Leave the parks to the kids? I don’t think so. While Disneyland may be known as a destination for families with young children, it’s also a fantastic spot for an adults only Disney vacation. From world-class dining to wild rollercoasters, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have no shortage of things to see, do, eat, and drink. In this post, we’ll share our top recommendations for adults looking to make the most of their time in and around the California parks.
Whether you’re a child-free adult looking for a little magic, leaving the kids at home for a weekend getaway, or are bringing the family yet want know if you’ll enjoy yourself as an adult in Disney, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll find no mention of strollers or where to find changing stations here – there are plenty of Disney blogs that cover that. But if a relaxing yet riveting park day full of great food, drinks, rides, and entertainment are your style? Keep reading, friends!
WHEN TO VISIT DISNEYLAND AS AN ADULT
The Best Times to Visit Disneyland
Besides MLK Jr. and Presidents Day Weekends, January and February are the least crowded times to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Lower crowds mean smaller wait times and more dining options. Additionally, if you can withstand the heat, weekdays in August also tend to have smaller crowds. Being in southern California though, the heat becomes much more bearable as the sunsets.
If you’re a big fall and halloween fan, visiting during the week from mid-September through mid-October, you’ll be amazed at the decorations, treats, and moderate crowds for the spooky season. If you’re as Christmas obsessed as we are, plan your visit from mid-november though mid-decmeber with the exception of the week of Thanksgiving.
The Worst Times to Visit Disneyland
Avoid holiday weekends if at all possible. Disneyland is such an easy day trip for many locals in the area, and they flock to the parks during national and school holidays. The parks will be extra-crowded during these times, meaning there will be extra-long wait times for entry gates and rides, tougher crowds to walk through, and more competition for seats for dining and transportation.
Always check the park hours in advance to make sure there isn’t a park buy out from a larger company. Park buy outs can meet your park day that the park closes at 4 or 5 p.m. – yet you still pay full price for the ticket!
How Long To Visit Disneyland
While we adore spending time in Disney parks, we know PTO, weekends, and money is always a factor that brings us all back to reality. Truthfully, one day is not enough to see both parks. If that’s all you have while visiting Los Angeles, go for it, and make sure to buy a park hopper so you can visit both parks! You need at least two days to see both parks, but three would be ideal. With three days in the parks, you can take your time and commit a full day to each park, then for the third day, revisit whichever park was your favorite.
NAVIGATING THE LINGO
Lingo? What lingo? Yep – there’s plenty of Disney vocabulary words and phrases you need to know before you go to have the best experience in Disney. You can’t have the best Disney trip if you don’t know the lingo! Since there are too many words and acronyms to know before you go, we’ve created a guide to the most essential acronyms and phrases you need to know before you go to Disney. Read it here!
How to Pack For Your Disney Trip
Heading to the happiest place on earth? Check out our adults-only packing guide!
THE BEST PARTS
- You can’t beat the nostalgia of visiting Walt’s original park. While we love the grandeur of Walt Disney World, Disneyland holds true to so much of it’s original and iconic charm.
- Disney California Adventure is one of the coolest parks for adults. Where Disneyland holds dear to nostalgia and childlike wonder, DCA offers incredibly themed neighborhoods, polished dining options, and some oft the best and fastest rides. We have to admit – DCA is our favorite Disney park.
- Opposed to needing almost a week to cover all of Disney World, Disneyland & DCA are doable in a day or two. The two parks are located directly across from each other so you can easily walk from one to the other instead of needing transit options to take you everywhere.
How Do I Buy Disneyland Park Tickets?
Be sure to book your park tickets in advance either on the Disneyland website or the Disneyland mobile app. Once you book in advance, the tickets should live on your phone in your apple wallet. Once at the park, they’ll give you an old school paper ticket. It’s kind of both ridiculous and adorably retro. If you wait until you’re at the park entrance, you’ll have to wait in a long line to purchase tickets.
As a note, be aware that park tickets are priced on a variable pricing system, increasing and decreasing with the popularity and demand of park visitation. What does that mean? Visiting the parks on a weekday in January will cost much less than visiting on memorial day weekend. Additionally. your average daily ticket price goes down with each additional day you book.
How Much Does Dining, Drinks, and Snacks Cost at Disneyland?
