A DL Guide for WDW Pros

Disneyland Guide WDW Pros Veterans
The 2012 re-launch of Disney California Adventure (DCA) -- and especially the opening of Cars Land -- seems to have prompted many Walt Disney World fans to plan a Disneyland Resort visit for the first time.

This little guide is specifically tailored for all you folks who know Florida's Magic Kingdom like the back of your hands. Vacation time is precious, and you might not want to spend it duplicating experiences you've already had in WDW. We'll point out the important, unique features of Disneyland Resort that diehard Walt Disney World fans shouldn't miss.

We recommend at least one full day at each of the two parks. If, by chance, you can only spend one day at the resort and want to squeeze in as many unique-to-California Disney attractions as you can...please see the last section of our guide, The One Day Whirlwind.


In the Peter Pan stage play, Peter describes Neverland as being, "...nicely crammed, with hardly any space between one adventure and the next." That sums up Disneyland -- both the park and the resort.

Here's the layout of Disneyland Resort, which can shock East Coasters familiar with WDW's vast acreage:
Yes, that's the entire resort! Now imagine the city of Anaheim on all four sides. Believe it or not, once you're inside the parks, the outside world melts away and you never think about the nearby city streets.

Outside the theme park gates, however, Disneyland Resort is a busy, bustling, party. Everything's within walking distance. It takes about ten minutes to stroll from the Paradise Pier Hotel to the gate of either park. It takes a minute to hop from Disneyland Park to Disney California Adventure.


The Big 3 in a nutshell:

THE GRAND CALIFORNIAN: Very Pricey. Convenient. Classy. It boasts its own gate to DCA, so it saves a lot of walking. It certainly is grand, and it has a very restrained, quiet, business-conference vibe, which can be a plus or minus depending on your tastes.

DISNEYLAND HOTEL: Pricey. Classic charm and a family atmosphere. The grounds flow directly into Downtown Disney.

PARADISE PIER HOTEL: The most affordable. Not as much Disney theming as at Disneyland Hotel, but bright and cheerful. Walking to the parks involves trekking to the Disneyland Hotel grounds or crossing Disneyland Drive at a nearby signal to take a shortcut through the Grand Californian.

Our choice: The Paradise Pier Hotel. We don't mind walking a bit farther in exchange for much better rates. If you get a room on the park side of the building, prepare for spectacular views of its namesake.

There are many quality non-Disney hotel choices in the area. A few are within walking distance, but most require driving to the Mickey and Friends parking garage or taking a hotel bus to and from the Resort. For more information, we recommend the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland.


Cheshire Cat Alice Ride Disneyland

Okay, here's the nitty gritty -- the heart of the matter. If you're a frequent-visitor to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and you want to be sure to hit the unique highlights of its West Coast sibling, here's the list:

1) The Fantasyland Dark Rides and Matterhorn Bobsleds. Fantasyland is the heart and soul of Disneyland  -- and it's a dark ride fan's Utopia. Here you'll find Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan's Flight, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Pinocchio's Daring Journey and Alice in Wonderland. The Matterhorn, oldest tubular track coaster on Earth, never stops being fun. Comparing the two bobsled runs, the Tomorrowland side is wilder, while the Fantasyland side gives you a better look at the Abominable Snowman. The remodeled bobsled seats are a bit of a squeeze.

2) Pirates of the Caribbean. Longer than the Florida version, with additional scenes and bigger drops.

3) Indiana Jones Adventure. Thrilling, outrageous and unforgettable.Same ride system as Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur, but a completely different experience.

4) Space Mountain features a very different track layout from the WDW ride, with different seating, onboard audio and a darker (literally), more intense ride.

5) Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage shares a lot in common with Epcot's Nemo attraction, but this could be your last chance to ride the classic submarines if Imagineering decides to remodel this section of Tomorrowland.

6) Toontown and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. If you're a big Roger Rabbit fan, don't miss the amazing indoor queue through the dark back alleys of Toontown. Back outside, over in the toon suburbs, Mickey's House is the place to meet the Mouska-star, and the house itself is an amazing walk-through attraction, and much larger inside than it might appear from the front. If you just want to see the house, you can exit before joining the line for the meet-and-greet.

7) Details to Enjoy if  you have the time:

New Orleans Square
Main Street Shops
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes
Columbia Sailing Ship
Casey Jr. Circus Train
Storybookland Canal Boats
Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room (different pre-show)

If you get all these attractions under your belt and take your time as you stroll the park, you'll get a decent overview of Disneyland. The more time you can spend, the more wonderful little details unfold. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is spread out, using its wider spaces for great vistas, while Disneyland is densely packed, squeezing as much into every nook and cranny as possible.


