Insider's Guide to Disneyland

May 1, 2022

A landmark icon of childhood happiness and carefree fun, Disneyland® California is the premier west coast vacation destination. 

Children and adults alike will be entranced by the magic of meeting their favorite fairy tale characters, spectacular parades, thrilling rides, and nightly fireworks. A few days or even weeks spent at Disneyland is a magical experience that will create lasting memories for both you and your loved ones. So let us prime you with our exclusive Inside Guide to Disneyland.

At 500 acres, Disneyland Anaheim may seem dainty compared to her sister park in Orlando, but rest assured there is a wealth of park knowledge, strategy, and planning to be carried out to make the most of your Disneyland vacation. 

family playing with Goofy character at Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, USA

About the Park

Disneyland California manages to pack an unparalleled level of fantasy, adventure, and classic Disney charm into their resort. The entire resort includes two theme parks, three Disney hotels, and the Downtown Disney area. The two major theme parks are as follows:

  • Disneyland Park
  • Disney California Adventure Park

Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Disneyland®: Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

There are incredible rides, attractions, and entertainment at both parks, so depending on your travel party’s preferences (are they more into Star Wars or all about the Pixar characters?) You may opt to begin your Disney journey in one park over the other. 

Pro Tip: With so much ground to cover and new attractions constantly popping up, we highly recommend spending a minimum of two days at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.

Girl and Mom Standing with Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland castle in Los Angeles, California, USA

Spend your first day in Los Angeles experiencing the magic of Disneyland.

When to Go

Are your mouse ears packed and ready to go? Before you pull the trigger on pre-purchasing your Disneyland tickets, you need to find the perfect time to visit Mickey and his friends! 

Although anytime is a great time for a Disneyland trip, there are a few general rules to follow to avoid days of heavy crowds and long wait times. We suggest:

  • Avoiding major U.S. holidays
  • Checking school schedules, including those of neighboring states
  • Being aware of the influx of local visitors, such as California residents
  • Prioritizing weekday dates

Usually, you can expect lower to moderate crowds from:

  • Mid-September through mid-November 
  • Mid-January through mid-March

Related Post: Disneyland Resort Upcoming Events and Festivals

Have a specific holiday in mind for your mouse-themed visit? If you are puzzled over whether a particular date, say Mothers Day, will be met with massive crowds, we strongly recommend checking out the Disneyland Crowd Forecast Calendar

Pro Tip: Although visiting Disneyland during any major holiday or celebration will undoubtedly mean a more crowded park, Disneyland does offer amazing events such as Halloween time or the Holidays at Disneyland Resort that make for extra special memories.

two people with mickey hats walking in front of disney castle in disneyland

Inside Guide to Disneyland Tickets & Ticket Packages

Now that you’ve decided when to visit the land of magic and Mouseketeers, it’s time to lock in those tickets. 

Save time and resources by pre-purchasing your Disneyland California tickets as soon as possible. Whether you desire a two-day or a five-day park visit (with or without the Park Hopper option), we have Disneyland tickets for you!

If you’re not a SoCal local, why not embrace the beautiful weather and laid back attitude of the Golden State by bundling your Disneyland tickets with other popular nearby entertainment and attractions such as:

Pro Tip: Did you know you can save some significant spending by bundling your Disneyland tickets with your accommodations with our Disneyland Vacation packages?

father and daughter in front of disneyland

Inside Guide to Disneyland Hotels

Any Disney lover will tell you that you must stay at a Disney resort for a truly immersive Disneyland experience. 

While we don’t think this is one hundred percent necessary for every Disneyland getaway, we can’t deny there are benefits to staying on-site like:

  • Earlier park access, including Magic Morning and the Extra Magic Hour options
  • Extreme proximity to the theme park and Downtown Disney district 
  • Preferred access to dining and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations
  • Ability to use your room key to charge items within the park 
  • Package delivery 

If Disneyland is not the sole focus of your California vacation, you can find many quality hotels by Disneyland. From budget-friendly inns to sumptuous luxury suites, we offer a range of lodgings for every type of California stay. 

Mom and Sons riding It’s a Small World at Disneyland - Los Angeles, California, USAPlan for Success

Disneyland might not seem massive, but there is still plenty of ground to cover in this wonderland of exhilarating roller coasters, haunted mansions, and enchanted rides. 

We believe in getting the most memories possible out of your trip. Therefore, a park strategy is an absolute necessity for a successful day at Disney.

Go Early

We know it’s your vacation, and you’re probably dying to hit that snooze button at least a few more times, but to get a jump start on your Disney day (and beat the lines), we ask you to refrain from sleeping too late. 

Our number one tip for a winning Disney day is to arrive early!

One of the best and easiest ways to maximize your time at Disney is to get to the park at least 45 minutes to an hour before it opens.

Related Post: 3 Days in Los Angeles: How to Make the Most of 72 Hours

You may have heard this practice referred to as ‘Rope Drop.’ Disney cast members drop their ropes when the opening announcement is made and allow guests to enter the park. 

