Welcome to our Fall 2019 Disneyland Trip Report! The primary purpose of trip reports is to supplement our existing content to let you know how our strategies are actually working at a given time! This post covers all things Disney California Adventure, starting with rope drop and ending with some exciting Halloween activities!
About This Trip Report
This trip report covers a four-night visit to Disneyland. The full introduction is available in Part 1. We don’t know exactly how we’ll be breaking up this trip for the purposes of this report, but posts will go up here as we publish them (links open in new tabs):
Disneyland Fall 2019 Trip Report Part 2 — Disney California Adventure (you are here)
What’s New at Disney California Adventure
The way this trip worked out, our two weekend days were both split between the two parks. Saturday we did rope drop at Disney California Adventure before going to Disneyland. Sunday we did rope drop at Disneyland before going to Disney California Adventure. For simplicity, I’m going to just cover each of the parks in its own post, starting with Disney California Adventure.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new at Disney California Adventure. Some of these items will be covered in more detail in the rest of the post.
Halloween at DCA. Halloween has come to Disney California Adventure. More specifics are in the next few items, but throughout the park you’ll find Halloween snacks and merchandise, along with decorations (some areas more heavily decorated than others). Here’s a look at the times guide and Halloween goodies guide for the park (tap to expand):
Oogie Boogie Bash. Mickey’s Halloween Party has been replaced with Oogie Boogie Bash, now held at Disney California Adventure. We’ll have a full post covering this event, occurring on select nights in September and October.
Coco Plaza de la Familia. Paradise Gardens Park has been transformed into a Coco-themed Plaza de la Familia, celebrating Coco and Dia de los Muertos. We’ll share some photos of this below, too.
Haul-O-Ween at Cars Land. Cars Land gets the most thorough Halloween treatment. The impressive overlay transforms the land into the Halloween spirit. We’ll have plenty of pictures below!
Monsters After Dark. After 3PM (confirm the time with a Cast Member at the park, though) through October 30 and all day October 31, Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: BREAKOUT! becomes Guardians of the Galaxy—Monsters After Dark. This is a new storyline for the ride and definitely worth a visit.
Last thing before we get to how our days actually went. If you’re planning a visit to Disney California Adventure, we have better resources than this post. Here are some posts you might want to read:
I’ll refer to these posts (sometimes without linking them again) throughout this post.
Rope Drop at Disney California Adventure
We chose to start at Disney California Adventure this morning because Disneyland had Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning, which we didn’t have access to.
We left the Four Points by Sheraton Anaheim at about 7:12AM, getting to the park gates at 7:28AM to minimal crowds.
We were let in at 7:30AM. We grabbed an 8:35AM FASTPASS via MaxPass for Radiator Springs Racers. We were with a friend (@thesnacksoflife) who didn’t have MaxPass, but the process of adding it to her ticket was really simple.
I linked the ticket to my account by scanning the barcode in the Disneyland app. When I went to add a FASTPASS for all of us, the app prompted me to buy her MaxPass for $15. I paid via credit card, and was able to use MaxPass for her the rest of the day (Emily and I already have MaxPass as part of our Disneyland Premier Passport annual passes).
There was some shifting around, but at 7:35AM we’re in row two of the crowd. Heading to Pixar Pier, we would have been comfortable much farther back, but it’s still always nice to be up front in the morning.
At 7:56AM we were let into the rest of the park, and we powered through our first set of rides (times are when we boarded):
8:11AM Toy Story Midway Mania
8:22AM Silly Symphony Swings
8:26AM Jumpin’ Jellyfish
8:30AM Golden Zephyr
8:37AM The Little Mermaid
8:51AM Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
9:12AM Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
9:24AM Radiator Springs Racers (with FASTPASS)
I also grabbed a 9:30AM FASTPASS for Guardians of the Galaxy—Mission: BREAKOUT! At 8:47AM.
The only mistake in this morning was that I knew to go to Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters before Mater’s, but I failed to do so. Luigi’s wait will pop from 5 minutes to 20 minutes right around 9AM as the crowds going to and from Radiator Springs Racers heat up.
We delayed the Pixar Pal-A-Round in favor of getting a few more quick rides in the area done. This was probably a good decision, as even at 9:30AM Pal-A-Round was only at a five-minute wait.
We opted to use our Guardians FASTPASS before breakfast, which we had at our traditional spot of Flo’s V8 Cafe.
There’s little else to say about that rope drop. Our strategy—MaxPass Radiator Springs Racers and plow through the Pixar Pier attractions—remains intact and probably will be a good strategy at least until the Spider-Man attraction opens in 2020.
Our one day Disney California Adventure itinerary basically continues this strategy and shows how you might spend the rest of the day. As for us, with rope drop behind us we were less deliberate in our time in the parks this trip, but here’s what we experienced…
Brunch at Lamplight Lounge
Sunday morning we had brunch at Lamplight Lounge and Oh Em Gee was it delicious. We’re already excited for a return trip. For starters, the decor of the lounge is great, with some great Pixar detailing throughout. (Use the arrows on the sides to navigate the below gallery.)
