Los Angeles is known for being a very large city full of places to visit that include both an impressive variety of natural landscapes in the surroundings and a high concentration of points of interest related to the world of cinema, making Los Angeles a real paradise for movie lovers. Just think of the Walk of Fame or the exceptional Universal Studios in Hollywood and all of the other movie studios in the city, and it doesn’t end there. In the southern area of Los Angeles, there is a theme park that will certainly satisfy your appetite for fun and your imagination: Disneyland Resort.
- Walt Disney’s Disneyland
- How to Get around
- Disney’s California Adventure or Disneyland Park?
- Where to Buy Tickets
- One Way to Save Time: The FastPass
- Where to Eat at Disneyland
- Where to Stay in Disneyland
Walt Disney’s Disneyland
Anaheim, located 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, is in the heart of Orange County. In 1955, Ronald Reagan – in the presence of a very large crowd of curious people and in the presence of Walt Disney, the father of the cartoons most loved by adults and children – inaugurated a real dream project here in Anaheim. It was the first of many theme parks dedicated to the fantasy world created in Disney’s studios. The protagonists are countless, from Mickey Mouse to Buzz Lightyear and Star Wars characters. By the way… if you are interested in learning more about Walt Disney, his family, and the characters created by his fantasy, make sure you visit the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco!
In this article, however, I would like to give you advice for your visit to Disneyland in Los Angeles, providing you some information and useful tips. Enjoy reading it!
How to Get around
I’ll talk about the best attractions later. The sooner you get a sense of how this big this park actually is, the better. There are 3 main areas in Disneyland Resort:
- The theme park area: Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure
- Downtown Disney District: A small city that serves as the prelude to the two theme parks.
- The Disney hotels area: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and the Disneyland Hotel
If you plan to use your car (or rental car) to get to Disneyland, here is some information to understand how and where to park.
Theme Park Parking
There are two areas where you can park near Disneyland Park and Disney Adventure Park, and you can choose which one is more convenient for you depending on the direction you are coming from.
- Toy Story Parking Area: It is located southeast of the park and is accessible from South Harbor Boulevard and West Katella Avenue.
- Mickey & Friends Parking Structure: It is northwest of the park and you can reach it from Disneyland Drive and West Ball Road.
These two parking lots open one hour before Disneyland does. If you are traveling in an RV, you can only park in the Toy Story Parking Area, at least, this was the case at the time I wrote this article.
The standard rate for parking your car for an entire day is $25. You can pay online on the official website in advance, or once you arrive at the cash machines. If you prefer to leave your car in a parking area as close as possible to the elevators and escalators (Preferred Parking), the price will rise to $40. If you want to upgrade but have already purchased the standard entrance, you will have to pay an additional fee of $15.
You can pay with either cash or most credit cards.
Downtown Disney District Parking
Those who want to visit only the small city where there are mainly shops, shopping centers, and restaurants, can use the designated parking lot with the following rates:
- Those who spend at least $20 in the shops will have 3 hours of free parking, while those who will eat in one of these restaurants are granted 5 hours of free parking.
- Once the thresholds described above have been exceeded, the rate of $14 per hour up to a maximum of $56 per day will come into effect.
Another option is to leave your car in the spacious parking lots of the three hotels in Disneyland. These are the rates for those who have chosen to stay at these hotels.
- Self-parking: $25 per vehicle
- Valet parking: $35 per vehicle
Those who do not stay at Disneyland hotels cannot use the hotel parking lots while visiting the park.
Drop-off and Pick-up Areas
If you have friends who want to accompany or pick you up, or if you want to use a taxi or Uber service to get to or from Disneyland, you can take advantage of convenient designated areas with a 15-minute limit for parking.
- Downtown Disney District side: The drop-off area is marked inside the Downtown Disney District parking lot. Be careful not to exceed 15 minutes, otherwise, standard rates will apply.
- Harbor Boulevard side: The designated area is located between Manchester Avenue and Disney Way.
Obviously, it is not possible for the driver to move away from the car, or leave it parked beyond the specified time limit.
Disney’s California Adventure or Disneyland Park?
After leaving your car in one of the many parking lots available, you can finally reach the Downtown Disney District proper. Even before you enter, you’ll see an important crossroads, the first of many, especially if you have to choose between rides! You’ll see that two lines winding in opposite directions and you’ll notice that there are two different entrances, one for Disneyland Park and the other for Disney’s California Adventure.
