Welcome to the Summer Edition of the Disney Friends Blog Hop! Thanks for stopping by!
Summer at a Disney park is really special! There’s just something about the longer, warmer days. In Canada, our school year ends at the VERY end of June, and doesn’t start up again until the September long weekend. Some of my best memories of summers as a kid were hopping into our family van and heading south straight down the I-5, 2400 km, from Vancouver, BC to Anaheim, CA.
Beat the Heat
I know of a lot of people who avoid the parks in the summer due to the high temperatures. However, don’t let that hold you back! The bonus with the summer is warm evenings. It’s so nice not having to pack a sweater. There are definite ways to stay cool throughout the day. Here are some quick tips:
- Pack a spray bottle and/or personal fan. You can buy these in the park, but if you’re looking to save your souvenir money for something else, then just pack one from home.
- Watch the FastPass return times for Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run during the heat of the day. Anytime from 10 am – 5 pm is a good time to get wet. I find if I get wet after that time, I don’t dry off, and chafing is a real problem for me. (If you’re confused about passes, hop over to our blog about passes here.)
- Head inside to find AC during the heat of the day (2 pm – 5 pm). In DCA, shows like Frozen have AC, as well as the Disney Junior Dance Party (if you have littles). The Disney Animation Building is also an option. On the Disneyland side, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is the only show in air conditioning (and we highly recommend getting a Dole Whip before the show), but Pirates of the Caribbean and “it’s a small world” are both long and cool.
- I like to go back to the hotel for a swim in the afternoon.
Disneyland has really upped their game when it comes to seasonal offerings. The summer season offers longer days, more shows (playing more times per day and more often than the off-season). You can also enjoy the fact that almost every ride will be open, as they do most refurbishments in the off season. For instance, when I was there this last week, the ONLY attraction that was closed (in both parks!) was the Red Car Trolley in DCA.
Disneyland only posts their refurbishment schedule 6 weeks in advance. This is something to keep in mind for the off season. Every time we have been in the off season we have encountered closures on at least one or two of the major rides. Because they don’t tell you long in advance, you can’t really plan around it. This is not a guarantee however, we were there in July 2018 and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was closed. That is one of my sons faves, so it was very disappointing.
This past month was my first visit back to Disneyland since Spring 2017, so I was really looking forward to a few things: Fantasmic! and seasonal eats being at the TOP of the list! The other thing that took me by surprise this time was how amazing Sleeping Beauty Castle looks now that they have completed the refurbishment!
Fantasmic! changed about 2 years ago, and added an extra projection screen, more Mickey, an updated soundtrack, and a fresh Pirates sequence. Nothing gives me the Disney feels quite like the end of Fantasmic! And while WDW has the amazing arena seating, our show is just superior… period. AND in the summertime, they offer TWO times to view it… 9 pm and 10:30 pm! If you want less crowds, 10:30 pm is for sure the way to go. We did 9 pm because we had our kids with us, and we managed it with having the 9 year old and 6 year old on our backs.
So I’m pretty short, and even though they have improved crowd management by giving people the option of grabbing a FastPass that allows you to enter different zones, I don’t think that I’ve ever been able to actually see 100% of the show. I always get caught behind someone putting their kid on their shoulders. But on the other hand, I’m not one to wait hours for it. We like to pop in about 15 minutes before the show starts. If you don’t get a FastPass though, the zones are pretty bad. One major place is the bridge from Adventureland to New Orleans Square (over the entrance to Pirates), and visibility is severely limited by trees and the curve. Highly recommend getting the FastPass.
They have a new Fireworks show as well, called “Disneyland Forever”. We truthfully weren’t planning on watching it, but as we were walking from Fantasmic! to Space Mountain (through the newly reopened path behind Big Thunder), we had to stop by the Mad Tea Party and watch because it was just magical! We were surrounded by fireworks, in front and behind us, and got to see both Tinkerbell AND Nemo fly directly above us!
