This post is a guide for planning your 2015 visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Here we cover tips and tricks for experiencing Cars Land and Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, making 2015 a great time to visit Disneyland. We first posted this guide a few years ago when Disney California Adventure had its big reboot, and have updated it multiple times per year since. We have received messages from a lot of people who had great trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon numerous visits to Disneyland through May 2015, including several since the launch of the 60th Anniversary festivities, which are reflected in our Ultimate Guide to the Disneyland 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. We will continue to update this post on a regular basis as we visit Disneyland on a weekly basis in Summer 2015.
Disneyland Resort has been on a roll as of late, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more. 2015 is Disneyland Resort’s “Diamond Anniversary”, which is now underway! You can read more about it in our Ultimate Guide (link above), but it includes the new Disney Paint the Night parade, Disneyland Forever fireworks, World of Color: Celebrate, Hatbox Ghost in the Haunted Mansion, Re-Imagined Matterhorn, Re-Imagined Peter Pan’s Flight, and more!
We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland, as the 60th Anniversary sounds like it’s going to be awesome. Honestly, there hasn’t been a year recently when we haven’t recommended a Disneyland Resort visit. The place is firing on all cylinders. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2016, 2017 and…you get the idea.
It may seem silly to point this out, but this planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
This guide contains all the resources you’ll need to plan your Disneyland Resort trip, including when to visit, where to stay, what to do, and much more…
If the above didn’t convince you, and you are trying to decide whether you should visit Disneyland in 2015, read the section below titled “Why you should visit Disneyland in 2015.” If you’ve already made up your mind, here are our Top 10 posts you should read when planning a Disneyland vacation. Think of them as like the 10 steps to follow to plan your Disneyland trip.
Each link will open in a new tab, so feel free to click away and go down the rabbit hole of Disneyland trip planning!
1. Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets – Our recommendations on what type of Disneyland tickets you should buy, including how many days, whether you should get Park Hopper, and where you can buy Disneyland tickets to save some money!
2. Disneyland Restaurant Reviews – The stereotype that all Disney food is unhealthy food like burgers and hot dogs is entirely false. Disneyland has inexpensive unique dining options as well as expensive fine dining. Good dining can help define a trip! Read about which restaurants are best in our dining reviews.
3. Disneyland Discount Guide – There are a variety of ways you can save money on a trip to Disneyland. From vacation packages to Costco discounts to off-season percentage off discounts to even discounts for military personnel, this page covers every way you might be able to save money on a trip to Disneyland!
4. What Time of Year to Visit to Avoid Crowds – The single most important part of planning a trip to Disneyland is determining when to visit to avoid crowds. Disneyland is busiest when school is out of session, so those are the biggest times to avoid. Learn what times to visit in this post!
5. Rankings & Reviews of the Best & Worst Hotels Near Disneyland – Depending upon where you stay, your hotel room could be the costliest aspect of your trip. This post ranks 25+ hotels near Disneyland at which we have stayed, along with room photos, pros & cons, and other useful information. In our Where to Stay at Disneyland: Off-Site v. On-Site post, we also cover why “on-site” hotels are not as important at Disneyland as they are at Walt Disney World, and how to score a close hotel for $50/night!
6. Disneyland Ride Guide – Disneyland has a ton of attractions, and a lot of visitors only have a day or two to spend at Disneyland. The article reviews every attraction at Disneyland, giving each a numerical score out of 10, plus highlights key attractions that we consider the best ones, which should be prioritized if you have limited time at Disneyland.
7. Disney California Adventure Ride Guide – Disney California Adventure had its Grand Reopening a couple of years ago, and a lot changed since then. Read our reviews of every attraction in DCA, along with numerical scores for each, and a list of the “must do” attractions you should prioritize. Cars Land is the obvious top priority, and if you want to get the most mileage out of it, check out our Cars Land Tips & Tricks post, too.
8. Disneyland Transportation – Should you fly or drive to Disneyland? Rent a car or rely on your feet for getting around Disneyland? We answer these questions and provide advice for saving money on transportation to (and around) Disneyland Resort!
9. Disneyland 1-Day Recommended Itinerary – Only have one day to visit Disneyland? This is a step-by-step plan of attack for which attractions you should do, where you should eat, what to see, and more. Likewise, we also have a Disney California Adventure 1-Day Itinerary if you’re trying to do that park in a single day.
10. What to Pack – Packing for Disneyland is comparable to packing for any vacation, but with a few twists. Here’s our list of “unordinary” items to pack that will help enhance your Disneyland trip!
Although this one isn’t necessary for planning a trip to Disneyland, we highly recommend you read our 101 Great Disneyland Tips post. A lot of these are more obscure and great little things that will help you visit the parks like a local. This is more granular advice than what you’ll find in our other planning articles, but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers who really got a lot more out of their trips because of those tips.
What else might you want to know? Well, there are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland, but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.
Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for additional information on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For tips applicable to trips anytime of year, consult the trip planning resources below.
Since we receive a lot of questions about Disney photography (all of the photos on this page and every other page on this site were taken by me), you might also want to check out our Disney Photography Guide for tips on taking better photos in the parks, and cameras and equipment recommendations!
That should about cover what you need to know if you’re thinking about visiting Disneyland Resort this year. We can’t encourage people enough to give Disneyland a try, especially Disney fans who are biased towards Walt Disney World as their “home” park. Disneyland is a totally different, much more relaxed experience. It’s intimate in both size and feel, and is oozing with history and incredible attractions.