Splash Mountain
Haunted Mansion
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Jungle Cruise
It's a Small World
Star Tours
Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters
Tarzan's Tree House (Swiss Familly Robinson in WDW)
Tom Sawyer Island
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Mad Tea Party
Gadget's Go Coaster (similar to the WDW's Barnstormer)
Astro Jets
Captain EO


Paradise Pier California Adventure

On June 15 of 2012, with the opening of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, DCA finally grew up into a full-day park full of worthwhile attractions. Previously, many Disneyland regulars simply treated DCA as an add-on to their Disneyland day, hopping to the newer park for a couple of hours and then returning to the original Magic Kingdom for the remainder of their vacation. No more: Disney California Adventure can finally stand on its own.

Flo's V8 Cafe Cars Land


This twelve-acre expansion has quickly become the park's headliner for both frequent visitors and first-timers alike. Try to visit Cars Land first thing in the morning, ideally during Extra Magic Hours, and try to visit it again after dark. The land contains three rides:

Radiator Springs Racers
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
Luigi's Flying Tires

Radiator Springs Racers is absolutely amazing, while the other two are unique, fun experiences. The entire land is actually an attraction in itself, and we highly recommend relaxing at Flo's V8 Diner at a table with a view of the mountain range. For more detailed information, including advice on boarding Radiator Springs Racers with minimal wait, please see our Cars Land Guide. Here's a hint, though: SINGLE RIDER LINE!


If you're pressed for time, here are the remaining DCA attractions no WDW fan should miss:

California Screamin' - A teriffic (and long) roller coaster
Grizzly River Run - A first-class white-water adventure. Better than Kali Rapids at Animal Kingdom? Too close to call! Standard rafting ride warning applies: you can get soaked from head to toe on this one.
Monster's Inc. - A charming dark ride unique to DCA.
World of Color - A dazzling nighttime spectacular. If there's a second, later show scheduled on your visit, choose that viewing for lighter crowds.

And...well, that's it, really! All the rest of DCA's headliners -- Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror, Soarin', Muppetvision 3D, It's Tough to be a Bug, Ariel's Undersea Adventure, Turtle Talk with Crush -- exist (or will open soon) at WDW! Pick and choose the ones you can't get enough of.

Now you can leisurely tour the rest of DCA and explore the charms of the other new land:

Oswald Rabbit California Adventure


It's not large, but this new entry land performs an invaluable role in DCA's recent makeover; it gives the park a heart and a home base. The shops are all pleasant, the food offerings are excellent, and the 1920's atmosphere, with the Red Car Trollies rumbling leisurely past, invites everyone to slow down, relax and set all worries aside.

Try to catch a performance of  the outstanding Five and Dime. "Five" is the jazz band and "Dime" is the energetic female singer, and they make show stops along Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Blvd., performing from and around their old-time convertible. Great stuff.

Make sure to get your picture taken alongide "Storytellers," the statue of younger Walt and Mickey, which forms a perfect bookend to the classic "Partners" statue at Disneyland.

A few other little gems worth catching at DCA:

Blue Sky Cellar (now featuring the history of Radiator Springs)
Off the Page (great Disney art shop)
Heimlich's Chew Chew Train (the best -- and funniest -- ride in a Bug's Land. Be warned; it's extremely short.)



The food at Disneyland Park has improved so much in recent years, that you should simply go by menu preference. We would suggest, however, sticking to the offerings in New Orleans Square, Frontierland and Main Street. For relaxation, nothing beats a riverside table at the Hungry Bear in Critter Country.


#1 Choice: Flo's V8 Cafe with a table facing Radiator Springs Racers. Runner up: the wonderful, but pricey, Carthay Circle Restaurant.

Other favorites: Cozy Cone Motel (for Chile Cone Queso), Award Weiners, Paradise Garden Grill and the Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe.


Here's our last list, for any fans spending just one day at Disneyland Resort -- the time-pressed travelers who want to purchase a one-day Parkhopper ticket and see as many not-available-in-Florida attractions as possible. All right. Take a deep breath. Get to DCA before the gates open for the first two, then hop to Disneyland for the rest. Here goes:


Radiator Springs Racers
California Screamin'
Pirates of the Caribbean
Indiana Jones Adventure
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Alice in Wonderland
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
Space Mountain

Spend any remaining time touring the two parks at your leisure, hopping on any additional attractions that catch your fancy. If the parks are open past sundown, check out:

Cars Land at Night
World of Color
Main Street USA at Night

With the two parks so close to each other, multi-hopping is easy!

Mouse Troop logo
We'll keep updating this guide as changes occur. If you have any suggestions or questions, please comment below and we'll respond as quickly as possible.

Thank you for dropping by, and we hope you have a fantastic vacation!



  1. I'm in the process of planning my first DL trip, and while I'm a WDW expert I know next to nothing about DL! So this is very helpful.

    1. Thank you for the kind words -- glad to be of help! In general, I always advise WDW fans to get the DL-unique attactions done first, then relax and just enjoy exploring the resort. The place is compact, but full to the brim with amazing things to see! :)

  2. Thanks for the info! I'm a WDW regular, but have one day to spend at DLR. I've been trying to decide which park to start with/hop, and your advice was just what I was looking for!


We welcome your comments and questions!