There's a shameful truth about some Disneyland souvenirs that you don't necessarily think about when you're picking them out at the gift shop—many go unused, unworn, or forgotten. Unworn t-shirts are donated, souvenir drink cups catch dust on the shelves, and the adorable Mickey ear hats are shoved in the back of your closet.
It's not that you can't buy those items, but it's important to keep in mind that the best souvenirs remind you of where you went. They last, they make you smile, and they'll be a must-keep item for years. The bad ones? As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and you might end up wishing you hadn’t purchased them. However, it can be tough to recognize that in the moment, so use this guide to know which ones will end up being your most worth-it purchases.
Disneyland Souvenirs to Skip
To get started, here are a few general rules to keep in mind about items to avoid.
- Anything that feels flimsy or seems overpriced
- Anything that you can only use at Disneyland, like those glow-in-the-dark mouse ear hats
- Things you can buy at home (i.e. it's unique to your visit)
Before you buy, walk away for a while. If you're still thinking about it hours later, you'll remember and go back. If you forget it in 5 minutes, you avoid a costly mistake.
Character Autographed Items
Instead of collecting characters' signatures in a book that will sit on a shelf unnoticed, take your Disneyland autographs home on something you can use. For example, an inexpensive canvas bag that you can take anywhere.
You can get the characters to autograph almost anything, as long you aren't wearing it at the time.
You could take a pillowcase, and ask the character to write a goodnight message. Or if you're a quilter, take some fabric squares, and work them into a creation for the child (or childlike adult) in your life. Some visitors take scrapbook pages or photograph mats for the characters to write on and later combine the autograph with a printed photo.
Other ways and places to collect signatures are limited only by your imagination.
Tip: If you choose a washable item, turn it wrong side out and throw it in the dryer when you get home to heat-set the ink before that first wash.
Clothing You Can Wear Regularly
Skip the mouse ears to find something you might actually wear at home. Your wearable item could even be regular clothes that have a Disney flair, like cute shoes that look like Darth Vader and C3PO.
Try shopping at D Street and Disney Vault 28 in Downtown Disney, where they have Disney-themed items from brand name designers.
The D-Tech brand of cell phone cases and computer covers includes some cute patterns and designs, from the overtly cartoonish to the subtle mouse-ear textured.
You'll use them every day, and they'll make other people smile, too.
Some of the shops in Tomorrowland feature Tech on Demand, which allows you a more extensive choice of custom themed designs than it would be practical for them to stock.
You can also buy some D-Tech items online, but you'll find more unique design options at the parks.
Pins are a good, inexpensive souvenir because you can put them on almost anything. You can keep a Sorcerer Mickey pinned to your tote bag or a hat, or stand a too-heavy-to-wear Walt Disney and Mickey pin on your desk at work. During the holidays, you can also turn them into Christmas tree ornaments.
For even more fun collecting your pin, participate in the Disneyland tradition of pin trading. Look for a Cast Member wearing a lanyard full of pins, have your own pin ready and follow the guidelines.
Several shops at Disneyland carry travel mugs of various kinds. Take your own cup to the local coffee shop every day for a fill-up or fill it up at home before you hop in the car.
If you don't see something you like in the first store you visit, keep looking. And if you're a fan of a particular ride or the films that inspired some of the attractions, try the gift shop at that particular exit.
Get a Disneyland Silhouette
On Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland, you'll find the charmingly old-fashioned silhouette shop. While you sit for them, the shop's paper artists use nothing but a piece of black paper and a pair of fast-moving scissors to create cute little outline portraits.
Get one done of a group of kids, or if you're by yourself, ask them to put your favorite Disney character in with you.
You'll also find caricature artists in Downtown Disney and inside the parks.
If you celebrate Christmas, an ornament is a perfect souvenir. You'll find a variety of styles, themes, and characters at most of the souvenir shops throughout the resort.
At home, remember your trip every year when you put up your decorations. Some of them have the year printed on them, giving you another little clue about the time and place you got it.
Disney PhotoPass Souvenirs
Don't ignore those Disneyland photographers who are hanging around asking if you want your photo taken. They don't charge to take your picture, but picking up a PhotoPass from them gives you a chance to buy them later if you like.
One of the photographers' specialties is adding in a little surprise in the digital darkroom, like Tinker Bell in your hand or a character mixed in with your family.
You can download your photos, send them to friends, have them printed on all kinds of items or mix them with your photos to make a unique keepsake album.
Disney Art on Demand
If you want to buy something at Disneyland to hang on the wall at home, stop by the collector's shop next to the Opera House (near the entrance) and pick up a piece of Disney art on demand.
They offer lots of designs and can frame it and ship it straight to your house, so you don't have to carry it around all day or worry about how to get it into that already bulging suitcase. You can also order art on demand from the Disney store online.