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!
Table of Contents
What is a Disneyland Resort?
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?
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.
- Halloween: this celebration is usually celebrated from the beginning of September until Halloween itself, on October 31.
The park is filled with decoration, some attractions have special versions at this time, and many characters are dressed for the occasion. In addition, on weekends and holidays, there are special fireworks at the Castle.
For an extra Halloween experience, several nights host the “Oogie Boogie Bash“ at Disney California Adventure, a separate ticket party with more characters and entertainment.
- Christmas: from the beginning of November to January, it is the event with the most decorations, special attractions, and entertainment. The two parks are filled with Christmas lights, decorations, and music.
There are parades and fireworks dedicated to the holidays, a Christmas version of the “World of Color” night show, traditional entertainment from various parts of the world, and themed food… Of course, keep in mind that this is usually the time with the most people from all year, especially on weekends and holidays.
How many days to visit?
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.
- What to see: Are you interested in both parks or is there one that you can pass without visiting? (I recommend that you visit the two theme parks at Disney, they are very different, and both have great attractions and shows). Do you also want to spend a few days in Los Angeles? Are you also going to visit Universal, or other parks in the area?
- What pace to take: do you prefer to rush in each park, and try to see as much as possible in one day? Or go more calmly, and spend several days in each park? Are you going to leave a day to rest, or do you prefer to make the most of it and visit parks every day?
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
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!
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.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – The newest attraction and the main addition to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area, this “dark ride” is the most technologically advanced attraction Disney has ever created.
Enter the secret base of the Resistance and join a mission that will take you inside a Star Destroyer. Will you be able to escape and return to the planet? My favorite attraction in the park and in the world, don’t miss it. On busy days, you may need to make a free reservation through the park app, as I will tell you later in the Genie+ section.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: the other attraction in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area, in this interactive simulator you will climb aboard the Millennium Falcon on a very important mission for the Resistance. Each of the six crew members will have a mission to fulfill: pilot the ship, shoot the First Order or make repairs to the ship. Will you achieve your goal?
- Space Mountain – A roller coaster in the darkness of outer space, quite intense and full of ups, downs, and changes of direction. Different from the one in Paris in that it does not have a launch and is not turned upside down, in addition to not being dedicated to Star Wars (only in specific seasons does it have a Star Wars or Halloween version).
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – Much like the Disneyland Paris attraction, travel across different planets firing a laser pistol to help Buzz in his fight against Emperor Zurg.
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue: practically the same as the Parisian version, only 100% in English. In this simulator, you can get on a ship that will take you to different planets in the galaxy far, far away from Star Wars.
- Splash Mountain: get on a log and go around this mountain full of figures of cute animals and lively songs. It includes several descents, the last one quite steep and intense. you will get wet Soon they are going to give her a facelift and transform her into a Tiana and the Frog attraction.
- Jungle Cruise: a pleasant boat ride through the jungles of the world, with fun scenes of animals and native tribes. The boat driver will keep you entertained with his bad jokes (only in English).
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Similar to the one at Disneyland Paris, the original attraction that inspired the Johnny Depp movie saga. A boat trip through the world of pirates and buccaneers , with the odd descent but without being very intense.
- Indiana Jones Adventure: It has nothing to do with the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland Paris: in this adventure you will get into a 4×4 and you will enter a mysterious temple . Filled with special effects and fast-paced, this intense “dark ride” is one of my favorite attractions in the park. On busy days, you may need to make a free reservation through the park app, as I will tell you later in the Genie+ section.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: similar (although it is simpler) to the one we find in Paris, it is a roller coaster that runs through an old mine in the Far West, full of tunnels and changes of direction. Pretty intense, but fun for the adventurous in the family.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds: The world’s first tubular steel roller coaster , in this attraction you will ride a bobsled that will take you inside and outside the Matterhorn mountain. But be careful, you can find the yeti! It’s a gentle but quite intense roller coaster.
- Haunted Mansion: similar to Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, it consists of a tour of a mysterious house in which 999 ghosts live. It can scare the little ones, but for others it is a very soft and entertaining attraction. During Halloween and Christmas, it totally changes and transforms into a “Nightmare Before Christmas”-inspired attraction.
- “it’s a small world”: very similar to the one in Paris, it is a quiet boat trip through the five continents , with dolls dressed in traditional costumes from each area dancing to the rhythm of a catchy song. This is the original, and as an extra attraction, some of the dolls represent characters from Disney movies . At Christmas it is transformed and receives decoration in all its scenes.
- Peter Pan’s Flight: also similar to that of Disneyland Paris, you can get on a flying ship that will take you from the roofs of London to Neverland.
- “Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Runway” – In this “dark ride”, the park’s newest attraction, you can join Mickey and Minnie on a wacky train ride through the world of cartoons, with scenes that change and transform in front of your eyes.
