Known as the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland has left an incredible mark on Orange County since it opened in 1955. Visitors from all over the world have and continue to travel to Anaheim to gaze up at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, whip through the Matterhorn, shake hands with Mickey Mouse and savor the park’s famous Dole Whip. As the first and only Disney park designed and constructed by Walt Disney himself, it’s no wonder that this magical theme park has captured the hearts of many.
1313 Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
How To Get There
Navigating the streets around the Disneyland Resort can be tricky. Set in the heart of Anaheim near the I-5, the park is in a central location, surrounded by those who live and work in Orange County. As such, you can expect delays and traffic congestion around the park, especially during rush hour. Leave a considerable amount of time for driving, parking and getting over to the park once you arrive.
Although O.C. doesn’t have a subway system, there are a couple of other sources of public transportation that can be used to reach Disneyland. The Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) operates a variety of bus lines that service the resort, including routes 50, 43, 46, 83 and 430. Those who are coming from outside the county may consider taking a train before catching a connecting bus. Both Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink’s Orange County Line stop at the Anaheim station, which lies on OCTA’s Bus Route 50. There is also a Greyhound station less than a mile from the resort.
Many of the local hotels are part of the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) system, a convenient shuttle service that runs throughout Anaheim. Guests can board the shuttles at various hotels, the Anaheim Convention Center and other prominent points, with round-trip and multi-trip tickets available for purchase. If you’re staying in the resort area, this is a quick way to reach the park for cheap—and avoid parking.
Driving is a popular way to reach the Disneyland Resort and, with plenty of parking lots and a massive structure, you’re bound to find a spot. While you may not be able to avoid the traffic around the park, getting to the park isn’t too difficult.
- From Los Angeles – Take the 105 Freeway East. Merge onto the 605 Freeway North, then onto the I-5 South. Exit the freeway on Disneyland Drive, turn left and proceed across Ball Road. Use the left three lanes to reach the parking area.
- From San Diego – Traveling along the I-5 North, take the exit for Katella Avenue/Disney Way. Go straight onto Disney Way, then turn left onto Harbor Boulevard. Parking will be on the left-hand side.
- From the Inland Empire – Take the 91 Freeway West (or the 60 Freeway West) to the 57 Freeway South. Exit on Katella Avenue and turn right, then drive for nearly two miles. Turn left on Harbor Boulevard and turn left again to park.
There is an additional drop-off area near the front of the park that can be used for taxis and rideshares like Uber and Lyft.
There are two main parking areas for the theme park. The Mickey & Friends structure, which you enter from Ball Road, or the Toy Story lot, whose entrance lies on Harbor Boulevard, costs $20 for cars, $25 for oversized vehicles and $30 for buses. With more than 10,000 parking spots in the Mickey & Friends structure, most of those who drive to Disneyland will park there.
There is another parking lot for Downtown Disney, the nearby shopping and entertainment district. This lot offers two hours free, two additional hours free with validation and a rate of $12 per hour after that, up to $36.
Within The Resort
Once you arrive at either the Mickey & Friends structure or the Toy Story lot, you can catch a complimentary ride on the Disneyland tram to quickly reach the front entrance. From Downtown Disney, if you’ve already used your ticket to enter the park, you can also hop aboard the famous monorail, a historic transportation system that makes a loop between Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland.
It’s A Small World
It’s one of the most iconic Disneyland rides; people who haven’t even been to the park can probably sing the song. The exterior is bright white with glittering gold accents, but once you hop aboard the boat and head inside, you’ll be enveloped in darkness. But don’t worry—it won’t last for long. The boat travels around the world in a mere 15 minutes, taking visitors through a variety of countries and cultures. Over 300 animatronic children, decked out in their own country’s clothing and placed in a relevant setting, show riders just how alike we really are. A 2008 remodel included the addition of popular Disney characters placed in their prospective lands, like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in England, Simba in Africa, Aladdin and Jasmine in India, Cinderella in France and Mulan in China.
Star Tours—The Adventures Continue
There’s no denying the recent popularity of “Star Wars,” but Star Tours has been an epic ride since it first opened in the late 1980s. The original ride has been updated, renamed Star Tours—The Adventures Continue in 2011, with new action sequences, plot lines and 3D glasses. The five-minute ride now presents a turbulent trip across various planets to return a rebel spy to the Alliance. The randomized ride means you never know which planets you’ll visit. Whether you go to Hoth, Tatooine or another, you’ll see familiar faces, including Darth Vader, Princess Leia, BB-8, Yoda, Boba Fett, C-3PO or Admiral Ackbar. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, there’s no denying the rush you’ll get from entering light speed for the first time.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Most Disneyland rides are based on Disney movies, but with Pirates of the Caribbean, it was the other way around. Another water-based dark ride, this 15-minute ride is a welcome escape from the California heat, but it’s also endlessly entertaining. Float past the Blue Bayou Restaurant, and through the southern swamp, before you plunge into the darkness below. Riders pass skeletons, a pirate ship battle and various seaside towns as the animatronic pirates pillage and plunder, leaving fire and destruction in their path. After the movies were created, Johnny Depp’s character, Captain Jack Sparrow, was added throughout the ride. Filled with adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean is a twisted trip back in time—but it’s oh so fun too.
