The Disney Parks of Disneyland Resort, despite their more compact size (when compared to WDW's parks, DL Parc in DLP, and the TDR parks), actually pack a huge amount in.
Although I wouldn't be able to give an exact figure, I would say that the Anaheim parks probably pack more per square metre than any of the other Disney Parks.
At Disneyland Park, by my own count, there are 46 attractions. This excludes meet 'n' greets, shows, parades, multiple train stations, each individual Main Street Vehicle etc. Forty six unique experiences is lot for a Magic Kingdom style park.
Across the Esplanade, Disney California Adventure offers 27 attractions - again excluding shows, multiple Trolley stops, etc.
Disneyland or Disneyland Park?
If there are any hardcore fans reading this, you may be wincing at the fact I use the 'Park' part of the name. I know this bugs many people, but at the end of the day, that is its official name now, and has been for some years. It also allows there to be a clear definition between the Disneyland Resort (often just 'Disneyland'), and the actual Magic Kingdom park within the resort. Just like Disneyland Paris as a resort is, well, Disneyland Paris, the main park is in fact Parc Disneyland (Disneyland Park, effectively). So, to avoid confusion for newcomers, and to ensure clarity, when needed for clarification I will be using the park's actual name, Disneyland Park.
A Walk in Walt's Footsteps
For those interested in really getting to know Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom, try to experience all the attractions that opened at the park during Walt's lifetime. Walt was only alive for the first eleven years of Disneyland's history, sadly, but influenced several others before he died.
I have compiled a list on the side panel to the right, that lists everything that Walt personally oversaw, which you should do too, if you want the true grasp of how his limitless imagination changed the world of attractions forever - some were exceptional for their day.
City Hall and the Fire Dept are Walt Disney originals
Of course, over the years some of these have gone through major changes, but the original concept is there, giving you a sense of what Walt envisioned.
You can also take an official Disney Guided Tour, called A Walk in Walt's Footsteps, that traces the history of the park through Walt's eyes. You even get to visit his private apartment on Main Street USA! Definitely recommended! I don't get emotional/teary eyed about very much (I'm just not an emotional person), but being up there certainly moved me!
A side note here - as this is the attractions section, I have only listed the attractions
Walt "touched" on the right hand panel. For dining and shopping experiences with a Walt influence, see those sections.
So let's begin with Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Park.
As I said above, there are 46 true attractions within the park (depending on how you look at them), ranging from roller coasters, dark rides, whimsical rides and more.
The park has the usual things on Main Street, such as the Main Street Vehicles and Main Street Station.
The Disneyland Railroad, as you expect, circles the park, and includes the Grand Canyon Diorama and Primeval World Diorama. You can also ask to ride aboard the Tinder Train, which is near the engineer and fire person, for a unique perspective.
For new visitors, there are two more unique attractions also on Main Street - Great Moments with Mr Lincoln and the Main Street Cinema. If you want to see something of Disney history, then visit the groundbreaking-for-its-day Mr Lincoln. Otherwise, be prepared to get a sugar coated American history lesson. Not a personal favourite of mine, if I'm honest!
The Main Street Cinema is nothing more than a screening room for old Mickey Mouse cartoons, but provides a cool, dark space to avoid the crowds and heat. It's also remarkable that given the lack of large retail space within the park, that this fairly sizeable room hasn't already lost its purpose, as the one in Magic Kingdom (WDW) has!
Although not really an attraction, it's worth mentioning that the Disneyland Fire House in Town Square is a classic piece that sits below Walt's original apartment. It's nice to wander inside to feel the history and nostalgia. The fireman's pole at the back actually originally led up to Walt's apartment above. Walt used to actually slide down it to get into the park! The hole itself has since been blocked off sadly, but the pole of course remains.
We'll continue our tour clockwise, and head to Adventureland.
For first timers, the Jungle Cruise is a must. It is a really fun, if somewhat corny, attraction, that takes up a surprisingly large amount of real estate in such a small park. This is a true Walt Disney classic, and much better than the WDW version.
The Enchanted Tiki Room is also a Walt Disney original, and was one of Walt's most beloved attractions. The cool air, dark room and seating provide a much welcomed respite from the heat. The singing birds and plants do a great job at entertaining, too!
For something a bit more turbulent than the previous two attractions, visit Indiana Jones Adventure. Be warned that the lines for this are often very long. It's a pretty bumpy ride, but definitely a fun attraction, and in my opinion, better than the newer Tokyo DisneySea version.
There is Tarzan's Treehouse, but it's nothing to write home about, especially if you've ever been to the other parks.
