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Disneyland for Adults: How to Do Disneyland RIGHT as a Grown Up! (Best Rides, Food + Booze)

Hello, my name is Caroline and I am a Disneyland adult.

You might think Disneyland is only for kids – but this couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m here to show you why Disneyland for adults is way more awesome!

Growing up in Southern California, I was fortunate enough to make regular trips to Disneyland over the years. As an adult, I’m still a frequent visitor to Disneyland – in fact, I finally caved and became a Magic Key holder upon moving to Orange County.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting Disneyland but I almost think I love it even more as an adult! There’s plenty of things to do at Disneyland for adults, from rides, shows (both adventurous and more chill), seasonal festivals, plenty of photo ops, and the best part – eating and drinking (including alcohol)! 

You can almost say that Disneyland is a foodie destination, with the park offering up everything from Instagrammable snacks, ethnic fusion food, creative cocktails, and even fine dining restaurants. This is why eating and drinking my way around the parks is a favorite activity of mine – and many other Disneyland adults.

Not only that, that sense of wonder and nostalgia is very alive and present, even when as an adult – I know Disney sometimes overuses the word “magical,” but well, it’s still pretty darn magical. 

If you’re wondering whether it’s fun and even worth it to visit Disneyland as an adult, I’m here to tell you – YES, 1000000%! And trust me, there are many more Disneyland adults who agree.

If you’re planning an adult trip to Disneyland, read this guide to find out how to do it right and  have the BEST time! I’m here to tell you the best things to do, including all the best Disneyland rides for adults, where to eat, where to drink, and all the insider tips you need to know!

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The Best Disneyland for Adults Tips

woman on tea cup ride at Disneyland, throwing up peace sign

Why visit Disneyland as an adult?

Well, because it’s just plain FUN!

But also – Walt Disney envisioned Disneyland as a place that is fun for everyone, regardless of their age. This philosophy still drives every decision that the company makes today. 

Whether it’s rides (both roller coasters and the more chill ones), food (both casual and fine dining), drinks (both of the alcoholic and nonalcoholic variety), shows, shopping opportunities, and more – you’re going to find something to love as a Disneyland adult!

Besides, visiting as an adult means that you can do anything you want! Want to go on all the rollercoasters multiple times throughout the day? Want to stuff yourself silly with all the snacks and treats? Want to go bar hopping inside California Adventure? No one’s stopping ya!

Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland at Christmas

Best times to visit Disneyland

This is kinda obvious, but in case it isn’t – the best time to visit Disneyland as an adult is to avoid weekends and school holidays. 

You’ll encounter fewer crowds during this way, allowing for a more enjoyable experience. 

The most crowded days are during the week of Thanksgiving, the week leading up to Christmas through New Years, spring break (the week leading up to Easter), the beginning of summer break (June), and fall break (second week of October).

The holiday season, Halloween, and during festivals (i.e. the Food & Wine Festival) also see a slight uptick in crowds, but it’s not too bad unless you visit on the weekend or school breaks/holidays.

Generally speaking, the least crowded months to visit Disneyland are January and February. The weeks after the holiday festivities end are when you’ll see the least crowds. However, do note that the parks close earlier during this time, and some attractions close for refurbishment, so you may not have the most optimal experience.

One helpful way to predict crowds is to check out the access calendar for Magic Key passholders. The dates that are blocked out for passholders tend to be the most crowded ones – and, the ones blocked out for the most expensive passes will be ESPECIALLY crazy! 

Alternatively, you can check out this Disneyland crowd calendar, which predicts the level of crowds on a scale of 1-5.

As for the actual time of day, mornings are generally the least crowded, especially right after rope drop. You’ll find that wait times, especially for the more popular rides, are much more manageable during this time. I’ve also found that it also quiets down later at night (after 9pm or so).

Which park is better for adults – Disneyland or California Adventure?

If at all possible – please visit both, as they are both amazing in their own way! Visiting both will let you get the best experience and get the most out of your adult trip to Disneyland Resort.

In short – Disneyland has better rides, and more attractions. California Adventure has better food and drink options for adults (and not to mention, alcohol!), plus more thrill rides.

I’d say that in general, California Adventure caters more towards adults, with more elevated food experiences, alcohol, and more adventurous rides.  However, I get bored after a while because there aren’t *that* many rides. At Disneyland, I love going on all the rides – but inevitably start wanting to eat something a bit more elevated. Being able to visit both parks means I get the best of both worlds!

If you can only choose one of the parks to visit, decide what kind of experience is important to you.

A couple kissing in front of Sleeping Beauty castle

Is Genie+ Worth it?

Ok, first of all – what is Genie+? It’s a paid add-on that’s similar to the old MaxPass, which lets you make Lightning Lane (similar to the old FastPass) reservations, and comes with a few other perks, like free PhotoPass downloads. It costs $25-30 a day, depending on demand.

In general, the consensus seems to be that yes, Genie+ is worth it if you are trying to cram in as many attractions as possible into a short period of time (one day). Since I have a pass and can always come back another time, I’ve never purchased the Genie+ option. However, when I used to only go for a single day here and there, I always took advantage of the MaxPass, and Genie+ has the similar advantages.

