Planning a vacation to California and wondering what Disney things to do outside of Disneyland? There are many ways to experience the "magic" of Disney without setting foot inside the parks! I recommend building one or more "off days" into your multi-day trip to the Disneyland Resort so you can rest, relax, and enjoy the resort without going into the parks. I've included my favorite ideas for days off that you can actually do in one day or over several days.
What's outside of Disneyland Park?
While Southern California is a playground of beaches, museums, and parks, many vacationers head to SoCal for one reason: Disneyland! Drawing youthe first Disneyland vacation? Consider adding extra days to your trip for exploration and relaxation. If you like to plan a few "off days" into your vacation, there are still great Disney-themed things to do even without a park ticket.
View of the park from the Paradise Pier hotel room
The Disneyland Resort consists of two theme parks, Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure Park. Outside of the two parks, Disneyland has a large footprint in the city of Anaheim. Surrounding the two parks are three Resort Hotels (Paradise Pier, Grand California Resort & Spa and Disneyland Hotel). There is a Downtown Disney District with shops and restaurants.
Just outside the Disneyland Resort, within walking distance, they are located"Good neighbor" hotels., restaurants and suburban homes. Here are some ideas for what you can do on a non-holiday that will still keep you in the Disney bubble.
1. Dine with a character at a Disneyland Resort Hotel
You don't have to go to the parks to enjoy a character meal! Each of the three hotels at the Disneyland Resort has its own unique character meals. You don't have to be a vacationer to enjoy it, eitherAnyoneof the dining room at the Disneyland Resort hotels. Simply call or make an advance reservation online before your visit.
The character dinner is a great way to get to a meet n' greet without spending valuable time in the park. Diners will have the opportunity to meet each of the featured characters as they come to individual tables for personal time. You will be able to take pictures, ask for autographs and have one-on-one time with your children.
Rare photo shoot with all 4 characters since we were the last ones in the restaurant!
- Disney's PCH Grill (Paradise Pier Hotel) toAnders And's breakfast by the seaoffers characters like Minnie, Donald, Daisy Duck and Stitch for breakfast daily and brunch on select days.
- Storyteller's Cafe (Disney Grand Californian)Mickey's Tales of Adventure Breakfastfeaturing Mickey, Minnie, Chip 'n Dale and Pluto for daily breakfast and brunch on select days.
- Napa Rose (Disney Grand Californian) offers the luxuriousDisney's princess adventurewith princesses like Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas and Tiana for breakfast/brunch on selected days.
- Fatmule's kitchen(Disneyland Hotel) is the only hotel location that offers breakfast and dinner.
2. Swimming at Disneyland
It's so easy to take one of those "off" days at the pool, especially if you're staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel. The pools are amazing and there is certainly enough here for a day of fun. Almost all year round in Anaheim, the weather can be suitable for swimming. Most Good Neighbor hotel pools are heated or have a hot tub.
Disneyland resort hotel guests can rent a cabana, have poolside drinks and food service, and slide down a waterslide. During the day, children can play organized games with members of the resort. Plan to relax in a hot tub or lounge on a lounger and catch some rays. Pools are perfect for holidays and we make sure to reserve a day on our trip for lots of water play!
Disney Grand Californian Hotel by the pool
When vacationing in California, planning a day at the pool is an easy and inexpensive way to spend the day. Pack snacks to eat by the pool, take a break in the middle of the day for a nap on the sunbed, and bring plenty of sunscreen!RELATED: All About Disneyland Resort Hotel Pools.
Rooftop pool at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel
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3. Turn off the extra Churros
Feeling a little sluggish after eating in the park? Get up and move. Each of the three Disneyland Resort hotels has a fitness center that is free for adult guests. Consider signing up for a guided morning Get Up & Go Power Walk through the park. This fills up quickly and must be done in person at the Grand Californian (Disneyland Resort guests welcome, ages 14+).
4. Explore the Disneyland Resorts
Allow time on a free day to explore the three different Disneyland Resort hotels. Outside of Disneyland, these hotel resorts are the best place to stay in the "Disney bubble." The restaurants and gift shops are open to everyone, so you don't have to be a vacationer to shop and enjoy. I will describe some of the highlights of each hotel.
- Disneyland Hotelit's my favorite! Each hotel tower features a different lobby theme. The fantasy check-in tower features cute Mad Tea Party teacup chairs. You can also meet a character in the lobby (Goofy is often here greeting visitors). Walk around the convention center area (near Goofy's Kitchen restaurant) to see the wall of historical photos and memorabilia. Exploring the other towers, the Frontier Tower features a scale model of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Adventure Tower lobby features Animatronic models and designs from The Jungle Cruise attraction.
Classic memorabilia on display at the Disneyland Hotel
Family dining options here include Goofy's Kitchen, the cafe and Tangaroa Terrace with quick service. There is also a comfortable outdoor seating area here next to a fireplace. Perfect for balmy nights to talk about your holiday so far under the stars.
Disneyland Hotel Tangaroa Terrace Restaurant
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is breathtaking inside and out with a towering lobby. Everyone can sit here, enjoy the art deco decor, listen to the music on the grand piano or enjoy the roaring hearth by the fireplace. Seasonally, this area is designed for max. Christmas is especially impressive with a huge tree and festive goodies for sale.Disneyland's Santa ClausHe stops here and welcomes all visitors for a chat and pictures. Family-friendly spots include GCH Craftsman Bar & Grill and Storyteller's Cafe.