As you head out of Adventureland at the other end, you'll find yourself in a very busy place by the waterfront, known as New Orleans Square. New Orleans Square was one of the last areas that Walt Disney oversaw before he died. Pirates of the Caribbean was in development at the time, and opened shortly after Walt passed away. Pirates here is the original, and is longer than the other versions. For Florida visitors, this is a massive upgrade. The WDW version is a butchered mess compared to the original. Disneyland Paris's is just different by comparison. DLP fans will realise that the entire ride sequence is reversed. I don't really have a preference, but DLP's works better in my mind. The order seems more logical. Also, DLP's has the far superior exterior.
The Haunted Mansion was something that Walt never got to see, and was empty for several years while Imagineers tried to figure out what to do with the cool exterior.
It's a comparable experience to the other versions, but also slightly unique in its own way. If you visit during Halloween and Christmas, it becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday, with an elaborate Nightmare Before Christmas overlay. This is extremely popular, and during that time FastPass is usually available. I can't say whether I really like the Holiday version or not. Every time I go on it, I feel indifferent. That's just me, I suppose.
Splash Mountain is at the gateway to Critter Country
As you walk further past the Haunted Mansion, you find yourself at the foot of Splash Mountain. Splash Mountain is at the gateway to Critter Country.
Splash Mountain is a must for first time visitors to the US parks, but if you have been to Florida a lot, you might not like this one so much. The seating is toboggan style (one behind the other, as opposed to side by side), and overall the interior is inferior. The animatronics are recycled from old attractions (nearly all are from America Sings actually, I believe), and the scenes seem darker and more sparse.
Also, I realise that the name implies you get wet, I mean, it IS Splash Mountain, but I do feel this one soaks you rather unnecessarily. They fire water at you, at every turn, and it really detracts from the enjoyment of the scenes. At least at WDW you get to look around the scenes without being constantly shot in the face. At least, that's what Jon and I have always felt.
Winnie the Pooh has an attraction down here too, and although it's a whimsical kind of fun, it is comparable to the WDW and HKDL versions, and will never be TDR's Pooh's Hunny Hunt!
The Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes are technically located in Critter Country, though they travel the Rivers of America. For a unique view of the waterways, and to give your arms a workout, then these are fun, otherwise, just watching others struggle is amusement enough!
Wandering back through Critter Country, back past the front end of New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America, you find yourself in Frontierland.
The biggest problem I have with Disneyland's Frontierland is the lack of depth to it. Overall it's pretty I guess, but it doesn't feel as grand or even as contained as say DLP's. There is no real definition of where it begins (near the New Orleans Square end), and basically "exists". That isn't to say there aren't things to do, but it's just not as immersive. At the time of writing, Big Thunder Mountain is undergoing a massive makeover, and we don't know exactly what Imagineering have up their sleeves for the new version next year. But, as it was, it was a fun ride, comparable to WDW and TDR (though, like those versions, has its unique side too), but again, lacks the grandeur. DLP's setting in the middle of the Rivers of the Far West still wins hands down for me.
You can traverse the Rivers of America on board two ships, the Mark Twain Riverboat, or the Sailing Ship Columbia. Both have exactly the same route, it's just what you see inside the ship that's different.
You can also travel across the Rivers of America, to the island in the middle, where you can explore Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Similar experiences can be had at WDW, TDR and DLP (albeit on Adventure Isle).
Walking around the left side of Big Thunder Mountain, up the trail, you head into Fantasyland. Immediately you'll be struck with how small it feels.
Fantasyland here contains some of the classic originals that the fans love so dearly.
Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures and Mr Toad's Wild Ride are all original dark rides that have been copied at the other parks at one time or another. Mr Toad used to be in WDW, but is no longer there, as was Snow White. Snow White can still be found in DLP and TDR, though.
Disneyland may feel compact but has some nice intimate little areas
The Disneyland versions feel a lot smaller compared to the other versions, but definitely hold their own. Filled with nostalgia and charm, they really are classics.
Of course, just like the other parks, there is a Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Carrousel and a Mad Tea Party. I don't need to explain those. Although I will make one special mention to one specific horse on the Carousel. Jingles was one of Walt's favourite horses, and has since been decorated with iconic symbols from Walt Disney's Mary Poppins. So, be sure to look out for her galloping around!
Alice in Wonderland was opened in Walt's lifetime (though not an opening day original like the other dark rides, above), and is completely unique. It has never been copied anywhere else. It has received several updates over the years though, and is currently wrapped in tarps - as it has been for a year now - while Disney figure out how to deal with several safety issues. The attraction remains open though.