Genie+ is only worth it if you’re planning to go on a bunch of included rides throughout the day – if most of what you want to do around the parks is eating + drinking, then it is not necessary.

However, there are a few caveats when using Genie+, and you’ll have to have a strategy to really maximize it. It’s only worth it if you’re going to be starting your day early and staying throughout the day. You’ll need to start making Lightning Lane reservations as soon as you enter the park in the morning. Otherwise, some rides may run out of Lightning Lane availability.

Keep in mind that you can only make reservations every two hours OR after you’ve used up the previous Lightning Lane reservation if it’s been less than two hours since your last booking. 

What attractions are included in Genie+?

Below is a list of Lightning Lane attractions included as part of Genie+ – 

Disneyland

  • Autopia
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana JonesTM Adventure
  • It’s a small world
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (currently closed as Toontown is being refurbished)
  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours

California Adventure

  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
  • Incredicoaster
  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Soarin’ Over California
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

Individual Lightning Lane Attractions

These attractions require an additional cost for access to the Lightning Lane. Pricing on these fluctuate depend on demand, but can be up to $25. I included some tips below to avoid having to pay the extra fee, yet save some time.

  • Rise of the Resistance – I suggest riding this first thing in the morning when lines aren’t too crazy
  • Radiator Springs Racers – Ride this one as a single rider
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – You can try to get on the virtual queue for this one, although it will be the newest ride in the park and will have some hype for a while.

Helpful Disneyland tips:

The app is your best friend

Basically anything and everything you can do at Disneyland can be done through the app on your phone  – from scanning your tickets, checking wait times, using Genie Plus, retrieving your photo pass images, ordering food, making dining reservations…the list goes on.

While you can theoretically do some of these tasks outside of the app, using the app creates a more streamlined experience (for better or worse, since it can also be buggy). It will save you a lot of time and hassle to do everything through the app.

Therefore, it is important that you keep your phone fully charged and at the ready – I *HIGHLY* recommend carrying around a portable phone charger (I never leave home without this one)!

Use mobile ordering to order food

Utilizing mobile ordering to purchase food and drinks will save you SO much time! Just order what you want, select a time window to pick it up, and enjoy. 

Many times you can pick up your food almost immediately, but do note that during peak dining windows (or on crowded days), your pickup window may be some time after you place the order. Either way, you won’t waste time waiting in line!

Wear good shoes!

This is an absolute MUST when visiting Disneyland as an adult! Look, when I was younger, I could walk around the parks all day (I’m talking from rope drop until midnight) in flip flops and be absolutely fine. Now that I’m in my late 30s, this is no longer the case.

A full day at the parks for me means that I end up walking over 10 miles – so comfy, supportive shoes are a MUST! 

My favorite Disneyland shoes are from Allbirds – I literally will only wear Allbirds shoes when I go to the parks (they’re also my favorite travel shoes!). No other shoes will do the trick for me. I wear the Wool Runners (women / men) and Tree Runners (women / men), and love and recommend both. My boyfriend usually wears the Tree Dashers (women / men) and recommends them as well.

Take advantage of single rider lines

One of the best things about Disneyland for adults is that you can take advantage of the single rider lines. If you don’t mind riding with your group and want to save a bit of time, consider taking advantage of single rider lines. This usually results in a much shorter wait.

Unfortunately, the list of attractions that are have a single rider option has shrunk recently, but there are still a few left – 

Disneyland: Matterhorn, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run

California Adventure: Grizzly River Run, Incredicoaster, Radiator Springs Racers, Goofy’s Sky School, Web Slingers

Leave room for downtime

Doing a full day at Disneyland can be TIRING – so be sure to schedule some breaks and downtime throughout the day!

I know it can be tempting to pack it all in, especially if you are only visiting for a day or two – there’s so much to do in the parks (and tickets are expensive)! But by scheduling a little bit of downtime here and there on your adult Disney trip, you’ll save your energy so that you last throughout the day and TRUST ME, you’ll have a much better experience (instead of feeling like a zombie by dinner).

There are plenty of relaxing activities at the parks so you can get a bit of a break without sacrificing the fun – I’ll go over them later on in this post. Otherwise, stopping by for a cocktail or a snack is always a good idea to relax 😉

woman holding a bundle of colorful Mickey balloons

Keep the dress code in mind

There are special dress code rules at Disneyland for adults, so keep those in mind as you pack for your trip.

Guests aged 14 and over may not wear costumes into the park (except on certain special event nights). This is to prevent confusion and preserve the magic for kids, who may mistake you for real Disney characters. Leave the dressing up to the Cast Members (it’s way more comfortable to wear regular clothes for a full day at the parks, anyway).

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let your Disney spirit show when choosing what to wear for your Disneyland trip! Themed shirts, transparent wings, plastic Lightsabers, toy swords, tutus, and mouse ears are all allowed and highly encouraged – embrace the Disney adult inside of you!

If you want to dress up, consider Disneybounding as well. What is Disneybounding, you ask? It’s a way to showcase your personal style to create outfits inspired by Disney characters in a subtle way. This was you can create unique outfits that are very *YOU* that also shows off your Disney spirit! You can read more about Disneybounding here.

