Advice needed for a graduation trip May 2020

GoofyforDisney3

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 19, 2004
I'm looking at doing a trip, to include Disneyland, in May of 2020 for my daughter's high school graduation gift and need help / advice. Originally we had discussed going on a Disney cruise again, but after some discussion have decided to do a California trip and finally see Disneyland! (She's been to Disney World so many times we've lost count, but neither of us has gone to Disneyland.)

Here are my thoughts so far......we live in Virginia so we are flying....
  1. Fly first to San Francisco and tour the Disney Museum (I was so disappointed I didn't get to do this when I was in SF last year for a work function that I kind of want to try and incorporate it into the trip if possible). Thinking just one day here.
  2. take the Amtrak scenic train from SF to LA. She would like to go to Universal and we would want to see some typical tourist things like the walk of fame and stuff. Would 2 days be enough in LA or should we do 3?
  3. Travel to DL for the rest of the trip. Would 3 days be enough? What is the best way to go from LA to Anaheim? I was looking at the train, but wasn't sure if that was a good option.
Now the questions....
  • What is the weather like in CA that time of year? We would be going out around May 22nd for a week or more.
  • What all should we try to do in LA? Any places to avoid? Concerns with it just being myself and my daughter traveling alone?
  • Has anyone taken that scenic train ride and is it worth it to see CA without actually driving and going to all of these cities? I kind of hate the thought of driving because I can't see the scenery when I'm driving so I thought the train ride would be an inexpensive way for us to "sightsee".
  • Any hotel suggestions for LA and DL that won't break the bank? Is it worth the splurge to stay at a Disney hotel at DL? I always stay on property when going to DW, but they have some affordable prices that I don't think they have in DL.
  • Any other suggestions on what someone who has never been to Southern CA should do?
Any help on what I can do to research and learn the best stuff to see and do I would be extremely grateful! TIA!
 

luvsvacation

Mouseketeer
Joined
May 25, 2014
My daughter and I are planning the same thing for her graduation next year! Although we will probably go in July. I know nothing about the train, but last summer we visited San Francisco and drove down through Big Sur. If it was me I’d rent a car and drive down the coast. There are lots of places to get out and look around. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

I wouldn’t pay the money to stay on site. When we went to Disneyland about 5 years ago we stayed directly across the street from the entrance at Anaheim Desert inn and suites. It was so close and convenient. One day I left something in the room and it was only 5 minutes to walk from the park back to my room to grab it. We could see the fireworks from the hotel. It’s literally closer than any hotel on DisneyWorld property. There are several hotels right next to each other all directly across the street.

We’re planning to do 2 days at Disneyland, 1 at Universal, 1 in Hollywood, and 1 at the beach, not sure which beach yet. We live in the Midwest so we’re doing a split trip. Flying to Boston and seeing some of the east coast for a few days, then flying to LA. Enjoy your trip with your daughter! It’s such a fun time in their lives!
 

Charade67

Whatcha *do*-in'?
Joined
Oct 2, 2016
We took a similar trip back in June for my daughter’s high school graduation. We didn’t go to San Francisco, but flew into Los Angeles. (We are also from Virginia.) 2 days in Hollywood was plenty for me, but we did not go to Universal when we were there. The places I enjoyed most were the Warner Brothers Studio tour, the EL Capitan Theater, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We stayed at the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel which was reasonably priced and just a short walk from most everything. You will probably see a lot of homeless people in Hollywood, but they really weren’t a problem. The people to avoid are the ones who try to give you their CDs and then expect you to give them money for them.

I can’t tell you anything about the train. We rented a car and drove to Anaheim. We stayed at the Tropicana Inn which was just a very short walk from Disneyland. I agree with the previous poster, the price to stay on Disneyland property is not really worth it when there are several hotels that are a lot cheaper and just a short walk from the park entrance. A piece of advice - once you book the hotel keep checking the rates as you get closer to your vacation. My hotel ran a special and I was able to get them to give me the lower rates after I had booked our room. We spent 2 days at Disneyland/California Adventure and did almost everything we wanted to do there. I think 3 days would have been perfect, but we had other places to go to.

The last bit of our trip was in San Diego. I would like to go back because we didn’t spend enough time there.