The mighty Matterhorn looms over Fantasyland, and the rest of the park, and again, was touched by Walt. Over the years the quality of the experience on board the bobsleds has drastically deteriorated, sadly, and now regular fans avoid riding simply because it's so uncomfortable. If you haven't rode though, and want something totally unique to Disneyland, then you should ride.
Pinocchio's Daring Journey is another dark ride, and similar to the DLP and TDR versions. It isn't all too thrilling, and was never experienced by Walt.
The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough is of course located inside the original Sleeping Beauty Castle, and features a tableau telling the story of Princess Aurora. It's neat, and worth seeing if you're gunning for the hardcore fan experience, but it isn't as beautiful as DLP's Castle Gallery.
Storybook Land Canal Boats and the Casey Jr. were experienced by Walt, and offer a whimsical view of a miniature fairytale land, and nice views across Fantasyland. For DLP fans, you will know that DLP has a similar experience.
"it's a small world" is one of Walt's materpieces
Finally for Fantasyland is "it's a small world" (IASW). IASW is a true Walt Disney classic, featuring the design of the famous Disney artist, Mary Blair. It is a nice attraction, but I am never one to go over board about IASW anyway. I think the facade in DLP is better, but I know hardcore DL fans will disagree since it is not a "Mary Blair original". You either love it or are indifferent, I guess, depending on where you're from.
During the Holidays, IASW becomes IASW Holiday, which is by far the best version of this attraction, anywhere. Covered in tens of thousands of sparkling lights, a different soundtrack, and a wonderful seasonal overlay inside.
Walking past IASW and under the train tracks, you find yourself in the zany, colourful Toontown.
Toontown is the home to Mickey and all his friends. You can visit the homes of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Chip 'n' Dale. Don't be fooled into thinking that these are only for kids - get in and walk around!
Donald's Boat, Goofy's Playhouse and Chip 'n' Dale's Treehouse are cute, but nothing to go wild about.
Mickey and Minnie's Houses on the other hand are really neat to explore, and full of oversized furniture and gags.
Gadget'sGo Coaster is a brief zip around a track, apparently designed by Gadget Hackwrench of Rescue Rangers fame.
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin is a wild ride through Toontown's darker side. Probably one of the best things about RRCTS is the queue! It's extremely detailed and well themed.
Out of Toontown we go, back through Fantasyland, and head left into Tomorrowland!
Tomorrowland in Disneyland sadly suffers from the same problems as the other Tomorrowland's of the world - it became out of date the second they built it. A mixture of oddities and things that don't really fit, Tomorrowland is the least inspiring or consistent land in the park.
One of my absolute favourite attractions is not futuristic at all, and that's the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. You get to take a lengthy under the sea trip, past coral reefs, and out into the ocean visiting Nemo and his pals. Sadly, this attraction looks doomed to close in the near future, if the rumours are true. It is a massive headache for Disney on many levels, so ride it while you still can!
Autopia is what it is, and I can't say it's better or worse than other versions. The same goes for the Orbitron, which flies high above Central Plaza (it's in Tomorrowland, but is so far out, it more or less sits in Central Plaza!).
Captain EO has seen better days, and can be found in WDW, DLP and TDR too.
Buzz Lightyear is basically the same as DLP's, and similar to WDW's, but has slightly different scenes. The overall concept and experience is identical. Buzz can also be found at TDR and HKDL.
Star Tours is the newer version, which they also have at WDW and TDR. If you haven't rode the newer version, you definitely should - several times! You'll never get the same experience twice. Lines can be long, depending on the time of day.
Space Mountain's boarding area
Space Mountain is a lot of fun, and is better than WDW's (only since they ruined it a couple of years ago though), and much calmer than DLP's. Tokyo and HKDL also have Space Mountains. All are comparable, but offer something slightly different. If you haven't rode Disneyland's then it's definitely worth it, to compare if nothing else. At Halloween Space Mountain becomes Ghost Galaxy, with a different soundtrack, and "scary" projections throughout the ride.
Innoventions is an indoor interactive exhibit of current technology. It's a big lot of nothing really, but offers cool air when it's hot outside!
The Disneyland Monorail has a stop in Tomorrowland. Although it isn't an attraction, it's fun to ride. The only problem is, it's one way to Downtown Disney, and you have to exit the monorail, and re-enter through bag check all over again to gain re-entry.
As I mentioned at the start, Disneyland Railroad circles the park. It has stops in Town Square, New Orleans Square, Fantasyland/Toontown (it's in between both) and Tomorrowland. When riding from Main Street, you get to see the Grand Canyon Diorama and the Primeval World Diorama. DLP fans will know that DLP has a Grand Canyon Diorama also.
