Me and Jeannie visiting Carsland in July 2012
I seem to have become something of a Disney expert amongst my friends. I've had several e-mails/Facebook posts in the past month or two from folks I haven't otherwise spoken to in months asking how to get cheaper Disneyland tickets, where the best food in the park is, and which park (Disneyland or California Adventure) is best if you only have one day.
Granted, I have been going to Disneyland a lot more than the average visitor this year; I believe my visit with Jeannie earlier this month was the third or fourth trip in 2012. I'm hardly one of those lucky Southern California residents who can visit every weekend...but on the other hand, I no longer need a map to navigate either park so I guess I know it pretty well.
So, to answer some of those questions as best I can:
Where can I get discounted one-day tickets for Disneyland?
Sorry, you can't. As far as I know, Disney doesn't authorize anyone to sell discounted one-day tickets. If you're a Southern California resident, you can get the tickets at a cheaper rate - but that's the only discount I'm aware of. If you buy multi-day tickets, it does get cheaper by the day, but if you've only got one quick trip then you have to pay the full price of the ticket.
For multi-day tickets, discounts can be had at AAA. Some of the hotels around the park (The Anaheim Doubletree for one) also sell slightly-discounted multi-day tickets.
No discounted tickets! Maleficent demands you pay full price to admire her glory.
Should I get a park hopper ticket?
If you are going to do a full day at Disneyland Resort - and by full day, I mean from opening at seven in the morning to closing at midnight - then you have two choices. You can do every ride at the park you choose, including the mediocre and unexciting ones...or you can spend a little bit more money and get a Park Hopper, and spend your entire day doing the best rides at both parks.
If you want to stay at Disneyland all day, you do have a lot of choice rides: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Nemo's Submarines, Star Tours, and the Jungle Cruise - to name a few. But you won't get to see the new Cars Land, or ride Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Toy Story Mania, Soarin' over California, Grizzly River Run or Tower of Terror. Those are all over in CA Adventure.
Personally, I think that if this trip is going to be a rare one for you - flying in from Ohio or something - and you can really only do the one day, get the Park Hopper and do all the big name rides. If you're semi-local and think you'll have a chance to come again in the next year or two, then I could see just doing one park instead. But I think it's less fun!
We've got 999 happy haunts...but there's room for a thousand!
What's the best ride in Disneyland/CA Adventure?
Disneyland: Hands down, I think it's the Haunted Mansion. Even though the ride scared the heck out of me when I was a little kid, I've always loved the beautiful exterior of the Mansion and the perfect atmosphere and ghostly chills contained within it. But as I said before, Disneyland has a lot of great rides. Pirates of the Caribbean is just as thrilling today as ever, and Indiana Jones was the last great ride added to either park (according to me, anyway). It's all about Adventureland and New Orleans Square for me.
CA Adventure: Toy Story Mania is the ride that rocks in CA Adventure - you play arcade-style games against your friends, and the combination of cute Toy Story characters and friendly competition is impossible to resist.
Did you really pose with Merida even though you haven't seen her movie?
Yes, yes I did.
I'm an adult; why would I want to take pictures with a guy in a silly costume?
Disney magic. I don't know why it's so fun, but it really, really is.
My favorite CA Adventure Restaurant...so far.
So what's the best place to get some food?
Disneyland - If you want awesome ambiance, you can't beat the Blue Bayou, which is a restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It looks so cool, and you can watch people ride the pirate boats as you eat. But it's crazy expensive and the food's only so-so. Personally, if I'm eating in Disneyland I want a mint julep from the Mint Julep Bar and a bread bowl from Royal Street Veranda. The soup is uber-filling and it's not as expensive as other entrees. Jolly Holiday Bakery
CA Adventure - Again, pick up a bread bowl at the Pacific Wharf Cafe if you want quick service food that will fill you up. But the restaurant selections here are much better than at Disneyland, to be honest - more variety in what's available. Plus, there's alcohol - it's nice to have the option! I really liked Ariel's Grotto, but it's pricey and the menu is set. I've heard some of the Carsland food is pretty cool, but I haven't yet had a chance to try it out yet.
But whatever you get - turkey legs, Mickey pretzels, or whatever - it's going to be super expensive. If you only go once, then try it out because the food's delicious and you only get the one chance, right? But if you are visiting regularly, like me, wise up and pack some food in.
Obviously, this isn't a comprehensive thing, but I wanted to type something up because for better or worse, Disneyland is one of my favorite places to visit.
It's a small world after all!