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25 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides

by Mommy Frog on October 8, 2023 2 Los Angeles

Disneyland is known for its immersive lands and rides that whisk you into fantasy, but it's so much more than that! You can fill your whole day at Disneyland with entertainment without ever even hopping on a ride. It’s true! This is good to know if you're taking a multi-generational trip to Disneyland with grandparents who may be more into parades and shows than braving Space Mountain. It's also helpful for anyone in your party who has mobility issues that limit the number of rides they can access, or for guests with sensory issues or easily-triggered motion sickness.

Very small children may be more into exploring other ride-free Disneyland experiences at the parks, too. Plus, if you find yourself visiting on a crazy busy day (or even needing to take a break from the heat and walking), these ride-free Disneyland experiences can help you maximize your day in the park and avoid the lines. Our ride-free guide to Disneyland will help you fill your day with all of the Disney magic you can handle, making any rides bonus fun. Check out these toadally awesome ideas for a ride-free Disneyland experience.

25 Ideas for a Ride-Free Disneyland Experience

1. Meet Your Favorite Characters

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Pluto plays with kids in Toontown


One of the most popular ride-free Disneyland experiences at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is meeting favorite Disney and Marvel characters. Getting that hug, photo, autograph and special time with a character is a favorite ride-free Disneyland experience. If you want to meet characters, it’s best to find them early in the day. Keep your eyes open because some characters (especially some Fantasyland and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge characters) wander freely with no specific meeting spot or line. We especially love the fun character interactions in Toontown. They just might pull you into a game!

2. Watch Parades

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Magic Happens Parade

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have amazing parades with music, dancers, colorful floats and, of course, favorite Disney characters. The daytime parade, Magic Happens, makes its way down the parade route at Disneyland twice a day during the warmer months. Some parades run during the day, while others are after dark during certain times.

Some parades are around for a long time. Others only run for limited times, during holidays, seasons or even special events, such the Christmas Fantasy Parade at holiday time or the Frightfully Fun Parade that runs only during the Disneyland Halloween Party (Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure) at Disneyland Halloween Time. No matter which parade you wish to see, you’ll need some strategies for getting in place. People tend to line up an hour or two before popular parades, especially on benches, curbs or shady spots on hot days. We usually recommend the second daytime parade because it gets you out of the sun.

25 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Halloween Cavalcade

Character cavalcades run when there is not a scheduled parade. These themed mini parades are short and sweet. They are a great way to see a lot of characters pass by without a huge time commitment.

3. Experience Fantasmic! (temporarily unavailable in summer 2023)

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Final boat in Fantasmic!

Fantasmic! is a nighttime spectacular show in Disneyland park with projections, characters, music, special effects and explosive fireworks. It takes some planning to see this show either by getting a FASTPASS in the morning, reserving a dining package that comes with reserved viewing or getting in place for standby viewing about an hour or two before show time. You may collect a FASTPASS in person or reserve through the Disneyland app with Disney MaxPass. There may be one or two shows at night, and the later show is easiest to get a get a good viewing location.

4. Immerse Yourself in the World of Color

One of our favorite options for a ride-free Disneyland experience is World of Color. Appropriately named, World of Color is a colorful nighttime water show in Disney California Adventure with tall fountains of water set to hoppin' music with animation and sound. It’s a magical show that can vary per season with special holiday versions, a Disney 100 version (called World of Color — One) plus additional show elements during Lunar New Year. You can pick join the free virtual queue each day at noon to get a reserved viewing area. If you cant join a virtual queue, there are dining packages, a dessert party and free standby viewing as well.

5. See What's Playing at the Hyperion Theatre

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Rogers The Musical marquee

The Hyperion Theater is a place to see Broadway-quality shows condensed for theme park audiences. Frozen left during the pandemic, but Rogers: The Musical is here June 30 through Aug. 31, 2023. It's a great way to escape the afternoon lines and sun.

