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How to Plan a Disneyland Trip for the Disney100 Celebration

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The Walt Disney Co. is set to turn 100 years old this year, and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, is celebrating with new shows and a Mickey-themed attraction across its two theme parks: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Both parks will also be decked out with new decor.

Festivities officially begin on Jan. 27. And though it might feel like you need a fairy godmother to plan (or pay for) your visit, there are plenty of ways to maximize your time and money to see the new attractions.

Rush to the new Mickey-themed ride in the morning

Many of Disney’s popular characters have their own rides, so it’s only fitting that Mickey Mouse should finally get one of his own. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will open on Jan. 27 as a dark ride.

Len Testa, president of Disney vacation planning website Touring Plans, recommends lining up at the “rope drop,” which is when the park opens, to beat the crowds.

“The only way to avoid a long wait for Runaway Railway will be to arrive at the park early — at least an hour before the park's scheduled opening time,” Testa says. “Then you'll be at the head of the pack rushing to Runaway Railway first thing in the morning.”

The rest of the renovated Mickey’s Toontown land will reopen on March 8. If you have toddlers who would enjoy the kiddie roller coaster or new play areas, plan your Disney100 trip for the spring or later in the year.

Pick a parade viewing spot

The short-lived Magic Happens parade is returning on Feb. 24 after a hiatus due to the pandemic. This rendition of the parade features characters from newer movies, including “Frozen 2” and “Moana.”

“Look for spots at least an hour before if you want an unobstructed viewing spot in front of the crowd,” Testa says.

While he says any spot along the parade route is fine, photographers should prioritize Main Street, U.S.A. or the park’s central hub in front of the castle for better backgrounds.

Beci Mahnken, founder and CEO of travel agency MEI-Travel and Mouse Fan Travel, prioritizes crowd avoidance.

“I prefer the area near It’s a Small World or Pixie Hollow, where it’s less crowded and you may even find a bench if you arrive early enough,” she says.

Stay late for the new nighttime shows

Disneyland will debut a nighttime show called Wondrous Journeys on Jan. 27 with a new song and projections around the park. Baymax, the inflatable robot from the film “Big Hero 6,” will star in the show, taking flight through the skies around Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Not every performance of Wondrous Journeys will include fireworks, but these less dazzling shows will probably be less crowded, too. If you want to see fireworks, you’ll have to go on the weekend or a peak night during the spring or summer, according to an email with a spokesperson for Disney. 

“The best spot to view fireworks is in the central hub with a clear view of the castle and the sky above Disneyland,” says Testa.

At Disneyland’s sister park, California Adventure, the iconic water show, World of Color, is set for a refresh as well. The new show is called World of Color – One.

Buy tickets and make reservations

Maximizing your time — and money — at Disney begins long before you arrive at the park. First, you’ll have to figure out when you’re going to visit and what kind of ticket to buy. Keep the opening dates of the new attractions in mind.

Park Hopper tickets allow you to access two parks in a single day, and they’re more expensive per day than the alternate one-park-per-day ticket. If you only have one day to visit both parks, then Park Hopper is the only way to visit both. It’ll put you back at least $169 for one-day, two-park adult admission. But if you have at least two days, it’s sometimes cheaper to get a one-park-per-day ticket, which starts at $143 per day for two days of adult admission.

Ticket prices fluctuate depending on the dates you plan to go. When you buy your ticket, you’ll need to reserve the dates you plan to visit the park. It’s also a good time to think about whether you want to purchase line-skipping privileges, such as Disney’s Genie+ or Lighting Lane.

All those ticket options can be confusing to some guests, so Mahnken recommends doing your own research or working with a fee-free travel agent.

“There’s an initial learning curve, and sometimes an additional charge, but once you understand how to use the tools, it can be a big time saver,” Mahnken says. “It’s no secret that a visit to Disneyland isn’t as simple as buying a ticket and just showing up.”

(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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