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Disney California Adventure Tips for First Timers

FIRST TIMER'S GUIDE Disney California Adventure Tips for Newbies

I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I have been to Disney California Adventure (DCA). As the mother of Disney-loving twins growing up in Orange County, visits to the park have become a way of life. My years of experience have resulted in me becoming a  Disney expert. I am constantly asked to share my Disney California Adventure tips so I decided to put them down all in one place. I hope this guide will help thousands of Trekaroo families get the most out of every visit to DCA.

Sponsor Spotlight – CityPASS

CityPass Disney California Adventure LogoSave $150 on admission to Southern California’s most family-friendly theme parks with the Southern California CityPASS admission card. The pass includes: 3-Day Park Hopper® ticket to Disneyland Resort (allows unlimited back-and-forth access to both Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park), one-day admission to SeaWorld® San Diego, and one-day admission to LEGOLAND® California.

Cost: adults, $353 (value $503); children 3-9, $324. Visit CityPASS.com.

Heading to another park or want to see our entire library or Disney content? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacations.

Ultimate Vacation Guide to Disney Parks for Families

Disney California Adventure Tips for First Timers & Newbies

Decide When To Go

silly symphony swings are a fun option at Disney California Adventure with kids

The best time to visit Disney California Adventure is mid-week during the off-season. If your kids can take a couple days off from school, I highly recommend going that route. Make every effort to avoid peak travel times. Your family will spend much less time fighting crowds, standing in long lines and on peak days, one-day admission prices rise 20% over regular day admission. Peak dates include the Christmas season, Spring Break, and peak summer. If you visit the parks on “value” days, the price is reduced by 4%. Visit the Disneyland pricing calendar for updated information.

Here are my four favorite times of year to visit the DCA:

1. The week after Labor Day in September through the first two weeks in October: Kids are back in school so the parks are not crowded. Both parks are decked out for Halloween during the entire month of October.

Good to know: September is typically one of the warmest months in Orange County so be sure to make time for a beach day or some pool time back at the hotel.

2. January and February: While most of the country is freezing, Orange County is typically enjoying daytime temperatures between 55 and 75. If you have to choose a 3-day weekend, crowds are more manageable on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend than President’s Day.

3. The first two weeks in May: Spring Break crowds are gone, the weather is nice, and kids are still in school.

4. The first two weeks in December: This is probably my favorite time to visit because all of the holiday decorations are up but most of the holiday visitors are still doing their Christmas shopping. Park attendance is low but the wow factor is high.

Avoid: Mid-March through mid-April due to Spring Break, Thanksgiving week, the weeks before and after Christmas, most of June and August, and all of July. If you do have to go during the summer months, try to visit either the first week in June (when most Southern California schools are still in session) or the last week in August (when most schools are back in session). 

Click next for tips on making reservations.

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106 Responses to Disney California Adventure Tips for First Timers

  1. chris g. March 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    I read that today. ..unfortunely the only time we could go is June. So hope it’s not too bad.

  2. Kelly Calvert March 21, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    WE <3 Disneyland and are thankful for the So Cal tickets.

  3. kristin144 March 21, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    I love disney!

  4. deee6 March 21, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

    we have never been to Disney. A Big wish!

  5. Michelle Bartley March 21, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    I would love to take my Granddaughter!

  6. Alli March 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

    Very informative. Thank you.

  7. Kat McQuaid (@KouponKat) March 22, 2016 at 6:11 am #

    CityPass sounds like a great deal! It has been 13 years since I was at Disney’s California Adventure. Thanks for the refresher course. Thinking about going back in the fall.

  8. Tiffany Brucculeri March 22, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    So helpful! Thank you!

  9. Neal March 22, 2016 at 6:58 am #

    We went to Disney in Florida last May for the first 2 weeks and you’re right that was a really good time to go. The weather was perfect and the crowds weren’t ridiculous!

  10. Sabrina March 22, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    Thanks for the tips!

  11. Guswalzer March 22, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    Those visit date recommendations are spot on!

  12. Heather S March 22, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    We go in March when it’s the off season – shorter lines and not scorching hot! 🙂

  13. Emily Cox March 22, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    Thanks!

  14. Elena March 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Great tips. I love Disney California Adventure park

  15. Corry L. March 22, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Was in Cali last year and wanted to go to Disneyland but the measles outbreak kept me from going! Still hope to go sometime!

  16. Lisa Chesnut March 22, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    I have only been to California Adventure once, but can not wait to go back, all these tips will help the next time I get to go

  17. Art March 22, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    I will going during spring break, but wine. Yes the Food & Wine Festival. I can’t wait.