You can view the Lamplight brunch menu here. For drinks, we had the Cinnamon Toast Cocktail and the Morning Glory. For food, we had the Lamplight Chilaquiles and Potato Flautas.
We were both incredibly happy with our choices. I do think the spicy sauce did most of the work carrying the flautas, but I love sauce and can’t complain about that. We will definitely be back at Lamplight for brunch in the future.
Disney California Adventure has gotten some good halloween decorations. While the bulk of the Halloween festivities occur during the ticketed Oogie Boogie Bash, there is plenty to be seen, particularly at night, outside that party. Here are some photos (Cars Land and Plaza de la Familia are covered next):
We want to specifically note the Guardians of the Galaxy—Monsters After Dark overlay. This overlay is advertised at beginning at either 3PM or 5PM nightly, meaning you don’t need a party ticket to experience it.
We found this to be an incredibly well-done overlay. Minor spoiler: the storyline is a continuation of the Mission: BREAKOUT! storyline. Because of the breakout, monsters are on the loose in the tower.
This is definitely a must-do. You can try and get a FASTPASS for after 3PM (or 5PM, you’ll want to ask a Cast Member at the attraction), but timing that could be difficult. It’s probably worth a 60 minute wait, honestly.
Cars Land is transformed into a “Haul-O-Ween” celebration. The two smaller rides—Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree—have minor thematic overlays. Radiator Springs Racers has different lighting after dark. But the rest of the land is decorated to the nines.
I’ve consistently been disappointed with the limited holiday decorations at Disney parks, and I think Cars Land does an amazing job of showing what is possible.
Coco Plaza de la Familia
Paradise Gardens Park hosts the Coco Plaza de la Familia. The area is heavily decorated and features entertainment throughout the day, along with a character greeting with a Miguel puppet and puppeteer.
There’s also a craft station, which was being used for decorating paper masks when we visited. The highlight to us was the “Árbol de la Vida.” As Disney describes it:
Árbol de la Vida, or Tree of Life—an iconic photo location where Guests can write down poignant remembrances of loved ones to display on the nearby wall of memories.
Here are some photos from the area (click the arrows to navigate):
Odds and Ends…
The remainder of this post is just a quick rundown of smaller notes from our visit. The wait to meet Captain America (they got in line right when he started at 10:30AM) was 21 minutes.
We newly discovered that Lucky Fortune Cookery has Vietnamese iced coffee and a vegan banh mi. There’s an ongoing overhaul of Disney vegan menus on both coasts, and our biggest worry is that some of the good items will get cut.
We visited the Animation Academy twice. We got the chance to draw Halloween Minnie. That mine turned out terrifying was…uh…intentional:
We actually stopped by on Monday afternoon, too, and saw that they were full for the 5PM show and a Cast Member relayed they had been full most of the day.
Typically you can just walk into Animation Academy, but on busier days and especially on rare characters (like halloween-specific characters) you’ll want to arrive at least 15 minutes early.
The Mickey’s PhilharMagic entrance has been reworked a bit to now be obviously next to Award Wieners.
Buddy Pass continues to be under utilized at the Monsters Inc. ride. The wait was posted 20 minutes and Emily and I were the only people in the buddy pass line, which operates like a single rider option but for groups of up to two adults and a small child. Just ask the CM at the entrance about Buddy Pass.
Monday was really crowded at the parks, and I complained (on twitter) that the seating at Award Wieners was mostly occupied by people without food. At Disneyland Paris, they actually restrict access to the seating to people with food during peak hours.
Generally I’m not a fan of restricting guess movement throughout a theme park—I like the idea that a quick service restaurant can be explored without ordering food as some of them have very cool designs.
But between, say, 11AM and 3PM, I’m all for prioritizing people who have food in hand and are looking for a table. If you tell the Cast Member at Disneyland Paris “but someone is ordering for us…” then they’ll just say “okay so come back when you have food and there will be a table.” And you know what—there is!
That’s all for Disney California Adventure…in part three we’ll Head over to Disneyland!
All Your Other Disneyland Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disneyland planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
When it comes to hotels, we’ve got reviews of all three Disney hotels: Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. As for tickets, check out where to find discount Disneyland tickets.
Know what to ride with our: Disneyland Rides Guide and Disney California Adventure Rides Guide. And just as important, know how to get on the best rides without the wait with our Disneyland and Disney California Adventure FASTPASS and MaxPass Strategy! For the complete guides to a day at the park, we have a One Day Disneyland Itinerary and a One Day Disney California Adventure Itinerary.
We always recommend arriving at the parks early. If you can get access to Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure or Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning at Disneyland, you’ll have the most time in the parks. Even without those bonus hours, you’ll need to know Rope Drop Strategy at Disneyland and Rope Drop Strategy at Disney California Adventure.
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.