Disneyland is divided into eight sub-areas or "lands" arranged around a central hub, each of which has a number of rides and attractions that are, more or less, related to that land's theme. Be sure to pick up a free park map on the way in, or you'll probably get lost almost immediately.
Main Street U.S.A.
At the park's entrance, Main Street U.S.A. is an idealized version of a turn-of-the-20th-century American small-town street inspired by Marceline, Missouri (Walt Disney's childhood home), and built on a 7/8 scale. Attention to detail here is exceptional -- interiors, furnishings, and fixtures conform to the period. As with any real Main Street, the Disney version is essentially a collection of shops and eating places, with a city hall, a fire station, and an old-time silent cinema. Live performances include piano playing at the Carnation ice-cream parlor and Dapper Dan's barbershop quartet along the street. A mixed-media attraction combines a presentation on the life of Walt Disney (The Walt Disney Story) with a patriotic remembrance of Abraham Lincoln. Horse-drawn trolleys, fire engines, and horseless carriages give rides along Main Street and transport visitors to the central hub (properly known as the Central Plaza).
Because there are no major rides, it's best to tour Main Street during the middle of the afternoon, when lines for rides are longest, and in the evening, when walkways can be packed with visitors viewing Disneyland's parades and shows. Stop in at the information booth to the left of the Main Entrance for a schedule of the day's events.
Inspired by the most exotic regions of Asia, Africa, India, and the South Pacific, Adventureland is home to several popular rides. Here's where you can cavort inside Tarzan's Treehouse, a climb-around attraction based on the animated film. Its neighbor is the Jungle Cruise, where passengers board a large, authentic-looking Mississippi River paddleboat and float along an Amazon-like river; a spear's throw away is the Enchanted Tiki Room, one of the most sedate attractions in Adventureland. Inside, you can sit down and watch a 20-minute musical comedy featuring electronically animated tropical birds, flowers, and "Tiki gods."
The Indiana Jones Adventure is Adventureland's star ride. Based on the Steven Spielberg films, this ride takes adventurers into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye in joltingly realistic all-terrain vehicles. Riders follow Indy and experience the perils of bubbling lava pits, whizzing arrows, fire-breathing serpents, collapsing bridges, and the familiar tumbling boulder (an effect that's very realistic to riders in the front seats).
New Orleans Square
A large, grassy green dotted with gas lamps, New Orleans Square evokes the French Quarter's timeless charm from antebellum mansions to sidewalk cafes and lakefront terraces. Jazz music wafts through the air, and portrait artists line a cobblestone alley of shops. One of Disneyland's most popular rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, is located here; visitors still float on boats through mock underground caves, but now one of the major scenes is Captain Jack Sparrow and his cohorts from the hit film franchise doing battle with Davy Jones. The venerable Haunted Mansion looms here as well, where the dated effects are more funny than scary. Even in the middle of a sweltering summer day, you can dine by the cool moonlight to the sound of crickets in the Blue Bayou restaurant, the only eatery inside Disneyland that requires reservations (stop by early in the day to make yours).
An ode to the backwoods, Critter Country is a sort of Frontierland without those pesky settlers. Older kids and grown-ups head straight for Splash Mountain, one of the largest water flume rides in the world. Loosely based on the Disney movie Song of the South, the ride is lined with about 100 characters that won't stop singing "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." Be prepared to get wet, especially if someone sizable is in the front seat of your log-shaped boat. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a spellbinding children's attraction based on Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred-Acre Wood -- Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and the gang. The attraction is of the kindler, gentler sort, where you board "hunny bee-hives" and take a slow-moving journey through the Hundred-Acre Wood in endless pursuit of "hunny." (Tip: It's a very popular attraction, so be sure to arrive early or make use of FASTPASS.) While it may not be the fastest ride in the park, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes allow folks to row around Tom Sawyer Island. It's the only ride where you actively control your boat (no underwater rails!). Hop into replica canoes, grab a paddle, and away you go.