Attention! These are two separate parks and – unless you buy a Park Hopper ticket – your day ticket will only allow you to enter one of them. If you haven’t prepared in advance and this is your first time at a Disney park, don’t panic. Anyone you ask, any patron or insider will advise you to go to Disneyland Park without hesitation, postponing your visit to Disney’s California Adventure until later.
You may be asking yourself why that is and what the differences between the two parks are. We’ll take a look at the attractions in detail, but for now, I will briefly say that, while Disneyland Park is the “classic” Disney park par excellence, Disney’s California Adventure is a more modern park that makes references to the natural beauty and cities of California. It has fewer rides than Disneyland Park and puts more emphasis on Pixar productions. In addition, it’s also more adult-oriented: you’ll find some more adrenaline-filled rides, like Incredicoaster and Radiator Spring Racers.
Attractions and Rides at Disneyland Park
Therefore, I suggest that you opt for Disneyland Park, which is the historical one, originally designed and inaugurated by Walt Disney. You will immediately recognize it because of the castle of Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, which is the entrance to the park. From here, the park is divided into 8 sections that branch off in different directions. As I mentioned above, Disneyland Park is perfect for people of all ages, but each area has its own specific characteristics. While adults will be browsing the park’s map in search of the coolest attractions inspired by Disney masterpieces, the children will immediately flock to Fantasyland and Mickey’s Toontown.
I will leave the park’s entrance boulevard (Main Street USA) as a surprise and describe what the other 7 sections of Disneyland Park have to offer:
After making your triumphant entrance into the castle, you will find Adventureland on your left. In a typical tropical setting, you will find Tarzan’s Treehouse and Indiana Jones’ Jeep (Indiana Jones Adventure). I recommend that you go on the Jungle Cruise aquatic safari, which has The Mekong River, The African Congo, The Nile River, and The Amazon of South America. Those who love Disney shows can take a seat in the theatre of the Enchanted Tiki Room for a show of sounds, lights, and colors inspired by Polynesia.
New Orleans Square
To the left of Adventureland, you will find New Orleans Square, the area of Disneyland where you can experience the Gothic atmosphere of the Southern States. There are two of the slow rides of Disneyland that are my favorites. The first one takes place in a mysterious and creepy Colonial-style haunted house (Haunted Mansion Holiday) and is inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The second is a boat trip to the dark world of Pirates of the Caribbean. Follow the voice of Captain Jack Sparrow. You’ll see him appear here and there in the sea caves or in the villages where drunken scoundrels sing old pirate songs.
This is a fairly contained and somewhat isolated section that is completely different in setting from the one I just described. We went from Louisiana to the green forests of the Pacific Northwest, which are night and day. It’s worth it to go to Critter Country even just to climb the logs of Splash Mountain, the water ride inspired by Uncle Tom’s Tales. Those who love water rides will enjoy their experience, especially at the end. Critter Country is also home to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which will delight the fans of the honey-loving little bear.
As you walk from New Orleans Square/Critter Country to Frontierland, you’ll see a large river and on the river, you will spot Mark Twain’s Riverboat, a white steamboat, the likes of which are only seen on the Mississippi River. If you like the idea of sailing on a historic boat from the Deep South, don’t hesitate to go on board, but be aware that this is not the only boat on the lake! You can also ride in Davy Crockett’s canoes and the Sailing Ship Columbia. Frontierland is also home to the incredible Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a fast ride on a small train that speeds through the gold mines of the mountains of the West and passes through soaring canyons and abandoned ghost towns.
As I mentioned earlier, Fantasyland is the historic core of Disneyland; it is the oldest section that dates back to 1955. It is very suitable for children, but especially for adults who just don’t want to grow up. In this area of the park, which is also the central point on the map of Disneyland Park, you can be nostalgic and relive your childhood dreams. There are enchanting rides dedicated to unforgettable Disney classics such as Pinocchio, Snow White, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, Wind in the Willows, and many others. If you miss the soundtracks of the movies you watched as a child on video cassettes, here you can listen to them and see if you still remember them.
North of Fantasyland is the cartoon city, Toontown. You can venture through the streets of Topolinia, making a detour into the bizarre houses of Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse. The highlight of this area is its jovial scenery.