Another thing specific to just this summer is the “Get Your Ears On Celebration” in Tomorrowland from 7 pm to 11 pm every night. You get to dance with your favourite Disney characters (when we were there it was Goofy, the mice from Cinderella, and Max from “A Goofy Movie,” which was awesome). Plus, it was both shocking and AWESOME to hear Spice Girls in a Disney park!
One thing that’s less than desirable about going to Disneyland in the summer is the crowds. You can expect long lines and huge crowds. There are always day camps and large groups, on top of people traveling for summer vacation and locals coming to the parks. Because let’s face it, wouldn’t you be there as often as possible if you had an annual pass? I would. When I was there in the summer of 2018 we had to get the MaxPass just to get on a decent amount of rides. (You can read more about the MaxPass here.) The perks are long hours and minimal closures.
If you still want to go in the summer but want to avoid all the above, the last week in August is usually much less busy. Not a guarantee, but in our experience it has been lower crowds.
This is where this year was (and is) an anomaly… with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening up, it just wasn’t busy! We went on a Sunday in July a couple of weeks ago, and we managed 31 attractions PLUS Fantasmic! with no MaxPass! This summer has been great, and if you are thinking about a last minute trip, I say DO IT! (FYI, I can help you book… just fill out this quote form. My services are totally and completely free, and there are no hidden fees! Click here for your quote.)
Summer Seasonal Food Offerings
The thing I talked about, researched, and dreamed about the most was the seasonal offerings at the park. I knew going in that I was going to spend more money on snacks than I usually do. Typically we will splurge on maybe one treat to share as a family, like a Dole Whip. This time, I knew that wasn’t going to be enough!
A game changer for me are the sections in the Disneyland app that let you see things like allergy/dietary needs, and there’s also a section for “seasonal offerings”. I enjoyed a latte on the drive down to California, and looked up each of the different restaurants for these items, because when you are physically IN the park it can be really overwhelming… and also, things DO sell out!
Step One: go into the app, and check “mobile food order”.
Step Two: click on “order food” and select when you want to arrive for pick-up… you can even order way ahead! Then, click on the place you want to order from, and there will be “seasonal offerings”! Voila!
In New Orleans Square, there is a restaurant called “French Market”, and right beside it is the “Mint Julep Bar”. They sell beignets and mint juleps. Thanks to Instagram, I had seen that they were offering butterscotch beignets and watermelon mint juleps. Honestly, if you don’t know that some things are there before you go, it would be really hard to know! A small part of the sign says “ask about our seasonal beignets”. NOTHING about the watermelon mint julep. The watermelon mint julep was everything I wanted it to be and more! It was the regular mint julep, plus a giant piece of watermelon and some Tajin. I just loved it so much. It was my favourite thing I tried that day!
The night before, in Downtown Disney, I had my fix of regular beignets, so I was REALLY looking forward to the butterscotch version in the park. Caramel is my favourite sweet flavour. Sadly, they changed the seasonal offering just that same week (in fact, I think it was the first day of the new offering, since we went on a Sunday). So the seasonal beignet was SOUR CHERRY. It was really great! It was a regular beignet shaken in sour cherry and icing sugar (I suspect that it was just, like, a jello package) and it did the trick for me!
Earlier in the day I got the S’mores Churro at the cart by the Haunted Mansion. It’s a regular churro with marshmallow and chocolate dipping sauce. Regular churros are $4.75; this was $6.50. I thought it was very good! I definitely liked it. Truthfully, I didn’t even know that I liked churros ’til I tried a Disney one in 2017… they really are delish! Definitely nothing like the $1 ones from Costco. They are also quite large, so they can be shared. They always have fun seasonal flavours, so no matter when you go you can find something new. Worth every penny. Plus, the dipping sauces are half of what make the fun seasonal offerings, so if they have a pairing we definitely recommend getting it.
