The “Happiest Place on Earth” lures millions of visitors of all ages each year with promises of fun and fantasy. During high seasons, waves of humanity flow through Disneyland (1313 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, 714/781-4565, http://disneyland.disney.go.com, daily 8 a.m.–midnight), moving slowly from Land to Land and ride to ride. The park is well set up to handle the often-immense crowds. Everything from foot-traffic control to ample restrooms make even a Christmastime trip to Disneyland a happy time for the whole family.
Despite the undeniable cheese factor, even the most cynical and jaded resident Californians can’t quite keep their cantankerous scowls set once they’re ensconced inside Uncle Walt’s dream. It really is a happy place.
Disney’s rides, put together by the park’s “Imagineers,” are better than those at any other amusement park in the state—perhaps better than any in the world. The technology of the rides isn’t more advanced than other parks, but it’s the attention to detail that makes a Disneyland ride experience so enthralling.
Even the spaces where you stand in line match the theme of the ride you’re waiting for, from the archaeological relics of Indiana Jones to the tombstones of the Haunted Mansion. If you’ve got several days in the park, try them all! But if you don’t, pick from the best of the best in each Land.
There are as many varying ticket prices and plans as there are themes in the park. A single-day theme park ticket will run you $66 ($56 for children age 3–9). A variety of other combinations and passes are available online (http://disneyland.disney.go.com).
To buy tickets, go to one of the many kiosks in the central gathering spot that serves as the main entrance to both Disneyland proper and California Adventure. Bring your credit card, since a day at Disney is not cheap.
Horrifyingly, the already expensive regular one-day Disneyland ticket doesn’t include California Adventure. If you’re interested in checking out California Adventure as well as Disneyland, your best bet is to buy a Park Hopper pass ($81–91 single day, $112–132 two days), which lets you move back and forth between the two parks at will for a slight discount. If you’re planning to spend several days touring the Houses of Mouse, buy multi-day passes in advance online to save a few more bucks per day.
The magical FastPasses are free with park admission and might seem like magic after awhile. Feed your ticket into one of the machines near the entrance of select rides, and it will spit out both your ticket and a FastPass with your specified time to take the ride. Come back during your window and enter the always-much-shorter FastPass line. If you’re with a crowd, be sure you all get your FastPasses at the same time, so you all get the same time window to ride the ride.
Disneyland is located on Disneyland Drive in Anaheim and is most accessible from I-5 south where it crosses Ball Rd. (stay in the left three lanes for parking). The parking lot is located at 1313 S. Disneyland Drive and costs $12.
If you’re coming to the park from elsewhere in the O.C., consider bailing on the car (avoiding the parking fees) and taking public transit instead. Shuttles from LAX and John Wayne airport take you directly to the park or the hotels. Anaheim Resort Transit (ART, www.rideart.org) can take you to and from the Amtrak station and all around central Anaheim for $3 per ride.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition