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A trip to Southern California is incomplete without a day at Disneyland. Since first opening the doors to the Magic Kingdom in 1955, Disneyland Park has welcomed more than 650 million guests.
We are regular visitors to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., so the change to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif., was distinct. The park seemed smaller than its East Coast sister (though it's still huge), and it seemed less overwhelming. The result was a pleasant day enjoying the attractions and rides without the feeling of being rushed. And because Disneyland is the original theme park of the Disney empire, you can't help feel a bit nostalgic.
If you're going to Disneyland, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The park has a more compact feel than Disney World, and the walking distance between attractions is significantly less, but you don't want to ruin your day with blisters on your feet. You can also expect to wait in lines for popular rides. The Radiator Springs Racer Ride had a long wait, but it was totally worth it.
Of course you want to miss the classic rides that make Disneyland great: Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and the legendary Jungle Cruise.
Surprisingly, the food at Disneyland was incredible. We don't normally associate theme parks with quality dining, but Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue for dinner proved us wrong. The food was delicious with savory barbecue, creamy cole slaw and quite possibly the best cornbread ever.
We also visited Disney’s California Adventure Park, also in Anaheim. There you can walk down Buena Vista Street and step back in time to 1920s Los Angeles, or get A Bug’s Life view of the world at “A Bug’s Land.” We thoroughly enjoyed Cars Land, a 12-acre expansion based on the Pixar movie Cars. The Disney Imagineers went all-out to recreate scenes from the animated film with Lightning McQueen and Mater, and you can stop for a refill at Flo’s V8 Café. We stopped at Ariel's Grotto for lunch. The surf and turf was incredible with a juicy steak cooked to perfection.
While you’re at California Adventure, you must stop by Paradise Pier, which took the Boardwalk Amusement Park feel to a whole new level. The roller coaster and Ferris wheel were straight-up Americana, and the park is an absolute wonder at night when they turn on all the lights.
Disneyland Park is open year-round, but the schedule changes depending on the month and season. Be sure to check their website when planning your visit. And if you want to avoid the crowds, try to go during the week instead of weekends.