We had beautiful weather when we went in June. I had heard about the ‘June gloom”, but we did not experience that while we were there. It was mostly sunny and high 70s/low 80s while we were there.

I hope this helps.
 
  • Fred M

    DIS Dad #860
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2019
    For the weather, San Francisco will almost always be colder than the rest of the state. In May, LA and Anaheim will be around the mid 70's-low 80's for the high while San Francisco will be in the high 50's to the mid 60's. In summer its even more pronounced--today San Francisco will be about 30 degrees colder than the temperature at my house in Sacramento.

    I love taking the train and down the coast of California is one of the better routes. The only problem with the Coast Starlight is the delays. It's normal schedule southbound usually leaves Emeryville (the east side of the Bay Bridge) around 8:20 am if it's on time and gets to Union Station in LA around 9 pm. However, it generally runs 50-120 minutes late, and will make up or lose time sporadically between stations. So just don't make plans for the same day as the train.

    If you wanted to do Universal first, it's probably better to get off the train at Burbank and then take an Uber to the hotel (15-20 min) rather than go to Union Station and backtrack (20-30 min with no traffic).

    If you wanted to just do tourist stuff in LA, two days in LA should be fine. I don't have any recommendations for places to stay in LA. I generally avoid LA proper.

    There are plenty of nice "good neighbor" hotels around the Disneyland Resort if you didn't want to stay on property. Rates at the Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier will be expensive.

    If you were going to take a car, I'd recommend flying into San Francisco, and when you leave San Francisco, stopping off in Santa Barbara and staying the night. Then go to LA the next day.
     

    nkereina

    Last chance to lose your keys.
    Joined
    Feb 11, 2009
    take the Amtrak scenic train from SF to LA. She would like to go to Universal and we would want to see some typical tourist things like the walk of fame and stuff. Would 2 days be enough in LA or should we do 3?
    We had about two days in LA - half day on our arrival day, full day Saturday, half day on our departure day. We did not visit Universal Studios, just CityWalk. Two full days can be enough depending on what else you want to do.

    Travel to DL for the rest of the trip. Would 3 days be enough? What is the best way to go from LA to Anaheim? I was looking at the train, but wasn't sure if that was a good option.
    We had 4 days at the parks, but agreed 3 days would have been enough, especially if you have park hoppers which I highly recommend. We started at DL and did LA after and just took an Uber. It was about $80. From LAX airport to DL, we used SuperShuttle which was cheaper but took twice as long because they make multiple stops along the way. But I would use either option again, definitely before I'd rent a car. Driving there appeared stressful, and was definitely not something I'd want to contend with on unfamiliar roads.

    What is the weather like in CA that time of year? We would be going out around May 22nd for a week or more.
    We were there this exact week this past May (trip report is in my signature). We experienced a cold spell and wore hoodies to the park in the mornings and evenings. There were a few times mid-day where we could take them off. It was low humidity with highs in the low 70s. It was actually perfect for touring the parks, but we didn't get any pool time in. I think this was unseasonably cool for them, so I'd expect maybe mid-high 70s or even low 80s.

    What all should we try to do in LA? Any places to avoid? Concerns with it just being myself and my daughter traveling alone?
    Depends what you're into! We did Big Bus Tours double decker hop on hop off pass and used that to get around. Our hotel was in Hollywood so we were able to see the sign, Chinese Theater, and walk of fame walking from our hotel. Big Bus Tours' Hollywood stop is also right there, so we hopped on there. From there, we went to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive which we loved - we walked around the block in the residential neighborhood there (the Flats) just to admire the houses. Such a beautiful area. After that, we took the bus to the Farmer's Market/Grove and had lunch and did some shopping. We then road the bus back to Hollywood and just took in the sights along the way. The tour guide provided narration as well.

    The next day we did the Warner Bros Studio Tour which was cool. Definitely recommend some kind of studio tour - its often said Warner Bros is the best one. We took an Uber there from our hotel, but its in the vicinity of Universal Studios. If you do Universal, I believe their studio tour may be included with park admission. We also visited West Hollywood where some of my favorite places from reality TV are (Real Housewives). West Hollywood was a cool area, and a place I would enjoy even if I didn't know the area from TV. If we ever visit again, I'd like to do a celebrity homes tour through the hills and along Mulholland Drive.

