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A First-Timer’s Guide to Disneyland

Everything you need to know to make your first Disneyland trip magical.

We here at Wishes & Wayfinding like to pride ourselves on being pros when it comes to Walt Disney World. From the crowd sizes to the best parties, we have our Disney trips down to a science. Our Disneyland knowledge, on the other hand, is a bit lacking — and we know other Orlando-going Disney lovers feel the same way. 

So, if you’re about to plan your very first trip to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, let us fill you in on everything we wish we knew before our initial visit. As Disney World pros, here are our tips and tricks for mastering Disneyland. 

Disneyland vs. Disney California Adventure

First and foremost, Disneyland is split up into two parks: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA). We know, confusing from the start. 

We like to think of Disneyland as the Magic Kingdom of Anaheim. That’s where you’ll find Main Street, USA, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and a few of your staple Disney World attractions — like Space Mountain (called Hyperspace Mountain at Disneyland), Haunted Mansion, and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. 

DCA is the anomaly because it’s where you’ll find most of the attractions Disney World doesn’t have — like Avengers Campus, Cars Land, and, of course, the iconic Mickey “Ferris wheel.” 

Just like at Disney World, you need a separate park ticket — or park hopper — to enter each park. 

Disneyland castle
Credit: Christian Thompson / Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Attractions & Shows

The full list of attractions at Disneyland, with Disneyland exclusives in bold, include: 

  • Adventureland Treehouse inspired by Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson

  • Alice in Wonderland

  • Astro Orbitor

  • Autopia

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

  • Casey Jr. Circus Train

  • Chip 'n' Dale's GADGETcoaster

  • The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln

  • Donald’s Duck Pond

  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant

  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage

  • Hyperspace Mountain 

  • Haunted Mansion

  • Indiana Jones Adventure 

  • “it’s a small world”

  • Jungle Cruise

  • King Arthur Carrousel

  • Mad Tea Party

  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

  • Matterhorn Bobsleds

  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

  • Peter Pan’s Flight

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 

  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish

  • Star Tours — The Adventure Continues

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance 

  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

Note: Disneyland will also open Tiana's Bayou Adventure in 2024

Disneyland parade
Credit: Michael Owen Baker / Disneyland Resort

The shows at Disneyland, with Disneyland exclusives in bold, include: 

  • The Dapper Dans

  • Disneyland Fireworks — currently Together Forever - A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular

  • Fantasmic! 

  • Fire of the Rising Moons

  • “Magic Happens” Parade 

  • Pixar Pals Playtime Party

Disney California Adventure Pixar Pier
Credit: Christian Thompson / Disneyland Resort

Disney California Adventure Attractions & Shows

The full list of attractions at Disney California Adventure, with Disneyland exclusives in bold, include: 

  • Golden Zephyr

  • Goofy’s Sky School

  • Grizzly River Run

  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!

  • Incredicoaster

  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind

  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel

  • Jumpin’ Jellyfish

  • The Little Mermaid - Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

  • Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic

  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

  • Pixar Pal-A-Round

  • Radiator Springs Racers

  • Silly Symphony Swings

  • Soarin’ Around the World

  • Toy Story Midway Mania! 

  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Disneyland Avengers Campus
Credit: Christian Thompson / Disneyland Resort

The shows at Disney California Adventure, with Disneyland exclusives in bold, include: 

  • Ancient Sanctum

  • Avengers Headquarters

  • Disney Junior Dance Party!

  • Five & Dime

  • Turtle Talk with Crush

  • World of Color

As Disney World Goers, What Attractions at Disneyland Are Worth It?

Obviously, any attraction we, as Disney World frequenters, don’t have is worth going on — especially things like the Incredicoaster, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, and Matterhorn Bobsleds. Even Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which is truly a fever dream, is a must-ride just to say that you did it once.

Even though some rides, like Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! (Disneyland’s Tower of Terror) and Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland’s DINOSAUR), are attractions that Disney World does have just with a new theme, it’s worth a ride to check out the different theming. Plus, you can get a sneak peek at what DINOSAUR will one day become at Animal Kingdom. 

When it comes to the attractions Disney World and Disneyland share, it can be hit or miss. For example, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a copy-and-paste attraction between the two parks. So, if you really love the ride, get in line — but, otherwise, you can use your time somewhere else. However, Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean is completely different from what we have in Magic Kingdom because it follows a less Jack Sparrow-themed storyline — meaning we think it’s worth your time. 

Honestly, there aren’t many Disneyland attractions that aren’t worth it. We’d suggest prioritizing Disneyland-exclusive attractions first, followed by the Disney World rides that you really love. Then, if you have time, you can hit whatever you might have missed. 

