Disneyland Day 1 – Arrival, Check-In, Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and New Orleans Square

If you’re coming down to Disneyland by plane, you’ll want to get up nice and early to make sure your flight goes smoothly. My husband Andrew and I got up at about 7:30 on Wednesday morning for our 11:10 flight to Los Angeles, California (LAX). We arrived at the airport a little after 9:00 AM. When you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to go through customs after you check in your bags and get your boarding pass, but the American side of the airport is self-contained and has its own screening area, so it moves fairly quickly.

There were loads of kids and parents on the plane with us to LAX, most of whom were coming to Disneyland as well! The atmosphere was very positive the whole way and as we flew Air Canada, there were loads of entertainment options on the seat-back TVs to keep everyone happy and occupied during the 3-hour flight from YYC to LAX.

When we arrived at LAX, it was very easy and straightforward to get our luggage. Every hour on the hour, a huge coach bus called the Disneyland Express arrives outside the baggage area. It’s very easy to spot as it’s covered in fun Disney characters, and you’ll notice the lineup to get on right away! It stops at all the hotels in Disneyland if you are staying on or near the park. It takes anywhere between 1-2 hours to get to the park from Los Angeles, depending on the traffic, so make sure to stop at the bathroom in the airport!

Check-in was quick and seamless. One of the first things you’ll notice upon entering your hotel is that the staff is unbelievably friendly and accommodating – it’s all a part of the Disney magic. Everything from your taps to your bed linens are themed, but I found the decor at the Disneyland Hotel to be very modern and understated, which made it easy to relax and get comfortable in the room. There’s free WiFi, basic cable and loads of interesting information about the park in every room. If you have little ones, you’ll love the Disney-only channels on the TV – there’s a princess bedtime story channel, music channels which sync to the fireworks and World of Color shows every night (if you can see them from your window,) and a couple of information channels which should help you with planning your day.

There are three hub areas at what you and I would think of as Disneyland – Downtown Disney, Disneyland Park, and Disneyland California Adventure.

Downtown Disney lies outside of the parks, and therefore you don’t have to pay any kind of fee to hang out there. It’s primarily retail and restaurants, but there are some very cool shopping options besides the many Disney-branded stores that line the street, including Sephora and Fossil. There’s also an Alamo Rent-a-Car in case you would like to leave the park at any time to explore. Don’t miss World of Disney, an absolutely massive Disney store full to the brim with an incredible assortment of toys, clothing and keepsakes.

Disney California Adventure is a fairly new park which had a massive relaunch last year. It is now home to Cars Land, A Bug’s Land, and Hollywood Land, and has more of a Pixar flavour to it than Disneyland Park does. Because Cars Land is very new, it is almost always packed – consider coming later in the evening to check out the rides.

Disneyland Park is really the first thing that pops into your head when you think about the resort. It features the Sleeping Beauty castle and many of the more iconic rides, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Indiana Jones Adventure, It’s a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Mad Tea Party teacup ride, and many more.

Disneyland Park is divided into sections based on theme. We visited these last night:

  • Main Street USA, the 1900s-themed entrance to the park;
  • Fantasyland, which features many of the more child-friendly, classic rides and is themed as a fairytale kingdom;
  • Tomorrowland, which has interactive and “futuristic” rides like Star Tours (a Star Wars ride) and Space Mountain and has a sci-fi flavour;
  • Adventureland, which has the Jungle Cruise and Indiana Jones Adventure and is themed to feel “exotic” and jungle-like;
  • New Orleans Square, which features attractions, restaurants and retail, as well as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.

My husband likes rides a lot more than I do, but we found all of these rides to be really good fun for both of us. The Jungle Cruise (dressed up for the holidays as the Jingle Cruise) is a good introduction to the park and is a boat ride with a skipper who cracks cheesy jokes throughout, even if it shows its age with the animatronic African tribesmen that you see along the way. The Indiana Jones Adventure was incredibly fun and beautifully themed with every possible iconic image from the original trilogy, from the beginning of the line to get in until you leave. It’s very bouncy and fun, so I would recommend slightly older riders for this one – ask the Cast Member in charge of the ride for guidance. The Pirates of the Caribbean was beyond my wildest expectations and is mostly about the absolutely gob-smacking visual experience; it’s a very gentle ride, but has lots of skeletons and other scary images which might not be suitable for very young riders.

I want to stress here that even if you have a very young child, there is more than enough to keep them entertained even without rides. Every foot of the park is beautiful; everything is themed and detailed to look absolutely magical. Disney characters roam the park to give hugs and high-fives, and the themed streets are enough to keep everyone absolutely enchanted. If you haven’t been to Disneyland Park before, it is hard to describe the atmosphere and level of detail that exists here – you simply have to come see it for yourself!