World of Color Disneyland California AdventureWe’re hardly Disney fanatics around my place, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a princess loving
daughter who still gets giddy at the sight of Ariel and Tiana. And so, I was pretty excited when we were invited on a press trip to check out Disneyland, California Adventure, and especially their new World of Color water and light show.

If you’re planning your own visit, learn from my experiences! Here’s a simple Cool Mom Picks guide to help make your visit a cooler and more enjoyable one.

Avoid the lines (yes, it’s possible!)

There are a few ways to avoid the huge lines at Disneyland and California Adventure, a couple of which many of you might not know about.

Of course, there’s the super smart FastPass system, which let’s you hold
a place in line for one ride at a time, then return without having to
wait. It’s not available for everything – mostly for the more popular

Disneyland offers a special “Magic Mornings” promotion for families staying at the Disneyland hotels, which means you can get into the park an extra hour early on certain days. My daughter and I hit literally ten rides within a 45 minute period and did not have to wait at all. Score!

Disney's World of Color California AdventurePrioritize

Especially if you have little kids, you might not get to do everything in a day. Nor will you want to! So make a b-line to the FastPass machine early on in your day for the rides and events that are important to you.

I strongly suggest you make the new World of Color event at California Adventure a priority; this water and light spectacular is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and you won’t want to miss it. by using the FastPass, you can help ensure good seats.

Use your iPhone

If you’re an iPhone user, a Disneyland app, like the very popular and free MouseWait, is essential. It offers you wait times, as well as updates on parade times and character locations. I will flat out tell you to save your legs and don’t go to the park without being armed with one of the many apps on your phone.

If you’re a Verizon user without an iPhone, there’s even one just for you as well. How did we ever survive without these things?

Discover the Magic tour Disneyland ParkIt’s not all about the rides

The Discover the Magic tour was probably the best part of our entire trip. Our animated and engaging guide took us on a treasure hunting adventure through the park. We enjoyed four different rides (again, no waits!) and ended with a personal, private meeting with Mickey Mouse himself. Definitely worth it.

And don’t forget that sometimes, kids can be occupied by the smallest
things. Just sitting around on a bench or checking out the cool
decorations and artfully trimmed topiaries can be hugely entertaining,
and a nice little break from the high energy of the park.

Get out of the park

When you think Disney, you tend to think theme park. But don’t forget to take advantage of the fantastic hotel amenities far, far from any rides. Get a massage, lounge by the pools, or use the affordable hotel daycare and get a night out on your own. It is a vacation, after all!

Let the characters come to you

You can’t do Disney without meeting the characters. Here are some really simple ways to make sure they meet them during your stay without having to deal with the long lines.

You’ve probably heard of the famous character breakfasts at Disney and now having done it, I’ll say it’s definitely worth the cost. Not just due to the excellent (and surprisingly healthy) food spread, but because your kiddo will have one-on-one time with Winnie the Pooh or Mickey or their favorite tiara-wearers.

Disneyland Princess Fantasy FaireIf you’ve got a princess-obsessed daughter like me, then you’ll want to head straight for the Princess Fantasy Faire in Disneyland and snag a place in line early. You’ll get the opportunity to meet, greet, and take pictures with three princesses, albeit briefly, but without having to deal with a mad rush of other children.

You can also reserve a lunch or dinner slot at Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but like the character meals, your kids will get to meet Ariel and her princess friends.

Major bonus: You’ll get an automatic seat to World of Color, so you can enjoy the new show right from the comfort of your table, no passes required.

Go with a good attitude

It goes without saying that Disney isn’t for everyone. If you’re not the theme park type, then you’re not the theme park type; but it’s amazing how many parents seem to go to Disney “for the kids” and complain about it the whole time. It’s a theme park, not a Caribbean island. So yes there are ride lines and fast food and throngs of sweaty kids and expensive bottles of water. But there’s also magic there, and a trip your kids will remember forever.

Besides, it’s amazing how arming yourself with few simple tips to enjoying the park better can make you say “Yes, we’re going to Disney!” with an exclamation point and a smile. -Kristen

Visit the Disneyland website for more information about the park and their new World of Color show. And don’t miss the amazing deal at The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa – 5 nights for the price of 3 including park hopper passes (a 40% savings!) when you book by 9/1/10 for travel through 9/26/10.

[Flickr photos via Glennia]