  18. Rob March 23, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    thanks for the tips!

  19. Rachael Crowder March 23, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Love the diner tips

  20. Kim March 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Great tips if I ever do get to go to Disney!

  21. Gabrielle March 24, 2016 at 9:58 am #

    A fast pass for the Cars Land ride Radiator Springs Racers is a must. Last time we went, I dashed ahead of the rest of our group with all our tickets and stood in line for 30 minutes to get the Fast Passes, and we still ended up with a ride time of 1pm. But the ride is a lot of fun, and otherwise you could end up in line for 2 hours.

  22. kara bryant March 24, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    Would love to go thanks for the tips! My dream to go this year with my family

  23. becca March 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Awesome.

  24. bschroder March 25, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    cool article

  25. lee showron March 25, 2016 at 9:02 am #

    love to take my niece

  26. Dennis Moreno March 26, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    Good info!

  27. sojeles March 26, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    We went in 2014 for the first time and we love it more than Disney World which I’ve been to over 30 times…can’t wait to go back and see DCA again!

  28. Sheryl Holden March 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    Wonderful tips, have not been to Disneyland since 1964

  29. Erika vergara March 27, 2016 at 12:26 am #

    Make sure to plan out your day down to the rides you wanna go to and make sure to prioritize things and know what and where you’re going to eat and want to try

  30. Leo Ching March 27, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    Helpful advice

  31. shelley March 28, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Excellent guide. Hope I win trip so that I can put it to use!

  32. neonderlyn March 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    These tips are very helpful!

  33. Amie D March 29, 2016 at 7:33 am #

    I have never been, but hope to soon. Thanks for the great tips!

  34. Sonya Morris March 29, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Great tips! Our favorite time to go is the first few weeks of May and it always seems to be less crowded.

  35. natasha lamoreux March 30, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    We are planning a trip there in a couple of months and will be doing the park hopper. Thank you for all the great tips.

  36. Lee B. March 31, 2016 at 7:33 am #

    Great info for first timers and some good tips for those who have been, but it’s been awhile.

  37. Sarahbgonzo March 31, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    I love Disneyland so much it is my favorite place, awesome tips!

  38. nancy d March 31, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    we always go in october 🙂

  39. crobich April 1, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    Great tips for Disneyland. I’ve been to Disney World many times but I haven’t made it there yet. I’ll keep this tips for when I do go, thanks.

  40. Angela April 2, 2016 at 9:15 pm #

    These are great tips!

  41. sarah alexis April 3, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

    I took my kids to disneyland a few years ago and my son is begging for me to take him again – I didn’t know about the Southern California CityPASS card – that looks like a great deal!

  42. lynn reimer April 3, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    love it

  43. Theresa Michalik April 4, 2016 at 7:30 am #

    Disney is truly the Happiest Place on Earth. Hurry up Oct.

  44. Angelina M Linan April 4, 2016 at 8:50 am #

    I have never been to Disneyland but I have wanted to my whole life. Hopefully soon we can all go as a family and experience for the first time together!

  45. Jasmine Trantham April 4, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    I’ve always wanted to take my kids here!

  46. Lori Novelli April 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    Great Disneyland tips! Thanks!

  47. Tabathia B April 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    I like that California offers a city pass deal that offers Disney discounts

  48. Shirley Winand April 4, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    Never been to California Disney

  49. Sherilyn H April 4, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    i needed these tips!

  50. Anne Brewster April 5, 2016 at 5:59 am #

    Lots of great advice on this site!

  51. Bonnie esken April 6, 2016 at 12:40 am #

    we will hopefully be visiting soon thank you for the tips

  52. Carolyn Self April 6, 2016 at 7:53 am #

    how handicap accessible is the park?

  53. Katie Bodell April 6, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    Hi Carolyn, The park is VERY handicap accessible. In fact, I just returned from a trip there in a wheelchair myself. Rentals are available onsite, and almost every ride and attraction can be accommodated.

  54. paul v April 6, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    awesome thanks

  55. vgibbs14 April 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

    Can’t wait to take my family to the West Coast Disney–we are frequent visitors at WDW!

  56. angela burns April 6, 2016 at 11:03 pm #

    Thank you

  57. Pamela Garcia April 7, 2016 at 12:19 am #

    Unfortunately we have never been. We did have a trip planned in 2011, everything was paid for and we were set to take off in March. Unfortunately only 2 weeks before we were supposed to leave my father passed unexpectedly which caused us to cancel the trip all together. It would have been my sons first legit vacation, mine and my husbands very late honeymoon and a chance for us to be together as a family.

  58. Karmapenny April 7, 2016 at 12:52 am #

    Great tips… Hope I can use them one day soon!

