Activities & Resources
Disneyland050in Anaheim, CA 92802
After parking in one of the lots (or, even better, taking one of the free shuttles from any Anaheim-area major hotel), you will take a shuttle to the pretty, tidy entrance. You'll find everything squeaky clean, even for a place with so many kids. Upon entering, you may rent strollers for young ones, and wheelchairs, if necessary. Both cost $10 for a daily rental, and, although you can't take strollers between Disneyland and California Adventure, save your receipt to get another stroller if you walk across the plaza to the other park. We highly recommend bringing or renting a stroller if you visit with kids under four: distances are vast, and small kids will quickly wear out just getting from place to place. The rental strollers are clean, easy to steer, have plenty of storage space, and won't get stolen! On the other hand, you can't take them all the way to the car at the end of the day.
Lockers are available at Main Street, U.S.A., as well; look for clearly marked signs. If your kids are too old for strollers, we recommend renting a locker to store lunch or extra sweaters. It beats having to watch your stuff and figure out what to do with it when you go on rides.
Inside the park, you'll walk along the idyllic Main Street, USA. Along the way, you'll notice a couple of the many Disney characters signing autographs for their fans. This may even be your toddler's highlight - nothing beats a hug from Mickey - in spite of everything else the adventure has in store. Some young ones find the characters alarming at first, so gauge your child's reaction and respond accordingly. Many of the characters are found in the Town Square.
The park is cleverly divided into sections ranging in theme from the historical to the imaginative. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the options, so you may wish to strategize a bit. Definitely use your park map, which you can pick up for free at the entrance.
By far, the most efficient way to cover the rides is using the FASTPASS system: By swiping your entry ticket through the FASTPASS machines at the most popular rides, you can get a special priority ticket to return to that ride after a certain time. The ticket will give you a specific hour to return (e.g. between 10am and 11am), but in fact it's valid anytime after that hour for the rest of the day. With this ticket in hand, you are admitted to the special FASTPASS line, which generally has a wait of about five minutes, instead of the 45 minute wait the rest of the tourists face. Save your passes, and you can even enjoy a ride twice in rapid succession! Each guest is allowed to collect one FASTPASS per hour. As of 2007, the FASTPASS rides are Autopia, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Indiana Jones Adventure, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain.
By foot, you'll see plenty and be able to thoroughly hit particular sections. By Disneyland Railroad, you'll get a ride to each section and an adventure in and of itself. When the train goes into elevated tunnels, you see bonus exhibits that landlubbers don't. There's a way-cool dinosaur exhibit near the park entrance, for instance, that can only be seen via the train. (Be sure not to confuse the train with the aerial Monorail that only goes from the park to the Disneyland Hotel.)
If you plan to stay five or more hours, you could see most of the park, including many rides and a couple of shows. If you plan to stay less than five hours, you should consider picking the spots you want to visit or even confining yourself to certain sections.
All ages will find something to see and do in each section, but some areas are better suited for young kids. As a general rule, you should ask park employees their advice as to whether a ride is scary or not. Signs will tell you the physical limitations for each ride, as well.
For ages one to six, go with Mickey's Toontown and Fantasyland. Found at the northernmost end of the park, Mickey's Toontown has lots to explore and climb on. This is a good choice for mid-morning or afternoon because of the opportunity for interactive play. Everything is built to cartoon dimensions, with strange sizes and wild angles.
Kids will like Mickey's diminutive abode, where you can meet the mouse himself. Toontown also features the one rollercoaster that most tots can ride.
Just southeast of Mickey's Toontown, Fantasyland is bordered by those familiar castle walls and features rides and sights from the fairy-tales presented in many Disney films. Favorites include the It's a Small World boat trip (which plays the classic ditty inside the replica of an Austrian castle...over and over), the Dumbo ride (a bobbing airplane-carousel hybrid that little ones can control), and the incomparable Peter Pan ride, in which your own private pirate ship sails over the London rooftops to Neverland. Beware the innocent-seeming Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, however; little ones are likely to find this ride too scary.
