Disneyland is the West Coasts’ most Visited Attraction and ranks as the Number 2 Theme park in the World (Pipped to the post by Disney’s Magic Kingdom) However it can be a confusing and stressful place to visit. Our Guide is a series of articles we have put together to help you get the absolute best from your visit.
In our complete Disneyland California Guide, we take a look at When to Go? What to Ride? How to save some Cash? What to Eat Where to Stay? And shed some light on the Mysteries of Genie+ and Lightening Lane systems. We try and take the stress out of your trip and show you how to make the best of your trip to the World’s Happiest Place.
Disneyland first opened in 1955 and was the direct brainchild of Walt himself. The Park was built on a real budget and had a disastrous opening, but launched Dinsey to great new heights. Disneyland redefined what people expect from Themeparks and attempts to bring all the wonder and magic of Disney films to life.
The Park was designed as a single park with a luxurious hotel nearby for people to stay in when visiting the park. However, the resort has changed immeasurably, following the multi-park resort model that proved so successful at Disney’s other locations. The resort now boasts 2-Parks, three hotels along with a host of entertainment facilities. Yet the park still largely retains its original quaintness and magic.
The Resort is far less Flamboyant and Excessive than Disney World, crowd numbers and queues are lower and you really feel the ultimate Disney Magic that little bit more than its showier sister resort. There is still a lot going on and a lot to get your head around before planning any stay here though, So our guide aims to let you know everything you need to know so You can plan the perfect trip.
The resort has 6 main components now, 2 Theme Parks, 3 Hotels, and the Downtown Disney District. Compared to the City Sized DisneyWorld Resort in Florida, Disneyland Resort is very compact. You can get around all parks and resort areas comfortably on foot. There is no need for additional transportation once at the Resort.
Disneyland Park sits on top (North) with Disney California Adventure at the bottom (South). The main thoroughfare runs between the two, with the Transportation hub on the right-hand side (East) and Downtown Disney on the Left (West). Both Park entrances sit at the center of this thoroughfare which is accessible from both sides.
Also to the left (west) of the Park are the Three Hotels. Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian, and Paradise Pier, Along with Disney’s Parking lots. All around the Resort are a host of good quality local and chain hotels and motels that you can reside in to avoid the HIGH cost of Disney hotels, More on those later.
Disneyland is the Original park and is still in its original location. While the park has changed dramatically over the years in many ways it has stayed the same. There are still a host of the original rides, such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pans Flight, and Jungle Cruise. Many others still retain the charm of the original park. The Centerpiece: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, has been updated and modernized but is still largely unchanged. While for some who are expecting the grandeur of Disney World, it can be underwhelming but the more petite, quaint, understated castle is just as well-loved.
Many people think theme parks are all about giant rides, flashy 4-D Simulators, and terrible fast food. Disneyland is very different and retains the charm and grace of yesteryear, the golden age of cinema, and brings it right up to date. If you come expecting the biggest and the best you will be disappointed, but come to experience the real Disney Magic and you will leave being charmed and delighted by the park Walt personally envisaged and oversaw its creation!
Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge
This is a separate Land included inside Disneyland Park. It is included free with all Disneyland Park Tickets, but cannot be visited without valid park admission. It’s a super heavily themed Star Wars land and home to some really neat restaurants, some themed Star Wars experiences, and two BIG headline attractions, Rise of the Resistance and Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Disney California Adventure Park
After multiple successes with the Multiple Park Model, the decision was taken to Expand the Resort. New Hotels, A new Entertainment and Shopping District, and a Whole New Park. This saw the Creation of Disney California Adventure.
Disney California Adventure is Disney’s more grown-up park. Offering bigger rides and high-tech thrills the park caters to the type of audience that may have outgrown the Classic style Dark Rides. While the park does not offer the kind of intense thrills the likes of Magic Mountain and Knotts Berry Farm offers, it delivers its thrills in a typically Disney kind of way, with a sprinkling of magic dust.
Marvel Avenger Campus
Disney naturally wanted to expand and make use of its highly lucrative Marvel Franchise and in order to do this, they created the Avenger Campus. Like Galaxies Edge this is a separate Land inside Disney California Adventure that is included in the ticket price.
There are two rides, the revamped Tower of Terror, now called Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, and the all-new Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. There is also a host of tasty treats from Pyms Kitchen and some amped-up Avengers experiences such as the avenger’s headquarters and the Ancient Sanctum.
