Making most out of Disneyland in California

Disneyland in California

Our final destination was Disneyland Anaheim, located in Los Angeles. Since the park is comprised of two distinct sections, namely Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park, we opted to allocate one day for each park.

California’s Disneyland is actually 3rd Disneyland I’ve been to after Paris and Tokyo, and I have always had a fantastic time. The allure of Disney has always been rooted in the enchanting atmosphere and beloved characters from my childhood rather than the thrilling rollercoasters. Especially Disneyland in Japan was an unforgettable experience, with memorable rides, headbands, and hunting for weird popcorn tastes with our popcorn bucket 🙂

Our high expectations of reliving the same level of excitement as before led to disappointment despite enjoying the park and getting hyped in the new Star Wars area – the rides there rocked! (more about them later)

Unfortunately, our stay was far from flawless, with rides breaking down frequently, which was a first for me in an amusement park. According to reviews we read later, such occurrences are not isolated incidents. 

Although being evacuated from Space Mountain in the middle of the ride and receiving a behind-the-scenes view was initially exciting, the thrill dissipated when the same thing happened at the next attraction we visited, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We got a fast pass as compensation for it, though. It was particularly disheartening for those who had waited in line for two hours only to be turned away with nothing to compensate for wasted time. These disruptions were not isolated incidents, as we encountered three more attraction breakdowns while waiting in line for them (no fast pass as we weren’t on the ride at the time it broke), in addition to the ones that had broken down before we reached them, causing us to change our plans and actually missing some of them in the end. On a positive note, each breakdown reset the waiting times, and if you were fortunate, you could hop on a ride with a short queue once it had been fixed.

We also discovered that a company could rent a Disneyland for a party. Yey… On the second day, when we left the park for lunch, we noticed signs indicating that California Adventure Park would be closing two hours earlier than the app had suggested owing it to a private party being hosted by a radio station. Initially, we assumed that we would still be able to stroll around, take pictures, grab a bite to eat, and purchase souvenirs, despite being unable to ride the attractions. 

Unfortunately, we were mistaken. Once the private party commenced, not only were we barred from riding the rides or watching the nighttime show but we were also forbidden from walking around the park. Employees were cordoning off various park sections and ushering anyone without the appropriate bracelet toward the exit, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. We had purchased our tickets three months in advance at full price, yet we felt we were being kicked out. Later, I discovered that the park would be closed earlier to the general public almost every other day for the next two months due to similar events. We considered ourselves fortunate that the park closed at 8 pm on that day, as on other occasions, it could close as early as 6 pm.


  • Reserve tickets ahead of time (up to 4 months in advance). You must indicate the park and the specific day of your visit. Note that the availability of tickets may vary.
  • Avoid weekends and holidays. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday usually have fewer crowds.
  • Download the app. First of all, it will tell you how long the lines are, and you will know immediately when the ride breaks down and when it works again. It will allow you to spot shorter queues. The app allows you also to use Disney Genie + and Mobile Ordering.
  • Get to the entrance before the opening time and visit the most crucial attractions first.
  • Use single-rider lanes. The waiting times are insane, even if you have a lightning pass (fast pass). 
  • Don’t leave rides you want to try to last moment. As the rides frequently malfunction, there is a possibility that you may miss out on them.
  • Go to kids’ attractions in the evening. Most kids are tired by then, and you will reduce waiting time from 1-2 hours to 5-10 minutes.
  • Bring a battery pack. You will constantly check the app, especially if you got a Ginie+ (more about how it works later) or want to spot when the ride is functioning again, and the line has yet to form.
  • If you can afford it, stay at Disneyland Resort’s hotel. You will get access to the park 30 minutes earlier. More here: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/early-admission-options/
  • Go on rides during parades and shows. The queues decrease significantly during this time.  
  • If you want to eat at Oga’s Cantina or Blue Bayou restaurant, book in advance. They allow booking 60 days in advance right now, but when I tried Blue Bayou, all available times were booked already. I guess you need to refresh the app at midnight to book for the newly shown day😅

Disneyland Park 

If you have only one day and can only visit one park without a Park Hopper ticket, opt for Disneyland Park. In contrast to Paris’ and Japan’s resorts, where Disneyland part appeals more to younger audiences with rides, parades, and characters everywhere, and Walt Disney Studios Park/ DisneySea attracts thrill seekers, Disneyland Park in Anaheim offers a perfect balance of both. Additionally, it features some of the most impressive attractions available in the park.

