It is billed as the Happiest Place on Earth, and, if you were lucky enough to go as a kid, the very mention of Disneyland probably conjures up memories full of wonder and excitement. The good news is, your ten-year-old self doesn't get to have all the fun. Disneyland is just as good — if not better — now that you're grown up.
Plus, let's face it: you need the vacation way more now than you ever did as a kid. Where better to let go of the myriad stresses of adulthood than in a perfectly staged utopia?
Without further ado, then, we present our guide to doing Disney as an adult. And remember — Dole Whips have no age limit!
Nobody is ever too old for a stomach-dropping coaster. No matter which of the Lands you find yourself in, here are a few of our favorites guaranteed to get your adrenaline — or at least a smile — going. Be sure to take advantage of FASTPASS options on the rides that offer it, in order to spend less time waiting in lines.
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Jungle Cruise
New Orleans Square
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain
- Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Snow White's Scary Adventure
- Toad's Wild Ride
- Mad Tea Party
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Space Mountain
- Star Wars Launch Bay
In the areas surrounding Disneyland, there are further fun options. Try the Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land, Grizzly River Run in Grizzly Peak, or the Incredicoaster by Pixar Pier. You should always check out the attractions for your personal favorite characters and stories: Ariel's Undersea Adventure, for example, may not float everyone's boat, but for those of us who grew up singing "Part of Your World," it is a can't-miss experience.
This brings us to our next point...
The Force is Strong
For those of you who picture Disneyland as a world exclusively filled with singing and dancing animals, think again. Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise, visitors will find attractions, merchandise, and more for Jedi and Sith fans alike. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is the newest otherworldly park addition. Meanwhile, Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland has everything from props and costumes to video games, not to mention a store full of all the souvenirs and memorabilia of a galaxy-far-far-away that you could want.
For those who may not be sure whether they want to commit to entering the park itself, Downtown Disney is a fantastic area in which to spend an afternoon or evening. If you're more interested in the food and atmosphere — and maybe a pair of Mickey Mouse ears — than in the rides and experiences, you can hang out in the shops and restaurants of Downtown Disney without having to shell out for an entrance pass.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes is full of old-school cool for those interested in throwing on a pair of bowling shoes and knocking down some pins, all to the accompaniment of live music every night of the year. You can also check out shops ranging from surf apparel to skincare to every sort of Disney souvenir imaginable.
For eats, they've got you covered with restaurants for all palates. Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes, with its totally outrageous and Insta-worthy CrazyShakes, is always worth the stop. If you're a beer aficionado, you'll want to try the only on-site brewery at Ballast Point Brewing Co. Alternatively, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen is a unique and delicious Cajun option, while Uva Bar and Café is our favorite for more typical Californian fare.
If you've managed to save room for dessert, we have two names for you: Salt and Straw, and Sprinkles. Whether you are more into one-of-a-kind ice cream flavors or devilishly good cupcakes, these famous Southern California names are worth the hype.
Where to Stay
If you are coming into town for the full Disney experience, our favorite lodging as adults is Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. The hotel has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure, home to Pixar Pier, Cars Land, and the waterfront attractions of Pacific Wharf. There are also a host of delicious restaurants — with delicious adult drinks — including Carthay Circle, Cove Bar, and Lamplight Lounge.
Those with a nose for wines will want to check out the hotel's very own Napa Rose, an on-site restaurant with all the best bottles that California's wine country has to offer and award-winning regional cuisine.
One other tip for those coming from out of town: consider flying into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, instead of LAX. Not only will you avoid one of the busiest airports in the country, but you will also be a mere twenty minute drive from Disney when you land.
Youth Is an Attitude, Not an Age
The important thing to know if you're planning to do Disney as an adult is that you won't be alone. Long gone are the days — if indeed they ever existed — when the park belonged solely to tots and preteens. You'll see fun-seekers of all ages, both with and without youngsters in tow. You are also guaranteed to see at least one couple on a romantic getaway as the park becomes increasingly popular for dates, honeymoons, and anniversary celebrations.