For nearly 30 years, Splash Mountain has been one of Disney’s most popular mountain rides. Based on a little known movie from the 1940s called Song of the South, riders float down a Georgia river inside a log before coming to a steep finale drop. Inside the dark caverns of the ride, you’ll find animatronic animals—foxes, bears, rabbits, opossums and more. Between the dark indoor scenes and the bright open-air stretches, the nearly 10-minute ride will captivate hearts and minds with cheerful music and silly characters. While you may not be singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” while you’re flying down the nearly-vertical drop, you certainly will be once you stop laughing over the picture they snap as you soar down.
Located in the neighboring California Adventure Park, visitors have been raving about Soarin’ since it opened more than 15 years ago. It takes place in a flight simulator with a mechanical lift made to mimic a hang glider. The original version of the ride, Soarin’ Over California, was a stunning look at everything the state has to offer—from San Francisco, Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe to Palm Springs, Malibu and Downtown Los Angeles. The current version, which opened last year, is called Soarin’ Around the World. As the name implies, riders fly over world landmarks, including the (real) Matterhorn, Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, the Taj Mahal, Iguazu Falls and the Eiffel Tower before gliding in over Disneyland’s firework display.
Hop in a famous Doom Buggy and explore Disney’s Haunted Mansion in this dark ride filled with ghosts. Walking through to reach the cars is just as exciting as the ride itself, with movie effects, technology and animatronics coming together to create spooky scenarios. Once on the ride, you’ll traverse the mansion alongside the 999 happy haunts that live there, passing ghost-filled graveyards, dinner parties and séances. Toward the end, three hitchhiking ghosts join you in the Hall of Mirrors, hopping into your buggy for the remainder of the ride. This ride has become immensely popular during the holiday season, when it is converted to the Nightmare Before Christmas. Incorporating characters and scenes from the movie, Haunted Mansion Holiday is in effect from before Halloween through Christmastime.
Indiana Jones Adventure
The line winds through a makeshift forest before entering the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in Disneyland’s Adventureland. With the word adventure in the name of the ride, it’s already clear that this fast-paced thrill ride provides endless excitement. Once you’ve wandered through the temple and past the sarcophagus stones and archeological treasures, you’ll board a rugged Jeep. The bumpy ride travels through the Hall of Promise, through rooms with cobras and skeleton warriors with spears, across a rickety wooden bridge and underneath a massive rolling boulder. The ride is nearly always in high demand, with long lines throughout most of the day—but it’s worth the wait.
Radiator Springs Racers
Another California Adventure ride, Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land is four minutes of fun. After climbing into the car, riders travel through Ornament Valley. The realistic rock formations are especially stunning at night, illuminated by golden lights. After passing a waterfall, you’ll head inside for the dark portion of the ride, which picks up speed here. After narrowly missing a few collisions with other cars, the sheriff steps in and tells Mater to escort you to where the real race begins. In town, you’ll prep your car for the competition with either a new coat of paint or new tires before lining up next to another car filled with riders and taking off like a bullet on parallel tracks. Speeding through the rocks and hills outside, one car is just faster than the other, producing a winner before the ride ends. The high speeds, sudden drops and wind in your hair makes this ride one to remember.
Sold outside the Enchanted Tiki Room at a Polynesian-themed juice counter with a thatched roof, the Dole Whip is easily the most famous food inside Disneyland. Visitors flock to the park to get their hands on these tasty treats. Composed of pineapple soft serve (along with Dole pineapple juice if you opt for the float), they are the perfect dessert to enjoy in California’s endless summer. The rich fruit flavor doesn’t hurt either!
Character-Themed Candy Apples
Both in the park and at Downtown Disney, bakeries made candied apples to resemble popular Disney characters. Though they change with the season, they always have Mickey and Minnie options. But the other choices change with the season. Some past inclusions are Pooh Bear, Dory and Nemo, Olaf, Goofy, Belle’s dress, Maleficent and more. They also create unique apples for special occasions, like weddings, Halloween and Christmas.
Terra Nova Tomato Basil Pasta
Available in Tomorrowland’s Pizza Port, the Terra Nova Tomato Basil Pasta is actually a delicious find. While others are gorging on pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers, enjoy this savory meal. You won’t feel like you’re eating fast food or theme park food with the shredded cheese and basil carefully layered on top. The Pizza Port has other delicious pastas as well as fresh salads that will help fuel all of the walking you’ll do throughout the day.
If you’re looking for a snack that’s a little more high class, head to the California Adventure Park. The Alfresco Tasting Terrace at Wine Country Trattoria offers a chance to enjoy outdoor dining overlooking the picturesque Cars Land. It also happens to be one of the places in the park where you’ll find alcohol, with flights on hand for those looking to taste. This charcuterie plate comes with prosciutto, chorizo, green and black olives, marinated mushrooms, walnuts, blue cheese, Fontina and goat cheese. It’s a delicious way to avoid filling up or to try some healthier options within the park.
