Walt’s inspiration for Disneyland sparked when he was sitting on a bench watching his kids ride a carousel. He decided at that moment that his calling was to create a park that everyone could enjoy, both kids and adults, together. Over the years, this idea has adapted with the times. We’re seeing more adults enjoying Disneyland, whether they have children or not. In doing so, Disney has responded by adding food and entertainment to keep the attendance high and their new and modern audience engaged. As a frequent guest, I can attest there are plenty of things to do at Disneyland as an adult with or without kids! I’ve highlighted food, events, trends, and entertainment that makes Disneyland great for couples, groups of friends, or solo trips.

I intended to write one post including an Ultimate Guide to Disneyland as an Adult, but it was enormous, so I’ve broken it up into four parts. Be sure to check out the other three!

Haunted Mansion Side View of Entrance at Disneyland

Attractions

Single Riders Lines: First and foremost! You can turn a 90 minute standby line into a 20 minute wait using the single rider queue. If your group doesn’t mind being separated that is. Occasionally, you’ll get lucky and board together or at least in the same car.

Rides with a Single Riders Line:

  • Matterhorn
  • Splash Mountain
  • Indiana Jones
  • Space Mountain
  • California Adventure: Radiator Springs, Grizzly River Run, Goofy’s Sky School (strange, but true)

Thrills

The Mountain Rides – Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Matterhorn: The Mountain Rides are the best thrills Disneyland has to offer. Space Mountain tends to be the most popular with the longest wait. Unless it’s the middle of summer then Splash Mountain will also be crowded. Pro Tip: If you can, try to time your ride on the Matterhorn during the fireworks. You get a view of the castle and fireworks up close and it’s a pretty cool experience. I’ve somehow managed to do this twice.

Matterhorn Mountain and Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage Lagoon

Indiana Jones Adventure: The perfect ride for 80’s/90’s babies. It has a bit of a thrill factor and throwback to some of our favorite Harrison Ford moments. The vehicle throws you around quite a bit so if you have any chronic back pain or motion sickness, I might avoid it.

Star Tours-The Adventure Continues: Disney has been updating this ride since the new movies came out and it now features some of our favorite new lands and characters. This attraction will satisfy your Star Wars needs until the new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge, opens in 2019.

Haunted Mansion: This one is somewhere between thrill and chill. It has the “spooky” factor, but it’s no Hollywood Horror Nights at Universal. It’s still an all-time favorite for most. The technology was very innovative at the time it was built and proves to be impressive today. I’m also a big fan of the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay that happens every Christmas.

Chills

About halfway through the day, I start to feel overwhelmed with crowds and heat so I seek out calming dark rides, the railroad, and log ride attractions. You gotta pace yourself a bit if you want to last until closing!

Tom Sawyer Island: This is easily one of the most beautiful and underrated areas in Disneyland. The island is hardly ever crowded and features activities or hideaways that you can explore. I like it because it’s a great place to relax. Buy a chimichanga at a nearby food cart and venture to the island for a quiet picnic!

Tom Sawyer Island and Pirate Lair surrounded by the Rivers of America at Disneyland

Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln: This attraction was Walt’s pride and joy. Abraham Lincoln was one of the first Audio-Animatronics and I can only imagine the reaction it got the first time guests saw a robot stand up by itself. This show is filled with so much American and Disney history you could just burst.

The Enchanted Tiki Room: If you’re already standing in line for a Dole Whip, you might as well stick around for the Tiki Room. Another classic that has been open since day one at Disneyland. The air conditioning is welcoming and there’s never a long wait to see the show.

Coffee

The most important meal of the day! Many of us, whether we have kids or not, depend on coffee to make our day a little more magical. If you’re looking for an excellent cup of joe in the parks check out my guide to good coffee at Disneyland.

Dining

Disneyland may never accept alcohol into this park because every time they mention the concept, people lose their minds. This is due to the idea that Disney once intended Disneyland to be a “dry park.” That was a long time ago and they certainly allow alcohol at Club 33, so we may see a change in the future. Never fear! You can still walk 50 yards across the Esplanade and grab a cocktail at California Adventure if you so desire.

Insta-Snacks: It seems like every week Disney is cooking up another trendy dish for people to snatch up and post on Instagram. Many will scoff at those who #doitforthegram but I say bring it on! I love looking at pictures of food, especially when it’s Mickey shaped. Lately, the hype has been the Dole Whip donut and Disney World’s Millenial Pink Champagne and both are limited-time treats (I believe the donut is no longer available). Keep your eyes peeled for Insta-worthy snacks around Disneyland. The most common place to find beautiful treats are Jolly Holiday Bakery and the cappuccino cart.