Generally, the park turnstiles are open anywhere from 30-60 minutes before their posted times. 

Arriving early to the park may seem like a pain, but remember, the shortest waits of the day are in the first hours of a park’s opening.

Public Transportation to Disneyland

Visiting the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ sans car? Don’t sweat it! There are plenty of mouse-certified, marvelous ways to arrive at the amusement park whether you are flying into LAX or John Wayne Airport.

Choose to hop on the Metro/Orange County Transit Authority, or utilize a shuttle, limo, taxicab, or Uber. Find endless options for dynamic Disney public transit here

Pro Tip: Did you know that the Long Beach Airport (LGB) is only 19.4 miles from Disney Drive and a quick Uber from the airport will only run you approximately $24-32!

little boy with mickey ears hat holding donald duck stuffed toy sitting on mother's lap in Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, USA

Inside Guide to Disneyland Park Strategy

In work, life, and in theme parks, organization is the key to success. Some might call it crazy, but we swear by creating a simple park strategy to ensure our Disneyland day runs smoothly. 

Related Post: Current Events and Festivals in Los Angeles

Of course, depending on your personal tastes (are you a Star Wars nerd or a Marvel movie fanatic), your order of operations may differ.

  • If you enter Disneyland park first, focus on Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Entering California Adventure first, focus on Radiator Springs Racers and Toy Story Midway Mania at the park opening.
  • Plan to ‘meet characters’ midday 
  • Take in a show in the afternoon when it’s hottest, and you need a break
  • Consistently check the Disneyland app for wait times
  • Stay late(r) to take advantage of shorter evening lines
  • Keep in mind that wait times can be faster than posted

Pro Tip: If you are the proud owner of a Park Hopper ticket, make sure to make a reservation for the park you’d like to visit first. You will be allowed to ‘hop’ to the next park at 1 pm.

If you’d prefer to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, choose Disneyland as your first park.

If you’d prefer to ride Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure, choose Disney California Adventure as your first park.

Main Street Disneyland decorated in red, white, and blue banners for the fourth of July celebrations Los Angeles, California, USA

Height Requirements

Everyone from tiny sprouts to towering teenagers wants to get in on the fun and exhilaration of a Disneyland thrill ride. However, for the safety of all park guests, Disneyland has imposed certain height requirements.

As a general rule, most roller coasters or rides will require a height of 40” (102cm) or greater. Littlest members of the family will be able to cruise along on rides like Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters or Mater's Junkyard Jamboree which only require heights of 32” (81 cm) or taller.

Adrenaline junkies seeking the spins and drops of the fierce Incredicoaster will need to measure 48” (122 cm) or taller. For a full list of ride height requirements please click here

Related Post: Top Attractions in Los Angeles

Apps & Passes

Are you ready to meet your new best friend? The Disneyland Mobile App is a true lifesaver and affords you the ability to:

  • Check ride wait times and show listings
  • View character locations
  • Place mobile food orders
  • Purchase a Photo Pass
  • Join a Virtual queue
  • Browse Maps

Pro Tip: You will need to download the Disneyland App to access the new virtual queue feature. Both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure are only accessible via the virtual queue.

Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for a new Disneyland app feature coming Fall 2021, called Disney Genie. Disney Genie will act as your substitute travel planner and aid you in customizing your own unique Disneyland itinerary based on your favorite rides and attractions.

aerial view of village in Star Wars Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, USA

Buddy Pass

Have you heard whispers about the mysterious ‘Buddy Pass'?’ Well, we are here to spill all the tea on this well-kept Disney secret.

A lifesaver for harried and time-stressed parents, the Buddy Pass refers to a system where you get a card from a cast member near the ride that lets you fill in an empty row, and essentially skip the standby or fast pass lines.

Currently, only two rides at Disney California Adventure allow Buddy Passes (Monster’s Inc. and Toy Story Midway Mania). However, when t available, they quickly aid in shortening the wait times on these rides. 

VIP Tour Guide

Enjoy the eternal enchantment of Disneyland like the royalty you are when you spring for an exclusive VIP Tour Guide. Let you and your nearest and dearest delight in the perks and pleasures of having your own private tour guide.

Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to LA Theme Parks

Revel in white-glove service and the famed Disney hospitality as your charming concierge peppers your visit with fun facts and behind-the-scenes stories. Your group will enjoy ‘hassle-free planning’ based on your specific Disney desires and needs, advanced dining reservations, priority access to favorite Disneyland Resort attractions, and more!

VIP Tour guide packages begin at $2,975 and can accommodate a maximum of ten guests. 

Close up photo of Reimagined Beef Brisket Wellington at Disneyland California Adventure Food and Wine Festival in Anaheim, California, USA

photo credit: Disneyland via Facebook

Stroller Rentals

Cranky toddlers are most definitely a Disney ‘no-no.’ Keep your tiny tykes in high spirits and save their little legs all that stepping when you reserve a stroller rental at Disneyland.

