Disneyland for Adults – A Grown-Up’s Guide to the Magic
Disneyland has been entertaining families ever since its opening day way back in July 1955, helping to create memories that will last a lifetime with its special brand of magic. But, you don’t need to be a kid or have a kid to go on a Disneyland vacation.
Not sure how to turn this family-friendly destination into a grown-up playground? Keep reading as we go over everything you need to know for your adult Disney trip, from where you should stay and eat to the more adult things to do at Disneyland.
What You Need to Know About Disneyland for Adults
Still not sold on going to Disneyland as an adult? Let’s go over some questions you might be having. First and foremost…
Is Disneyland Good for Adults?
Absolutely! While the idea of a Disney vacation for grown-ups might seem counterintuitive, you’ll find plenty of adult things to do at Disneyland (Walt Disney World, too!), like getting a little boozy or treating yourself to an indulgent spa treatment. So, whether you want a playful trip where you can get in touch with your inner child or a sophisticated getaway with just a touch of luxury and pixie dust, or a little bit of both, Disneyland has it all.
Disneyland vs. California Adventure – Which Disney Park Is Best for Adults?
Ok, we’ve convinced you on why you should travel to Disneyland as an adult, but where should you go once you’re there? Depending on how much time you have to spend, you may not be able to go to both of the theme parks at the Disneyland Resort. So, if you can only choose one for your grown-up trip to Disney, which park should it be: Disneyland or California Adventure?
Our Top Pick for Grown-Ups: Disney California Adventure Park
With culinary and cultural festivals held throughout parts of the year, plenty of drinking opportunities, some of the best dining at Disneyland Resort and an entire land devoted to superhero geekdom, California Adventure is our number one choice for those looking for a more grown-up vacation.
You can spend your day screaming your lungs out on some of the Disneyland Resort’s best thrill rides or, if you’re hoping for a more elevated experience, sip on a glass of Napa Valley wine after learning how San Francisco’s famous sourdough bread is made instead. Just like the big, beautiful Golden State, there’s something for everyone.
For a Trip Down Memory Lane: Disneyland Park
Hoping to live your best Disney adult life? There’s no better place than The Happiest Place on Earth. In fact, while the kid-friendly attractions and swarms of children may have you thinking otherwise, Disneyland is technically the most grown-up of all Disney Parks. After all, it is the oldest.
Oozing with nostalgia, this is the place to go if you want to unleash your inner child for a while. Once you’ve conquered the Disney mountains and said hello to Mickey, make your way to Galaxy’s Edge for a cocktail inspired by the Star Wars universe or dine in true Disneyland fashion at Blue Bayou, the park’s original fine-dining restaurant.
What Is the Best Disneyland Resort Hotel for an Adult Disney Trip?
For the full Disney experience, plan to stay at one of the resort’s on-property hotels. Not only does this keep you close to the parks, saving you precious time in the process, but it also immerses you in the magic. While Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (set to receive a Pixar-inspired makeover) is great for families, we suggest you make a reservation for the Grand Californian or Disneyland Hotel instead.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa – Disney Luxury with an Unbeatable Location
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, the Disneyland Resort’s flagship hotel, is a luxurious (AKA expensive) ode to the Golden State. Inspired by the majestic national park lodges that dot the American West and California’s popular Arts and Crafts architecture, this refined retreat is an easy choice for an adult trip to Disney.
Here you’ll find a host of convenient amenities and upscale touches, such as Napa Rose, arguably the best restaurant at Disneyland, and the resort’s one and only spa, Tenaya Stone Spa. The Grand Californian is also the only hotel at Disneyland with a private entrance into one of the theme parks (California Adventure, fittingly).
Disneyland Hotel – Disney Magic Meets Casual Sophistication
Worried that the Disneyland Hotel will be too in-your-face with the pixie dust? Don’t be! With subdued guestrooms that nod to the magic of one of Disney’s beloved fireworks shows, as well as other fun touches like song lyrics and Hidden Mickeys, Disneyland’s original hotel is a must for grown-up Disney fans.
Best of all, while not exactly what you’d call cheap, a night here is also more affordable than a stay at the Grand Californian. While you’re there, don’t miss breakfast at Tangaroa Terrace and drinks at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, Disney’s most iconic watering hole.
7 Best Things to Do at Disneyland for Adults
So, what can grown-ups do while visiting The Happiest Place on Earth? A lot, actually! Here are our top recommendations:
Take Things Slow and Easy
When it comes to adult Disney trips, it’s all about balance and having a playful spirit. Sure, it’s a theme park, and there are tons of attractions that were made with kids in mind.
However, while you’ll certainly want to take time to experience some of Disney’s incredible rides and shows – after all, it’s what they’re known for – you should also balance it out with a caffeine break and some A/C, a boozy beverage, delicious meal or maybe even a soothing massage. Because self-care is important.
As Jiminy Cricket once said, let your conscience – or, in this case, your interests – be your guide. Do you geek out over Star Wars or the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Then feel free to linger in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or Avengers Campus.
Are you a foodie at heart? Embark on a self-guided Disneyland food tour of the parks’ best snacks and sweets. Do you do photography or enjoy design? Disneyland is as photogenic as it is fun and full of incredible details. So, take some time to snap some photos and drink it all in.
By focusing on what makes you happy and keeping things relaxed, not only can you truly appreciate the craftsmanship of Walt Disney Imagineering, but you’ll also save yourself some stress by not trying to cram everything in. Which, trust us, can be a recipe for disaster.
