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When entertainment mogul Walt Disney opened his Anaheim amusement park in 1955, the whimsical rides and attractions were meant to re-create fairy-tale magic. Since then, Disneyland Resort has grown to two theme parks, three hotels, and the Downtown Disney District. But it also offers countless forms of entertainment, thrills, and great dining. Here are five ways to experience it—appealing to all ages and different definitions of magic.
Stay at Disney’s Grand Californian
Booking a stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel offers two kinds of treats: First, the woodsy, Arts and Crafts-style interior is incredibly soothing after a fun-filled theme park day. The hotel also offers easy access to both parks and Downtown Disney, and even has its own entrance gate to Disney California Adventure Park. Stay here and you can also take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, which grants hotel guests early entrance to the parks. Whether you stay overnight or not, take some time to relax in the lobby, or have dinner at the Napa Rose restaurant, which artfully channels California wine country cuisine.
Explore Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Disneyland Park’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge transports you to an alternate universe—namely, Black Spire Outpost, on the Outer Rim planet of Batuu. You’ll see strolling cast members, who belong to either the Resistance or the First Order, but you may be most drawn to the otherworldly porgs and tauntauns available in The Creature Stall, or the robotic buddies you can create at the Droid Depot (to be a true Jedi, get your own lightsaber at Savi's Workshop). Make your way to the area’s debut ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which lets you take on the duties of a pilot, gunner, or flight engineer aboard Han Solo’s famous ship.
Enjoy the time machine of classic rides
Most Disney fans would agree that Fantasyland, tucked behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, is the original heart of Disneyland Park, with its 1950s-era rides such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant or the spinning cups of the Mad Tea Party. Don’t miss the relatively newer classics in other parts of the park, too, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, which opened in 1967 (the last ride that Walt Disney himself oversaw) and Splash Mountain, which debuted in 1989. Fun fact: In the course of a full day, the song “It’s a Small World” plays about 1,200 times.
Let it go at Frozen: Live at the Hyperion
See a classic Disney story in a whole new way at California Adventure’s Hyperion Theater. This Broadway-level production of Frozen has become a hit for its rotating sets, ice-shooting special effects, and serious song-belting by Elsa and her supporting cast. While you can line up to see one of the daily performances, you can also lock in your seat using the Disneyland Mobile App, or booking the Frozen dining package which includes both a reserved seat and a three-course meal at Carthay Circle Restaurant, the fine-dining spot modeled after the movie theater that debuted Snow White. (Ed. note: Though it remains in the video, this attraction’s run has ended. Since its closure, an all-new land—the Avengers Campus—has opened, featuring an all-star lineup of Marvel superheroes.)
Play at Pixar Pier
Fans of Pixar films—such as the Toy Story series, The Incredibles, and Inside Out—will love the Pixar Pier section of Disney California Adventure Park. The boardwalk-style area (formerly known as Paradise Pier) blends movie magic into rides and attractions such as Incredicoaster, the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, and the Pixar Pal-A-Round Ferris wheel. The Pixar theme extends to food, too, from the Señor Buzz Churros and Jack-Jack Cookie Num Nums to the sit-down Lamplight Lounge, filled with Pixar sketches and memorabilia. Stop in at Knick’s Knacks for movie themed T-shirts and toys, copies of Pixar concept art, or custom portraits made by the on-site character sketch artist.