This section takes up practically the entire left side of Main Street. As you can tell from the name, Tomorrowland is dedicated to science fiction, cartoons, and the latest Disney films. Toy Story fans (like me) will love this place where there is, for example, the addictive Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. In addition, there are “Finding Nemo” underwater trips, and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, a dark ride with a Star Wars theme, but starting in 2019 – as you’ll read immediately after – it became incorporated into its own dedicated area.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Just like the previous ones, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a section of Disneyland Park, so no, you won’t have to pay an extra ticket to visit it. In my opinion, this area of the park is so important that it deserves a separate paragraph.
It’s been a while since the most famous space saga ever became a Disney production, and since the middle of 2019, Disneyland Park finally has its fabulous Star Wars-themed area, which has quickly become a mecca for fans around the world. In addition to having the opportunity to walk on a new planet in the galaxy (Batuu), visiting this part of the park you can also see a reconstruction of the Millennium Falcon, meet characters from the Saga and participate in two space adventures: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. For more information, read my article about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Attractions and Rides at Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure Park, which is the area dedicated to California’s natural beauty and then some, has less history and attractions than Disneyland Park, but it has surprises in store for anyone who loves the electrifying, adrenaline-pumping side of theme parks and for anyone who’s a Pixar fan. In addition to Buena Vista Street, the park’s entrance avenue, there are 6 themed areas. Below I will provide an overview of the best attractions and what you can expect from each of them.
It seems paradoxical that inside Disneyland Los Angeles there is a small reconstruction of the Hollywood movie studio district, but it’s there! Those who love Monsters & Inc., the famous Pixar production dedicated to monsters that haunt children’s dreams, should go on Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue, a slow ride set in Monstropolis where the goal is to bring little Boo home safe and sound. In addition to various shows for younger children (Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is very popular), don’t miss Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT if you like thrilling roller coasters.
We’re not that far from Route 66, which starts right in Santa Monica. Why am I mentioning this? Because Radiator Springs Racers, the Disney California Adventure Park attraction inspired by Cars, will allow you to compete in a race at full speed in the desert scenery of the Pixar movie. The themed area also includes two other less breathtaking attractions dedicated to other characters from the film: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (For those who love to ride in a Fiat Cinquecento!).
There are just a couple of attractions in this central part of the park, but it will most likely be the area where you will stop to eat, since there are 8 restaurants (Italian, American, Asian, Mexican, etc.). Pacific Wharf seems to be inspired by Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. In fact, it even has a Ghirardelli’s chocolate shop. For those who are interested in getting into Walt Disney’s workshop, I suggest that they visit Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar.
In case you haven’t figured it out, Pixar is very popular in this park. The Pixar Pier is entirely dominated by Incredicoaster, a spectacular (or terrifying, depending on your degree of courage!) Incredibles-themed roller coaster, Disney’s most famous “normal family of superheroes”. The area dedicated to the visionary American production company would not be complete without a tribute to Toy Story, to the first movie entirely produced in computer graphics in history. The attraction in question is called Toy Story Midway Mania! and is an interactive ride very similar to the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, but this time with a different setting.
Paradise Gardens Park
This area of the park is full of classic and simple rides for young and old alike. There are as many as 5 rides. Jumpin’ Jellyfish is a ride suitable for younger kids that moves vertically to simulate the movement of jellyfish, while Silly Symphony Swings‘ flying seats remind me of the amusement parks that I am used to. This area also features a classic roller coaster, but this time the protagonist is the oddball Goofy. The ride is called Goofy’s Sky School.
Did you miss the water ride? In the area of Grizzly Peak, we find Grizzly River Run, an exciting adventure aboard a dinghy that challenges the rapids of a flooded river in a beautiful mountain setting. It’s impossible to come out of it dry! Not far from the river, there is perhaps the most beautiful attraction in the park and one of the most successful in the whole Disneyland Resort: Soarin’ Around the World, an experience that, in my opinion, fully reflects the Disney spirit, the one that has always amazed adults and children. Thanks to IMAX technology, you will take an exciting flight around the world in search of its wonders, accompanied by the exciting soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith.
Where to Buy Tickets
Day tickets for admission to just one of the two parks cost between $104 and $149 depending on the time of the visit (Value, Regular, Peak). For an additional fee, you can buy a Park Hopper ticket, which allows you to visit both parks (although you may not enjoy them to the fullest in one day).
