Booking Your First Trip to Disneyland

Planning a trip to Disneyland can be overwhelming, especially if Walt Disney World is your home park! We wrote up our best tips and advice to plan a Disneyland trip, and let you know our experiences!

Mouselet 2 recently had the chance to visit Disneyland for the second time ever. As a WDW Annual Passholder, the thought of planning a Disneyland trip was overwhelming! She did a ton of research before her trip, and learned a lot while she was there! Today, we’ll share everything you need to know about planning a Disneyland trip, some tips, and our experience!

A few things that are important to note!

  • To save money, I booked my tickets from aRes Travel. They are an authorized ticket seller, and have deals on park hoppers, hotels, and more. I chose the park hopper option and saved $60 compared to the Disneyland price. You can get tickets here.
  • I definitely suggest getting Maxpass, which costs an extra $15 a day. It includes the “Memory Maker” for free Photopass pictures
  • I stayed offsite and drove in, which was easy enough, but we had long lines at the parking garage. Next trip (this April) we’re staying at the HOJO Anaheim and walking over!

Disneyland Partners Statue

Disneyland Introduction

There are two parks in Disneyland, Disneyland and California Adventure. Disneyland was the original park made by Walt Disney, and is very similar to Magic Kingdom at WDW. California Adventure is the second park, and similar to Hollywood Studios. There’s also a nearby Downtown Disney area, which is a lot of fun and has shops, restaurants, and performances.

Disneyland property is smaller than WDW, but you still need to take a tram from the parking areas to the park entrances, unless you want to walk! (Take about 15 minutes!) There’s also a monorail connecting the parks to Downtown Disney, which passes through Disneyland. The monorail here is much more modern, and if you have the time for it it’s a lot of fun to ride! Plus, you can sit in the front like you used to be able to at WDW!

1. Disneyland App

If you’re a WDW regular, you almost definitely have a My Disney Experience account. This means your first step is done! Next, you’ll need to download the Disneyland app. This app is laid out almost exactly the same as the WDW app, but it’s specific to Disneyland! To download the app, click here or go to the App Store.

Disneyland App

Disneyland App, Courtesy of Disneyland

2. Fastpasses and the Maxpass

Disneyland has a fastpass system similar to the paper system that used to be in place at WDW. You have two options for booking fastpasses: the first is using paper fastpasses. Guests can hold one fastpass at a time, not including one fastpass for a night show (Fantasmic or World of Color). But, note that you have to go to the kiosk to get the fastpasses for this option.

Disneyland Fastpass

Disneyland Fastpass, Courtesy of Get Way Today Vacations

The second option is using the Maxpass, which we highly recommend! The Maxpass allows you to book fastpasses from the Disneyland app. Not only is this much more convenient, but you also save a lot of time doing this! You can book fastpasses about five minutes before your booked fastpass starts, which means you can book some passes in line!

Disneyland Max Pass

Maxpass, Courtesy of Disneyland Daily

The best part of the fastpasses at Disneyland is that in the morning 100% of them are available, so you can get a fastpass for even the most popular rides as long as you book it right away!

Another plus of Maxpass is that you get all of your photopasses for the day, just like the Memory Maker at WDW!

Max Pass Tips

  1. A Maxpass costs $15 per day, per person
  2. Your whole family has to have a Maxpass in order to book all the passes on the phone
  3. Load your photopass card (given by photopass photographers) onto your phone to have easy access to your photos
  4. After you rope drop an attraction, head to the World of Color or Fantasmic kiosks (located near The Little Mermaid in California Adventure, and Thunder Mountain in Disneyland), to get your paper fastpass
  5. Be sure to book the Maxpass for the more popular rides in the morning, as some of them run out early

3. Park hopper

The park hopper in Disneyland is a must-have. The parks are literally less than 500 steps apart from each other, so going back and forth is so convenient! Plus, you can book fastpasses for one park while you’re in another with the Maxpass, so if you see a ride with a short wait in the other park you can hop over quickly!

The picture below is captured from Google Maps, and you can see both entrances of each park in the image!

