invaluable information on these species that is shared with other zoos and wildlife parks globally to aid animal conservation in the field. 

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research generates, shares, and applies scientific knowledge that is vital to the conservation of animals, plants, and habitats worldwide. You can read about their excellent work online.

Plan your visit to San Diego Zoo

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

The zoo is absolutely huge, so good planning is a must. Take a good look at the map in advance and plan what animals are a must-see and plot your path. The very helpful volunteers at the entrance will let you know if there are any babies at the zoo and where you can find them.

I also suggest wearing good shoes for walking, arriving when the zoo opens to make the most of the entire day and pack sunscreen and a hat.

San Diego Zoo

Click here to see a large Zoo map.

Save your legs with the Guided Bus Tour

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

The easiest way to see the zoo is with a 35-minute narrated tour on a double-decked bus. The Guided Bus Tour presented by Go San Diego® Card is included with all admission tickets.

Hop on and off the Kangaroo Bus

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

A great option if you want a lift between stops around the zoo but want to see most of it as close as possible with some walking here and there. The Kangaroo Bus lets you hop on and off at four different stops throughout the Zoo.

There are well-signed stops around the zoo – simply wait at one of the stops for a bus with a yellow Kangaroo Bus banner to arrive. The buses run roughly every 15 minutes. All admission tickets include the Kangaroo Bus. You may bring an empty, folded stroller on the Kangaroo Bus, space permitting.

Catch the Skyfari Aerial Tram

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

We loved the Skyfari Aerial Tram. It’s a convenient and fast way to get from one side of the zoo to the other, as well as giving a beautiful view of the zoo as you go. The Skyfari Aerial Tram is included with all admission tickets. Note however that jogging, oversized, and double strollers cannot be accommodated and children younger than 8 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

Skyfari Aerial Tram will be closed for renovations during early 2020 so check the website for updates if taking it is a must for your visit.

Enjoy a show

The zoo runs some fun shows that are perfect for kids in particular. At time of writing the Dr Zoolittle Explores Australia show is running weekends at 12pm and 1pm. 

Get the most recent information on shows online.

Let the kids play

There are three play spaces for kids spaced throughout the zoo.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

The Elephant Play Yard is a hands-on play and exploration area for anyone who loves fossils. Enjoy the fossil dig play area, puzzles and maze of elephant satellite tracking collars in this space. Located at Elephant Odyssey

The Koala Klimber lets visitors snap some fun selfies with replica koalas in the Australian Outback section.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

The Polar Play area has some super shiny polar bears to get up close to, plus a polar bear den that kids love crawling through. Located in Northern Frontier

Plan your meals

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

There are an overwhelming number of choices for dining at San Diego Zoo. Options range from casual to restaurant dining and quick bites. You also have the option to keep costs down by bringing your own lunch and snacks, however that’s always a challenge if, like us, you’re visiting and don’t have a kitchen to make your own meals.

Each of the dining options has a different menu and price point, so I highly advise taking a thorough look at the website in advance and exploring the dining options available before your zoo day, particularly if you have any dietary requirements or fussy eaters.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo
Kids’ Meal

Try and upgraded experience

If you want to make your day even more special, try an upgraded experience, which lets visitors get even closer to the animals.

Animals in Action

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

We loved the Animals in Action interactive experience. The one-hour experience took us behind the scenes to feed, touch and observe some of the Zoo’s animal ambassadors up close. 

It was a fantastic opportunity to not just meet some animals that we would never have otherwise been able to see up close, but to hear stories from the keepers on the animals, how they ended up at the zoo, the part they play in animal conservation, and fun facts that we didn’t know. Some animals are only able to be viewed by attending the Animals in Action experience.

On our Animals in Action experience we met a rhino, flamingoes, hedgehog, zebra, cheetah and armadillo. The animals change in each experience based on their health.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

Tips for guests with disabilities

San Diego Zoo have several services to help guests with disabilities. The Zoo provides special parking, rest rooms, and access to shows, tour buses, and exhibits for guests with disabilities.

Please note there are steep grades in parts of the Zoo. Free shuttle bus service operates inside the Zoo for those with limited mobility. Guests who use wheelchairs are not able to use the moving walkways.

Find the Zoo’s guest disability services and policies online.

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo Tips for visiting San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego
Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm
zoo.sandiegozoo.org

We received general admission tickets as guests of San Diego Zoo. We paid for the Animals in Action experience ourselves.

Goofy’s Kitchen Disneyland Hotel

Goofy's Kitchen, Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland, California

Enjoy dining with your fave Disney pals over breakfast or dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen, inside the Disneyland Hotel.

You do not need to be a guest of the hotel or have a park ticket to attend the dining, which is open daily for breakfast from 7am-12pm and dinner 5pm-9pm.

