This forum helped a great deal in planning our vacation with 2 children, ages 5 and 7, so wanted to pay it forward with our experiences. We made some wonderful memories at Disneyland!
The Howard Johnson is a great place to stay. Very comfortable beds, hardly knew anyone else was in the hotel, great housekeeping, pleasant front desk etc. Easy walking distance to the parks. I used points from my Wyndham Rewards credit card and got 3 of our nights free! :)
The Karmel Shuttle was also wonderful. We used this service on our return trip to LAX because the Disneyland Express can't get you there before 7 am. Karmel driver was super friendly (at 5 am!), ahead of schedule (make sure you are ready 15 min prior to your scheduled time,) and it was a great price.
I would not recommend the Disneyland Express. After arriving at LAX and waiting for 15 min at the airport in the center island, the bus that came through was already full of passengers. We waited another half hour, and almost didn't get on the next one for the same reason. Didn't get to sit with one another. It then was a good 2 hrs before reaching our hotel after many, many stops. Expensive as well.
Pacific Wharf Cafe: wonderful, delicious sour dough bread. Now that I'm home, I wish I would've just eaten every meal there.
Cafe Orleans: Pommes frites- yummy!
Cafe Orleans: Monte crisco sandwich - not so yummy. Way too rich (and I usually like rich!)
Mickey's Halloween Party: This will probably offend some locals, but here is my honest opinion. Wish I would've skipped this and the outrageous price tag that came along with it. Spent the evening standing in long lines to trick or treat at 4-5 stations, then moved on to the next one. If you want tons of candy that you then have to figure out how to pack in your luggage, and love standing in lines, then this is for you. Didn't feel like the parade or fireworks show were anything as fantastic as their regular counterparts.
Our families favorite ride: Splash Mtn.
If you are attending the parks for 3 or more days, I would highly recommend taking a day off in the middle of your trip. We went to the beach and it was a great respite from the crowds, noise, etc.
Aladdin in the Hyperion Theatre is a must, as well as Fantasmic!