A rural suburb in the 1950’s Anaheim, California was transformed with the opening of Disneyland in 1955. Entertainment and tourism now dominate the Anaheim area economy with the Anaheim Convention Center, Angel Stadium (California Angels ballpark) and the Disneyland Resort including Disneyland and California Adventure.
German immigrants who settled here in 1857 combined the Santa Ana River name with the German word for home and called their new home Ahaheim. When a blight in the late 1800’s destroyed the vineyards that had made this area the wine capital of California they switched to growing oranges. Thanks to shows like The O.C. and MTV’s Laguna Beach people think of Orange County as vibrant, rich and hip which is true but there are in reality a wide diversity of cultures and opportunities in Anaheim.
The National Hockey League’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim make their home in the state-of-the-art Arrowhead Pond sports and entertainment facility. The Anaheim Angels Major League Baseball team is at home at Edison International Field. The 1.6 million-square-foot Anaheim Convention Center hosts trade shows, meetings and consumer shows throughout the year.
But when the discussion is about Anaheim the subject frequently turns to theme parks.
The Disneyland Resort consists of two theme parks, Disneyland and California Adventure Downtown Disney and three Disney Hotels. Be prepared for long lines at newer and more popular rides at both theme parks. Early in the morning or later in the evening or during parades and major shows the lines are shorter.
If at all possible try to visit Disneyland Resort when everyone else doesn’t. Midweek is not as busy as weekends. Summer and major holidays are busiest although minor holidays can be just the opposite. I was there once on Halloween weekend and walked-on to every ride my daughter wanted as many times as she wanted. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and they put on a wonderful party for the kids in the hotel ballroom (free for kids – adults paid a small fee). Another good time to go (for small crowds, maybe not for Mothers) is Mother’s Day.
When visiting either theme park you can take advantage of Disney’s FASTPASS®, which is a free voucher listing an assigned boarding time for some rides. You will be able to visit other attractions, shop or eat before returning to the ride at the designated time. Look for the FASTPASS machine at each attraction, insert your admission ticket and it will print your FASTPASS. Each person needs their own FASTPASS but one person can print several if he has everyone’s park ticket (while the rest of the family is in another line, eating, etc.).
Another way to spend less time in line is to use the Single Rider Line. The Single Rider Line allows you to bypass the inside queue and waiting time (you still see the pre-show) so it can be faster but be aware your party will be separated as you’ll be loaded in vehicles as single spaces become available.
Staying at the Disney Hotels may be expensive but it also makes visiting the parks much more convenient and provides a major stress reduction at a time when vacationing is your goal
Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Tickets
Disneyland® Resort Park Hopper® Tickets — Buy 2, 3, 4 or 5 day tickets
Your Multi Day Disneyland® Resort Park Hopper® Ticket entitles you to admittance to both Disneyland® Resort theme parks—Disney’s California Adventure™ park and Disneyland® park—over a specified number of consecutive days, including visits to both parks on the same day.
3, 4 and 5 day tickets include one early entry admission.
Disneyland Park is the main park featuring many rides and attractions. The park entrance is at 1313 Harbor Blvd. off I-5 Disneyland Dr. and Disney Way exits. The 8 major sections of the park each have their own theme:
Main Street, USA — a nostalgic look at small-town America at the beginning of the 20th century with several places to eat and shop. Ride a variety of vehicles on Main Street, view a movie about Disneyland or “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” in the Lincoln Theater or watch continuous showings of vintage Disney cartoons at Main Street Cinema. Catch the Disneyland Railroad here for a 20-minute steam train ride around the park with stops at New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland.
Main Street, USA is the home site for Disneyland’s daily parades. It is usually not crowded except during the parades or closing times when other attractions have stopped running. If you plan to shop at the Emporium you can shop early and use Disney’s Package Check at the Newsstand.
Adventureland — Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Polynesia combined into one. Indiana Jones Adventure is the most popular (and has the longest lines though you can get a Fastpass) Jungle Cruise—which is a trip through a simulated tropical rainforest with elephants, hippopotamuses, Bengal tiger and waterfall—is the next most popular but you can usually walk onto the Enchanted Tiki Room and Tarzan’s Treehouse which replaced the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in 1999.
Fantasyland — Attractions based on Disney feature films are the focus of Fantasyland which can be entered from several directions including the Sleeping Beauty Castle. This area is popular all day long. Start early for the shortest lines. Alice in Wonderland, Casey Jr. Circus Train, It’s a small world, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Snow White’s Scary Adventures are just a few of the rides and attractions. Plenty of places to shop but only a couple of places to eat in addition to the snack carts along small world way.
Tomorrowland — Frequently updated to stay one step ahead of the present Walt Disney designed Tomorrowland to offer new frontiers in science, adventures and ideas. Honey I Shrunk the Audience 3D show, Innoventions—interactive virtual reality games and technology exhibits—and arcade games at Starcade share Tomorrowland real estate with Space Mountain, Astro Orbitor and Star Tours—a motion simulator based on Star Wars. Transportation options include the Tomorrowland Monorail Station, Tomorrowland Autopia—where you drive whimsical cars around a track— and the Tomorrowland Station of the Disneyland Railroad. Main Street Station is the next stop after the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas.
