A few apps for your smart mobile device can be a big help at Disneyland, but it's hard to know which ones work best and even harder to evaluate them when you aren't in the parks. We've been using and testing them for several years now and want to share with you what we've learned.
You can get two kind of Disneyland apps. Some are travel guides intended for trip planning and others are for use at the park. If you're just planning and reading general information about Disneyland, it's much easier to do that using a traditional web browser. For that reason, this list does not include the Disneyland travel guide apps.
We don't like to make recommendations about things that we haven't experienced and we only have an iPhone, so that's all we've looked at.
We last evaluated Disneyland mobile apps in June, 2013.
Signal Strength IssuesBefore you think about using smart phones at Disneyland, you should know about signals and reception. Signal strength and data availability has improved inside Disneyland over the past few years and on our last visit, we only had trouble with data on our AT&T phone once. Most visitors report that Verizon also has strong signals. If you have another carrier, try googling "signal strength disneyland" and your carrier's name and you'll turn up some real user comments on the situation.
No matter who your carrier is, it's still possible that your Disneyland app or mobile browser-based product might not be available when you need it most.
Disneyland Mobile Websites
These aren't apps, but you can access them from any Internet-enabled mobile device and they can be very helpful.
Disneyland Mobile Website
Disneyland's mobile website is m.disneyland.com.
Pros: Includes show schedule, rides are sorted by name, wait time and height restrictions
Cons: Sometimes hard to use, with lots of navigating to get to the info you want.
California Travel Mobile Website
You can access our Disneyland ride guide at tinyurl.com/DLRideSheet where you'll find pictures, ratings, height restrictions and links to tips, trivia and detailed information about each ride - all on one page.
Disneyland Wait Time and Locator Apps
After using Disneyland apps since they first came out, we're down to just three and a mobile website that we regularly use:
Besides lots of Disneyland information, Mouse Wait is also a social media app, linked to Twitter and Facebook and with the self-proclaimed "largest real-time Disneyland discussion in the world."
Pros: Lots of users, which yields up-to-date wait time data. Lots of fun information that includes a Hidden Mickey Checklist, places to eat, live webcams and more. Unlike many other apps, they even have a link to support in case you have trouble.
Cons: No maps. Wait times listed alphabetically and waits for restaurants and food carts are mixed with attractions. Some features are linked to websites that can load slowly. This free app is supported by advertisements, which take up a small section of the screen and are sometimes annoying.
Don't ignore the (Resources) link at the bottom of the screen - it links to a Disneyland Character Finder, list of coin presses, rides listed by height, music and a phone list - along with tips to improve your Toy Story Mania score and a decoder for the hieroglyphics in the Indiana Jones queue.
Pros: Excellent map, which is also part of the food- and drink-finding function. Using it, you can also find hidden Mickeys, a place to check your purchases so you don't have to carry them around and the nearest ATM. It also has a search function for those moments when you're scratching your head, thinking: "Which way is it to Haunted Mansion?"
Cons: Wait times are represented by colored bars, which is a nice visual touch, but we want to see numbers. They have so many categories that some icons are hard to understand. It's easy enough to figure out the ice cream cone, hot dog and cup of coffee, but others are more of a challenge. And we're still scratching our head over a couple of them. We also found the icon bar a little too close to the bottom navigation - even with fairly small fingers, we kept ending up touching the wrong button. This free app is supported by advertisements, which take up a small section of the screen.
Pros: It's an official Disney product and has access to all the latest information. Nice photographs and readily-available accessibility information for anyone with special needs.
Cons: Slow to load, not just when it starts, but every time new information is accessed. Does not change orientation when your phone is turned sideways, which makes the map sometimes harder to use. When using filtered results, the blue pins that show where they are on the map can be hard to find.
Its features include show time reminders, GPS-enabled maps, wait times and FASTPASS return times.
Price: Free with Ridemax subscription
Our favorite Disneyland scheduler is now available for smart phones. It's not an app, but a web-based product that can run on any smart phone. Read our review.
In-Park Entertainment Apps
These apps are intended just for fun.
Disneyland Secrets Gold
Disneyland Secrets calls itself a "notescast," like a podcast but written instead of audio. It's basically a mini-guide to Disneyland trivia, organized into tours of each part of the park.
Pros: Has some interesting information
Cons: We wanted to love this is the app and on the surface, it looked like one we'd write if we were doing it ourselves, with lots of interesting information and trivia about the rides that to keep you entertained while standing in line. It's a start in that direction, but hampered by putting many rides on the same screen, which makes them hard to find and causes excessive scrolling. Only a small percentage of rides are covered so far, and the writing style is better suited for printed media than for a quick, screen-based read.
Their other product, Disneyland Secrets Gold is similar and for $1.99 adds some nice photos, but we don't think they're really necessary when you're in the park.
Wishing Stars doesn't help you find out how long the lines are or where the bathroom is. Instead, it's a playful app that sends the user on "quest" to find spots where parts of a wishing star are hidden.
Price: 2 quests free, more by in-App purchase
Pros: By far the most beautiful app, created by a former Disney animator.
Cons: If you're as familiar with Disneyland as we are, the two teaser quests are far too easy. It uses the in-phone location service to determine if you've found the clue - and the experience was hampered by our phone's inability to figure out where we were standing. All the searching for clues can also distract from the Disneyland experience.