No matter which time you dine, you will enjoy a buffet with a huge variety of food. It was the most impressive array of food we had seen at any of the character dining experiences.

Goofy's Kitchen

Start the experience with a photo at the entrance with Chef Mickey, then enjoy getting food at your leisure while characters drop by. Every half an hour or so the characters all march around the restaurant and diners twirl their napkins in the air.

Goofy's Kitchen

We found the characters to be excellent at Goofy’s, with several of them dropping by on multiple occasions and sneaking up on us to make us laugh.

Goofy's Kitchen

I also liked that you could meet Chip and Dale here at the same time.

Goofy's Kitchen

The buffet features five food stations. At breakfast the food includes choices such as made-to-order omelettes, cheese blintzes, Mickey Mouse waffles, pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, eggs Benedict, yoghurt, frittata, glazed ham, smoked salmon, pastries and fresh fruit, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and fresh vegetables.

Goofy's Kitchen

At dinner Goofy’s Kitchen serves up a carving station, pasta, salads, veggies, fruit, pizza, rice, hot dogs, Goofyroni and cheese, and more hot and cold dishes.

Goofy's Kitchen

At both breakfast and dinner the dessert station is open, featuring cookies, cakes and a soft-serve frozen yogurt sundae bar, as well as Goofy’s wacky pizza creations. Try Goofy’s special peanut butter and jelly pizza if you dare!

Cocktails can be ordered for an additional fee.

Diners at this character experience can expect to meet five or six characters. We met Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy and Pluto.

Breakfast costs $39 for adults and $23 for kids. Dinner costs $43 for adults and $25 for kids.

Reservations for “Goofy’s Kitchen” are highly recommended and be may be made up to 60 days before your visit. A limited number of reservations may be available same-day, subject to availability.

Make your reservation online or call 0011 1 (714) 781-DINE or 0011 1 (714) 781-3463.

https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/au/disneyland/dining/goofys-kitchen/

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Start your Disneyland day the right way with Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

The Minnie & Friends breakfast is a favourite of ours due to the sheer number of characters that are available during the experience.

The Plaza In is located inside Disneyland, near the entrance to Tomorrowland. The restaurant opened in 1955 and was reportedly one of Walt Disney’s favourite places to dine inside the park.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Walt’s wife, designer Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, chose many of the restaurant’s authentic 19th-century interior furnishings.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Minnie always greets guests at the entrance to the Plaza Inn for a photograph. The photographers will come around to your table later with a photo package to purchase, but if you have bought the Maxpass that day you can ask to add the digital photos to your Maxpass Photopass and it won’t cost anything extra.

There is inside and outside seating at the Plaza Inn. While the inside seating has a really cute atmosphere and is closer to the food, the tables are quite close together and if you’re seated in the back seating sections it can be hard to get out to meet the characters and get good photos. We prefer the outdoor seating for this reason.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

While you’re waiting to meet characters, head to the buffet for a hearty breakfast. Our fave is the made-to-order omelette station and Mickey waffles. This time they had Banana Foster sauce to add on top, which was so delicious. The buffet also featured food such as French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, breakfast potatoes, fresh-baked pastries and breads, fresh fruit, and hot and cold cereals.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

The characters have been the same the last three times we have dined at the Plaza Inn. Minnie Mouse, Chip, Dale, Rafiki, Tigger, Pooh, Eeyore, Pluto, Captain Hook, Fairy Godmother, Max and Perla, the mouse from Cinderella. Not all characters are available during each dining session however, so we’ve never met all of these characters in the one sitting.

We spent about 90 minutes at the Plaza Inn and didn’t feel rushed to finish up and leave, which is great because some of the characters take a long time to come around.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Reservations for “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” are highly recommended and be may be made up to 60 days before your visit. A limited number of reservations may be available same-day at the Plaza Inn, subject to availability

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Adult buffet meals are $34 and children are $19. Breakfast opens when the park opens and is open during Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour. I highly recommend this option if you don’t have access to the MM or EMH as it means the dining won’t take away from your park time in the morning. There is a separate entrance open for character dining, but valid tickets for Disneyland are required to enter and access the restaurant.

Make your reservation online or call 0011 1 (714) 781-DINE or 0011 1 (714) 781-3463.

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/plaza-inn/

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Oh boy, it’s just not Disneyland without a character breakfast! The new Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Buffet is an incredibly fun dining experience at Storyteller’s Cafe inside the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The character dining experience is offered as breakfast or brunch. We are early birds so breakfast suited us perfectly. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy this character experience.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

A character dining experience lasts about 90 minutes and includes a full buffet and interactions with various characters. At Mickey’s Tales of Adventure the characters are Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale. We only met Dale as Chip was “foraging food from the buffer” according to Dale.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The characters are all dressed in fantastic adventure outfits. Mickey looks like Indiana Jones, while Minnie has cute hiking boots and a butterfly on her hat.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Pluto has a compass around his neck but he told us (through gestures, of course), that he actually uses his nose to find out where to go, so I assume the compass is decorative, only!