Disneyland Parks

4. Biggest Park Differences

There are many similarities and differences between Disneyland and WDW. First of all, park hopping at Disneyland is very easy because it’s smaller and closer together! Downtown Disney is also smaller, but a lot of fun to walk around especially at night!

One of the biggest differences, and best parts of Disneyland, was that the characters walk around everywhere! We saw the Fairy Godmother, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Belle all walking around Disneyland like they used to at WDW years ago.

Characters in Park

To read about the park specific differences, check below!


Let’s start with Disneyland. This park is very similar to Magic Kingdom, but there are some big differences. First of all, Star Wars Land just opened up, which caused some huge crowds in that area. The land is located behind Frontierland. You’ll also find three new lands in the park: Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Toontown. Critter Country is similar to Frontierland, but here it has Splash Mountain and the Winnie the Pooh ride.

Critter Country

New Orleans Square is like Liberty Square, and has restaurants, shops, and the Haunted Mansion. It reminds us of Morocco in Epcot because of all the hidden corners, and we recommend taking some time to explore it! Plus, the Haunted Mansion here is completely different on the outside! While you’re here, be sure to stop at the Mint Julep bar, you won’t regret it!

Haunted Mansion

The last new land is Toontown, which is similar to the Toontown that used to be at Magic Kingdom, but more detailed! This area is so cute and a lot of fun to explore. You can go in Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald’s houses (and boats for Donald). This area is not to be missed, and will bring back some great memories from Toontown at MK!


California Adventure

Although California Adventure is similar in ways to Hollywood Studios, there are some major differences! Several years ago, Tower of Terror was redone to Guardians of the Galaxy, and it is absolutely amazing! Though the area around it doesn’t match the theming perfectly yet (Marvel Land will fix this), seeing how they transformed the ride is spectacular.

Guardians of the Galaxy

There’s also a land called Grizzly Peak, themed after exploring the wilderness of California. This land gave us Animal Kingdom vibes, and we loved it! A tip: don’t ride the water ride unless you are prepared to get absolutely soaked! There’s much more water than Kali.

Grizzly Peak

Pixar Pier opened up last year, (it wasn’t open for my trip) and has almost 100% positive ratings from guests. The headlining attraction of this land is the Incredicoaster, but there is so much more to see and do here! Prepare to spend at least an hour at this land.

Pixar Pier Incredicoaster Disneyland

Now, for the best of all. Radiator Springs. This land is the most spectacular land we have ever seen. The theming is identical to Radiator Springs from the movie, and transforms during the night! Take the time to explore this land, it is amazing!

Radiator Springs

5. Ride and Attraction Suggestions

There are some rides that are unique to Disneyland, and we recommend trying almost all of them out!

In California Adventure, don’t miss out on these rides and attractions!

  1. Radiator Springs Racers (fastpass this ride or rope drop it, it’s absolutely amazing)
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout
  3. Mike & Sully to the Rescue
  4. Beast’s Library (inside the Animation building)
  5. Incredicoaster

In Disneyland, don’t miss out on these rides and attractions! And, we highly recommend doing a full loop on the train! There’s scenes that are unique to Disneyland, like the Grand Canyon and a primeval scene with dinosaurs!


  1. Matterhorn
  2. Pinocchio
  3. Alice in Wonderland
  4. Peter Pan’s Flight
  5. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  6. Storybook Canal Boats
  7. It’s a Small World

New Orleans Square

  1. Haunted Mansion
  2. Pirates of the Caribbean


  1. Davy Crockett Canoes


  1. Tarzan Treehouse
  2. Indiana Jones


  1. Toontown – Mickey and Minnie’s houses
  2. Roger Rabbit


  1. Autopia
  2. Finding Nemo: Submarine
  3. Buzz Lightyear

Some of these rides and attractions are at WDW, but the Disneyland versions are different (and in some cases better). The other rides are unique to Disneyland, and we loved them all! On your visit, take the time to try the new rides first, since you might not be back for several years!