Throughout the park you can have other, smaller interactive experiences such as watching the "movies" in the penny machines on Main Street (inside the Candy Palace), getting advice from Esmeralda (Candy Palace) or Shrunken Ned (Adventureland), or target practice at the Frontierland Shootin' Exposition. All of these activities are at a small surcharge.
Ok, so that's it for Disneyland Park. Next, we are heading across the Esplanade to Disney California Adventure!
Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure (DCA) has by far undergone the biggest makeover in a rapid amount of time than any other Disney Park, ever.
It'd be easy to say "well Disneyland Park is unrecognisable compared to opening day too!", but then, Disneyland Park has been there for nearly 60 years.
When it opened, the idea was that DCA reflected the Californian dream, representing different aspects of the lifestyle.
That didn't really work for Southern California, especially since their main market was and is local fans.
In 2009 Disney decided to invest several billion dollars into giving the young park a brand new identity - it was just 8 years old at the time!
Disney's California Adventure Park was re-dedicated in June 2012 as Disney California Adventure, bringing with is whole new lands, attractions and experiences, completely new to the world of Disney.
Changing the name slightly allows Disney to take the focus away from it being so much about California, to being an amazing Disney Park that is in
Let's start at the front, on Buena Vista Street.
Buena Vista Street is the new heart and soul of the park. It brings together Walt's own Californian dream in a spectacular neighbourhood filled with charm, detail and history.
The Red Car Trolley passes by
The only actual attraction on Buena Vista Street is the Red Car Trolley. You can take one way trips to Carthay Circle and Hollywood Land from the front entrance, and vice versa from the other direction. It's not the most thrilling experience, much like the Main Street Vehicles, but is pleasant nonetheless.
In Hollywood Land you can ride through Monstropolis in Monsters Inc Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!
This is actually a cool attraction, and unique, so definitely worth a spin for first timers! I actually think this version is better than the newer Ride and Go Seek in Tokyo, which is similar, but different in its own way.
The Tower of Terror is the standard elevator drop attraction that we are used to, and although each park has its own slight variation, there's not too much that can be said about it.
Inside the Animation Building there is the drawing class, Turtle Talk with Crush (same as WDW and TDR, and similar to Stitch Live! from DLP/HKDL), and various interactive exhibits. You should wander into the Sorcerer's Workshop. The library room is pretty neat, but don't waste time if you're only at the park for a short while. The lobby of the Animation Building is actually a nice place to just sit and watch all the Disney animation and concept art displayed on the large screens. It's especially nice on a hot day!
Disney Junior is basically a kids puppet show with the Disney Junior characters. It's just like WDW's, and similar to DLP's (though at DLP they still have some of the older scenes).
I'm going to brush over a whole load of attractions now, as they aren't significant, and some are just as fun to look at as they are to ride, and I don't want to bore you with too many details!
Swinging and spinning attractions are poplular in DCA
Flik's Flyers, the Silly Symphony Swings and the Golden Zephyr are all fairly standard, whimsical spinning swing attractions.
Tuck 'n Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies are basically dodgems (bumper cars).
Francis' Lady Bug Boogie and Mater's Junkyard Jamboree are similar to the Tea Cups at the Magic Kingdom Parks of the world. Francis' is very basic, but Mater's is actually pretty fun, and admittedly is a bit wilder than just the regular tea cups! Mater's is comparable to DLP's Cars Race Rally at the Studios, but a bit better.
Heimlich's Chew Chew Train is a very tame and very small train/track attraction. You ride through some oversized props and fruit, and that's about it!
It's Tough to Be a Bug is a neat 3D movie set in the Bug's Life universe. If you haven't experienced it in WDW, then you should here, and the queue is better than WDW's, too! It's full of surprises!
Jumpin' Jellyfish is another standard up-and-down experience, and King Triton's Carousel is really just a fish themed carousel.
The difference with all of these attractions from anywhere else of course, is that you get the superior Disney theming, and of course the views are over DCA, which make for a nice change if you're not used to it.
California Screamin' is a large pier style coaster, with a loop, but it is very popular. Mickey's Fun Wheel is a ferris wheel that has two experiences. Swinging and non swinging. The swinging cars are pretty hair raising, and move pretty freely about the wheel! Views from the top can be cool (in the non swinging at least!).
I don't even count the Bakery Tour as a proper attraction, but it's listed as one. You can literally walk through in seconds, and learn all you need to know about bread.
Goofy's Sky School is a pretty dull mini coaster. Think Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom, but without the spinning, or the thrill.
