Disneyland opened July 17, 1955 and in 2019 welcomed nearly 19 million visitors, making it the second-most-visited theme park in the world, following its younger sibling, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Walt's original park is considered by many the "original" theme park, inspiring countless imitators around the world. Visitors to Walt Disney World may find Disneyland tiny in comparison, but this park is jam-packed with attractions, including the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land as well as the original Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and the world's first tubular steel roller coaster, Matterhorn Bobsleds. And if you manage to do everything here, the Disneyland Resort's second gate - Disney California Adventure theme park - lies just steps away from the park entrance.
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Starting on Main Street, then turning right at the hub into Tomorrowland and continuing around the park.
Main Street USA
If you want one of Disneyland's famed Dole Whips, try The Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland.
Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California - about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles and 30 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Orange County's John Wayne Airport (SNA) is just 15 miles away, but it's not as well served by nonstop flights from around the world as 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.
Once you buy your tickets, you then must make advance reservations to visit Disneyland, via Disney'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 the Blue Bayou or Oga's Cantina, make reservations up to 60 days in advance on the Disneyland website or the official app.
On its mobile app, Disneyland offers a tool called Disney Genie that will 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.
Get to the park gates at least half an hour before opening (accounting for time to park). If you are staying at one of the three on-site Disneyland Resort hotels, you can go on select attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland 30 minutes before the park opens, so take advantage of that opportunity.
Many visitors will rush to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance first thing in the morning, but unless you are among those on-site hotel guests who can get to the back of the park before the bulk of the crowd, you're going to end up with a long wait for a long ride that costs you any chance at shorter queues during the park's first hour. Rise of the Resistance typically closes early - sometimes by 8pm - but wait until later in the afternoon to ride this award-winning attraction to maximize the number of other Disneyland attractions you can experience during your visit. Do the Millennium Falcon ride after Rise, as it remains open until park close.
If you are not staying on-site, instead head first at park opening to Indiana Jones, as that is often one of Disneyland's longest waits by mid-day. (If you are visiting in early September, just after the conversion to Haunted Mansion Holiday, hit that next, otherwise, save Mansion for later in the day.) Then cross the park to Mickey's Toontown to do Roger Rabbit and then Runaway Railway. Roger Rabbit's poor capacity makes it the third-longest wait in the park at mid-day, after Indy and Rise of the Resistance.
The Matterhorn Bobsleds and Space Mountain should be your next priorities in the morning. If you are a single rider (see below), you can save them for a bit later and hit Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder next. After those, hit the other attractions listed above as you wish. Parade crowds will clog the streets between It's a Small World and Main Street's Town Square starting an hour before they begin, so keep that in mind around showtimes.
If you are visiting alone, the following rides have single rider queues, which can save you quite a bit of waiting time:
You can find restrooms listed on the official Disneyland app. We like the ones next to the Fantasyland Theater when there's no show going on. Or the well-hidden ones behind the merchandise location next to the Autopia entrance. But try to avoid the cramped, crowded restrooms between Plaza Inn and Star Tours. If you have small children who are new to the potty, there are some private, toddler-sized porcelain toilets in the peaceful Baby Center on Main Street, across from Plaza Inn.