Disneyland opened its doors to the public on July 18, 1955. Since then over 500 million people visited the park from all over the world. It is considered the most visited park in the world, second only to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. If you really want to know the history, go to Wikipedia.
I live practically around the corner from the Disney Resort and spend a lot of time at the parks. I would like to share my experiences with you. Hopefully, this will make your visit more enjoyable.
The park is usually open from 9 AM to 11 PM, but times may vary. Go here for the latest schedule. Disney hotel guests can enjoy an extra hour of fun before the usual opening time.
The park is very large. It sits on 85 acres of land with 60 attractions in 7 themed lands. So it is very easy to get overwhelmed by all choice. To make your experience more enjoyable and stress-free, plan your visit by going to Disney’s website. The site allows visitors to filter for attractions by “Thrill Type”, “Interests” or “Age”. For example, you can choose “Big Drops”, “Slow Rides”, “Teens”, etc.
You can also download the new Disneyland mobile app (https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/download-disneyland-mobile-app/) which is very useful for locating rides and checking wait times.
Disney Admission Deals: See bottom of this article for special admission deals.
Tip: Avoid going on the weekends and major holidays. Disneyland is a very crowded place during those times. Expect long lines.
So, what is the best way to enjoy Disneyland? It really depends on what you like and the ages of your kids – if any. Yes. you don’t have to have kids to enjoy Disneyland.
Here is one way to enjoy the park. It is most suited for a family with older kids (teens and pre-teens).
Starting your day
Tip: If you are staying at one of the Disney hotels, then your opening time is 1 hours earlier. Take advantage of this perk
Once the main gate opens rush through Main Street. Do not stop at any of the shops. There is plenty of time for shopping later. Go all the way to the ribbon and wait until the actual opening time.
As soon as they open the final obstacle between you and fun, rush to your first ride.
Tip: Some rides offer FastPass. It is a way to avoid long lines at some rides. For example, if you go to space mountain and find out that the wait time is too long, get a FastPass. It will specify an appointment time for you to come back. When you come back you go through a different line which is usually very short. Be aware that you can only have one FastPass at a time (per rider).
Tomorrow Land is a futuristic themed area full of thrills and discovery. This land offers a lot of new and original attractions.
This is one of the most popular rides in the park. It is part roller coaster and part Disney magic. Waiting in line is part of the fun. You enter a spaceport – with a huge starship in the center, receive your instructions from Admiral Ackbar, ride your rocket ship and blast off into outer space.
Your spaceship rockets through space with sharp turns and steep drops while avoiding near-collisions with asteroids and enemy spaceships. The ride is dark on purpose so you can enjoy the cosmic background.
Tip: For the physically challenged visitors, Disneyland provides powered wheelchairs when needed and a special appointment system so they won’t need to wait in line. The appointment system works for everyone in the party.
Recently, the ride was renamed “Hyperspace Mountain” in honor of the “Star Wars” movie franchise. The ride itself was upgraded to simulate a dogfight between Rebel X-wing starfighters and Imperial TIE fighters. <FastPass Available>
Tip: See full list of FastPass attractions at the bottom of this article.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
It is basically a submarine ride through the famous animation movie “Finding Nemo”. Once you dive into the depths of the “Tomorrow Land Lagoon”, you will be helping marlin and Dory to find Nemo.
After enjoying a few rides, take a break and enjoy breakfast at one of those places:
River Belle Terrace: This is my favorite spot for breakfast. They serve great eggs and bacon breakfast, but they are famous for their Mickey Mouse Pancakes and the great view from the terrace.
Carnation Café: Is another great spot for breakfast. They are famous for their Apple Granola Pancakes.
La Brea Café: If you planned ahead and decided to have breakfast before you enter the park, this nice cafe in Downtown Disney offers good coffee and pastries.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Another ride based on a popular movie: “Toy Story”. On this ride, kids of all ages can become junior space rangers, ride the XP-40 space cruiser and use laser guns to help Buzz Lightyear destroy the evil villain “Emperor Zurg”.
During the ride, you have full control over your cruiser. You can spin around to locate and shoot your targets. Score a lot of points and become a "Galactic Hero".
Tip: To score a lot of points, keep firing at all times, try to find the targets with the highest points (like Emperor Zurg), and even when the ride stops, keep firing.
This is a flight simulator ride based on the “Star Wars” movies. Riders will start on a leisurely trip to the “Endor Moon” and end up in the middle of a space battle between the forces of the empire and the rebels.
