No trip to Southern California is complete without a visit to Disneyland Park. The pioneer Disney theme park and the only one designed and completed by Walt himself, this iconic site still thrills visitors today.
Guests can explore nine themed lands that take them through worlds of fantasy, adventure, and futurism. Thrill seekers can zip down hyperspeed coasters while families enjoy classic kid-friendly attractions like It’s a Small World. You can find information on all of these and more by clicking here.
Disney’s Imagineers (a name he gave to his group of planners, engineers, architects, designers, artists, and writers) created each land as an immersive experience that brings three-dimensional characters and settings to life. This makes the park feel as if visitors are experiencing it directly, rather than just seeing images on a two-dimensional screen.
The park was built in record time — a year and a half from concept to opening. That speed was due in part to the fact that Walt had hired Harrison Price from Stanford Research Institute, an expert on the geographic and demographic location of potential theme parks.
The park has expanded over the years with the addition of New Orleans Square in 1966, Critter Country in 1972, and Mickey’s Toontown in 1993. In 2001 Disneyland opened Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney on the site of the original parking lot. The park is crowded most of the year, especially during the month of October and around school holidays. The best times to visit are mid-week in January and February, or late April through May.
Downtown Disney District
The Downtown Disney District is a great place to visit on your own after the parks have closed, or if you’re looking for something to do outside of Disneyland and California Adventure. It also has some good food options that don’t require a parking ticket.
You can find a variety of stores and restaurants that serve up everything from sandwiches to burgers, salads, seafood, cupcakes, ice cream, and more. Some of the more popular dining options include Earl of Sandwich, Black Tap, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, and Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Guests can also check out high-end fashion stores like Nordstrom Rack and Curl Surf, or pick up some new Disney merchandise at the World of Disney store. You can even create your own LEGO mini-figure at the Mosaic Maker Experience. During the holidays, the Downtown Disney District comes alive with music and entertainment from a variety of performers. Check it out here.
Hotel & Resorts
Whether you’re staying on property or off, there are plenty of hotel and resort options to consider. If you’re planning to use hotel points, make sure you do your homework as it’s increasingly challenging to get good value for cash-equivalent points at many hotels around Southern California.
There are three on-property Disney hotels to choose from, each offering its own take on luxury and theme. The most iconic is the Grand Californian, which offers a spa experience that’s unmatched and a super-close location to Disneyland Park and Downtown Disney District.
If a modern vibe and amenities are more your thing, check out the Disneyland Hotel. Rooms here are not themed to the parks (as is the case at the Grand Californian) but you can expect a clean and well-appointed hotel with an upscale feel.
A newer option worth considering is the Cambria Hotel & Suites Anaheim Resort Area. This property offers a number of specialty family suites with bunk beds and kitchen suites along with an on-site water park with 30,000 square feet of waterslides, play areas, and more. Room rates are competitive and the hotel is a great choice for World of Hyatt members looking to earn or redeem Hilton Honors points.
If you’re visiting during peak travel seasons, make dining reservations at popular restaurants well in advance. You can also utilize mobile ordering on the Disneyland app at select quick-service restaurants, allowing you to skip the lines when your stomach starts growling and save time during your visit.
Theme parks aren’t known for their gourmet cuisine, but the restaurants at Disneyland serve up dishes that satisfy even the pickiest eaters. The fried chicken tip-yip and cold brew black coffee at Blue Bayou is a fan favorite, while the meatless Felucian kefta at Galaxy’s Edge takes the space food trend to a whole new level.
The Plaza Inn has been a Disneyland tradition since the park’s opening day, and this Mary Poppins-themed cafe serves classic comfort foods at an affordable price. Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel combines a seasonal menu of locally inspired California cuisine with an Arts and crafts-style setting for one of the finest meals on the property. Next blog post.
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