Disney California Adventure opened as the Disneyland Resort's long-awaited second gate on February 8, 2001. It's Disney's least-attended of its six theme parks in the United States, but that still makes it the eighth most-visited park in America, with nearly 10 million visitors in 2019.
DCA might have the same Pan Pacific Auditorium-inspired entrance as Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios, but it shares a focus on seasonal food festivals with Epcot, staging the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, Lunar New Year, and Festival of Holidays.
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The Disneyland Resort is located in Anaheim, California - about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles and 30 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Parking is at either the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking structures (they are connected) northwest of the parks or the Toy Story surface lot southeast of the parks. Plan on spending at least 30 minutes to park, go through bag checks and then get to the theme parks from either location. Shuttles are available, but you can walk as well.
You must make advance reservations to visit Disney California Adventure via Disneyland's website. This is true for "Magic Key" annual passholders as well as daily ticket holders. Unlike at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland's hotel guests get no special preferences for admission reservations. However, Disneyland's hotel guests can get early admission to the park on select dates.
If you want to go to Lamplight Lounge, make reservations up to 60 days in advance on the Disneyland website or the official app. Preferred viewing spaces for World of Color will be assigned via a virtual queue through the Disneyland app. Watch the app when you enter the park for today's virtual queue opening time.
The Disneyland Resort now offers a new tool called Disney Genie on its official app to create a custom itinerary for each day of your visit. In addition, Disney offers two ways for its theme park guests to pay to access shorter wait times for many popular attractions. You can learn more about these options in our posts:
But you do not need any of those tools or upcharges to experience pretty much everything you would like in one day at the park.
Plan to arrive at the front gate at least a half hour before opening in the morning, adding extra time to park and get to the gate. If you are staying at one of the three on-site Disneyland Resort hotels, you can go on select attractions 30 minutes before the park opens, so take advantage of that opportunity.
If you are not staying on-site, head first toward Web Slingers, if you're not paying for the Lightning Lane upgrade or visiting alone. (See "Single Rider," below.) Radiator Springs Racers is the other long line in the park, but we recommend riding that later in the evening. The crowd thins then, and it's a better ride at night anyway.
After Web Slingers, head for Guardians, then make your way over to Pixar Pier for Toy Story. Save Soarin' for later in the afternoon. Again, watch Disney Genie for wait times and estimated wait times to adjust your plans throughout the day.
If you are visiting alone, the following rides have single rider queues, which can save you quite a bit of waiting time:
Ask a cast member at the ride's entrance for directions to the single rider queue, if you do not see it marked.
Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue does not have a designed single rider queue, but cast members have allowed single riders to use a "Buddy Pass" that allows them to board through the exit. As at the ride's entrance.
You can find rest rooms listed on the official Disneyland app. We like the ones located between the Animation building and Disney Junior show in Hollywood Land. They are hidden behind a facade inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, which leaves them uncrowded. Avoid the stinky ones between The Little Mermaid ride and Grizzly River Run, however.