Want to make one starry-eyed Disney-loving travel writer extremely excited? Snag her tickets to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Theme parks may not be my cup of tea, but I love Disneyland and was all too eager to conquer Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure on Tripster's behalf. From making pit stops in Cars Land, to soaking in the Western charms of Jessie’s Critters at the Pixar Pier, my friend and I had a day of non-stop fun.
Follow along my journey as I take you through everything you need to know about my day at Disneyland!
While I would have given many pairs of Mouse ears to spend a few more days reveling in the enchantment of Disney, I happened to be on a tight turnaround.
Luckily, Disneyland California Adventure is a mere 72 acres, making it slightly smaller and easier to navigate than Disneyland's 85 acres.
Before we get to rides, snacks, and the mounds of exciting attractions, let's address everyone's burning question. Can you do Disneyland Park and Disneyland California Adventure in one day? The simple answer is you can - but you can't do everything. If this is your first time experiencing the pleasure of a Walt Disney resort vacation, I highly encourage you to take your time and spread out your park visits.
Related Post: Insider's Guide to Disneyland
However, if you are a Disney veteran and wish to experience the exuberant atmosphere and a select few attractions and coasters, it can be done. Be wary that you will have to miss some heavy hitter thrills (bye-bye Space Mountain) and hit the ground running.
About Disneyland California Adventure & Disneyland Park
Wondering in which park to jump-start your Disney vacation? While my friend and I kicked off our day of churros, coasters, and avengers excitement in California Adventure, I believe either park makes a great start to your day. Overall, California Adventure is Disneyland's newer, slightly smaller addition which features some more adult rides, the Marvel characters, and of course, the famed Cars Land.
Disneyland Park is more akin to the Magic Kingdom and packs a hefty dose of nostalgia, and classic rides such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World.
Disneyland features nine themed areas and over 50 attractions, while California Adventure contains seven themed lands and 34 attractions. Interestingly enough, Disneyland is the home of Galaxy's Edge. This placement is surprising, given that many Disney fans (myself included) feel that this would have been a welcome addition to the California Adventure Park.
Both parks contain a multitude of delicious dining options. Furthermore, with Disneyland's Galaxy's Edge expansion, you can purchase alcoholic beverages in each park.
My Experience at Disneyland California Adventure
While going to Disneyland is a dream come true, I have to say the logistics of planning are not. However, thanks to Genie+ and my thorough research, I felt primed and prepared to tackle as much of both parks as possible.
Thankfully our day started as smooth as possible since I had judiciously pre-purchased our parking. My friend and I snagged covered parking in the Pixar Pals structure, but you can also score spots in Downtown Disney. The infectious spirit of Walt was already spilling out of my pores as I spotted happy families making their trek from the Disneyland Resort to the park's entrance.
Related Post: Current Festivals and Events at Disneyland Resort
My slightly cynical pal, who had never been blessed by a Disney visit, was even swept up in the joy of the cheerful cast members and the magical music. Throughout our entire day, we couldn't help grinning as each and every individual we encountered was so helpful and polite.
As we settled into the tram ride to reach the park, we couldn't help but notice the diversity of the Disney crowd. Everyone from brides to be to tweens celebrating 10th birthdays were there to commemorate the magic of imagination.
We cruised over to Guest Relations, picked up our park tickets, and after a brief lesson on Genie+, we were rocking and ready to go.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT
I am nothing if not an efficient planner, and I was determined to hit some of the more exhilarating rides and rollercoasters before peak wait times. Luckily, I had Genie+ on my side.
After a leisurely popcorn-scented stroll through the charming Buena Vista St and Hollywood Land, I was ready to help out Rocket, Star-Lord, and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy Gang! I hate to play favorites, but Mission: BREAKOUT was my top ride of the day.
A unique combination of story, thrills, and high production value had me debating riding this epic intergalactic romp again and again. Your journey into the nether regions of the universe commences with a labyrinth of twists, turns, and kooky space artifacts.
