Mickey is one lucky guy. Created by animator Walt Disney in 1928, this irrepressible mouse caught a ride on a multimedia juggernaut (film, TV, publishing, music, merchandising and theme parks) that rocketed him into a global stratosphere of recognition, money and influence. Plus, he lives in Disneyland, the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ an ‘imagineered’ hyper-reality where the streets are always clean, employees – called ‘cast members’ – are always upbeat and there are parades every day.
Sure, every ride seems to end in a gift store, prices are sky-high and there are grumblings that management could do more about affordable housing and health insurance for employees – but even determined grouches should find reason to grin. For the more than 14 million kids, grandparents, honeymooners and international tourists who visit every year, Disneyland Resort remains a magical experience.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Disneyland Resort.
This land gets kudos for its incredibly detailed design based on the popular Disney Pixar Cars movies. Top billing goes to the wacky Radiator Springs Racers, a race-car ride that bumps and jumps around a track painstakingly decked out like the Great American West.
An iconic Disneyland attraction (for better or for worse), this indoor boat ride takes you past hundreds of audio-animatronic children from different cultures (now joined by Disney characters), all singing 'It's a Small World,' an ear-worm if there ever was one, in an astounding variety of languages. Some visitors find the experience endearing, others find it creepy. And the song may run through your head for the rest of the day...you've been warned.
Disneyland resort's larger but less crowded park, Disney California Adventure celebrates the natural and cultural glories of the Golden State but lacks the density of attractions and depth of imagination. The best rides are Soarin' Over the World, a virtual hang-glide, and the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land.
At the far end of Main Street USA, Sleeping Beauty Castle is an obligatory photo op and most recognizable landmark. Its towering blue turrets, loosely based on Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, are visible from many areas of the park. Inside are exhibits of park history and the Maleficent story.
After checking in at the Grizzly Peak Airfield, fasten your seat belt and take off (as if hang gliding) before a giant, 80ft projection screen that really makes you feel like you're over the Swiss Alps, Egyptian pyramids, Sydney Harbour, Mt Kilimanjaro, and more. Water and air effects enhance the experience. FastPass accepted.
Formerly known as Space Mountain, Tomorrowland ’s signature attraction (and one of the USA’s best roller coasters), has been given a Star Wars– themed makeover and it hurtles you into complete darkness at frightening speed. FastPass available.
Paradise Pier's state-of-the-art roller coaster resembles an old wooden coaster, but it’s got a smooth-as-silk steel track: it feels like you’re being shot out of a cannon as you go through twists, turns and a 360-degree loop. FastPass available.
Star Tours clamps you into a Starspeeder shuttle for a wild and bumpy 3D ride through the desert canyons of Tatooine with C-3PO, on a space mission with several alternate storylines, so you can ride it again and again. FastPass available here.
One of the most popular rides in Paradise Pier. This 4D ride lets you earn points by shooting at targets while your carnival car swivels and careens through an oversize, old-fashioned game arcade. FastPass available.