01 of 09
Do the Rope Drop
The Disneyland Rope Drop is my #1 pick for any visitor's bucket list. It's surprising how many people - including long-time Disneyland fans - haven't heard of it. In fact, many of my most fanatical Disney pals learned about it from me. Now you know about it, too.
Here's how it works: On selected days (which are not announced in advance), Disneyland Cast Members let visitors enter through the Disneyland gates 30 minutes before the official opening time. It starts with a shout: "Let the magic begin!" Gates open. You can walk on Main Street U.S.A., shop, get a coffee or something to eat and go as far as the "hub" (where the statue of Walt and Mickey is).
To keep guests from going further than that until opening time, Cast Members hold ropes across all the walkways leading into the park from the hub. You just got it, didn't you? Now you know why it's called a "rope" drop. When the official opening time arrives, the ropes go down, and guests pour in. Just before that, you'll hear music and a recorded welcome announcement.
This simple little thing is enough to bring a tear to the driest of eyes, joining in all the excitement as the crowd rushes in.
No one is telling me how Cast Members decide which days are Rope Drop days. The only way to find out is to be at the gates a half hour or more before the scheduled opening time.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Kiss Donald Duck, Hug Mickey Mouse
Everyone knows about the character greetings at Disneyland, but most people fail to take full advantage of the experience. If you put a little bit more into the encounter from your side, you'll get a lot more out of it.
My favorite Disneyland picture of myself ever is when I kissed Donald Duck. All I had to do was ask. Before that, I asked how old he was and laughed out loud at how he answered. When I gave Goofy my souvenir canvas bag to autograph, he opened it and wanted to see all the other characters' signatures, too.
Spend a few minutes thinking up questions or unique things to do and you'll come home with the memories of a lifetime. Get more tips for character greetings in this guide.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Celebrate Your Birthday
Of course, I can celebrate my birthday at Disneyland, you're thinking. All I have to do is buy a ticket and go. What's the big deal about that?
There's more to celebrating your birthday at Disneyland than just that. The best and easiest thing to do is to get a free birthday button at City Hall (or Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure). It's a fun keepsake. Even more fun is going around all day, with everyone wishing you a happy day. I have even seen guests standing in line singing to a total stranger who was wearing a button. How fun is that?
You don't have to go on your exact birth date, either. Disney realizes that not everyone can make it there on that one day a year. Just try not to look confused when someone says Happy Birthday, and you're celebrating a January birthday in July.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Go to Dapper Day
Dapper Day is still on my personal Disneyland bucket list, but it looks like so much fun.
A couple of times a year, a group of people visit Disneyland wearing their most stylish, "dapper" and sophisticated outfits. You can join in with them, choosing a classy vintage or contemporary outfit.
All the dates and details are on the Dapper Day website. If you sign up for their newsletter, you can get access to discounted convention rate park tickets.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Go to Mickey's Halloween Party
My Disneyland pal Annie thinks the party Mickey Mouse throws for his friends every year is the most Disney you can get for the price - and I agree. It's a private party, with far fewer guests than would normally be in the park (which means shorter lines).
You can go trick-or-treating, watch a seasonal parade and fireworks and enjoy the festive atmosphere. Party guests get in before the park closes for the day and can stay late. And best of all, the ticket price is lower than any other one-day ticket you'll find anywhere.
The only catch is that you need to get prepared and buy your tickets early before they sell out. That means choosing your dates in July.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
See the Haunted Mansion, Nightmare Before Christmas Version
This is something that people seem to either love or hate, but if you're a fan of the Haunted Mansion or if you like Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, you must check out Haunted Mansion Holiday.
From late October through the Christmas holidays, everything in the mansion turns into a live version of the film about Jack Skellington, who gets Halloween and Christmas so terribly mixed up. You'll see Skellington's dog Zero floating happily above his holiday gift: a pile of bones. Oogie Boogie puts in several cameo appearances and of course, Jack's love Sally is on hand to remind you to "hurry back."
It takes nearly a month to change the decor - and another few weeks to take it down - which means the mansion will be closed for parts of September and January.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Get in the Holiday Spirit at the Candlelight Processional
Disneyland's Candlelight Processional has been a tradition since 1958. It's an hour-long, old-fashioned Christmas musical done in true Disney style: with a choir that numbers in the hundreds, a full orchestra and a celebrity narrator.
It's one of those Disney traditions with an old style feel that are part of the magic we all keep going back for again and again.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Walk in Walt Disney's Footsteps
If you're a big fan of Walt Disney, if you'd like to go behind the scenes at Disneyland or if you want to find out more about the man who created Disneyland, the Walk in Walt's Footsteps tour is for you. During a several-hour tour, you'll go around the park checking into Disney's favorite spots.
When I took the tour, I got the cute pin shown above, but you need to know that mementos change and you may get something different (and maybe even more fun).
To take this tour, you need an admission ticket to the park and a reservation (which you have to pay for separately). You'll find tips for taking the tour and more in this guide.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Go Behind the Scenes with Adventures by Disney
If you love Disneyland and things Disney and want to go behind the scenes, you can't beat the Southern California tour from Adventures by Disney. It's a multi-day romp through some of those places you've always dreamed of seeing.
The things you'll do include going behind the scenes at Disneyland and California Adventure and visiting Disney Studios and Disney Imagineering. It took their tour, and I have a WED jacket and an Imagineering license tag frame to prove it - and I made a couple of wild and crazy Disneyland fan friends, too.
To find out more about the tour, check out my review based on a trip with them.