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Possibilities are nearly endless for things to do all over the Disneyland Resort. Let’s look beyond the obvious things (ie best rides) in the parks. There’s so much to discover!
Check out all these tips and tricks for the best 50 things to do in Disneyland California! These will be sure to make it Worth Every Trip!
Before you go
1. Pick when to visit
Determine when you are available to visit Disneyland Resort and what crowds will look like at that time.
Go midweek if you’re looking for lighter crowds (especially Wednesdays). You will face large crowds during the holiday season, but all the festive decorations and holiday magic may just make up for it. It’s up to you!
Ticket price may also factor into your decision of when to go, as single-day ticket prices vary based on the dates you select to visit.
2. Select your tickets online
Gone are the days of showing up to the park to buy tickets at the booth beside the gate. Purchase your tickets online and make a park reservation for the park you plan to attend (Both tickets and reservations are currently required to enter either park).
If you are only spending one day at the parks, I highly recommend paying the extra cost for a park hopper ticket. You’ll get to see as many highlights as possible in both parks, which makes for one incredible day!
3. Download the Disneyland App
The Disneyland App is your source for all planning details. It will have your park tickets, ride times, mobile food orders, Genie+ photos, Lightning Lane (the newly renamed FastPass) availability, and more.
Link all your park tickets to one account in the Disneyland App. This will simplify making reservations for Lightning Lanes and restaurants.PRO Tip: Bring a portable charger (like this one) along for the day because the Disneyland App definitely drains your phone battery.
Read more: 25 Best Items for Traveling as a Family
4. Know where to park
Disneyland Theme Park Parking will cost $30. If you are arriving from Los Angeles on the north side, you can park in the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure or the Pixar Pals Parking Structure. And if you are arriving from San Diego on the south side, you can park in the Toy Story Parking Area.
Shuttles or busses are provided for transportation from the parking location to the park entrances.
PRO Tip: Look for offsite parking through sites/apps like Spot Hero or ParkWhiz if you want to try and save money. Then simply walk over to the park entrance.
5. Make advanced dining reservations
Use the Disneyland App to make dining reservations ahead of time–especially if you have a specific table service restaurant you want to dine at.
Reserve a table at Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland Park and enjoy Louisiana dishes while Pirates of the Caribbean boats float past you. Or reserve a spot at the classy Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure Park for an elite fine dining experience.PRO Tip: See if you can book your dinner reservation just before park closing time. Most restaurants stay open after the park closes. This lets you maximize your park time for attractions but still enjoy a delightful Disney dinner.
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6. Arrive at the parks EARLY
Make the most of your time at Disneyland by arriving early before the parks open. I recommend arriving at least 30-45 minutes before opening.
PRO Tip: If you stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours when hotel guests can enter the park 1 hour prior to other non-hotel guests (temporarily unavailable).
This is the best time to hit popular rides that have long lines later in the day. If you play your cards right, you can get on up to four rides within the first hour of park opening.
PRO Tip: Visiting Disney California Adventure Park? Go straight to Radiator Springs Racers or WEB SLINGERS. Visiting Disneyland Park? Head to Rise of the Resistance first.
Read more: 5 Simple Steps to Create a Trip Itinerary
7. Use Genie+ and Lightning Lane for shorter lines
One person in your party should be in charge of making Lightning Lane (newly renamed FastPass) selections. Lightning Lane allows you to bypass the standby line and get on the ride in no time. Minimize wait time and maximize FUN!
You can add on the Genie+ feature (additional fee) to each person’s daily ticket, which gives you access to most Lightning Lane attractions. However, there are a few rides that only offer individual Lightning Lane purchases.
Genie+ Lightning Lane
Individual Lightning Lane
Disney California Adventure Park
8. Go on rides during lower crowd times
Want to avoid long lines without paying for Genie+ or individual Lightning Lane entrances? Take advantage of lower crowds during park opening, parades, just before park close, and when a ride reopens after being temporarily closed. Crowds typically die down during these times, so you can hopefully reduce the total wait time.
9. Take advantage of Rider Switch with little kids
If you have younger kids who aren’t ready (or tall enough) to go on fast roller coasters or high intensity rides, then utilize Rider Switch.
Have your entire party go up to the queue and tell the cast member you would like to use Rider Switch. They will let a few people from your party wait in line for the ride, while at least one adult stays back to watch the kids who will not ride. Once the first group is off, the kid watching adult (and usually 1-2 additional people in the party) will have a special Rider Switch pass that lets them bypass the standby line.
Read more: 6 Reasons to Travel with Kids
10. Use Single Rider Line for older kids
If you are visiting Disneyland Park with older kids or adults, take advantage of the Single Rider Line. It’s only available at select attractions, but it’s an easy way to reduce your wait time without having a Lightning Lane pass. You won’t all get on the same ride vehicle (cast members use each person to fill in seating gaps), but it’s often worth it to save several minutes (or hours) of standing in line.
11. Hop between Disney parks
If your goal is to see as much as possible in as little time as possible, then take advantage of park hopping. You can spend the morning at one park and the afternoon at the other, or bounce back and forth between both theme parks several times. Since the park entrances share an entrance plaza, it’s easy to go between the parks.PRO Tip: If you want to start making plans on how to spend your time, you can see historical and current wait time data analyzed here. Plus you’ll want to use your Disneyland App for all up to date wait times once you are in the parks.
12. Shop down Main Street, U.S.A.
Strolling right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. is a delightful way to enter the park. But make sure to check out all the fun shops on the sides of the street. You’ll find an abundance of Disney merchandise from pins to ears to sweatshirts to toys to artwork and more!
13. Watch the Flag Retreat Ceremony
Head to the center of Town Square for a patriotic moment as cast members lower the American flag and the band’s patriotic music fills the air. Honor our military heroes and this great country we have been blessed to live in.
See Disneyland’s Times Guide or check with Guest Services to confirm the ceremony start time.
14. Take a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Did you even go to Disneyland if you didn’t get a picture in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle? While some may say it’s cliche, I say it’s iconic.
No trip is complete without this classic Disney shot. Find a great spot in front of the castle and say “cheese”!
PRO Tip: If you have Genie+, enjoy complimentary professional pictures taken by cast members. They will link them to your account for you to view and download.
15. Be transformed into a princess for the day
Take your little ones to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where they can be transformed into princesses and knights. Kids ages 3-12 can get a makeover with their hair, makeup, nails, and even a costume! Gift your kids this royal transformation as an extra magical treat.
16. Fly on Dumbo
When it comes to iconic Disneyland rides, it’s hard to beat Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Enjoy flying through the air behind the castle as you embrace your inner child and enjoy the happiest place on earth.
Fun Fact: Dumbo is the only ride that can be found at all six Disney castle parks worldwide. So it’s obviously a Disney staple!
Read more: 25 Best Disney World Rides for Toddlers
17. All aboard Disneyland Railroad
It’s easy to watch the Disneyland Railroad going by but never stop to experience it yourself. Maybe your feet need a break – use the railroad as transportation to another park location. Or maybe you’re ready to sit back, relax and enjoy a journey around the park. Either way, take in the pretty views and fun park facts on this circular railway journey.
18. Don’t miss Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Disney truly outdid themselves when they created Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. With all the theming and character interaction, you will feel as if you stepped right into the Star Wars universe.
Sip unique drinks at Oga’s Cantina (advanced reservations required) or drink some blue milk like Luke Skywalker. Ride on Millennium Falcon : Smuggler’s Run or experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (one of the best attractions).
Take time to walk through one of Disney’s best-designed lands…it’s incredible!
19. Build a Droid or Lightsaber
Want to take a customized Star Wars item home with you? Visit the Droid Depot to build your very own droid piece by piece. Or head over to Savi’s Workshop to construct your personal lightsaber–just don’t let the First Order find out!
Disney California Adventure Park
20. Catch Five and Dime
Catch the best five man jazz band and their female singer, Dime, on Buena Vista Street. Their talent will knock your socks right off! And Goofy might even show up to enhance the entertainment.
Check the Disneyland App for daily show times.
21. Watch Green Army Men at Pixar Pier
Fans of Toy Story will love the live entertainment of the Green Army Men. On Pixar Pier these soldiers march, drum, and lead the audience in an interactive demonstration. Learn how to stay in line with the Green Army Men.
Check the Disneyland App for daily show times.
22. Take little kids to Disney Jr. Dance Party
Do you have toddlers or young kids? Head into Hollywood Land and step into the Disney Theater for a high energy dance party.
Kids will love seeing their favorite Disney Jr. characters right in front of them. Plus, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all those wiggles out as they jump, dance, and laugh along!
23. Watch Cars Land Lighting
Each night just after sunset (no exact time is posted), stand in front of Flo’s and watch Cars Land light up. You’ll hear “Sh-Boom” start playing and the neon lights will start to turn on one by one. It’s a special little moment that makes you feel like you’re truly in Radiator Springs.
24. Explore Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
Little explorers will love climbing, sliding, and running around the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Tackle a ropes course, swing up high, explore caves, or slide down logs. Adventure awaits for tall kids and little tikes alike.
PRO Tip: Grab a snack to enjoy at a picnic table while your little ones are running around. And keep your eyes peeled for characters that just might sneak up on you! (Ask me how I know…)
Read more: 7 Ways to Get Kids Excited for Family Trips
Both Disney Parks
25. Download photos from Disney PhotoPass
Purchasing Genie+ not only gets you access to Lightning Lanes, it also gives you access to unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day. Look for cast member photographers and get your photo taken at great locations all over both parks. You’ll be able to have them scan your phone, and your photos will appear in the app for download.
If you do not have Genie+, you can still utilize Disney PhotoPass for great photos. You will just need to purchase the photos individually.
26. Get a Free button for your special occasion
Celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or your first trip to Disneyland? Get a free button to commemorate the occasion. Make sure to wear your button all day and enjoy special greetings from cast members as they celebrate with you!
Get your button at City Hall on Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland Park or at Chamber of Commerce on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure Park.
27. Trade Pins with guests or cast members
Bring your Disney pin collection with you to the park and get ready to trade. Find a cast member wearing a lanyard full of pins (temporarily unavailable) or find pin trading spots with a board full of tradable pins. If you see a pin you’d like, trade one of your pins for theirs.
It’s a fun way for kids to collect pins and update them each time you visit the parks without having to buy new ones each time.
28. Meet Disney Characters
Share a personal interaction with your favorite Disney character, and capture the moment with photos. Kids (and adults) love meeting characters face to face!
Some character appearance times can be found on the Disneyland App. But keep your eyes peeled as you walk around the parks. You never know when or where Captain America, Cinderella, Tigger, or a Storm Trooper might show up!
29. Search for Hidden Mickeys
Test your observation skills as you search high and low for Hidden Mickeys all over the parks. Scour the scenery and decor for any traces of our 3 circles friend. See who can spot them first and who can find the most! (This is a great way to pass time in lines.)
Find the locations of several Hidden Mickeys in Disneyland's Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort's Best Kept Secrets. You might even find a few that aren’t listed in the book.
30. Wear Mickey Mouse ears
Probably the most classic park souvenir is a pair of your very own Mickey Mouse ears. Choose from several designs and styles for sale in the parks, or buy some cute ones before you go.
Either way, make sure to wear them proud around the park. I’m convinced that wearing Mickey Mouse ears makes your day at least 10 times more magical!
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Eat Disney food
31. Character Dining
Interact with characters as they come by your table, while your tastebuds savor a delicious meal. Little ones will love the extra attention and personalized interaction with characters.
The only character dining experience at Disneyland Park is the Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park at Plaza Inn.
However, there are three additional character dining experiences offered at the Dinseyland Resort Hotels. At Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa you can enjoy Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet or Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures. And at Disneyland Hotel you can visit Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast or lunch full of character fun!
Read more: Beyond the Character Breakfast at Aulani
32. Use Mobile Order pick up
Avoid standing in lines for food (that’s right…not ride lines – food lines!). Several dining establishments in the parks offer the ability to place your food order through the Disneyland App.
You can watch the status of your order in the app as it is being prepared. Once it’s ready you will be notified where to go to pick up your food.
You can arrive at a restaurant and place the mobile order while you wait at a table. Or you can even schedule your food orders ahead of time. Place your lunch order in the morning and simply notify them once you’ve arrived at the restaurant. They’ll prepare you food so it’s hot and fresh.
33. Sip an adult beverage
Looking for a “grown up” drink around the parks? Disney has some delicious alcoholic beverages, but they are available only at select locations.
While Disney California Adventure Park has several options, there are only two locations to purchase alcohol in Disneyland Park:
Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (reservations required)
Blue Bayou Restaurant (reservations highly recommended)
34. Eat gluten-free treats
Several restaurants have gluten-free options available on their menus. Simply scroll down to the “Allergy-Friendly” section on the menu.
Delicious treats like DOLE Whip (see #36 below) are naturally gluten free, so your sweet tooth can still indulge in a fan favorite. And if salty is more your style, popcorn from any of the popcorn carts in both parks is gluten free as well. YUM!
35. Take a picture with a Mickey Mouse treat
There is just something iconic about eating dessert in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head–I swear it taste 10 times better too!
Grab yourself a chocolate covered Mickey Mouse ice cream bar (or a Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich if that’s your vibe). Now strike a pose for your Disney treat photo!
36. Savor a DOLE Whip
Don’t miss out on one of the most popular treats at Disneyland Park. Head to Tiki Juice Bar in Adventureland for delicious pineapple soft serve. You can even get the soft serve in pineapple juice as a DOLE Whip Float!PRO Tip: Use Mobile Order in the Disneyland App to avoid waiting in line (yes, a crazy long line) for DOLE Whip.
37. Try the Grey Stuff, it’s delicious!
Ever wonder how “Grey Stuff” from Beauty and Beast could be delicious? Make your way to the Red Rose Taverne in Fantasyland to find out for yourself.
Made up of cookies and cream mousse and red velvet cake all with a raspberry center–this dessert will not disappoint. Delectable!
38. Drink Blue or Green Milk
Another taste from the movies is found at the Milk Stand in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Luke Skywalker drank both blue and green milk, and now you can too!
Sip this frozen galactic treat as you fully emerse yourself in the Star Wars universe. The sweet exotic flavor may be just the taste you’ve been searching for.
Entertainment + Special Events
39. Make the most of parades
Each day parades (temporarily unavailable) galavant down park streets drawing hundreds of onlookers. Make the most of these times based on the age of your children.
Older kids will gladly skip out on the parade and enjoy shorter lines (potentially) at their favorite rides. As for little ones…they might be eager to watch characters wave to them as they go by.
PRO Tip: Grab a good viewing spot and eat lunch or snacks as you wait for the parade. All bellies will be full and ready for more Disney fun once the parade is over.
40. Watch Disneyland fireworks
Nothing adds to the magic of a Disney day like Disneyland fireworks (returning April 2022)! Gaze at the sky as colorful fireworks explode above Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and your favorite Disney songs play – it is pure magic!
PRO Tip: Don’t get stuck behind your camera trying to take pictures of the whole show. Take a few at the beginning (or end) and spend the rest of the time soaking it all in.
41. See World of Color
Make time in your schedule to see this breathtaking display of water, fire, lights, and music. Stunning colors light up the lagoon in front of Pixar Pier as Disney and Pixar stories are displayed on a gigantic water fountain.
World of Color (returning April 2022) at Disney California Adventure Park is a nighttime spectacular you do NOT want to miss!
