What’s Not to Miss at Disneyland?
Before your trip, you should make a rough schedule of your day. This way you’ll be certain to get to all of the rides, shows and attractions that are most important to you. If this is your first time at Disneyland, read Must-Do Disneyland- Perfect Itinerary for First Timers. These ideas will give you the best overview of the two Parks.
What Else is There to Do at Disneyland?
If you have more than one day, you’ll be able to pad out your days with some of these additional Disneyland activities. These are the perfect in-between activities that can really add joy to your Disneyland trip. I’ve included suggestions for both the Disneyland Park as well as Disney’s California Adventure park.
The Often-Overlooked Attractions
- Start off your morning riding one of the Main Street Vehicles down the center of the street. So many people walk right past these! There is a fire engine, a car or the horse-drawn trolley. The drivers are so friendly and often offer vacation tips and Disneyland trivia.
- Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Walk-through is a hidden gem. Everyone rushes across the drawbridge to Fantasyland, forgetting to walk through the Castle itself! There are miniature scenes brought to life with special effects as you walk through the stairways, I love it.
- Ride on the Rivers of America. Both the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia take guests for a gentle spin across the waters.
Play with Your Favorite Characters
- Collecting autographs from characters into an Autograph Book is a great way to pass time. It’s also something that kids who are shy enjoy because it gives them a task during the meet n’ greet.
- If you arrive at the park first thing in the morning there are always lots of characters there for photo ops. You’ll find a variety just inside the gate and then the “Fab 5” meet in the hub of Main Street U.S.A. Some of my favorite photos are of the kids meeting their favorite characters for the first time.
- Mickey’s House is tucked way in the back of the Park, inside Toontown. The walk-through Mickey’s House is so cute and you get to meet your favorite mouse at the end!
- Pixie Hollow is located among the tall “leaves” to the right of the Castle. This is where you can meet Tinkerbell and other fairy characters from the series.
- Meet your favorite Princesses inside the Royal Hall in Fantasy Faire, just to the left of the Castle.
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Places Where Kids Can Play
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is always a hit with the kids! And so many people see the island but don’t realize you can actually go on it! The Island is a wonderful place to burn off mid-day energy. However stay with your kids because if they go into one of the narrow cave tunnels they may come out on the other side of the island without you!
- Climb up high into Tarzan’s Treehouse. Sometimes Jane & Tarzan are at the bottom, greeting guests.
- Donald’s Boat, Chip & Dale’s Treehouse and Goofy’s Playhouse in Toontown are nice places for kids to run around. There’s also plenty of sitting space for grown-ups in the shade!
- My kids always love running around in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail inside Disney’s California Adventure park. Do a little rock climbing, tire swinging and rope bridge walking. Stay with your kids because it’s an easy place to lose them!
Free Fun in the Disneyland Parks
- Walk into the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop and receive a free chocolate sample.
- Across the walkway you’ll receive a free sample of sourdough bread at the Bakery Tour.
- From the moment you walk in the room of the Animation Academy and witness the floor to ceiling movie scenes being shown on the gigantic screens, you will be immersed in all-things animation. Every 30 minutes, guests can take a complimentary drawing class from a Disney artist. You can take home your souvenir drawing.
- Also inside the Animation Academy you can draw a cartoon in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. It’s really a cool lesson to show kids how basic animation works in this oft-missed location. And you can take the scroll of your cartoon home with you.
More Ways to See Disney Art
- Watch some of the original Mickey cartoons inside the Main Street Cinema. It’s standing room only but gives a glimpse back at the beginning era of animation.
- Disney Gallery features original artwork and models that were created as a precursor to many of the attractions in the parks.
- Pose for your own unique silhouette inside the Silhouette Studio on Main Street U.S.A. My parents purchased one of me when I was three years old and it’s one of my most treasured mementos.
- There are often featured artists inside the shop Off the Page (California Adventure) or WonderGround Gallery (Downtown Disney)
Where Magical Transformations Are Made!
- Little princesses can get the head-to-toe treatment inside Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There’s even a package for young knights. You must book an advance reservation for these special packages.
- No appointment necessary to purchase and wear a costume from inside one of the shops, kiosks or Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There are also many lower cost accessories, like crowns, Mouse Ears, hats and hair bows.
- There are face painting locations all over inside the Parks. Check out the themed designs, including this Marvel version found at Hollywood Land inside California Adventure park.
Catch a Show
Check the Disneyland Park app and see if there’s anything happening like these shows during your visit.
- Mary Poppins dances with the band in front of the Castle.
- Enjoy a fairy tale story at the Royal Theater in Fantasy Faire
- Clap along with the Dapper Dans on Main Street.