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

After we were seated the characters rotated their way around the dining room and visited our table. I was highly impressed at the amount of time each character spent with us and how much of an effort they made to engage us and make us all laugh.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The characters came past on multiple occasions as well, so I felt like the interactions we had made the whole experience extremely worth while.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Twice during our breakfast the whole cast of characters marched around the room, encouraging the kids to join them and handing them instruments to play. Even the older kids enjoyed being part of the march.

Generally the same characters are there all the time, however sometimes a character will take a break and will not be available for your dining period.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

We thought the food was excellent. Selections include made-to-order omelettes, the best scrambled eggs we have ever eaten, Mickey waffles, bagels and cream cheese, various cereals and milk, juices, bagels and lox already loaded up with cream cheese, salmon, red onions, and parsley, quiche, breakfast nachos, pastries, French toast, fresh fruit, sliced cheese, sliced meat, yoghurt parfaits and muffins.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

I thought the bags of cereal milk were adorable.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Brunch is held later in the day and includes breakfast items plus more lunch options. Breakfast is served from 7:00 AM – 11:25 AM and brunch 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM.

Make sure to collect one of the cute Mickey’s Tales of Adventure buttons on the way out.

When we dined the breakfast cost $15 per kid and $35 per adult.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Advance reservations for Storytellers Cafe are highly recommended. You may check availability and make your reservations online, or call (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 up to 60 days prior to your visit. Reservations can also be made in person on a limited basis, subject to availability.

disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/grand-californian-hotel/storytellers-cafe/

Hotel Review: Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

This article really should be titled “How staying at the Grand Californian Hotel ruined us for all other hotels in Anaheim”, because that’s pretty much what happened when we stayed at this incredible hotel.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California is the best-positioned hotel for visiting the parks in Anaheim. An upscale, 6-story, lodge-style hotel, the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is a tribute to the  “Arts & Crafts” style that was popular in the early 1900s. If you’re interested in learning more about this era and the design of the hotel, ask concierge about the “Art of the Craft Tour” offered to guests.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A stay at the Grand Californian is not just a regular hotel stay. It means being right inside the magic of Disneyland every minute of your stay. The design and detailing of the hotel is perfection. The location is incredible. The convenience alone is worth its weight in gold!

The Grand Californian is a vacation destination, not just a hotel to stay at when you’re visiting Disneyland. Staying at a hotel with such amazing amenities as well as being so conveniently positioned meant that our whole Disney trip was a different experience to any we had had before.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

We spent less hours at the parks trying to squeeze everything in, and enjoyed relaxing at the hotel in the pools. Thanks to the Early Magic Hour we were given as guests of the hotel (more on this below) we were able to get on so many rides early in the morning that we felt finished in terms of rides we wanted to do earlier in the day than we ever had before.

It was so easy to get into the parks that we could come back to the hotel for a rest and then go back again for dinner easier than going to a restaurant outside of the parks. The parks were empty when we entered them.

We were the first guests in the parks and it was eye opening to see the parks this way – don’t even start me on how amazing the photos are as a result of there being no one around to photobomb us! (See below!)

Disneyland

Because we were able to get on all the rides we wanted to in the first two hours every morning, we were able to then spend the rest of our time enjoying things we hadn’t done before like collecting pressed coins, and didn’t feel overwhelmed at trying to squeeze everything in. We had more energy, were less tired, and enjoyed the parks more. I think we have found the perfect way for our family to do Disneyland.

Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Accommodation

Grand Californian Hotel

The 948 guest rooms at the Grand Californian include 44 suites, 71 villas, two Presidential and two Vice-Presidential suites. Standard rooms are 356-380 sq. ft. and have either two queen beds, a king bed, or one queen bed with bunk beds/ pull-out sofa. Suites have an added living area and up to 3 bedrooms. Concierge-level rooms give access to a lounge serving free breakfast and snacks.

We had a deluxe pool view room with two queen beds.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Room amenities include iron/ironing board, mini-bars, in-room safes, hairdryers, Keurig coffeemaker, bathrobes, free WIFI and flat-screen TVs.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The rooms were renovated in 2017 and have a bright, elegant feeling to them, with touches of Disney in the small details.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The orange tree behind the beds reflects the history of Disneyland and features Chip ‘n Dale hiding in the branches.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Toiletries provided by the hotel are H2O+, packaged especially for Disney, and are extremely high quality. We loved that the soap had “Disney” stamped on it! We were very happy to ditch our own toiletries and use the hotel-provided ones.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The beds were some of the most comfortable we have ever slept in and at the end of each long day at the park we were so happy to return to our comfortable room for a perfect night of sleep.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Our room was located directly over the entrance to Disney California Adventure Park, making the early morning walk to the security gates extremely fast!

