Going to Disneyland? Here’s our great big guide to the Happiest Place on Earth

Disney characters strike a pose
Disneyland’s holiday decorations are now up through Jan. 7.
(Courtesy of Disneyland Resort)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Saturday, Nov. 18. Here’s what you need to know to start your weekend:

    A great big guide to Disneyland

    When you go to Disneyland for the first time, you need a guide. Some tap a “Disney adult,” someone who goes several times a year, has all the paraphernalia and knows every inch of the park. Others use the L.A. Times Great Big Highly Specific Guide to Disneyland.

    I trusted my boyfriend, Nate.

    As a birthday gift, Nate and I spent 13 hours in the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

    I would have chosen between Disneyland Park or California Adventure — the parks that make up the Disneyland resort — since ticket prices have risen for the holiday season. But Nate insisted we do both. It was my first time, after all.


    As soon as we stepped inside the park, Nate grabbed a first visit button for me while I enjoyed the jolly sounds of Christmas music and the sight of smiling people wearing Mickey Mouse regalia.

    (I almost forgot about a sprawling Disney-themed federal political corruption investigation in Anaheim.)

    10 rides in 13 hours

    The first ride we stood in line for was It’s a Small World — the one my colleague Todd Martens called the best ride at the Disneyland resort.

    A woman wearing Mickey Mouse ears leans against a railing while posing for a photo
    The author of this week’s newsletter stands in line for the It’s a Small World ride at Disneyland.
    (Kevinisha Walker / Los Angeles Times)

    It was a great introduction to the park with its charming displays and catchy song, but it lasted a little too long and didn’t move fast enough for my taste. My favorite is Soarin’ Around the World. While sitting on a hang-glider-like riding system, we sailed above wonders of the world, like the Taj Mahal in India, and gazed down at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. An 80-foot projection dome made it seem like we were floating above these majestic destinations.

    Losing power, but not steam

    To have a great Disneyland experience, you don’t just need a guide; you need somebody you are willing to stand in line with for hours. Constant standing left me sore the entire day after, but the wait times weren’t as bad as I expected. Our longest line was 65 minutes for Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! Our shortest was 30 minutes for Space Mountain, which typically has the longest wait. We accidentally discovered the cheat code for Space Mountain: get in line between 9:30 and 10 p.m. while most people watch the fireworks show. It also helps to go on Sunday, which is usually less crowded than Saturday.

    By 3 p.m. our phone batteries started to die (I’m bringing a portable charger next time!). But we found a wall plug at Hungry Bear restaurant — one of the 12 food spots my colleagues say represents the best bang for your buck.

    Next time, I’m adding portable chargers to my list of must-haves and scheduling more time for rest breaks. We didn’t take nearly enough breaks and my feet and legs paid the ultimate price. But your limbs don’t have to with these tips and tricks from park fanatics.


    The week’s biggest stories

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    I-10 fire

    Crime and courts


    Climate and environment

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    Column One

    Column One is The Times’ home for narrative and longform journalism. Here’s a great piece from this week:

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    (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

    Inside the Israeli lab ‘reassembling and reconnecting’ the mangled bodies of the dead. A forensic investigator in Tel Aviv works to reassemble the remains of victims of Hamas militants, trying to understand the causes of death and the underlying hate.

    More great reads

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    For your weekend

    People take a test drive in a Ford Bronco Raptor during the Ford Bronco Indoor Thrill Ride at the L.A. Auto Show
    People take a test drive in a Ford Bronco Raptor on Bronco Mountain during the Ford Bronco Indoor Thrill Ride at the L.A. Auto Show.
    (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

    Going out

    Staying in

    L.A. Affairs

    Get wrapped up in tantalizing stories about dating, relationships and marriage.

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    I broke up with her. Then she wrote a one-woman show about it. The show didn’t have a happy ending. Was it was my fault?

    Have a great weekend, from the Essential California team

    Elvia Limón, multiplatform editor
    Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
    Karim Doumar, head of newsletters

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