Disneyland without Kids: what to do and how to do it
Let’s just start by making it clear: it’s perfectly fine to do Disneyland without kids. Whether you want to visit and leave the kids at home or maybe you don’t have kids, that’s fine. Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure are both incredible and super fun without kids.
What do adults do in Disneyland without kids? Whatever they want. Here’s how we would recommend doing a trip to Disneyland without kids, and don’t worry, it doesn’t even have to be the full focus of your trip.
What you'll find...
Why do Disneyland without Kids?
Simple: why should having fun and enjoying magic be limited to being a child? It shouldn’t. Many adults, like us, have great memories of doing Disneyland as kids… back when there was only one park and just the Disneyland Hotel. Returning as an adult is a completely new experience. Here’s the thing though, Disneyland without kids very different, particularly if you’ve only ever been with children.
Note: don’t forget to get your Disneyland tickets before you arrive!
Some things to look forward to during a Disneyland visit as an adult:
Completely unrestricted attraction access – you’re most likely tall enough for all rides
Enjoying rides and shows that YOU want to
Skipping the Mad Tea Party (tea cups) cuz you’re an adult… and you vomit easily these days
An appreciation for down-time and people watching
The budget to enjoy nice sit-down meals is a great atmosphere
No naps or bedtimes to consider so you can take in fireworks, Fantasmic, parades or World of Color
Adult beverages on the lagoon… see below
There are plenty more reasons but if at least two of these sound nice, that’s license to book a trip to Disneyland without kids. Now, feel empowered to do so and check out our tips for how to make an adult Disney trip happen.
Adding Disneyland to a SoCal trip
When it comes to Southern California there are plenty of options for types of trips to take. You can plan a getaway to Palm Springs for hiking and eating fancy food, head to San Diego for some quality beach time, or just dink around Los Angeles enjoying the museums and local vibe. Heck, even add a day in the Happiest Place on Earth to a full California Coast road trip! With any of this trips, adding a day or two to enjoy Disneyland without kids is easy.
You don’t have to be staying in Anaheim to visit the parks, but it is definitely helpful. Knowing the drive time from your home base to the Disneyland Resort is step one to adding it to your SoCal trip. Most common distances/drive times are as follows:
Los Angeles (downtown) – 34 miles @ 1 to 1.5 hours
Orange County Beaches – 16 miles @ 40 minutes
Palm Springs – 92 miles @ 2 hours
San Diego – 95 miles @ 1 hour and 45 minutes
Clearly the easiest SoCal trip to add Disneyland to is a visit to LA, but it’s doable with any city destination. We recommend one day in Disneyland without kids, two if you’re doing both theme parks, so for the single day visitors making the drive is worth it. Visiting for two or more days, stay nearby.
Tip: while it’s nice to stay in one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, it’s for sure not required. You’ll save a ton by staying just off property in a Good Neighbor hotel.
Planning your time in the Disney Parks
Previously, we wrote this awesome article about planning and budgeting your time in Disneyland to make the most of it. The same principles apply, but strike the considerations for the kids. When you approach visiting the park in a relaxed manner and accept that you don’t have to do everything, Disneyland without kids becomes the most fun and relaxing vacation you can imagine.
With the upgrades to the Disneyland app (on iPhone or Android) you can now get your showtimes, wait times and even grab your FastPASSes easier than ever. There’s no need to stress, just pick some attractions and experiences that you think would be fun and roll with it. Chances are you won’t even worry about wait times or hitting every E-ticket item (totally vintage term there).
Top Tips for Time in Disneyland Without Kids
Like I said, without having to take nap time and bedtimes into consideration, your ability to enjoy Disneyland without kids multiplies tenfold. If you do want to add some structure and planning to your visit, these are the best ways to beat the crowds and maximise your Disney time:
Start your day early (if you’re inspired)
Purchase MaxPASS access to be able to secure FastPASSes through the mobile app
Take advantage of parade and show times to ride E-Ticket attractions
If you’ve been to Disneyland before, leverage Single Rider lines
Close out the parks – you don’t have to go to bed early, right?
Seriously, the best tip we can give to get the most out of your trip to Disneyland without kids is to feel empowered to have fun however you want. If you’ve got the energy to keep going or just want to chill and enjoy a Dole Whip, do it. There’s no reason you can’t be efficient and still enjoy your time how you want to.
Dining in Disneyland
As adults, we’re often not thrilled to dine in theme parks, but thank goodness that’s changing. There is so much more to life than chicken strips and KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (I’m lying, that combo is everything). There are some easy dining options that are more refined than some of the quick service restaurant options, but also… no shame. Get your chicken strips and love them… cuz they’re delish.
Tip: for any nice dining experiences in either California Adventure or Disneyland without kids (or even with the fam) you’ll want to make reservations as soon as you know you’ll be visiting. Even though it’s nice to not have to follow a plan, if you want to enjoy a nice meal, you do need to plan.
Best Sit-Down Dining in Disneyland
Guests today expect more from premium travel experiences like visiting the Disneyland Resort, particularly when they’re traveling without kids. With that changing expectation, Disney is responding by updating menus and opening new restaurants that cater to the non-amusement park crowd. The following are our top dining recommendations in Disneyland without kids:
- Carnation Cafe – situated midway through Main Street USA it’s got a great selection of sandwiches and plated meals that are genuinely good and suitable for adults that want a relaxing lunch
- Cafe Orleans in New Orleans Square – the quality of food at Cafe Orleans has improved greatly over what many veteran guests have experienced before. Monte Cristos and beignets are delish.
- Blue Bayou – also in New Orleans Square, this restaurant is located within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You MUST reserve it FAR IN ADVANCE, but you’ll be glad you did. While the food still has room for improvement, the atmosphere is everything you expect from a Disney production.
Note: if you’re wondering why we have no cocktail recommendations in Disneyland, it’s because no alcohol is served within the park, except within Club 33… which neither us nor most visitors will ever get access to.
Tip: be sure to use the Disneyland app to make dining reservations as soon as you know you want to. You’ll be so glad you did.
Best Sit-Down Dining in California Adventure
Guests today expect more from premium travel experiences like visiting the Disneyland Resort, particularly when they’re traveling without kids. With that changing expectation, Disney is responding by updating menus and opening new restaurants that cater to the non-amusement park crowd. The following are our top dining recommendations in California Adventure and Disneyland without kids:
- Lamplight Lounge – located in the newly updated Pixar Pier, the Lamplight Lounge is perfect for adults. The bar is big and the menu designed for adults who like cuisine, not just food. And deviled eggs and doughnuts and cocktails and everything…
- Cocina Cucamonga – Okay, not a sit down spot but the burritos are good and the beer truck is in the same courtyard. This is a great go-to for an easy meal that you can just relax and enjoy.
- Wine Country Tratoria – besides the fact that the restaurant has to live up to California wine country cuisine, it also is nicely withdrawn from the crowds wandering towards Cars Land or Pixar Pier.
- Carthay Circle – this is a nice spot to either grab a tasty beverage or nice dinner. It’s the nearest to the park entrance and the most posh, so it’s always busy, but if you can score a spot inside, you’ll enjoy it.
See? Disneyland without kids is completely acceptable to do, but if you’re a parent you’ll be continually wishing you had your littles with you so you could share all of the fun… but then also having the time of your life. Enjoy your visit to both Disneyland and California Adventure and let us know if you find anything in particular that you think is a must-do. We’re always updating our recommendations and travel tips, particularly for the ever-changing world of theme parks.
And want to pin this for planning your own trip to Disneyland with kids? Go for it!!!
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”