We bought groceries online from the local store Vons and had them delivered to the hotel. The hotel has a cold storage area so if your groceries are delivered while you are away from your room they will be kept cold for you until you are able to collect them.

Evening turndown service is a lovely added bonus. We loved being left little Disney Parks Ghirardelli chocolates and having fresh towels and the curtains drawn when we returned in the evening, helping us prepare for bed.

Access to parks

The Grand Californian Hotel as direct access to Disney California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney District. You will need a valid park ticket to enter Disney California Adventure Park but can enter the Downtown Disney District whenever you choose.

Having access to both locations was even more convenient than I had thought it would be.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The entrance to Disney California Adventure Park is located inside Grizzly Peak (above), while the entrance to the Downtown Disney District is located near the restaurants and shops (below), only a short stroll from the Disneyland entrance.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Extra Magic Hour

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

This was a huge perk for us. Guests of the three Disneyland Resorts are eligible for an Extra Magic Hour (EMH) at both parks. EMH is available at Disneyland Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and at Disney California Adventure on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, up to one hour prior to regular park opening.

Entering the park early made the world of difference to our stay. We were able to explore the parks and particularly jump on a lot of rides with no queues, long before the parks opened to everyone else.

Amenities

Lobby

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The lobby is a particularly beautiful space to sit and relax, with beautiful stained glass doors, inviting sitting areas and a piano where live music (Disney tunes, of course) is frequently played.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A fireplace with comfortable chairs invites those wanting a rest, while kids gather around a TV playing Disney shows all day.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The lobby is decorated seasonally – during our stay it featured an amazing Halloween display made entirely out of cake.

Grand Californian Hotel

Pools

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

There are three pools to choose from. The Redwood Pool features a a 27-metre-long waterslide that curves around the stump of a giant redwood tree and a Children’s Pool.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Our fave was the Fountain Pool as it was a good depth for our swimmer to practice all of her tricks.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The third pool, the Mariposa Pool, has a hot tub plus four private cabanas that are available for hire.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Towels are available by the pool, as is free sunscreen and water to drink.

Spa

The Mandara Spa is the spot to relax and unwind with treatments, massages and facials. State-of-the-art fitness equipment is available for hotel guests.

Dining

White Water Snacks

While White Water Snacks was closed for renovation when we were there, it offers simple, self-serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting.

Storyteller’s Cafe

The Storyteller’s Cafe is the place to enjoy Mickey’s Tales of Adventure character breakfast or brunch. At dinner time an American buffet is on offer, with selections including carved meats, salads, and filling sides, and kid-friendly selections for little ones.

We highly enjoyed the character breakfast, which featured an excellent buffet including an omelette station, Mickey waffles, fresh fruit, juices, cereals, and other hot and cold dishes.

Read more about our excellent experience dining at Mickey’s Tales of Adventure here.

Heathstone Lounge

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A spacious lounge location inside the main building, Heathstone Lounge serves continental breakfast in the mornings and cocktails or coffee later on in the day. The lounge is lined in wood from a single redwood tree.

Napa Rose

Fine dining awaits at the award-winning Napa Rose Restaurant.

Disneyland purchases

When you buy merchandise at the parks you can have it sent back to the hotel to save you carrying it around all day! The items will appear at the concierge desk the following morning.

Guest Activities

A schedule of Guest Activities are available for guests of the Disneyland Resort hotels. All of the activities are free, unless otherwise noted on the schedule. When we stayed, the activities included:

Get Up & Go Power Walk – Walk while enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney California Adventure before opening.
Morning Stretch
Mat Pilates
Pin Trading
Movie Screenings
Art of the Craft Tour – A guided walking tour of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Final Thoughts On Staying At The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Before we this trip we had only ever stayed at Good Neighbour hotels, thinking we would save the money “because we will be in the parks all day anyway”. This trip completely changed our minds and also the way in which we “do Disney”. The hotel was a refuge from the busy day and we wanted to return early to swim in the pools and unwind. We took more breaks from the days at the parks which gave us more energy on the following days.

Add in the entrance to Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney, combined with the Early Magic Hour and we are sold, sold, sold and plan to never stay in another hotel other than the Grand Californian when we visit Disneyland in the future.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
1600 S. Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: 714-635-2300
Online: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/au/disneyland/hotels/grand-californian-hotel/

A huge thank you to Disney for hosting our stay. All opinions are my own.

 

Read more about our most recent stay at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa here.

Read a full review of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa here.

Read a full review of the Grand Californian Hotel here.

Get tips for Disneyland first-timers here.

Read about celebrating Halloween at Disneyland here.

Find out about celebrating the holidays at Disneyland here.

Read about saving money at Disney hotels by using the DVC Point Rental System here.

Thinking about a Disney cruise? Here’s why you should!

Get Disney Cruise planning tips & tricks here

Sail to Alaska aboard the Disney Wonder here.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

The spookiest time of year at the happiest place on Earth is the period between September 7 and October 31, when the Disneyland Parks receive a haunting makeover (check dates as they change annually). Celebrating Halloween at Disneyland is a must-do experience for young and old.

Visiting Disneyland at Halloween can be an incredible experience but also takes some planning and preparation. The tips in this guide will help you create a magical trip for your whole family.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Plan your dates wisely


By very careful planning, we were able to avoid the bulk of the crowds who head to Disneyland to celebrate the holiday season.

Check the following before booking your trip:

*US school holiday dates
*Australian school holiday dates (there are a lot of Australians who make the trek each year!)
*Annual Pass Blockout Dates (obviously it’s good to go when annual pass holders can’t!). Check them here.
*The busiest days according to the previous year on a calendar such as this. Weekends are always the busiest so I suggest avoiding them

Book a hotel near the park

Grand Californian Hotel

We always book a very budget hotel that is extremely close to the park. Our previous trips we stayed at the Grand Legacy At The Park, which is across the road from Disneyland and is extremely convenient, and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (pictured), which has an entrance inside the Disneyland California Adventure Park. If you can afford the splurge, the Grand Californian is our number 1 pick.

A full review of the Grand Legacy At The Park can be found here.

Pack wisely

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

My daughter is too big for a stroller, so I took a large shoulder bag to put in water, food and small purchases and keep my hands free. I have also used a backpack in the past. Clothes-wise, mornings and evenings can be cool at this time of year while the middle can be super warm.

We were comfortable in shorts and tees during the day and added a light jumper/sweater for the mornings/evenings. Shoes are so important at Disneyland when you’re walking 22K steps a day: go for comfort! My daughter and I wore extremely comfortable sneakers ever day.

If your kid fits into a stroller then by all means take one or hire one from the parks. I saw kids who were aged seven in them being pushed around, so there’s no shame in it if it’s what you need to do to get the kids through the long days without tears.

Download the Disneyland App

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

It’s invaluable for planning your day – character meet-and-greet times and locations, show times, ride wait times, view and make dining reservations, see your Disney PhotoPass pics, and even buy your park tickets app. Plus it’s a must-have if you’re planning on upgrading your ticket to include a Maxpass (more on the Maxpass below).

Get more info on the Disneyland App and download it here.

Purchase Maxpass

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California
Upgrading our passes with a Maxpass (they cost $10 per person, per day) was the best decision we made. Maxpass does two things:

1. Provides digital FASTPASS to rides (A FASTPASS lets you take a ticket with a specific time printed on it so you can return to the ride at a later time and skip the queue.)
2. Provides access to download all PhotoPass images taken by Disneyland photographers each day.

If you like to get lots of photos taken then the Maxpass is fantastic value for the photos alone. While you can still get FASTPASS without a Maxpass, it does require walking a lot more all over the park to get the paper ticket from the machine and then return again later. A Maxpass lets you book your FASTPASS selections on your phone from anywhere in the park. It was a game changer for us.

Only one member of your party needs to purchase the Maxpass if photos are your goal rather than digital FASTPASSES.

Plan your Disney days

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

I’m a big believer in schedules, particularly at Disneyland where timing is important. I created a spreadsheet in advance and researched the events that would be taking place each day, such as parades, fireworks, shows, character meet-and-greets, tree lightings and so forth, to slot them into the time we had at the parks.

I also booked in dining, especially character dining, 60 days in advance when the bookings opened. Spots are limited so I suggest setting a calendar alert 60 days out and booking in everything. You can always cancel it later if you change your mind.

Go early!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Not a morning person? Your experience at Disneyland will be vastly improved if you are! Mornings are the best for rides as it’s when the parks are quietest, so check the daily park opening hours (they cary day-to-day) and arrive each morning at least half an hour beforehand to be one of the first few people inside the park when it officially opens.

Being early means you will have a good few hours with basically no queues for rides as a result, and can then use the Maxpass to schedule the top rides for throughout the day to get them in several times.

Take a break for lunch in the middle of the day to early afternoon, and then enjoy the special Halloween entertainment.