Here are a few more things that you aren’t allowed to wear inside the parks:

  • Masks (except for medical purposes)
  • Clothing with objectionable material (i.e. obscene language or images)
  • Clothing that drags on the ground (i.e. floor length dresses)
  • Excessively torn clothing
  • Excessively revealing clothing which is not considered “family friendly” in nature
  • Visible tattoos that may be considered offensive
  • Clothing with multiple layers may be subject to additional search
  • Shoes must be worn in the park

Read the official Disneyland dress code for more specifics.

If you plan to rope drop, arrive an hour early

This will give you enough time to park, go through security, take the shuttle, and scan into the park. 

Consider staying late

Personally, I think the best time to be in the park is the last few hours before closing, after the kids have tired out and gone back to the hotel to sleep for the night. I usually find that the parks start to clear out after 9pm or so and the vibe just turns much more chill.

Even better if you can stay up until right before closing – this is the best time to go on those rides that usually have a long wait!

Check the schedule

The park(s) may close early on some days for special events, so check the opening times on the day you want to visit to ensure you get a full day. Also note that the parks close early during the week during the slowest months of the year (January and February). Shows, fireworks, etc. may also not take place during the week, so be sure to check if these are important to you.

Bring a reusable water bottle

At almost $5 a pop, buying bottled water gets EXPENSIVE! Save your money (and the environment) by bringing your own reusable bottle. There are a number of bottle filling stations inside the parks where you can get water throughout the day.

Embrace it!

Don’t be afraid to embrace the kid inside of you and get really into it – whether it’s getting decked out in all your Disney apparel, throwing on some Minnie ears, taking pictures with all your favorite characters, or going on all the nostalgic rides. 

You won’t be the only one – there will be plenty of other Disneyland adults who will join you!

What to pack for Disneyland

  • Comfortable shoes: Every time I do a full day at Disneyland, I walk *at least* 10 miles and comfortable shoes are a must! I literally will only wear Allbirds shoes when I go to the parks – I wear the Wool Runners (women / men) and Tree Runners (women / men), and my boyfriend usually wears the Tree Dashers (women / men).
  • Battery pack: You’ll likely be using the app throughout the day, which can drain your phone battery FAST, so keep a battery pack handy to recharge your devices!
  • Reusable water bottle: Save money and fill up at the water stations, rather than buying expensive bottle water (more money left for snacks and treats)!
  • Fun Disney themed shirts: Embrace Disney adult self, show your Disney spirit, and wear some Disney themed shirts to the park! I especially love scouring Etsy for some fun, unique styles.
  • Jacket or sweater: Depending on the time of year you visit, it can be cold in the morning and warm midday. Bring a jacket for those chilly times! If you don’t want to carry it around, you can throw it in a locker (my friend usually does this and even brings a change of clothes).
  • Mouse ears: Another way to embrace your Disney spirit! There’s a ton of cute ones both made by Disney, and on Etsy (I’ve got quite the collection by now).
  • Camera: Capture all those magical Disney moments! I mostly shoot with my phone at Disneyland, but if you want something better, I love my Sony a6000, which shoots amazing photos and is also lightweight.
  • Sunscreen: This is So-Cal after all, so chances are that the sun will be shining bright on your adult Disney trip. And even on cloudy days, you’ll need to protect your skins.
  • Sunglasses: That sun gets BRIGHT! The worst feeling is when I forget my sunglasses and I find myself squinting into the brightness allll day long. Be sure to grab a pair of sunnies!
  • Hand sanitizer: I mean, even before the pandemic, the parks were full of germy kids touching, well, everything. There are sanitizing stations around both parks, but they don’t work half the time, so just have your own on hand.

Best Adult Things to Do at Disneyland 

Galaxy Edge lit up at night, one of th ebest lands in Disneyland for adults
Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge is home to some of the best Disneyland rides for adults

Best Disneyland Rides for Adults

What are the best Disneyland rides for adults? There are sooo many rides and attractions at Disneyland that it can be hard to know where to start, especially if you are only visiting the parks for a short time.

Of course, there are plenty of rides that you loved when you were a kid, that are perfect for bringing back a sense of nostalgia (I can assure you that most of them are still awesome now as they were back then). 

Or, you can go on all the thrill rides – but know they might affect you differently as an adult (helloooo whiplash). And, there’s plenty of rides to keep you occupied when you need a break from the more adventurous ones. 

In any case, here are all the best rides at Disneyland for adults!

