Flew into Orange County Airport on Nov 30th for a 5 night stay. This was my wife's first visit to DL. She has been to WDW many times but never DL. We both had a magical time!
We got a Taxi easy enough and paid $38 before the tip to take us to the Residence Inn Main Gate. No real traffic and a quick 20 minute trip. Smooth check inn once there. We were worried about the noise level as the kids at the hotel did not seem to settle down until midnight and Anaheim Fire has a station right there by the hotel and they were busy our first night.
They offered a free breakfast which was pretty good, you just needed to get there with the first 30 minutes of it starting or it got packed.
We found the ART system very easy to use and it was a very quick trip to the park once on board. Again it was way less crowded the earlier you went. If the park opened at 9 you wanted to be on board by 815-830 after that the busses would be packed. Also this seemed to be early enough to get you there in time to be close enough to the front of the line to be in the park within 5 minutes once they started to let people in. One other word of advise, if you bought your ticket on line please make sure you have the ticket printed off and not just a receipt. We saw a few VERY unhappy people turned away at the gate because they only had a Credit card receipt saying they had paid for their tickets but not printed them off.
Except for the last day we always went to the park that did not have MM and on the last day we used our one MM that was available to us to go to DL and that worked like a charm! The crowds were definitely going in way bigger numbers to the park offering the MM.
The first two days we went into DCA and last two were at DL.We did not have any problems getting FP's for Radiator SPrings Racers, but if you waited more than say 90 minutes after open or so they would run out. We heard a number of people upset about the ride going down and waiting a long, long time only to be told to leave the line as the they were not sure when it would reopen. We had great fortune getting many rides (always with FP) and the ride did not break on us! I prefer this ride at night versus the day experience. It just seems a little extra magical at night to me. Also thanks to the advice here we first went into Cars Land via Pacific Wharf entrance which was much more visually impressive we thought. It really made you feel like you were walking into the movie much more so than the main entrance and it got even more stunning at night.
Anyway we spread out our rides at DCA over 2 days so we did not have to rush and get everything in. Usually at lunch time we would go back to the hotel and take a nap then head back. This was a great plan for us and the ART made it so easy. Very few (if any) people were on the shuttle then, and of course, there would be no line for re entry when we would return. I really don't know how people with kids do these two parks in two days. One would have to go non stop and just be so tired as to be miserable by dinner. We saw many people trying just that though.
I did splurge for the WOC dinner package at Wine Country. The dinner was ok nothing special, but the seating we received was the best I thought. It was the center section immediately one level up from the lowest one and we only had about 2o people in it. They were very strict about not letting others into this area which for the late show meant there was a ton of vacant space in this section (like 95% vacant). WOC did impress quite a bit and in the end i thought worth it to pay up as I doubt we will be back for many years.
Aside from Racers Toy Story was our favorite at DCA. We ate at the Pacific wharf one day and it was ok. We did watch the lighting of the tree at DCA which was neat and also the pixar parade (i think that was the name). The Mad Tea Party was also a fun change of pace.
By the end of the 2 night we had seen and done pretty much everything we wanted to at DCA so we went to DL to catch the fireworks. That was just a great show. I am sure it is something we will think back on and fondly remember, it was just surreal.
The next two days we repeated the same basic schedule. Get to the park about 30 minutes prior to the open and got back to the hotel for a few hours for a nap and lunch. Did everything except Fantasmic which got cancel due to weather and that was only light rain. We saw Captain EO show (i was not the only first timer in there surprisingly) and it was...well, pretty cheesy and one of the least favorite things we did at DL. Everything else was great. I will say i think DL while smaller than its Orlando counterpart- DL has certain quaintness and charm about it. I loved the New Orleans area, and Haunted Mansion was really well done for the Holidays. I won't go into detail but we pretty much rode just about everything!
We did visit Napa Rose which was quite frankly a little disappointing. We sat at the chef's counter. The Executive Chef was not working for the first seating and I think that played role in it not being so great. He did come over at the end of of meal which was nice as he made an effort to speak with us before we left. Our waiter seemed rather arrogant and came off as very fake while giving average service. We had expected to be asked about our likes and dislike as we chose the route where they custom do a meal for you based on your preferences and dislikes (which was one of the reasons for sitting at the chefs counter). We were never asked about any of that ONLY if we had any allergies and that was it. Frankly if they had asked about dislikes a couple of items we received would not had been on our plate. I may do a separate review for that later, but we were disappointed especially given the price paid. We still had a great trip and the Grand Californian Hotel is really lovely. Thanks for reading!