Speaking of churros, though prices change frequently, we recommend budgeting $125 per day per person for food and drinks. Sodas, water, and coffee cost about $4 each; breakfast options will cost about $15; a typical quick-service lunch will cost about $25; a snack ranges between $5-$10; cocktails range between $15-$25; and a table-service dinner costs around $50-60.
Should I Use Cash or Card at Disney?
While you could technically bring cash to Disney, don’t bother with it. Cards are accepted everywhere, and almost every single store, vendor, and restaurant accept Apple Pay. If you have the Disney Visa card, you can often get 10% off your purchases at many locations as well! In turn you can use those visa rewards points to buy more ears, a spirit jersey, or a delicious churro.
Minimalist Disney Touches
Heading to the happiest place on earth? Check out our shopping list of Kait’s favorites understanded Disney accessories from subtle jewelry to alternatives to Mickey ears!
Click the photos above to watch our Disneyland & Disney California Adventure Vlogs!
VIBES & PARKS
Disney California is home to two parks and one entertainment district. Each area offers different attractions, vibes, and reasons to visit.
This original Disney park oozes nostalgia, fantasy, and wonder. Rides, theming, and characters bring classic Disney fairytale and princess movies to life in Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Critter Country, and Mickey’s Toon Town. While we love a few elements of those lands, Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge, Adventureland, Frontierland, and New Orleans Square offer a little more for adults. These tend to have more wild rides and less strollers. If you’re a classic Disney and Star Wars fan, this is the park for you!
DCA brings the best of modern Disney into one park. As Disney’s newest American park, DCA is home to eight lands that highlight some of the Disney’s newest movies. Pixar fans will love wandering and riding through Pixar Pier, Pacific Wharf, and Cars Land. Though Cars is revered as a kids movie, Cars Land has some of the best and coolest theming I’ve seen from Disney and is absolutely the perfect location for a snack, snip, and a stroll during sunset. Grizzly Peak is the northern California themed area which is beautiful and feels like visiting the rest of the state, where as Avengers Campus is an action-packed land full of surprising stunts and thrilling rides for Marvel fans.
While not a park, this area is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment center just outside of the parks. Anyone can visit without a ticket. While recommend you don’t carve out too much time in your itinerary to visit, it is a nice area to pop into for a bit of shopping or a nearly Disney-free dinner if you’ve had too much of the Mouse for one day. If you’ve ever been to Disney World, this area is very similar to what you know as Disney Springs. Personally, we’ve been a few times, and it gets a check in the box.
Shop Our Disneyland Essentials!
WHAT & WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Don’t be surprised that one of the best things about Disney parks is the food. These are no regular theme parks. Though you can of course find corn dogs and chicken strips, you’ll also find Japanese, Italian, and Cajun cuisine. Star Wars fans will geek over drinks at Oga’s Cantina in DL while Marvel fans can experiment with ridiculous food sizes and flavors at Pym Test Kitchen in DCA. If you love a theme and want a brief break from the parks, take the monorail to the Disneyland Hotel to dive into a tropical drink at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. And for those looking for a more elevated dining experience, make reservations for a romantic dinner at Wine Country Trattoria in DCA or Napa Rose at the Disney Grand California Hotel and Spa.
Food To Order:
- DOLE WHIP – No Disney visit is complete without this frozen pineapple treat which can be found at various locations throughout the parks. If you either don’t like pineapple or are allergic like Kait, the orange whip is also delicious!
- BEIGNETS – Hot and sweet donut-like treats served at various places in DL’s New Orleans Square.
- SKEWERS – The most non-theme-park food option possible, these fresh and delicious skewers of meat and veggies served with rice and a tangy slaw can be found at Bengal’s in Adventureland.
- CORN DOG – Though this is a very classic theme park food option, there’s something about these babies that just hits different in Disney. They’re extra long, perfectly breaded, and fried to perfection. Best enjoyed as you sit and watch folks on the Incredicoaster in Pixar Pier.
DRINKS TO ORDER:
- BESPIN FIZZ – Out of this world drink that will make your mouth numb and tingly at Oga’s Cantina in DL.
- MINT JULEP – Non-alcoholic refreshing sweet and minty southern classic that can be ordered at many places in DL’s New Orleans Square.