While Mickey pancakes are a dish you can easily make at home, there’s something special about digging in to mouse-shaped pancakes while at Disneyland Resort. Find this tasty breakfast dish at Riverbelle Terrace, a Frontierland restaurant that overlooks the Rivers of America and the island. It is one of the few restaurants in the park that have table service so sit down to a nice breakfast to start your Disney adventure. With powdered sugar and various types of berries and fruits adorning your pancakes, you can’t go wrong.
A trip to the Blue Bayou, located within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, is always romantic. The moon shines day and night, crickets chirp and colored light bulbs are strung overhead. Because of the unique setting, the restaurant is almost always full. If you happen to get a reservation here, enjoy the restaurant’s most popular dish. The Monte Cristo contains both turkey and ham as well as Swiss cheese, but it also has a light egg batter on the outside that makes it stand out.
Few things are more exciting than Mickey-shaped beignets. These deep-fried pastries are available in New Orleans Square, both at Café Orleans and the Mint Julep Bar, ensuring that visitors have access to some southern treats. Those at Café Orleans come with two different dipping sauces—raspberry coulis and vanilla crème anglaise. However, at the Mint Julep Bar, you can choose from a three-pack or a six-pack. Seasonal offerings, including pumpkin and gingerbread beignets, are sometimes available as well.
BB-8 Rice Krispy Treat
As everyone impatiently awaits Star Wars Land, the film series has infiltrated the park in other ways. Aside from Star Tours and the temporary Hyperspace Mountain, visitors can meet their favorite Star Wars characters during the Season of the Force—but they can eat them as well. Mickey rice krispy treats have given way to these adorable BB-8 ones. They are pretty big, taste great and make for killer photographs too.
The shopping and entertainment district that lies between the parks and the hotels has plenty to offer both park-goers and locals. Some highlights include the ESPN Zone and the Rainforest Café, two massive restaurants that offer very different environments. Tortilla Joe’s and Catal Restaurant are some other popular spots for nice dinners before or after your Disney excursion. They also have ice cream, pretzel and smoothie spots for lighter snacks.
Downtown Disney is filled with places for shopping as well, from stores packed to the brim with Disney merchandise to clothing and toy stores like the Lego Store. The complex is also home to plenty of child-friendly activities, like Build-A-Bear, its car-themed alternative Ridemakerz, a movie theater and Anna and Elsa’s Boutique, where little ones can get Disney-inspired makeovers.
There are a few special tips that will help you get through an epic Disney adventure. As long as you prepare mentally for the crowds and remember to keep your cool, you’re bound to have an exciting day exploring all the magic Disney has to offer.
- Saving money on tickets can be relatively easy if you’re a local. They often have deals for Southern California residents, including discounted tickets or multi-day passes. Those that go a few times per year should also consider getting an annual pass to save money in the long run.
- To avoid spending bundles of cash on theme park food, bring your own snacks. While you might think they wouldn’t let you bring food in, there aren’t any rules against it. Pack some healthy options like fruit and nuts, or make sandwiches to avoid buying food completely.
- Between the walking and the typical California heat, you’ll be clamoring for a break. Save rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and It’s a Small World for the hottest parts of the day. You’ll get out of the heat and spend quite a bit of time resting your feet on the lengthy rides.
- Try to go on rides in clumps. You’ll save time doing everything in one spot before moving on rather than crisscrossing the park and wearing out your feet.
- Download the Disneyland Resort app to have easy access to wait times. This can help you decide which ride to go on next, determine where there are long lines to avoid and know which rides aren’t operating at the time.
- If you’re celebrating a special occasion, stop by City Hall on Main Street for a complimentary button. If you choose a birthday pin, you’ll have cast members wishing you a happy birthday all day long.
- If you have a child that loves meeting characters, consider going to Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel or Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure Park. Various characters stop by your table during the meal so you can save your time within the park for rides, shows and shopping. You can also download an app to find out where and when characters will appear within the park.
- Visiting in the off-season can mean shorter lines and fewer crowds for things like parades, fireworks displays and other shows. The only downsides are that it may be overcast or rainy, and some rides may be under construction to prepare for peak times.
- If you’re planning to go all day and stay until closing time, save your shopping for the very end. Main Street is open an hour later than the rest of the park so once you’re not able to go on rides anymore, you can wander the shops and pick out some souvenirs. There are some fantastic moving window displays filled with Disney characters on Main Street that are a fun way to end the night as well.
One of the best tips for beating the notorious lines at Disneyland is to utilize the Fastpass system. Attractions that regularly have high wait times, like Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain, have machines where you insert your admission ticket and out pops a Fastpass. These passes enable visitors to come back at a later time and join a special shorter line to cut down the wait.
These are a great way to spend less time in line, but there are a few things you must remember. You must return during the hour listed on your ticket or you may be turned to the general line. Also, these Fastpasses do run out so snag them early for the biggest rides. Also, you can only have a pass for one ride at a time so choose wisely! Happy line skipping!