To ride it is necessary to make a free reservation through the park app, as I will tell you later in the Genie+ section.
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin: The Mickey’s ToonTown area, unique to Disneyland, is where the animated characters live. One of them is the crazy rabbit Roger Rabbit , whom you can find in this fun dark ride for the whole family.
- Fantasmic!: Lake Frontierland, along the shoreline of New Orleans Square, is transformed at night into a magical setting where we enter the imagination of Mickey Mouse. Floating floats, boats, giant puppets, fountains, light, and fireworks , along with a great soundtrack, make this nightly show my favorite in the entire complex, and one of the best in the world.
Keep in mind that it is not done every day, usually only on weekends, holidays and vacations.
- Magic Happens Parade: The Great Daily Parade , which premiered in early 2020. It features spectacular floats dedicated to old and new classics like Sleeping Beauty, Frozen, Coco, Moana, Cinderella…and of course, Mickey and his friends. It is usually done every day.
- Main Street Electrical Parade – The park’s classic nighttime parade, which has been held for over 50 years. It is a whole fantasy of lights, music, and characters . Several times the park has said that it is removing it forever, but then it comes back renewed. Its last appearance was in the summer of 2022, and it ended on September 1. We don’t know when he will return.
- Night Show at the Castle: Sleeping Beauty Castle comes alive every night. The show changes during each season, with special versions at Halloween and Christmas, but all tend to mix projections in the castle with lights and music. Also, on weekends, holidays, and vacations spectacular fireworks are added to the mix. “Wondrous Journeys”, a special show created for the 100th anniversary of Disney, is currently being performed.
The best place to see them is from the central square in front of the castle, but arrive well in advance as it fills up very quickly. Another good area to see the fireworks and projections is in front of “‘it’s a small world”, although you will not see the castle there.
Disney California Adventure
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.
- Radiator Springs Racers: one of the best attractions in the park, it is in the Cars area. In it, you will ride in one of the cars from the world of Pixar movies to live a great adventure.
It has two different parts: the first is softer and in it, you will meet the characters from the movies, who will welcome you and prepare you for a great car ride. And the second you will compete with another car to be the first to reach the finish line, in a speedy tour through Ornament Valley. Will you win the race?
- Grizzly River Run: in the Grizzly Peak area you can embark on these aquatic rapids that will take you through the forested mountains of Californian national parks. Be careful, you can get wet!
- Incredicoaster: the star attraction of the Pixar Pier area, in this launching roller coaster you will accompany the family of The Incredibles on their mission to catch baby Jack-Jack. It’s kind of intense and loopy, but it’s a lot of fun.
- Soarin’: this flight simulator will take you on an adventure flying over different landscapes and locations. It has two versions: one in which you will travel through California (it is the rarest to find) and another in which you will fly over monuments from all over the world (the latter is the one in Epcot, in Orlando, and in Shanghai Disneyland).
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!: in what used to be a Tower of Terror just like the one in Paris, today we find this fun attraction based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy .
The Collector has imprisoned the heroes in his fortress and you will have to infiltrate and help Rocket the raccoon to free them. Rise and fall into the void to the beat of 80s hits, with several different modes so that every time you ride is different. In addition, on Halloween nights there is an extra mode, “Monsters After Dark”, darker and rockier.
- WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure: The latest addition to the park, it belongs to the Marvel “Avengers Campus” area. In it, we will have to help Spider-Man capture all the spider robots that have escaped, using our hands to throw webs while we go through this laboratory.
On busy days, you may need to make a free reservation through the park app, as I will tell you later in the Genie+ section.
- The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure: Travel with Ariel “under the sea” and discover the story of The Little Mermaid in this attraction full of figures moving to the rhythm of the songs of the Disney classic.
- Toy Story Midway Mania!: In the Pixar Pier area, in this attraction, you will compete with your companion to get the most points in a series of skill games, presented by toys from the Pixar saga.
- World of Color: the great night show of the park, in its main lake. Thanks to a multitude of water fountains, lights, flamethrowers, and other effects, this show will take you on a musical journey through Disney and Pixar movies.
A special version of the show, “World of Color – ONE”, created for Disney’s 100th anniversary, is currently being performed.
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?
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
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
- Early Entry: each day, one of the two parks in the complex opens half an hour earlier for guests of the three Disney hotels. They are very good to be able to do some attractions in the parks with fewer queues.
- Access to the parks: The resort hotels are very close to the entrance to the parks. In fact, both the Grand Californian and Paradise Pier have direct access to Disney California Adventure. The Disneyland Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the entrance to the parks.
Paradise Pier Hotel room
- Shopping collection service: you can send the purchases you make in the parks and pick them up at your hotel, without having to carry them all day. If you are not in a Disney hotel, you can send them to the store at the park entrance.
- Disney experience: you will not leave the “Disney bubble”, being wrapped in the magic of the complex 24 hours a day.
