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Ultimate Family Guide to the Original Disneyland in California

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Love Disneyland in Hong Kong and Tokyo? Want to see where it all began? Then Disneyland California and Disney’s California Adventure are for you!

A few years ago my family took a big trip to Tokyo Disney and we wrote all about it in Sassy Mama, which has also covered Hong Kong Disneyland. If you find yourself traveling to the United States, mama, the original Disneyland in California (where our family now lives) is well worth a visit. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Disneyland from Singapore!

Getting there

Fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX); United is ending their non-stop flights from Los Angele to Singapore at the end of October, but Singapore Airlines plans to launch them in November 2018.

Read More: The Best Family-Friendly Airlines for Travel with Kids

Take a taxi or Uber to your hotel, which will take just under an hour. Some hotels will offer a hotel shuttle —ask in advance. Click here for Disneyland’s list of transportation options.

Paradise Pier hotel room
Paradise Pier hotel room

Where to stay

There are three Disney-branded hotels and a plethora of nearby properties for every price point. If you want to indulge with a Disney Hotel, I recommend The Disney Grand Californian Hotel and Spa as it is the closest property to the front entrance, which makes for the shortest walk for tired feet. We have also stayed at Paradise Pier, which is where the character dining experience is, and which has a water slide on the roof. However, the walk to the parks from Paradise Pier is quite long.

If you stay at any of the Disney hotels and buy more than $20 of merchandise at a store on the property, it can be delivered to your hotel for free. You can also indulge in the Extra Magic Hour, which allows you to enter a park before the general public is allowed in—check with your hotel to see which of the two is open on which day.

If you want a more affordable option, I recommend the Doubletree Anaheim Hotel, which has a convenient public bus route to the park which we’ve used several times.

Tickets

Single and Multi-Day passes are available as are single and Park Hopper tickets. I highly recommend downloading the Disneyland Mobile App and purchasing through it to avoid lines. It will put your tickets on your phone. You’ll also get a physical ticket when you first enter the park on your first day as a back-up. If you’ve never been to Disneyland, you may want to buy single park tickets on different days. If you have a limited itinerary or have done Disneyland before, do the Park Hopper ticket.

If you buy the Max Pass tickets on your phone, you can book a fast-pass ticket without going to the ride physically to get one. Be strategic in your use of your max pass—if you pick a ride that is six hours from now, it will be six hours before you can book another fast pass. You can also download any photos taken by a Disneyland photographer, but only on the day they’re taken.

The app will also tell you important info about both parks—when shows are happening in both parks, where and which characters are currently doing autographs, where food is (and give you an idea of the menu), current ride wait times, and it acts as a virtual map that shows where you are in relation to everything else. I have found it immensely useful. But be warned this can drain your battery, so you might want to pack a battery charger along with your sunscreen!

Adventure Park Pixar Pier

Rides, Shows & Special Events

Disneyland California has all the rides you’d expect and love. There’s Splash Mountain, The Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Space Mountain among so many others. But if you come in or after 2019, there will be an entirely new land—the Star Wars themed Galaxy’s Edge. Be prepared for long lines for the first six months or so.

Disneyland hosts the nightly fireworks at 10pm and the Fantasmic show at 10:30. The California Fantasmic is different from the show in Tokyo, so don’t skip it. Our family always starts in Tomorrowland with Star Tours (different every time) and Buzz’s Astroblasters (who can score the most points?), then we move on to Fantasyland for the Teacups (one of the most baby/small child-friendly rides in the park) and one or two other rides like Alice in Wonderland or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, before heading to Adventureland for Pirates of the Caribbean and picking our new rides or shows we’ve not done before. I never miss Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. When the girls were little, we spent most of our time in Fantasyland and at the “It’s a Small World ride.

You may not know that this was the original park that Walt Disney himself oversaw (it opened way back in 1955!), and if you look to the windows above the Disneyland Fire Department you can see the apartment Walt Disney had built for himself so he could oversee construction of the park.

The entrance to Disneyland’s California Adventure is opposite the entrance to Disneyland. Here you’ll find a park dedicated to Pixar and Marvel, along with some Disney favourites.

The Incredibles float at Paint the Night Parade

Go to the Paint the Night Parade here instead of the Pixar Play Parade at Disneyland. There is an amazing stage production of Frozen, and the lines to meet Anna and Elsa aren’t as long as they used to be (hot – or cold? – tip: if you go during a parade, there’s almost no line at all!). Your little ones will like seeing Disney Junior favorites like Sofia and Elena of Avalor, and won’t want to miss out on the Disney Junior Dance Party or Turtle Talk with Crush from Finding Nemo.

The retheming of Paradise Pier to Pixar Pier is new as of summer 2018. California Screamin’ was updated and is now the Incredicoaster. (If you are a solo traveler, there is a separate single rider entrance to the Incredicoaster on the boardwalk near the entrance to the coaster and also for Grizzly River Run near that attraction’s exit in Grizzly Peak.)

The A Bug’s Life land has been closed for a dedicated, but still unnamed, Marvel land to open in 2020. For now, though, Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout! is an exclusive-to-California retheme of the Tower of Terror attraction that opened in May 2017! You can meet Black Panther and join in the Guardians of the Galaxy dance party by Mission Breakout!.

Finally, don’t miss out on Downtown Disney, just outside the two parks. There is a comprehensive store called World of Disney, which is a great option if you didn’t want to drag purchases around the park. There’s food options that are a little more upscale than most of the options in the park. Even the more typical stores like Ray-Ban usually have Disneyland-exclusive items. LEGO enthusiasts will want to visit the store there and stock up on kits at a significant discount from their Singapore prices.

Have any additional tips or information about Disneyland California and California Adventure? Leave a comment below.

Lead image and Downtown Disney image sourced via Facebook; all other images courtesy of the author

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