Sure, Disneyland is a great place for families. As a parent, I’ve loved taking my kids there over the years, and I love seeing the excitement and magic on their faces. But now that my kids are older and my husband and I have been able to explore destinations like this without the kids, I have to tell you: it’s an entirely different (and wonderful) experience.
My sweet husband bought annual passes (just for the two of us) for my birthday a couple of years ago. He did it because he knew that if we had passes, we would make the time to go. Those passes are expensive, so if you have them you will find the time! Before that, we were always too busy with “life” to make time for each other. And, even if we did have a free afternoon, we could never seem to decide what to do or where to go. Once we got the Disneyland passes, we always had a place to go and were always trying to find an afternoon or weekend to run away to the park. After many, many visits to the park, here are my top five recommendations on how to do Disneyland without the kids.
1. Get your tickets/passes in advance, dress properly, and go early. Don’t waste your precious time waiting in lines at the parking lot, tram, ticket booth, bag check, and entry gate before you even get in the park. Wear a zipped hoodie over a t-shirt so you have layers for the weather, and wear cargo pants so that you can keep your phone, keys, wallet, granola bars, and a small (refillable) water bottle in your pockets. Don’t take anything else or you’ll regret having to carry it all over the park. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes, obviously. When you go to Disneyland without kids and all their gear, you’ll love having the freedom to get around the park quickly, cut through shops to get around crowds, hop on and off rides easily, and basically not having to keep track of things.
2. Use the Fastpass System. If you want to do a lot of rides, you can definitely do more rides without kids. But, to avoid frustration, agree ahead of time on a few must-do rides, and then just go with the flow for everything else. Many of the most-popular rides offer a “Fastpass,” which is basically a time-stamped ticket to return to the front of the line later on. But you can only have one at a time. So, the way to do it is make a quick beeline straight to the fastpass kiosk for one of your must-do rides as soon as you get into the park. Your pass will be valid for a window later on in the day, so once you have your pass, you can ride other rides (with shorter lines) and explore the rest of the park. After you return to your Fastpass ride, you can get another Fastpass for the next ride on your list.
3. Be spontaneous. The best part about going without kids is you can just wander around and do whatever looks like fun, without having to cajole anyone. If you walk past a ride and notice the line is short, jump in! Wander through gift shops and art galleries, hop on the horse-drawn carriage on Main Street, stroll hand-in hand along walkways and see where they go, paddle a canoe or explore Tom Sawyer’s Island, watch a show or parade, ride the train a second lap around the park, or just do whatever. Just be sure to admire the scenery along the way.
4. Put away the cell phones and focus on each other. We’ve had some of our best conversations while waiting in lines at Disneyland. On one memorable trip, we looked up the lyrics to the Yo-Ho song while waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean, and laughed through our attempt to memorize the verses so that we could sing along with gusto during the ride. We still sing along every time we go.
5. Splurge. Even if you’re budget-conscious, it’s easier to splurge when it’s just the two of you than when you’ve got the whole family in tow. What to splurge on? A nice meal, a fun souvenir, and (if you can manage it) a hotel stay on-property at the Disneyland Hotel or the Grand Californian Hotel. Dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant is definitely splurge-worthy, but reservations are strongly recommended (ask for a water-side table to enjoy the ambiance), and an overnight stay at the Grand Californian is an experience in itself.
Disclosure: I’m a travel agent, and many of these links go to my Disney-hosted travel website. My opinions and photos are my own.