The ride is now upgraded with scenes from the latest “Star Wars” movie in amazing 3D.<FastPass Available>
Star Wars Launch Bay
This section of Tomorrow Land used to house the rotating showcase “Innoventions”. Now it is home to Star Wars - The Force Awakens props, characters and memorabilia. Enjoy the spaceship models and take a peek at some behind the scene video clips.
The kids and diehard fans can line up for photos with Chewbacca or the fierce warrior Kylo Ren. At the theater, you can watch a 10-minute behind the scene film celebrating the movie franchise and offering glimpses of future releases.
In the hands-on area, you can play the latest Disney video games line “Infinity 3.0”.
Right outside the Launch Bay you can see “Storm Troopers” terrorizing civilians.
Star Wars Path of the Jedi
Take an exciting 12-minute tour of the Start Wars saga. Starting from episode 1 and including the latest block buster “The Force Awakens”, relive the thrilling moments of the movie franchise with special effects and motion simulation. Your seat would move in sync with the action on the large screen.
This show is located right under Space Mountain – where Captain Eo used to play. The show is not a 3D show, but you will not miss the glasses. The action on the screen and around you in the theater makes up for the extra dimension.
The adventure starts while you are winding through the long lines. You will pass through the Grand Stand where cars discuss the world from their point of view.
Then you will get on one of the Honda-powered cars and drive through a maze of roads. Although you do control the gas pedal and the steering wheel, the cars are on a track. So you can’t go too fast or veer off the designated road.
As you cruise down the highway, enjoy the quirky road signs and the views of other rides.
Take a ride on a rocket that spins around the solar system. This is the ride the greets visitors as they enter Tomorrow Land.
Tomorrowland Terrace: Conveniently located next to Star Wars Launch Bay, this fast food restaurant serves fried chicken, burgers, salads and more.
Tip: Time your lunch with the “Jedi Training Academy” show right there on the terrace. There is usually a showing every hour
French Market Restaurant: If you feel like something more substantial, then walk across to New Orleans Square and have your lunch at this great restaurant. This cafeteria-style eatery serves Cajun/Creole dishes. On weekends, you can catch some Jazz or Dixieland tunes on the onsite stage.
A fast rollercoaster / water ride that tumbles through the iconic Matterhorn mountain. Jump into your alpine sled, climb to the top of snowcapped mountain then plunge through the caves and waterfalls. Along the way, watch out for the scary Abominable Snowman.
This ride is located in-between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. It doesn’t belong to either land. It also has 2 different entrances. If you pick the Fantasyland entrance will get a slightly longer with some sharper turns.
The Matterhorn is a real mountain in Switzerland with a 14,700-foot summit.
New Orleans Square
Pirates of the Caribbean
This ride was always very popular and became even more popular after the release of the movie series with the same name.
In case you didn’t know, the movie is based on the ride. But the ride benefited from the movie with new upgrades and new characters.
It is basically a boat ride through Caribbean towns with scenes of pillage and destruction – just like the movie. <FastPass Available>
I am not going to describe this ride in detail because part of the fun is the surprise, but watch out for unauthorized ghostly riders in your buggy.<FastPass Available>
Tip: Another way to beat the lines and Disney parks is the single ride line. If you are traveling alone (or willing to split from your group when you reach the ride) you can go to the single rider line which goes faster than the regular line. On a recent visit, the wait line for my ride was 75 minutes. I was able to get in within 5 minutes through the single rider line.
It is not a ride, but it deserves its own section. This amazing fireworks display happens every night at Disneyland and you can’t miss it. Along with the spectacular fireworks show, Disney recently added visual projections throughout the park – best along main street.
The display changes with the seasons, with special shows for Christmas and the New Year.
You can view the display from 4 main areas inside the park as well as admission plaza between the two parks.
Best viewing area, in my opinion, is Main Street. Try to get to Main Street before or during the Paint the Night Parade. Wait until the parade ends then move to the center of the street. Make sure you can see sleeping beauty castle from your vantage point. When the show starts, you will enjoy the fireworks straight ahead and the beautiful projects on both sides of the street. An added advantage is being closer to the exit – if you plan to leave right after the fireworks.
If you prefer to be closer to the fireworks, then try to find a spot in front of the castle – maybe in the center circle between the lands. You will probably have to go very early and wait a while.
Another good spot is at “Small World” ride. It is even closer to the fireworks, but you will not be able to see the castle and Tinker Bell.
You can also view the fireworks from the Rivers of America area. Not the best location, but it is convenient if you are coming out of Pirate of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion.
This ride is based on the Indiana Jones films. Riders are taken on an adventure in a military transport vehicle through a lost temple with Indiana Jones as your guide.
