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Guide To Disneyland California

Welcome to my complete and comprehensive guide to Disneyland California Resort– the most iconic and beloved theme park complex. Home to the original Disneyland park, created by Walt Disney himself, this magical destination offers a lot of attractions and shows to suit all ages and tastes. The second well-worth visit is Universal Studios Hollywood and I have a complete guide for you here.

A trip to Los Angeles simply isn’t complete without spending a few days exploring Disneyland, but careful planning and preparation are key to getting the most out of your visit.

As a seasoned Disneyland visitor, I’m excited to share my insider knowledge and practical tips with you, so that you can plan and enjoy a truly unforgettable experience. Let’s dive in!

What is a Disneyland Resort?

Overview Map of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim California

Disneyland Resort is a tourist complex located in the city of Anaheim, about 40 kilometers from Los Angeles, in California (United States).

Its main attractions are its two theme parks: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. They are among the most visited in the world and contain first-class attractions and shows.

In addition, this complex includes an open-air shopping center (Downtown Disney), and three theme hotels.

When to go?

Guide To Disneyland California

The first thing you have to decide is when to make your trip. 

What I am going to talk about here is the special seasons that the Disneyland Resort organizes throughout the year, since it may help you decide on the dates.

Guide To Disneyland California Halloween

How many days to visit?

Guide To Disneyland California Star Wars Attraction

Once you are clear about when you want to travel to the Disneyland Resort, the next question is how many days to stay there. Well, it depends. 

 And the most important thing you have to consider are two things: what do you want to see and what pace do you want to follow.

Guide To Disneyland California

In the next section, where I give you details of the parks in the complex, I indicate how much time I recommend that you spend in each of them according to the pace you want to take.

As a general rule, I recommend that you spend at least two days at Disneyland: one per park. Three days would be better. And from there, the more days you add, the better you will see the complex and with a calmer pace. 

I also recommend that you not focus only on Disney on your trip to California: Universal also has a very cool park that I wouldn’t miss for the world, in addition to Los Angeles as a city has many points of interest that are worth seeing.

Disneyland Resort Parks

Guide To Disneyland California Disneyland Castle

If you have ever visited Orlando, you may think that the Disneyland Resort is similar to Walt Disney World: a huge expanse of land, with parks and hotels very far from each other… well, not at all 

Disneyland Resort is much more like Disneyland Paris than Disney World: it has “only”  two parks , which are glued together ; plus a shopping area and several hotels accessible on foot.

Of course, the parks, in general, have more attractions and things to do than those in Paris. And although they are not as big as some of Orlando, they are very concentrated: in total in the two parks in California there are more or less the same number of attractions as in the four in Orlando combined.

In this section I am going to give you details of each one of them : their theme, the essential attractions and shows, and how much time I think you have to dedicate to each one. Let’s begin!


Guide To Disneyland California


This is the most typical Disney Park, with its American street from the beginning of the 20th century at the entrance, its castle in the center, and areas of the Wild West, adventures, fairy tales, and the future around it, as well as some exclusive ones such as New Orleans Square or Mickey’s ToonTown.

It is the original park that Walt Disney created in 1955, the first Disney park. Since then it has been adding areas and attractions and modernizing the existing ones. The latest big thing was its huge immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge zone, which opened in 2019.

Main attractions

Star Wars Robots At Disneyland Park
Splash Mountain attraction at Disneyland Resort in California
Guide To Disneyland California
Color Lights Attraction At Disneyland Park
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Anaheim California

Disney California Adventure

Guide To Disneyland California


This is a park without a very defined theme. It was born as a tribute to California and its different elements (and from there, it preserves areas such as Hollywood Land or Grizzly Peak) but as time has passed, areas with different themes have been added or transformed, based on Pixar movies (such as Cars Land or Pixar Pier) or the Marvel area, Avengers Campus.

Main attractions

Radiator Springs Racers attraction at Disney California Adventure
Guide To Disneyland California

Main shows

World of Color Show at Disney California Adventure

How long does it take to see it?

This park has fewer offers than Disneyland but still contains enough attractions to dedicate at least a full day. If you want to repeat or see it more calmly, you can return part of a second day.

Which park to go to every day?

Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle Fountain at Disney California Adventure

Once you know which days you are going to spend at the Disneyland Resort, you have to book in advance which park you are going to start the visit each day.  You can do this from the moment you buy the tickets,  from the Disneyland Resort website

Another thing that you will have to plan a little in advance is where to be each night to see the nightly shows. Not all of them are done every day, so a few days before your visit, take a look at the calendar of the parks to plan yourselves.

Where to sleep?

When planning your trip, one of the first things you will book will be your hotel. Which to choose? You have two basic options: official Disneyland hotel, or hotel outside the Disneyland Resort.

Official Disneyland Hotels

Guide To Disneyland California

Entrance to Paradise Pier Hotel

Disneyland has three hotels of its own: the Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian, and Paradise Pier (soon to be transformed into a Pixar hotel) . Although they are, in general, more expensive than equivalent hotels abroad, they have a series of advantages :

Advantages compared to hotels outside of Disney

Paradise Pier Hotel Room Interior

Paradise Pier Hotel room

Grand Californian Hotel Outside View

Grand Californian hotel

Are they’re worth it?

It is the big question : is it worth paying the extra that Disney hotels cost, compared to the prices of similar hotels in the area? 

I do not think so. As for theming, today the only one that is worth it is the Grand Californian (the most expensive). In terms of distance, there are many hotels around the park that are a similar distance (or some even closer) than those of Disney. 

And the advantages they have, the only one that may be worth it is having Extra Magic Hour every day , but if you go on weekdays and organize yourself well, it is not essential to enjoy the parks. And if you buy tickets for three days or more, you get one day of Magic Morning which is equivalent to one day of Extra Magic Hour (this benefit is on pause for now).

Guide To Disneyland California

Paradise Pier hotel reception

Where to book them

If you decide to stay at one of the official Disneyland hotels, I recommend that you book it from the resort’s official website.

Hotels outside the complex

You can read our article and discover 10 best family-friendly hotels in Los Angeles ,you will surely find something to spend an amazing time!

Unlike Walt Disney World in Orlando, whose parks are cut off from the outside world and outside hotels, the Disneyland Resort is in the middle of the city. For this reason, there are dozens of non-Disney hotels around the parks, many of them within a few minutes’ walk.

The main advantage of hotels outside of Disneyland is the price : you can find hotels in the same categories as those in the complex, generally at lower prices.

Also, if you are a family or large group and you want to all be in the same room or apartment, outside of Disney you will have many more options.

Of course, keep in mind that you will not enjoy the advantages that I mentioned above about the Disney hotels, but I think that none of them is worth the difference in price compared to hotels outside.

If you book a hotel outside of Disney, especially pay attention to the location, look for one that is relatively close to one of the two entrances to the complex, if you want to go on foot.

What tickets to buy?

Mickey Mouse Before The Disneyland Castle

One of the biggest and most important expenses when planning your trip to the Disneyland Resort is the tickets. And the truth is that at first glance the ticket issue is somewhat confusing. Hopper? Prices per date? Here I will explain everything.

Tickets for one park per day

The basic type of ticket is a day park ticket. This type of ticket allows you access to one of the two theme parks of the complex every day, that is, every day you will have to choose whether to go to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. It is not possible to change the park on the same day.

When buying them, you don’t have to choose which park you’re going to go to every day, it’s something you can decide later, even on the same day (yes, I recommend that you do it as soon as possible, since you have to reserve day  to access, and on popular days the reservations are sold out in advance).

The price of this type of tickets varies by two factors:

And if I buy 4-day tickets, for example, do I have to go 4 consecutive days? No, you can always have rest days between parks. In general, you have 13 days to use all the days of your ticket from the day you use the first one. That is, if you enter the parks on the 1st of the month, you have until the 14th to use the rest of the days.

