1. Best Places to Eat – Disneyland – if you’re looking for ease, lots of seating, good prices and some shade, head on over to The Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country! We ate there for lunch three days in a row. Pack those snacks. Don’t be shy! Disney is really good about that. Bring that cooler in as long as its smaller than 24x15x18! Eat one big meal in the park and snack away the day!! It helps pass the time when you need it and the kids don’t miss out. Just don’t forget to grab yourself some Dole Whip and have a rest in the Tikki Room!!! Another favorite, that was actually a surprise (not that I expected any food to be bad) was Jolly Holiday Bakery and Café. You guys…the grilled cheese and tomato soup was to die for!!! And the desserts…well, Disney is magic. Want to have a date night or eat out somewhere nice? They aren’t kidding about those reservation dates. Make them!
2. Seeing Characters – Having not been to Disney in over 10 years I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had kept hearing about how they just weren’t seen the wild as much as they used to be. And while that statement in general might be true we saw SO MANY!! And I want to reiterate that there is just something about Disney. Even in lines for characters, walking by with them, people were so nice!! And depending on the needs of your kids, that might be enough. You can frequently find Minnie and Mickey when you walk into the park on the right side on main street. Right in a little alcove past the first 4 or 5 shops (the ones that are really expensive). The Wicked Queen from Snow White hung out near the bathroom right as you were walking to Fantasy Land. Many princesses can be seen down in Snow White’s Grotto (which is one of the most romantic places in the park). Peter Pan, Alice and the Mad Hatter hung out by the tea cups, and Critter Country is a good place to find Winnie the Pooh and his whole gang! If getting guaranteed time with characters is really important Minnie’s Breakfast and Ariel’s Grotto is the place to be!
3. Souvenirs – One of the biggest things I did to save money was purchase most of the souvenirs BEFORE we went to Disney. I realize that I could have been taking a gamble, but for the most part you can do a pretty good job of avoiding most of the temptations. Watch out for the shop after the Small World Ride and Pirates of the Caribbean. One of the best purchases we made was at the castle, in the little beauty salon. Believe or not that have amazing swords for boys. They are amazing, really sturdy foam swords! Every prince needs a sword!!
4. Regrets – We didn’t do a character meal. I’m totally blaming Mr. Air Force on this one. He convinced me that it wouldn’t be very exciting for the kids, and did the cost equal the benefit. I would absolutely say yes!! Other regret – going towards the back of the park for the parade based on a recommendation. The recommendation came to me for the evening parade. Get to the back of the park where the parade was ending that time. Unfortunately meeting anyone at the back of the park is a nightmare. Either all go together, or stay at the front of the park.
5. Random Thoughts – Daytime parade watching was a breeze, and much easier than I expected. We sat outside of the castle, along the wrought iron fence (on the cleanest street in all the land. We arranged seating about an 45 minutes before the parade began, and then one by one I took the kids over to the castle for souvenir shopping. It worked out perfectly!!! Frozen fast pass, waiting in line to see the characters….totally worth it. Waiting at Pixie Hollow, also completely worth it. We survived without a dining plan. Eating our way through Disney wasn’t a priority. We made it with a hearty breakfast, snacking through the day and eating one large meal in the park. We left the park for a rest time around 2/3 and then went back into the park for all the fun evening stuff. Take your date night during fireworks time. In the summer this is one of the best times to ride the rides. So many people are watching the fireworks. It was so much fun riding Thunder Mountain over and over again, coming up over the bumps and seeing the fireworks explode above you. So cool!!!