For some folks, a Disney vacation is a once in a lifetime experience! We hope it's not for you, but if that's the case, there's some tried and true must-do experiences for your Disneyland vacation. Even seasoned Disney veterans can miss out on iconic experiences if they're not taking the time to look for them!
In this article:
Enjoy a Thrill Ride
One of my favorite parts of Disneyland is how they combine storytelling elements with their thrill rides to make them more than just an adrenaline rush. Ride Space Mountain to feel like you're hurtling through the stars, engage in the race of a lifetime on Radiator Springs Racers, or take a wild train ride through the Wild West on Big Thunder Mountain. Or my personal favorite: join Indiana Jones on an adventure inside the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. These are the best Disneyland rollercoasters.
Ride an Original Attraction
One of the best parts of Disneyland is the rich history it has as the first Disney park and the only one that Walt Disney himself stepped foot in. Making the time to ride one (or more!) of the original and earlier attractions of the park is a must. Whether you take a spin on the teacups, enjoy Alice in Wonderland, or sing along on it's a small world, this is a must-do item for your Disneyland visit.
My personal favorite? Mr. Toad's Wild ride, which is a iconic ride in its own right with rich history and strange twists. And it's only found at Disneyland!
Visit New Orleans Square
New Orleans Square is unique to Disneyland, you won't find it over in Disney World, and it offers some of the most iconic rides and restaurants in the park. The two main showstoppers in this area are Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, which are long-treasured guest favorites. You can also enjoy a meal at the Blue Bayou, which is situated inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, making it a favorite restaurant atmosphere for many guests. Take the time to stroll around the square and enjoy the details of this little piece of history inside Disneyland!
Meet Mickey Mouse
Walt Disney once said, “I hope we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”
Take the time on your trip to meet Mickey Mouse, which is a meeting for the young and old alike. I recommend lining up for Toontown when it officially opens and going straight to Mickey's House to meet him! You can also enjoy Character Dining options to meet more characters and have a great meal.
Watch the Fireworks
The fireworks shows at Disneyland have such a long history and hold so much nostalgia for many guests who grew up going to Disneyland. You should set aside time during your trip to catch one of these fantastic shows, which combine fireworks, music, and projections in the spirit of Disney magic.
Enjoy the Entertainment
Disneyland's nighttime entertainment spectaculars are not to be missed on your Disneyland trip! Aside from the fireworks, which have their own reserved iconic space on our list, World of Color and Fantasmic! are both nighttime shows that are must-sees. World of Color in California Adventure tells Pixar and Disney stories on water screens that come alive with color and the stories of our favorite characters. Fantasmic! at Disneyland tells a story of good vs. evil, with Mickey at the center of the action. Make time on your visit to see at least one of these shows, as no one does entertainment quite like Disney.
Enjoy an Iconic Treat
The list of iconic Disneyland treats can easily become endless, but there a few that are must-dos inside the parks. Our favorite is the Little Red Wagon on Main Street, U.S.A. which is famous for their hand-dipped corn dogs.
But don't stop there! Save some room for a Dole Whip to enjoy while you take in a show at Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. Or have an iconic Mickey Mouse ice cream bar! Either way, save some time to track down these Instagram-worthy treats in the parks.
Watch a Parade
Parades at Disneyland are another must-see experience, as Disney goes all out with original musical scores, talented performers, and parade floats all themed around various aspects of Disney magic. The parades feature a mixture of Disney classic characters and newest additions from recent films who come out to say hello! Read our guide to parades at Disneyland to find out more about which parades are offered and how to get the best spot.
Do Some Shopping
It's impossible to go to Disneyland without considering doing some shopping at all of the amazing stores inside both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. With so many options, how can you possibly choose the best souvenir? Take some time to explore and find some of the unique options offered beyond the typical t-shirt or stuffed animal.
On Main Street in Disneyland Park, visit the Disney Silhouette Studio and get a hand-cut silhouette of your family for a type of souvenir that dates back to the days when the park officially opened!
Enjoy the New Additions
As Walt Disney himself once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” And that holds true to this day.
There are constantly new additions and improvements at Disneyland, such as Disney California Adventure's Avengers Campus, which opened in 2021. This new land features exciting rides—including the popular Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! and WEB SLINGERS: a Spider-Man Adventure—and the opportunity to meet your favorite Marvel heroes.
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