This page is an introduction to the two Disneyland theme parks.
Here you’ll get all of the basic information that applies to both parks.
The two parks vary in size, look, and feel, but both offer attractions (that’s Disney speak for rides and shows), entertainment, parades, and nighttime spectaculars. You’ll also find many varieties of food at various prices, plus lots of souvenirs for sale.
Theme Park Admission
The proper theme park admission is required for park entrance.
Here at Military Disney Tips we have a huge amount of content dealing with Military Discounted Tickets.
- Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets
- Regular Military Discounted Disneyland Tickets
- What’s the Right Military Ticket for Me?
- Disney Military Tickets – Your Start to Finish Guide
Theme Park Reservations
Since reopening after the 2020-2021 shutdown, Disneyland has implemented a system of Theme Park Reservations. In order to visit a Disneyland theme park. You must have made a reservation prior to entry. Disney uses this system to limit attendance in each park and it is possible for a park to stop taking reservations for very high demand days, sometimes well in advance.
Park Hopping is still possible at the Disneyland Resort.
To Park Hop:
- You must have a ticket that allows Park Hopping
- You must make a theme park reservation for the park that you want to start your day in
- You must enter that park
Then at the designated Park Hop time (currently 1 p.m. at the Disneyland Resort) you may head to the other park.
Disneyland sets aside separate turnstiles for park hoppers and people begin to queue up at these prior to 1 p.m. This allows those with reservations to continue to get in without a big crowd of Hoppers mixing in.
At 1 p.m. they begin letting Hoppers in.
Some of the more intense attractions have height restrictions. If children are shorter than the set limit they cannot experience the attraction. Disney will not bend on these restrictions as they are for safety purposes; in many cases they have to do with the attraction seating and associated restraint capability.
Disneyland, unlike Walt Disney World, also has some attractions with age restrictions, which are for supervision (and safety) purposes.
Attractions with height restrictions will be designated in this chapter like this: (H33) the H designates height restriction and the following number designates how many inches tall you must be in order to ride. In this example (H33) the number stands for 33 inches tall. Attractions with an age restriction will have it added like this (H33, 3Yrs)
At all Disneyland attractions you may “Rider Switch.” If you have a little one who is too short or who doesn’t want to ride the attraction, your family will not have to wait in line twice for each parent to ride while the other stays with the child. Simply tell the attraction cast members that you’d like to Rider Switch. Then after waiting in line, one parent will wait near the boarding area with the child while the other rides. Once the first parent to ride finishes, they will then wait with the child while the other parent rides.
Where appropriate I’ll be describing the seating capacity and layout of the attractions in the parks. You will find all types of ride vehicles at Disneyland, from small continuous feed ride systems to huge stadium seating theaters.
Many rides are of the continuous feed variety. This means that the ride vehicles are mounted one after the other on a track and while running continuously follow each other around the track through the ride. The ride is not turned off (except for handicap boarding) and you board and exit the ride from a moving beltway (like at an airport) moving at the same speed as the vehicles.
When I mention seating capacity I’ll use terms like theater seating, four across, and 2+. What I mean when I use the + sign which is usually with the number 2 is that two adults can comfortably sit in the vehicle, 3 can squeeze in or mom and dad with 2 smaller kids. You are free to try to fit all four of you in one car or split up into two.
Single Rider Line
While FastPass and the new MaxPass are great ways to beat the lines, Disneyland also offers single rider lines at quite a few attractions. If you’re willing to split up your party, you will be seated in any open seats on the ride, with a shorter wait than the regular standby line.
The below attractions currently offer the ‘Single Rider’ option. If you can’t locate the single rider line, see the Cast Member at the entrance and they will direct you. This is great if you have teenagers who like to ride the same ride over and over again.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Splash Mountain
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Disney California Adventure
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Soarin’ Over California
You will see some attractions and restaurants marked as “Open seasonally”. What this means is that during high attendance times of the year these venues are open to add additional crowd dissipation/dining seating capacity.
Character meet-and-greets are locations where you and or your child get to interact one-on-one with a Disney character, get an autograph if desired, and pose for a picture(s). Disney PhotoPass photographers are almost always on hand. Some meet and greets are “open air” where people queue up at an outdoor location and take turns interacting with the character while everyone else watches, others are semi-private meet and greets conducted for your family in a room/set.
