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It’s your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland and you need to know what not to miss. Have you really been to Disneyland if you have not ridden Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion or “it’s a small world?” We are here to let you in on what you need to see, eat and do to make sure you leave knowing that you have hit the highlights and understand all the references when people talk about "the Happiest Place on Earth!" This park is the OG Disney park that Walt Disney created for people of all ages, and there is something extra special about that. If you hoppen to be a Disney World fan, we’ll also point out the attractions and lands you cannot find at Disney World. Disneyland is smaller in footprint than Disney World, but with more packed in. Here’s what not-to-miss at Disneyland!
Disneyland Resort also has another theme park just across from the Disneyland entrance. Disney California Adventure Park also has a lot to offer and has a toadally different vibe. Budget a day to visit that park if you can (oh, and you’re going to need our what-not-to-miss at Disney California Adventure guide to help with that). Moving forward, everything below is specifically about Disneyland Park!
We're breaking up our top rides and attractions by 1) the most iconic rides 2) other smaller classics without a height requirement and 3) bigger thrills just for bigger frogs — because we know that Tad’s and my top rides may differ from Mommy Frog’s preferences and what our toddler Lily can access. But the beauty of Disneyland is that some of the most iconic rides are accessible to everyone. These are not considered “kiddie” rides as most adults and children love them. In fact, they have quite a strong adult fan following. If you do have a small fry, our guide to Disneyland height requirements and Rider Switch is most hopful for planning purposes. Of course, there is so much more to do that we can mention here, but we're sharing the major highlights.
Iconic Large Classic Attractions Without a Height Requirement
These long and highly themed rides are absolute can’t-miss, must-do Disneyland attractions, or else you really didn't truly do Disneyland. They are pretty efficient at moving guests through and are appropriate for the whole family, from grandparents to tadpoles:
Iconic Small Classic Attractions Without a Height Requirement
Here are some popular Fantasyland attractions that your whole family may enjoy:
Disneyland has four "mountains" which are themed thrill rides with height requirements. But Disneyland thrills are not extreme, so we see kids and even older adults, who have given up huge drops and loops, enjoying them. You may not be able to hit all the thrill rides in one day ... unless that's your focus.
If you only have one day to spend at Disneyland, we recommend purchasing Genie+ and prioritizing in order to do them all. We will note which rides offer Single Rider if you want a shorter wait and do not mind being split up from your party. If you don't want to get wet, skip Splash Mountain. Don't have any interest in Star Wars? Leave those to the super fans.
If you are a huge "Star Wars" fan, you should add an extra day to your journey because the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the back of Disneyland will definitely take a few hours to explore, ride the attractions and eat the food. To conquer this land means to remove some other attractions from your itinerary, so you’ll have to set priorities. Stay Wars fans may especially enjoy visiting during the Season of the Force, when Space Mountain becomes Hyperspace Mountain.
This is for our Disney World fans coming to the Land for the first time (BTW, we have a Disney World fan’s guide to Disneyland just for you!)
Our guide to the best Disneyland shows has everything you need to know about shows and parades. You'll always want to check the entertainment calendar to see what shows are available on the day you visit. Sometimes fireworks are only available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The two biggest seasons at Disneyland are Halloween Time from late August through Halloween and Holiday Time from mid-November through early January. If you hoppen to visit during one of them, you’ll be treated to special entertainment, character interactions, decor, food and beverage.
In the fall, Halloween Time jack-o-lanterns take over Main Street, U.S.A. Characters are in costume and Haunted Mansion transforms into the Nightmare Before Christmas. (At Disney California Adventure, Paradise Gardens has Plaza de la Familia — plus Cars Land and Carthay Circle are highly decorated, especially when lit up at night. The Oogie Boogie Bash, a separately ticketed Halloween party, takes place on select nights at Disney California Adventure during September and October.)
The year ends with the most entertainment-filled festival of them all — Holiday Time! There is so much entertainment and "it's a small world" gets a holiday overlay, both inside and out! These seasonal events might help you choose the best time to visit Disneyland.
The good news is that there are so many delicious foods that there is not just one item you HAVE to try. The tough part is narrowing down your dining or snacking interests. Just remember that everything tastes better when Mickey-shaped. The whole family can enjoy themed eats and delicious frozen treats. You cannot try them all in one visit, but if you share, you can try a lot of Disneyland’s most iconic tastes. You can mobile order in the Disneyland app to save time and skip the food lines at most quick-service dining locations. Here’s a look at our favorite dining locations or tasty items!
I cannot mention food in this park without pointing you to the churro toffee in the two candy shops: Candy Palace and Pooh Corner. It's our latest addiction, and luckily, you can find it year-round. Yum! Of course, Mommy Frog cannot turn down a themed caramel apple. Hop into the candy shops for some take-home treats to make the magic last after you leave the park. Check out our favorite Disneyland snacks and where to find them.
You cannot go to Mickey's house and not see Mickey or other characters. There are a few roaming characters who pop up when least expected, but here are a few known places you'll likely catch up with characters:
There are so many more, so hop over to our blog post on meeting characters at Disneyland. Even our post on spotting unscheduled character experiences will send you on your way to meeting your favorite Disney and Pixar pals in the park.
As you can see, there is a lot to cover. If you want to hit most of the not-to-miss Disneyland attractions, food and entertainment you'll need a solid plan. Hop over to our posts on tips to maximize time at Disneyland and Disney Genie+ to find out how to save time on your visit. And you can also save time with our Disneyland touring plan!
Do you have any not-to-miss Disneyland fun we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments below. Ideally, you would take a couple of days to explore Disneyland Resort. If you need Disneyland Resort theme park tickets or hotels, you can save some green through your favorite froggy friends. We even sell tickets pre-loaded with Genie+ so you can skip the lines for key attractions. Ribbit!
Related: All of the Not-to-Miss Rides, Experiences and Food at Disney California Adventure Park
Related: The Ins and Outs of Disneyland Dining Reservations
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