Headed off on a Disneyland vacation this summer? The family favorite destination in Anaheim, California, offers near-endless experiences.
However, if you only have a few days to get your Disney fix, here’s how to get the most from your time at Disneyland, by hitting all the must-see attractions and skipping the less popular options.
First things first, while Disneyland is technically considered a singular destination, there are actually several different “parts” of Disneyland.
Disneyland Park is the traditional park that you think of when you think of Disney, with the castle. It features some of the most famous Disney park “lands,” such as Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland and Mickey’s Toontown, as well as the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Disney California Adventure is separate and isn’t so much about the traditional Disney experience as it is some of Disney’s later offerings, like Pixar and the Avengers franchise.
Disneyland Resort offers three different hotels, Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.
Downtown Disney is also separate, and offers shopping and dining.
Planning Your Trip
If you have a choice on when you visit Disneyland (and you’re not just making a stopover at the parks during a larger trip to California), then you’ll want to take a few things into consideration.
If you hate crowds and want to avoid them at all costs possible, then try to avoid visiting Disneyland during the summer and around school holidays, when more parents are traveling with their kids.
If you want to see Disneyland at some of its best and brightest times, and you don’t care at all about crowds, then you might want to visit during one of the park’s annual events, such as Christmas at Disneyland (November through January), Halloween at Disneyland (September through October) or Food and Wine at Disney California Adventure (through April 21).
If you have a choice and flexible schedule, ideally, you would spend a full week at Disneyland, which will give you enough time to familiarize yourself with the expansive park(s) and find your favorite rides and attractions and experience them a few times over.
Can’t-Miss Rides and Attractions at Disneyland
Once you’re in the parks, what should you absolutely see and do?
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction is relatively new and celebrates all things having to do with the new Star Wars franchise. The pièce de résistance of this extensive “land” within Disneyland, made up of multiple attractions, is the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride, which has been called an absolute mind-blowing new level of theme park ride.
Of course, you can’t forget about Disneyland’s classic rides. Space Mountain is one of the most popular rides at Disneyland, and lines can require a wait of up to several hours. The indoor roller coaster is truly a can’t-miss.
It’s a Small World
It might make you cringe, but you can’t visit Disneyland and not experience the It’s a Small World slow boat ride. It’s certainly not thrill-inducing (though it may be chill-inducing, depending on your reaction to singing dolls), but it is a ride everyone in the family can enjoy.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Another classic, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is a similar boat ride that everyone in the family can enjoy. If you loved the original trilogy with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley (we’ll ignore those films that came after), then you’ll definitely want to check out this ride.
The Haunted Mansion
For spooks all year long, the Haunted Mansion is the place to go. If you’re visiting Disneyland during the Christmas season, especially, you’ll want to head to the Haunted Mansion experience first thing when you arrive at the park, to soak in its Nightmare Before Christmas transformation.
And, of course, no trip to Disneyland is complete without a ride on the iconic Splash Mountain.
Rides and Attractions to Skip at Disneyland
But not every ride or experience at Disneyland can be a winner.
What are some of the attractions that frequent Disneyland visitors recommend you skip?
Autopia, the classic car ride, is really popular…but only with the under-8 crowd. Everyone else can skip it. Star Tours is a Star Wars 3-D ride, but there are much better Star Wars-themed experiences in the park. Similarly, The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage does not qualify for a skip-the-line pass, and so the lines are always really long, and it’s just not worth the wait.
Tips for a Disneyland Vacation
A few final tips as you prepare for your big Disneyland getaway:
- Consider all your pass options.
There are several ticket options for Disneyland. The Park Hopper ticket option allows you to go between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure as you wish. If you’re not sure which park your family will prefer more, it can be a handy ticket option.
Additionally, many families like Disney’s MaxPass option, which is a FASTPASS ticket option that allows you to skip lines at select rides.
Lastly, there are also annual pass options, if you’re moving to the area or think you’ll be traveling to Anaheim on a regular basis in the coming year. The annual pass lives up to its cost (starting at $800) after a little over a week of visits.
- Don’t feel like you have to stay at a Disney property if you don’t want to or don’t have the budget.
On-site Disneyland resorts and hotels are pricey, sometimes over $500 per night and, for a traveling family, that can just be out of the question. Don’t feel like you absolutely must stay at the park if you can’t afford it. You can have an equally enjoyable time staying at another Anaheim hotel or at a nearby Airbnb.
Ready to Catch the Magic on Your Disneyland Vacation?
Disneyland, with its huge size and seemingly endless activities and rides, can be a little overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you from making a trip out to this all-American destination.
With a little planning and research, you can make your family’s trip to Disneyland one to remember.
You might also be interested in: The Complete Guide to Disney+