Related Post: Everything You Need to Know About Disney's Genie+
The short wait time sped by as I was busy taking in the dogs in space suits and other animatronic alien creatures. Everyone's favorite talking raccoon, Rocket, informs you of the mission as you strap in and prepare for the unknown.
Usually, I am a roller coaster fiend, but this big drop ride caught me in its clenches and did not let go! Apologies to my teenage seat-mates for my incessant screaming, but there is nothing like a free fall at 8:15 am to get your blood pumping. I felt my stomach in my mouth the entire time but in the best way.
Alternating between screaming and smiling, I was in high-speed heaven the entire trip. The ride is set to the groovy 70s tunes that populate the movie's soundtrack. I also loved the breathtaking park view you achieve at the summit before plunging into darkness.
Soarin' Over California
After all of that excitement, I was craving a more mellow ride to calm my nerves. Everyone had waxed poetic about the magic of Soarin' Over California, and I was curious to see what the fuss was about. My friend and I wandered into Grizzly Peak territory and, of course, had to snap a few obligatory selfies at the darling vintage gas station pumps.
Before getting entranced by the Western Americana memorabilia, it was time to hop in line for our Genie+ reservation. Honestly, I feel like half of the fun of this ride was the kitschy airplane-style safety video narrated by actor Patrick Warburton.
I was digging the classic California aviation theme and the uplifting melodic music. We made our way to the aircraft carrier seating and buckled up.
This laidback ride featured an onslaught of scenic delights. With your feet dangling high in the air, you feel all the fun of hang gliding (minus the panic attacks). I loved the arresting aerial views of Big Bear, PGA west, the Golden Gate Bridge, Malibu, Napa, and more.
This cruisy trip put me in the mood to sample all of the California Food and Wine Festival delicacies later.
Toy Story Midway Mania
Unfortunately, my poor pal suffered from Vertigo, so I had to tackle many of the more intense California Adventure rides solo. Luckily, Toy Story Midway Mania was kid-friendly and allowed us to check out the dazzling Pixar Pier.
A can't miss focal point of California Adventure. This vintage boardwalk-style land is home to many rides, including the Pixar Pal-A-Round, the Incredicoaster, Jessie's Critter Carousel, and Toy Story Midway Mania. Even if you are not into rides, it's well worth it to stop by for a selfie with Elastigirl or an epic snap of the Mickey Ferris Wheel, aka the Pixar Pal-A-Round.
Tiny fans of Toy Story can work on their hand-eye coordination as they hop into the old-school arcade-style ride that is Toy Story Midway Mania. I am slightly ashamed to admit that my friend trounced me with his high score. Ideal for competitive types, hold on to your shooter and try to tally up as many points as possible.
Post Toy Story defeat, my friend was craving a corn dog, and I was hankering for some high-speed havoc. We agreed to temporarily part ways so I could partake in the inversions and dynamic drops of the Incredicoaster. My fellow roller coaster cohorts and I were kept busy by the funny videos as we waited in line.
Related Post: 13 Best Places to Stay at Disneyland
Tasked with the mission to find missing Jack Jack we boarded our cherry red seats and prayed for the best. This coaster achieves speeds of up to 55mph and is the fastest ride in Disneyland!
However, I was most taken by the multiple loops, the weightless drops, and the incredible musical score. While many theme parks have scintillating coasters, Disney's production value is not to be outdone, and the enclosed tunnels, special effects, and Incredibles movie scenes made this a win for me.
Additionally, as a native New Yorker, the ride's trajectory reminded me heavily of the iconic Cyclone on Coney Island.
Webslingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
I may not be the most manic Marvel fan, but I've always had a soft spot for Spider-Man. And I am not mad about the addition of Tom Holland to the MCU universe. Due to the time constraints placed on Genie+ reservations, Webslingers was one ride where we couldn't utilize Lightning Lane.
This translated into a super long wait time. But anything for Tom, right? After making friends with plenty of birthday boys and girls in line, it was time to save the Avengers campus. Due to a kerfuffle with a robotic spider, the Open House was now under attack. Essentially Webslingers is a 'shoot 'em up' type ride where you are virtually slinging webs with your arms to earn points.
At this point, my competitive juices were flowing. I had learned my lesson from Midway Mania and was ready to dominate. I slung those virtual webs like my life depended on it and earned a high score for my team.
Spider-Man Live Show
Keen to take a mini-break from the rides upon my exit from Webslingers, the growing crowd immediately captured my attention at the Avenger's Campus. I asked a perky cast member what was up, and they informed me the Spider-man Live Show was beginning in 5 minutes. Instantly intrigued, I decided to stay put.
The crowd grew exponentially larger by the minute and remained hushed in anticipation. Finally, someone cried out, 'there's Spider-man.' On Top of the Web Center, our red and blue adorned hero engaged in death-defying swings, slings, and backflips. Major props to this Spider-man, whose body appeared to be made out of putty. I watched in awe at their web-slinging and gymnastic prowess.
Oddly enough, my friend leaned over and informed me that the Spider-man was actually Spider-woman, as he had glimpsed at them pre-show, sans mask.
Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
Our last romp before we wandered over to Disneyland Park was a lighthearted cruise through the creature-infested streets of Monstropolis. Located in the ever-charming Hollywood Land, we paused for a moment to admire the musical stylings of the visiting high school orchestra before hopping in line.
Mike and Sulley to the Rescue was a laid-back ride in a bright yellow taxi weaving its way through the Monstropolis Transit Terminal. It was all hands on deck as we attempted to aid our good friends Mike and Sulley return the troublemaking Boo safely back to the land of humans. This ride had me chucking non-stop due to its good-humored fun and quirky NYC nostalgia.
I knew it was my duty as the 'Disney veteran' to show my friend the enchantment of the older park's quintessential rides. So before the hangry and tired feet could set it, we park hopped over to Disneyland.
While we could not check off every iconic ride on our Disneyland bucket list, we plowed our way through plenty of favorites. We tackled the rustic frontier of Big Thunder Mountain and even let loose with a few choice expletives. Next, we embraced the timeless appeal of 'It's a Small World' and marveled at the feel-good nature of this slow-paced attraction.
Photo Alert: the small world boats are also the ideal selfie spot.
To round out the day, we traveled deep into the Amazon with the Jungle Cruise. I am happy to report, the Skipper's jokes are still as corny as ever. Lastly, it was time to transport ourselves to the Southern Gothic streets of the Bayou with a visit to the Haunted Mansion.
Honestly, the scariest part of this ride is the shrinking room and the staff members informing us 'there's no such thing as personal space at Disney.'
Hot Takes and Final Takeaways
Did we do everything at Disney? Absolutely not! But, I did have a fantastic time soaking in the rides, atmosphere, and fantasy of the Happiest Place on Earth. I had a ball from checking out the beautifully recreated Carthay Circle Theater to the stomach-churning 130 ft drop on Mission Breakout.
Disney is all about the story, and its commitment to production value and setting is unparalleled.
If you want to make the most out of your Disneyland vacation, I highly suggest opting for Genie+ tickets. These were a lifesaver and drastically cut down on our wait times. The only caveat to utilizing the Disneyland app and Genie+ was that it did a number on my phone battery.
Opt to bring a rechargeable battery pack or buy one at the FuelRod stations located throughout the park. Additionally, elect one fastidious member of your group to be in charge of making all Genie+/or Lightning Lane reservations. Lastly, if you are ever in doubt, just ask a cast member. These angels on earth are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
Related Post: How to Devise the Perfect Los Angeles Packing List
My friend and I called it quits on our day at Disney with absurd step counts and bellies full of Mickey-shaped macarons. Then, with one last final wave for Goofy, we made our way to the tram, eager to rest our weary feet.
"So, what did you think?" I questioned my steadfast partner in crime.
A grand smile stretched across his face as he replied, "I think I get it now."
Tell Us, Do You Prefer Disneyland or Disneyland California Adventure?
Leave us a comment below!