New Orleans Square —The first new “land” added to Disneyland in 1964, New Orleans Square recreates architectural features that make New Orleans French Quarter unique. Wrought iron balconies on narrow streets with small shops and restaurants serving Po’Boy and Muffuletta sandwiches, gumbo and other Cajun and Creole dishes along with strolling Dixieland jazz minstrels provide the New Orleans Square atmosphere. Make reservations early if you want to eat at Blue Bayou. Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are the rides at New Orleans Square.
Frontierland — Ride the Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia on the Rivers of America and visit Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland. This tribute to the faith, courage and ingenuity of pioneers who blazed the trails across America—according to Walt Disney also provides the opportunity ride through the Old West on a runaway mine train at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or sharpen your sights at the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade. Shop for western wear, breakfast on pancakes or enjoy the Mexican grill before checking out the live stage show at the Golden Horseshoe.
A fireworks and visual hydrotechnic show is presented nightly each summer and on weekends along the Rivers of America in Frontierland.
Critter Country — Get there early or get a Fastpass for Splash Mountain as this long hollowed-out log ride that ends in a big splash is very popular, especially on hot days. You can also paddle your own canoe on a guided tour around Tom Sawyer Island with Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes or take a Honey Bee Hive tour of the 100 Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and friends. If you were here before the opening of Splash Mountain in 1989 you’ll remember this area as Bear Country. I remember my young daughter wanting to watch the Country Bear Jamboree over and over as she danced in front of the stage.
Mickey’s Toontown — Young guests will enjoy the appropriately sized rides and structures in Mickey’s Toontown. Touring Mickey’s and Minnie’s Houses and meeting Mickey are big treats too. Gadget’s Go Coaster is a short but fun kid-size roller coaster made of oversize toys while Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin lets you spin as fast or slow as you like. Explore Chip ’n’ Dale Treehouse or climb aboard Donald’s Boat the good ship Miss Daisy. The Disneyland Railroad has a stop here. The closest thing to dinner is pizza or a salad at Daisy’s Diner but there are lots of snack options from Pluto’s Dog House, Clarabelle’s Frozen Yogurt or Toon Up Treats. Mickey’s Toontown is closed during the fireworks show.
Disney’s California Adventure
Disney’s California Adventure™ opened in 2001. It’s designed to be a condensation of the entire state of California. You enter under a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge which also transports the resort monorail overhead. Disney’s California Adventure Park has four themed lands:
Paradise Pier — Recreating the heyday of the great amusement park piers, this beach front amusement zone has roller coasters, a carousel, boardwalk games of chance and other amusements. California Screamin’ loops riders upside down as it races around the perimeter of a Mickey Mouse head icon. Sun Wheel—a 150-foot-high ferris-wheel-type ride, King Triton’s Carousel—with ocean critters instead of horses and the Orange Stinger are other options.
Hollywood Pictures Backlot — Enter majestic studio gates into a celebration of the magic of the movie business. Broadway-quality stage productions at the 2,000 seat Hyperion Theater, Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3D with Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™—ending with a 13-story drop are three of the attractions at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.
View a musical review with Disney Channel favorites at the Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage! or watch test scenes form animation features still in production at Disney Animation.
Golden State — California’s state animal is the grizzly bear so Golden State has 110-foot-high Grizzly Peak and Grizzly Peak Recreation Area feature a white-water rafting ride—Grizzly River Run, and redwood trees, nature trails and storytelling in the 8-acre Brother Bear Adventure Trail.
Condor Flats salutes California’s pioneering aviators and California landscapes with Soarin’ Over California. This popular attraction has guests suspended in theater seats in an airborne journey over spectacular California landscapes.
A bug’s land — a series of playful and educational exhibits interspersed with California crops greet visitors to Bountiful Valley Farm—a walk-through farm district celebrating California’s agricultural heritage. There is also a 3D adventure movie, “It’s Tough To Be a Bug” and an oversize play land inspired by the Disney movie “A Bug’s Life” called Flik’s Fun Fair designed for parents and younger kids to play together. Prepare to get wet in Princess Dot’s Puddle park.
The Pacific Wharf District —inspired by Cannery Row in Monterey—is a waterfront industrial district where you can see how tortillas are made and sourdough bread is baked. Whoopi Goldberg hosts a movie tribute to pioneers who made California a trend setter in “Golden Dreams.”
The Golden Vine Winery — has a working vineyard and California Mission-style winery with wine tasting and a Robert Mondavi movie “Seasons of the Vine.”
Downtown Disney—within walking distance of the two theme parks—is a shopping, dining and entertainment district at the Disneyland Resort. Downtown Disney also opened in 2001 along with Disney’s California Adventure. There is no admission charge to enter Downtown Disney.
A 12-plex theater, ESPN Zone restaurant and club, House of Blues and World of Disney store highlight this daytime garden esplanade which becomes a theater, dining, shops and nightlife complex after dark.