How to do Disneyland without a car
By Helen Foster
Tell people you’re going on holiday to the US without a car and they react like you’re planning on nipping up Mount Everest in a cagoule and flip flops. Basically, people think it’s a really bad idea. I agree, in some US destinations I wouldn’t even attempt it, but the area of Anaheim, California around Disneyland is not one of those places. I’ve been twice now, on my own, without wheels and it’s completely doable. Follow the six tips below to do Disneyland without a car and stay on the move in Mickeyland…
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Choose your hotel carefully: You’re going to Disneyland so it goes without saying you want to be close to the park. Unless you want to live on Cinderella chocolates and buy everyone matching Elsa outfits, you also need to be close to shops and restaurants. Most Brits without a car won’t consider a one or even a two mile walk a problem – but in the US you have an added issue to factor in: pedestrian crossings (aka crosswalks). Put simply, in this area you have to cross the road on a crosswalk with a green man or you’re committing the offence of jaywalking and might get slapped with a $200 fine. But since in the USA the car rules supreme, traffic lights can take an age to change, turning a one mile walk into a 30-minute sun soaked nightmare. When you’re booking a place to stay, my advice is also check how many crosswalks are between your hotel and the places you most wish to visit before you book. I stayed at the Candy Cane Inn which is only one crosswalk from Disneyland and all the restaurants opposite on Harbour Boulevard and Downtown Disney. Plus, if you do want to venture further afield, the hotel is just an eight-minute walk (and one crosswalk) to the Gardenwalk complex of restaurants and bars.
FIND A MAN WITH A VAN
You’ve flown 5000 miles and you’re probably a bit knackered and have red wine on your shorts thanks to some in-flight turbulence. Make sure you have a simple, hassle-free plan to get from the airport to your hotel. The cheap and easy option is a shared ride service- a mini bus that collects people all going to the same area and drops you off at individual hotels. My choice is the big blue van officially known as the SuperShuttle. It picks you up right outside LAX arrivals (just follow the signs to ‘shared van services’) and drops you at your hotel door for US$17 a person. An added bonus of staying at the Candy Cane Inn is that I’ve always been dropped off first (you didn’t hear that from me though…) Shared rides, such as the BBV (big blue van) can also return you to the airport – but book early to get the time slot you want.
To explore more than a mile radious of your hotel and the Magic Kingdom, check out ART shuttles: These are aimed at specifically at tourists and so tend to go to the places most holidaymakers want to visit. You can buy tickets on the day from the vending machine at the Disneyland transportation centre. There’s loads of different routes so check the website before you leave – but useful routes to know are Route 1 which will take you to Target (America’s most massive and brilliant superstore), Route 10 goes to the new Packing District with its bars, restaurants and Sunday Farmer’s Market. The 14 and 15 go to Angel Stadium for baseball fans and Route 18 goes to the Knotts Berry Farm theme park if roller coasters are more your thing. Make sure you check all schedules for the time of the last bus back to your hotel though…
GET DROPPED OFF TO SHOP
With the pound so strong against the dollar, shopping malls want you to visit them. While the ART shuttle route 16 will take you to the Outlets on Orange (discount Banana Republic, Gap, H&M etc) and the 19 goes to Westfield Mall, if you want to go further afield check out the free shuttles put on some by of the bigger malls in the area. The South Coast Plaza shuttle picks up at 12 Points in Anaheim three times daily and takes you to the mega-mall roughly 45 minutes away for $10 round trip. I got the 9.35am pick-up and the 1.15pm shuttle back which was enough time to queue at the Apple store, have a nice leisurely lunch and buy my own body weight of goodies in Sephora. If you want to stay longer, there’s later shuttles at 5pm and 8.30pm to take you home. There are also transfers to the Citadel Outlets for $16 round trip.
BEWARE THE AFTER-HOURS APOCALYPSE
Don’t expect crowded streets: Despite the amazing top tips here… Anaheim is still very much a driving town. There will be crowds of people walking up and down Harbour Blvd while Disneyland is open, but once the park gates close, there aren’t many other folk milling around and the further South your hotel the less people you’ll see. It’s a safe area, so if you’re in a couple or a group that’s not a problem, but single travellers may want to be more cautious. I admit I did cancel a midweek movie outing when I realised quite how desolate it was out there past 10.30pm when I’d be on my way home.
MORE GOOD NEWS FOR NON-DRIVERS
The ARTIC has opened. No, it’s not the brand new attraction at Frontier Land, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center is the new transportation for hub for Orange County. It opened just after my last visit so I didn’t get a chance to try it but ART route 14-15 gets you there from the hotel. From that point you can catch trains to Union Station Los Angeles and south to San Diego – making exploring many of California’s other destinations feasible without wheels too. Yay, I need never get behind the wheel of a car again! Good luck!
Helen Foster is a former travel editor-turned health journalist (but she still has an extremely over-used passport). Follow her blog at healthehelen.wordpress.com