After visiting Disney’s California Adventure the previous day, head into the park when it opens at eight for shorter lines at those rides you are dying to get on. Sure, the newest ride in the park the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is interesting, but check out some less appreciated aspects of the park. After you have braved the two-hour line (at least) at Nemo, remember to expand beyond the realm of major rides.
Disney has certain employees distributed throughout the park, giving out Dreams as part of “The Year of a Million Dreams” promotion. This can translate into free meals, fast passes or even a night in the “Dream Suite” above Pirates of the Caribbean. I wouldn’t hold your breath for the dream suite, though, as it is only given to one guest per day. In order to score the less extravagant prizes, keep your eyes peeled for employees wearing collared shirts and khaki pants. If you approach them and make nice conversation (winking at them may help), they will probably offer you one of their prizes.
If you are looking for a way to impress your date, head for the railroad and sneakily ask one of the conductors for a tender ride. Not tender that way, but tender, as in the car behind the train engine. It is equipped with a small two-person seat that puts you right into the engine with the fireman and engineer. You can also ask to drive the riverboat around Tom Sawyer’s Island. If you board the boat early, climb as fast as you can to the “wheel house” and ask if you can steer. If there is no one else up there, you should be able to, no problem.
As a big fan of comedy and fried cheese, I would highly recommend the Golden Horseshoe Saloon for its huge fried mozzarella sticks and great shows. A variety of different “wild west” themed shows run here in the Golden Horseshoe, and my personal favorite is Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. This brief comedy/variety show is one of the funniest things in Disneyland and is a great time to rest your feet while chowing down on some deep fried goodness. If you do plan to have a seat, though, arrive at least 30 minutes early, and send one of your compañeros to snag a table while you wait in line.
If you like fireworks, Disneyland is absolutely one of the best places to see them. With a budget of $33,000 per showing, this fireworks display is enough to make any Fourth of July show pale in comparison. Supposedly, the best place to view the show is from the “hub” where the Walt and Mickey statue is. Personally, I never had the patience – or courage – to battle through tired and irritated parents wielding strollers to get to this prized viewing location. All I can tell you is that you absolutely need to be within the roundabout to get the full effect of the show. If you are going in the winter, remember that Disneyland only shows their fireworks on weekends.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that you should visit and totally ignore staples like the Matterhorn and the recently remodeled Space Mountain. By all means, go for the rides, but when the line for Pirates of the Caribbean wraps all the way around the park, try one of these lesser-known but also fantastic excursions. If anything, at least you will have a relatively different Disneyland Facebook album than your other friends.