48 Hours At The Disneyland Resort

Above: The bronze "Partners" statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse near the entrance of the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland

It’s one of the most visited theme parks in the world and navigating through the 500 acre property in Anaheim, California on a tight timeline can be a challenge… but, not impossible. Here are a few suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, where to shop, what to ride and what to experience when you’ve only booked 48 hours at the happiest place on earth.

Where to stay

With no time to spare, staying on-site at one of the Disney-owned hotels, Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is the ideal solution. Not only will you be fully immersed in the magical Disney environment (guests staying at the newly renovated Disneyland Hotel are in for a delightful surprise when they turn on the fairytale-inspired headboards in their room, which light up and gently play “A dream is a wish your heart makes”), you can enjoy early admission to the parks, which are just footsteps from your room. Not ready to stay on-site? Don’t worry there’s a selection of highly-rated Anaheim hotelslocated across from the parks, about two blocks from the gate.

Where to eat

Most visitors opt to stay at the Disneyland Resort all day and into the night, especially when they only have a short amount of time to take it all in. The good news is getting fueled up is easy with a seemingly never-ending range of walk-up stands and full-service, sit down restaurants.

For the ultimate morning experience join Chip ‘n Dale for breakfast at the Storytellers Café (located one the first floor of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) and indulge on a made-to-order omelet and Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles. Feeling anxious to get your Disney day started? Grab a cup of coffee at The Market House on Main Street USA and pick up a healthy snack (anything from pineapple spears to craisins trail mix) from one of the fruit carts while you navigate through the park. Need a little more to eat? Keep things quick and stop by one of the numerous walk-up, counter-service spots throughout the park, like Bengal Barbecue (across from the Indiana Jones ride), Royal Street Veranda (New Orleans Square), Stage Door Cafe (near the riverboat boarding area) or Tomorrowland Terrace.

Ready for a relaxing sit down meal? Disneyland Park’s Blue Bayou restaurant (inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction) is one of the most popular spots in the entire park, just remember to make a reservation and request a table by the water’s edge. For a high-end dining experience, try the award-winning Napa Rose (on the first floor of the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) for a selection of wines and contemporary California cuisine, or try the Old Hollywood-inspired Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney California Adventure Park (located on the second floor of the iconic reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theatre) for bold flavours from Southern California.

Where to shop

Disney (of course) makes it easy to bring the magic of your vacation home with you and prices are more reasonable than you would imagine. Pick up over-sized Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse plush toys at one of the largest Disney stores in the world. Of course, Disneyland’s most popular (and largest) shopping area is Downtown Disney, where shoppers can find virtually anything Disney related. The walking promenade lies between the Disneyland Resorts two theme parks and its hotels and is free for anyone to wander. Picked up enough Mickey merchandise? Don’t worry… Downtown Disney also features a variety of boutiques like Sephora, Lego, Fossil, House of Blues, and the streets are filled with lively street performers.

What to ride

The most important tip if you are doing Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park under time constraints: get a Disney Fastpass. There’s no need to waste all of your time standing in line. Swing by the attractions on your must-experience list and grab a free Fastpass, which allows you return at an assigned time for a minimal wait.

Recommend rides? In Disneyland Park embark on a fast-paced thrill ride through the legendary Temple of the Forbidden Eye on the Indiana Jones Adventure, board a Starspeeder1000 and travel to intergalactic destinations with C-3PO on Star Tours, enjoy a lazy boat ride through pillaged villages and pirate ships on the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride and make sure you leave enough time to take a supernatural tour through the legendary Haunted Mansion. Ready for more? Head over to Disney California Adventure Park and race away at the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land, scream on the surprisingly smooth looping steel coaster California Screamin’ and when you’re ready for a thrill try the Twilight Zone-inspired Tower Of Terror – a bone-jarring 10-story plunge —that will have you laughing and screaming simultaneously. [Editor’s recommendation: Amp up the fun on Tower Of Terror and save this experience for the evening.]

What to experience

Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are more than exhilarating rides. Disneyland Park hosts parades throughout the day and check out (if time permits) one of Disneyland’s guided tours to learn about the park’s incredible history. [Editor’s recommendation: The “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” guided tour offers guests a little insight on how Walt wove his personal history into the park and even offers an exclusive look in his original apartment, which is perched above the park’s firehouse in Main Street, USA.] Be sure to stick around and experience one of Disney’s extravagant evening shows. (Check the park schedule to see which evening show is happening during your visit). Grab a spot on Main Street in Disneyland Park to watch Disney’s spectacular fireworks burst through the sky high above Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Other nights stick around for the kaleidoscopic “World of Color” show at Disney California Adventure Park. The choreographed extravaganza of light, water and projections is set to every favourite Disney tune and is guaranteed to be one of the most incredible things you’ve ever seen.

Tags: Disney, Disneyland, Travel Guide

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