So what is there to do? Let’s start with the best part – the recently added (2019) Star Wars area that captured our attention and occupied most of our visit.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Upon entering the land, we were immediately transported to a galaxy far, far away. The attention to detail in the theming was incredible, from the sound effects to the elaborate buildings, props, and ships. When my boyfriend spotted an actual size Millennium Falcon on one of the plazas, he turned into a 5-year-old kid from all the excitement. 

We walked around the area, snapped gazillion pictures, and explored the marketplace with souvenirs. We found a variety of unique shops and vendors selling everything from droids to lightsabers, where the best part was that you could customize them to your liking.

The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run Ride

Next to The Millennium Falcon, we found The Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run Ride. The ride takes you on a mission to smuggle goods for the Resistance, and you get to control the Millennium Falcon with a team of six people. Two people pilot it, two are responsible for blasting guns at enemies, and two try to fix the ship as soon as possible. The ride was immersive and interactive, and I loved being able to pilot the iconic spaceship. According to the rest of our crew, we lasted much longer than their previous teammates!

Oga’s Cantina

As we arrived around lunchtime, we didn’t have much of a plan for where to eat, but we stumbled upon Oga’s Cantina and decided to give it a try. Upon entering, we were immediately transported to a different world with dim lighting, alien creatures, and a bustling atmosphere.

To get a table, we had to check in with a staff member who took down our names and provided us with an estimated return time. We were then placed in a virtual queue and free to explore the rest of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge until our notification popped up.

When it was time to return, we checked in with the staff again, and they led us inside the Cantina. The interior was decorated with futuristic technology and Star Wars-themed decor, and the menu offered a variety of unique drinks and snacks, including the famous blue milk – which we, of course, had to try. We were lucky enough to snag a table near the DJ, who kept the vibe going with his intergalactic beats.

Pro tip: To enjoy a proper meal while sitting on the couch, it’s necessary to make a reservation beforehand through the Disney website.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

The Rise of the Resistance ride at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is in a league of its own, creating mind-blowing illusions that leave visitors awestruck. It’s an attraction unlike any other we’ve experienced before, and the only attraction I wouldn’t mind waiting 2 hours for.

As we boarded the ride, we found ourselves on a mission to help the Resistance defeat the First Order. The ride combines state-of-the-art technology with impressive storytelling as we were taken through a series of jaw-dropping scenes that had us on the edge of our seats.

I won’t spoil much more because it’s best to experience it yourself!

Other zones

If you’re visiting the park and looking for more than just Star Wars-themed attractions, don’t worry – there are plenty of other exciting options to explore. Allow me to provide some insights on the attractions that I believe might be worth the wait.

Space Mountain

Space Mountain, located in Tomorrowland, is an iconic dark ride rollercoaster that is a must-ride for any thrill-seeker visiting Disneyland. As you board the ride, you’re launched into a thrilling adventure, hurtling downward into a series of sudden drops and tight turns. The fact that the ride takes place entirely in the dark adds an element of mystery and excitement, as you can barely see anything except for the stunning visuals and special effects.

While the ride was thrilling, our experience had a few downsides. The queue time for the ride never went below 2 hours, which was quite frustrating. Additionally, once we finally managed to get on the ride, it broke down in the middle. While this was disappointing at first, it ended up being an unexpected adventure in and of itself, especially when we were evacuated from the top of the rollercoaster. Fortunately, we were given a fast pass as compensation for the inconvenience.

Indiana Jones Adventure

Indiana Jones Adventure was our favorite ride in Japan, so we were ecstatic when we noticed it was also available in Anaheim. 

Once you board the ride, you’ll be whisked away on a thrilling journey through the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Along the way, you’ll also encounter a number of special effects, including realistic animatronics, atmospheric lighting, and explosive pyrotechnics. These elements combine to create an immersive and thrilling experience that will leave you breathless and wanting more. 

Or at least, that’s what we remembered from Japan. The first time we took the ride, something felt off compared to our memories. Only during the second ride, we figured out what was wrong – many animatronics were broken and hidden in the darkness. If we hadn’t ridden it before, we probably wouldn’t care, but after a fantastic experience in Japan, we were left a little disappointed.

Indiana Jones Adventure
Indiana Jones Adventure

It’s a small world

“It’s a Small World” is one of the classic attractions at Disneylands. I’ve taken it several times at each Disneyland I’ve been to, and it has become our small tradition. 