    The bus also offered stops along the coast (Santa Monica, Venice), but it takes a while to get there and back and we didn't have time for that. Not sure I'd recommend it with limited time - didn't seem to be a ton to do there from everything I had seen.

    Any hotel suggestions for LA and DL that won't break the bank? Is it worth the splurge to stay at a Disney hotel at DL? I always stay on property when going to DW, but they have some affordable prices that I don't think they have in DL.
    In LA, we stayed at the Loews Hollywood Hotel which was very nice and perfect for walking to the Hollywood sights and catching the bus. I will caution that Hollywood is a little sketchy. We didn't feel unsafe, but homeless are abound and there are street vendors trying to get you to buy their stuff. Its also very busy. Much like Times Square. We spent about 30 minutes or so there walking around, and we were over it.

    At DL, we stayed at the Tropicana Inn & Suites directly across the street from the park. Maybe a 3 minute walk to the gates. Perfect location and great price point, but the hotel is no frills. It was very clean and updated, but its your basic motel-style lodging, pool in the middle of the parking lot, nothing luxurious. We would stay again, however,
     

    minnie1012

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Nov 25, 2008
    We did California for my daughter's 16th birthday this past summer. We stood at the Disneyland Hotel and loved it but it was so expensive. We were in the parks the whole time and didn't get to really experience the hotel much so that was our mistake. We should have have either had another day or stayed somewhere else. In LA we stood at the Hilton/Universal. It was a great location for us as we wanted to do Hollywood, Warner Bros tour, Universal, Santa Monica etc. Staying in Hollywood itself seemed to be a bit sketchy. We had a car so I liked staying outside of the city part. My daughters liked going to all the fancy stores in Beverly Hills as well as the Grove. Access Hollywood films in the morning by Universal so they liked that as well. They also loved In and Out Burger and Duff's Cake Mix (decorated cupcakes) I can't comment on the May weather but August was chilly in the morning and evening. Unlike Disneyworld where it's just always hot and humid! lol
     
  • VandVsmama

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2011
    Personally, I think that 2 days for LA is plenty. 1 day at Universal and 1 day for other LA sightseeing. If you don't want to drive a car, you could book a sightseeing tour that will take you around to a bunch of popular spots. You could have dinner at the Tam O'Shanter one of those evenings...Walt Disney ate there a lot.

    Amtrak:
    Honestly, I would not recommend this as a means of transportation unless you have lots of time to kill and don't care about getting anywhere on time. Back in the day, I took Amtrak from Santa Barbara to San Jose...a trip by car that normally would have been about 4 hours. By train, it took 8 hours. The train was delayed leaving and, of course, delayed in arriving. By air, you could fly from SF or Oakland to the Burbank airport (closest to Hollywood & Universal Studios) and the plane flight would be about an hour in the air.

    How many days at DL:
    4 days. 3 days is enough to give you a taste of everything. 4 days will allow you to savor it and take your time.

    Weather in So Cal in May:
    You'll probably start to get a bit of "June gloom," which means cooler a.m. temps, overcast in morning, then burning off to sunshine in the afternoon. Not too hot, not too cold. No need to bring any umbrellas or rain gear at all.

    Hotels:
    Not worth it to stay at an on site hotel at DL. Closest place to stay off site is the Best Western Park Place Inn. We've stayed next door at the Park Vue Inn. Both include a free breakfast. Tropicana Inn & Suites gets good reviews here on the DIS, but does not include free breakfast. We've also stayed at Hojo's, but lately they are starting to get up on the pricey side of things.
     

    sasywtch

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 16, 2008
    I use to give my ideas of what I'd do but I've btdt so starting thinking of my planning of what my relatives from England wanted to see.
    Is it possible to fly into Burbank and rent a car? Universal 1 day (if they still have the VIP pass, it was great). Warner brothers studio tour was great. More of a working studio whereas universal, more theme park I don't know if NBC still has tours but years ago we also enjoyed that. check to see on websites for tickets to any filming of shows.

