Are you ready to plan a getaway to The Happiest Place on Earth? This travel guide to Disneyland in Anaheim, California will give you tips and advice to help manage your trip so it is a magical stress-free adventure! I have been to Disneyland three times as an adult and continue to love visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA). This guide is primarily advice for adults without kids but I do include a few things I’ve learned if you are traveling with children. As Walt Disney said, “Disneyland is your land!” I truly believe all ages can enjoy this happy place!

When to Go

If you can go off-season and during the week you will have fewer crowds and wait times (so avoid the summer, holidays, or major school breaks). Also, it’s California, so the weather is going to be pretty decent all year round (Though it can get too hot in the summer in my opinion!) Most recently, I went during all the Halloween festivities and it was definitely busy, but I still felt like I didn’t have to wait in super long lines all day! So, if you can, go off-season and on as many weekdays as possible.

Where to Stay and How to Get There

There are tons of hotels within walking distance of Disneyland!

Disney Resort Hotels:

Hotels I have stayed at:

  1. Park Vue Inn

-Right across the street, can’t get much closer!
-A bit more affordable, nothing fancy

2. Hyatt House

-About a 10-15 minute walk
-Nicer hotel & rooftop pool but less expensive than a Disney hotel

Disney Good Neighbor Hotels:

Check out this link to the Disneyland website. They often have deals with many of the closer hotels.

Airport & Driving

I have flown into both LAX and John Wayne (SNA) Airport and have had positive experiences at both. John Wayne is closer and less busy but can be more expensive. I recommend checking both airports! This last trip I split a Lyft with the two others I was traveling with and that was cheaper than other shuttle prices at the time. If you are planning to just go to Disneyland, I recommend staying at a hotel within walking distance, so there is no need to rent a car. Just get a rideshare/shuttle to and from the airport!

Park Tickets & Reservations

I will give you my recommendations but ultimately you can decide what makes the most sense for your time frame and budget! My ideal is a 3-day park hopper. You can definitely do Disneyland & DCA in less time but it will be a lot harder to do all the good stuff! On my most recent trip, I did a 4-day park hopper which was amazing, it really gave us a lot of time to do everything we wanted and still take nice long breaks every day (it was also a busier time with Halloween). I think having at least two days in Disneyland and one full day in California Adventure is really nice. 

Of course, there are Magic Key passes if you are someone that lives in California, or plans to go often that is worth looking into. Buy tickets here!

Park Reservation: In addition to purchasing tickets, you will also need to select which days you are going to be in the park! If you are doing Park Hopper, you need to choose which park you will start in each day. You will then be able to visit the other park after 1:00 pm.

Daily Plan

Morning: Arrive at least 15-30 minutes before park opening. They will usually let everyone in the park (DL & DCA) before the advertised opening time. You will shuffle into the main street and will wait there until Cast Members drop the ropes at the official opening time and you can head to the rides.

Early Afternoon: Get lunch outside the park, head back to the hotel for a nap or swim in the pool!

Late Afternoon/Early Evening: Head back into the same park or hop to the other one and hit all the rides you haven’t gone on yet! See fireworks, shows, and other entertainment. Check the Disneyland app for times and locations!

Attractions

The rides (“Attractions”) are one of the best parts and I try to go on as many as I can! Rides to try and get on first thing in the morning:

Disneyland

  • Space Mountain
  • Indiana Jones
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Smugglers Run

Disney California Adventure (DCA)

  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Guardians Of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout
  • Webslingers
  • Incredicoaster
  • Toy Story Midway Mania

You can get a LOT accomplished in the morning. I know it’s hard to get up early on vacation but it’s worth it. Go on all the big rides in the morning while crowds are low (and it’s not hot!) and take a break in the middle of the day. Use the app to check on wait times! (Though keep in mind that it’s not always 100% accurate).

Rise of the Resistance & Webslingers:

Currently, Rise of the Resistance in Galaxy’s Edge Disneyland & Webslingers in DCA have both switched to standby lines. Disney has said they will switch to Virtual Queue as needed.

Even if you aren’t a huge Star Wars nerd I HIGHLY recommend doing this attraction! (It’s really an experience more than a ride! No spoilers here, the less you know the more exciting it is!) Webslingers was fun too, but I didn’t feel the need to do it more than once.

