My friends often ask what they should see or do when they go to Disneyland. Some of my friends either don't have kids or their kids are grown so I thought it'd be fun to share my recommendation for Disneyland without kids. Disneyland is for adults, too!
These are simply only a few of my personal favorites and in no particular order.
Experience the Main Street Vehicles
There are several old fashioned vehicles on Main Street. They provide a lot of atmosphere. There is the Omnibus, the Horse Drawn Street Car, a Fire Engine and a Jitney (an early automobile without a roof). They look vintage on the outside but they have a lot of modern machinery to help them navigate their way up and down Main Street. The only real old-fashioned item on these vehicles are the horns and bells they employ to talk to each other in the midst of Main Street traffic.
There can be quite a bit of both foot and vehicle traffic on Main Street. There are boarding areas for all these vehicles at the end of Main Street and around Sleeping Beauty Castle. Take one up to the Castle, disembark, and then take another one back to Main Street. It is a great way to see Main Street and to experience the atmosphere. It really kinda of cool to get on the Omnibus, sit at the top and go towards the Castle. It's a great view.
Exclusive to Disneyland, the Matterhorn Bobsleds is an iconic image. You can see it from the surrounding area around Disneyland including from the freeway nearby. It has been part of the Disneyland landscape since 1959. It's gone through many refurbishments and upgrades but it remains a favorite among Disneyland fans.
I love the Bobsleds because it is the very first thrill ride that my kids rode when they were tall enough. It's a ride that is shared by generations but each one may have experienced it differently since the vehicles and ride system have all gone through many versions. I also love the story and innovation about its creation as told by its creator, Disney Legend, Bob Gurr.
Indiana Jones Adventure
Located in Adventureland, this attraction was exclusive to Disneyland until another version opened up at Tokyo DisneySea (2001). It's a pretty popular ride due its thrill and also for any Indiana Jones fan.
I love this ride because it is a great example of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) at its best. It has an interesting queue, a story line, and an intricate ride system. It is what an "E Ticket" is all about. The queue is actually pretty fun to walk through, especially if you are a fan of the Indiana Jones movies. This recent BuzzFeed article has some great fun facts about the Indiana Jones Adventure.
"it's a small world"
I love "it's a small world" because it is also another classic Disneyland ride. It has a great history and story that began at the 1964 World's Fair. When it debuted as a Disneyland attraction in 1966, millions more would be able to enjoy the iconic song, the beautifully dressed dolls, and the overall design. So many Disney Legends have their handprint on this ride. Claude Coats and Rolly Crump would instrumental in designing the ride. Mary Blair and Marc Davis would breathe life into the sets and scenes. Alice Davis would dress the dolls in beautiful costumes to celebrate to countries represented. Richard and Robert Sherman would compose the beloved song that shares the name with the ride. Walt Disney personally worked with each of these Disney Legends to celebrate children of the world.
This ride is a first for many children. It is one the whole family can enjoy. Multi-generations can ride it together. It always makes me happy to see the "it's a small world" at the end of Fantasyland. During the holidays, the Small World area is simply magical with the highlight being "it's a small world holiday". It's a whimsical boat road with a big message.
Experience New Orleans Square
Strolling through New Orleans Square is really a treat. If you have some downtime or just want to take it a little slow, walk through this area and soak up all the details that Walt Disney and his Imagineers created to replicate the French Quarter. New Orleans Square was the first new land that was added to Disneyland. Walt was a fan of New Orleans and he had an active hand in its design to create an immersive experience that included the architecture, the food, and sounds you hear. You have to weave your way through the area and visit some of the great shops like Mlle. Antoinette's Parfumerie that has some great Disney history right on its walls.
The mayor of New Orleans was invited to participate in the dedication ceremony alongside Walt in July 1966. It would be Walt's last public appearance before his death in December 1966. He would not be around to dedicate the New Orleans attractions that would be Pirates of the Caribbean (1967) or The Haunted Mansion (1969) attractions. He had been in the process of creating a beautiful apartment located above the Pirates attractions so he could overlook the New Orleans area and gaze out onto the Rivers of America. You can see his initials carved out on that apartment balcony.
New Orleans Square remains exclusive to Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland's Adventureland has a similarly themed area but Walt never walked around that Square. It remains one of my favorite places to eat, shop, and take in the Disneyland experience. If your are there into the evening and have time, make sure to watch the night time show, Fantasmic! that takes place on the Rivers of America.
Ride The Disneyland Railroad
Trains were a big deal to Walt Disney. The Disneyland Railroad opened with the park on July 17, 1955. It was way for Guests to "embark on a grand circle tour of the Magic Kingdom". Train stations around the park has been added and made over as the park has grown.
The main station is located on Main Street USA. From there you can travel to the New Orleans Square Station where you can here a telegraph coding Walt Disney's Opening Day speech. The remaining stations are Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. From the Tomorrowland station you have to go through a tunnel area and view the Grand Canyon (1958) and Primeval Diorama (1966). It's so cheesy and so good. Disney Imagineers in their early days during that time period.
Hop on the train from any station but make sure you make the full circle. You can relax and peak into different lands. It's a good place to figure out where you want to go next.