Best Thrill Disneyland Rides for Adults

  • Rise of the Resistance (Disneyland): One of the newest rides in the park, Rise of the Resistance was the second to open as a part of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge. It is one of the coolest and most innovative rides in the park, and also super immersive. You really feel like you’re part of the story here – joining the Resistance as they take on the First Order in an epic battle. I guarantee you will love this one, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a huge Star Wars fan!
  • Space Mountain (Disneyland): So I’m going to admit that after going on Rise of the Resistance, Space Mountain feels a bit dated. However, it was always one of my favorite rides growing up, and is still one of my all-time favorites to this day! You really do feel like you’re flying through space.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Disneyland): This Western Gold Rush-themed roller coaster has some stunning scenery (reminiscent of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon), and plenty of thrills. I especially think it’s super fun at night. Do note that some sections are bumpy.
  • Indiana Jones Adventure (Disneyland): I’ve always loved Indiana Jones because it brings about a sense of adventure! It’s not really a roller coaster – you ride in a jeep and wind through the deep caves of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. This one is VERY bump and jerky (we joke that it seems to get bumpier and jerkier every time we go on it). NOTE: currently closed for refurbishment
  • Matterhorn (Disneyland): Zoom through a snow-covered peak in an alpine sled as you avoid the abominable snowman. This one has sharp turns and is a bit bumpy, so you might want to avoid if you get whiplash. Also – the best time to go on this is during the fireworks! During the holidays, you can also see the castle and the It’s a Small World facade lit up and it’s a pretty view.
  • Incredicoaster (California Adventure): I personally think that Incredicoaster is the most underrated attraction in the park and one of the best Disneyland rides for adults. It’s a classic, high-speed roller coaster that is much more adventurous than the others in the parks – complete with a loop! This one has steep drops, sharp turns, and a loop, so if any of that bothers you, skip it. PS – I *swear* it goes even faster at night.
  • Radiator Springs Racers (California Adventure): Inspired by Pixar’s Cars, Radiator Springs Racers takes you on a ride through the West’s desert landscape with lifelike animatronic cars, culminating in a big race at the end. I love this one because the scenery is stunning – I highly recommend going on it around sunset! I also recommend single rider for this one, as the lines tend to always be long and the Lightning Lane isn’t included in the standard Genie+.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! (California Adventure): Help Rocket rescue his fellow Guardians from the fortress of the Collector. I love this one, because not only is it thrilling, it’s just plain ‘ol FUN! The ride features a number of free-falling drops. If you’re not a fan of that stomach drop feeling, then sit this one out. Another thing to note – the line for this almost always takes longer than what it predicts, so allot extra time.

Best Chill Disneyland Rides for Adults

  • It’s a Small World (Disneyland): I know this one might feel lame to some, but it’s 15 minutes long, so it’s an excellent time to chill and give your feet a break. Definitely worth going on when it has the holiday overlay!
  • Jungle Cruise (Disneyland): Take a cruise on the treacherous rivers of the jungle, where puns abound and the animals rule. Some guides are better than others, but the jokes are generally entertaining and the ride is scenic and relaxing. I used to think this one was super boring when I was a kid, but I’ve come to appreciate it more as an adult – mainly for the jokes! Go on this one in the daytime rather than at night, because the guides tend to be over it and kinda rush through it at night.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland): This is the longest ride in the parks, clocking in at 16 minutes long. I love that they now incorporate Jack Sparrow into the ride – you’ll see him make an appearance several times. Do note that there are two drops on the ride, and they are bigger than you’d expect. You might get wet if sitting in the first two rows – asked to be seated in the back if this bothers you.
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats (Disneyland): Take a cruise through an enchanting fairytale land, featuring miniature versions of the cottages, palaces, and villages featured in various Disney films. I love Storybook Canal, it’s highly underrated! I recommend going right at or after sunset, it’s so romantic and magical.
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters: Sit in a colorful vintage car as it “dances” its way around the Luigi’s yard to Italian music. It’s so fun and adorable! Do note that there’s a bit of spinning on this ride (although I don’t think it’s super aggressive).
  • Soarin’ Around the World (California Adventure): Go on an epic hang-gliding around to all the marvels of the world. Featuring incredible IMAX projection and aerial footage to really make it feel like you’re flying around the world – they even throw in some smells! As a travel blogger, I love this one! I will say that I prefer the California version that they used to have – they do bring it back for the Food and Wine Festival, so do go on it if you happen to be planning your adult Disney trip then.
  • The Little Mermaid: This is a good one if you’re looking for a ride that is super chill that never has much of a wait. 

More Fun Rides for Adults

colorful teacups at Mad Tea party ride
Mad Tea Party
  • Mad Tea Party (Disneyland): Spin around in a giant teacup through a whimsical tea party. This one is such a Disneyland classic, and always makes me nostalgic! Plus, I love the bright colors on the teacups and lanterns hanging above. There’s lots of spinning (which you can make go faster by spinning the wheel inside the cup), so skip it if you’re prone to dizziness or motion sickness.
  • Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (California Adventure): Help Spider-Man on a mission to stop the rogue Spider-bots that are stuck in replication mode. This is the newest ride in California Adventure, and uses innovative 3D motion detecting technology that allows you to “sling” webs right from your arms. This ride is fun as a group, as you can make it a friendly competition!
Pixar pier skyline at night
  • Toy Story Midway Mania (California Adventure): Toy Story Midway Mania is inspired by carnival games and uses 3D graphics featuring your favorite Toy Story characters. Kids seem to love this one, but we love it as adults too because we enjoy the friendly competition! I suggest waiting until the evening to go on this one, otherwise you’ll encounter loooong lines and tons of kids.
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (Disneyland): Help Buzz Lightyear take down the Evil Emperor Zurg in this interactive ride. Here’s another one that’s fun in a group for some friendly competition! Go on this one later in the day for short lines.
Haunted mansion with halloween holiday overlay
Haunted Mansion
  • Haunted Mansion (Disneyland): This one is a classic! This one was considered to be super innovative when it first opened in the park, and it still holds up today. It’s spooky but not super scary. The Nightmare Before Christmas-themed holiday overlay, which runs from the beginning of Halloween season through Christmas, elevates it even more. It’s a pretty slow-moving ride so it’s a good opportunity to rest your feet for a bit.
  • Pixar Pal-Around (California Adventure): The 150 foot tall Ferris wheel adorned with Mickey’s face is the centerpiece of the Pixar Pier skyline. You can choose from two options, based on if you’re looking for a chill ride or a more adventurous one – there’s a swinging and non-swinging option. Do note that when they say that it swings, it REALLY swings. 
  • Star Tours (Disneyland): Come aboard on a 3D space flight to legendary Star Wars destinations. Star Tours usually doesn’t have a long wait, and they’ve updated it a bit to include more lands and characters, so chances are that no two rides on it will be the same. 

