Planning Your Trip to Disneyland: A Guide


Betsy Malloy

The Disneyland Resort, is a combination of the original Disneyland theme park, created by Walt Disney in 1955, and Disney California Adventure theme park, which opened in 2001. California Adventure faces Disneyland and shares ticketing booths at the main entrance. The resort complex also includes Downtown Disney, a pedestrian street lined with shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues, and three Disney-owned hotels in or adjacent to California Adventure.

Things to Do at Disneyland

There is plenty to do at Disneyland for all ages, although California Adventure has more thrill rides designed for older kids and adults. The park is divided into nine themed areas, including Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Tomorrowland, each of which offers its own rides and attractions.

There are shows that will entertain kids and adults, opportunities to interact with Disney characters, and interactive activities and exhibits. Shoppers should have no problem finding souvenirs and collectibles from your basic keychain to high-value original artwork.

When you get hungry, there is a great selection of themed snack bars and fine restaurants. You'll find entertainment in live bands, dancing, parades of elaborate Disney-themed floats, nightly fireworks, and light shows. There are also special seasonal activities for Halloween and Christmas.

Things to Do at California Adventure

California Adventure is a smaller park but has bigger thrill rides than Disneyland. California Adventure is divided into eight theme areas including Hollywood Land, Grizzly Peak, Cars Land, and others.

Each area is meant to represent a different region of California from Hollywood to San Francisco and from the beaches to the mountains, but has shifted a bit with the addition of Cars Land, which recreates the fictional Radiators Springs in Arizona, and the transformation of "Soarin' Over California" into "Soarin' Over the World."

The park's rides and arcade games are most popular with teenage visitors, but there are also activities for the younger set, including interactive shows where kids can sing along with their favorite Disney characters. There are plenty of places to shop and eat. Plus, mobile parties with live music take place a couple of times a day and there's a dance party every night in Hollywood Land with Disney themes that change periodically based on new movies that come out.

How Long Does It Take to See Everything?

To see and do absolutely everything at the Disneyland Resort, including Downtown Disney, you could easily spend a full four days, especially if it's high season. When the lines are long, it's nice to take a break in the afternoon to avoid getting worn out.

If you just want to hit the highlights, including the best rides, you can take two days and do Disneyland in one day and California Adventure the next day. If you're not planning on riding many rides, but just want to take it all in by walking around, you can do both parks in one day. To make the most of the amount of time you have, try using RideMax and FASTPASS to cut the amount of time waiting in line.

The Best Time to Visit

Any time of year can be a good time to visit Disneyland depending on what type of experience you're looking for. Summer is high season, so you have to cope with crowds and hot weather, but you get a lot more daylight hours per day for your money. In November and December, you can experience the seasonal decorations, but it gets dark early, so park hours are not as long as summer, and there's a chance of rain.

Where to Stay

To make the most out of a visit to Disneyland, it is best to stay near the park. There are three Disney hotels adjacent to California Adventure. These are the most convenient, but also more expensive than the non-Disney hotels surrounding the park. If you're on a budget, you can save a little more by staying further away from the park.

Disneyland Resort hotels fill up early, so if you want to stay there, plan ahead. The park is surrounded by dozens of hotels, and there are shuttles between Disneyland and surrounding hotels for a small fee.

Buying Tickets

There are many different ticket configurations you can purchase for Disneyland and California Adventure, so which type of ticket is right for you will depend on how much time you have, how much you want to spend, and how much flexibility you need. You can buy special tickets that put you ahead of others in lines and multi-day tickets.

All tickets other than annual passes cost less online than at the gate, so you won't have to waste your time in the ticket line at the park. Whenever possible, buy your tickets in advance. Online ticket purchases are usually valid until the end of the following year.

You have to buy single day tickets directly from For multi-day tickets, Viator is another option with a best-rate guarantee. The websites also offer character dining, Disneyland tickets with transportation from LA hotels and VIP guided tours of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

Getting to Disneyland

Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California, 13 miles from John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA), about 35 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), 35 miles from Hollywood, and 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles. You can get to the parks via bus, train, or by using shuttle transportation from the airport.

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