The Dole Whip Donut - Disneyland for Adults: The Complete Guide #vacation

Blue Bayou: The coolest thing about this restaurant is that it’s located inside Pirates of the Caribbean. The “nighttime” environment is dark, moody, and incredibly romantic. However, much like Rainforest Cafe, you’re paying for the atmosphere, not the food. Unless, of course, you’re talking about the Monte Cristo. It’s the only thing worth shelling a pretty penny for.

Cafe Orleans: What this place lacks in atmosphere, it gains in food quality. The menu is absolutely incredible and catered to an adult appetite. They serve the same famous Monte Cristo as the Blue Bayou and also the infamous Mickey beignets. If you can’t get a reservation at Blue Bayou, try this one! (I like their entrees better here anyway!)

Stack of Mickey Shaped Beignets with Powdered Sugar at Carnation Cafe in Disneyland

Mickey Beignet | Cafe Orleans

Carnation Cafe: This restaurant has been around since the park’s opening in 1955. It’s lead by Chef Oscar Martinez, the longest-tenured Cast Member who just celebrated 60 years with Disneyland. If you’re a Disney nut like me, you’ll love the sentimental values of this restaurant. If you’re a foodie (also like me) you’ll love the food here. They serve comfort foods like fried pickles, baked potato soup, and Walt’s favorite meatloaf.

Fantasmic! Dining Package: If you plan on having dinner at either Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace, or Cafe Orleans, you might as well book it with the Fantasmic! Dining Package. The package includes a 3-course meal and a reserved spot in the preferred viewing area. Unless you want to camp out for an hour, it’s difficult to find a clear viewing spot for the show so the dining package is the way to go.

Blue and Green Pirates of the Caribbean Ship at Disneyland's Fantasmic Night Show

Fantasmic! Pirates of the Caribbean Ship

Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge Experience: For an extra price, you can indulge in some Disney snacks and watch the fireworks from a private viewing area in Tomorrowland. The reservation allows you to come and go as you please, from 8:00-10:00 at night. Great option for a group of friends!

Events & Entertainment

Disneyland After Dark: This year Disneyland launched a special-ticket event series where they keep the park open late to host a themed night-out. The first theme was Throwback Nite where guests were encouraged to wear their Dapper Day best and the second was Star Wars Nite. Each event hosts themed entertainment and photo ops. You can check out the official website here for any updates regarding upcoming events.

Late-Night Shopping: The shops on Main Street usually remain open after close for about an hour, so don’t rush out after the fireworks! It’s the perfect time to peruse the stores and collect your souvenirs. It’s also the best time to get your castle pictures since the crowds will have died down.

VIP Tours: This is a fantastic idea for big Disney fans or frequent visitors who are looking for something unique to do. The most popular tour is Walk In Walt’s Foot Steps, which takes you on a guided tour through the history of Disneyland. I hope to someday take The Grand Circle Tour which explores Walt’s love for trains and also where you’ll get to ride in the special parlor train aboard the Lily Belle.

Golden Horseshoe Review: If you’re looking for a fun date night this campy dinner show might be a good option. If your party is full of introverts you might want to try Blue Bayou though! The show involves a little bit of audience interaction, so don’t be surprised if they call you out!

Photo Shoot: I’m a big fan of perusing Disney Instagram’s before dozing off. Now that everyone has semi-pro phone cameras, a lot of Disney fans have gotten creative with their photography. There are dedicated walls and popular spots to take selfies and portraits around the parks and it’s a fun way to pass the time. For inspiration, Disney Style explored some fantastic places to take your Disneyland photos.

My generation was born in the height of Disney’s second golden era with classics like Beauty & the Beast, Toy Story, Lion King, and so on. It makes our heart melt when we hear the sweeping orchestration I Can Go the Distance or watch Ariel and Prince Eric dance together in Fantasmic. More grown-ups are visiting without children and those with children are enjoying the parks more than ever. Disney seems to have taken advantage of this and as time progresses, so will the parks. I’m interested to see what they will add to spark the interest of future generations!

Also, if you’re looking for tips for visiting Disney World in Florida as an adult, head over to Lissy Through the Looking Glass for Disney for Adults -7 Things to Try if Thrill Rides Aren’t Your Thing.

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Disneyland for Adults: The Complete Guide