Everything You'll Need to Know for a Trip to Disneyland
Want to visit the famous Anaheim theme park but don’t know where to begin? Consider your Disney vacation sorted.
You’re in for much more than a visit with Mickey Mouse and a handful of rides, because Disneyland Resort is actually home to two separate theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. They’re located directly across from each other but host a different set of enjoyable rides, shows, and lands, some of which you won’t find at other Disney Parks worldwide.
If you’re curious about stepping inside Sleeping Beauty Castle or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, experiencing the world of Cars, and riding every glorious Disney attraction on your next trip to the California parks, we’re here to help you discover the Happiest Place on Earth. Here’s everything you’ll need for a first 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 themed lands. Disneyland Park is also home to the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, which sits in the center of the park.
Attractions and Rides
From Jungle Cruise and It’s A Small World to Pirates of the Caribbean, there are a multitude of famous family-friendly attractions at Disneyland, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on thrills. With Star Tours’ Star Wars simulations, the rollicking Indiana Jones Adventure and Disneyland’s multiple mountain-themed coasters, it’s home to many of Disney’s most exciting rides.
Star Wars: Galaxy Edge
Today’s most-discussed attractions and rides are tucked away inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s newest land. Here, you can encounter the Resistance while eating otherworldly food, adopt a plush Tauntaun after visiting Oga’s Cantina, or be apprehended by Stormtroopers before stepping foot on the land’s two rides — Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, which allows flight crews to operate the famed starship and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, a monumental battle opening in January.
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 try indulgent tableside offerings at Cafe Orleans or Blue Bayou Restaurant.
If you want a cocktail with all those treats, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Alcohol is only served at one place inside Disneyland Park: Oga’s Cantina, which is located within Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Disney California Adventure Park
Compared to 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, and the state’s national parks throughout several different lands, with its newest, Cars Land and Pixar Pier, infusing silver screen attractions within the coastal design.
If you’re visiting both parks in one day, note that admission is per individual park; you’ll need an upgraded “park hopper” ticket to visit both.
Disney California Adventure Park's Film Attractions
Disneyland’s sister park has two colorful lands that revere cherished 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 Pixar Pier — formerly Paradise Pier — guests can ride a coaster, carousel, or spin ride that pays homage to films like Incredibles, Toy Story 2, and Inside Out while taking in food, shopping, and entertainment honoring the iconic movie studio.
And, in 2020, a new Marvel-themed area at Disney California Adventure Park will allow superhero wannabes to interact with the Avengers like never before.
Disney California Adventure Rides
There’s plenty to ride at Disney California Adventure Park, 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 thrill, 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 and Pixar Pier’s Lamplight Lounge make for 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 Lamplight Lounge, or craft cocktails at Carthay Circle Lounge.
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 so is Fantasmic!, a waterfront retelling of Fantasia with beloved Disney characters, special effects, and pyrotechnics. (Pro tip: watch the show performed on Disneyland’s Rivers of America, and stay put for a unique view of fireworks.)
Disney California Adventure Park 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. There are many “good neighbor” hotels nearby, but Disneyland hotels come with perks, including Extra Magic Hour Early Admission 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 and specialized Disney boutiques including World of Disney, a massive shop that’s ideal for last-minute souvenirs. Park guests can even hop on the monorail from Downtown Disney for an extra-special entrance into Disneyland Park.