First Timer's Guide to Disneyland and California Adventure

Advisor - Timadge Berkhadley
Curated By

Timadge Berkhadley

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  • California

  • USA

  • Domestic Travel

  • Family Travel

  • Group Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • Kid-Friendly

  • Theme Parks

  • Disneyland

large castle during sunset
Curator’s statement

Disneyland is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2023, a favorite destination for all ages, it's literally the "Happiest Place on Earth". If this is your 1st time or 10th time at Disneyland there is always something for everyone. Being able to create memories, joy and excitement in such a magical place is exactly the emotions you need to feel at Disneyland. This year Disneyland will be kicking off limited-time offerings taking place throughout the year like a new "World of Color - One" celebration, and "Wondrous Journeys" sparkling fireworks celebration.

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay

Hyatt Regency Orange County

Located just over a mile from Disneyland Resort, this high-end resort features modern rooms, a brewpub and two outdoor pools.

Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel

Relaxed family-friendly hotel with a boardwalk theme, located just a short walk from Downtown Disney.

Disneyland Hotel

Located at the Disneyland Resort, this modern hotel features fun Disney-themed beds, a steakhouse, a tiki bar and three themed pools.

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Things to do

ferris wheel during daytime

General Tips for Disneyland

It's important to reserve your ticket and dates in advance, download the Disneyland app and link your tickets.  You'll use the app to see ride wait times and can order food in advance.
* The professional Disneyland photographers will happily take photos on your phone or you can use Disney photo pass which is free.  You don't need to buy their photos.
* Pay extra for the Disney Genie+ lightening lane entrance service, you can select the next available arrival window for rides — saves so much time!

Tips on Timing at Disneyland

Arrive early, going to the park at open means the wait times will be shorter. Upon entry at the park use your lightning lane at 7am to reserve the ride you absolutely want to ride first thing. I’d suggest planning your around your lightening lane reservations.

Favorite rides at Disneyland

  • Space Mountain - It will have a long line, so check wait times and use the lightning lane service as it is the best option.

  • Indiana Jones - Kids love this one as it's a thrill ride.

  • Splash Mountain - Be prepared to get wet, this is a kids' favorite.

  • Star Wars rise of the resistance - Expect a 1-2 hour wait with a lightning lane that will cut your wait time in half...well worth it.

  • Star Wars smugglers run: One of the few rides you have to pay extra to use the lightning lane ($20-25/pp), plan to arrive early if you don’t want to pay.

Favorite rides at California Adventure

  • Incredicoaster - A must-ride if you like roller coasters it's also really fast. 

  • Guardians of the Galaxy - Fav ride for the kids, if you don't like large drops then I'd avoid it. You can use the lightning lane for this ride but still plan to wait.

  • Cars Land is a MUST!  Honestly the best part of California Adventure.  Everyone will flock here when the park opens.  I do recommend the single-rider option or this is a ride you can pay extra via lightning lane. If you arrive early expect to still wait over an hour.

  • Soarin' Around the World - An underrated ride, you feel like you're flying. 

Places to eat & drink

large building with bright lights at nighttime

Places to eat & drink at Disneyland (all can be ordered via the Disneyland app)

  • Jolly Holiday - Located on Main Street, cute sandwiches for kids and good grilled cheese and tomato soup

  • Zocalo - Kind of hidden near Big Thunder Mountain. Pretty good (for a theme park) Mexican food and it's rarely crowded. It has a nice outdoor patio

  • The French Market in New Orleans Square has Mickey-shaped beignets and a fun atmosphere for dinner.

  • Hungry Bear near Winnie the Pooh and Star Wars is good for hamburgers.

  • Stage Door Cafe - A good variety of menu options.

Places to eat & drink at California Adventure (all can be ordered via the Disneyland app)

  • Walk through Boudin for a sample of sourdough bread.

  • Flo's V8 Cafe: has typical American food - burgers, fries and chicken fingers. The best part is the location, it has a beautiful view of the red rocks of Cars Land.

  • Cozy Cone Motel: Has an assortment of dessert options.

Advisor - Timadge Berkhadley

A note from Timadge

You can order most food on the app. I typically will decide while waiting in line for a ride which restaurant I want to order from and place my order in advance, this saves you time so you don't have to wait in long lines.

A lot of restaurants now require reservations months in advance (this is if you want a sit-down type of place). You can make a reservation but you have to reserve months in advance. The most popular restaurants are Carthay Circle, Blue Bayou and Carnation Cafe.

You can find last-minute hard-to-find reservations at, they'll notify you via email or text if a reservation opens up.

Need to Know

Advisor - Timadge Berkhadley

Travel Advisor

Timadge Berkhadley

Get in touch with Timadge

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.