So, you are lucky enough to travel to the land of the beautiful things, Southern California, and you are planning on spending some time with the mouse. How much time do you need? Should you go to Disneyland or California Adventure? Should you buy a park hopper or one day passes to both? If you can only choose one park, which one will be right for you? I hope to answer those questions and a few more in Can I Do Both California Disney Parks in One Day?
What to expect from Disneyland
Disneyland is heavy on the classic Disney characters, but also features Looney Toons and Star Wars. A new Star Wars Land will open sometime in late summer 2017 behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The park is split into lands- Main Street, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Critter Country, New Orleans Square, Toon Town, Adventureland and Fantasyland.
If I have been to Disney World, why visit Disneyland?
Compared to Disney World, Disneyland has most of the same rides in a smaller space. Opened in 1955, it is the beginning of the Disney empire. It is the space that grew directly out of Walt Disney’s imagination. I grew up just minutes from Disneyland. It has changed so much since I was a kid, but still has same Disney magic that I love. I prefer Disneyland to Disney World, maybe because it is my original magic. But also the smaller size means every inch of the park is perfectly decorated to help with your willing suspension of disbelief.
Our Favorite Disneyland Rides
The three roller coasters, It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean are my favorites. My kids’ favorite is Tom Sawyer’s Island. They could spend all day there and would if I didn’t move them along to other rides. We also love viewing the fireworks from Main Street, especially at the holidays when you will get a snowy treat. The Main Street Electrical Parade will be returning for 2017 too!
What to expect from Disney California Adventure Park
California Adventure Park Basics
Space Mountain is as adventurous a roller coaster as I like, but if it is a little tame for you, California Adventures will be more your style. As its name implies, it has larger, more thrilling coasters and other rides, including the Tower of Terror (soon to become Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout) and California Screamin’. In this park you can watch the World of Color nighttime spectacular of dancing colored lights over California Adventure’s Paradise Lake. This park features Pixar characters. Its themed areas are Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, Hollywood Land, Cars Land, and A Bug’s Land.
My favorite California Adventure Rides
One of my favorite rides in both parks is here. I love Soaring, a virtual hang glide over the world. Maybe its the traveler in me, but I could spend all day on this ride!
My kids love the Animation Academy where they can learn to draw like real illustrators.
The World of Color Show with its 1,200 fountains creating an impressive aquatic movie screen is phenomenal. Plan early- at least 45 minutes- to get a good seat.
So, California Adventure Park or Disneyland?
Honestly, no matter the age of visitors, you can easily spend more than a day in either park. Even using FastPass, you will end up waiting for rides. One a good day, most people will probably go on ten rides. Each park has at least ten good rides. You can’t go wrong with either park.
I pick Disneyland every time, but it is really a personal choice. I just can’t get enough of the classic Disney magic. But if I can get a deal on a park hopper, I take it, just so I can spend some time soaring, but I know it will be a really long, busy day. My ideal Disney vacation would be two days at Disney and one day at California Adventures Park with rest days in between. Any day at an amusement park is tiring. Spend alternate days on a great California hike or beach day. For more ideas, read A Local’s Guide to Orange County California.
Tips to make the most of your time:
- Ideally avoid visiting on holiday breaks. Tuesdays are the least busy day to visit and weekends are the most busy.
- Use your FastPass wisely on the busiest ride that you must go on. You can only use your FastPass on one ride at a time.
- If you are able to stay up late, you can get right on most rides after the fireworks. If we don’t watch the fireworks on Main Street, we watch them from It’s a Small World. We then jump on that ride. Then, while everyone else is trying to exit the park, my son and I are running onto the Matterhorn, Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
- My biggest tip: If you are in line at closing, they will let you on the ride. Space Mountain is always our last ride on our late nights.
So, whatever you decide, let yourself be swept away in the magic that the mind of Walt created. Remember to be present in the moment.
What are your favorite Disney memories? Let me know in the comments.
If you have a special kid, be sure to read Managing Amusement Parks with Your Sensory Kid.