We’ve been back from the Happiest Place on Earth for a few weeks now and I’m still having magic withdrawals! It’s always so hard to come back to reality after a trip to Disneyland, especially because I get so excited for months leading up to it and then when it’s over I feel like I have nothing to look forward to. That’s why we usually plan our next trip while we’re in the car driving home, so I can begin planning and looking forward to the next one :) This most recent trip was a bit different than previous ones we’ve taken (for a number of reasons that I’ll get into) but all in all it was a really fun vacation and I can’t wait to tell you about it!
Our Hilton Hotel Experience
First let’s talk about the hotel! In my Disneyland hotel guide I mentioned that we would be staying at the Hilton next to the Anaheim Convention Center and the amazing rate we got through Hotwire ($70/night). We were very excited to be staying so close to the parks and to be staying at a nicer hotel than we had stayed at in the past. In all honesty, the Hilton wasn’t as nice as we were expecting from a hotel that was built within the past couple years. The lobby was beautiful and had several gift shops, an elegant bar and multiple restaurants which was cool! However, the rooms were very basic/generic and looked more rundown than I was anticipating. We got our choice of which floor we wanted to stay on, so we picked the top floor (16th) which gave us some nice views! Obviously when we go to Disneyland we don’t spend much time at the hotel, so the quality of the room isn't high on our priority list, but for a Hilton brand hotel we were expecting something slightly nicer than where we have stayed in the past (Clarion, Holiday Inn). The hotel also wasn’t as close as we thought it was going to be (on Google Maps it looked much closer), and it ended up being the same distance as the Clarion. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the parks, so not terrible, but we ended up taking an Uber to the parks for all 3 days we were there, mostly due to the weather.
The weather was honestly was a major buzz kill for the entire trip. Typically, when you think of Southern California, you think of balmy, 75-degree weather with a slight breeze, cool temps at night, truly the most ideal weather conditions. This was the case when I checked the weather one week before our trip. I didn’t feel the need to check it again because this is SoCal we’re talking about and therefore I packed accordingly: jeans, some long-sleeves for the evenings, sneakers, the whole shebang. The first stop on our California roadtrip was Palm Desert to visit family, and of course we were expecting the exact same weather as Phoenix: hot! Then we made our way south to San Diego to visit more family, and we were genuinely surprised to have warm, humid weather—like 92 with 40% humidity. Very uncharacteristic for SD! This prompted me to check the weather for Anaheim, which is where we would be in 2-days time, and to our dismay we were greeted with similar temps: mid-90’s and 70% humidity. We couldn’t believe it! Locals were saying there was an unexpected heat wave and it wouldn’t be going away until the day we were driving home to Phoenix, naturally. This was totally not what we were hoping for, considering part of the reason we planned this vacation was to escape the heat! We made the best of it and ended up buying new clothes (lightweight shorts for Freddy and I, flip flops and a tank for me) at Curl Surf in Downtown Disney so that we could walk around the parks with minimal layers and clothes that would dry quickly after we went on Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run.
Downtown Disney Shopping
Speaking of Downtown Disney, as you may already know after reading my Disneyland shopping guide, this is the shopping destination I look forward to every year! It looks a bit different than when we were here last year: the ESPN Zone is closed and now houses some different pop-up art galleries and things of that nature, the Rainforest Café is closed as well, which isn’t too disappointing, and the AMC movie theatre is also closed. This was all in preparation for a potential 4th Disney resort hotel that was going to be built, but those plans got nixed and now there’s a lot of empty space as you make your way west towards the Disneyland Hotel. Despite the vacancies, there is still a lot of great shopping available! The newly renovated World of Disney store is amazing, they seriously did such a great job opening up the floor plan and making it feel much more spacious! It’s merchandised beautifully and you could spend hours in there looking at everything. I didn’t do as much damage in this store as I have in years past, but I certainly made up for it at the Pandora store! I bought 2 clips to keep my charms neatly in a row, and 1 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs charm that I’m obsessed with! I also bought a Beauty and the Beast painting that I spotted last year and continued to dream about ever since. It was the best $40 I spent the entire trip! We do most of our Downtown Disney shopping the night before we go to the parks, but we ended up coming back the next day to buy new clothes at the surf shop like I mentioned earlier. It was insanely hot and we were sweating through our Star Wars cosplay outfits and we couldn’t take it anymore! I was also getting a bad blister from my Allbirds shoes and limped as fast as I could to buy a pair of flip flops and some shorts!
