Some travel experiences work for families of every age and interest because they have universal appeal, like a Hawaiian beach vacation or a dude ranch stay. Other trips are ideal for specific family travel styles or because they meet a certain niche. The Adventures by Disney Disneyland Resort and Southern California Short Escape falls into the latter category.
For Disney fans and those who seek true VIP experiences, like exclusive access to certain attractions, private tours and top-notch, skip-the-line-level service, this three-night small group tour is the gold standard of what a trip to Disneyland — and Southern California, more broadly — can be.
Originally designed as an add-on for families departing on Disney cruises out of San Diego, this Adventures by Disney experience can still be structured that way. But it also works as a standalone trip, especially for those who only have a few days to play and want to max out a long weekend in Southern California.
Upon families’ arrival in Los Angeles or Orange County, Disney staff will greet them at the airport, arrange their transfer directly to the hotel and then treat them to a welcome dinner. Guests then have the night free to enjoy priority access to Disneyland.
The first full day centers around Disney history and nostalgia, including Disney Studios, Archives and Imagineering. Experts show families how the Disney magic is created, both for past films and future movies yet to be released. Children will enjoy seeing props and costumes from many of their favorites. Dinner is at one of Walt’s most-loved restaurants.
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The second full day gets families deep into the park, where tour guests skip the lines and enjoy behind-the-scenes access to areas normally off limits. A highlight is a tour of Walt Disney’s private apartment; rarely is the public allowed to enter this space. The day ends with a special viewing of the World of Color water show. If World of Color is not showing, a special viewing of a parade or other show is substituted.
On the final day, families are transferred to either the cruise port in San Diego or the nearest airport.
This tour is a very busy three days, as is the standard with most Adventures by Disney experiences. There is little downtime, like afternoons by the pool, and some activities are more intellectual and less hands-on. While the published suggested age guideline is 5 years and up, we feel it is better suited to children 8 and older.
Getting whisked to the front of every line with a guide is a given on this tour. Additionally, families love the special access to areas normally roped off, like amazing photo opportunities in front of the castle before the park opens to the public. Adventures by Disney guests also go behind the scenes at an attraction like the Indiana Jones Adventure, where the chance to speak with the mechanics is a highlight. Kids will enjoy the hands-on opportunities these exclusive experiences provide, such as getting to move aspects of the ride up and down. Some activities are so private no photos are allowed.
In typical Disney fashion, grand surprises are to be expected. On a recent tour, guests were shocked to learn that the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles was running just for their Adventures by Disney group. Not only did everyone get to ride on it, but they got to speak with the carousel owner and learn more about its history. This was never mentioned on any published itinerary.
Adventures by Disney’s calling card is hassle-free family travel. From the moment families arrive at the airport to the moment they’re dropped back off, every need is handled. Service levels are high: Disney guides are top-notch and will cater to the guests’ every need. A private motor coach takes families everywhere they need to be.
Families can expect a small-group travel experience, with fellow guests on the tour to number up to 25. For those who crave intimate family time, this is not ideal. But for children who love to make friends while on vacation and for parents who like to socialize, the group experience is a big part of the fun.
All guests on this tour stay at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. This is the most luxurious of the park’s properties, with a full-service luxury spa and fine dining options. It has plenty of wow factor, with its stunning craftsman-style decor and family-friendly room configurations. It even has its own entrance to the Disney California Adventure Park.
Pricing for this experience starts around $2,100 per person, meaning a family of four will easily see costs of more than $8,000 before flights. This is steep for a four-day, three-night experience, no question. It’s important to remember, though, that families will spend very little beyond this upfront cost, as accommodations, most meals, park tickets and all other entrance fees are included in the total. It’s not the type of tour where parents feel nickel-and-dimed with hidden costs and added fees.
This experience is offered throughout March, April and early May and then starts back up again in the fall, from the beginning of October through early November
For Disney fans who crave VIP treatment, Adventures by Disney’s Disneyland Resort and Southern California Short Escape is a must for the bucket list.
Editor’s Note: Kristi was hosted by Adventures by Disney for purposes of this review. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Kristi Marcelle unless otherwise noted.
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