Disneyland & California Adventure Our Best Tips

My family spent 3 days and 4 nights in Anaheim, California in June 2018.  Being the Disney fans that we are, the entire time was spent at Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure. Read on to learn our best Disneyland tips.

California Adventure Cars Land
Here are our best tips for you as you plan your vacation to Disneyland:

Located within walking distance to Disneyland.

  • Purchase park hopper, if your budget will allow you to do so.  Disneyland and California Adventure are within easy walking distance from one another. Trust me, you will use the park hopper feature.  It is not like Disney World where park hopping takes a minimum of 30 minutes each way. It is VERY easy to park hop between the two parks. 
  • Purchase Disney MaxPass. Trust me, you will use it at Disneyland & California Adventure.  It is much better than getting a fastpass using the old ticket system which is how non-MaxPass people get their fastpass. To read more information about Disney MaxPass visit my blog post by clicking here. Thanks to MaxPass we never waited in line for more than 20 minutes for a ride even though some rides had ques of 90+ minutes.  Whether you choose to use MaxPass or the traditional fastpass system, make a plan before you get there of how you will acquire fastpasses.  I personally do not like standing in line for 90 minutes when my wait could be less than 10 minutes if I use the fastpass. Note: Not every ride is available for fastpasses. To see eligible rides click here
  • Disneyland & California Adventure are MUCH smaller than Disney World. This is good and this is bad.  The good part would be Disneyland & California Adventure are within walking distance from each other.  Many people say they like the parks are smaller than Disney World so they don't have to walk as much in a day. The bad would be, in my opinion, the parks seemed more crowded than Disney World.  I know they were not as crowded as Disney World but because of the size, it just seemed that way.
  • Get there early. The old adage, "the early bird gets the worm" is very true at Disneyland/California Adventure. The vibe at Disneyland is so very different than Disney World. The parks generally do not get busy until around 11 AM.  When I say busy I mean at 8:00 AM we entered the Paradise Pier area at California Adventure and there was literally NO ONE THERE.  By noon there were people everywhere.  We encountered this everyday at both parks. 
  • Our favorite Disneyland/California Adventure restaurants were Plaza Inn (Disneyland), Churro Cart (Multiple locations Disneyland & California Adventure), Lucky Fortune Cookery (California Adventure), Pacific Wharf Cafe (California Adventure), Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante (Disneyland), & Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney).  We would not hesitate to recommend any of these restaurants, just be prepared for the prices by clicking the link above to view menus... it is Disneyland after all. Our favorite restaurant was Rancho del Zocalo.  We liked it so much we ate there twice during our trip. The portions are large so we shared 2 carne asada and red chile enchilada platters between the 3 of us and had plenty to eat. Our least favorite restaurant and the only one we would not recommend was Cafe Orleans. We ordered the famous Monte Cristo sandwich and the pommes frites.  Neither were all that great in our opinion.  The portions were large so we shared 2 Monte Cristo sandwiches and 1 pommes frites between the 3 of us.
California Adventure Pacific Wharf
Our Favorite! Disneyland's Rancho del Zocalo

  • You do not have to eat at Disneyland restaurants.  Within easy walking distance from both theme parks you can find a variety of restaurants from McDonald's to Ruth Chris Steakhouse and many more. This is part of what makes Disneyland appealing, especially to families on a budget.     
  • Water is free at any quick service restaurant in Disneyland & California Adventure.  Just go up to the counter and ask for a glass of water.  The cast member will give you a 16 ounce cup of water for FREE.  We did not carry bottled water with us into the park because we knew we could get free water at any quick service restaurant.
  • We highly recommend the Disney show Fantasmic.  We liked it better than the Disney World version. If you want a decent spot to see Fantasmic you will need a FastPass.  The Fantasmic FastPass is separate from the ride FastPass.  You can get a FastPass from the kiosk located near the Haunted Mansion. Just make sure you go first thing in the morning because once the limited number of FastPass tickets are distributed you are out of luck. If you don't get a FREE FastPass ticket you can get tickets from Hungry Bear Restaurant, Blue Bayou Restaurant or River Belle Terrace Restaurant if you are able to get a table. Reservations are highly recommended.  You can make dining reservations at any Disneyland or California Adventure restaurant up to 60 days in advance of your reservation.  To make dining reservations click here
Around the Rivers of America the crowd awaits Fantasmic. It was CROWDED, I'm glad I had a fastpass.
Fantasmic is FANTASTIC!

  • If you see Fantasmic and you want to watch the Disneyland fireworks, just stay in place at your Rivers of America spot.  There are far too many people to try to get to the front of the castle to view the fireworks.  Plus the fireworks narration and music play throughout the Rivers of America.
  • Do not miss Paint the Night Parade at California Adventure. You will be astounded by the light display in this parade.  We were always fans of the Disney World Electric Parade and were sad to see it leave Disney World. The Paint the Night parade was even better than the Electric Parade.  We were able to get a good spot to view the parade across from Little Mermaid without a FastPass.  However, you can get a FastPass from dining packages at Carthay Circle Restaurant and Wine Country Trattoria Restaurant if you want to ensure you get a good spot.  To learn more about the dining packages click here
California Adventure's Paint the Night Parade

  • I could write an entire blog post on rides and attractions at Disneyland & California Adventure.  You would be getting my opinion on each ride but it would be my perspective.  I believe each person has their own idea of what fun is. So instead of listing each ride we rode and ranking it, I will simply give you each of our favorite rides.  My favorite ride was Radiator Springs Racers.  In fact, just getting to see Cars Land was worth the trip to California... AMAZING! My husband's favorite ride was Big Thunder Mountain.  My 14 year old son says his favorite ride was Matterhorn Bobsleds. If you would like to know more about each attraction at Disneyland/California Adventure click here.
California Adventure Radiator Racers

Disneyland's Big Thunder Mountain Ride
Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsled Ride

  • Disneyland's Adventureland was ALWAYS packed with people.  It did not matter the time of day, it was PACKED.  I never did figure out why other than that is where you can get Dole Whips. Surely it can't be the Dole Whips! But then again Dole Whips are pretty awesome!
Disneyland's Adventureland

  • Unfortunately Paradise Pier was closed for refurbishment during our visit.  Therefore we did not get to experience the rides and nightly show, World of Color. Maybe next time...
  • Use the Disneyland Railroad to move around the park.  It is fun, easy on the feet, and informative. 
Disneyland Railroad takes you all the way around the park. 

  • People ask me, is there a difference between the common rides between Disneyland and Disney World? The answer is yes and no.  For example Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean is better than Disney World because the ride is longer with multiple drops.  The Haunted Mansion is actually better at Disney World mainly because the line ques that take you through the grave yard which Disneyland does not have.  The castle at Disney World is much better than Disneyland.  I kept saying at Disneyland, "the castle is so tiny!"  Disneyland's Pirate's Lair at Tom Sawyer's Island was much better than Disney World's Tom Sawyer Island. It was fun to compare and contrast the rides between Disneyland and Disney World as we rode them. 
Disneyland Castle (very tiny)
Pirates of the Caribbean the first day after being closed for 3 months for refurbishment...CROWDED.

  • One of the questions I had when planning my first trip to Disneyland was, how long should we stay?  I chose 3 days and 4 nights.  We park hopped between the 2 parks each day so we were able to see most of what each park had to offer. After the trip, I felt like 3 days was long enough.  However, I would go back today if money and time would allow it. 
So, there you go!  Our best tips from our Disneyland California Adventure vacation. I hope this helps you plan your next adventure. 

Do you have a tip from your Disneyland vacation?  If so, share below in the comment section.

May God bless you each day!