Okay, so you’ve ridden everything from Pinocchio to Pirates of the Caribbean and eaten everything from cotton candy to corn dogs.
There are about a million other things to do at Disneyland besides rides and fair food. In addition to the basic stuff that is considered an “attraction” on the park map like parades, shows, fireworks, character meet & greets there are also so many other little things that make Disneyland a great place to spend your day.
- Start off your morning riding one of the Main Street Vehicles down the center of the street. There is a fire engine, a car or the horse-drawn trolley. The drivers are always helpful and friendly with tips and Disneyland trivia.
- Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is always a hit. 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!
- Sleeping Beauty’s Castle Walkthrough is sort of 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.
- Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia take you on a gentle spin around the Rivers of America.
- Captain EO starring Michael Jackson is an 80’s classic. Worth a giggle for those that remember seeing it the first time around! There are rumors about shuttering this again, so see it while you can.
- Disney Gallery features original artwork and models that were created as a precursor to many of the attractions in the parks.
- Mickey’s House & Minnie’s House are both fun walk-throughs and you get to meet your favorite mice! Donald’s Boat, Chip & Dale’s Treehouse and Goofy’s Playhouse are nice places for kids to run around (and plenty of sitting space for grown-ups in the shade!).
- Innoventions is one of my boys favorite spots because it’s full of science-type, futuristic stuff, super heroes and video games. I like it because it’s air conditioned (though highly lacking in places to sit). The home gadgets of the future are interesting and this was the first place, years ago, where I saw and played with a touch screen. Last visit we spent time in one of the rooms where a Cast Member told an interactive story of Peter Pan, complete with cannonball fire so that was really fun!
- Enchanted Tiki Room is one of my favorite places. Don’t be shy…sing and whistle along with the songs. I promise you won’t be the only one! You can also eat inside, so be sure to grab a Dole Whip at the juice bar first!
- Pixie Hollow is where you can meet Tinkerbell and other fairy characters from the series. We have not explored the new Fantasy Faire area yet but you can meet your favorite Princesses there.
- 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!
- The farm animal petting area at Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland is usually a quiet retreat. One year they hosted the turkeys that the President pardoned for Thanksgiving the prior year, but not sure if they still do that.
- Wander into the farthest back section if it’s open. There is a large stage and seating area. On our last visit there were four characters greeting guests and only a few people back there so my toddler spent 10 minutes alone playing with Minnie Mouse!
Attractions-Disneyland’s California Adventure
- Take a tour through the Boudin Bakery and get a yummy sample at the end. We watched them make huge Mickey-shaped loaves of sourdough last time! And afterwards you can pick up a sandwich or soup bowl at the Pacific Wharf Café.
- From the moment you walk in the room of the Animation Studio and witness the floor to ceiling movie scenes being shown on the gigantic screens, you will be immersed in all-things animation. Watch the Zoetrope (over & over & over!) in the Character Close-up area, visit with Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo in an interactive show, take a drawing class from a Disney animator and draw a cartoon in the Sorcerer’s Workshop. Walk through the Beast’s library or karaoke with Ursula the Sea Witch. This is a great (air-conditioned) place to spend a hot afternoon.
- My kids always love running around in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Do a little rock climbing, tire swinging and rope bridge walking. Stay with your kids because it’s an easy place to lose them!
- The Jedi Training Academy Star Wars show in Tomorrowland is always great fun and even if your children aren’t chosen to participate, everyone still enjoys watching. My kids have been chosen and battled with Darth Vadar & Darth Maul! After their “training session” the kids received a certificate.
- Fantasmic is an amazing, bright, colorful (and loud!) show on the water. Get there early and find a place along the rail (you’d be surprised, some people camp out there very early to get a good viewing spot!).
- The Golden Horseshoe is my favorite lunch spot because you can sit inside the air-conditioning, eat a nice meal and watch a show.
Shows – California Adventure
- The Aladdin show is jaw-dropping fantastic and a definite don’t-miss. I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve watched this show, it’s incredible.
- The Disney Jr. Show Live-on-Stage was a big hit with our kids. The shows are especially geared to preschoolers but the older ones liked it too. My son enjoyed jumping up and dancing and my daughter talked about the “gold doubloons” that fell from the sky for weeks!
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug takes some thick skin (I still close my eyes and cringe at some of the scenes!) so be cautious taking skittish people into this one! My mom is afraid of spiders and won’t go near this one. Our daughter is on the spectrum and sensitive to loud noises and surprise elements so she doesn’t care for it either. Just keep that in mind and know your family because you wouldn’t want one negative experience prevent them from trying other shows/rides.
- Muppet*Vision 3D is a fun one, especially for those familiar with Kermit and the gang. Bring ear plugs, this show has a very loud finale!
- World of Color…WOW!!! It’s really extremely well done, appropriately full of color but beware…if you stand too close, you will get wet! We were in the second section and still got drizzled on.
And then what??
Just sit and 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.
Catch an impromptu show!
- Sometimes Mary Poppins dances with the band in front of the Castle or you can clap along with the Dapper Dans on Main Street.
- I’ve seen Alice and the Mad Hatter conducting a game of musical chairs near the ice cream parlor and have had a conversation with a moving & talking trashcan. One day there was a “beauty” contest in front of the Golden Horseshoe (that my stepson participated in).
- Some of these things are just luck, they aren’t featured on the park schedule so you’ll never know when they’ll pop up where you are.
Pose for pictures.
- There is always something coming up and with great backdrops to pose with, take the opportunity for a great shot!
- Or at least just go inside and see what fun things there are. We love The Mad Hatter’s Shop for obvious reasons.
- Princess Dot Puddle Park at California Adventure has squirting fountains for getting really drenched if Splash Mountain didn’t do it for you already!
Make friends with the locals.
- If you arrive at the park first thing in the morning there are often many characters there for photo ops. However you can find them scattered throughout the park during the day in their respective “lands” as well. Some of my favorite photos are of the kids meeting their favorite characters for the first time.
Look for Hidden Mickeys!
- There are books about this subject or just set yourself free while walking through the park. My son randomly found this Hidden Mickey in a vent just under the stage inside The Golden Horseshoe!
Just wander around and explore.
- There are so many gorgeous details in the buildings and in the designs of the gardens. Capture them on camera.
- 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).
- 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 The Boy at 4 years old, doing “the robot”).
- 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.
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!
If you are interested in all the other little things that really make up the BIG picture of why Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth”, read some of the forums or blogs online.