I will say that the combination of post-Labor Day weekend, California schools being back in session and the unfavorable weather kept the crowds away. The longest line we waited in was for the new ride in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, which was about 35 minutes (usually it’s a 70 minute wait on any given day!). Everything else was a 5-15 minute wait and it was glorious! We haven't experienced short wait times like that in a very long time, so if you’re looking for a good time to visit Disneyland, the week of Labor Day is a great choice!
All About Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!
Speaking of Star Wars, let’s talk about the new land! All in all it’s a very cool, immersive experience—you truly feel like you are in a Star Wars movie. The cast members greet you as a “traveler” and let you know where you can place your “cargo” at various PhotoPass locations. There’s so much to look at and take in, but not a whole lot to “do”. There’s the new ride of course, where you can pilot the Millennium Falcon, which is so much fun! We went on it 3 times and had a blast! There are multiple shops throughout Star Wars land, but not a ton of apparel to purchase. It’s mainly collectible items (like a $20,000 life-size R2D2) and costumes. There a couple of experiences you can participate in, like building your own lightsaber and droid, but those will cost you $100-$200. If you’re looking for an experience that doesn’t cost you any additional money, you can download the Play Disney Parks app, which allows you to go on interactive adventures and accomplish different “missions” for either the First Order or the Resistance. Freddy was really into this and had so much fun playing on the app! It definitely allows you to see all aspects of the park and have more of an immersive experience.
In terms of dining, I felt the options were lacking. There are several food carts offering blue and green milk, fruits and veggies, and 2 restaurants that have a few options for lunch and dinner. I was ultimately most disappointed with Oga’s Cantina, which is unfortunate because that’s what I was looking forward to the most! We got lucky and made dinner reservations the day of and got the last slot available, and we made sure to not eat a lot beforehand so that we would be hungry! We didn’t look at the menu ahead of time so that we could keep it all a surprise, and as we were standing in line waiting to go in, a cast member handed us a menu to look over. We quickly realized that the Cantina was simply that: a cantina that only serves drinks. There are only 2 side options, which consist of mixed bar snacks (think pretzels, chips, etc.). They serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic which is great, and the experience is really cool because you feel like you’re actually in the Cantina! There’s a droid DJ playing galactic-electronic music so it’s definitely a bumpin’ spot! I just wish there was legit food to eat. If you plan to visit the Cantina, here are 2 things to remember: make a reservation otherwise you may not be able to get in, and you can only stay for 45 minutes to allow other guests to enjoy the experience.
I mentioned earlier that Freddy and I did our first-ever ‘cosplay’ outfits for this trip which we were super excited about! Freddy dressed up as Kylo Ren and I dressed up as Rey. If you aren’t familiar with cosplay, it’s basically dressing up in regular ‘street clothes’ but styling them to mimic your favorite character. I got all of the pieces for my outfit from Lululemon and Freddy bought his online at various retailers like PacSun and Nordstrom. It was truly such a bummer that it was so hot during our trip, because we didn’t get to fully enjoy wearing our outfits. Freddy couldn’t wear his Kylo Ren sweater during the day and I had to swap out my shoes for flip flops because of my crazy blister. We are hoping we can go back to Disneyland again this December and do our cosplay looks again so that we can wear them the entire day!
Aside from taking in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, one of my favorite moments of our trip was seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade! This parade originally debuted at Disneyland in the 1970’s and was very high-tech at the time with all of the electrical lights. It remained at Disneyland for 24 years and then moved to Walt Disney World. Over the past couple of years, they have brought this classic parade back to Disneyland for limited time offerings, and we just happened to be visiting while it was there. It was nothing short of magical being able to re-live this parade that I was so fond of as a child. It truly made me feel like a kid again and brought back many wonderful memories!
California Adventure Highlights
There are always 3 things I look forward to when we go to California Adventure: Cars Land, Clam Chowder in a bread bowl from Pacific Wharf Cafe (aka Boudin Bakery) and World of Color! However, this year we got to experience the recently transformed Pixar Pier for the first time which was amazing! All of the dining and rides are perfectly themed, and you get to listen to melodic Pixar tunes as you walk down the boardwalk—it just feels like this is what the pier was meant to be all along. I went on the Incredicoaster more times than I could count (holla for the single rider line!) and we got to try Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums—they were huge, warm and delicious.