What can you say about the theme park that inspired them all? Disneyland is the second most-visited theme park in the world, attracting some 17 million people annually, and it's the most Instagrammed location on Earth. It's also very expensive (even simple fast food is over $11) and because it was designed by people who couldn't predict the incredible degree of its popularity, it can feel crowded. So wear good shoes and bring your positive attitude.
Packed into this little place, you'll find just as many rides as are in all four Florida Disney parks combined. Here, encircled by its famous steam-engine trains, you'll find the Disney rides created by Walt Disney himself, including the original Peter Pan's Flight, it's a small world, Jungle Cruise, Alice in Wonderland, the Matterhorn bobsled coaster, Mark Twain Riverboat, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even the additions that came after Walt are considered American classics: the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, the Indiana Jones Adventure, and Big Thunder Mountain Railway. In true Disney mass-appeal fashion, nearly everything is appropriate for all ages.
It's a lot, yet the park feels astonishingly intimate. It's possible to walk from one end to the other in less than five minutes.
In 2019, a new land was tucked into the back of the park: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge contains a lavishly detailed town out of a space fantasy. Its main attraction, Rise of the Resistance, is so popular that for the first months of its existence, guests had to be inside the theme park at opening time so they could use the Disneyland app to sign up for a lottery to ride it; check ahead to see if that's still the case.
At any rate, creating an account in the Disneyland app is a must; it shows wait times, maps, and entertainment schedules, and if you add your credit card, you can use Mobile Ordering to buy food without waiting in line. Unlike at the Florida parks, Fastpass costs money here; it's called MaxPass (about $20 more) and it can only be activated once you're inside the park gates. Dining reservations at sit-down restaurants can and should be made as far ahead as possible; you also need reservations for the Oga's Cantina bar in Galaxy's Edge and Savi's Workshop, where you build and buy custom light sabers. Again, all of that is done via the app.
If you're coming for the iconic fireworks, they tend to happen during weekends (nightly shows disturb the neighbors). And if there are two Fantasmic! performances on your day's schedule, the second one will be dramatically less crowded.
The Disney California Adventure park (home of Cars Land) is separately ticketed and about 100 steps away, and you can add about $55 to a one-day, one-park ticket to make it a "Park Hopper' that allows you to go back and forth between the two all day.