- Alice and the Mad Hatter conduct a game of musical chairs near the ice cream parlor.
- My stepson participated in a “beauty” contest in front of the Golden Horseshoe.
Why go into a shop and buy just anything? These fun activities encourage shy kids and result in some pretty cool souvenir keepsakes as well!
This is a great activity that also serves as a souvenir. Start off with a Lanyard and a few pins, then start trading with any Cast Member who has pins or with other guests.
Pressed Coin Machines
This is my son’s favorite souvenir (which I love because they are cheap!) I’m not telling him that there are over 150 different commemorative images all over the Resort because I just know he’ll want to collect them all!
Pose for Pictures
- There is always something new coming in the Disneyland Parks. And with great backdrops to pose with, take the opportunity for a great shot! I took this photo of my family in front of the Cars Land signage before it opened.
- There are so many gorgeous details in the buildings and in the designs of the gardens. Capture them on camera.
- Some of the attractions have ride vehicles outside. These are great places to pose for snapshots.
- Take photos with the statues that encircle the Partners statue in front of the Castle. As you can see my son was having a fun time pretending Pinocchio was biting his finger!
Take a Tour
If you have the time in your vacation schedule and want to learn more about the Disneyland Resort, consider signing up for a tour.
- There are guided tours for purchase, like “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Guided Tour. My friend Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth shares her tips on the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour.
- Both the Disneyland Hotel and Disney ‘s Grand Californian Resort offer complimentary tours
Watch the Candy Making
This is seriously one of my favorite things to do inside the Disneyland Parks! There’s always someone making something delicious in the candy shops. See how fudge is poured or how taffy is pulled. View the bakers decorating the treats. And my favorite, you can watch step-by-step how each elaborate candied apple is created.
Look for Hidden Mickeys
There are some wonderful books about finding Hidden Mickeys (try Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Disneyland Resort’s Best Kept Secrets). Or just see for your how many you can spot while walking through the park. My son randomly found this Hidden Mickey in a vent just under the stage inside The Golden Horseshoe!
Plan Visits During Special Events
Disneyland schedules some fantastic special events year-round. The events mentioned here are included in your regular Park ticket. There are often special entertainment option, interesting dining options and bonus Disney fun! And many of the events offer free kid’s activities.
- Three Kings’ Day
- Lunar New Year Celebration (contributing author on Trips With Tykes)
- Food & Wine Festival
- Halloween Time and Dia de los Muertos (there is also a special ticketed event, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party)
- Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
- Disney Festival of Holidays
Outside the Park Entertainment
- There is free live music every day throughout the Downtown Disney District
- You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar. Grab a drink inside or sit on the patio with your cocktails. There is live, acoustic music nightly under the tiki torches. Or just sit and chat around the outdoor fireplace nearby.
- Bowling at Splitsville Anaheim.
Read this post for more ideas on what to do without a Park ticket (many of them free!)
Wander and Explore
- Instead of walking straight across the drawbridge and into Fantasyland through the Castle, try taking the path on the side. This path on the right will take you to Snow White’s Grotto with statues of the characters and her magical wishing well (where donations are given to children’s charities).
- Put your change in the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition and use an infrared rifle to shoot at the interactive targets. My dad always made it a point to spend a few quarters here on every trip!
- Look at the character “turning” the popcorn maker on each cart. Every Land has a different one!
- Walk by Rancho Del Zocalo’s restaurant at night and admire the gorgeous hanging glass lamps.
- Jump on the dance floor in Tomorrowland when the live bands play at night (I have so many fun memories of my eldest son at 4 years old, doing “the robot”).
- Find the “secret” entrance to Club 33 in New Orleans Square.
- Touch the apple in front of the Snow White ride and hear the witch cackle. You can also see the evil Queen peek out and close the curtains above the ride from one of the windows.
- Try to pull the “sword from the stone” in front of the carrousel.
Sit Down and People-Watch!
There are so many great people-watching locations throughout the park. Sit on a bench or in the ice cream parlor along Main Street and watch the families rush by. Aladdin’s Oasis (a patio area in between the Tiki Room & the Jungle Cruise) is where we’ve stopped to eat a snack in the shade. Sit in the shade of trees in front of the New Orleans train station or sip a mint julep in New Orlean’s Square. I have more quiet restful spots in my post about avoiding the Disneyland meltdown.
There are a wild amount of little details that set Disneyland apart from all other amusement parks. It’s what makes Disneyland so special to so many people around the world!
What Are the Things to Do in Anaheim (Other Than Disneyland)?
Looking for what to do near Disneyland? For other ideas of things to do in the Anaheim, Orange County and Buena Park area near Disneyland, see my post with ideas for Southern California. So many Lots of fun vacation planning tips for families!