Check your daily park schedule or Disneyland Resort app for times for the open-air meet and greets. The private meet and greets are held in buildings all day long.
For more on PhotoPass see the Disneyland’s Technology Chapter.
Each park offers – Counter Service (Disney for fast food), grab and go carts, Table Service and some buffet restaurants. At least one restaurant in each park offers a character meal.
The many outdoor food carts are too plentiful and ever changing to list here. You’ll find carts selling, popcorn, drinks, adult beverages (only in the California Adventure), ice cream and frozen treats, churros, turkey legs, and fresh fruits & vegetables. These are just some of the constantly evolving offerings from Disneyland Outdoor Foods.
During Character meals, designated Disney characters (different at each location) will circulate through the dining area periodically. They will stop by each table for personal interaction, autographs, and pictures.
Advance Dining Reservations may be made up to 60 days in advance at select restaurants throughout the Disneyland Resort and, due to limited availability, they are highly recommended. Call (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 for reservations.
For more on reservations see our Disneyland Dining chapter.
In this chapter look for these keys to the rough cost of restaurants and the meals they offer:
- $ = Less than $15 per adult
- $$ = $15 – $30 per adult
- $$$ = $30 – $60 per adult
- B = Breakfast
- L = Lunch
- D = Dinner
- S = Snack
As you tour Disneyland’s theme parks you will find a wide variety of merchandise and souvenir options available to you.
You’ll find Disney character and theme park centric items like stuffed characters, clothing, hats, and many other varied items. Some of these will be generic; others will be themed for the land or area they are being sold in, e.g. a Mickey Mouse in a space suit in Tomorrowland.
A great service that Disneyland offers is Package Delivery. Any item that you purchase in the parks can be delivered to either your Disney Resort or to the park entrance (for pickup on your way out). This way you do not have to lug your purchase around the park all day!
Bag Check… Bag Check…… Bag Check!
All guests entering Downtown Disney and Disney’s parks will have to pass through a bag check area prior to entering. All bags, purses, backpacks, camera bags, coolers, etc. must be opened for a visual inspection by Disneyland Security.
Those without bags or cameras not in a bag may bypass the bag check and walk right through. Please have all pockets on your bag open prior to reaching the Security Cast Member to speed things up and keep the line moving.
Metal detector checks are now performed just past the bag check area. You’ll have to empty your pockets and then pass through the detector.
Bag Check areas are at all entrances to Downtown Disney and the theme park esplanade area and theme park back entrances.
Strollers, Wheelchairs, and Scooters
Strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters are available for rent from Disneyland at the Esplanade between the theme parks. Strollers are located to the far left when facing California Adventure, scooters to the far right.
Strollers Rent for:
- 1 Stroller $15 per day
- 2 individual Strollers $25 per day
- Double Stroller $35 per day
Wheelchairs Rent for:
- $32 per day, which includes a $20 refundable deposit if you return the wheelchair to the rental location with receipt
Scooters Rent for:
- $50 per day, which includes a $20 refundable deposit if you return the wheelchair to the rental location with receipt and key
Lockers are available for rent on a daily basis in the Esplanade area between the theme parks, to the far left when facing California Adventure. Many find it convenient to stash sweatshirts for later in the evening, purchases, camera bags, or other bulky items for later retrieval.
Current rates are:
- $7 per day for a Standard Locker (Holds 1 Backpack)
- $10 per day for a Large Locker (Holds 2 Backpacks)
- $15 per day for a Jumbo Locker (Holds 3 Backpacks)
Standard and Large Lockers are also available in the parks.
- Disneyland – on Main Street USA
- California Adventure – on Buena Vista Street
Theme Park Hours
The regular hours of operation of Disneyland’s theme parks vary depending on the time of year and expected attendance. Below is a general overview, excluding Extra Magic Hours.
Disneyland Park – The hours of operation at Disneyland vary the most opening between 8 am and 10 am and closing anywhere from 6 pm to 2am.
As a general rule, about the same amount of attractions can be accomplished on a short day as can be on a long day. This is because of the much lower crowd levels and associated attraction wait times on short days.