6. Enjoy Storytelling at Royal Theatre

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides - Beauty and the Beast


Hear ye, all lords and ladies, you are all invited to join Mr. Smyth and Mr. Jones in retelling the tales of Beauty and the Beast or Tangled. The humorous shows have a cast of players that will entertain you in an open-air tent. The shows are the perfect length for short attention spans and include floor seating or benches.

7. Experience Disneyland Fireworks and Projection Shows

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Fireworks at castle

We frogs are fireworks junkies, especially when it comes to Disneyland fireworks. The fireworks show inside the park also includes music, projection and other special effects. You can view Disneyland fireworks from the iconic castle and Main Street, U.S.A. locations, but you can also experience the full show at Rivers of America or “it’s a small world.” It’s our favorite way to end our day with a bang!

On nights without fireworks you can enjoy projection shows instead. Plus there are additional projection shows on the façade of "it's a small world." Enjoy the Encanto projection show several times a night or the holiday projection show during Holiday Time.

8. Watch The Tale of the Lion King at Fantasyland Theater

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Lion King performers

Inside Disneyland Park, you can enjoy African storytellers taking you through The Tale of the Lion King, with song, dance and more. It's a covered outdoor theater, so it will help you escape the sun wile you rest your legs.

The Enchanted Tiki Room and Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln are also great ways to rest out of the sun while being entertained in air conditioning by these classic, ride-free Disneyland experiences on a warm afternoon.

9. Become Part of the Star Wars Story on Planet Batuu

25 Ideas for a Ride-Free Disneyland Experience - Droid Building

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, offers many ride-free experiences to immerse guests into a galaxy far, far away on the remote planet Batuu. You can build a droid, attend a special ceremony to build your very own custom lightsaber or belly up to the bar at Oga's Cantina to taste some out-of-this world alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages while enjoying music by DJ Rex. You'll likely need a reservation for these experiences. Look for walk-up availability in the Disneyland app for Oga's if you cannot secure a reservation.

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides- Person plays with Datapad in Galaxy's Edge

You may also try blue or green milk, shop for souvenirs, use the Datapad (Disneyland app) to translate, hack or scan while in the land. Use the app and your MagicBand+ to go Bounty Hunting. Be sure to meet roaming characters during your visit to Batuu! And don't froget to have the "imagers," aka Photopass photographers, take your picture at iconic spots (such as in front of the Millennium Falcon).

10. Enjoy Musical Entertainment

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Dapper Dans, band and characters perform in front of Train Station

Besides the large nighttime shows, there is nonstop musical entertainment around the parks. You can kick back and enjoy the Disneyland Band (sometimes with Mickey and friends), the Pearly Band (sometimes performing with Mary Poppins and Bert in front of the castle), The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet along Main Street, U.S.A (sometimes they hop into stores to sing or join the band), the Straw Hatters and many more performers. Consult the entertainment schedule to catch show times. The Bootstrappers will entertain you in New Orleans Square, and there are other musical experiences enjoy.

Hop into The Golden Horseshoe to be entertained by the piano player in the afternoon and early evening while you dine. Between shows and when you are in and around The Golden Horseshoe, find the roaming magician who may mesmerize you with his tricks.

Throughout Disney California Adventure, there is also a lot of musical entertainment, as well, from the Five & Dime jazz show to the seasonal entertainment. Be sure to join Starlord and Mantis at the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off!

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Stitch teaches kids to dance at dance party

Speaking of dancing, during summer weekends and during Halloween Time and Holiday Time, keep en eye out for character dance parties. Head to Tomorrowland to learn the latest dance moves from your favorite characters.

11. Go Shopping

Whether you're looking for souvenirs, Mickey ears (perhaps with your name stitched in the back), light-up toys, balloons, special merchandise, collectibles, artwork, a Disney dress or simply a hat to shade your eyes or sweatshirt to warm up, you can spend hours shopping in the many stores in both parks.

A special souvenir experience that has been on Main Street, U.S.A. since the park opened is the Silhouette Studio. An artist can create your uncannily perfect silhouette portrait with a pair of scissors in just 60 seconds. It makes a fun keepsake, and you’ll be surprised how still even your wiggliest tadpole can sit while having it done!

