A step-by-step guide to the perfect Disneyland California visit

There’s so much to love about Disneyland Resort in California; here, the best ways to get the most out of it.


Disneyland Resort 101

Day 1 – Night light spectacular

Check in to your Disneyland Resort hotel and head straight to Disneyland Park, a magical kingdom where you can sail with pirates, explore exotic jungles, meet fairytale princesses, dive under the ocean and rocket through the stars.

Opened in 1955, Walt Disney’s original theme park is divided into eight themed lands – Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Adventureland.

Make your way from one land to the next taking in the iconic attractions, and be sure to put time aside to visit Fantasy Faire in Fantasyland, where you can meet Disney princesses in the flesh.

In the evening you really can’t miss one of the nighttime spectaculars, which are always being innovated and reinvented.

The latest incarnation is Paint the Night Parade, a neon vision of Disney characters, performers and fantastic floats shimmering with more than a million lights, and featuring cutting-edge special effects and high-energy music.

Day 2 – 7 worlds in 1 day

Make the most of Extra Magic Hours, one of the best bits of staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel: guests are granted admission to select attractions, stores, entertainment and dining locations in Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park for one full hour before the parks open to the rest of the world.

Finish the morning off at Disneyland Park by grabbing lunch on Main Street U.S.A. before heading to Disney California Adventure Park, with its seven different lands (Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, A Bug’s Land and Hollywood Land) for the afternoon.

Your must-see checklist at Disneyland Park:

  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Pirates of the Caribbean

Day 3 – Meet Mickey Mouse

All three Disneyland Resort hotels give you the chance to enjoy a meal with one of your favourite Disney characters – see Mickey at Disney’s PCH Grill in Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, try Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel, and Chip ’n Dale Critter Breakfast at Storytellers Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and then it’s time to visit Disney California Adventure Park.

If you have little ones make sure to check out Disney Junior – Live on Stage, or teens will love California Screamin’.

After dark it’s time for another nighttime spectacular: World of Color. Images from Disney and Disney Pixar films are projected onto a 1769 square-metre water ‘screen’ created by nearly 1200 fountains shooting water up to 60 metres in the air, with music and fire, and fireworks to cap it all off.

Your must-see checklist at Disney California Adventure Park:

  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

Day 4 – Best photo opps

Visit Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park for another full day of fun before heading home. And because the ultimate selfies happen here, make sure you get a shot with some of the most iconic landmarks such as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Disney characters including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Darth Vader (if you dare).

Where to stay and play

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

An elegant escape inspired by the 19th-century Arts & Crafts movement, enjoy the lush Mandara Spa, the award-winning Napa Rose restaurant and, best of all, the special entrance to Disney California Adventure Park only accessible by guests.

Disneyland Hotel Contemporary, carefree and perfectly appointed with special Disney touches. Enjoy monorail-inspired waterslides across an amazing, immersive pool area, two restaurants, Disney Character Dining and more.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Take a trip through time to discover the ultimate Californian beach boardwalk, with a distinctive Disney touch. Enjoy a whimsical rollercoaster waterslide, myriad dining experiences and much more.

Useful tips

All about Disney’s Fastpass

There’s too much to see and do at Disneyland Resort so you definitely need to know about the Disney Fastpass Service, a complimentary benefit to all park guests that allows you to save your place in line.

You just look for the Fast Pass area at the entrance to participating attractions, check the ‘return time’ display, insert your admission ticket and you’ll get a Fastpass ticket. Then come back at your designated time, join the Fastpass line, show your return time ticket and you’re in. Free and easy!

It’s the little extras that count

In addition to legendary hospitality and being just steps away from all the action, a stay at a hotel of Disneyland Resort comes with lots of extras, from early admission with Extra Magic Hours, to a Special Theme Park Entrance, giving convenient access to Disney California Adventure Park through a gateway only accessible from Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

There’s also Disney Character Dining, where you can have hugs and happy snaps with beloved Disney friends during breakfast, lunch and dinner (at an added fee), Disney Character Wake-up Calls to start the day off right, and the Key to the Magic card, allowing you to charge meals and merchandise to your room; purchases can also be delivered to your door.