It’s billed as the happiest place on earth, but planning a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California can feel a little like spending too long on the Magic Kingdom’s spinning teacups. Worry not; we’ve rounded up all the info you need for visiting Disneyland Resort and its two theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.
How to get there
The closest airport is John Wayne, 25 kilometres away, but if you’re arriving from overseas you’ll land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), 55 kilometres from the resort. From LAX it’s a 30- to 60-minute drive – you can hire a car or book a shuttle service such as Karmel. The Los Angeles Metro (a combination of bus and rail) is the most affordable option but can take up to three hours during peak times.
If you’re planning on renting a car, pre-book parking at the Mickey & Friends or Pixar Pals Parking Structures from US$30 (about $42) a day and jump on a tram to the Disneyland Resort Esplanade.
When to go
Expect smaller crowds from mid-September to mid-November before Thanksgiving and mid-January through to mid-March. Christmas, spring break (typically late March) and June through August are the busiest times. Keep in mind that while wait times might be shorter during the less crowded months, the resort typically reduces operating hours and attractions may be closed for renovations.
During summer, crowds are often smaller when annual pass holders are blocked from entry, including on many weekends. Compare your travel dates to the Imagine Key and Enchant Key passes on Disneyland’s calendar before booking.
There are also special events to consider: Lunar New Year celebrations, the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival in March and April and Halloween festivities throughout October to name a few.
If you only have one day to visit, stick to Disneyland Park for the classic experience. It’s here you’ll find attractions like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as plenty of photo ops. Prices vary throughout the year but single-day tickets start at US$104 (about $145) for adults and US$98 (about $137) for children aged three to nine.
For multi-day trips, book park hopper tickets that let you move between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park after 1pm for an additional $80 a day. As well as a park ticket, you’ll need a park reservation for the same date.
No matter when you go, it’s worth arriving at the gate at least 30 minutes before opening to get a head start navigating the entrance and security queues. Be sure to check the official Disneyland website to see the latest updates on opening hours, rules and restrictions for visitors.
Where to stay
Disneyland has three on-site hotels, all of which are a few minutes’ walk from the park gates. The Grand Californian is the most luxurious, with rustic, Craftsman-style interiors (full of magical Disney touches, of course), three pools, upscale dining and an impressive spa. Opened in 1955, Disneyland Hotel dials up the nostalgia thanks to themed suites and two retro-style pools. The most budget-friendly option is the seaside-inspired Paradise Pier Hotel, with rates starting at about $550 per night.
Staying at the on-site hotels can come with its own perks. Extra Magic Hour, which gives hotel guests early access before the public each day, is currently on hold while Disneyland ramps up to full production following its 13-month closure due to COVID-19. But the Grand Californian’s exclusive entrance to Disney California Adventure Park is still open, letting you skip long lines at the turnstiles and security checkpoints.
There’s also plenty of off-site accommodation nearby, either within walking distance to the park or along the Anaheim Resort Transportation bus line. The tidy Anaheim Camelot Inn & Suites is just a five minute drive away or stay in JW Marriott Anaheim Resort’s elegantly appointed rooms.
What to eat and drink
For all-American hits, Carnation Cafe on Main Street, USA can’t be beat – think fried pickles, burgers and Walt’s Chilli served beneath candy-striped umbrellas. Pixar-themed Lamplight Lounge is a go-to for lobster nachos, while Blue Bayou Restaurant’s New Orleans staples (jambalaya, Cajun cauliflower) are ideal for refuelling after a long day of exploring.
Some of the best grab-and-go meals can be found at Ronto Roasters in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where the Ronto Wrap – sausage, roast pork and slaw in a pita – and its vegan counterpart are fan favourites.
If you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up, try the turkey legs at Edelweiss Snacks, chocolate popcorn at Kat Saka's Kettle or Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels throughout the park. Don’t skip a Dole Whip – the legendary pineapple soft-serve from Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland.
The latest addition to the park is Avengers Campus, a land dedicated to all things Marvel. Top-billed is Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout, a thrilling 40-metre drop ride with six different storylines to experience, but you’ll also witness stunt shows and a Spider-Man 3D adventure.
Long-standing favourites like whimsical boat ride “it’s a small world” and the Mad Hatter’s twirling teacups can be found at Fantasyland, a great starting point for younger kids. Don’t leave without stopping for a snap in front of the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Opened in 2020, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is jam-packed with attractions. Feel the cockpit rumble as you blast into hyperspace in the Millennium Falcon or build your own custom lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop. Serious fans won’t want to miss Rise of the Resistance, an immersive ride that mixes animatronics, special effects, towering scenery and small drops, or a drink at Oga’s Cantina.
Also on your hit list: log-flume adventure Splash Mountain and Cars Land, which recreates the desert landscape of the 2006 film.
Tips to know
- Downloading the Disneyland app is a must: you can navigate using the interactive map; see attraction wait times; pre-order meals to avoid waiting in line; make restaurant reservations and join virtual queues for rides.
- FASTPASS and Disney MaxPass services have been replaced by Disney Genie+, an itinerary creator that also lets you purchase Lighting Lane access to select attractions and download photos from rides.
- If money is no object, book a VIP tour. Starting at $4,200AU, a private guide will help your group of up to 10 plan the perfect day, including priority access to rides.
- You can bring outside snacks and non-alcoholic drinks into Disneyland as long as they’re not in glass containers. There’s also a picnic area with lockers for storing your food and utensils.
- Switch your phone to flight mode during underground rides like Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean as searching for a signal will drain the battery. You might want to pack a portable charger, but there are also phone charging kiosks throughout the park.
- Disney has several guides for guests with disabilities as well as a dedicated Disability Access Service (DAS) program for those who have difficulty waiting in long queues.
- As of February 2022, masks are highly recommended to be worn (and mandatory in some settings) by all guests ages two and up indoors, including on many attractions and in enclosed transportation vehicles. Check the latest experience updates on the Disney website.