The ride is bumpy with a lot of sharp turns. It doesn’t exactly qualify as a roller coaster but comes close to it. <FastPass Available>
Tip: The line for Indiana Jones is usually very long, so if you can, get a FastPass and come back later. Alternatively, you can make it your first ride and avoid the lines
Books about Disneyland:
The attraction simulates a riverboat cruise down major rivers of the world. Visitors board steamer ships and take a voyage past many different jungle animals.
Frontierland recreates the era of trailblazers and pioneers in the wild west. Running through this land is “The Rivers of America” where steamboats, sail ships, rafts and canoes float by.
Tip: Part of the Rivers of America was recently drained to allow for the new Star Wars Land expansion. The steamboat and raft rides were closed, as well as Tom Sayer’s Island.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The Golden Horseshoe
If you haven’t had your lunch yet, this is a good time to stop for lunch or dinner. The dinner and show style restaurant offers fish and chips, chicken breast nuggets, Chili cheese fries and chili in a bread bowl. For entertainment enjoy the silly shenanigans of the Laughing Stock Co.
If you continue your stroll along the rivers of America, you will end up at Critter Country, the home of Splash Mountain and Winnie the Pooh.
This ride is part log ride and part movie production. The theme is based on the Disney movie “Song of the South”. At the end of the ride expect a steep drop and a big splash. Most riders will get wet! So only go on this ride when the weather is warm. <FastPass Available>
Hungry Bear Restaurant
Is it dinner time yet? Have a picnic at this riverside haven is nestled among the pine trees. Enjoy cheeseburgers, chicken sandwich or a healthy salad while watching the ducks swim by.
After you experience some adventures in Frontierland, Adventureland and Critter Country, skip back to fantasyland. Pass through the majestic Sleeping Beauty Castle, fly with Peter Pan, tumble into Alice's Wonderland, ride the flying elephant Dumbo or take a trip around "it's a small world".
Tip: Do you have small children but you don't want to miss out on the thrilling rides? Line up with the whole group and when you reach the attendants let them know you would like to swap. One adult will stay with the young children and the other adults can go on the ride. When the first ride is done, the adult that stayed with the children can now enjoy the ride while the others wait.
It’s a small world
This ride never gets old or boring. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy it. You ride a toy boat through several world destinations, with singing and dancing dolls representing the peoples of those countries. The music is great and it mixes several famous Disney tunes. Once you pass through the lines, it is time to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Peter Pan's Flight
Fly with Peter Pan over London and onto Neverland and through skull rock. Witness a duel between Peter Pan and Captain Hook. You will get a chance to see many more characters from the movie.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
The kids get to fly with Dumbo and his friends over fantasyland. They get to control the flight and decide how high to go.
Fantasyland is full of other small rides for the whole family. You can spin as fast as you can at the Mad Hatter Tea Party, go as slow as you like at King Arthur Carrousel and visit Alice in her Wonderland.
Enchanted Cottage, Sweets and Treats
The kids are screaming for ice-cream? Desert or dinner time, you will find good snacks in this cottage located in Fantasyland.
Mickey's Toontown is inspired by 1930s cartoons. The buildings, roads and rides all look cartoonish. It is targeted towards younger kids. If you have very young one, they will enjoy Gadget's Go Coaster and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. They can also visit Mickey Mouse house and Minnie Mouse house.
Tip: From several locations throughout Disneyland, you can take the Disneyland Railroad for a trip around the whole park, or just to hop to another faraway land. The train ride takes you through many of the park’s attractions. This is a good way to explore the park before you visit the actual rides. You also get to see a hidden area that is only accessible by train: The Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama. This is the longest diorama in the world showing live size prehistoric animals in their natural habitat. <This ride is now closed due to the Star Wars expansion project>
Disneyland FASTPASS Attractions
FastPass is a way to avoid long lines at some rides. For example, if you go to space mountain and find out that the wait time is too long, get a FastPass. It will specify an appointment time for you to come back. When you come back you go through a different line which is usually very short. Be aware that you can only have one FastPass at a time (per rider), with one exception: If 2 hours passed since you received your last FastPass, you can get another one.
Rides that offer FastPass:
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- Haunted Mansion
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Splash Mountain
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (when it reopens on April 28, 2017)
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
Disneyland Single Rider Lines
Rides that offer single rider line:
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Splash Mountain
- Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Rider Switch (Swap) Rides
Do you have small children but you don't want to miss out on the thrilling rides? Line up with the whole group and when you reach the attendants let them know you would like to swap. One adult will stay with the young children and the other adults can go on the ride. When the first ride is done, the adult that stayed with the children can now enjoy the ride while the others wait.
Rides that offer rider swapping:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Gadget's Go Coaster
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue