Your Guide to Disneyland

Disneyland in California, first opened its gates to the public on July 18, 1955. The cost of admission was 1 dollar. Today, the admission price is well... a bit higher. But don't worry. The information on this page is designed to help you get your money's worth.

Sleeping Beauty Castle
Sleeping Beauty Castle credit: Glen Scarborough some rights reserved

Today Disneyland is a resort that consists of the original Disneyland park, Disney's California Adventure park, three Disney hotels, and the Downtown Disney district. Both of the theme parks are open daily with extended hours during the summer, weekends and select holidays. Downtown Disney is a 20-acre dining shopping, and entertainment district, that is within walking distance of both parks - admission is free.

So when is the best time to visit Disneyland? Considering that the park averages an estimated 39,000 daily visitors, I would try to avoid visiting during peak times. Unfortunately, "peak times" means pretty much any time during the summer months or weekends, during which you can expect long lines (1 hour or more wait times) for popular attractions. Fall is generally the best time to visit because you can usually miss the crowds and still have nice weather. Winter can be great too, but you'll have to chance the rain. In any case, avoid the park between Christmas Day and New Year's Day! If you must visit during the busy periods, here are some tips you can follow to get the most bang for your buck:

Tips for Visiting Disneyland

Disneyland: The Original Park

Disneyland consists of several themed lands containing over 60 major attractions. These are described below:

Main Street U.S.A.
The first theme you experience when you enter the park, is charming small town turn-of-the-20th-century Americana. This is the main avenue of Disneyland where you'll find some of the park's best shops. This is also where you'll come to see Disneyland's daily parades.
Adventureland
Inspired by the exotic locales of the Far East and South Seas, here you'll find such popular attractions as the Indiana Jones Adventure, and the Jungle Cruise. And love it or hate it, there's nothing quite like the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Frontierland
This section of the park pays homage to 19th century America. Take a leisurely steamboat ride down the Rivers of America, or for a faster pace, try the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster. Oh, and if you go to Frontierland, remember one word: Fantasmic!
Tomorrowland
Visions of the future abound. Be sure and ride the recently re-vamped Space Mountain. You might also try an old favorite, Star Tours, as well as a new favorite, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Fantasyland
here's nothing like a little Disney magic to bring fairy tales to life. Fantasyland is of course home to the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it's also where you'll find favorties like It's a Small World and Mr. Toad's wild Ride.
Toontown
Great fun for the kids. Take the Jolly Trolley to Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
New Orleans Square
Captures the flavor of 19th century New Orleans. Not only is it home to jazz bands and winding cobblestone streets, but the never-to-be-missed Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.
Critter Country
Home of the Brer Rabbit-inspired log ride, Splash Mountain, as well as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Disney California Adventure

Hollywood Tower Hotel
Tower of Terror photo: © 2012 CVN

Disney California Adventure opened in February 2001 on the site of Disneyland's old parking lot, to a somewhat underwhelming response. At the time, the park was the butt of an occasional joke about its failure to generate public interest. In fact, an episode of the Simpsons saw Homer proposing to hide his fugitive mother "someplace where there's nobody for miles... Disney's California Adventure."

While these quips greatly exaggerated the situation, many people did voice criticisms about the early park. Some complained about the lack of attractions for young children. Others about the lack of a true "E-ticket" ride. While still others said that the old Disney atmosphere was missing. The fact is that for the most part, these crticism were accurate. Fortunately, recent years have seen quite a transformation for Disney California Adventure (DCA), and I would say that pretty much all of those early criticisms have been addressed and remedied. And the public seems to agree, because park attendance has increased dramatically since those early days.

However, transformation or not, it remains true that not nearly as many guests pass through DCA's gates as they do Disneyland's. But this is good news for visitors who are seeking value, because less crowds equals less time spent waiting in lines. And in my humble opinion, this is now a first-class theme park worthy of the Disney brand, with many underrated attractions.

California's rich history is the theme here - "from the gold rush to Hollywood's golden era to the timeless allure of the beach". The park's layout is divided into five main sections:

Paradise Pier
A recreation of California's classic pier amusement parks. This land is dominated by two tall rides: California Screamin' which could be the best roller coaster to be found in a Disney park, and Mickey's Fun Wheel (ferris wheel). It is also home to the interactive 3-D ride, Toy Story Midway Mania!
A Bug's Land
Inspired by the movie "A Bug's LIfe". The one must-see atrraction here is the "It's Tough to Be a Bug" 3-D show. Amazing effects! However, you might want to skip this one if you have small kids as it might be too scary.
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
Not only does this land represent the golden age of the movie studios, but it contains what is arguably the best ride in the park: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a thrill ride that takes place in the fictional 1930s-themed Hollywood Tower Hotel. Or, if you would like to simply take in a good show, "Aladdin" is top-notch.
Golden State
This area is doiminated by a 110 foot mountain in the shape of a grizzly bear - California's state animal. Soarin' Over California is here and it is another ride that you should definitely not miss. Also, if you don't mind getting wet, Grizzly River Run might be just the thing.
Cars Land
This 12-acre area is the newest section of the park (opened in 2012), and is based on the movie - you guessed it - "Cars". You can check out rides like Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Flying Tires, but the main attraction here is definitely Radiator Springs Racers.