If you want more convincing as to why you should visit Disneyland, keep reading…
In my experience, a lot of Walt Disney World fans never visit Disneyland Resort, basically, because it’s smaller than Walt Disney World, not as isolated from the real world, and because it costs more to visit Disneyland. Likewise, a lot of non-fans who are considering a Disney trip as a once-in-a-lifetime, rite of passage trip for their kids default to Walt Disney World. This is understandable, but there is a case to be made for Disneyland, too. For those casual, once in a lifetime visitors, we have a Walt Disney World v. Disneyland Resort post that should be helpful for determining which coast might be better for you. I would strongly suggest reading that before deciding one way or the other, as there are pros and cons for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
If you’re in the former category, a fervent Walt Disney World fan who considers a Disneyland trip tantamount to treason, what follows is for you. Believe me, I know how defensive Walt Disney World fans can be, and how much they can hate Disneyland, seemingly without reason. Once upon a time, I was one of those defensive Walt Disney World fans. These fans retort “where’s your Westcot?!” when someone touts the number and quality of attractions in Disneyland. They point at the cheap hotels of Harbor Boulevard contaminating the “bubble” of Magic when someone points out the “blessing of size” of the smaller resort. You get the idea.
After visiting Disneyland Resort dozens of times in the past several years and truly falling in love with the original Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, I feel I can say with some authority that these Walt Disney World fans just “don’t get it.” Bluntly, if this describes you, it’s not Disneyland that’s the problem–it’s you.
Yes, Disneyland does have two parks to Walt Disney World’s four. No, Disneyland doesn’t have any water parks. Yes, it only has three resort-hotels. Yeah, the real world does sort of encroach-upon Disneyland. These seem to be some pretty serious blows to Disneyland being a viable tourist destination. Despite all this, Disneyland is still amazing–a must visit place.
Why? First, the big reason: Disneyland is the original Magic Kingdom. It’s the only park Walt Disney personally walked, and its history and historic detail is amazing. Anyone who fancies themselves a Disney history buff but has no desire to visit Disneyland doesn’t really care that much about Disney history. The places literally oozes history. (Seriously, it’s this green stuff that rises out of the ground in New Orleans Square. Don’t tell Cal-OSHA!) Even if you don’t care about history, there’s a certain intimacy and charm to the place that no other Disney theme park in the world captures. It’s not that the park is stuck in 1950 (not even remotely so), but it does have a certain quaintness about it that makes it really feel inviting.
On the topic of attractions, don’t worry, because there’s a ton of them (I feel like Stacey in the “Must Do Disney” video). Disneyland (the park) has a staggering attraction line-up, with almost every version of attractions that are offered in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland being substantially better in Disneyland. Pirates of the Caribbean is longer. It’s a small world has a beautiful outdoor facade and includes subtle and well done (that’s right!) Disney characters. Indiana Jones Adventure puts the Animal Kingdom attraction with the same bloodlines to shame. The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is far superior to the Epcot Finding Nemo attraction. Fantasyland has several cute dark rides that are either gone from Walt Disney World (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) or never existed there in the first place (Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Casey Jr., etc.). These are just some examples; the full list goes on and on.
This brings us to 2015. While Disneyland (park) has boasted a superior attraction lineup than the Magic Kingdom for a long time, Disneyland Resort began to shine as a bona fide tourist destination more recently when the billion dollar plus make-over of Disney California Adventure was completed, with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street both opening. You can read our full review of Disney California Adventure 2.0 here, but suffice to say, it is now an amazing theme park, and one of the best US Disney theme parks.
Following the Cars Land addition, Disneyland debuted Mickey and the Magical Map, an excellent stage show in Fantasyland. Other more recent additions have included World of Color – Winter Dreams and Viva Navidad for the Christmas season in Disney California Adventure. As mentioned above, 2015 is Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, and a lot is planned for this year. The future into 2016 and beyond also holds a lot of promise, with rumors swirling that Star Wars Land, among other things, is on the way.
Because of the large and vocal Annual Passholder fan-base in California, and probably because of Disneyland Resort’s proximity to The Walt Disney Company’s corporate offices in Burbank, the California parks receive a lot of little additions each year plus more attention to detail that together make a big difference. Most people look at the differences between Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort on paper, and see the 4 parks of Walt Disney World versus the 2 of Disneyland Resort, and stop there. Game-over, Walt Disney World wins. However, this isn’t really an apt comparison; Disneyland has a greater attraction-density and brings its own special qualities to the table.
In all honesty, comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World isn’t that easy. It’s like comparing two of your children. Yeah, in the back of your mind, you secretly prefer one over the other (kidding, parents), but it’s a tough comparison because both have endearing qualities. Saying Walt Disney World is better than Disneyland due to the number of parks each has is about as arbitrary as saying your taller child is better than the shorter one. It reduces the comparison to simple terms that overlooks so much. It’s probably a comparison you shouldn’t even make since both resorts are so different. You simply need to experience both.
I could go on for pages and pages about why Disney fans owe it to themselves to visit Disneyland in 2015, but hopefully this is compelling-enough to convince you Walt Disney World diehards to make the plunge and head to California. Like we said above, check out our “Walt Disney World v. Disneyland” post for more info, as well as how much time to spend at Disneyland, and other pros and cons of visiting. If you’ve never been to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, it’s a good place to start as we attempt to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each in an unbiased manner.
If you want to start planning, make sure to read the articles in the links above to help you plan an incredible Disneyland Resort vacation.
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Are you planning a Disneyland visit sometime in 2015? Have you already visited Disneyland? What did you think? Have any tips of your own to add? Share your thoughts and any questions you have in the comments!