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    Disneyland Overview

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Disneyland Park is the only park that Walt Disney saw completed in his lifetime. Much more than the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Park embodies the quiet, charming spirit of nostalgia that so characterized Walt himself. the park is vast yet intimate, steeped in the tradition of its creator yet continually changing.

Disneyland was opened in 1955 on a 107-acre tract surrounded almost exclusively by orange groves, just west of the sleepy and little-known Southern California community of Anaheim. Constrained by finances and ultimately enveloped by the city it helped create, Disneyland operated on that same modest parcel of land until 2001.

Disneyland Park is a collection of adventures, rides, and shows symbolized by the Disney characters and Sleeping Beauty Castle. It's divided into nine subareas, or "lands," arranged around a central hub. First encountered is Main Street, U.S.A., which connects the Disneyland entrance with the central hub. Moving clockwise around the hub, the other lands are Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Three major lands, Critter Country, New Orleans Square, and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, are accessible via Adventureland and Frontierland but do not connect directly with the central hub. Another land, Mickey's Toontown, connects to Fantasyland. All nine lands will be described in detail later.

Growth and change at Disneyland (until 1996) had been internal, in marked contrast to the ever-enlarging development of Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida. Until recently, when something new was added at Disneyland, something old had to go. the Disney engineers, to their credit, however, have never been shy about disturbing the status quo. Patrons of the park's earlier, modest years are amazed by the transformation. gone are the days of the "magical little park" with the Monsanto House of the Future, flying saucers-style bumper cars, donkey riders, and Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Substituted in a process of continuous evolution and modernization are state-of-the-art fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation attractions and entertainment. To paraphrase Walt Disney, Disneyland will never stop changing as long as there are new ideas to explore.

Disneyland Park was arguably Walt Disney's riskiest venture. It was developed on a shoestring budget and made possible only through Disney's relationship with ABC television and a handful of brave corporate sponsors. the capital available was barely sufficient to acquire the property and build the park; nothing was leftover for the development of hotels or the acquisition and improvement of property adjoining the park. Even the Disneyland Hotel, connected to the theme park by monorail, was owned and operated by a third party until 1989.

Disneyland's success spawned a wave of development that rapidly surrounded the theme park with whimsically themed mom-and-pop motels, souvenir stands, and fast-food restaurants. Disney, still deep in debt, looked on in abject shock, powerless to intervene. In fact, the Disneyland experience was etched so deeply into the Disney corporate consciousness that Walt purchased 27,500 acres and established his own autonomous development district in Florida (unaccountable to any local or county authority) when he was ready to launch Walt Disney World.

Though the Florida project gave Disney the opportunity to develop a destination resort in a totally controlled environment, the steady decline of the area encircling Disneyland continued to rankle Walt. After tolerating the blight for 30 years, the Walt Disney Company (finally flush with funds and ready for a good fight) set about putting Disneyland Park right. quietly at first, then aggressively, Disney began buying up the mom-and-pop motels, as well as the few remaining orange and vegetable groves near the park.

In June 1993 the City of Anaheim adopted a Disney plan that called for the development of a new Disney destination resort, including a second theme park situated in what was once the Disneyland parking lot; a Disney-owned hotel district with 4,600 hotel rooms; two new parking facilities; and improvements, including extensive landscaping of the streets that provide access to the complex. City of Anaheim, Orange County, and State of California infrastructure changes required to support the expanded Disney presence included widening I-5, building new interchanges, moving a major power line, adding new sewer systems, and expanding utilities capacity.

By the end of 2000, all of the changes, modifications, and additions were finished, and Disneyland began the new century as a complete multitheme park resort destination. The second and newest park, Disney California Adventure (or DCA to the initiated), celebrated its grand opening on February 8, 2001.

The entrances to Disneyland Park and DCA face each other across a palm-studded pedestrian plaza called the Esplanade, which begins at Harbor Boulevard and runs west, between the parks, passing into Downtown Disney, a dining, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife venue. From Downtown Disney, the Esplanade continues via an overpass across Downtown Drive and past the monorail station to the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel.

Sandwiched between the Esplanade and Downtown Disney on the north and DCA on the south is the 948-room Grand Californian Hotel and the 50-unit Grand Californian Villas. Designed in the image of rustic national-park lodges, the Grand Californian supplants the Disneyland Hotel as Disneyland's prestigious lodging property.

North of the hotels and across West Street from Disneyland Park are two huge multistory parking garages that can be accessed directly from I-5. This is where most Disneyland guests park. Tram transport is provided from the garage, the adjacent oversize-vehicle lot, and from outlying lots to the Esplanade. Kennels are located to the right of Disneyland's main entrance. Ticket booths are situated along the Esplanade.

In 2019 Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened, which is the largest single expansion in Disneyland park's history. In the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction, not only can you walk around the inside of one of the most famous vehicles in movie history, but you can also pilot it. Rise of the Resistance finds riders exploring a Resistance base, getting taken prisoner by the First Order, and then escaping on an escape pod, all in the same ride experience. Besides the rides, Galaxy's Edge is an attraction itself thanks to it being the most largest and detailed lands in any Disney theme park.

In 2023 Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway opened along with a newly reimagined Mickey's Toontown. Runaway Railway is a next generation Disney dark ride that uses trackless ride vehicle technology. The ride takes riders inside the world of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. In each scene, Disney uses a mix of traditional, three-dimensional painted sets and the latest in video projection technology to show movement and special effects. It’s all done very well, and there are so many things to see on either side of the ride that it’s impossible to catch everything in one or two rides.

