By D’land Hubby
Here at Diva we like to talk about the attractions, the shows, the food, and the fireworks- but the one thing you would never think about needing to know is how to drive around the Disneyland Resort. At WDW, you have one major parking lot for each park, and there are buses, and the monorail system. But at Disneyland, you have so much more to think about. This might not be the most exciting article you’ve ever read on Diva, but it might help you keep your sanity on a bad day.
Staying on Property
When your staying on property your driving/parking options are pretty clear. You drive over to the hotel and park in the hotel parking lot. Some of the hotels have valet parking if you’d like to pay the extra money. All three hotels have self parking, but do require an extra fee. When its time to go to the parks (Disneyland or California Adventure) you can simply walk to the front gates or walk to the monorail station in Downtown Disney. You can expect a walk of 10-15 minutes depending on your room location, but you will not have to worry about your car.
Staying off Property
This gets a little more confusing. Some of the closer hotels are walking distance, but many are not. Some of the hotels charge for parking and others do not. Before booking, I would double check with the hotel about the parking fees as these can rack up pretty quickly for a longer stay and might not be worth the extra cost. Driving to the parks might become necessary for those hotels that are a little farther away (see information below). You can also access the ART system. These buses are designed to bring guests to Disneyland from the local hotels and return them at the end of the day. The costs of the passes are $2 for children (ages 3-9) and $5 for adults. For purchasing information click here. My wife and I have used the ART system a few times and we did have one really bad experience. During the peak traveling times (morning, dinner time, and after fireworks) the buses fill up quick. We once waited 20 minutes to get a bus only to find that the bus was already full. We waited another 20 minutes to get onto the next bus and had standing room only. This can put any happy Disney family into a bad mood. When thinking of a resort to stay at please take this into consideration.
Driving to the Disneyland Resort
The Disneyland Resort has five parking options. Three are designed for the parks and two are designed for Downtown Disney. Parking has been an issue in the past and the resort will have you park in unlikely places on those bad days. We’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of being in line when the parking structure was closed (no more space) and spent over an hour to get to another lot only a half a mile away. Parking at the resort is also a bit expensive (see here). If you combine the cost of parking at your hotel with the cost of parking at the resort, you could be looking at paying an extra $40 a day.
Mickey and Friends Parking Structure
This is the best place for you to park if you have an over-sized vehicle, such as an RV. They will have you park outside of the parking structure in the Pinocchio lot. If you’d like to have access to a bathroom (talking to those of you with young children) you should also consider parking in the Mickey and Friends structure. The one thing I really dislike about the structure is that they utilize the trams to get the guests from the structure to the esplanade just outside of the Disneyland and California Adventure gates. The resort doesn’t seem to run a lot of trams at “down” times so getting onto a tram can be a challenge and take a while. Slow times would include arriving before the park opens, after the morning rush and before the evening rush. We have had to wait for a tram for 10+ minutes and it’s agonizing since you really want to get into the park. Arriving during the morning rush or the evening rush can also produce long wait times. If you have a wheelchair or scooter in your party I would highly recommend looking for one of the white courtesy vans that can help you get to the gate. You will get into the resort a lot quicker than waiting to load onto the tram. If you attempt to load on the tram, you have to enter into one of the ramps and they have to strap you down before they can move on.
To access the Mickey and Friends lot you can exit the 5 freeway SOUTHBOUND. The carpool lane also has a special exit. If you arrive at the correct time you will be allow to use the flyover. If the flyover is closed you will have to wait for the light on Ball Road before proceeding. Remember to stay to the left if you have to wait for the light as the right will take you to the Downtown Disney parking. For those coming from the 57 Freeway, exit Ball Road and head West. The hard part about this drive is you have a long distance to travel and lots of lights.
Toy Story Parking Lot
The Toy Story lot is located south of Disneyland on Harbor Blvd. This lot is a lot easier, usually, to get into/out of. If I had my choice, I would use this lot most of the time. This lot is not the best choice if you want to walk to the resort from the parking lot (15-20 minute walk), you need access to a restroom (none here), and you have a wheelchair/scooter in your party. The wheelchairs/scooters are loaded onto the bus and have to be strapped down before moving. The buses do load slowly, but most of the time Disney has it under control. If you notice a line with 300 people in it when you arrive to park, you may want to think about going to another lot. When driving to the Toy Story lot I usually cheat a little. I drive on the 57 freeway and get off at Orangewood Ave (south side of Anaheim Stadium). Head west through a residential neighborhood. Travel just over 2 miles and you’ll reach Harbor Blvd. Turn right (north) on Harbor and then another right into the Toy Story lot. This also works really well when leaving the park, but you have to know what is going on at Anaheim Stadium. If a baseball game or another event is happening, they will shut down Orangewood Ave to accommodate the people leaving the stadium. If this happens, drive down either Katella or drive down Ball Road back to the 57 freeway.
Pumba Parking Lot
We have only had a chance to park here once. This is traditionally only used during the worst times at the resort. They do offer a bus system, but it’s the shortest walk of any of the parking lots. Simply walk towards Harbor Blvd, up the street a little bit before finding the main pedestrian entrance on the east side of the park. The downside is that this parking lot is fairly small and they do not have bathrooms. They also don’t have it opened regularly enough to try to park here, but if your driving by and they are letting people in, think about this place as an option. The parking lot is located on Disney Way. You can access this parking lot from the Disney Way exit on the 5 NORTHBOUND. You can access this from the 5 SOUTHBOUND by exiting Harbor, heading south (towards Disneyland) and turning left on Disney Way. Those who come from the 57 freeway can also access the Pumba lot by taking Ball Road, turn left on Harbor Blvd, and making a left on Disney Way.
Downtown Disney Parking
Downtown Disney has two major parking lots. The first one is located to the south of the parking structure. This is the place where most people park for Downtown Disney. This parking lot will fill up if you come during the evening, especially when they have a major concert at the House of Blues. The parking is free for the first three hours and you can receive another 2 hours free (for a total of 5) if you eat at one of the sit down restaurants in Downtown Disney and get your parking pass validated.
The second lot is located a little further south, next to the Paradise Pier Hotel. This is a bigger parking lot that can sometimes be used for park guests. This is a longer walk to Downtown Disney but you’ll be able to get to the ESPN zone (one one side of DTD) after a 5-10 minute walk.
Both of these lots are accessible by taking the directions to the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The only change is that you’ll want to be in the right two lanes as these will go towards Downtown Disney. The lot next to the Rainforest Cafe will be the first right after you cross the bridge and the second lot will be down a little further. After you pass the Paradise Pier hotel you will make a right into the parking lot.
There was a lot of information here about the parking at Disneyland, but hopefully you will find it helpful on your next trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!