Reviews of products sold at expos and more by an average runner. Make me your guinea pig!
You’ve registered for a race at the Disneyland Resort! Yay! I’m so excited for you! Buckle in for a long post with loads of race pics.
As a legacy Tinker Bell runner (every race since the inaugural 2012 race), I’ve been through the parks and courses many, many times. Let me give you my recommendations for must-have pics in both Disneyland and California Adventure as well as some alternate ideas for less-crowded picture spots.
Your first photo ops are actually as you walk in to bib and bag pick-up. Run Disney always decorates the entrance to bib pick-up with custom-made carpets and wall decorations.
Once you’re in bib pick-up, look around for more photo ops. You will always find a poster-sized print of the course maps on the wall.
If you’re a challenge or legacy runner, look for photo ops for those, as well.
Let’s talk about the expo. Every Run Disney race expo has a photo op. This is fun and free to do once you’ve picked up your race bib and bag. At the Disneyland Hotel, this photo op is in the lobby, just outside the expo doors. Ask a Cast Member if you don’t find it easily. Once word of advice, don’t post pictures of your full race number online until after the race or just block part of the number in the picture. There have been instances of bandits finding race pics and printing copy bibs. The original runner finds out when they access their race pics.
While you’re at the expo, look for vendors who set up props and booths for photo ops. These are great, free options as long as you can withstand the sales pitch or request for contact information that usually accompanies them.
On race day, get to the starting line party early with your buddies to take pictures in front of the entertainment stage and with the pirates, Stormtroopers, Jedi, or SHIELD agents who will later appear on the course to cheer you on. Sometimes you can get lucky and snag a pic with C3PO or Captain America as they leave the stage.
Have your camera ready at the starting line to snap a pic of your start line. Bonus points for texting it to friends and family members who are sleeping in.
The first stages of any Disneyland Resort 10K or half marathon are run around and in the parks. This is so that they can open the parks on time while we finish our course. The exact order of places you’ll encounter will vary according to the race you run and the year-to-year variations in each race’s course.
Hey, look! There’s a mile marker! Let’s take a picture. Did you notice that the mile markers are all individually designed and change with each year’s race?
If you’re towards the back of the pack, the mile markers can be crowded by the time . The markers at the end of the race usually are, too.
Helpful hint! Consider waiting until middle of the race or take a quick selfie from the side when the line looks a bit long. It won’t be the perfect angle, but on you it’ll look fabulous!
Castle pics are a must-have photo for your race, whether you’re on the East or West Coast. There will be photographers in front of the castle ready to snap your picture both with their professional cameras and your cell phone. Please don’t come to a dead stop to take a selfie. You’ll annoy other runners and possibly cause someone to trip. Always remember to step to the side of the course first.
However, since this is a must-do, there may be a bit of a line for them.
Helpful hint! Instead of taking your picture at the front of the castle, consider pulling to the side at the back of the castle. It’s nicely picturesque and has plenty of room near the ride buildings for you to step out of the way of other runners to capture your moment. There are often helpful Disney CMs here to monitor the course and help you take your picture, too. The main downside is that there aren’t always Photo Pass photographers here.
Look for other spots to each side of the course. You can snag a great pic with little to no line. How about a quick pic trying to pull Excalibur from the Stone? Maybe they’ll have a Stormtrooper or Lost Boy on the Carousel behind you.
As you pass the Rivers of America, consider stepping to the side to get a selfie with the river of colorful runners going by behind you. This is better in spring and summer races like the Tinker Bell or Disneyland Half. During autumn and winter races, like Avengers and Star Wars, this picture can be a little dark since the sun hasn’t come up much by the time you pass it.
As a bonus for the Rivers of America, the Columbia (the sailing ship) and Mark Twain (the white paddle boat) are often in position for great pics.
Pics in front of the Haunted Mansion’s gates are a must-do. Did you know the Haunted Mansions in each Disney park look different? In Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion looks like a Southern plantation house. Since those types of homes wouldn’t be scary to Southerners, the Florida Haunted Mansion is a New England country house. There are always CMs here to help you take a great pic.
If your course doesn’t have you running down Main Street, take a few moments to snap a picture of yourself with Main Street to yourself. How many times will you get that chance in your life?
Courses that take you between the castle and Tomorrowland give you the chance to snap pics both near the entrance to Pixie Hollow and a great spot with the Astro Orbiter ride in the background.
If this area is crowded, keep running toward the Teacups and Alice in Wonderland ride. The plants on these rides are scaled to make you feel tiny. Remember, Alice was supposed to shrink down to fit in the little door.
Are you traveling with family? Have them wait in the entrance plaza for you to pass through. You can stop for a selfie with your family. Try to aim for the wider areas as this spot can sometimes create bottlenecks.
The equivalent of Main Street in California Adventure is called Buena Vista Street. You’ll find an elegant fountain. There’s usually plenty of room around the fountain for pics and a few CMs to help you out. As a bonus, there’s often a Red Car Trolley parked here for added background.
While running in Hollywood Land, look for the Animation Academy building. They display motivational messages on their scrolling marquee during races. Step off to the opposite side of the street to catch a great pic with the message in the background.
Whoever designed Cars Land is a genius. Seriously, I can’t think of another land in any park with so many photo ops lined up perfectly.
Stop by Radiator Springs Racers for a picture as long as you can safely move out of the way of your fellow runners. This area can create bottlenecks since it makes such spectacular pics in the early morning.
Take a picture with a Cars character. There is usually at least two out.
Try out a pic in front of the gorgeous neon signs.
Do you like to mug for the camera or pretend you’re tiny? You’ll love A Bug’s Land. Every decoration is scaled to make you look like you’re as small as an ant.
Look out for a spot between A Big’s Land and the border of Cars Land. You can step off to the side and get a great pic with Grizzly Peak in the background.
You just had to have a castle pic at Disneyland. Now, it’s time for your Mickey’s Fun Wheel pic.
Helpful tip! Paradise Bay is quite large, and the Disney Imagineers designed it to accommodate flocks of tourists all wanting to take a picture with the wheel in the background. If the first spot you see is crowded, keep going. There is an entire coastline designed to give you photo ops, and you’ll usually circle the bay as part of your course.
Talk to veteran runners for the races you’ve chosen to find out about special photo ops on individual courses. If they’ve run it, they’ll have ideas to share.
For the Disneyland Half Marathon, prepare for heat, humidity, and a car show. A car show? Yep! The cars are mostly organized by time period. Their owners park them in neat rows and often blast fun music for the runners. They love it when you admire their babies. See an amazing car or truck? Ask the owners to take a picture of you or with you.
Wait, was that the classic 1960s Batmobile?
Yep! Start singing the theme song to yourself as you approach the parking lot of the Honda Center. That’s its usual spot. Also be on the lookout for a real Corvette painted to look like Lightning McQueen. Those car owners are really the best.
With a Disney race, you may have the chance to score pics with SHIELD agents, Jedi Knights, mad scientists, all the Neverland crew, and Fairy Trainers. What’s not to like?
For the Star Wars races, keep your eyes open for scenes you can jump into as well as cosplayers who can be found along the route for some amazing photos.
You may want to brush up on your comic book characters for the Avengers race. The SHIELD agents and trainers are easy to spot, but will you know your Black Canary from Spider Gwen or Silk in the Spiderverse? Did you know that Captain Marvel outranks Captain America? (Carol Danvers was an Air Force colonel before becoming a costumed hero while Steve Rogers received the honorary rank of captain.) Can you avoid awkwardly hitting on a really hot Black Widow or Hawkeye? (Or, Hawkguy for the Kate Bishop fans.) The cosplayers who come out to cheer for you are a-maz-ing!
When you approach the finish line, look for the professional photographers. They usually have them set up in multiple spots.
You may want to rely on their skills here rather than snapping your own. My voice of experience would advise you to focus on looking great as you finish instead of worrying about getting your camera app open. Jump in the air. High five a character. Smile and wave. It’s up to you.
If you absolutely must get your own pic, always make sure you step to the side so that you’re out of the way of other runners. We’ve all just run a significant distance, and it’s easy to focus on crossing the finish line to the exclusion of regarding other’s safety.
If you’re planning to wait until after you cross the finish line, the same ideas apply. Step to the side, well clear of other runners’ paths. You may even want to continue down the finishers lane a bit farther. You can easily get the finish line in the background from down there.
If you have a buddy with you, take pictures of the race volunteer awarding your medal. It’s a beautiful moment you may be too emotional to remember later.
After the races, head into the parks to take medal pictures with both Walt and Mickey statues. Disneyland has Partners, and California Adventure has Storytellers.
Also, consider taking your medal and bib in to be autographed by the character for that race’s theme. You can make an adorable display with them later.
Oh yeah, and they have characters, too.