The rest of Disneyland suits most ages, with some roller coasters and scary aspects to consider. In Critter Country, which lies to the southwest of Mickey's Toontown, Splash Mountain supplies a relatively mild roller coaster ride with a decent drop at the end. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a classic and a must if you go with tots: the inside is a day-glo fantasy featuring scenes from favorite Disney Pooh tales.
Below the critters are Frontierland and New Orleans Square, which go for more realism, though they're still idealized. Frontierland takes you back to pre-20th century America via the Mark Twain River Boat (with its impressive water wheel) and Tom Sawyer's Island (with a fort and secret passages for kids to play in). Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a mid-level roller coaster in which you ride in a "runaway" mine train.
With the roaming Dixieland bands, Mardi Gras spirit, and French Quarter décor, New Orleans Square is a beloved section for adults and a good spot to hang out for food as well as fun. Perhaps the best attraction in this section, though, is a meal at Blue Bayou, which is a very popular sit-down restaurant serving typical New Orleans fare. What makes people reserve weeks ahead of time, however, is not the menu; it's the location. The restaurant's large, lamp-lit patio is actually inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and diners play the roles of extras as the boats sail past in the darkness, on a wave of distant sea chanties.
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride itself is one of the most popular in the Park. Recently redone to bring it in line with the films, the robotic marauding swashbucklers revel and pillage in this dark and dank ride. The loud noise and elements of death and torture might scare young kids (it's definitely a scarier ride than the one you might remember from your own childhood), but the attraction remains impressive, especially for its battle scene (which occurs just beyond the indoor Blue Bayou restaurant). Lines move quickly at this ride, since the boats are high-capacity.
The Haunted Mansion is a classic, and full of humorous chills. Please don't bring your baby or tot in: the beginning of the ride features a loud thunderclap and sinister laughter that invariably sets a small child in the audience to crying. The rest of the ride is campy-scary rather than truly scary.
Adults and older kids will especially enjoy Adventureland and Tomorrowland.
Adventureland's highlights include the Indiana Jones Adventure, where you ride a jeep on a treacherous trip based on the popular films. The attraction is extremely loud and includes violent movement, spiders, a giant cobra, and a menacing boulder. None of it is truly scary, but it's intense, but we saw unhappy gradeschoolers on every ride we took. The time-honored Jungle Cruise, during which the tour guides spout tired but still-funny puns, is a boat safari that should appeal to most ages (just prepare little ones for the loud animal sounds and spouting water).
Tomorrowland features the only truly thrilling roller coaster in the park, Space Mountain. This coaster, an inspiration from the Star Wars movies, takes you on a high-speed flight in pitch black.
Other gems of the futuristic section include an arcade, with virtual reality games, the fantastic Star Tours simulation spaceship ride, and the Honey, I Shrunk the Audience 3-D presentation. Honey might be too much for small kids; it's loud, a roaring lion seems to leap off the screen, and realistic mice tails flicking at the audience's ankles. For "edutainment value," stop at the Innoventions revolving showcase of computer and video games.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters is one of the most enjoyable rides in the park for kids in the four to 12 range, thanks to its unique interactive nature. Riders have control over their individual car with the use of a cockpit joystick. Using handheld "laser" pistols, they blast the evil Zerg and his minions in an effort to rack up points. This is a ride that kids shouldn't be allowed to miss, particularly if they are fans of the Pixar films.
Kids ages four to 12 who love Star Wars will want to catch one of the Jedi Training Academy shows in the small amphitheater in Tomorrowland. Volunteers are taken from the audience (usually 25 or so), given robes and light sabers, and prepared to do battle with Darth Vader or Darth Maul. Production quality is high, giving the kids a real thrill. Shows occur roughly hourly throughout the day.
You'll see the hulking Matterhorn looming between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The Matterhorn Bobsleds ride is a kick - strapped into bobsleds, riders take a fast, twisty ride down the mountain and away from the Abominable Snowman. Kids have to be at least 35" tall to ride. The Snowman roars loudly, and some of the ride is through tunnels, but the whole experience is more exhilarating fun than scary thrill ride. Take the line to the right for a longer, more gentle ride down the mountain; the line to the left offers a faster, bumpier ride (but ride attendants won't tell you that if you don't already know). The line moves very quickly; don't be deterred by crowds.