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

7. Tips

  1. Do your research with restaurants to find where you want to eat! We recommend Blue Bayou, The Plaza, Goofy’s Kitchen, and Cafe Orleans but there are so many other great options!
  2. Get your nighttime show Fastpass first thing in the morning to ensure you get the best seating. Remember, you can only get these fastpasses from the kiosks in the parks.
  3. If you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers, rope drop it or get your Fastpass right away! This is the most popular  ride in the parks. If you are unable to get a fastpass, try the single rider line! It’s much shorter.
  4. Take the time to enjoy the details of Disneyland. One of our favorite parts was that Walt planned, designed, and walked the streets of Disneyland. One of our favorite parts was the firehouse on Main Street. Look in the upper windows to get a glimpse of Walt’s old apartment.
  5. If you’re into trading, bring your pins. Many say that Disneyland is not as interested in pin trading as WDW. This seemed to hold true, as fewer cast members were wearing pin lanyards. But, there are pin boards everywhere, and rare pins that seem to be looked over!
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy has five different ride sequences. The “Groot” sequence is similar to Tower of Terror, but the other sequences are faster and more extreme than TOT. Ride this attraction several times to experience more than one of the ride sequences!

8. Mouselet 2’s Experience

Mouselet 2 had an amazing time in Disneyland. She only had one day there, and definitely made the most of it. She started out the day at California Adventure, and arrived about an hour early to rope drop Radiator Springs Racers. The ride ended up being closed in the morning, so she scooped up a fastpass and rope dropped Guardians of the Galaxy instead!

Rope Drop

After this ride, she rode the Monster’s Inc dark ride (so much fun), took some photos, and checked out the Beast’s Library in the Animation attraction!

Beast's Library

The rest of the morning at California Adventure was spent exploring the new lands, grabbing lunch, and pin trading. Because Mouselet 2 only had one day, she wasn’t able to go on many of the rides or attractions at CA. But, she did take plenty of time to explore Radiator Springs, and used her fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers! She also grabbed her fastpass for World of Color from the kiosk near the Little Mermaid.

Radiator Springs


In the afternoon, Mouselet 2 headed over to Disneyland. There was so much to see and do here, and luckily the lines were all crazy short! She walked down Main Street and explored the shops in this area. It was a crazy feeling walking the same steps that Walt Disney once did!

Main Street USA

Next, Mouselet 2 headed through the castle and explored Fantasyland, riding Matterhorn  (with a fastpass) and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. She took the train from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland and loved exploring this land! There are several Star Wars attractions here, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fill them once Star Wars Land opens. Another interesting part was that the PeopleMover was abandoned, but the track was still there! Mouselet 2 rode the Nemo submarine ride before using her fastpass.


Next, Mouselet 2 used a Fastpass for Space Mountain. The ride queue was very different than Magic Kingdom, and you can ride two next to each other which was a lot of fun! She grabbed a Mickey Pretzel as a snack and walked over to Adventureland. This land seemed bigger than the MK version, and Mouselet 2 loved it! She grabbed a Dole Whip from Aloha Isle, and rode the Indiana Jones ride. It was definitely a unique ride, and reminded her of Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom!

Indiana Jones

Next, Mouselet 2 explored New Orleans Square, Frontierland, and Critter Country. The Haunted Mansion was one of her favorite attractions, especially with the different exterior! Critter Country and Frontierland were similar to Magic Kingdom, so she spent the least time in this area.

Mouselet 2 ended her day in Disneyland in Toontown, and rode Roger Rabbit. She also explored Mickey and Minnie’s houses and Donald’s boat! This area is so cute, and the theming that went into it is incredibly extensive. Mouselet 2 went back to Tomorrowland to grab a quick dinner from the Pizza Port! She got the pasta, which was a huge serving! Inside the restaurant there were vintage posters advertising attractions in Tomorrowland.


Mouselet 2 ended her day in California Adventure watching World of Color! It was absolutely amazing, the water effects were similar to Fantasmic but better, and despite the construction on the Pier the ferris wheel still lit up!

Overall, Mouselet 2 had a day that will not be forgotten! We would highly suggest booking more than one day at Disneyland, as there is so much to do! But, even the shortest of trips will be incredibly memorable. Let us know your Disneyland experiences in the comments!