On Klook, which I have found to be a reliable website, there are discounts on daily admission to Disneyland, which costs less than the official website. I invite you to check it by clicking on the link below:
There are also other types of tickets (prices may vary over time):
- 2-day ticket: $225; $280 with Park Hopper
- 3-day ticket: $300; $355 with Park Hopper
- 4-day ticket: $356; $380 with Park Hopper
- 5-day ticket: $340; $395 with Park Hopper
The Disney Max Pass has a variable cost depending on the day of validity of the ticket ($15 -$75); it allows you to use the FastPass directly from the Disneyland app and to download all the Disney PhotoPass pictures that are taken during the day.
If you are looking for tickets for 2 or more days, I suggest you take a look at the sites below for 3 reasons:
- They don’t apply any surcharge on prices. On the contrary, they often give you the possibility to enjoy great offers and discounts;
- In most cases, they allow free cancellation;
- Tickets from 3 to 5 days include the Magic Morning option, which is early admission one hour before the regular opening to the public.
If you are in Los Angeles and intend to visit Disneyland without driving there, you can purchase transportation service with pickup and drop-off at your hotel (or elsewhere). This is a particularly interesting solution for those who don’t want to venture out because of the heavy city traffic.
One Way to Save Time: The FastPass
While it’s not so impossible to go on almost all the rides in Disney’s California Adventure in a day (there are “just” 36 attractions), it’s almost unthinkable to visit all the almost 60 attractions of Disneyland Park in a single day. You’ll find queues at the entrance of the rides, you’ll have miles to walk from one part of the park to the other… in short, you’ll have to be careful not to tire yourself too much, since it takes a lot of effort to get around, especially if the temperature in Los Angeles is unpleasant and it’s very hot. However, if you have little time and you’re afraid of not being able to see everything, don’t underestimate the usefulness of the FastPass, which is often overlooked.
What is it? Take a close look at the map provided at the entrance. The main attractions are marked with a small logo, FP. Near these attractions, you’ll find machines where, by inserting your entrance ticket, you can pick up a coupon indicating a time slot. If you show up at the entrance to the corresponding attraction in that time slot, you’ll skip most of the line!
Those who bought the Disney MaxPass at the ticket booth or on the app will be able to book their passes via the same app, without having to go to the machines. Be careful in both cases, because you can’t use two passes in the same time slot! Be flexible and organize your visit in the best possible way.
Here is a list of Disneyland Park attractions that have the FastPass option:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Haunted Mansion
- Haunted Mansion Holiday
- Indiana Jones™ Adventure
- “it’s a small world”
- “it’s a small world” Holiday
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Down here are the Disney California Adventure Park attractions that have the FastPass option:
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- World of Color
Where to Eat at Disneyland
While walking around Disneyland, you’ll find a myriad of restaurants where you can grab a quick bite or sit down for a quiet dinner. If you are at Disneyland Park, I suggest you stop at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which is located inside the attraction dedicated to Pirates of the Caribbean. You will sit in the dark Pirate Bay, with lanterns as your only source of the light, and listen to the splashing of the boats leaving for the tour with Jack Sparrow.
If you are looking for a dining experience filled with Disney spirit, then book a nice meal with historic Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie, Tweet & Cop…). As you can imagine, the options do not end here. There are dozens and dozens of restaurants, refreshment stands, fast-food outlets, and food trucks are scattered literally in almost every corner of the park. Whatever your food preferences, you’re sure to find something that will suit you.
Where to Stay in Disneyland
Here are the hotels that are part of the same Disneyland Resort:
- If you want the Disneyland experience to continue at night, you can settle into the fabulous Disneyland Hotel (1150 Magic Way).
- The Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (1717 S. Disneyland Drive) is a good choice if you also want to relax a bit after a day spent wandering around the park in the outdoor pools. There are even pools for younger children. It is also the cheapest hotel out of the three.
- A salon, a sauna, and spacious rooms are the highlight of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (1600 South Disneyland Drive), which is the most expensive out of the three hotels.
If you’d rather take a break from the whirlwind of fairy tales in exchange for a little relaxation, go to the Best Western Plus (720, The City Drive South, Orange), which is ten minutes away. This is an excellent hotel, equipped with all amenities (including a rejuvenating outdoor hot tub) as well as transportation to the park by a relatively inexpensive shuttle service.
If you’re looking for a Disney-themed vacation rental, an apartment for your family or group of friends, check out my tips in the article about renting apartments in Los Angeles. Otherwise, you can refer to the link below to find a good hotel in the area.