Everything You'll Need to Know for a Trip to Disneyland
You’re in for much more than a visit with Mickey Mouse and a handful of rides at Disneyland, because the Anaheim attraction is actually two separate theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. They’re located directly across from each other but have completely different rides, shows and “lands,” some of which you won’t find at any other Disney parks worldwide.
If you’re curious about stepping inside Sleeping Beauty Castle, experiencing the world of “Cars” and riding every glorious Disney attraction on your next trip to the California parks, we’ll help you on your way to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Here’s everything you need to know for a visit to Disneyland — besides a pair of Mickey ears, of course.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle
The original Magic Kingdom is known for its classic attractions and quintessential “main street” charm, but hosts plenty of electrifying rides throughout its eight themed lands. Disneyland Park is also home to the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, at the center of the park.
Attractions and Rides
From the Jungle Cruise to It’s A Small World to Pirates of the Caribbean, there are plenty of famous family-friendly attractions at Disneyland, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on thrills. With Star Tours’ simulations, the rollicking Indiana Jones Adventure, and Disneyland’s multiple mountain-themed coasters, the park is home to many of Disney’s most exciting rides.
Disneyland offers all the theme park staples — ice cream, corn dogs, and plenty of churros — but sit-down restaurants like Plaza Inn and River Belle Terrace are first-rate. Foodies should hit New Orleans Square for mint juleps and Mickey Mouse beignets or indulgent tableside offerings at Cafe Orleans or Blue Bayou Restaurant, which is located within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. If you want a cocktail with all those treats, you’ll need to look elsewhere, as this half of Disneyland Resort does not serve alcohol.
Disney California Adventure Park
Unlike Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park is significantly newer, themed to highlight the landscape, culture and history of California as a whole, it channels San Francisco’s waterside roots, Hollywood’s golden era, coastal boardwalk carnivals and the state’s national parks throughout seven different lands. If you’re visiting both in one day, note that admission is per individual parks; you’ll need an upgraded “park hopper” ticket otherwise.
Disney California Adventure Film Attractions
Disneyland’s sister park offers two immersive lands themed to animated films. Cars Land brings the movie’s awe-inspiring Route 66 scenery to life with shops, restaurants and multiple rides, including the joyous Radiator Springs Racers. At a bug’s land, the world of “A Bug’s Life” gleefully appears to shrink guests down to the size of insects as they soar inside discarded raisin boxes and ride atop bug bumper cars.
Disney California Adventure Rides
There’s plenty to ride at Disney California Adventure, but highlights include virtual hang gliding on Soarin’ Around The World, the frenzied arcade shoot-out of Toy Story Midway Mania! and the soaking wet joy of Grizzly River Run’s roaring rapids ride. Its newest attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, pairs the popular Marvel characters with a frenetic drop ride soundtracked by Star-Lord’s vintage tunes.
Disney California Adventure Park Dining
There are fantastic quick-service meals throughout the park, but Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land is the most visually pleasing place to devour pretzel bites and stuffed bread cones. Pacific Wharf’s eateries character dining at Ariel’s Grotto are popular sit-down options, but the glamorous Carthay Circle Restaurant remains Disneyland Resort’s finest in-park dining option.
Disney California Adventure Park Drink Options
Unlike Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park serves beer, wine and cocktails throughout its restaurants, stands and food kiosks. You can’t go wrong with wine at Mendocino Terrace, colorful concoctions at Cove Bar or drinks at any of the park’s other watering holes, but Carthay Circle Lounge is the place for fans of craft cocktails.
Both parks offer nighttime entertainment so noteworthy that park-hopping guests will struggle to choose just one. Disneyland Park’s nightly fireworks are ever-popular, but summer marks the return of Fantasmic!, a waterfront retelling of Fantasia with beloved Disney characters, special effects and pyrotechnics. Disney California Adventure offers World of Color, where lighting, projections and special effects combine to feed the show’s stunning display atop dancing water.
Disneyland Resort operates three on-property hotels: the seaside-themed Disney’s Paradise Pier, the park-influenced Disneyland Hotel and the craftsman-style Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. There are many “good neighbor” hotels nearby, but Disneyland hotels come with perks, including Extra Magic Hours for additional time in the parks.
Disneyland Resort’s theme parks and hotels are located around Downtown Disney, a strip of shops, restaurants and entertainment that’s open to the public. It’s home to many themed eateries, specialized Disney boutiques as well as World of Disney, a massive shop that’s ideal for last-minute souvenirs. Park guests can even hop on the monorail from here to reach inside Disneyland Park for an extra-special entrance.