Check out the Halloween decorations

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Disneyland features hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins, plus a gigantic Mickey head pumpkin that’s a popular backdrop for photos. There is also a traditional Dia de los Muertos skeleton display near the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Disney California Adventure Park is haunted by Oogie Boogie’s oversized shadow looming over the Main Entrance, and the Headless Horseman Statue on Buena Vista Street.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Bats swarm the Carthay Circle Bell Tower, Disney Junior star Vampirina make her debut appearance and Coco fans can visit Plaza de la Familia at Paradise Gardens Park for free crafts, mask colouring, taking photos with the special angel wing photo walls and recording family memories. Learn about Dia de los Muertos and catch the free show “A Musical Celebration of Coco”.

Take a spooky ride

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Disneyland, stroll through New Orleans Square, where you can meet Jack Skellington and Sally, on your way to the Haunted Mansion Holiday, a ride overlay that runs from Halloween till the end of the Holiday period. The Haunted Mansion is taken over by the cast Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, including Jack Skellington.

Space Mountain has been given a terrifying makeover during this period to become Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, where phantoms haunt the riders brave enough to take flight.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Disney California Adventure Park, Cars Land has been given a fun facelift, including the characters in “car-tumes” and a Halloween-spin on Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween and Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree.

Guardians of the Galaxy has been transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark especially for the season, too.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

If you get time, check out the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel, which is decorated spookily for the holidays with a pumpkin patch built out of cereal treats, 200 pounds of icing, 100 pounds of chocolate and 300 pounds of fondant. In the centre of the delicious display sits an Oogie Boogie pumpkin that is over four feet tall.

Meet the characters

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We love meeting the characters anyway, but they’re that little bit extra special when dressed in Halloween garb! We brought an autograph book with us (it’s a great ice breaker) and hunted down our faves throughout the day.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We especially loved Mickey and Minnie in their festive clothes (Minnie as a Candy Corn was our fave) and meeting Jack Skellington and Sally from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. You can locate the characters using the Disneyland app on your phone.

Eat all the food!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California
The Disney Parks employ a wide variety of exceptional pastry chefs and confectioners, so I highly recommend trying some of their seasonal treats.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Both Disneyland parks features pumpkin spice Mickey Mouse beignets, festive candy apples, cookies, cake pops and more. Pick up a guide to the Halloween food available and where to find it when entering the park.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

The popcorn is a fave of ours (for some reason, it tastes really amazing!) and we love to pick up a holiday-themed or limited-edition popcorn bucket to take home as a souvenir.

Attend Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

This special event requires a seperate ticket and only runs on certain days throughout the Halloween period. Mickey’s Halloween Party is a popular event and I suggest booking tickets fairly soon after they go on sale, as it does book out.

At the party guests can meet rare characters, wear costumes that they are not usually allowed to wear, enjoy special entertainment and follow trick-or-treating trails.

On the evenings of the party, the park closes early to all guests who have not purchased a ticket to the party. Party-goes may enter the park up to three hours before the party begins, which is at either 6pm or 7pm. Our party started at 6pm and we were surprised that we were able to enter even earlier than 3pm, so it’s worth trying to enter as early as possible to make the most of the ticket.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Guests can now enter either park for the duration of the party period, but we chose to stay at Disneyland as there are no special festivities at Disney California Adventure during this time period.

Included in the party ticket is all Disney PhotoPass photos taken during the event and unlimited PhotoPass downloads for party photos for up to 45 days. Ask photographers to take Halloween Magic Shots for a bit of extra fun. Once the regular park guests leave the park, ride lines tend to be shorter than usual, and if you download the Disneyland app you will be able to take advantage of Disney MaxPass in either park in the three hours before the party starts – note however that during the actual party, the FASTPASS system does not run.

Mickey’s Halloween Party 2018 Dates And Times

September 19, 21, 24, 26, 28

October 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 29, 31

For Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday dates, the party hours are 6pm to 11pm. Friday hours are 7pm to midnight.

Get more info on tickets here.

Kicking off Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

When lining up for park entry guests are given a coloured wristband with the date and number of the party and a treat bag. Trick-or-treating doesn’t begin until the party starts, so stash the bag for later. You may bring your own bag if you prefer.

Guests without wristbands are ushered out of the park once the regular park hours come to a close, and wristbands are checked frequently throughout the event.

Mickey’s ToonTown Pre-Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Mickey’s Halloween Party kicks off at 5pm in ToonTown with three trick-or-treat stations and characters in costumes. I suggest lining up from 4:30pm to enter, hitting up one trick-or-treat trail if you absolutely must, then riding the rides with no lines and getting photos with the characters in special costumes.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

This is where we found Minnie in her Candy Corn costume. A big mistake most people seemed to make was spending the whole pre-party lining up at the trick-or-treat stations for candy that can be bought at a supermarket. I think the value in the party is the rides with no queues, special entertainment and characters in costumes, so we didn’t worry much about the candy. Also – if you trick-or-treat too soon, you’ll have very heavy bags to carry for the rest of the night

Wearing Costumes to Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Guest are allowed to wear costumes to the party that conform to their guidelines. We chose not to dress up and didn’t feel like we were in the minority, but it would have been fun to have a costume for the novelty of the occasion. Cheese decided to dress as Mulan for the party.

