I worked at Disneyland, and I visited the theme park at least once a week for over six years.
After hundreds of visits, I still love the chill boat rides and the annual food festivals.
I always eat at the bars and lounges around the property, and I like to take a few treats home.
I opt for the more "relaxing" attractions over the thrill rides.
Some of the most popular rides in Disneyland are also the most thrilling.
Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, and Radiator Springs Racers are among the attractions you should expect to wait in long lines for. But once the wait is over and your seatbelt is checked, you're off on some of the most exciting minutes of your day.
I, on the other hand, grew to appreciate the slower rides that were never the first ones to run out of FastPasses (or I suppose Genie+ reservations these days).
My rides of choice are the Disneyland Railroad (perfect when you just want to chat with a friend and catch up), Pirates of the Caribbean (I can smell the distinct water as I'm typing this), and It's a Small World (especially during the holidays).
Haunted Mansion is also a solid go-to if I need a quick blast of air-conditioning.
I've scoped out a few quieter spots to get some work done.
Your laptop might not be the first thing you think of when packing your park bag, but you may be surprised to find just how many locals bring their work with them to Disneyland.
Keep your eyes peeled and you'll likely spot at least one or two individuals sitting off in a quiet corner on Main Street or in the Grand Californian Resort lobby typing away in their makeshift remote office.
I myself have written several emails while enjoying a sandwich from Jolly Holiday or sipping on a cocktail from Hearthstone Lounge.
Skip the restaurants and eat at a bar or lounge.
Disneyland is full of great restaurants. But it can be tricky to grab a reservation, especially if you're a local who often decides to visit the parks relatively last minute.
I've had to become rather resourceful over the years. When it comes to looking for a place to grab a good meal, I've learned about the best not-so-hidden dining gems: Disney's bars and lounges.
With no reservation required, bars and lounges became almost exclusively where I'd bring friends for dinner. They're also the first place my husband and I would head when we got hungry in the parks.
My personal favorites include Lamplight Lounge, GCH Craftsman Bar, and Uva Bar.
I always get my steps in for the day.
Anyone who's vacationed at a Disney theme park will tell you that it's to your benefit to pack and wear your comfiest shoes.
Even a leisurely day in the parks will accumulate in thousands of steps, all on concrete, which can make for weary feet and legs.
Living close to Disneyland, I was able to make the parks a makeshift gym where I could easily get my 10,000 steps.
Of course, those steps were accompanied by frequent stops and plenty of churros. I'm not exactly sure if my doctor would consider it to be a legitimate form of exercise — but it was in my book.
It's worth it to attend an after-hours event at least once.
Disneyland is the undisputed champion of after-hour events. Sorry, Disney World, but it's true.
There are several events throughout the year, ranging from the highly-themed Disneyland After Dark events to the festive Halloween and holiday parties.
Each of the parties includes the opportunity to spot ultra-rare characters, enjoy great food and beverage items, and experience some fun music and live entertainment.
It almost feels like you're in a completely different park. Trust me, an after-hours event at Disneyland is worth the extra cost of admission.
I try to embrace everything that's uniquely Disneyland.
Though I was a Disneyland local for over six years, it wasn't my "home park" growing up. Originally hailing from the East Coast, I was much more familiar with Disney World throughout my childhood and into my early 20s before moving to California.
But as someone who visited Disneyland often, I loved spending more time in the areas you can't find in Orlando.
There are a lot of rides that are currently unique to Disneyland in the US, including thrilling rides like Matterhorn, Incredicoaster, and Indiana Jones Adventure, as well as all the Fantasyland rides like Storybook Land Canal Boats, Snow White's Enchanted Wish, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
There's also Avengers Campus, a totally new land packed with Marvel characters.
I also love the rides you can find on both coasts (especially when I find the subtle differences between the two). But if I had family visiting from the East Coast, I'd make sure to prioritize the experiences you'll only get when visiting Disneyland.
Grab a drink at Trader Sam's.