42. Go on a Guided Tour
See another side of Disney Parks as your tour guide takes you around and shares exciting new tidbits with your group. You can set up a VIP Tour for the full royal treatment experience, or you can join in a group guided tour (temporarily unavailable) with a themed focus.
43. Savor the Food and Wine Festival
Delight your tastebuds with a celebration of California’s wonderful flavors at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival. Sip wine from Northern California vines or drink locally brewed beer from Southern California. Taste incredible food prepared by Disney chefs, or watch one of them perform a culinary demonstration.
If you like preparing the food or simply eating it (like me) this festival has something to offer you. Plus, you can enjoy special live music performances throughout the park during the festival.
44. Treat yourself during Halloween Time
When fall rolls in, Halloween Time is just around the corner. The parks transform with vibrant orange, yellow, and spooky decorations. You’ll find a giant Mickey Mouse pumpkin in Town Square, characters in special Halloween costumes, and a few rides that transform as well.
The Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park undergoes a major overhaul as Jack Skeleton redecorates the ride (inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas). Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree and Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween may be more well suited for little guests with fun decor and special ride music only during Halloween Time at Disney California Adventure Park.
45. Attend a Disneyland After Dark themed night
Ready to take your Disneyland excitement to the next level. Check out Disneyland After Dark on select nights throughout the year. You’ll get after hours access to the parks and all the rides, plus entertainment and characters geared toward the designated theme for the night.
Make sure to keep an eye out for up to date Disneyland After Dark dates. These themed events require a separate admission, so grab your tickets early and get ready for a fun night full of unique Disney experiences!
46. Tis the Season to celebrate the Holidays
The most wonderful time of the year collides with the happiest place on earth during Holidays at the Disneyland Resort. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle gets covered in icicle lights, stunning garlands and ornaments deck every hall, and giant Christmas trees fill the parks with Christmas magic.
Enjoy special holiday performances, festive treats, seasonal parades, and unique ride transformations. Make sure to take your family to see “ it’s a small world ” Holiday in Disneyland Park. Head over to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park to ride on the seasonal Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.
Finish off your day with the holiday fireworks show – it’s the most MAGICAL time of year!
47. Explore Downtown Disney District
Beyond the park gates lies Downtown Disney District, full of hip restaurants, incredible shopping, and lively entertainment.
Take an afternoon break from park crowds to peruse unique merchandise, or stroll on over from your Disneyland Resort hotel to see live entertainment and taste mouth watering ice cream.
PRO Tip: When you’re not going to a park, Downtown Disney District is a good place to get your Disney fix. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the fireworks lighting up the sky above you.
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Where to Stay
48. Stay at the Disneyland Hotel
Engulf yourself in the magic as you step into the Disneyland Hotel. Book a room that has classic Disney touches with modern sophistication. Kids will especially love the light up Cinderella’s Castle headboards!
Notice all the parallels between the park and hotel from the Adventure, Fantasy, or Frontier accommodation towers to the Monorail water slides at the pool.
Plus you’ll have easy access to both parks, which is convenient for early mornings and late nights (or even an afternoon nap break).
49. Retreat at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Relax and refresh at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. From award-winning dining to a luxurious spa, your experience at this hotel will be nothing short of excellence.
Rooms elegantly display craftsman design with California-inspired decor and premium amenities. Splash in the Redwood Pool or rent a Cabana to enjoy luxurious lounging on the pool deck.
The best perk for families who are staying at this hotel is the private entrance into Disney California Adventure Park! You must be a current guest of the hotel to take advantage of entering and exiting the park directly into your hotel. Your bed can’t get any close than that!
50. Stay within walking distance
If you opt to stay off-property at a non Disneyland Resort Hotel, then stay as close as you can to the parks. There are several hotels within walking distance.
Our favorite hotel is the Hyatt House at Anaheim Resort. The hotel and rooms are clean with modern finishes, and breakfast is included with your stay.
Read more: Hotel vs Airbnb: Pros and Cons for Families