Park hopper tickets

Guide To Disneyland California

This type of ticket allows you to visit both theme parks on the same day, that is, start the day in one park and then change to another. You can change as many times as you want on the same day, but you can only change the park after 11 am.

The pricing structure works the same as the base tickets, only they are slightly more expensive. 

The number of days they are valid for also works the same as with base tickets.

Tickets for special events

Disneyland sometimes hosts special events, where the park is open a few hours after closing. They are often themed, such as Halloween parties (Oogie Boogie Bash), with exclusive characters and entertainment.

These events have a separate ticket , which can be purchased from the Disneyland website. 

Where to buy the tickets?

I recommend that you buy them directly from Disney , through  the Disneyland Resort website.

How to get around the Disneyland Resort?

Disneyland Resort Entrance

How to go from the hotel to the parks?

It depends on where you have the hotel of course. As I recommended in the hotel section, it is best to book a hotel that is close to the parks, so that you can walk there and back. The three official hotels meet this condition, as well as dozens of hotels outside the parks.

If your hotel is further away, you can use the public transport of the city of Anaheim, the Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART). You have information about routes and prices on their website .

Another option to get around is to use shared transport services: you will always have taxis, although I recommend that you use  Uber or  Lyft  (both very similar). They are relatively cheap (especially for short journeys) and their apps are very easy and intuitive.

How to go from one park to another?

If you have Hopper tickets and want to change from one theme park to another on the same day, it’s the easiest thing in the world. Its entrances are one in front of the other, about 50 meters away, and you can walk. If there are no queues to enter, in 5 minutes you can change the park.

How to go from Disney to Universal, or vice versa?

Universal Studios Hollywood Entrance View

Universal Studios Hollywood is about 60 kilometers from Disneyland , but it can be reached by public transport, yes, with a couple of transfers. 

First, you have to get from Disneyland to downtown Los Angeles. One of two, either you take a bus (it will take a couple of hours) or you arrive at the Anaheim station by bus or taxi and take a train to downtown Los Angeles from there (it takes about 40 minutes).

Once in the center, you can use the subway (red line) to get to the Universal City / Studio City stop, where a free bus will take you to the park gate.

What I recommend to you to avoid doing all this transfer of transfers is that you divide your trip into two parts: that of Disneyland with a  hotel near the Disney parks, and that of Los Angeles with a  hotel in the center of the city.

Early Entry

Disneyland Anaheim Main Street almost empty on Magic Morning

One of the things that you have to take into account when planning your days if you stay at one of the Disney hotels, is the Early Entry. What is it? Here I explain it to you.

The Early Entry is an advantage thanks to which you can enter one of the two parks half an hour before the rest of the visitors.

This advantage is exclusive to guests of the three official hotels of the complex and is one of its main advantages. Each day of the stay they give you the right to enter one of the two parks half an hour before: normally they alternate, one day is one of the parks and the next day the other. If you are staying in one of the hotels in the complex, this can determine which park to start your visit in each day (if you are willing to get up early, of course).

If you have the right to one of these services, use it : although not all the attractions are open in that extra half hour, there are a few that you can do with practically no queues.

Express Queues: Disney Genie+, Lighting Lanes and Virtual Queues

The time has come to talk about the “fast pass” systems that the Disneyland Resort has, and its payment method. 

Disney Genie

Disney Genie the Walt Disney World payment fastpass

Last year  “Disney Genie” came to the Disneyland app. This service has a free version, which helps us plan our day, informs us of current and estimated wait times for the next few hours, and more. 

Ignore it, for now, it is not useful at all, and it only serves so that Disney sends you where it interests you, not where you are most interested in order to take advantage of time.

What is really worth it is the paid services: Genie+ and the “additional express payment queues”.

Disney Genie+

Admission to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion

Genie+ is Disneyland’s paid “FASTPASS”. For an extra $25 (about €26) per person per day, we can have this service, which gives us access to the “Lightning Lanes” (fast lines) of a large number of attractions. 

In addition, Genie+ includes the PhotoPass+ for that day, with digital versions of all the photos in attractions, with characters and photographers in the parks (I’ll tell you more about PhotoPass+ below ). The PhotoPass+ for a week costs $78 (for the whole group), so for example if there are two of you and you only visit for two days, the Genie+ would almost cost you (2 days x 2 people x $25 = $100) only by PhotoPass+.

The Genie+ service can be added to the daily tickets when buying them (in which case it will cost us $25 per person per day), or we can buy it individually each day that interests us (in this case, the price changes depending on the season, and can cost more than that 25$). In this second option, you have to buy it through the app on the same day you want to use it , from the moment you enter one of the parks. 

Genie+ screen in the Disneyland Resort California app

And how it works? Through the app, you reserve an hour at an attraction (you cannot choose, it is the first one available). At that time you can enter through the “Lightning Lane”, the fast queue, scanning your mobile device or the entrance to the park. 

As soon as you have used that reservation (or two hours have passed since you made it), you can get another one, and so on until the end of the day or there are no more slots available. 

Of course,  each attraction can only be reserved once a day, if you want to repeat you have to do the normal queue. 

Guide To Disneyland California

Reservations can be made from anywhere (you don’t have to be inside the parks), but you must have entered one of the parks that day to be able to make them. You can start doing them from the moment the park doors open (which is usually a little before the official opening time).

Separate payment quick access

Admission to Hollywood Studios' Rise of the Resistance attraction at Walt Disney World

The Genie+ gives quick access to many attractions, but not all.

In each park, there are  “Premium” attractions whose quick access is not included in the Genie+.

To be able to access them through the fast queues, you have to pay a certain amount each time you want to ride (as is the case now with Premier Access in Paris). Prices vary by attraction and season.

When buying these shortcuts you will not be able to choose what time you want to use them either. Please note that the number of “slots” available is limited, and the most popular attractions tend to sell out early each day.

Space Attractions At Disneyland Resort

You can buy two of these “Premium” fast access tickets per person per day, for two different attractions.

Reservations open from the moment the park gates open (which is usually a little before the official opening time). You must have entered one of the parks to be able to make the reservation.

It is not necessary to have paid for Genie+ to buy these shortcuts, the two systems are independent.

In the following section, I will tell you which are the “Premium” attractions of each park and which are more worthwhile.

Which attractions in each park to book first? Which ones are paid separately?

When choosing which attractions to book with Genie+ first, keep in mind which ones are most popular, as some sell out soon after the parks open.

In this section, I tell you which attractions to book first in each park, and which are not included in Genie+ and are “paid separately”.

Disneyland – Genie+ and Lightning Lanes Recommendations

Entrance to the Lightning Lane queue at the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Disneyland is the park with the most attractions included in Genie+, and  it is usually quite useful to pay for it.

The following rides and experiences are included in Genie+ at this park. I have ordered them in the order in which the reservations run out first, and therefore which I recommend you choose first for your first Genie+ reservations of the day, in this order:

Interior of the Rise of the Resistance attraction at Disneyland

And these are the  “Premium” attractions that do not enter the Genie+ , and for which you have to pay a separate price each time you want to access by fast queue:

They are the newest and most popular attractions. 

For Rise of the Resistance, if you don’t want to pay, you can get up early, arrive an hour before the parks open, and go directly to this attraction. 

You can also wait until the end of the day, and join the queue around 7-8 in the afternoon: surely you will have less queue than during the rest of the day. Of course, do not leave it until the end of the day because this attraction closes early, before the rest.

For Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway it may also be a good option to go as soon as the park opens, or leave it for the last minute.

Disney California Adventure – Genie+ and Lightning Lanes Recommendations

Incredicoaster sign at Disney California Adventure

Although it does not have as many included attractions as Disneyland, the attractions that Disney California Adventure has are usually quite popular, so it is also usually quite useful to pay for Genie+, although not as much as at Disneyland. Of course, if you are going to change the park on the same day, it is totally on account.

The following rides and experiences are included in Genie+ at this park. I have ordered them in the order in which the reservations run out first, and therefore which I recommend you choose first  for your first Genie+ reservations of the day, in this order:

Lighting Lane Entrance To Radiator Springs Attraction Disneyland Park

And this is the only  “Premium” attraction that does not enter the Genie+ , and for which you have to pay a separate price each time you want to access by fast queue:

If you don’t want to pay for quick access, get up early to do it as soon as the park opens. It also has a Single Rider queue, which can help you do it with less waiting.

Show reservations

World Of Color Attraction At Disney California asdventure

In addition to the Genie+ for attractions, the Disneyland Resort has reservations for several of its nightly shows: Fantasmic!  at Disneyland (not available at this time) and World of Color at Disney California Adventure. 

These free “FastPass” secure you a seat in the stands where you can see the show. The ticket will tell you where to access the show or in which area (in World of Color it goes by color: yellow or blue). 

Of course, do not expect to arrive five minutes before the show starts and be able to enter: in the reservation, it will tell you what time you have to arrive to be able to use it, generally, it says to arrive half an hour before the start of the show. On days with a lot of influx, I would arrive an hour earlier, to make sure I got in first and had a good seat. If there are several passes to the show, the ticket will state which one it is for.

In Fantasmic! the “free reserve” areas are on the sides of the stands. The central area is reserved for people who have purchased a “meal package”: if you eat or dine on a “Fantasmic” menu at certain restaurants in the park, they give you a reservation in the “Preferred Viewing” VIP area to see the show. 

I recommend these “meal packages” for Fantasmic!, both the “Hungry Bear” (cheaper) and “Cafe Orleans” (more expensive) restaurants have good menus and offer this service, and you can see the show in the “front row”, focused, and with everyone in that area seated. There were similar reservations for the evening Main Street Electrical Parade (now no longer held), but I don’t think they were needed there to get a decent spot to watch the parade.

In World of Color , with a reservation in the yellow zone, you can see the show from the front row and center, with the blue zone you will be more to the side. There are also “meal packages”, for the higher central area, but I don’t think they offer better views than if you have a free reservation for the yellow area and arrive early.

Reservations for these shows begin to be distributed in the mornings of the days on which they take place. They are made from the app from 12 in the morning, and they usually last very little, you have to be there at 12 o’clock to get them. In order to reserve them, you must already be inside the park where the show is taking place, or be in the other park and have a “park hopper” ticket.

These reserves are independent of each other and of attraction reservations . That is, taking one of these reservations does not affect at all taking reservations for attractions at the same time. You can also take reservations for both shows on the same day, but keep in mind that they may be performed practically at the same time and it is impossible for you to see both.

Virtual queues

Mickey & Minnies Runaway Railroad en Disneyland Resort

VERY IMPORTANT! Right now this system is not used in any attraction. It has been used in the past to access  Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway,  Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, WEB Slingers: a Spider-Man Adventure, and Indiana Jones Adventure attractions, and is currently unused (you can queue normally or pay for fast access), it is possible that in the future they will be used again on busy days. 

And it is important that you know how to ride these attractions if the case arises. To be able to ride them, if their virtual queues are activated, it is ESSENTIAL to have a reservation, (or in the case of Mickey & Minnie or Rise of the Resistance, pay for one of the “Lightning Lanes” with separate payment).

Space Attraction At Disneyland Park Resort

How do you get these reservations? The same day of your visit, through the Disneyland Resort app .  

There are two hours in which you can try to get a reservation: at 7 in the morning (from anywhere, and only if you have a reservation to start the day in the park where the attraction is) and at 12 noon (in this case , you must have entered one of the parks, and have a reservation to visit the park where the attraction is, or a “Hopper” ticket). For Indiana Jones, reservations opened at the opening time of the Disneyland park.