You can get the full list of guidelines here for wearing costumes at Disneyland.

Trick-Or-Treating

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We only did one trick-or-treating trail while in Toon Town because we were so busy doing everything else, but that one trail gave us more candy than we could eat. There is a mix of healthy treats like carrots, pretzels, apples and dried fruit as well as lots and lots of sugary candy. If you really want a lot of loot, trick-or-treat last thing at night when the lines are shortest.

Characters at Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Special characters come out for the Halloween party, including villains, who can be found at the Town Square. We spotted the Queen of Hearts, Cruella de Ville, Maleficent, Hades and Gaston.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Around other parts of Town Square, Adventureland, Fantasy Faire, Critter Country, Pirate Wharf and Rancho del Zocalo you’ll also find characters such as Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy, Chip and Dale, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and rare Disney princesses. Rare jungle characters come out in Adventureland and you might find pirates like Captain Jack Sparrow on the Frontierland dock.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Tomorrowland, Pixar characters can be found at the dance party in Tomorrowland Terrace, and Star Wars characters are located in near a trick-or-treat trail.

What about the rides?

Wait times for rides are much shorter during the party and we jumped on several favourite rides a few times in a row with no queue at all. FASTPASS does not operate during the party however MaxPass works in the three hours before the party begins.

Entertainment at Mickey’s Halloween Party

The entertainment is a big part of what makes the party so special. Each party, the entertainment includes the Headless Horseman Rides Again Pre-Parade (10 mins before the parade starts), the Frightfully Fun Parade at 9pm and 10:35pm and Halloween Screams – A Villainous Surprise in the Skies Fireworks at 9:35pm. Each of these is only shown during the special Mickey’s Halloween Party event.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We also loved the Cadaver Dans who sing Halloween-themed songs while floating on the ghostly river on party nights, and there is a Pixar Pals Halloween Dance Party on during the party, too.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We watched the first parade from near the Partner Statue. In order to get a decent spot to see the parade we had to secure a spot and stay there from about 7:30pm. The first parade runs from It’s a Small World to the park entrance, then reverses the route for the second parade.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Those who were planning to see the second parade set themselves up directly in front of the castle for the best fireworks views and projections on the castle – however from this position it’s difficult to see the parade.

Since we had a little one with us, seeing the second parade wasn’t an option so we had to find a spot where we could see both parade and fireworks. We chose a prime spot for the parade and then moved a few steps down to in front of the partner statue on the street, directly in front of the castle.

Both the parade and fireworks are incredible and well worth staying up late for!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We received Disneyland Park tickets courtesy of Disney. All opinions our own. We are life-long lovers of Disney.

Incredible Places To Stop On A San Francisco To Los Angeles Road Trip

Incredible Places To Stop On A San Francisco To Los Angeles Road Trip, USA

Incredible Places To Stop On A San Francisco To Los Angeles Road Trip

The San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip down Highway 1 is an iconic drive through some of the most beautiful parts of California. Stretching 442 miles / 711 kms and taking around 8 to 9 hours non-stop to drive, the San Francisco to Los Angeles drive down Route 1 is scenic beyond belief. Voted as one of the Best American Road Trips by National Geographic, this is one of the most memorable road trips you can make.

Big Sur, California

While the fastest route to take between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the Interstate 5 Freeway (382 miles / 615 kms from Downtown LA to Downtown SF, taking approx 5.5 hours to 6 hours), if you have time to spend, I highly recommend taking the scenic LA to San Francisco road trip down Route 1 instead.

Please be aware that after the 2017 landslide there have been road closures on Highway 1 south of Big Sur / North of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse / San Simeon. The road is hopefully reopening in July 2018. Check here for updates and here for info on the detour.

Spending time in San Francisco? Check out things to do in San Francisco with kids here.

Have a few days sightseeing in LA? Check out things to do in Los Angeles with kids here.

Monterey

Monterey, California

This seaside town is famous for Cannery Row, the the waterfront street with now-defunct sardine canning factories, Fisherman’s Wharf, the fantastic Monterey Bay Aquarium and world-renowned PGA Golf Course at Pebble Beach.

We also enjoyed spotting sea lions basking on Del Monte Beach. If you have kids in tow, head to Dennis The Menace Playground, which features a maze and rock climbing wall.

Monterey, California

The scenic 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach is a great detour, with dramatic cliffs, the iconic Lone Cyprus and wildlife to see.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California, USA

Get more info on Monterey Bay Aquarium here.

