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Complete guide to Disneyland (with comparisons to Disney World)

Complete guide to Disneyland (with comparisons to Disney World)

Though this site began as a Disney World site, we visit Disneyland often and would like to convert as many Disney World fans into being Disneyland fans as we can.

Here’s an overview of Disneyland (with many comparisons to Disney World as a reference) with lots of links to help you through the planning process. 

Ready to get started planning your dream Disneyland vacation?

Let’s go!

What is at Disneyland Resort?

Disneyland Resort is made up of 2 parks (Disneyland Park and California Adventure), Downtown Disney (not called Disney Springs there!), and 3 onsite resorts. 

Disneyland Park

The original castle park. Sigh. 

It’s an overused word but we’re going to say it anyway: charming. 

It can feel disorienting to be there if you know Magic Kingdom because some spots feel so familiar, but some things (like New Orleans Square) are distinctly Disneyland. 

And then there’s the part where it’s full of history, including Walt’s apartment. 

Find out more about Disneyland Park.

California Adventure

The newer of the 2 parks, California Adventure feels a bit like being at Hollywood Studios and a bit like being somewhere completely unique.

The most popular section is Cars Land (one of the most immersive theme park sections ever created), but there’s also Pixar Pier, a 1-hour Frozen musical, World of Color (one of the best nighttime shows Disney has ever done), and so much more.

Find out more about Disney California Adventure.

Downtown Disney

View of Downtown Disney from Disneyland Hotel
View of Downtown Disney from Disneyland Hotel Club Lounge

Though Downtown Disney at Disney World changed its name to Disney Springs, it’s still called Downtown Disney at Disneyland.

This shopping and dining area runs down the middle of Disneyland and kind of connects the hotels and parks. 

With California weather being so nice most of the time, it can be a lovely place to sit on a patio having a drink and a meal. 

Learn more about all you can see (and do!) at Downtown Disney.

Disneyland Resort Hotels

Disneyland Hotel - Adventure Tower

There are 3 onsite resorts at Disneyland: Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier.

All 3 are within easy walking distance to the parks. 

There are also lots and lots of offsite resorts nearby that will take you out of the Disney bubble, but are very convenient and affordable.

Get the pros and cons of onsite and offsite Disneyland hotel options.

How big is Disneyland compared to Disney World?

At 510 acres, Disneyland is dwarfed by Disney World’s 27,000 acre size.  

Don’t let the small size fool you though. Disneyland manages to pack in a surprising number of attractions in its small space. 

The compact size also means that navigating between the 2 parks is super easy – they’re just steps away from each other, making it quick to park hop. 

Weather at Disneyland

Ahhhh, one of the best parts of being at Disneyland is the (usually) incredible weather.

With moderate temps most of the year and very little rain, you can leave your ponchos and cooling towels at home.

Disneyland average weather

Image from

In fact, it’s not uncommon to need a sweater in the morning and evening in the summer. 

Watch out for the fall weather though. While much of the country starts to get cool, Anaheim often has warm days into October. 

Disneyland vs. Disney World

Though it’s tempting to think Disneyland will be just a smaller version of Disney World, that’s not exactly the case.

Some of the biggest differences at Disneyland include:

  • amazing weather (which we discussed above)
  • unique way FastPasses work
  • single rider lines – so many more options at Disneyland!
  • nighttime shows that are unique (and much more likely to be canceled due to wind)
  • palpable sense of history
  • shorter planning timeline
  • ease of interacting with characters
  • rides that are similar are often better at Disneyland

Overall, Disneyland is much easier to both plan and experience.

Think of Disney World as the Type A oldest sibling and Disneyland as the more laid back, youngest child.

How to plan a Disneyland trip

Using the same 6-step process that we teach for Disney World trips, here’s the info you need to plan a Disneyland trip.

Step 1: Pick your dates

Check out the best times to visit using our Disneyland crowd calendar

Step 2: Decide where to stay

Learn about onsite and offsite Disneyland resort options with our list of pros and cons of Disneyland hotels.

Step 3: Make a daily plan

Let us help you decide how many days to spend in the parks, which parks to visit on which days, and ideas on incorporating non-Disney attractions in your plans. 

Learn how to make your daily plan.

Step 4: Plan your dining

Make sure you know where you want to eat during your Disneyland trip, and get reservations for popular meals ahead of time.

Read our guide to Disneyland dining.

Step 5: Create touring plans

Just like at Disney World, you’ll want to make sure you’re navigating the parks as efficiently as you can with minimal waits. 

Step 6: Add extra magic

Learn about all of the options you can plan for your trip to make it extra special.

Get the Disneyland app

If you’re used to the My Disney Experience app at Disney World, the Disneyland app will feel very familiar.

Disneyland app

From there, you can get maps to navigate, check wait times, make dining reservations, order food, see PhotoPass pics, and so much more. 

Download the Disneyland app now

Disneyland Transportation

Disneyland Monorail

With its compact size, transportation isn’t as much of a factor at Disneyland as it is at Disney World.

In fact, your feet will be your primary mode of transportation during a Disneyland trip.

However, there are some unique things to know about the Disneyland monorail, parking, and using rideshare options. 

Learn all about Disneyland transportation options including how to get to the parks from the airports, how parking at Disneyland works, and the easiest ways to get around once you are there.

What height requirements are there for Disneyland rides?

Just like all theme parks, there are height requirements for some Disneyland rides to ensure the safety of all guests – 10 at Disneyland and 11 at California Adventure to be exact. 

Get our handy chart of Disneyland height requirements.

How do Disneyland tickets work?

There are lots of things to learn about Disneyland tickets, including the option to add MaxPass, perk of Magic Mornings, and ways to save. 

Learn about your different ticket options.

Read more about how Disneyland’s FastPass and MaxPass systems work.

Does Disneyland use PhotoPass?

Yes, Disneyland does have a PhotoPass system. Within that system, there are various ways to get your photos, including specific ticket types, Disney PhotoPass+ One Week, and various products you can order with your trip pics.

Packing for a Disneyland Trip

Packing for Disneyland is a little different than Disney World.

Say yes to lanyards (still have physical tickets and FastPasses there!), but leave your rain ponchos at home. 

Get our Ultimate Disneyland Packing List to help you pack for your trip.

Consider an Adventures by Disney Disneyland trip

IMPORTANT TRAVEL UPDATE: Due to the ongoing pandemic, future Adventures by Disney trips are undetermined. Per Adventures by Disney, “The health and safety of our Guests and Team Members remains a top priority for our team at Adventures by Disney. Adventures by Disney is continuing to assess future travel operations on a destination-by-destination basis.” The official website has more details.

Want to go behind-the-scenes at some Disneyland attractions, have VIP guides to navigate you, and visit nearby attractions in southern California for exclusive tours?

Consider booking an Adventures by Disney trip.

Though ABD trips are a premium product, the Disneyland ones are easy to justify when you consider how much you can get done in a short amount of time, plus the VIP access you wouldn’t be able to do on your own.

There are 2 options that include Disneyland and nearby attractions. 

  • Disneyland Resort and Southern California Escape – 4-day trip that includes Walt Disney Studios, Imagineering, days in the parks, staying at The Grand Californian, reserved nighttime show viewing, and most of your meals
  • Disneyland Resort and Southern California – 6-day trip that includes Jim Henson Company, Hollywood, Walt Disney Studios, Imagineering, days in the parks, staying at Loews Hollywood Hotel and The Grand Californian, reserved nighttime show viewing, and most of your meals