As you board your boat, you’ll embark on a gentle journey through a series of colorful scenes, each one depicting a different country or culture from around the world. 

But what really sets “It’s a Small World” apart is its unforgettable theme song. The cheerful tune, written by the legendary Sherman Brothers, has become an iconic part of the ride, and I guarantee it will stay in your head for a while.

Firework show

The fireworks show at Disneyland Park takes place every night and is a dazzling display of lights, colors, and sound. The show is set to a musical soundtrack and features fireworks that explode in sync with the music. This creates a magical and immersive experience that transports visitors to a different world.

The fireworks show at Disneyland Park is so popular that people often start gathering hours in advance to get a good viewing spot. It also makes it the most crowded event at the park.

The best places to watch the show are in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, along Main Street USA, or on the banks of the Rivers of America. These spots provide a great view of the fireworks and offer an unforgettable experience.

If you want to get the most out of the fireworks show, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Arrive early to secure a good viewing spot.
  2. Be prepared for crowds, and bring snacks and drinks to keep you comfortable while you wait.
  3. Make sure to turn off your flash when taking photos or videos during the show, as it can be distracting to others.

California Adventure Park

Our second day was spent at California Adventure Park, which had several interesting attractions. However, we found that most of the “cool” rides had wait times of at least two hours, and there weren’t that many other attractions. To be honest, we got bored and regretted not getting Park Hopper tickets to return to Disneyland. We even decided to take a 1.5 hour nap break at home. We were also disappointed to be kicked out of the park early, causing us to miss the night show we had hoped to see later. While California Adventure Park was okay, we didn’t feel it was worth the long wait times for the price you had to pay.

There are still a couple of interesting rides you might want to try if you decide to visit.

Radiator Springs Racers

The Radiator Springs Racers proved to be the most enjoyable attraction at the park, although we only experienced it once due to the lengthy waiting time of 2 hours. Despite continuously monitoring the app, the wait time did not drop below 2 hours, and purchasing a separate Lightning Lane pass was the only way to avoid the long queue.

The ride is a thrilling adventure through Route 66, comprising three distinct segments, with each surpassing the previous one. These include a peaceful outdoor excursion, a frenzied encounter with remarkably lifelike animatronics of Cars characters, and an adrenaline-pumping race.

Soarin’ Around the World

Soarin’ Around the World proved to be incredibly popular in Japan, with queues stretching to 4 hours long, even during the parade – a staggering wait time that we couldn’t bring ourselves to endure. Thus, we were overjoyed to discover that the attraction was also available in California, where the wait times were much more manageable.

Once on the ride, we were lifted into the air, feeling the sensation of wind rushing past us as we soared over some of the world’s most iconic locations, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Wall of China, the African savannah, and the sparkling waters of Fiji. All of this was displayed on an enormous IMAX screen, which made the experience feel even more immersive.

While the ride was undoubtedly enjoyable, I was grateful we didn’t have to wait four hours to experience it.

WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure is a car ride where visitors have the opportunity to emulate Spider-Man by flicking their wrists and slinging digital webs at enemies. While the concept appeared promising, I found the experience to be incredibly frustrating and disappointing. The sensors that tracked the movements of my hands were imprecise, rendering my efforts almost pointless. To make matters worse, the ride’s queue was excruciatingly long (more than 2 hours), with zero shade to offer from the scorching sun.

Given my experience, I would only recommend joining the queue for this attraction if it is between 20-30 minutes long. Any longer wait is simply not worth it.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

The Guardians of the Galaxy-themed drop ride, which replaced the former Tower of Terror space, was a welcomed change that revitalized the attraction with fresh new concepts while still retaining its exhilarating drops. It was exciting to see this classic ride transformed into a unique and immersive experience that fans of the Marvel franchise will undoubtedly enjoy.

The Incredicoaster

The Incredicoaster at Disneyland is an absolute blast that takes you on a high-speed adventure through the world of The Incredibles. It’s the only “proper” roller coaster in the park, and it doesn’t disappoint. We loved it so much that we rode it countless times!

One of the ride’s highlights is the incredible launch sequence, which propels you forward at an exhilarating speed. As you soar through the coaster’s twists, turns, and drops, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the entire resort from high above. It’s an intense and thrilling experience that will excite you.