Disney’s California Adventure – DCA opens between 8 am and 10 am and closes anywhere from 6 pm to 1am. Typically DCA closes 1 to 2 hours prior to the Disneyland Park.
Extra Magic Hours
Participation in Extra Magic Hours is a benefit available to those staying in a Disneyland Resort Hotel.
Extra Magic Hours, or EMH allow Disney’s on property guests the ability to spend more time in specific parks on specific days, than the general public.
EMH allow on property guests to enter the designated theme park one hour earlier than the regular opening time. This early start to your day gives you a big advantage, as you can get in quite a few attractions during that first hour when the specified EMH park is relatively empty.
All general public Disneyland multi-day tickets 3-days or more are entitled to one Magic Morning entry when using that ticket. Magic Mornings are just like Extra Magic Hours, except this early entry is tied to your 3-day plus ticket versus staying at a Disneyland Hotel. Unfortunately, the 3 and 4-day Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets are not part of this program.
Theme Park Capacity Closures
NOTE: this benefit is not in effect while Theme Park Reservations are in effect!
Each Disneyland theme park and water park has a set maximum capacity. These limits are for safety. During the busiest times of the year these capacities can be reached. Disney has procedures that they will implement by stages as a park nears capacity.
The Disneyland Park is the most likely to experience capacity-based closures because it is the most popular.
As people exit the closed park, bringing the number inside back down, Disney will begin allowing others to enter again.
Disney’s Hotel Guests are guaranteed entry during these park capacity closures.
A Note About Weather
Southern California is blessed with great year-round weather. Because of this many attractions and restaurants at the Disneyland theme parks are open air, with no covering to protect them from the elements. During periods when it does rain closures can be expected.
Theme Park Arrival
All guests with two exceptions will arrive at the entry area located between Disneyland’s two theme parks called the Esplanade.
Disneyland’s Hotel guests can easily walk to the Esplanade (there is no motorized transportation).
Those driving to Disneyland will park in either the parking structures or parking lots and then ride a tram or shuttle bus to Downtown Disney or the Esplanade (depending on parking location).
Guests from offsite hotels can walk or take a hotel/local shuttle bus. There is a local shuttle service that costs $5.00 per person per day for unlimited rides. It circulates through all the local hotels about every 20 minutes. For your 5 bucks you can ride back and forth to Disneyland from your hotel all day. Inquire with your hotel if they have their own shuttle or this one stops by.
Prior to entering the Esplanade from the east (local hotels and parking lots) you’ll pass through a bag check area with metal detector screenings. When entering from the west (Disneyland Hotels, Parking Structure, and a couple of local hotels), you will have already passed through the Downtown Disney or parking garage security checks.
Ticket and Guest Relations windows are located on each side of the Esplanade for your convenience. You are now just steps away from the park entrances in this entry area. Disneyland is to the north and California Adventure to the south.
The two exceptions to entering through the Esplanade are the rear entrance to California Adventure only for Disney’s Hotel guests and those who choose to take the monorail from Downtown Disney directly to Tomorrowland in the Disneyland Park. These both have their own security checks.
Touring Disneyland’s Parks
Prior to 2017 military families typically used the highly discounted 3-day Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets. This allowed you to either spend a full day in each park while splitting the third day or to do two days in one park and one day in the other. Now since 2017 with the addition of the 4-day Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets military guests get to spend two days in each park!
Military Disney Tips
- It is so convenient to hop between the two parks. The gates are literally steps from each other. This is a big culture shift for those used to having to take motorized transportation between Florida’s Disney parks. It is so easy to pop back and forth between the two. I love it!
- While touring the Disneyland park you can pop over to California Adventure for a lunch or dinner with adult beverages, then head back to Disneyland for more fun for the kids.
You can see that Disneyland’s theme parks have a lot to offer. You will find things that interest every member of the family both young and not so young. It is important to have a good idea what you’d like to accomplish prior to starting each day so that you don’t lose time floundering and backtracking your steps across the park.
Now check out my individual Disneyland Theme Park Pages:
This MDT Post By: Steve Bell
Steve is the the Military Disney Tips Founder. He a retired U.S. Military Member who's been touring the Disney Parks since 1971! Steve's mission is to help military families with their Disney vacations in every way. Check out Steve's Bio.
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