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.

About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.
106 Responses
  1. Neal

    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!

  2. Corry L.

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

  3. Lisa Chesnut

    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

  4. Gabrielle

    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.

  5. sojeles

    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!

  6. Erika vergara

    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

  7. natasha lamoreux

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. sarah alexis

    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!

  10. Angelina M Linan

    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!

  11. 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.

  12. Pamela Garcia

    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.

  13. Amber Crane

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

  14. Michelle Hamilton

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

  15. Andrea D

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

  16. Jessica Bagwell

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

  17. rebecca Thomas

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

  18. Nicole S.

    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.

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