    Dolby theatre area. Even though you have the costume people hanging around, ignore them and walk by. They enjoyed the Chinese theatre with the foot/hand prints, Dolby theatre is where the Oscars are, upstairs is a good pic opportunity of the Hollywood sign. Jimmy Kimmel is across the street.
    Pinks hot dogs is a good spot for lunch or in and out burger. We stopped into Dash ( Kardashian store) on Melrose before heading over to Rodeo drive. We walked down rodeo drive, got a coffee and people watched for a bit. I don't know if your daughter is into Vanderpump rules but she has a restaruant there but the one on Vanderpump is in w hollywood SUR
    Those are the things the teens wanted to see.
    3 day minimum for Disneyland as others said, you don't have to stay onsight. Candy cane inn was nice to stay in as you can walk or shuttle.
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    ...
    1. Travel to DL for the rest of the trip. Would 3 days be enough? What is the best way to go from LA to Anaheim? I was looking at the train, but wasn't sure if that was a good option...

    • Any hotel suggestions for LA and DL that won't break the bank? Is it worth the splurge to stay at a Disney hotel at DL? I always stay on property when going to DW, but they have some affordable prices that I don't think they have in DL...
    Here are some threads to get you started on your DLR trip planning from the Disneyland (California) forum:
    * DLR Info/Links - Maps, Hotels, DISer Reviews, Hydroguy's tips, NEWBIE INFO here! -- from the sticky threads at the top of the first page -- TONS of great information here!
    From that sticky:
    HydroGuy Tips Compilation -- so many helpful threads here!
    A DLR Guide for WDW Vets -- absolute must reading for you!
    "HydroGuy's Hotel Rule" www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=1199862
    "Choosing the Right DLR Area Hotel for You" www.disboards.com/threads/choosing-the-right-hotel-for-you.3656512/ -- very helpful info here -- ask any questions! At DLR, it's not about on site or off site -- it's all about location, location, location! What you invest in location/hotel, you will save in sanity, peace of mind, physical wear and tear, major convenience, commute/parking time and money, etc. Staying on site is fun, but not an absolute necessity. Staying off site can save you lots of money and still be very close to the gates (sometimes closer than the on site hotels).
    "Maxpass/Fastpass: an overview and some strategy" by @Skyegirl1999 - www.disboards.com/threads/maxpass-fastpass-an-overview-and-some-strategy.3726246/ -- most WDW vets love MP once they use it -- read up on it here and ask all your questions in this thread! During a peak crowd time, MP will be a very good resource for you!
    "Airport Proximity to DLR and Ground Transportation Information" by @3TinksAndAnEeyorewww.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2318297 -- very helpful info here -- closest airports to DLR are SNA (John Wayne) and LGB (Long Beach).
    3 days would be the minimum recommendations -- up to 5 days would be better for a more relaxed trip that allows for a pool or beach day, time to see shows/do TS or character meals or dining packages/to re-ride favorites/etc.
    Come on back to the Disneyland (California) board with any questions! We're here to help. :)
     

    BadPinkTink

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 13, 2015
    Im from Ireland and I do a similar trip to what you are planning every June. I dont drive and I use public transport.

    In LA I stay along the RED Metro Underground Line. This Metro line runs through the heart of LA and has stops at the main points, Universal City for Universal Studios, Hollywood and Highland for The Walk of Fame and 7th St Downtown for Staples Center / LA Live / Grammy Museum.

    You have 3 options for areas to stay on the RED Metro Underground Line
    Universal Studios - Hilton and Sheridan Hotels
    Hollywood - Lowes at Hollywood and Highland - used by Adventures by Disney
    Downtown - various hotels, various budgets.

    When I am in LA I use the TAP card. This is a plastic cred card sized travel card which you get at the self service ticket machine in any Metro station. I usually just load it with money and use the Pay As You Go option. Tap cards can be used on all city buses and on all underground line. It is a standard fare , so on the bus or on the underground you just Tap on and the fare is deducted.

    To go from LA to Anaheim, I use the AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner Train from Union Station in Downtown LA to Anaheim ARTIC train station. The journey time is approx 50 minutes and the fare is $17 per adult. In Anaheim I use ART bus from Anaheim ARTIC train station. to my hotel offiste hotel near Disneyland.
     
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