Experience the Best Disneyland Rides for Adults
No trip to Disneyland is complete without experiencing some of the parks’ many attractions. Although, if you want to keep your trip as stress-free as possible, you’ll want to be choosy about which rides and shows to do. For example, unless you’re feeling especially nostalgic, Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Aside from skipping over anything that doesn’t appeal to you, you can also save some time (i.e., more time for eating, drinking and doing other things) by using the Single Rider Line. As long as you don’t mind possibly being separated from your group, this has the potential to save you considerable time and hassle.
Here are the best Disneyland rides for adults ((SRL) denotes Single Rider Line attraction):
Must-Do Attractions at Disneyland Park:
Thrilling & Fun
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Indiana Jones Adventure
Matterhorn Bobsleds (SRL)
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (SRL)
Space Mountain (or Hyperspace Mountain)
Splash Mountain (SRL)
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Laidback & Relaxing
Pirates of the Caribbean
The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Must-Do Attractions at California Adventure Park:
Thrilling & Fun
Grizzly River Run (SRL)
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Radiator Springs Racers (SRL)
Toy Story Midway Mania!
WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure (SRL)
Laidback & Relaxing
The Bakery Tour
Soarin’ Around the World
World of Color
Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar
Enjoy an Adult Beverage or Two
For almost 65 years, from 1955 to 2019, Disneyland remained mostly alcohol-free, with the exception of the exclusive Club 33. (California Adventure, in contrast, has served booze ever since opening in 2001.) But, now you can imbibe at both west coast theme parks – and that’s a good thing because those long lines and heavy crowds can be stressful.
Whether you’re in the mood for an icy glass of craft beer, a refreshing cocktail or some vino, you can find it at a lounge, pool bar or restaurant at Disneyland and California Adventure. In Disneyland, Oga’s Cantina is a must for Star Wars fans and cocktail connoisseurs alike, while over in California Adventure, the Carthay Circle Lounge shakes up classic drinks in an elegant, open-air atmosphere.
You’ll want to venture outside the parks to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel, a gloriously kitschy tiki joint with rum-based drinks, humorous servers and surprising special effects. For more recommendations, don’t miss our list of the best Disneyland bars.
Indulge in Some Fine Dining or Go Snack Hunting
Believe it or not, Disneyland is no slouch when it comes to good food. From affordable, on-the-go eats like DOLE Whip and bao to signature restaurants cooking up not just the best food at Disneyland, but in the area overall, like Napa Rose at the Grand Californian Hotel, it’s all on offer.
Food can and should be an integral part of your vacation. So, consider sprinkling snack stops throughout your day or plan a full sit-down meal. Just be sure to plan ahead with a dining reservation if you can, so you aren’t stuck waiting in a long walk-up line.
Can’t-Miss Restaurants at California Adventure Park:
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge – Elegant American cuisine in an upscale setting inspired by Hollywood’s Golden Age
Lamplight Lounge – California-style gastropub eats with sweeping waterfront views and creative, Pixar-themed design
Wine Country Trattoria – Italian food favorites and complex varietals served in a Mediterranean-inspired atmosphere
Can’t-Miss Restaurants at Disneyland Park:
Blue Bayou Restaurant – A Disneyland institution dishing up sophisticated Cajun-Creole cuisine in an enchanting lantern-lit setting overlooking Pirates of the Caribbean
Café Orleans – Delicious and affordable-ish Cajun-Creole eats
Carnation Café – Homespun comfort food and Disney nostalgia
French Market Restaurant – Quick-service Cajun-Creole with live jazz in a verdant garden
Oga’s Cantina – Otherworldly cocktails and snacks
The Tropical Hideaway – Fast-food spot next to the Enchanted Tiki Room with fresh Asian and Polynesian flavors (and DOLE Whip!)
Go to a Festival at California Adventure
Like Epcot, one of the best times to visit California Adventure Park is when a special festival is happening. While not as long or expansive as their Central Florida counterparts, these seasonal soirees feature limited-time food booths, live entertainment and even educational offerings.
Festivals typically held at California Adventure include:
Lunar New Year – Mid-January to mid-February
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival – Early March to late April
Plaza de la Familia – Early September to early November
Disney Festival of Holidays (including Three Kings’ Day and Disney ¡Viva Navidad!) – Early November to early January
Pamper Yourself with a Treatment at Tenaya Stone Spa
What could be more luxurious than a zenful spa treatment? A Disneyland vacation can be stressful, making your adult Disney trip the perfect time for a little me-time. Located at the Grand Californian Hotel, the Tenaya Stone Spa takes inspiration from the traditions of the Golden State’s native people.
Book yourself a treatment like the signature river stone massage or, since this is California, an avocado body treatment. When you aren’t being pampered, unwind in the steam room or relaxation lounge.
Go Shopping (and Bowling!) at Downtown Disney District
There’s more to Disneyland than just what you’ll find in the theme parks. The Downtown Disney District is your one-stop shop for souvenirs like apparel and home goods and it also happens to be home to one of the resort’s more unique entertainment offerings. Bowling! So, lace up your bowling shoes and enjoy a little friendly competition.
Have you done an adult Disney trip? What do you like doing at Disneyland for adults? Let us know in the comments? Then, learn how to stretch your travel budget for more grown-up fun with our discounted Disneyland tickets.