If you like Dole Whip you have to try the Dole Whip Donut at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe on Main Street. It’s a yeast donut filled with pineapple compote. It’s then iced with a pineapple icing and a meringue whip on top. It was my favourite bite in the park… so good. I love pineapple, but truthfully I found it a bit sweet (something to be noted is that Erica really isn’t a sweets or dessert person at all). My husband LOVED it. It was also the last one for the whole day, and it was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. So our pro tip is if you have your heart set on a treat, make sure to pick it up early enough to not miss out, especially if you’re only there for a day!
Then there was the Raspberry Macaron. It was REALLY REALLY good. It had raspberries inside and was very large! Really nice treat.
We didn’t get Dole Whip in the park this time; we actually went to the Disneyland Hotel and had dinner there and then Dole Whip for dessert. I really recommend this… there is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, as well as the Tangaroa Terrace. You can even mobile order your meal! We got lovely nachos that were really tasty (although, can it be nachos if there is no cheese?). Disneyland, being so close to Mexico, also has these Tajin packages… I REALLY liked it with my Dole Whip! Added a nice twist on the classic. I should’ve shared my Dole Whip as it was just too much for me… but it’s still a must do on every trip!
The LAST seasonal treat we enjoyed (are you full from reading about all these treats yet?) was the “Carnival Cake” Funnel Cake. Even though this looked really interesting to me, I didn’t actually intend to try it! But when I was at the Stage Door Cafe ordering dinner for our girls, they had an extra cake and offered it to me! (#blessed) It surprised me how good it was! I was worried it would be sickly sweet, but it was just really yummy. It’s VERY big though, and we were able to share it between the 9 of us after dinner easily! You can find this epic Funnel Cake at the Stage Door Cafe in Frontierland for $7.99.
Disney’s California Adventure
I find DCA to be hotter than Disneyland. There are a lot more rides that have you wait outside and rely on misters and umbrellas to keep you cool. A good chunk of rides are outside, so you don’t necessarily have that relief of going into air conditioning. But as we mentioned above, there are some shows that you can head indoors for, so rather than giving up for the day, head inside and see how you feel after a half hour in the AC.
Summer Attractions and Entertainment Offerings
- This summer, Soarin’ Over California made a return! I’m a little sad that I won’t have the chance to ride Soarin’ Over the World again since I only got to try it a couple times, but I really do love the California version.
- In front of Mickey’s Fun Wheel, across from The Little Mermaid ride, you can find “Tale of the Lion King”. This is a re-telling of the story with a cast of 18 performers. It looks to be quite spectacular.
- In Hollywood Land you will find “Mickey’s PhilharMagic”, a 3D short that gives you the chance to sit down and relax in air conditioning.
- While the “World of Color” fountain show isn’t really a “summer” offering, it has recently returned after a long restoration. You can grab a FastPass for the show near Grizzly River Run. You’ll want to do it sooner in the day rather than later.
Seasonal Food Options
- Award Wieners in Hollywood Land has some seasonal offerings like the Cheesy “Corn” Dog (Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage, Chile-Lime Corn Fritters, Fresno Chilis) and the Lava Dog (Teriyaki Sauce, Pulled Pork, Pineapple Salsa), for just under $10.
- Cozy Cone Motel in Motel Cone 1 has Sally’s Summer Churro for $5.49; (rolled in Graham Cracker Sugar, topped with Strawberry Sauce and Cream Cheese Icing).
- In Motel Cone 3 you will find Red’s Hot Chicken Cone for $9.49; (spicy Buffalo Chicken, creamy Ranch Dressing, Carrots and Celery, topped with Crumbled Blue Cheese).
- In Motel Cone 5 you can grab “Cozy Corn” for $6.49; (Buttered Corn on the Cob, brushed with spicy Lime Mayo, rolled in choice of Cotija, Cheese Puffs or spicy Cheese Puffs). Or if you want to just make it at home, check out Heidi’s DIY here.
We really love Summer at Disneyland, as you can tell!
What’s your favourite season at Disney?
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Disney Friends Blog hop!
Have a magical day!
Erica, Heidi, Elisia and Danielle