Relaxing Things to Do at Disneyland for Grown Ups

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again – be sure to schedule some downtime during your adult Disney trip! Take time to relax and recharge when you need it – this will help you have enough energy for a full day. 

Aside from the chill ride options that I mentioned in the earlier section, here are a few more relaxing Disneyland activities for adults:

drawings from Animation Studio class
Animation Academy, one of the chillest adult things to do at Disneyland
  • Animation Academy (California Adventure): Learn to sketch your favorite Disney characters in a class taught by a Disney artist. I love doing this because you get some downtime, but you get to create your own art piece! The class takes place every 30 minutes. Also visit the Sorcerer’s Workshop and attend Turtle Talk, housed in the same building.
  • Ride the Disneyland Railroad (Disneyland): My boyfriend inevitably ends up riding the Disneyland Railroad almost every single time we are in the park. It’s a wonderful way to rest your feet, get from place to place, and get a tour of the park – you even pop into some of the attractions, and even some spots you won’t get to see otherwise.
  • Take a ride on the monorail (Disneyland): Zoom around the resort area on a 13 minute journey between Tomorrowland and Downtown Disney. The monorail was the first of its kind when it was built in 1959, and it’s since made some updates to make it sleek and modern. The last time we were on this, people were literally taking a nap on it so you know it’s going to be a relaxing activity, lol. 
  • Enchanted Tiki Room (Disneyland): The Enchanted Tiki Room is a fantastic place to rest your feet, escape the heat, and enjoy your Dole Whip. The audio animatronics show features tropical birds, tiki gods, colorful flowers, and Polynesian music.
  • Mark Twain Riverboat + Sailing Ship Columbia (Disneyland): Cruise around the scenic Rivers of America in a relaxing boat ride on either the Mark Twain Riverboat, a replica of an authentic Mississippi riverboat, or the Sailing Ship Columbia, a replica of an 18th century vessel. 
  • Tom Sawyer Island (Disneyland): The perfect place to go for some peace and quiet in the middle of the bustling Disneyland. It’s sort of a hidden gem – you’ll never find crowds here, and there are a variety of hideaways and activities. The perfect place to enjoy a peaceful lunch.
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (Disneyland): This classic show, Walt’s pride and joy, features one of the first audio animatronics, featuring Abraham Lincoln. There’s also plenty of rare Disney memorabilia here, so you’ll learn a ton about both Disney and American history. Another big plus – it’s air conditioned and hardly ever crowded.

Best Entertainment at Disneyland for Adults

Long exposure of colorful fountains of World of Color
World of Color

There are plenty of shows and parades scheduled throughout the day in both Disneyland and California Adventure. Some of them are very much for kids, but others are perfect for adults to enjoy as well! 

Here are some of my favorite shows and entertainment at Disneyland for adults:

  • World of Color (California Adventure): World of Color is truly breathtaking – it is a powerful display of fountains, colorful lights, music, fog, fire, laser effects, and animated sequences. It’s definitely a feast for the senses! It is like the Bellagio Fountain show in Las Vegas, but on steroids – and Disney-fied! They are releasing a new version for the Disney 100 celebration, and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve. 

    If you don’t want to deal with the madness of staking out a viewing spot hours in advance, consider booking a dining package. They also have a dessert party, which includes an assortment of treats and alcoholic beverages. I’ve heard mixed things about whether it’s worth it or not, though. 
  • Fantasmic (Disneyland): The spectacular Fantasmic was a childhood favorite, yet it still holds up now that I’m an adult. Watch an epic battle between daring heroes and epic villains, with an appearance by Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The dazzling Fantasmic features music, special effects, pyrotechnics, state-of-the-projections, and appearances from your favorite Disney characters. 