Large California lobby
Disneys Paradise Pier
Paradise Pier is fun...and Goofy (there's a Goofy statue inside, perfect for selfies). Disney's PCH Grill offers a family-friendly buffet (character food for breakfast and Italian food for dinner). The Surfside Lounge offers casual dining for all three meals, including giant kitchen sinks. Other than the food, there is not much to do at Paradise Pier for non-hotel guests. A stop inside during Halloween Time features cool seasonal decor in the lobby. Cartoons are shown throughout the day within the beach-themed viewing area.
5. Disneyland Resort Hotel Guest Activities
If you are a vacationer, there are exclusive activities to participate in outside of Disneyland. Sign up at check-in if any of these sound interesting, as most fill up quickly. There are many other offers (including summer pool parties). Just contact the Visitor Service on the days and times of your visit. Here are some of the highlights:
- Art of Craft Hotel Tour (held at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa)
- The Grand Quest, a scavenger hunt for families with children ages 3-12 (held at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa)
- Trivia challenge (all three hotels have cards with the concierge)
- Watch fireworks with stirring music (at the rooftop pool area at Paradise Pier)
6. A day at the Spa
*editor's note – Mandara Spa has been renovated and renamed Tenaya Spa. The renovated spa was expected to open in spring 2020, but the opening has been delayed*The Tenaya Spa at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is a heavenly way to recharge on vacation. Enjoy a massage, facial, mani-pedi or a sweat scrub in the sauna. There are dozens of specialty treatments to choose from that will have you rested, relaxed and ready for your next day at the park.
7. Purchase of souvenirs
Shopping, dining and entertainment. you can spend a lot of time (and money) in Downtown Disney. When it comes to souvenir shopping, this outdoor mall is a great place to get your Disney fix. I highly recommend shopping outside of the Disneyland parks in an effort to maximize parking time.
- Disney's world-You can't miss this huge store with hundreds of amazing Disney memorabilia.
- boutique LEGO– bright and colourful, this store has lots of sets on display and lots of blocks to play with and build.
Many of the Good Neighbor hotels in the Anaheim area also have Disney memorabilia in their gift shops. Courtyard Anaheim has an extensive collection of fun things to take home!
Courtyard Anaheim gavebutik
8. Go bowling, Disney style!
One of my family's favorite Downtown Disney hotspots isSplitsville Anaheim. Lots of great menu items including cocktails and kid friendly food. Splitsville will provide your family with hours of fun outside of dining and bowling. Bowling balls get a Disney spin with themed bowling balls so you won't forget you're at Disneyland!
Even without bowling, there is plenty of fun and entertainment here. Come for pizza, appetizers or just dessert (their chocolates are huge). Listen to live music on Splitsville's outdoor Kingpin Stage, enjoy a cocktail or watch a live sporting event.
9. Film under the stars
On select nights, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel host an outdoor Disney movie for resort guests. Bring your own food and drink to enjoy during the show.
10. Sweet things
One of my favouritesDisneyland is overflowingtreats my kids to a fun dessert that we don't get at home! Even outside of the Disney parks, there are plenty of places to enjoy treats, including candied apples, giant lollipops, and candies.
- Black Tap Craft burgers and shakes– grab a CrazyShake from the window and share it with the family.
- It sprays– gourmet cupcakes including their popular red velvet.
- Marceline's confectionery– watch them create amazing candy apples through the window. So take home freshly made treats like fudge and peanut brittle.
- Salt & Straw– unique flavors of premium ice cream in a cup or cone.
- Jazz Kitchen Express του Ralph Brennan– fancy Disneyland minivans like the ones sold in the parks? They can be found fresh and hot at this Downtown Disney location.
11. A night out
Hit the town... DownbyDisney, that is. You can enjoy the night lights in the Downtown Disney area by enjoying a free outdoor concert. There are often musicians stationed throughout the mall playing live music. Have dinner at one of these amazing restaurants with your family.
- Jazz Kitchen by Ralph Brennan– New Orleans style dining with live entertainment nightly during your meal. Request a seat inside the piano room to see up close and participate in sing-a-longs.
- Naples Restaurant and Naples Pizzeria– large family pizzas made fresh to order.
- La Brea Bakery Cafe– a wide range of family favourites, including a quick food dish to take back to the hotel.
- Earl of Sandwich– reasonably priced sandwiches to please everyone. This is also a great place in the morning to grab a breakfast sandwich when you max outfirst two hours at Disneyland.
12. Hold en Disney date night
Did you take the babysitter with you on holiday? Having grandparents on your Disneyland trip means they can see the little ones on a day out! Having a big Disney date is pretty magical. Here are non-Disneyland date options that still offer a subtle Disney twist. Any of these options are open to non-resort guests, and most require itpre-order dining:
- Try Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel for a fancy meal or date night.
- The highlight of Disneyland Hotel dining is Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar. Enjoy a tropical cocktail indoors or sit on the lantern-lit terrace and enjoy live music.
- Enjoy sumptuous snacks and cocktails in the Hearthstone Lounge, located adjacent to the Disney Grand Californian pool.
- For those looking for a more spectacular meal, the Napa Rose at the Disney Grand Californian is extremely elegant.
- Catal inside Downtown Disney offers Mediterranean dishes for all three meals.
13. Fireworks Spectacular
If you just want to enjoy a little Disney atmosphere at the end of the night but don't have a park ticket for the day, you can take a walk down the esplanade. This is the open space between the two parks. Just before the Disneyland fireworks show starts, other travelers will gather in this area and sit down to enjoy the show.
The open walkway between the parks is perfect for watching fireworks at night.
If you're a Disneyland Resort guest, head to Paradise Pier for rooftop fireworks. Music is piped into the pool area for a stunning view of this nighttime spectacular. While you can't see all the action like you would from inside the park, it's still pretty magical and a great way to end your day before heading back to the parks.