Arriving and Getting Oriented

If you drive, you will probably be directed to the massive Mickey and Friends or Pixar Pals parking garage on West Street near Ball Road. Parking costs $30 for cars. Be sure to make a note of your section, row, and space. A tram will transport you to a loading/unloading area connected to the entrance by a pedestrian corridor. There's also the Toy Story parking lot on Harbor Boulevard south of Katella Avenue, which offers shuttle service to the east side of the resort entrance esplanade. Most pedestrians enter the resort from Harbor Boulevard to the east, passing though the bus drop-off area on their way to the ticket booths; on-site hotel guests approach from the west through Downtown Disney.

Because security screening is conducted just before passing through the turnstiles, the lines to enter the park are often quite lengthy. Two entrance gates, 14 and 19, are blocked by trees situated in the entrance plaza about 10 feet from the security checkpoint. The trees sometimes inhibit the formation of a line in front of both of the obstructed gates. These gates (14 and 19) are staffed nonetheless and draw guests from adjacent lines 13 or 15 and 18 or 20. When this happens, it significantly speeds up the entry process for guests waiting in lines 13 and 20. Our advice on arriving, therefore, is to inspect the lines leading to gates 14 and 19 and join whichever looks to be shortest. Later in the day, the outside gates (1 and 32) tend to be fastest for re-entry. Stroller and wheelchair rentals are available in the Main Entrance Plaza between Disneyland and DCA. As you enter Main Street, City Hall is to your left, serving as the center for general information, lost and found, and entertainment information.

To combat rampant resales of unexpired tickets, Disneyland Resort has implemented a policy of photographing all multiday pass holders upon their first park entry. Have your ticket ready for scanning by a cast member just before you enter the turnstiles; if your mug isn’t yet in Mickey’s mainframe, you’ll be asked to pose before proceeding. These added steps significantly slow the line at the start of the day, and there’s no express lane for single-day guests or Annual Pass holders. As long as this inefficient plan is imposed, we suggest that you arrive 5–10 minutes earlier than you otherwise would have, and bring extra patience.

Be sure to pick up a park map as you pass through the turnstiles. Maps are also available in the passages connecting the park entrance to Main Street, U.S.A.; at City Hall; and at a number of shops throughout the park. Also, pick up a Times Guide. This pamphlet contains the daily entertainment schedule for live shows, parades, fireworks, and other events and tells you where you can find the characters. If a Times Guide is not available for the day you visit (a very rare occurrence), the daily entertainment schedule will be included in the park map. The park map lists all the attractions, shops, and eateries and provides helpful information about first aid, baby care, assistance for the disabled, and more.

Notice on your map that Main Street ends at a central hub from which branch the entrances to four other sections of Disneyland: Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Three other lands, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, can be reached through Adventureland and Frontierland. Mickey's Toontown is located on the far side of the railroad tracks from It's a Small World in Fantasyland. Sleeping Beauty Castle, the entrance to Fantasyland, is a focal landmark and the visual center of the park. The castle is a great place to meet if your group decides to split up for any reason during the day, and it can serve as an emergency meeting place if you are accidentally separated. Keep in mind, however, that the castle covers a lot of territory, so be specific about where to meet at the castle. Also be forewarned that parades and live shows sometimes make it difficult to access the entrance of the castle fronting the central hub. Another good meeting spot is the Partners statue of Mickey and Walt in the central hub.

Starting the Tour

Everyone will soon find his or her own favorite and not-so-favorite attractions in Disneyland Park. Be open-minded and adventuresome. Don't dismiss a particular ride or show as not being for you until after you have tried it. Our personal experience as well as our research indicates that each visitor is different in terms of which Disney offerings they'll most enjoy. So don't miss seeing an attraction because a friend from home didn't like it; that attraction may turn out to be your favorite.

We do recommend that you take advantage of what Disney does best: the fantasy adventures such as Indiana Jones Adventure and The Haunted Mansion, and the audio-animatronic (talking robots, that is) attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Unless you have almost unlimited time, don't burn a lot of daylight browsing through the shops. Except for some special Disney souvenirs, you can find much of the same merchandise elsewhere. Try to minimize the time you spend on midway-type rides, as you probably have an amusement park, carnival, or state fair close to your hometown. Don't, however, mistake rides such as Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for amusement-park rides. They may be of the flume-ride or the roller-coaster genre, but they represent pure Disney genius.

Similarly, do not devote a lot of time to waiting in line for meals. Eat a good early breakfast before you come, snack on vendor-sold foods during the touring day, or follow the suggestions for meals incorporated into the various touring plans presented.

Single-Rider Lines

You can often save time waiting in line by taking advantage of single-rider lines, a separate line for people who are alone or don’t mind riding alone or with a stranger. The objective of single-rider lines is to fill odd spaces left by groups who don’t quite fill the entire ride vehicle. Because there aren’t many singles and most groups aren’t willing to split up, single-rider lines are usually much shorter than the regular line. In Disneyland Park, Indiana Jones Adventure, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Splash Mountain have single-rider lines. Ask an attraction employee how to enter the single-rider queue; you’ll usually be given a paper pass and directed up the exit."

Last updated on May 3, 2023