The Avengers Campus is a dream come true for any Marvel fan…and that’s pretty much everyone right!
Originally there was just one hotel and due to budget constraints, this was not even owned by Disney but run on license and still Named the Disneyland Hotel. Unlike Disney World, there are no planning or land ownership constraints on the surrounding area so hundreds of third-party hotels have popped up meaning Disney has kept hotel building to the minimum and focused on high-end properties in prime locations with a range of perks.
Disney’s Grand Californian – $600 +
Dinsey’s flagship hotel. The Price is through the roof but you are getting a prime location and pure Disney luxury. Easily the best hotel in the area and with Direct access to the parks and Downtown Disney along with several perks such as extra Magic Hours: you do get a lot for your $600+ a night.
Disneyland Hotel – $450+
The Original Disneyland Hotel. Originally built and operated by Jack Wraher (A Business partner of Walt’s) The Hotel is not in Disney ownership and, while looking a little dated on the outside still offers excellent Dinsey-themed accommodation in close proximity to the Parks.
Disney’s Paradise Pier – $350+
This is Disneyland’s Budget Option, but it’s certainly an expensive kind of “budget” The location is a little further from the parks and overall has a cheaper feel. Apart from the Disney perks, there is little reason to choose this over a third-party hotel, which will be a lot cheaper. In the Fall of 2022, work began on the paradise Pier hotel to renovate it into the new upcoming Pixar Place Hotel. Your stay may be affected by construction so please check for updates before you book. There is currently no end date for the renovation.
Downtown Disney District
Sandwiched between the parks is the Downtown Disney District. An area of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The good thing about Downtown is it is open to the public and does not require a valid theme park ticket to visit. Of course, it is not worth coming to the resort just for Downtown but it gives you the chance to get a little Disney magic even on days you don’t have valid tickets.
Really what most people come to Disneyland for are the Rides. We take you through every ride in the park and let you know what is worth the queue and which rides you can skip. Along with letting you know which are “Really” scary and which are likely to leave you with a sore head and back!
Disneyland Park Rides And Attractions
- Every Ride and Attraction in the Park
- DON’T MISS – Our Top Attractions in Disneyland that You Must Not Miss
- STARWARS – A Galaxy’s Edge Guide
Disney California Adventure Park Rides And Attractions
- Every Ride and Attraction in the Park
- DON’T MISS – Our Top Attractions in Disney California Adventure that You Must Not Miss
- MARVEL – Avenger Campus
Both Parks! Park Hopper Must Rides!
Tips and Advice On Planning Your Trip
Disneyland Parking: There are 3 Parking lots at Disneyland California (Mickey and Friends, Pixar Pal, and Toy Story. All charge $30 for daily parking per car. The Toy Story Parking lot is the closest to park security, with shuttle services running to the other lots. Preferred Parking is available at all 3 Lots for $50 per day. This guarantees you parking nearest to the exit of the Lot or to the shuttle stop.
There is also Parking available at Downtown Disney from $10 for the 1st hour. Beyond these validations, each additional hour costs $14, charged in 30-minute increments, with a minimum of $7. The maximum daily parking is $66. However, you can get an additional free 3-hour parking with a min $20 spend at any shop or restaurant purchase. Just make sure you ask for your parking ticket to be validated when making your purchase!
How Long Do I Need At Disneyland? – The Number one question asked about Disney Resorts. Find out how long you need to spend at California’s Disney Parks
Genie+ Guide – Genie+ is Disney’s Paid ride-booking system. Find out if the Pass is worth the money! +$20 per ticket per Day
Single Rider Lines – Legalised Queue Jumping! Find out all you need to know about this fantastic “hack” for getting shorter wait times.
Fireworks and Nighttime Entertainment
Food And Dining
Disney has taken Themepark dining to a whole new level. Renowned for extortionate flaccid hotdogs and canned burgers, theme park food has a bad rep. Disney Dining is completely different and you can find amazing things to eat that, while not exactly cheap, will not break the bank.
The sheer volume of establishments and options makes writing a single guide impossible so we have compiled a number of Guides to help you navigate the minefield of Disney Dining and eat the best food there is in the resort.
Disney Dining Guide
Start here if you know nothing about Disneyland Dining
The best restaurants inside Disneyland Park – Themepark Tickets Required
All the best dining options from inside the Disney California Adventure – Themepark Tickets Required
Disney Dining and Restaurants around Disneyland California Resort area – No Themepark Tickets Required