    Like with World of Color, if you don’t want to camp out for a viewing spot, consider booking a Fantasmic dining package, which includes a meal and a ticket into the preferred viewing area. 
  • Fireworks Spectacular (Disneyland): No one does fireworks like Disney. The fireworks displays they put on are always epic. They also have different displays during holidays and festivals – the Christmas one is especially magical. 
  • Piano Show at Golden Horseshoe (Disneyland): The Golden Horseshoe is one of the original restaurants in Disneyland, meant to resemble a western saloon. The food isn’t really anything special (they have burgers, chicken nuggets, stuff like that), but what makes it worth a stop is the piano player show, which features 20 minutes of piano music, jokes, and fun. The show takes place every hour from 12:30pm to 6:30pm.
  • Dapper Dans (Disneyland): While I wouldn’t necessarily clear my schedule to watch the Dapper Dans perform, I always have to stop and watch every time I see them. These guys are truly talented! And they never fail to put a smile on my face.

Attend a festival or special event

Festivals at Disneyland and California Adventure

Disneyland plays host to a number of seasonal festivals and special events throughout the year. They tend to be food and drink centric, making this one of the best adult things to do at Disneyland.

During most of these festivals (except Halloween), special booths are set up in California Adventure, selling one-of-a-kind dishes, snacks, and cocktails. They also sell “Sip and Savor” tickets to help you sample some of them while saving a few bucks.

There are also usually special shows and performances that take place during the festivals, as well as some seasonal overlays and decorations for some (usually Halloween and Christmas). Disney also knows how to do the holidays RIGHT – so it’s always always fun to see what they have up their sleeves.

Here are the festivals that take place each year and when:

  • Lunar New Year (late January to early February): Featuring a variety of Asian-centric food items and drinks.
  • Food & Wine Festival (March and April): This festival celebrates California-inspired food, wine, and beverages. It’s a mini version of the one in Epcot. There’s also cooking demonstrations and events such as wine tastings. They also bring back the California version of Soarin’ during this time.
  • Halloween (September and October): Halloween is mostly celebrated at Disneyland, and we don’t have the booths at California Adventure. They go all out with the decorations and with the fall-inspired snacks and treats. 
  • Festival of the Holidays (mid-November to early January): My favorite time of year at Disneyland! Not only are the decorations absolutely magical, they have multi-cultural food and beverage items, as well as performances showcasing the holiday traditions around the world.

Check the Disney website for updated info on updated dates, etc,

Disneyland After Dark

The parks also play host to a number of after-hours events as part of Disneyland After Dark. On these nights, the parks get shut down early, and attendance is limited only to guests who have tickets to the special events.

Each event has a theme – Princess Nite, Sweethearts’ Nite, Oogie Boogie Bash – and features a number of exclusive food and beverage items, entertainment, character meet and greets, merchandise, and more.

These events are ideal for Disneyland adults because they’re past kids’ bedtimes! In addition, this is the only time when adults can wear costumes inside the parks.

For more information and to see upcoming events, see here.

Take a tour

If you’re already a frequent visitor to Disneyland and are looking for some unique things to do, consider taking the Walt’s Main Street Story tour. This tour will allow you to get a behind-the-scenes look at Disneyland history, while getting the chance to see Main Street through Walt’s eyes.

You’ll even get to enjoy refreshments from the patio of Walt’s apartment overlooking Main Street!

Best Food & Drink at Disneyland for Grown Ups

Mickey hot dog bun in front of Pixar Pier

Best Sit-Down Restaurants

Both Disneyland and California Adventure have a number of restaurants where you can sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal. You can find both casual and fine dining options in both parks. Dining at a sit-down restaurant is an ideal option at Disneyland for adults, as you can savor the experience and get a bit of downtime.

I will say that personally, I hardly ever dine at the sit-down restaurants, because I prefer being able to grab a quick bite to eat (usually with mobile ordering). Some of the places are really difficult to snag a reservation for (or hardly ever have walk-up availability). However, I do enjoy the experience once in a while, and think it’s one of the things that make the parks special!

Here are the best sit-down dining options for adults at Disneyland:

  • Lamplight Lounge (California Adventure): This might just be my favorite sit-down restaurant in the parks! Featuring creative gastropub inspired dishes, fun cocktails, and waterfront views. Be sure to ask for a table outside, and try the lobster nachos!
  • Blue Bayou (Disneyland): I am absolutely dying to eat at the Blue Bayou, but have yet to be successful in snagging a reservation. Dining here gives you the unique experience of being a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which is its main draw. They also have a menu full of Louisiana-inspired cuisine, from gumbo to Creole roasted chicken.
  • Cafe Orleans (Disneyland): They have a similar menu to Blue Bayou, but with a more casual vibe (and much more availability) – be sure to try the Monte Cristo and the gumbo! 
  • Carthay Circle (California Adventure): This fine dining spot inside California Adventure brings you back to the age of Hollywood glamor. I’ve never actually eaten here, but my friends who have said the food is awesome! At the least, stop for some cocktails here, as they are the best in the parks (ask for bar seating at the front). 
  • Carnation Cafe (Disneyland): One of the original restaurants in Disneyland that has been around since its opening in 1955. Find classic comfort food that were Walt’s favorites – they are known for the chili! 
  • Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel): Napa Rose isn’t only considered one of the best restaurants in Disneyland, it’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to eat in Orange County. The restaurant has won numerous accolades for its upscale California cuisine, served in an elegant dining room. 

