Disclosure: I’ve visited Disneyland several times as part of my participation in the AWEsome Retreat. I’ve also stayed at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground at no cost. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links and purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
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As an East Coaster, I’ve spent most of my Disney vacation time at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida. But I was excited to take a trip to Disneyland to see the original park. If you are most familiar with Disney World, you’re probably wondering how many days in Disneyland are appropriate.
With two theme parks (Disney’s California Adventure and Disneyland Park) rather than four (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and an easy walking distance between the parks, Disneyland can be a much more manageable trip. Therefore, you may need less time. I generally recommend three days for your Disneyland vacation, so that you can enjoy the different rides and restaurants without too much stress.
Unlike Walt Disney World, you are easily able to walk between the two parks and Downtown Disney, as well as the Disneyland Resort Hotels (as well as many off-property hotels). This will save you lots of time because you won’t have to wait for buses/boats and can be at the theme parks after a short walk.
How Many Days in Disneyland Are Best
How to Maximize Your Visit
Park hopping is a good plan at Disneyland because it’s so easy to do. However, it is more expensive, and you’ll need to have a plan. Unfortunately, the old system of walking back and forth between the parks all day is no longer allowed.
Now, you’ll need to purchase tickets in advance and make a park reservation for the first park you plan to enter. These reservations can be limited, so do it as soon as possible. You are only able to make one park reservation per person per day.
Once you enter that first park, you’ll be able to switch between parks after 1 pm, based on availability. You still must have park hopper tickets. Keep in mind that if you have multi-day tickets, you’ll have to make one of those reservations for each day.
While you may have a dining reservation at a specific park, you still need the park reservation and a valid ticket. At this time, making those park reservations is essential.
Once you have the park reservations, you can start thinking about your daily plans and park itinerary. I generally recommend getting to the parks early, because they are typically less crowded early. If you are coming from the East Coast, or have young children, you are likely to be away early anyway.
For the three-day itinerary to be enough time, you’ll probably want to do a full day on each day, rather than a half-day. Alternatively, you could choose to get a four or five-day ticket and spend less time per day. However, this is the more expensive option.
You’ll also want to have the Disneyland app downloaded to your smartphone. The app is a great resource for finding attraction wait times, placing mobile orders, and checking park activities. If you are visiting a popular snack kiosk or quick service location, mobile ordering can be a quick way to order and pay for your food.
It’s also a good idea to look at all of the attractions and see what you are especially interested in. I’d recommend spending equal time in the two parks – about a day and a half for each one. You may leave some extra time on the third day to visit anything you missed.
If you are visiting with younger kids, look on the Disneyland website in advance to see the height requirements of each attraction. You won’t want to have disappointed kids if they aren’t yet tall enough to ride.
Do you have a specific table service restaurant that you want to visit? It’s best to make those reservations in advance and be sure you have a park reservation for that theme park.
I also recommend that you check out our list of things to bring to Disneyland so that you are fully prepared.
Many past Disney parks visitors are familiar with how Fastpasses work. Although Disneyland has recently offered MaxMass in addition to FastPass, this system is now changing. Genie and Genie+ are two new systems that are being offered.
Genie is a new app that will offer complimentary itinerary and activity suggestions. It sounds like a great option for new visitors to the theme parks, and those who are overwhelmed by the planning.
Genie+ and Lightning Lane are new services that are available for an additional fee. For $20 per ticket per day, you can have access to Genie+. It will allow you to use the app to choose a time to visit some of the most popular attractions. You can add it for any number of days, including just a single day.
You can only have one Genie+ reservation per attraction per day. In addition, you’ll have to wait until your reservation is over, or 120 minutes later to make another selection. These selections are made on the day at the parks.
There will also be the option to choose individual attractions to pay a separate fee for. These will be for the most popular rides.
There is always the option to wait in the standby line for any of these attractions. In addition, the virtual queue will also be offered for some attractions. If you are visiting during school holidays, you may find that it’s worth skipping the long lines and purchasing the Genie+ for the number of days you are visiting.
Special Events and Shows
Disneyland does offer some special events and shows, so you’ll want to check the schedule before planning your three-day itinerary. For instance, in September and October, they offer the Oogie Boogie Bash, a separately ticketed event held in the evenings. The park holding the special event will typically close earlier on those days, so it’s important to know.
Staying Near Disneyland
You’ll find lots of different hotel options in the Disneyland area. This includes the three official Disneyland Hotels:
- Disneyland Hotel
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
- Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
You’ll be able to walk from any Disney hotel to the front gates and to Downtown Disney.
In addition, there are Good Neighbor hotels that are located within walking distance of Disneyland. These include family-friendly hotels with pools, suites, water parks, and more.
During my most recent trip to Disneyland, I had the opportunity to stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground. This family-friendly hotel offers newly renovated rooms, a water playground, a gift shop, and a great location.
Beyond the Parks
Depending on where you are visiting from, you may want to stay in Southern California for more than three days. Luckily, there are plenty of other things to do in the area – whether you want to switch hotels or just do day trips.
San Diego is located about an hour and forty-five minutes away and offers so much to do. I’d recommend driving there and staying in San Diego so you can really experience the area, including the waterfront, the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, and LEGOLAND (which is located in Carlsbad). Three to four days is a good amount of time to spend there if combining with Disneyland.
There are other theme parks in the area, including Universal Hollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm. These are easy to visit within one day, so you can stay at the same hotel for your entire trip.
If you just want to stay within Disneyland, don’t miss Downtown Disney. It offers restaurants, entertainment, and more, and you won’t have to pay for admission. It’s similar but smaller than, Disney Springs in Florida.