Magic, mystery, mice, and more! What more could you want?
My family loves all things Disney. Luckily, we live in California and have been able to visit Disneyland many times. Here are a few tips and tricks of the trade that we’ve picked up!
I’ll save what to pack and which tickets/hotels to purchase for another post, this one will be dedicated to solely getting around Disneyland in the most efficient and fun way possible, with in-depth descriptions on the park and the rides. I’ll do the same for California Adventures in a different post.
Some things to remember:
- Don’t go during peak season, mainly during the summer and holidays. This will guarantee you won’t have to fight 4 hours lines.
- Get to the park as early as possible for the shortest lines.
- Fastpasses are important, especially when visiting during crowded times. A 2 hour line can turn into a 15 minute one, and it doesn’t cost any extra. Disneyland makes you sign up for them on the day you arrive, so be sure to get your fast passes early because when you get one, you reserve a time for when you can visit a ride, and the longer you wait, the more likely there won’t be any more reservations. My family has a designated fastpass agent in my Dad, who gets vertigo sometimes and helps us out by getting us tickets while we sprint for rides he can’t go on.
- Have a leg injury? Not a problem! Go to Town Hall and register for a wheelchair or scooter, you may have to show proof of your injury as people have started faking to get through lines quicker so bring a doctor’s note!
- If you have young kids, make sure they take a nap in the middle of the day when its hottest and most crowded. Also be sure to take them to visit the Disney characters that roam around the park and pose for pictures, as the photos you gain might be the only part of the trip they remember when they grow up.
- See a parade if you can, they lots of characters and the lights are beautiful.
Disneyland is the original Disney park, before its neighbor California Adventures came in, before Disney World, and before any other Disney parks in other countries. This means that much of its construction was overseen by Walt Disney himself and that little hidden treasures can be found all over the park. It also means that the park is small, but no less magical. For me, it is the most magical and nostalgic park one could ever visit.
Disneyland is constantly evolving but is split up into different sections: Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Mickey’s Toontown, and Main Street USA.
What you’ll want to visit will largely depend on your age, so this will be a rundown of what rides to visit for those who are tall enough/old enough to ride all the rides. The ones for smaller kid are not usually as crowded (except Peter Pan’s Flight), and therefore need less planning.
First, you should always get to the park as early as you possible can. Then, get Fastpasses for the most popular rides, these are Space Mountain (now Hyperspace Mountain), the Matterhorn, Indiana Jones Adventure, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Next I’ll break down each section of the park
Go to Peter Pan’s Flight as quick as you can because there are no fastpasses and there is always a long line. Other than the Matterhorn, which is also a must-ride, nearly all the rides in Fantasyland were built for people of all ages so they are mainly rides that move through the movie’s plot, with animatronics, glowing lights, and a slower ride. They are enchanting, but there’s no need to ride them more than once a day.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle is a great photo opportunity and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a blast for any kid wanting to dress up for the day. Characters can be seen and taken pictures with around the Castle, Snow White’s wishing well, and in Princess Fairytale Hall. Also, the theater next to the Hall is great to experience more Disney magic and take a break with some snacks.
My personal favorite? Go to the Storybook Land Canal Boats, right near the Mad Tea Party. It’s a treasure mostly hidden from the outside, as it is surrounded by walls and can only be accessed through the mouth of Monstro the whale by boat. The journey will take you through a land of miniature houses and castles that belong to characters from the Disney movies. These include Arendelle, the Cave of Wonders, Snow White’s Cottage, Cinderella’s Castle, and many more. It is a small piece of Disney magic just waiting to be uncovered. You’ll also often find Merida or characters from Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan roaming around here.
Home of Indiana Jones Adventure, Adventureland feels like a miniature jungle, complete with Tarzan’s Treehouse and the Jungle Cruise. There aren’t as many rides, but the food is great. Less characters meet here for photo opportunities, but sometimes you may catch a glimpse of one near Tarzan’s Treehouse – Jane and Tarzan or Pocahontas mostly.
Top Tip! – there is a bathroom here that lots of people don’t know about and it’s way less crowded. It used to be apart of Aladdin’s Oasis so you’ll find it between the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise.
A must have! – the Dole Whip next to the Enchanted Tiki Room. This, above all else, is the food you need to eat before leaving Disneyland.
The land of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of the fastest roller coasters in the park. It’s Western themed and melds into New Orleans Square and Critter Country – attached by the River’s of America river. You’ll find shoot-em-up games here as well as the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Colombia – although this is somewhat part of New Orleans Square as well.
This part of the park is often under construction, with the Tom Sawyer Island in the middle of the river usually closed and the boats firmly docked. However, characters from Toy Story often wander around here for photo ops and you can find Tiana on the Riverboat!
Hidden Treasures? The Golden Horseshoe is where my family and I eat lunch every time we visit, as there is great food and a stage full of entertainment.
New Orleans Square:
This part of Disneyland rivals Main Street USA in quality of ambiance. It has a relaxed but quirky vibe, influenced by jazz music and the plethora of food options available. Pirates of the Caribbean is a must for every Disney visit, and whereas I’m not the biggest fan of the Haunted Mansion ride (purely because it freaked me out as a kid), it is also very popular. Characters from the Princess and the Frog can often be seen here for photo ops.
The best part? The Blue Bayou restaurant is built into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and one can eat New Orleans-inspired food while watching boats go by in the mystical atmosphere.
Splash Mountain might be one of the best rides at Disneyland. It melds story, whimsy, and thrill into one great experience. Caution: you will get wet! But you’ll have a great picture at the end of the ride, concluding with your boat falling into the briar patch. This is also where you will find Winnie the Pooh characters, as their ride is located in Critter Country also.
A weird secret? Critter Country has some of the cleanest and least crowded bathrooms in the whole park. That’s because Star Wars land is being built next door and fewer people come to visit because of the construction.
This is the land for all those hardcore nerds out there, like me. Star Wars, Disney, and Marvel, all in one package. Space Mountain is newly renovated into Hyperspace Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters will bring out the competitive side in you. There are other rides like Star Tours and Finding Nemo’s Submarine Voyage, among others, and you’ll find Star Wars characters here throughout the day, bringing young Padawans up to the stage for light saber duels.
A new favorite? The Tomorrow Land Expo Center, housing Star Wars and Marvel memorabilia and art. Here you can nerd out fully and meet characters from both franchises.
Toontown (for now):
This park is mainly built for young kids and is apparently going to be turned into a different land at some point. For now, it’s built as a street where Mickey and his friends live. It is defiantly worth a visit for those of all ages, due to the sheer impressiveness of the architecture and design. There are two rides and many opportunities to visit Mickey, Minnie, and the gang.
My tip? Take silly pictures in the cartoonesque town, they’re great to look back on.
Main Street USA:
The first land you’ll visit, and the most nostalgic. This land has many places to visit, with restaurants, shops, and characters to take pictures with. It faces you towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and begins the magic for the rest of your day. Here you can buy pins for trade, lanyards, mickey hats, character shirts, stuffed animals, figurines, etc. It’s a great way to buy Christmas presents for the whole family!
My favorite part? When you enter the park, look to your left to the Main Street Firehouse. The second floor is where Walt Disney lived for Disneyland’s construction. Now a light is always kept on near the window, as a tribute to Walt. Every time I enter Disneyland, I look at that light and feel like I’m a child again, immersed in the magical world he created.