Can I Visit both California Disney Parks in One Day?

So, you are lucky enough to travel to the land of 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?

Can I do both Disney parks in one day?

What to Expect from Disneyland

Disney parks in California
The Partners Statue of the creative genius, Walt Disney, and his muse, Mickey (originally Mortimer) Mouse, holding hands overlooking the magic they created. It was first unveiled at Disneyland in 1993. To see some early Mickey Mouse cartoons, visit the Cinema on Main Street. Visit Walt and Mickey’s fresh-faced counterparts, Storytellers Statue on Buena Vista Street in California Adventures Park.

Disneyland Basics

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 Should I 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 the 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.

Which California Disney park to visit
Mickey fireworks fill the sky over the iconic Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

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 during 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

Both California parks in one day?
Photo of California Screamin’ rollercoaster by Kirt Edblom on Flickr.

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.

California Adventure vs. Disneyland
The water-colored rainbows of World of Colors in California Adventure by Ricky Brigante on Flickr.

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?

Disneyland or California Adventure
A little relevant wisdom from Disneyland’s flume, Splash Mountain.

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 a personal choice. I 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 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 at Disney California:

  • Ideally, avoid visiting on holiday breaks. Tuesdays are the least busy day to visit, and weekends are the busiest.
  • 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 can 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.

If you liked it, please share it. Thank you!

21 thoughts on “Can I Visit both California Disney Parks in One Day?”

  1. Hello, Jamie, this is Ashley. I am a fan of amusement park rides. I always go to the some theme parks when it is convenient for me with my families or friends! I love to rides various rides in parks. I also go to Disneyland several and the fabulous attraction there is so great! Especially the roller coaster and ferris wheel is fairly cool!
    Thanks for your sharing, Jamie!

  2. I love all disney theme amusement rides, it is cute and attractive to kids and also some girls. It must be happy to enjoy one day in the park. But if we want to enjoy all of the rides, can one day be enough?

  3. It is really very difficult for me to choose one from Disneyland and California Adventure!
    Both are very attractive and full of fun!
    I do not know choose which one and really want to visit both of these parks! 🙂
    Thanks for your great share, Jamie!

  4. I live in Sweden and I dream of visiting California during the summer (that might be all year, I’m not sure). There is so much I’d like to see: The architecture, theme parks, LA and much, much more. I’m thinking of renting a car and drive along the coast and see where I land. Great post btw 😉

  5. Glad to read your post! Useful tips!
    Your tips are great and useful!
    It helps me a lot! Because I always go to different theme parks within 1 day to have fun!
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for your sharing, Jamie! I love to go to amusement parks, especially famous ones. Although I feel tired every time, I still like to go. I plan to go to California Disneyland next year.


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