Grizzly River Run

Grizzly River Run is the perfect way to cool off on a hot day at the park. As you set off on your journey, you’ll float peacefully through a stunning mountainous forest, taking in the beautiful scenery. But don’t be fooled by the calm waters – things quickly take a wild turn as you plummet down churning rapids and splash through waves.

Pixar Pal-A-Round – Swinging

Pixar Pal-A-Round – Swinging may appear to be a typical Ferris wheel, but it’s anything but ordinary. It’s the most intense, terrifying, and insane ride I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been on plenty of roller coasters all over the world. I jokingly refer to it as the “Mickey wheel of death.

As you approach the ride, you must decide which line to join: the regular gondola or the swinging one. The swinging option didn’t seem too bad from the ground, so without much thought, we opted for it.

Unlike every other attraction in the park, this ride lacks seat belts. Once the wheel started spinning, the gondola began swinging wildly as though I were on the brink of falling out at any moment. I clung to the cage for dear life, and to be honest, I didn’t even have time to appreciate the views. While holding onto the bars, I also had to clutch my stomach – this ride made me so nauseous. And the guy across from me seemed to be experiencing the same problems.

After the ride, we discovered the barf bags provided – it’s never a good sign. 

Afterward, we read online reviews and found them to be quite entertaining. Check them out when you wait in long lines:P

World of Color show

The best seats are on the other side of the lake facing The Incredicoaster and Pixar Pal-A-Round – Swinging, who are tuned off for the duration of the show.

The World of Color is a magnificent 22-minute show held at night. It boasts stunning projections of iconic scenes from various Disney and Pixar movies on an enormous water screen. The performance also includes mesmerizing fire, fountain, fog, and laser effects, all synchronized with a captivating soundtrack. 

FYI: We had bad spots. As we thought we could make it to a second show, we prioritized waiting for rides. Afterward we found out we’re getting kicked out, so no show for us ;(

Disneyland Character Dining

If meeting characters is a crucial aspect of your visit, you might want to consider reserving a Character Dining experience where you can meet characters and have a meal. This will help you accomplish two important things simultaneously and also avoid waiting in lines to meet characters in the park.

More about it on this blog.

The official website.

Disney’s PhotoPass 

Disney’s PhotoPass is a service provided at Disneyland California that allows visitors to capture high-quality photos of their special moments at the park. With the help of professional photographers stationed throughout the park, you can get photos of your family, friends, or even solo shots at iconic locations with Disney magic in the background. The service also includes ride photos and character meet and greet photos, which you can view and purchase online or through the Disneyland app. 

It’s a great way to capture your memories and take home some unique and special souvenirs from your Disneyland California adventure.

With a purchase of Disney Genie+ service, you get unlimited Disney PhotoPass digital downloads from your day. If you do not have Genie+ and go to download a photo, it costs $14.99 per photo.

More here.


One Park per Day

The One Park per Day ticket allows you to explore Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park on a specific day you select in advance. It’s important to note that access to the park is subject to availability, and you must indicate which park you plan to visit on which day. So, it’s recommended to book in advance to ensure availability and make the most of your visit.

Park Hopper

This ticket gives you the ultimate flexibility to explore both parks at your leisure without having to choose between one or the other. It’s perfect for those who want to experience all the rides, shows, and attractions across both parks. It’s important to note that Park Hopper tickets may have limited availability and must be booked in advance. 


The Disneyland fast pass system is called Genie+. Even though we considered it, we decided not to purchase it as it didn’t seem worth the extra cost and we wanted to avoid the added logistics.

For a fee of $20, Genie+ allows you to skip specific ride queues. Additionally, it includes Disney’s PhotoPass, which grants you access to all the pictures taken of you throughout the day.

How does it work?

Through the app, you can secure an hour-long return window at a specific time that’ll allow you to skip much of the standby line via Lightning Lanes. Once you are in line for one Lightning Lane ride, you can book your next Lightning Lane. You can also book another Lightning Lane Pass 2 hours after you requested your last one. You need to pay attention to whichever of these options comes first and book the next ride as fast as possible.

It’s important to note that not all attractions have Lightning Lanes available, and the park’s two most popular rides – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Radiator Springs Racers are not included in Genie+. These rides have their separate reservation system, which involves paying an additional $20 for an individual Lightning Lane reservation.

More info on the official website.


We had a hotel booked right at the corner, so we didn’t have to deal with parking. The parking costs $30.00, and the parking spots are subject to availability.

 You can find more info here.

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