  59. Erica7241 April 7, 2016 at 5:53 am #

    My son would love to go!

  60. Amber Crane April 7, 2016 at 6:53 am #

    We would love to take our kids to Disney some time in the next few years, our girls would love it!

  61. Jennifer Greathouse Garrett April 7, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    Great tips! These will be invaluable when I win the free vacation 🙂

  62. Stephanie D April 7, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    We went to Disney World in FL last year and I would love to visit Disneyland! Great tips.

  63. Katie Bodell April 7, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    Best of luck, Stephanie D! Love your positive thinking 🙂

  64. Katie Bodell April 7, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    So very sorry, Pamela G. Hope your family gets a well-deserved vacation soon.

  65. Kristen Walsh April 7, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

    Fabulous tips!!!!

  66. Carolyn April 7, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    Would love to take my grandkids to disney…

  67. Debbie S. April 7, 2016 at 10:58 pm #

    Absolutely would love to take my grandchildren to disney World. My dream!

  68. Ronnie Mogensen April 8, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    Can’t wait to be able to take my kids!

  69. Dian A April 8, 2016 at 8:30 am #

    Great tips, thank You

  70. Sherrie saliola April 8, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    I have never been to California Disney, so I can not offer any tips. Sorry!

  71. Sara McBride April 8, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Great Article …. I Love Disney !!

  72. Jason April 8, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    great tips!

  73. Michelle Hamilton April 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

    Another tip is to have several meeting places and times planned throughout the day in case anyone gets separated from the group.

  74. Andrea D April 8, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    Great tips! I like the suggestion of the best time of year to go – that will help us plan better!

  75. Jessica Bagwell April 9, 2016 at 5:29 am #

    Never been to Disney, but thanks for the tips! Maybe we will be able to go one day and put them to use! 🙂

  76. Joanne Donaldson Frank April 9, 2016 at 5:59 am #

    My Grandson would be sooo excited if we won . OH MY GOSH and so would i . Thanks for all the great tips fingers crossed

  77. ILona B (@ILonaB1980) April 9, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    This tips are great! I am dying to check out the CA Disneyland!

  78. Amy Deeter April 9, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    Great tips. thanks for the share

  79. Derrick Cordova April 9, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    World of Color is awesome! Make sure to go see that.

  80. Alicia Lefebvre April 9, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    Great tips for CAlifornia Adventure!!

  81. GAIL WHITWORTH April 9, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    try to plan for trip outside of school holidays

  82. rebecca Thomas April 10, 2016 at 7:52 am #

    We live on the east coast, I would love to take the kids to the west coast disneyland!! it looks spectacular!

  83. LeeAnn Prescott April 10, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    We haven’t been yet so these are all good tips that I’ll remember!

  84. Amy Bloodworth April 10, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    I love the tips! It sounds like a wonderful family adventure!

  85. Margaret I. April 10, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    So helpful!

  86. Shirley Baggaley April 10, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    These are great tips. Thanks! I will definitely use these if we ever make it to Disney!!

  87. Brandy sanchez April 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Be a dream come true! Yay

  88. Charell Anderson April 10, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Watch your kids!!!

  89. Tiffany Pierce April 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    I have always wanted to go. Thanks for the tips!

  90. sarah occ April 10, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    I would love to go.

  91. faith April 10, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    Would love to visit here. Haven’t been there for a real long time. Family loves Disney!

  92. Athena April 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    Great tips!

  93. Ashley April 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    I really hope to take my kids someday!

  94. april April 10, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    I have never been to Disney but it’s a dream to be able to take my kids one day!!

  95. audrianna goodell April 10, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    such great tips! thank you so much 🙂

  96. Nicole S. April 10, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    I would love to visit Disney Land! We have been to Disney World in Orlando a couple of times but I can’t wait to check out the California version.

  97. kristen holliday April 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    greats tips thank you so much!

  98. Angela Faucett April 10, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    Amazing!!!!

  99. sunchicka April 10, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    Great tips!I’ll be sure to use them.

  100. Meredith Appley April 10, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

    awesome

  101. Debbie Balderama April 10, 2016 at 9:13 pm #

    Thanks for the tips!

  102. opbassist April 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    Great tips! Thanks!

  103. alissa farias March 25, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

    Great tips!

  104. Maryanne March 25, 2017 at 9:57 pm #

    Trying to figure out the best time to go is always overwhelming!

  105. Sandra Caballero March 25, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

    What overwhelms me the most is the expensive places to eat at Disney. Reading a blog with tips to eat Disney for less is so helpful.

  106. Yong March 26, 2017 at 3:38 am #

    We have never been to Disney.

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