- Payment charged to the room: you can “pay” in stores and restaurants charged to your room.
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).
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?
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:
- How many days you buy: the more days, the cheaper it is per day. In other words, adding a fifth day costs much less than adding a third. For example, at the prices of the day that I update this article: going two days costs €123 per day, but going three costs €106 per day, and going five costs €73 per day. The maximum number of days that can be purchased is 5 days.
- In which season you go: this factor only influences if you buy 1-day tickets . For this type of tickets, the price changes depending on the date. In the purchase process on the web you can see the price each day. Tickets of 2 or more days are always worth the same, regardless of the days you use them.
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
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?
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 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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
- Space Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Splash Mountain (if it’s hot)
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Haunted Mansion
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue
- “it’s a small world”
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:
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
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
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:
- WEB SLINGERS: a Spider-Man Adventure
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- Grizzly River Run (if it’s hot)
- Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue
- Goofy’s Sky School
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:
- Radiator Springs Racers
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 from Mint Julep Bar in Disneyland
In general, there are three types of restaurants, both in parks and hotels:
- Kiosks and bars: “take away” fast food stalls, where snacks are usually served. Some of them are delicious and very typical, like ice cream, churros, or Mickey-shaped pretzels. They are the cheapest option but they do not usually give a complete meal.
- Quick Service: “fast food” restaurants, where you order at a drive-thru or counter, pay, get a tray of food, and sit in a soup kitchen. They are cheaper than the table ones.
In many of them, you can save time and queues by ordering by mobile from the Disneyland Resort app. It is paid from the mobile and notifies you when the food is ready to pick it up.
Carnation Cafe at Disneyland
- Table Service: buffet-type restaurants, or in which a waiter or waitress will take your order and bring the food to your table, and you will pay at the end. They are much more expensive, and you have to leave a tip. This type of restaurant is the one that includes meals with characters, such as Mickey and his friends or the Princesses.
In table service restaurants it is usually necessary to make a reservation , and it can be done from the Disneyland Resort website starting 60 days before the visit. The most popular ones (such as those for food with the Princesses or those with “food packages” with a VIP area at shows) tend to fill up well in advance, so do it as soon as possible.
At the time of booking, you will have to leave a credit card. If you do not go to your reservation, or cancel it at the last moment (on the day of the reservation) they will charge you 10 dollars per person. At any other time, even the day before, you can cancel for free.
“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 Menu
- Quick service: Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo (in the Star Wars area, food of all kinds with very exotic presentations), Plaza Inn (a HUGE plate of fried chicken with beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, and a bun, for quite reasonably priced – breakfast is more expensive but Disney characters appear), Hungry Bear Restaurant (international food, has a “dining package” that gets you a VIP reservation for the Fantasmic! show), Jolly Holiday Bakery and Café ( delicious sandwiches and pastries), Rancho del Zócalo (Mexican).
- Table service: Café Orleans (creole food, has a “food package” that gives you a VIP reservation for Fantasmic! which you are super focused on. Order the Monte Cristo, you won’t regret it), Carnation Cafe (wonderful breakfasts served at table on Main Street; the rest of the day it serves typical American dishes, some were Walt Disney favorites), Blue Bayou (Creole food, on the shores of the Pirates of the Caribbean lagoon).
- Snacks: Dole Whip Float (pineapple ice cream in pineapple juice, found at the kiosk next to the Enchanted Tiki Room), churros (on carts throughout the park), Ronto Wraps (pork sausage with seasonings wrapped in pita bread, served at “Ronto Roasters” in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area), Mickey beignets (at Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans’s Square), corn dogs (sausages with a cornmeal batter, sold at “Little Red Wagon”, a red car near the central plaza), cream cheese-filled pretzel (at Casey’s Corner on Main Street).
Disney California Adventure
Cone with cheese and bacon pasta from Cozy Cone Motel
- Quick service: Cozy Cone Motel (very varied food in the cones of Cars Land, highlighting the puff pastry cones filled with pasta with cheese and bacon), Flo’s V8 Café (traditional American food, in Cars Land), Pym Test Labs (quirky foods with very large sizes in the Marvel area, Avengers Campus), GCH Craftsman Grill (great burgers and nachos, it’s in the Grand Californian Hotel, which connects directly to the park).
- Table service: Carthay Circle (fine American restaurant), Wine Country Trattoria (Italian).
- Snacks: churros (in carts in various areas of the park), corn dogs ( sausages with a cornmeal coating, they are sold at “Corn Dog Castle”).
Photos and PhotoPass+
The PhotoPass+ is a service that you can hire to be able to download all the photos taken of you at Disneyland, including:
- In attractions.
- With characters, both in the parks and in restaurants.
- Photos of professional photographers scattered throughout the parks , such as the typical ones in front of the castle or other picturesque points.
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.
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.