Never underestimate the fun in window-shopping. Sometimes just looking at decorated tasty treats is fun enough without consuming the calories, and there are many elaborate window displays with moving parts that were inspired by Disney movies on Main Street, U.S.A. Take the time to watch each one with your tadpoles.

12. Play Games

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Games of Pixar PierTad enjoyed sharing his favorite in-park games in his gamer’s guide to Disneyland. From Frontierland shooting, to playing games of skill on the Boardwalk at Pixar Pier, you can play tons of games in the parks. Lily loves winning prizes, which also double as souvenirs!

13. Explore Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island

Best Ride-Free Disneyland Experiences - Pirate's Lair

Take a raft across the Rivers of America to land at Pirate's Lair. This area designed by Walt Disney himself, is filled with trails, caves, bridges, pirates — perhaps you’ll run in to Captain Jack Sparrow — and other fun surprises. There are no rides, and it’s a great place to let the tadpoles hop about and enjoy the simple pleasures of a throwback time that recalls Walt’s Missouri childhood roots, or pretending they are Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

25 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Adventureland Treehouse

Another fun area to explore nearby is the newly designed Adventureland Treehouse (as of Nov. 10, 2023).

14. Climb About at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Disney California Adventure park has a fun climbing area at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. You can scamper up lookout towers, run across swinging bridges, slide down slides, crawl through tunnels and explore the tree-lined paths for more fun discoveries. Our tadpoles can spend long periods of time playing in this area of the park for a ride-free Disneyland experience.

15. Enjoy Fine Dining and Character Dining

Carthay Circle - Best Disneyland Ride-Free Experiences

When you aren’t worried about getting on the next ride, you can take time to dine in the parks. There are some great table-service restaurants in both parks. Reservations are recommended though, so reserve through Disneyland Dining Reservations up to 60 days in advance. Favorite spots include Blue Bayou, which provides a perpetual twilight, romantic atmosphere inside Pirates of the Caribbean any time of day, and Carthay Circle in Disney California Adventure. You can also visit into the Carthay Circle Lounge — Alfresco Dining for smaller bar bites and drinks. Lamplight Lounge is a fun place to eat right on the water! You can also experience character dining inside Disneyland park at Plaza Inn and at the nearby hotels.

16. Indulge in Disneyland’s Best Snacks and Treats

In addition to fine dining, we have a lot of favorite Disneyland snacks and treats inside the parks. Don’t worry, moms. We also have some guidelines for healthy eating at Disneyland that will help you find tasty treats that won’t lead to meltdowns or crashes later. Don’t forget your free sourdough bread at Boudin in Disney California Adventure.

17. Play in Mickey's Toontown

Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Boy on slide

Toontown is among our favorite ride-free Disneyland experiences. Yes, there are three rides in Toontown, but there is so much else to do, such as walking through Mickey’s House and Minnie’s House, making candy in Goofy's House, exploring Donald’s boat and Goofy's yard or having a picnic on the lawn. It's a great place to allowing toddlers and small children to play and get the wiggles out. There are buttons to push, talking mailboxes to hear, boxes to open, doors to pull and so many fun photo opportunities, including the Dog Pound jail. There are toon cars to sit in, many characters to meet and all the goofy details to enjoy.

18. Take an Art Class

Finding Dory at Turtle Talk - Art Class

At Disney Animation in Hollywood Land, you can take an art class to learn to draw a Disney character. You get to take home your artwork as a souvenir. It’s one of our favorite free things to do at Disneyland. While in the building, you can visit the Sorcerer’s Workshop, talk to Crush at Turtle Talk with Crush or visit Frozen characters.

19. Pose for Photos

Best Disneyland Ride-Free Experience - Magic Shot

Disneyland makes for some of the best vacation photos. When you aren’t stressed about ride wait times or acquiring a new Lightning Lane, you can take the time to capture a family photo. Whether you choose a selfie or to use Disneyland’s professional photographers, you’ll want to get the Mickey flowers near the park entrance, castle shots, Pixar Pal-A-Round, The Hollywood Land backdrop, Cars Land, favorite characters and other special moments.

