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First Timer at Disneyland? Here are the Basics

There is something exciting about going to Disneyland for the first time. There are many different Disney Parks across the planet and they all have something to offer, but being at the original one that Walt Disney created is truly magical. If you’ve never been to Disneyland looking up information can be a little overwhelming, so here are some basics for first timers at Disneyland.

1. Weather 

Weather can be unpredictable, so check the forecast before you pack and plan accordingly. It can get cool in the winter so prepare for any weather condition. In the summer it can be hot and dry. You will want to stay hydrated so you’re healthy and can enjoy your vacation.

Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland

2. Only Two Parks

If you’re comparing Disneyland to Walt Disney World in Florida you will be surprised by how much smaller it really is. There are four theme parks in Florida but there are only two at Disneyland in California. They are Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Disney has much less land in California. It’s kind of crazy because you will see other businesses and even homes all around. Disneyland is in the middle of Anaheim. Once you step through the gates it is a world all of its own. You won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city, Disney knows how to have you escape the real world. The entrances to the two parks are facing each other, which makes it easy to Park Hop and get in everything you want to see and do.

3. Downtown Disney 

To get to the theme parks you will have to go through Downtown Disney. The district in California is still called Downtown Disney, which can be confusing to some who have gotten used to calling the one in Florida Disney Springs. Downtown Disney is much smaller than Disney Springs. You will have to pay for parking at Downtown Disney. Once you arrive there are many shops and restaurants, and it is worth taking time to explore.

Credit: Disneyland

4. Disneyland Hotels

If you’re comparing Disneyland to the number of Disney hotels in Florida you will have noticeably fewer options. There is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. You can’t go wrong with any of these three options. All are within walking distance of the theme parks, so you won’t have to worry about a car or other transportation. You’ll be able to keep up with all the fun Disney has to offer without having to leave.

5. Disneyland Mobile App

Before you leave on your vacation make sure you download the Disneyland Mobile App. On it you’ll be able to do quite a bit to make your vacation less stressful. There are wait times, reservations, mobile ordering, and so much more. The app is free and is a must have on your vacation.

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6. Mobile Ordering 

Speaking of the Disneyland Mobile App, you’ll use it for mobile ordering for quick service dining options. It is very simple, just select the quick service restaurant that you’d like to dine at and you’re able to order and pay right through the app. You will select a time frame window and once that time has arrived you will simply select “prepare my order” and in moments you’ll be ready to eat. There are cast members all around to answer any questions you may have.

7. Dining Reservations

There are many delicious restaurants at Disneyland. You want to ensure that you are guaranteed a table for you and your party. You are able to make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance. Disney is great about working with guests on any dietary restrictions they may have, so make note of them on your reservation and also tell your server. It is unlikely that you’ll be able to get a table if you walk up, so make reservations whenever possible. You don’t want to miss out on all the delicious meals at the parks, Downtown Disney, and the resorts.

Blue Bayou Restaurant (Credit: Disney)

8. Park Reservations 

Since the parks have reopened after the COVID-19 pandemic things look a little bit different. For the time being you need a park reservation to get into Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Everyone in your party needs to have their own reservation, and they can be made 120 days in advance. Disney is very strict on following this policy because of new capacity rules. Please be kind to all cast members, they’re doing everything they can to make your vacation enjoyable and to keep everyone safe.

9. Annual Passes

For those who have been looking to buy a Disneyland annual pass you won’t have to wait much longer. Starting on August 25th Disneyland is going to start selling annual passes again. It will be called the Magic Key Program. You will still need to have a reservation to get into the parks, but for those who want to enjoy Disneyland over and over again you will soon have your opportunity.

10. Ride Differences

There are a lot of rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World that have the same name and general theme. Although there are similarities, there are many differences. For instance, Space Mountain at Disneyland has two people in each row and the track is not the same. It is a must do. There are also some rides that have almost the same track but different themes. For example, Dinosaur at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has the same track as Indiana Jones Adventure. Test Track at Walt Disney World has the same track as Radiator Springs Racers. The themes make them feel like totally different rides.

11. Castle

The castle at Disneyland is much different than Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World. At Disneyland it is Sleeping Beauty Castle, and it is smaller than you may think. It is still absolutely gorgeous and is the perfect photo spot. There’s just something about walking on Main Street, U.S.A. and seeing the castle that really hits you that you are at Disney. Words cannot explain that feeling, you just have to experience it for yourself. It is even more special because at Disneyland you will walk where Walt walked. You almost expect to see him in the window of his apartment, looking at the guests below.

Credit: Disneyland

About Tricia Kennedy

Tricia Kennedy lives in Orlando and loves having Walt Disney World pretty much in her backyard. She can be found at Disney several times a week. She will often stop by a park for an hour or two, but she also enjoys spending a whole day there with her friends. A lifelong Star Wars fan, Tricia especially enjoys Star Wars Weekends and has ridden Star Tours over 200 times. Tricia's other favorite thing is Disney's BoardWalk, where she can often be found taking a walk or watching the nightly street performers.