the regular person's guide to disneyland // august 24, 2021

Let me preface by saying I am Normal. I'm not a "rAiSeD oN dIsNeY & jEsUs" kind of girl and I wouldn't be caught dead in a custom Disney family shirt or pair of ears. I like Disneyland. I don't live for it. 

This is the Regular Person's Guide to Disneyland. 


1. Parking. There are no hacks or secret parking tricks. You must pay and you must walk far. (Only alt is staying at the Grand Californian inside CA Adventure.) Toy Story parking is the best because they have a bus that takes you to the entrance of Disneyland. I used to park at Mickey and Friends and take the tram, but *the tram doesn't run anymore,* so it's a 30ish minute walk with kids. 

2. Tickets. Buy them in advance so you don't have to wait in line to buy them before entering the park. Also, get the app. You'll need it for everything – tickets, ride returns, fast passes, food, wait times...

3. ENTER! There's a cute photo op with the Mickey Mouse planter immediately inside the gates. Take it. You might not get another group photo. This is a great time to turn off your wifi and put your phone in low battery mode so it will last all day. 

3b. City Hall. If you or anyone in your group has any special needs or injuries, stop into City Hall and they will help you access a helpful tool that significantly reduces wait times in the lines.

4. Main Street. There's so much to see and do on Main Street. Since the pandemic, you can't get photos with characters anymore, but the upper staircase right at the beginning of Main Street has always been and still is a great place to spot Mickey, Minnie, and others. We like to stop in one of the stores on Main Street at the end of the day if we're going to purchase ears or a shirt. We tell our kids to keep their eyes out all day so they'll know which one they want to buy. There is also an excellent Mother's Room and baby changing station at the end of Main Street on the right. Enjoy the walk down Main Street, don't go too fast! It's very special and makes for a great start. (I refuse to use the word "magical" anywhere in this blog post, but it could apply here.) At the end of Main Street there's a statue of Mickey and Walt at the beginning of their careers. In CA Adventure, there's another one when they're both older. Cute.

5. Enjoy walking through the Castle!

MY ORDER OF RIDES (and snacks) 

*This is organized to move through the park in a clockwise (but wonky) circle. We keep the app handy and check wait times, which helps us be flexible so that we can move to another section of the park if there's something we really want to ride that has a short wait. But I still try to stay organized and do as much as possible in one section to avoid extra walking back and forth across the park.

1. Carousel. This is a family tradition. All ages.

2. Dumbo. The line is long but we like doing it first because the small kids love it. All ages.
*Charlie's favorite ride*

3. Tea Cups. Usually super fast line. All ages. (unless you have a weak stomach)
*Lucy's favorite ride*

4. Small World. Sometimes we save this one for later when it's hot because it has great AC. All ages.

*churros as soon as I see them, usually near Small World

5. Toon Town is closeby, but we almost always skip it. No major rides here.

6. Matterhorn. Height restriction. Do rider swap for this if you have one kid who wants to go. If you don't know what rider swap is, ask the ride attendant. 

7. Nemo Submarine. Not a must, but if the line is under 30 min, it's fun for toddlers. If you skip this, try to walk by Pixie Hollow to see Tinkerbell.

8. Star Tours/ Space Mountain. I don't like this area of the park because toddlers can't ride anything, so I usually try to ride the Astro Orbiter with my toddler and/or go pick up food for the group at this point.

9. Corn Dog Cart. It's easy to miss; if you're standing on Main Street and facing the Castle, it's on the right hand side and looks like an old-fashioned fire truck. Nate's favorite.

10. Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. Matterhorn Macaroons are my #1 favorite treat at Disneyland. People like the raspberry rose Mickey macaron (I think it's ok. it's fun.) I often get the Jolly Holiday Combo, a grilled cheese with tomato soup. Everything here is pretty good, nothing spectacular (except the Matterhorn Macaroon!!)