If you want to take advantage of the in-park photographers, look into adding Genie+ to at least one party member’s ticket to save money. Genie+ includes unlimited Disneyland PhotoPass downloads for the day. Be sure to ask the photographer for Magic Shots. Magic Shots will give you some fun surprises to see when you view your photos. Some other great spots for photos include the empty teacup by Mad Tea Party, the car in front of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the empty Dumbo near Dumbo the Flying Elephant. You can pose for photos near the wishing well or while attempting to pull the sword from the stone.

20. Enjoy Special Holidays and Festivals

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Street Party at Viva Navidad

There are many special Disneyland events that take place throughout the year. They include Lunar New Year, Festival of Holidays, Halloween Time, Dapper Days, Gay Days, the Food & Wine Festival and other special promotions. Holidays or festivals may bring about special decorations, character meet-and-greet experiences, photo opportunities, special shows and entertainment, plus new experiences that add to the in-park fun and increasing the number of things to do at Disneyland besides rides.

21. Meet Heroes and See Them in Action in Avenger's Campus

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Spider-Man crawls down wall

There's nothing cooler than watching Spider-Man leap over the buildings several times each day. See the Avengers jump into action in stunt shows, demonstrate training sessions or pull off some illusions. Try some of the Avengers Campus food and take pictures with your favorite Heroes.

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Dr. Strange conjures Thor

22. Get a Princess or Knight Makeover

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Girl gets makeup at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiquei

Hop into the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique so your child (ages 3 -12) can be transformed into a princess or knight. Packages vary but generally include hair-do, shimmering makeup, gems, accessories and maybe even a costume or nails. Be sure to make a reservation! After getting royally ready, your princess can go meet some of the princesses in the park.

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Snow White at Wishing Well

But anyone can get sprinkled with magic dust. Just head to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and ask a Fairy Godmother's Apprentice for some dust. And while you are in the area, walk through Sleeping Beauty Castle. Stop by the wishing well at Snow-White's Grotto. Not only can you make a wish, but it's a great spot to meet characters.

23. Get Swept Away at Mickey's PhilharMagic

You'll find this fun 4-D film in Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure. It's a great way to cool off and rest while being entertained by Donald Duck as he tries on Mickey's Sorcerer hat, which leads to a magical whirlwind that includes music and characters from many Disney movies.

24. Shake It Off at Disney Junior Dance Party

 Things to Do at Disneyland Besides Rides-Disney Junior Dance Party

At Disney California Adventure, your toddlers and preschoolers will be jumping about in this fun dance party. Join Mickey, Minnie, Doc McStuffins, Vampirina and Timon as they dance and sing to their favorite Disney Junior songs. There’s plenty of room to move and many fun surprises along the way.

25 Ideas for a Ride-Free Disneyland Experience - Flag Ceremony25. Attend the Flag Retreat Ceremony

Every day in the late afternoon, you can salute past and present service members at the Flag Retreat Ceremony. Join the Disneyland Band and Dapper Dans in singing patriotic songs and celebrating the flag and the military when members of each branch of the military are called forward for recognition and the flag is taken down. It’s a beautiful and patriotic ceremony.

Were you shocked to realize that there are at least 25 things to do at Disneyland besides rides? These special experiences are part of what we love most about Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (as well as discovering Hidden Mickeys as we go.) Depending on the ages and needs of your party, your family will be in for many special treats and bonding experiences when incorporating these ride-free Disneyland experiences into your trip. Hop on over to explore more posts on maximizing your time at Disneyland to learn tricks and tips for making your day extra hoppin’ fun!

Related: Best Time to Visit Disneyland

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Jan 14, 2020 at 7:07 a.m. Matthew Says...

What about snow whites grotto? That place is awesome

Jan 14, 2020 at 1:45 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Matthew!

That's a great idea - we love it too! Thanks for sharing!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

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