- GREEN MILK – Andrew’s favorite drink of all time, this “milk” in Galaxy’s Edge in DL is a tropical fruity smoothie.
- UH-OA – Explosive tropical drink you’ll need to order and see to believe at Trader Sam’s at the Disneyland Hotel. Don’t go it alone though, this large-scale drink is recommended for 2+ people.
ATTRACTIONS & RIDES
Don’t worry – we’re not going to list every single ride and attraction in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure! While many rides might be slower and more story-oriented than some adults expect at some theme parks, Disney does offer many thrill rides and attractions that will engage even the most skeptical of adults.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
A rebrand of the former Tower of Terror, this Guardians of the Galaxy themed thrill ride slowly brings you up to the top of a tower and drops you several stories multiple times. (This is Kait’s nightmare but one of Andrew’s favorites.)
This ride is located in DCA.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Truly one of the immersive ride experiences in any theme park, we promise you haven’t witnessed anything quite like this. An astonishing 18-minute experience, this ride immerses you fully in the world of Star Wars like never before. While it’s definitely not a roller coaster, be prepared for a lot of quick turns, bumpy rides, and unforgettable suprises.
This ride is located in DL.
An Incredibles themed classic roller coaster jolts you from 0-55 mph in seconds, and then sends you looping and speeding through the air as you “chase Jack-Jack” until the end. Bonus points for it’s incredible and fun sound track!
This ride is located in DCA.
Radiator Springs Racers
This Cars themed ride is a wonderful mix of thrill and storytelling. It puts you in the driver seat in the Cars world as you get ready for a big race, then really race another car to the finish line! What starts with a cute and casual slow ride ends with an exciting 40 mph car chase around a mountain. Pro-tip on an adults trip – skip the line and make good use of the single rider line!
This ride is located in DCA.
A space themed roller coaster that’s an oldie-but a goodie. If you have a need for speed, this dark ride will make you scream from unexpected twists and turns, then have you coming back for more.
This ride is located in DL.
World of Color – ONE
While not a ride, this is one incredible water show that can’t be missed. Most nights in DCA, Pixar Pier turns off it’s lights and let’s creativity shine in this jaw dropping display of water power and animation. While not every parade is sticking around for as an adult, this night show is certainly worth it. Pro tips – if you want the best view, reserve a spot through Genie+ and get there early. Maybe bring a poncho just in case! We didn’t get soaked, but we did get a little wet!
This show is located in DCA.
Heading to Walt Disney World Instead?
Hollywood Studios and EPCOT are some of the coolest, can’t miss Disney parks for adults! Check out our adults-only guide to Walt Disney World in Florida?
HOW TO GET AROUND DISNEYLAND
Getting there is easy. Either drive then park in one of the nearby garages, walk from a close by hotel, or take an Uber or Lyft to the entry gates. Once you’re in the parks, walk around and explore each land, take a ferry boat, paddle your way around the lake, take the railway from one end of the park to the other, or take the monorail from one park to the next. Thankfully both DL & DCA are within walking distance if you’re park hopping, so all you need to do to change parks is walk across the esplanade to the next park.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR DISNEYLAND
- 4-star original Disney hotel
- Located just a monorail ride or a few minutes walk to the parks. As a bonus, riding the monorail from the hotel let’s you breeze through security and skip the crazy main park entry lines.
- This special property was pushed for and created with the help of Walt Disney himself. Staying here feels like a being a part of a little piece of Disney history. The property is gorgeous, the rooms are plush, and even have a super-secret special surprise when you turn out the lights that practically brought me to tears.
- 4-star convention Marriott property
- Located within a 20 minute walk of the parks
- The rooms offer new tech with smart TVs, no carpet in the rooms, and plenty of natural light. Most of the hotel is very “smart” and can be accessed with your Marriott app which is a big bonus if you tend to forget your room key! On our last stay here, the hotel was full of families, yet we found the rooms to be very quiet and almost soundproof. Stay caffeinated with their in-house Starbucks location.
- 4-star massive Hilton property
- Located within a 20 minute walk of the parks
- The rooms are spacious and comfortable. During our last stay, we loved having the options of the small Starbucks cafe in the lobby before our park day.