11. The Tropical Hideaway. Amazing menu. Great stop for lunch. This is a handy way to get a Dole Whip Float, which is tied for my #1 favorite treat. 

12. The Tiki Room. A little wacky, one of the OG Disneyland attractions. It has AC! All ages.

13. Jungle Cruise (if it's open). Super fun for all ages. Bengal BBQ is right here also if you want to get their famous steak kebabs that all the influencers love.

14. Indiana Jones. Long wait times and smaller kids can't ride, but it's one of the best. If your kids like this, they'll love Rise of the Resistance. Height restriction 46"
*Alex's favorite ride*


15. Pirates of the Caribbean. A little scary for a minute but my kids all love it. Big chance of getting wet. All ages (maybe not nervous toddlers).

16. Haunted Mansion. I hate this ride so I usually get a churro and hang out with the toddlers and watch the Mark Twain River Boat go by.

17. Splash Mountain. You'll get wet on this! The most roller-coaster ish ride in the park IMO (also Big Thunder Mountain, which is super fun). Could skip this and wait until it's redesigned with the Princess and the Frog theme (right now it's Brer Rabbit). Height requirement 40"

18. Winnie the Pooh ride. Perfect for toddlers while bigger kids are on Splash Mountain or Rise of the Resistance. 


19. Red Rose Tavern. I try to stop and grab food here because it's close the the Star Wars land entrance. They have an excellent vegetarian cauliflower sandwich. 

20. Rise of the Resistance. This is a 100% must. I won't spoil anything, but it is completely unlike any other attraction at Disneyland. 
*Eleanor's and Nate's favorite ride*

21. Enjoy Galaxy's Edge (Star Wars land)! It's a major hike, but they really made it feel like you are inside Star Wars. It's amazing. They also spent $1 billion on it.

Main Street in the evening


- If you see something you want to do, stop and do it, including shows, parades, meeting princesses, etc. Don't try to come back to it. There will always be something you don't get to at Disneyland, so just enjoy whatever you can. 

- Look at the map and the rides before you go, and have each person choose one or two "musts." Prioritize those, and give yourself a huge pat on the back if you get to do seven or more rides in one day! And don't be afraid of dividing and conquering. 

- Look at the menus of restaurants before you go if you have picky eaters or food restrictions. Also note closed restaurants (because pandemic). Ordering on the app is very helpful as well, but there's no fast food at Disneyland. Eating at weird times, like 10 am or 3 pm, can help.

- Take a picture on every ride so you can look back later and remember which ones you did. Also helpful to see the timestamps and remember when things happened throughout the day.

- Clearly this is not an exhaustive guide, this is just what I like to do at Disneyland. If you're looking for something more thorough, or planning multiple days at the park, you'll find a dozen deep dives with a bit of light googling. There are tons of attractions, shows, rides, parades, trivia, foods, shopping, and other stuff I haven't mentioned. Hopefully this is a helpful place for you to start. Feel free to copy it 1% or 100% – you do you! And sorry if I left out your favorite thing.

(because I am Normal but I do love a fun fact)

- Every night the grounds crews remove dead flowers and replace them with fresh ones, which is why the grounds always look so alive.
- Disneyland is home to many ducks – you'll spot them throughout the park, and often they even have their own crossing guards to help them travel between attractions without getting trampled.
- Disneyland employs many cats to prevent mice – they roam free at night.
- There is a date palm near the Jungle Cruise that stands out because it is significantly taller than the other trees and the only one of its kind. The story behind it is that there was a rancher who owned property near Disneyland, and Walt wanted to expand, but the rancher wouldn't sell. Eventually he took a meeting with Walt and did sell, but he asked Walt to please protect this date palm that he had planted that meant so much to him. Disneyland has honored the rancher's wish and it has never been damaged!
- I am the inventor of the best Disneyland snack of all time, the Matterhorn Dole Whip Dip. (simply take a bite of your macaroon followed by a gulp of your dole whip. You are welcome.)