Best Casual Eats for Adults

Looking to eat something a bit more casual? There are plenty of casual dining options at Disneyland for grown ups, that goes beyond the kid-friendly chicken tenders and cheeseburgers. 

Casual doesn’t mean boring – here’s where to find all the best quick service restaurants around Disneyland and California Adventure.

PS: Remember to mobile order to save time!

IN DISNEYLAND

  • Plaza Inn: Find hearty American classics at the Plaza Inn, a mainstay on Main Street. Their signature dish is the fried chicken plate, which is one of the best food items in the park! It’s a pretty big portion though – you can easily share it.
  • Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe: They have plenty of yummy baked treats (like the Mickey-shaped raspberry macaron – so good!), along with sandwiches, soups, and more. The grilled cheese + tomato soup here is super comforting (especially after a long day in the parks!), and the birria grilled cheese is super popular. Note: they don’t have some of the items in their mobile order menu (like the Mickey beignet and seasonal stuff), so you might have to get in line if you want a specific item. Sometimes the line goes faster!
  • Docking Bay 7: Out of all the lands in Disneyland, Star Wars’ Galaxy Edge has the best food for adults. There’s a bit more sophistication to the cuisine here, with a foodie twist. Of the eateries here, Docking Bay is probably my favorite, especially for the seasonal noodle dishes. 
  • Ronto Roasters: The wraps here make the perfect quick meal. It’s also the perfect place for a late night meal, as it’s one of the few places in the park open past 9pm. Get the vegan Ronto-less wrap here!
  • Bengal Barbeque: They specialize in grilled meat skewers here, which you can order individually as a snack, or as a plate, which comes with rice and slaw. 

IN CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE

  • Crazy Cone Motel: They have four cone-shaped stands here, with each specializing in a different item. Head to #1 for churros and an alcoholic orange slushie (SO good!), and #3 for either chili or mac and cheese in a bread cone.
  • Pacific Wharf Cafe: Featuring various items made with Boudin sourdough bread (a San Francisco favorite!), including clam chowder in a bread bowl, which really hits the spot on a chilly evening! They also offer tours of the factory here, and you get a free sample.
  •  Cocina Cucamonga: The Quesabirria tacos here are one of my favorite food items in both parks.
  • Award Wieners: The hot dogs here are solid – try the monthly special, which is always unique and tasty. Also be sure to try the Carne Asada fries here, made with their signature “film strip” fries.
  •  Pym’s Test Kitchen: Everything at Pym’s is a wacky size, inspired by the shrink and grow technology featured in the Ant Man movies. They have some fun dishes here. If you aren’t too hungry, order the kids’ size that are available for a few of the items.

Best Disneyland Snacks

Disneyland doesn’t disappoint for the snacks, which satisfies the palates for both kids and adults. If you’re like me, you’re there for the snacks. Here are some of my favorite Disneyland snacks:

  • Corn Dogs: My favorite are the hot link corn dogs at Corn Dog Castle in California Adventure.
  • Chimichangas: If you’re there early in the morning, grab a breakfast chimichanga from the cart in front of the Mark Twain riverboat – but hurry, they sell out quick! Otherwise, Edelweiss Snacks near Matterhorn has the best ones.
  • Dole Whip: An absolute must when visiting Disneyland! Head to Tropical Hideaway, which has a variety of flavors – you can do a Dole Whip float as well. However, they don’t do mobile ordering, so if you’re in a rush, order from the Tiki Juice Bar, which has the original.
  • Pretzels: The Mickey shaped pretzels are iconic, but I loveee the cream cheese-filled ones, especially the toffee one that is available in the fall.
  • Churros: While you can’t go wrong with a classic churro at Disneyland, I LOVE trying all of the seasonal varieties they come out with throughout the year. 
  • Pixar Parfait: Available at Abominable Snowman Frozen Treats on Pixar Pier in California Adventure, the Pixar Pier is a frozen concoction combining lemon soft serve with a blue raspberry swirl. It is the best treat on a hot day! There’s also an alcoholic version, which has Blue Curacao.
  • Jack Jack’s Num Nums: These chocolate chip cookies sold outside Incredicoaster are so rich but SO GOOD! Wash it down with a glass of milk.
  • Popcorn: I swear Disney puts something in their popcorn, because it is just so damn ADDICTIVE. This is a perfect snack to munch on while waiting in line.
  • Mickey Beignets: How can you resist a Mickey shaped beignet? Beware of all the powdered sugar though! They have a variety of seasonal ones too, which are fun to try (but I don’t recommend the peppermint).  
  • Rice Krispie treats: These Mickey shaped Rice Krispie treats are sold at various spots throughout the parks + Downtown Disney – I can’t resist buying one to take home, because they are pretty much the best Rice Krispie treats I’ve ever had!

Best Places to Drink at Disneyland + California Adventure

One of the best things to do at Disneyland for adults? Trying all the libations in the park, including seasonal cocktails, craft beers, and local wines.

Walt Disney originally intended for Disneyland to be a dry park. Aside from Oga’s Cantina, which opened as part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, all the alcohol is at California Adventure. 

Please drink responsibly – while Disneyland is fun for adults, it’s still a family-friendly place so this isn’t the place to get super turnt! That gets super expensive anyway, as alcoholic beverages can run you an average of $15 a pop. 

Anyhow, here are some of the best places to grab a drink in the parks:

  • Oga’s Cantina (Disneyland): The only place to drink inside Disneyland itself, and inspired by the Cantinas of the Star Wars movies. You’ll find some creative drinks here (like one that numbs your lips, which was kinda weird but still), and a fun atmosphere (check out the droid DJ!). If you don’t snag a reservation, I find that walk-up spots tend to open up later in the day.
  • Carthay Circle (California Adventure): The cocktails here are well-made, and not watered down like at many other places in the park. If you only want drinks, just be sure to request seating in the bar area at the front desk, instead of booking a walk-up reservation to prevent an awkward encounter in the main dining room.
  • Lamplight Lounge (California Adventure): You’ll find fun, tropical-inspired drinks with a view of the Pixar Pier here. While they have an awesome variety of cocktails, they also have a secret menu if you want even more options.
  • Pym’s Tasting Lab (California Adventure): They have some fun, creative beer and seltzer cocktails here, served in a plastic “beaker glass” (although they are kinda pricey!). I love the Particle Fizz here, which has popping boba in seltzer.
  • Hollywood Lounge (California Adventure): Find a variety of seasonal cocktails and drinks here. They also have the best Micheladas!
  • Bayside Brews + Karl Strauss (California Adventure): If you’re a beer fan, this is where you’ll find the best brews in the parks.
  • Rita’s Baja Blenders (California Adventure): In the mood for a margarita? Come here for one, available both on the rocks and frozen (perfect on a hot day!). 
  • Mendocino Terrace (California Adventure): For wine lovers – they feature a number of wines from California and around the world.
  • Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Disneyland Hotel): While technically not inside the parks, Trader Sam’s is a must! You’ll find an extensive menu of tiki drinks – my faves are the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum and the boozy Dole Whip float. While the inside of Trader Sam’s is really cool, it’s often a wait to sit inside, so you can also grab drinks at Tangaroa Terrace outside. 

Where to grab coffee at Disneyland

holding up cocoa puff coffee in front of galaxy's edge

If you’re anything like me, you will need some caffeine to fuel for a full day at Disneyland. Here’s where to get an extra caffeine boost in the parks:

  • Starbucks: I know, I know, you can get Starbucks *anywhere.* But this is the best place to get a cup of coffee before the parks are officially open. Also, if you have a Magic Key pass, you get your discount here. There’s one in both Disneyland (which is disguised at the “Market House” on Main Street), and in California Adventure. 
  • Docking Bay 7 (Disneyland): I loveeeee the cocoa puff cold brew (officially named the Cold Brew Black Caf) here – it’s my favorite coffee drink in the park. Do note that they don’t open until 10:45, but you can mobile order ahead of time and pick it up right when they open.
  • Cappuccino Cart: You’ll find all the coffee drinks along with baked goods at this cart, which has locations inside both parks. The California Adventure one has alcoholic coffee drinks too, if you want a libation later on.
  • Jolly Holiday (Disneyland): The best place to go for coffee and a treat. Double check before mobile ordering, because sometimes the standby line is shorter. 
  • Schmoozie’s (California Adventure): Schmoozie’s is known for their super extra milkshakes, but they have a selection of coffee items as well, including espresso, affogatos, and blended drinks.
  • Ghirardelli’s (California Adventure): They have lots of specialty lattes, mochas (because, duh), and frozen drinks.

Best Places to Stay At/Near Disneyland for Adults

pixar pier lit up at night

Looking for a place to stay for your adult Disney trip?

As an adult, you are probably looking for accommodations that offer something different than those properties that are catered towards families. You may be looking for something a bit more boutique, or with upscale amenities.

There are tons of accommodation options in and around Disneyland, and there’s plenty of hotels that fit this criteria! Here are some suggestions for where to stay in or near Disneyland:

  • Grand Californian Hotel & Spa: This is hands-down the best hotel at Disneyland for adults. It’s an absolute stunning property, with an elegant Craftsman-inspired design. Every corner you look at will take your breath away. In addition, you get all the perks of staying at a Disney property, including early entrance into the parks – not to mention, you get your own separate entrance directly into California Adventure. There’s a spa on property as well, for some well-deserved R&R after a jam-packed itinerary.
  • JW Marriott: I stayed here recently for a wedding, and loved it! This is a newer property in the Anaheim Resort area, and features luxurious touches and amenities. The property has an upscale, modern design, comfortable beds, a beautiful pool area, a rooftop bar, and more. 
  • Best Western Plus Park Place: It doesn’t get much more convenient than this – this property is located right across from the main pedestrian entrance to the parks. It’s also perfect for travelers who are looking for a bit more space, as all the rooms are mini suites. A free breakfast is included – and Best Western usually has some of the best! 

Any other tips for Disneyland for adults?

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Melissa D

Thursday 26th of January 2023

Ugh such a fun post! I’m so glad I get to go to Disneyland with you often since you know all the tricks! I still think it’s hilarious that I go to Disneyland way more now that I live in a different state! Next post - Disneyland food bucketlist? Lol