Toy Story Midway Mania! still attracts long lines, all day long, and for those who haven't rode in WDW or Tokyo, it is an updated version of Buzz Lightyear really. The difference is that it is in 3D on screens in front of you, and you shoot at a variety of Toy Story themed targets, not just those form the Buzz Lightyear universe. It's incredibly popular, and while enjoyable, I personally have never understood the huge draw. It's fun, but it's definitely not worth the huge lines, not by a long shot.
Ariel's Undersea Adventure is a fun attraction
The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure is a great attraction. It is dark and cool inside offering respite form the heat, and lines are rarely very long. In fact, most of the time when we've been - including in peak seasons - it's a walk on. Although its exterior is not as great as WDW's New Fantasyland version, the ride itself is virtually identical. A must for those who have never been.
Soarin' Over California is an excellent experience, and if you have never been on the one in EPCOT, then you should definitely ride. Just be warned - it's not for those afraid of heights or flying! It isn't fast, or wild, but it's definitely very neat. I won't spoil the surprise!
Grizzly River Run is an exhilarating and extremely wet, whitewater raft ride over the peaks of Grizzly Mountain. Some people compare it to Kali River Rapids in WDW, and I suppose to some degree it's the same, but it is very different, too.
For something a little different, try your hand at the Games of the Boardwalk. There is a charge for playing the games, but they are a lot of fun, and the prizes can vary (although a lot are plushes - cute ones at that!).
At the Games of the Boardwalk on Paradise Pier, you can pay to play four different games that involve a small level of skill. There are some neat prizes, and the games are fun to play. If you have a few spare minutes, they are worth trying to see what you can win! You must purchase a game card to play, as the Cast at the games do not handle cash. Game card machines are located directly across from the games, on the Boardwalk.
The scenery in Cars Land is beyond epic
I already mentioned Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, but felt that the last two attractions left to talk about were deserving of their own section.
Luigi's Flying Tires is an interesting attraction, and worth explaining. The concept came from a original Disneyland attraction, the Flying Saucers in Tomorrowland.
When Imagineers were designing Cars Land, John Lasseter recalled fond memories of the old DL attraction, and Cars Land was his 'baby', and so the Flying Tires were born!
The Tires are quite difficult to operate if you're not used to it. Most of the instructions in the queue are pretty hopeless. All I can say is, don't lean to the extremes. Go gentle, and don't shift around too much. One person per vehicle is better than two.
Lines can be long, not because of the amount of people, but because logistically the attraction is a nightmare. Each vehicle has to be manually dragged back into position if they are all bunched up, and if you have guests with disabilities waiting, expect the wait to be even longer.
If you get to try it though, it is a lot of fun.
Radiator Springs Racers is not to be missed!
I have saved the best until last, as they say. No, I hadn't forgotten about the most major e-ticket attraction in Disney history!
Radiator Springs Racers is the monolithic centrepiece of not just Cars Land, but the new California Adventure.
The red rock faces can be seen from all over the park, and look absolutely incredible. The depth and detail of the front of the attraction, which serves as the backdrop to Cars Land, really makes you feel like you stepped into the desert. Radiator Springs come to life
with this there.
The actual attraction itself is a fantastical journey through the town of Radiator Springs, where you will come face to face with the real, living characters from the movie.
Following your trip through the town, you get catapulted off on a thrilling race around the desert. You are actually pitted against another car, and there is always one winner!
You should definitely ride multiple times, as not only can you win/not win, there are two different routes! You could either go via Luigi's for a tire change, or through Ramone's body shop for a new paint job.
Of course, there is one drawback to all this awesomeness. Lines. Radiator Springs Racers is on par with Tokyo's attractions when it comes to the insanely long lines and instant FastPass sell out.
Lines will form at the entrance to DCA long before park open, and once the gates open, everyone runs to get a FastPass. We were there as recently as September 2013, and by 10am, FastPasses had all gone.
For information on disabled accessibility to attractions at the theme parks, see the Practical Information section.
Disney's FastPass and Single Rider Services
Listed below are all the attractions that offer FastPass and Single Rider at the Disneyland Resort theme parks.
Disney's FastPass service is available at the following attractions:
Indiana Jones Adventure
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
Star Tours - The Adventures Continue
Tower of Terror
Radiator Springs Racers
Goofy's Sky School
World of Color (see the Entertainment section for details about this)
Grizzly River Run
Soarin' Over California
Single Rider service is available at:
Indiana Jones Adventure
Radiator Springs Racers
Goofy's Sky School
Grizzly River Run
Soarin' Over California