Keep in mind that reservations FLY. And if the virtual queues are active,  without a reservation, you cannot ride. Each person can only get one reservation per day (it cannot be repeated)

If there were several attractions with a virtual queue activated, you cannot have a reservation for each of them at the same time (yes, you can get one of them at 7, be lucky enough to spend it before 12, and at 12 get the other). Yes, you can have a reservation for Indiana Jones and one for another of the attractions at the same time.

Pre-show of Spider-Man WEB Adventure in Avengers Campus

A single person can make the reservation for the entire group, but I recommend that several people in the group try it at the same time, in case someone crashes the app, or the internet doesn’t work well. Once one of the people gets it, the app will tell you what shift number you have. The higher, the later they will allow you to enter.

Throughout the day, you can look in the app for what shift number they go. When it arrives at yours, the app will send you a notification. From then on, you have one hour to go to the attraction. There you will have to show the app, they will scan the QR code, and you will be able to access the queues.

Again, this system is not used right now. At attractions that have used it in the past, you can either stand in the regular queue or pay for fast-track access, but the virtual queue may be used again at some point.

Where to eat?

Disneyland Resort has a wide range of places to eat. Depending on your tastes, and especially your budget, you have different options that will suit you.

Types of restaurants

Mickey Donut Form Mint Julep in Disneyland

Mickey donut from Mint Julep Bar in Disneyland

 In general, there are three types of restaurants, both in parks and hotels:

Carnation Cafe At Disneyland

Carnation Cafe at Disneyland

Montecristo Sandwich From Cafe Orleans AT Disneyland Park

“Montecristo” (yes, the top is icing sugar) from Café Orleans at Disneyland

On my two visits, I visited kiosks and quick-service restaurants, plus a couple of sit-down restaurants. You have the menus of all the restaurants on the official Disneyland website . Here I am going to leave you those that are considered the best in each park, both quick service and table service, as well as the best snacks (snacks).

For some of the recommendations, I rely on what I’ve read in travel guides and other bloggers. These are the ones that I recommend for each of the parks: 


Plaza Inn In Disneyland Menu

Plaza Inn Menu

Disney California Adventure

Disneyland Resort in California: Complete and Comprehensive Guide

Cone with cheese and bacon pasta from Cozy Cone Motel

Photos and PhotoPass+

Star Wars Attraction At Disneyland Park

The PhotoPass+  is a service that you can hire to be able to download all the photos taken of you at Disneyland, including:

Important! From February 4, 2023 and during the celebration of Disney100 (the company’s centennial, which is expected to last all this year)  digital downloads of the photos in attractions are free for all visitors. To be able to download the rest of the photos (with characters and in picturesque spots) it is best to contract the PhotoPass+.

If you have hired it, you will have to activate it once in the parks. The first time you take your photo with a photographer, they will give you a card with a code. Enter that code in the Disneyland app and you will be able to see and download all the photos that are being taken of you.

In the attraction photos, enter the code that you will see on the attraction exit screen in the app.  When a photographer does it for you, present the card that you have linked to the app, or the QR code of the app. In the meals with characters, they will give you a code that you will have to enter in the app. 

Some photos have extra magic, like characters appearing where you don’t expect.

Cars Attraction At Disneyland

The PhotoPass+  is purchased for the entire group, that is, it does not have a price per person but for the entire reservation. Therefore, the more you are, the more it will cost you. Even if several families or groups of friends go together, a single PhotoPass+ can be used for everyone.

The price as of the day of writing this article is $78 (about €75) for a whole week (it is the Disney PhotoPass+ One Week ). You have all the information and you can book it from the complex’s website . 

If you buy the Genie+ for any of the days of your visit, it already includes the PhotoPass for that day, you don’t have to do anything else.

In my opinion, it is a service that is very worthwhile. You will be able to take advantage of it a lot and bring you lots of photos. Both times I have visited I have taken it (included in the fast pass) and it is super useful.

And I think I’ve gone long enough in this guide! I hope it helps you to have an idea of ​​how to organize a trip to this magical park destination.