A single stroller rental will run you $18/day while a double is $36. You can conveniently locate a stroller rental station just outside the Disneyland Park Main Entrance adjacent to the Kennel and inside the Pixar Pals Parking structure.

Senior Photos at Disneyland

School’s out forever! Commemorate your graduation with Goofy and the gang when you score some sensational senior photos at Disneyland.

Thankfully, because you are not saying ‘I do’ at the castle you do not need formal permission to snap some cap and gown pics. However, if you are all thumbs when it comes to capturing memories on camera we highly suggest investing in the Disney PhotoPass. 

Disney PhotoPass provides professional-level keepsake shots of you and your entire group at key popular locations throughout the park. The beautiful mementos can then be purchased as photos, prints to share, or made into stunning photo products!

Got an artistic eye? Harness your creativity and spice up that senior shoot with photos at any of our favorite Disneyland spots:

  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
  • Paradise Pier
  • Cars Land
  • The patterned wall outside of It’s a Small World
  • The pink teacup outside of The Mad Tea Party
  • Walt and Mickey Statue
  • Holding Disney Balloons
  • The Forced Perspective Wall in California Adventure Park
people riding in the tea cups at Mad Tea Party at Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, USA

Mad Tea Party

Can't-Miss Disneyland Attractions

Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park serve up oodles of excitement, exhilaration, and wholesome family fun. 

While we thoroughly endorse taking your time and appreciating all the detail and magic that makes Disneyland so special, we understand that some vacations require a bit more hustle. 

Here are our top tier, can’t be missed Disneyland activities, attractions, and rides:

Disneyland Park

  • It’s a Small World (ride)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (ride)
  • Haunted Mansion (ride)
  • Star Wars Launch Bay (character experience)
  • Indiana Jones Adventure (ride)
  • Princess Meet at Fantasy Faire (character experience)
  • Mickey’s Toon Town 
  • Space Mountain (ride)
  • Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run (ride)
  • Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
  • Splash Mountain (ride)
  • Enchanted Tiki Room (show)

Disney California Adventure

  • Incredicoaster (ride)
  • Radiator Springs Racers (ride)
  • Soarin’ Around the World (ride)
  • Meeting Disney Pals on Buena Vista Street (character experience)
  • World of Color (show)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark (ride)
  • Toy Story Midway Mania! (game)
  • The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (show)
girl hugging Pluto character at dinner with food on table at Disneyland in Los Angeles, California, USA

Share a meal with your favorite Disney friends at the Garden Grill in Epcot.

Inside Guide to What’s New at Disneyland

In addition to the Disney classic attractions that you know and love, like Jungle Cruise and It’s a Small World, Disneyland takes great effort to update and innovate within their park continuously.

Related Post: Los Angeles on a Budget: How to Save BIG With a Go City Pass

Therefore, Disney guests should keep their eyes peeled for the following new additions at each theme park:

Disneyland Park

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish (ride)
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (ride)

Disney California Adventure

  • Avengers Campus - an entirely new land to discover!
  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel (ride)
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind (ride)

Inside Guide to Disneyland Food & Drink

True Disneyland fans will know that a few cult food and beverage items have put Disneyland on the map (culinary-wise). Although you can bring small snacks into the park, it would be a shame to miss out on the legendary Dole Whip from the Tiki Juice Bar or the futuristic space-inspired meals at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo.

Keep in mind that if you aim to secure a dining reservation at one of Disneyland’s table service restaurants, such as the famed Blue Bayou, you will need to reserve early as they are in high demand. 

Pro Tip: Dining reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance, and resort guests have access to a limited number of reservations for select dining venues.

Group of young people, some wearing Mickey ears, drinking different alcoholic beverages at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival near Los Angeles, California, USA

photo credit: Disneyland via Facebook

Mobile Food Ordering

Now, more than ever, Disneyland’s dining establishments are relying on Mobile Food Ordering. An integral feature of the Disneyland mobile app, Mobile Food Ordering allows you to plan and pre-order your favorite food and drinks from anywhere in the park.

Related Post: A Parent's Guide on Things to Do in Los Angeles with Kids

Then, kiss long food lines and hangry children goodbye as you place your order while you wait in a ride line or relax in your hotel room.

What to Bring

Days at Disneyland may be some of your happiest on Earth, but they can be exhausting! So skip the tears and tantrums with our handy list of ‘must bring items’ for a day of theme park fun. 

  • Portable phone charger
  • Water bottle & snacks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Poncho/raincoat/umbrella
  • Stroller

Disneyland has charmed guests of all ages and shown them the power of true joy and happiness for over sixty years.

This quintessential California theme park vacation will capture your heart with classic interactive experiences such as Mickey’s Soundsational parade and newer inventive thrills like Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! 

All set to return to the land of magic? Start planning your ultimate Disneyland Vacation today!

Have Any Tips to Add to Our Inside Guide to Disneyland?

Let us know in the comments below!


isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

Want to write for Tripster?

Have something to add? Post it here:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe to our Newsletter

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]