Get more info on the 17-Mile Drive here.

Find and compare hotels in Monterey here.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea

One of our favourite little towns, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a must-visit on the San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip. Often called Carmel, the town was founded in 1902 and is known for it’s artistic history and beautiful scenery. I would say it’s also known for it’s storybook houses that I would love to retire to one day.

Carmel is very dog-friendly, and you’ll see dogs literally everywhere – on the beach in hotels, restaurants and shops.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

We also enjoyed a visit to the Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, also called the Carmel Mission. Built in 1797, the Mission is one o the best examples of Roman Catholic mission churches in California.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Take kids to the Cottage of Sweets, a traditional British-style sweets shop with homemade fudge and imported candies, and locally-owned Thinker Toys.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Sunset on the beach is a must in Carmel. It gets chilly, even in summer, so rug up.

Where to stay in Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea

We stayed at the Best Western Carmel’s Town House Lodge for the night, which had all the basics we needed.

Find and compare hotels in Carmel here.

Where to eat in Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at bustling Katy’s Place, delicious brunch and lunch at Carmel Belle, great coffee from Carmel Coffee House, upmarket dinner at Casanova (with kid-friendly options!), homestyle Italian food at Il Grillo and baked treats at Carmel Bakery (photo above).

Big Sur

Big Sur, California

The 90-mile stretch of redwood-trimmed coast between Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon is where you’ll find Big Sur. The name Big Sur comes from the Spanish ““el sur grande” or Big South. The name refers to Big Sur’s location, 25 miles south of Monterey.

Big Sur, California

Bixby Bridge

Big Sur, California

The most instagrammable spot on the Big Sur coast, Bixby Bridge was built in 1932, 260 feet/79 metres above a canyon.

Pfieffer Beach and Keyhole Rock

Pfieffer Beach, Big Sur

A detour off the beaten path, but well-worth it, particularly at sunset. Pfieffer Beach is south of Big Sur Station, where Sycamore Canyon Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, framed by rocks at either end.

Keyhole Rock, Big Sur

While tidal pools can be fin to explore at low tide, and the north end of the beach has unique purple sand, the beach is renowned for Keyhole Rock, an incredible natural rock arch formation that waves and the last light of sunset pass through. It’s an incredible place to watch the sunset.

San Simeon

San Simeon, California

The town itself doesn’t offer much, with the main draw cards to the area being Hearst Castle and the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

A  National Historic Landmark, Hearst Castle was the private residence of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s. The lavish mansion is accessible by tour only. Advance bookings are highly recommended.

Get more info on visiting Hearst Castle here.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

San Simeon, California

Piedras Blancas is an excellent spot to observe the magnificent northern elephant seal. Spread over 6 miles of shoreline, the viewing areas provide access to the elephant seals as they bask on the shore at their land-based rookery. We saw literally hundreds of elephant seals when we visited. The elephant seal rookery was one of our favourite stops on the San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip.

There is a free car park at the view area, which is open daily and is wheelchair / stroller accessible.

Where to stay in San Simeon

We stayed at the Days Inn San Simeon, which was basic but catered for all of our needs.

Find and compare hotels in San Simeon here.

Madonna Inn San Luis Obispo

Madonna Inn, California

We stopped at the family-owned Madonna Inn for lunch, but it’s an incredible spot to stay the night. The unique resort has been welcoming guests since 1958. The incredible interiors must be seen to be believed. We recommend dining at the Copper Cafe.

Get more info on the Madonna Inn here.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to see the 73-foot long blue whale skeleton, one of only five complete blue whale skeletons in the USA, or the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center for an interactive marine experience. Mission Santa Barbara, also known as Santa Barbara Mission, is also worth a visit. Walk down to Stearns Wharf and enjoy the seaside atmosphere.

Get more info on Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center here.

Get more info on Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History here.

Find and compare hotels in Santa Barbara here.

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Malibu

The Getty Villa, Los Angeles, USA

While there are some beaches (and celebrities) in Malibu, I would suggest visiting the incredible Getty Villa art museum that is located in the area.

Get info on visiting the Getty Villa here.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, LA

The iconic Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909, the first concrete pier on the USA West Coast. Ride the Santa Monica Pier Carousel built in 1939, take a spin on the world’s only solar-powered ferris wheel, challenge each other to a game at Playland Arcade and don’t miss the gorgeous sunset.

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

Get more info on visiting Santa Monica Pier here.

Incredible Places To Stop On A San Francisco To Los Angeles Road Trip, USA

Spending time in LA afterwards? Check out the best things to do in LA with kids here.

Take the slow drive down the coast in a own motorhome. Get tips on motorhome rentals in California here. 

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