First Time visitors To Disneyland In California Have A Ton Of Fun To Look Forward

The first question is: where to begin? If you have never been to California or Disneyland before, you and your family are in for a real treat. Here is an idea of what to do so that you can take advantage of every minute you are enjoying Disneyland, whether with family, friends, kids, colleagues or a combination.

Disneyland Components

Disneyland Main Park

The main park is broken down into several areas, each containing various rides, entertainment, shopping opportunities, special features and food. The following is a list of these areas in alphabetical order to help you itemize what to do based on locales:

Adventure Land
Critter Country
Main Street USA
Mickey’s Toontown
New Orlean’s Square

Disney’s California Adventure Park

This part of the amusement park is themed around the sunshine state of California and includes the following “what to do” attractions:

Car’s Land (Luigi’s Flying Tires, a bug’s land,Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Radiator Springs Racers)
Golden State
Hollywood Picture’s Back Lot
Paradise Pier
Sunshine Plaza

What To Do

Depending on whether or not you have kids and how much time you have, the best way to navigate your Disneyland experience for the utmost pleasure is to research it online ahead of time (as you are probably doing now) and decide which types of rides, entertainment, themes and experiences attract you most. Plan to hit those first, breaking for food and shopping as needed, and save the rides and spectacles that drew your interest secondarily for the latter portion of the day. Obviously with kids in the mix, they may pilot your day a little differently, but you can still have the same approach so that everyone gets the most out of their day. Once you have seen and done it “all,” plan to return to your or their favorite spots to relive the thrills and end on a high note.

The park, your hotel, a travel agent or an online source can provide you with lists of rides, attractions, food venues and any special events going on during your planned vacation to Disneyland. A map of the park will be key to have ahead of time so you can effectively plan the order of your day and visualize how to get where. For up to the minute info, make sure your source is working in “real time” vs. downloading stale information that may not include the most recent additions, such as Carsland at the CA Adventure portion of the park. 

Some popular rides in the park that may top your list of what to do, especially if it’s your first time, are as follows:

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • It’s a Small World
  • Matterhorn
  • Nemo’s Submarine Ride
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Soarin’ Over California
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Toy Story Mania


Well, isn’t the whole place for kids, big and small? The answer is yes! However some “must” what to do’s for the kids are It’s a Small World, Radiator Springs, Nemo’s Submarine Ride, and Turtle Talk with Crush (real time chat with the adorable critter who interacts with kids via animated interaction). Mickey’s Toontown is also a favorite for children of all ages with the added bonus of multiple photo opportunities with Disney characters (who also wander the park interacting with crowds in many different areas to the delight of everyone). Wait til you see the look on your kids’ faces when they see Mickey Mouse approach them for the first time!

For even smaller kids, there are even smaller rides. You can bring your own stroller into the park to avoid stroller fees.


You first time Disney newbies will be delighted that there is no shortage of good eats at the Happiest Place on Earth! From fine dining to finger food, and every snack & sweet in between (such as ice cream, nachos, fish n chips, cotton candy, soft pretzels, fudge, churros, ice coffee, smoothies, popcorn, ice cream, burgers n fries, and so much more), you need only decide what you want and budget for it in advance (so, no surprises since “sticker shock” can happen). Just know your culinary curiosities will be met!


If you stay into the evening, the Fantasmic Show and the Fantastic Fireworks Show are a magical spectacle, especially when taking it all in for the first time. The show menus are ever changing and all are designed to thrill and amaze. 


Souvenirs are an obvious attraction and because there are so many options, the park is absolutely littered with gift shops from fancy to fun.


Don’t forget your camera or the many photo opportunities that tend to appear at any given moment.

Fast Passes are an option if you want to avoid lines. 

Check Out in park transportation if trekking around isn’t an option for someone in your party.

Pre-determine meet up spots incase you have late comers or anyone in your family or group gets separated from you.

Be Serious about Security. The park is crowded and always in motion, keep your little ones close and know where security kiosks and exits are incase of emergency.

Infant friendly areas are good spots to know in advance if you are visiting with infants, expectant mothers, strollers and multiple little ones under the age of 5.

Don’t forget to take a keepsake away with you, this is a magical place and you will love to be reminded of it through a picture, t-shirt, souvenir, or the most coveted item: the Mickey ears cap.

Lastly: Have fun and return often!

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This article was written by Jean-Pierre Prieur, editor of