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Get happier at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

Disneyland—the Happiest Place on Earth. It’s everything you could imagine and more, as once you walk through those gates, you enter a world that we usually can only visit through storybooks, movies and imagination. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland, the original Disney theme park back in 1955, he said he hoped it would be “a source of joy and inspiration to all the world” and for millions of visitors, it has been exactly that. Over the summer, this joyful place was even happier, as every Monday guests were treated to special goodies like surprise ice cream sundaes at Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped Ice Cream and other acts of kindness that remind us what makes the Disney experience so special. And it is just that, an experience. Whether you train all year for the recently completed Disneyland Half Marathon or are looking forward to celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or first-visit, it’s time to put your ears on and enter the world of Mickey…

Cars Land in Disney California Adventure park
Cars Land in Disney California Adventure park
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort
The fab five
Scott Brinegar/Disneyland

Disneyland is comprised of eight different “lands” such as the futuristic Tomorrowland, the wild Adventureland, and the character rich Toontown where you can meet Mickey in his house and get your ears embroidered. Walt Disney’s thoughts on Adventureland really stand out: “Here is adventure. Here is romance. Here is mystery…”, and walking into this land you feel all of those things. Guests get to venture to faraway places and play in Tarzan’s Treehouse or use a FastPass and jump on the high-thrills excitement of Indiana Jones Adventure with hardly any wait time. The Jungle Cruise is another popular staple of the park where you ride through the wilds of the world, all while in Anaheim. But all the rides, from Dumbo to It’s a Small World are wonderful to enjoy. An insider tip: See something you like at a park shop? Purchase it while you’re there, and use the convenient package-hold service to pick it up later in the day. Ask a shop cast member about the nearest package-hold station to save you from lugging around souvenirs all day.

Now you’ve surely seen a glimpse of a Disneyland parade on TV at some point but there is no comparison to being there in person. Mickey's Soundsational Parade mixes dynamic music and sounds with classic Disney characters as they make their way down Main Street, U.S.A. But get a viewing spot early as the street gets crowded fast near day’s end to view this one-of-a-kind whimsy. Unfortunately, sooner or later the day starts to wind down and there is no better way to cap off your adventure than with the evening’s magical fireworks—it is truly not to be missed. Bursting over Sleeping Beauty Castle, it is a brilliant creation of color and uniqueness that make your fairytale day complete.

But there is still more to see and do! Disney California Adventure Park is adjacent to Disneyland and make it possible to park hop. Since its opening in 2001, some popular attractions are Soarin’ Over California, California Screamin’ and Grizzly River Run, and the Twilight Zone™Tower of Terror. But after the completion of the June 2012 park expansion, Cars Land was added along with Buena Vista Street, is the entry into Disney California Adventure, and invites guests to step into Los Angeles of the 1920s and ’30s. Maybe even getting to experience Cali the way Walt Disney himself may have. Here, you will see your favorite Disney main characters, but also for kiddos, Disney Junior is a presence with Doc McStuffins and Jake making their rounds to greet the youngest of fans.

Another must-see is the Downtown Disney District; it is a lively, colorful place, and best of all, an admission-free area. It is full of exciting restaurants, shops and nightclubs while being is centrally located between the Disneyland Resort theme parks and hotels. Guests can catch a show at the AMC Theatres, dine and play at ESPN Zone, or shop more at the World of Disney store. This fun-filled area is just steps away from the three Disney hotels ( by staying at one of these, on select days guests also get an extra bonus hour at the parks opening) to choose from and gives visitors even more to do after the park has closed…

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (714) 635-2300: This is the flagship hotel of the Disneyland Resort. This AAA Four-Diamond, award-winning luxury property is inspired by the turn-of-the-century California Craftsman movement. It’s also the first hotel in the United States to be built inside a Disney park (Disney California Adventure). Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel offers suites, a large convention facility, swimming pools, Mandara Spa and two restaurants: Storytellers Cafe and the award-winning Napa Rose restaurant. It is the higher-end option for travelers while still having a lighter Disney feel.

Disneyland Hotel (714) 778-6600 : The iconic Disneyland Hotel was recently enhanced and the Disney-themed suites, a new restaurant and bar and a water play area with Monorail-inspired water slides make this a wonderful option. The rooms are lovely and have Disney touches that surprise and delight guests—you’ll have to stay for yourself to really see! In the Adventureland Tower facing Downtown Disney, if you stay on a higher floor, you can view the fireworks from your room. Goofy’s Kitchen is popular with families especially to dine with characters and take pictures. Be sure to take pictures at check-in by the giant tea cups.

Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (714) 999-0990: A more laid-back and colorful accommodation that is full of fun is how to describe this property. What is best about this hotel is the character breakfast at the whimsical Disney’s PCH Grill where Mickey and his friends will be there while you eat your Mickey shaped waffles. A tip for getting to the Disney hotels is to take the Disneyland Resort Express, which leaves from most local airports and drops guests off right at the your hotel while riding in style in a Cars’ wrapped lux bus. Check with the company for schedules and prices but if you plan to stay at the resort and take it all in, this option lets you skip the rental car and traffic as you cruise past L.A.

While anytime is a perfect time to visit, Halloween may be a great time to plan a special trip. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks transform into cheerfully spooky, family-friendly Halloween environments beginning Friday, Sept. 12. Well after stepping into this world of fairy dust and Mickey ears, how would I describe the parks and the experience? Disneyland is pure magic, it’s that simple and yet complex. Disney California Adventure is big thrills and movie mastery. Disney famously observed that “Disneyland will never be completed…as long as there is imagination left in the world”, and for visitors to this charmed land, one visit can’t possibly be enough to take in everything it has to offer. It’s a dream, a wish and a memory worth traveling west for…

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