If you're looking for a round of libations, look no further than Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.
Located in the heart of the Disneyland Hotel, Trader Sam's is perhaps the best spot on Disneyland property to grab a cocktail.
Its highly-themed tropical vibes, lively employees, and unique drinks have garnered an avid following. Some fans will gladly arrive before dawn on days when limited-edition tiki mugs are released.
Since Disneyland is relatively small in comparison to its Orlando counterpart, everything is within walking distance from wherever you're located. A trip to Trader Sam's is a great way to close out the evening before heading back to your hotel room or to meet up with friends for a round of drinks.
There's limited seating inside but plenty of overflow lounge seating outdoors.
I like to add a piece of merchandise to my collection when it catches my eye.
Disney fans will often have a category of merchandise they love to collect, from mugs to pins to Minnie-ear headbands.
Although souvenir shopping can come with a bit of sticker shock, being a local allows you to carefully curate your collection over time.
I'll admit, it was hard to practice restraint every time I walked into World of Disney in the Downtown Disney District. But every once in a while, a mug would show up on the shelves that I knew I had to have in my cupboard.
Sticking to a relatively inexpensive item, like mugs, helped curb what would otherwise be a full-blown spending addiction on Disney merchandise. And now I have a mug collection that brings me joy whenever I open up the cabinet door.
I count down the days until my favorite food festivals.
Much like the after-hours events, Disney California Adventure often gives Disney World's Epcot a run for its money when it comes to its food festivals.
There are three main festivals that take place throughout the year: the Lunar New Year Celebration in January and February, the Food and Wine Festival in March and April, and the Festival of the Holidays between November and early January.
Each one typically offers new food and beverage items every year (something that local crowds especially appreciate). In my experience, the food booths are consistent in serving really yummy eats.
Keep your eyes peeled for whatever variation of macaroni and cheese is being served because that's often the festival highlight.
Nothing beats sitting on a bench and people-watching when you need a break.
Some of my fondest memories at Disneyland are the trips where I didn't accomplish much at all.
If you're visiting on vacation, then you'll definitely want to try to pack in as much as possible to get your money's worth for the ever-increasing cost of admission. But when you live nearby and have the privilege of being able to visit every few weeks, there's inevitably going to be less pressure to always be "on the go."
You may find yourself walking at a slightly leisurely pace, taking in more of the scenery than you anticipated. I loved being able to grab a coffee or a snack, sit on a bench, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Disneyland.
Even on the busier days when we came to the parks with out-of-town guests, I found that taking a few moments to pause and collect yourself does wonders for keeping spirits up. Southern California can get very hot, so taking water breaks or seeking out some shade is crucial if you are planning on being there all day.
Try watching the fireworks from different spots around the park.
There's nothing quite like fireworks at Disneyland.
If you've never seen them before, you may want to scope out a spot along Main Street USA for a "front row" view of the show.
But if you've already seen the show, or if you don't want to carve out extra time in your busy evening to find and hold a viewing spot, there are other options to consider.
I loved being able to watch the fireworks from different angles around the park, and I learned that there are many places to watch without having to sacrifice elbow room.
The projections along Main Street are also visible at It's a Small World, and the fireworks themselves are visible from just about everywhere in the parks. One of my favorite spots to watch is in Tomorrowland, near the entrance to Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
And if fireworks aren't a priority, you can often find shorter wait times for many popular rides during the show. Plus, you can still catch a few of the fireworks here and there.
I like to grab one (or several) treats to bring home for later.
Much like Disneyland is the champion of after-hours events, I think it also reigns supreme over Disney World when it comes to snacks.
There's just something about a Disneyland churro that simply can't be replicated.
One of my favorite things to do as a local was to pick up some treats on the way out that I could bring home with me and enjoy over the next couple of days. That way, there's a little bit of Disneyland magic that gets to come home with you.
There are several spots where you'll find tasty treats like marshmallow treats, caramel apples, and marshmallow wands that are relatively inexpensive and will travel well.
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