Inspired by 19th-century America, Frontierland features a raft to Pirate's Lair at Tom Sawyer's Island, a do-it-yourself play area with live pirates, island caverns, and rope bridges leading to buried treasure. You'll also find the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a runaway roller coaster that races through a deserted 1870s gold mine. Children will dig the petting zoo, and there's an Abe Lincoln-style log cabin; both are great for exploring with the little ones. This is also where you board one of two riverboats -- Mark Twain and the Sailing Ship Columbia -- that navigate the waters around Tom Sawyer Island and Fort Wilderness. Beautiful crafts, the riverboats provide lofty perches from which to see Frontierland and New Orleans Square. The Sailing Ship Columbia, however, has far more historic and aesthetic appeal. As with the other river craft, the riverboats suspend operations at dusk.
When it's showing (it's a seasonal presentation), head to Frontierland's Rivers of America after dark to see the FANTASMIC! show. It mixes magic, music, 50 live performers, floats, and sensational special effects. Just as he did in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Mickey Mouse battles evil and conjures good, using his magical powers to create giant water fountains, enormous flowers, and fantasy creatures. There are plenty of pyrotechnics, lasers, and fog, as well as a brand-new, 45-foot-tall Audio-Animatronic dragon that breathes fire and sets the water of the Rivers of America aflame. New enhancements include a new projection system using HD format.
This is a colorful, whimsical world inspired by the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? -- a wacky, gag-filled land populated by 'toons. It even looks like a cartoon come to life, a trippy, smile-inducing world without a straight line or right angle in sight. In addition to serving as a place where guests can be certain of finding Disney characters at any time during the day, Mickey's Toontown also serves as an elaborate interactive playground where it's okay for the kids to run, climb, and let off steam. There are several rides and play areas, including Roger Rabbit's CarToonSpin, Donald's Boat, Chip 'n' Dale's Treehouse, Gadget's Go Coaster, and Mickey's House and Minnie's House. Tip: Because of its popularity with families, Toontown is most crowded during the day but often deserted after dinnertime.
With a storybook theme, this is the catchall "land" for stuff that doesn't quite fit anywhere else. Most of the rides are geared to the under-6 set, including the King Arthur Carousel, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, and Casey Jr. Circus Train. Some, like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Peter Pan's Flight, appeal to grown-ups as well, and are original attractions from opening day in 1955. You'll also find Alice in Wonderland, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, and more.
The most lauded attraction is it's a small world, a slow-moving indoor river ride through a saccharine scenario of all the world's children singing the song everybody loves to hate. (Perhaps the ride would be more entertaining if each person got four softballs on the way in?) For a different kind of thrill, try the Matterhorn Bobsleds, a zippy roller coaster through chilled caverns and drifting fog banks. It's one of the park's most popular rides and the world's first steel tubular track roller coaster.
Conceived as an optimistic look at the future, Tomorrowland employs an angular, metallic look popularized by futurists like Jules Verne. Longtime favorites include the revamped Space Mountain (a pitch-black indoor roller coaster that assaults your equilibrium and ears with its near constant side-to-side motions) and Star Tours, the original Disney-George Lucas joint venture, with a 3D update due in the summer of 2011. Those with queasy tendencies should sit out this ride: It's a 40-passenger StarSpeeder that encounters a spaceload of misadventures -- achieved with wired seats and video effects -- on the way to the Moon of Endor. In the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, the famous Tomorrowland submarines have resurfaced after a hiatus and now dive the Tomorrowland Lagoon with Marlin and Dory in search of Nemo from the Disney film Finding Nemo.
Other Tomorrowland attractions include: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, where guests pilot their own Star Cruiser through a comical interactive space mission to conquer the Evil Emperor Zurg; the return of Captain EO, the 17-minute interactive film that stars Michael Jackson as Captain EO on his quest to change the world; the Disneyland Monorail, a "futuristic" elevated monorail that takes you to Downtown Disney and back again (and offers the only practical opportunity for escaping the park during the crowded lunch period and early afternoon); and Innoventions, a huge, busy collection of industry-sponsored hands-on exhibits such as the Dream Home, a 5,000-plus-square-foot home belonging to the fictional Elias family that provides a glimpse of the emerging digital advances for future high-tech homes. Exhibits, many of which change each year, demonstrate such products as virtual-reality games, voice-activated appliances, and various digital applications.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.