How to Join the Virtual Queue

*They will use Virtual Queue when they feel it’s necessary. Click on the ride in the Disneyland App for the latest information!

Download the Disneyland App and register your tickets!

Two Times: 7:00am & 12:00pm Daily

  • Make sure you have everyone in your groups’ tickets linked on the app
  • Everyone in your group can try at the same time
  • Have one person in your group go to time.gov to see the exact time
  • 5-10mins before go into Virtual Queue on the App and hit Join Virtual Queue
  • Watching the time, right as it turns to 7 am or noon on the dot hit refresh (or pull down to refresh) and then hit join
  • Check out this post here from ChasingMagicDaily to see this process

Single Rider Lines

-This is a great way to skip the long lines! However, this means splitting up from your group. These are the rides that offer Single Rider, but keep in mind it may not always be an option. Ask a Cast Member near the entrance if you’re not sure if Single Rider is available.

Disneyland Single Rider Lines:

-Indiana Jones
-Space Mountain
-Star Tours
-Matterhorn Bobsleds
-Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
-Splash Mountain

DCA Single Rider Lines:

-Radiator Springs Racers
-Incredicoaster
-Grizzly River Run
-Goofy’s Sky School

*Motion Sickness Note! I don’t like Smuggler’s Run, Star Tours, or Incredicoaster because they make me sick. All good rides, I just personally don’t do well on them. I didn’t have an issue with Rise of the Resistance.

Rider Switch

-This is extremely helpful if you are doing Disneyland with kids! If you have one child in your family that is too short for a particular ride but everyone else wants to go, take advantage of this! It will allow everyone that wants to go on the ride without having to wait in line twice. Here is a link to the full explanation.

Food + Drink

There are lots of fun food & drink options in the parks! However, it should come as no surprise that it is very overpriced. Also, if you want to experience one of the nicer sit-down table service restaurants you will have to make reservation weeks (or months) in advance! I opt for eating outside the park for most meals and packing my own snacks. I did try several things on my last trip though! Also, take advantage of mobile ordering ahead of time on the app so you don’t have to wait in line. Here are some of my favorites (all dairy-free!):

Disneyland

  • Ronto-less Garden Wrap at Ronto Roasters
  • Meiloorun Juice at Ronto Roasters
  • Dole Whip Swirl at Tropical Hideaway

DCA

  • Impossible Spoonful at Pym’s Test Kitchen
  • Impossible Burger at Flo’s V8
  • Pixar Pier Frosty Parfait at Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats
Follow me on IG @melissa_junker for more food pics!

Events, Shows & More!

There are lots of shows like World of Color in DCA and Fireworks in Disneyland! As well as tons of little events & parades happening throughout the day.

Check the Disneyland App to see what shows are happening during the time you’re going.

The Disney Animation Building in DCA is pretty underrated in my opinion! It is a beautiful building inside and a great place to take a break from walking out in the sun. They have Turtle Talk with Crush which is funny & interactive. Animation Academy where you can learn how to illustrate a Disney character. There is also Sorcerer’s Workshop where the Beast’s Library is located! It’s places like this that I really love having some extra time to hang out in.

General Tips & FYIs

  • Bring two pairs of comfortable walking shoes (packing guide coming soon!)
  • Get familiar with the Disneyland App before going!
  • Link all your parties tickets in the Disneyland App.
  • Bring an external battery for your phone! You will be using your phone to check the app, mobile order food, take videos/pictures, etc
  • Bring a poncho if you don’t want to get super wet on water rides, also bring a spare set of socks
  • Pack your own water & snacks!
  • Download the Play App for entertainment while waiting in line
  • Check out the special lighting ceremony in Cars Land just before sunset 
  • If a ride breaks down while you’re waiting in line, talk to a Cast Member. They may be able to give you a fastpass to use later (not a guarantee).

Other resources for tips & tricks

Most importantly be flexible and enjoy your time! Be kind to other guests and Cast Members. 

I will also have a packing guide that will include what I pack into the park with me every day. Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments down below, or send me a message on Instagram! Have a magical trip!

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