Live shows and parades abound at Disneyland. Disney characters dance and ride floats in the twice-daily Parade of the Stars, which works its way through the park. Kids love seeing this one, often more than once a visit. Be aware, however, that when the parades start up, some rides either close or become inaccesible. Plan ahead so as not to get caught on the wrong side of a parade; it's virtually impossible to cross one before it finishes.
Shows and parades are added and subtracted daily, so we recommend you call ahead or ask a park employee for information on the schedule of events.
At night, the park takes on an even more dreamlike feeling. The strolling lanes glow with streetlamps and the rides sparkle with decorative light. The fireworks display is among the best you'll see anywhere, with music piped in throughout the park and Tinkerbell making a magical, airborn appearance. The parade looks its best at night, as well.
Everything for the tourist can be had. Film is plentiful (and, again, expensive) and every knick-knack and garment you can possibly imagine beckons you to take them home. Think about preparing your kids for the commercial onslaught by setting a strict budget before you enter the park.
The first aid station is on Main Street, just before you get to Tomorrowland. Aspirin and other remedies are provided free of charge, and this is the only place in the Park to get them; medicine is not sold in any of the shops.
If you wanna eat, there are lots of options, and themes play a big part in each area. Though edible, the food is usually bland and not cheap (and seldom are vegetables included, although sidewalk carts offer healthful fruit, yoghurt, veggies, and juices - look in Main Street, U.S.A. and by Splash Mountain). You might want to bring some healthy snacks for the kids to temper the inevitable indulgence in Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream sandwiches and various candies sold at carts and shops all over the park. Happily, water fountains are everywhere.
Still, grub in the New Orleans Square is recommended. Many of the park employees unofficially prefer it for its rotisserie chicken, gumbo soup, and gourmet sandwiches.
Disneyland provides numerous bathroom facilities, complete with diaper-changing tables. The Baby Center is located at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., across from Central Plaza next to First Aid. If your child gets lost, check the central "kid recovery" location at the front of the park.
In spite of all the hype and high cost, you'd be hard-pressed not to have a blast. And even if you don't think you'll have a good time, your kids sure will.
Across the way from Disneyland is Disney's California Adventure. This theme park centers its rides and attractions around key "districts" in the Golden State, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Hollywood. Many visitors actually prefer California, so be sure not to miss it.
The Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian, and Paradise Pier offer on-site lodging. You may plan an entire vacation around the Disney offerings in Anaheim - including lodging and both parks - by using the information found at the Disneyland web site (above). Ask about 2- or 3-day passes and discounts for Southern Californians.
Also, Downtown Disney, a complex of shopping, dining, and entertainment in the same resort area as the parks and hotel, debuted in January of 2001.
Note: Hours can fluctuate, so it's best to call the park the night before your visit to confirm opening and closing hours.
Check the website for Parkhopper tickets between Disneyland and California Adventure.
1) Check the website for discounts. Before heading out the door, take a look on the Disneyland website for special offers available only to SoCal residents.
2) Arrive when the gates open. The Park quickly fills with crowds, and long lines, and this is the only way to insure you'll fit in what you want to see and do.
3) Use the FastPass, a free system that allows you to make reservations for rides you want. Here's how it works: Insert your park entrance ticket into a speed pass machine at the ride of your choice (only the most popular ones accept FastPass reservations) and out pops a "reservation" for a specified window of time. Return during that time period, flash your reservation ticket, and jump to the head of the line. Thrilling.
4)Target the attractions you want to visit ahead of time., You'll get a free map at the entrance gate and we recommend making a beeline to top-rated rides and using your FastPass to book reservations on all of them. Only a limited number of FastPasses are distributed per time slot.
5) Relax. Knowing you've got reservations on all your favorite rides will allow you to. Fit in less popular rides around those time slots, and the high price of admission will seem worth it.
6) Try to visit the park at off-peak times. Tue-Thu are very light days, as are the winter months after Christmas. A visit on a Wed in the third week of Jan yielded no waits at the most popular attractions, which we walked onto as many times as we wanted.