What Time Does Disneyland Open?

Park hours can fluctuate, however, typically Disneyland and Disney California Adventure both open at 8 a.m. and park hopper becomes available at 11 a.m. 

Some days also include early admission for Disneyland Resort hotel guests. Disneyland opens 30 minutes early on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. DCA opens 30 minutes early on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Only certain attractions are open during early admission, including: 

  • Alice in Wonderland

  • Astro Orbitor

  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters

  • Disneyland Monorail

  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant

  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission BREAKOUT!

  • Incredicoaster

  • King Arthur Carrousel

  • The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

  • Mad Tea Party

  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

  • Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

  • Peter Pan's Flight

  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

  • Soarin' Around the World

  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish

  • Space Mountain

  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue

  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Check Disneyland’s theme park calendar for full hours.

What Time Does Disneyland Close? 

Park hours fluctuate based on the day, however, typically, Disneyland closes between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. and Disney California Adventure closes between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. 

Some days also feature special, ticketed after-hours events, which allow guests to stay in the parks later — like Oogie Boogie Bash, Pride Nite, and Disney Channel Nite.  

Check Disneyland’s theme park calendar for full hours.

Disneyland Theme Park Tickets

If you’re wondering if it’s cheaper to visit Disneyland than Disney World, the short answer is it depends. 

Just like Disney World, Disneyland changes its ticket prices depending on the day and how many days you’re visiting. A one-day Disneyland park ticket without Park Hopper or Genie+ can cost you between $104 and $194 depending on the day.

Once you have your ticket, it will be loaded to your MyDisneyExperience account and can be found in the Disneyland app. You can use your MagicBand or MagicBand+ as your ticket at Disneyland, otherwise, the ticket will be stored in the app. Unlike Disney World, you cannot add the ticket to your phone’s wallet, so you’ll need to scan your ticket from the app any time you need it. 

Additionally, Disneyland is still operating on a Theme Park Reservation system. That means, when you purchase your ticket, you must select which park you plan to visit that day. However, if plans change, you can always modify your reservation — as long as the other park still has availability. 

Disneyland Cars Land
Credit: Joshua Sudock / Disneyland Resort

How To Use Genie+ at Disneyland

Genie+ is a bit different than Disney World as well. If you want a full guide to Disneyland’s Genie+, you can read our step-by-step article — but here’s a brief overview. 

Genie+ can be purchased at the time of your ticket. It works pretty much the same as Disney World where it allows you to make Lightning Lane (formerly FastPass) selections for attractions to skip the standby line. Most of Disneyland’s coveted attractions are available as Lightning Lanes, though Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Radiator Springs Racers are only available as Individual Lightning Lanes with an added cost. 

Lightning Lane selections can be made every two hours or as soon as you scan into your Lightning Lane attraction. Pro tip: always try to make Lightning Lane selections as close to the current time as possible to maximize your time. 

The main difference between Disney World and Disneyland’s Lightning Lane is that your first Lightning Lane cannot be made until after you’ve scanned into a park — even if you’re staying at a Disneyland hotel. 

Additionally, Genie+ services at Disneyland also automatically include PhotoPass — so take advantage of those PhotoPass cast members and the ability to freely download all your attraction photos.

How To Use the Disneyland App

Yes, Disneyland does have its own app, so make sure you download it before your trip. The app is how you access your theme park ticket, Genie+ service, PhotoPass, dining reservations, and mobile ordering.

The good news is, the Disneyland app is extremely similar to the Disney World app, so this should be one aspect you feel at least a little more comfortable with going into your first trip. 

Disneyland Hotel pool
Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer / Disneyland

Where to Stay at Disneyland 

Disneyland has three affiliated hotels: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Pixar Place Hotel. And there are more than 50 “Good Neighbor” hotels that Disneyland recommends.

Like Disney World, Disneyland offers special benefits to staying on its property, including early park access and close proximity to the parks.  

Wishes & Wayfinding’s Disneyland Tips

It’s a Disney park, that means good walking shoes and a well-stocked park bag are a must. Disneyland is a tad smaller than Disney World, so you likely won’t do as much walking, but you still want to be prepared. 

Try not to compare the two parks too much. Remember: Disneyland came first and it was Walt’s OG brainchild. Let your first experience in Disneyland be enjoying the magic the way Walt intended it — without knowing what we have in Orlando. 

Really take in the parts of the park that we don’t get to have in Disney World. One piece of advice: try to go to Disneyland first before DCA. As a Disney World buff, you basically already know what Disneyland has to offer, but, we promise, that childlike wonder will take over the second you step foot into DCA.

Overall, just enjoy it. You’re in Disney after all and no one can have a bad time at the happiest place on earth.

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