Disneyland changed a lot of things about the way we see amusement parks when it opened in 1955. We think of immersion as something relatively new, but Disney has been doing it since the beginning.
It all started with their themed “lands”. This was a novel and industry-changing idea.
Today, you’re hard-pressed to go to any park and not use the word land when referring to different areas.
Interestingly, Disney has moved away from the land language recently and started referring to different themed areas as neighborhoods… Weird.
But the original Disneyland and its Magic Kingdom counterparts around the world still use the word land for some of the themed areas inside. In strict terms, Disneyland has only four lands, but if you really want to know what are the different lands in Disneyland, or how many, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
How Many Different Lands are there in Disneyland?
Disneyland is made up of a total of 9 highly immersive themed areas.
What Are the 9 Lands in Disneyland?
- Main Street, USA
- Fantasy Land
- Adventure Land
- New Orleans Square
- Critter Country
- Mickey’s Toon Town
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
The Original Themed Lands of Disneyland
When Disneyland Park opened on July 18, 1955, there were only 5 lands.
The other 4 lands have been developed over time, including the most recent Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened in 2019.
Here are the 5 original lands which were in Disneyland on opening day:
- Main Street, USA
- Fantasy Land
Let us explore each of these in turn.
Disneyland Main Street, USA
When you arrive in Disneyland you will first walk down Main Street.
Walt Disney said, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.”
When you enter through the turnstiles of Disneyland Park you will first see the Railway Station. Then you go under the railway bridge to enter Main Street.
This area is known as Town Square where you will find the large Guest Services building to your left.
Look a little further and you will see the Fire Station. Above this is the Walt Disney Apartment where the man himself used to stay with his family. A candle burns in the window as a tribute to Walt.
A gentle stroll down this nostalgic street will take you down to the main hub of Disneyland where you will find the Partner’s Statue and of course the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Main Street USA is modeled after Walt Disney’s childhood town Marceline in Missouri. It is how you imagine that small-town streets were in the 1950s.
Look closely at the houses on Main Street. Are they really what they seem? They are given the illusion of height by using a technique called forced perspective. The buildings are 3/4 scale on the first level, then 5/8 on the second story, and 1/2 scale on the third. Your eyes tell you that they are full height but if you look closely you can see that they aren’t.
Also look for the names on the windows on Main Street, USA. Look out for Tony Baxter, Mary Blair, Frank wells, Marty Sklar, John Hench, Ub Iwerks, and of course Walt and Roy Disney.
All of the Disney parks have followed this tradition of honoring those who have helped build them, including Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland.
There are lots of shopping opportunities along Main Street. These include the Disney Gallery, Emporium, Disneyana, Crytal Arts, and the Disney Gallery.
If you need a snack then head to one of the dining venues which include the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Candy Palace, and Candy Kitchen.
The Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe is situated on the left-hand side of Main Street when you have reached the hub. This is one of my favorite places for a light meal.
If you want something more substantial head to Carnation Cafe or the Plaza Inn.
Walt wanted Main Street USA to look like an “idealized town at the turn of the century.” He certainly achieved that effect which is still true almost 70 years after the park was built.
Adventureland is also one of the original lands in the park. It is located on the left of Disneyland and the entry can be found just beyond the Jolly Holiday Cafe.
One thing to know about this land. It always seems crowded. This area manages to pack a few attractions in, but the walkway is narrow.
Adventureland can certainly feel like one of the most crowded areas of the park. It is visually very well done and is one of the more “insular’ of the lands as you do not get a sense of there being anything else surrounding it.
The way it is walled in with foliage makes it very mysterious. It is particularly atmospheric at night so make sure that you visit after sunset as well as during the day.
When you enter Adventureland you have to immediately make a hard left to continue deeper into its jungles.
Once on the main thoroughfare, you’ll find your exit all but blocked by a gigantic treehouse.
The first thing that you will probably notice when you enter Adventureland is a long line. This is for the famous Dole Whip. You can often have waits of 30 minutes or more for this Disney classic.
The tropical aromas and the sweet smell of Dole pineapples dominate the area. There is ample seating for enjoying a snack amidst the bustling activity of explorers. This provides an amazing opportunity to linger and do some people-watching.
The smells of Adventureland are among the best in the park starting with Bengal Barbecue’s grilled meats. There are veggie options too, in one of the best, but overlooked quick service eating venues in Disneyland.
In between rests, there are no less than four attractions to enjoy in Adventureland including the Tarzan Treehouse, the Indiana Jones Adventure, The Jungle Cruise, and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
The last two are classics that you won’t want to miss, while Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye is a truly thrilling ride.
You can skip the Treehouse. It’s fun if you have the time, but definitely missable if you don’t.
Pay attention to hidden gags and references to other attractions. You’ll find some amusing set pieces at Tropical Hideaway and in the camp below Tarzan’s Treehouse, a record plays a tune from its former life as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.
Disneyland Frontierland (1955)
Frontierland is the opposite of Adventureland with its wide-open design.
Its dusty road (not really dusty, just make-believe Disney dusty) runs straight to the landing for the Mark Twain Steamboat.
Take some time to sail down the winding Rivers of America on the Mark Twain Steamboat. It’s a relaxing ride with just the right amount of nostalgia for the old way of life as it must have been on the Frontier.
There is so much more character to this part of Disneyland than it gets credit for. It may seem like there is less to do in Frontierland, but that’s not true.
It’s just that the bulk of attractions center on the water, not the outpost you enter through the gateway from Main Street USA.
Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, the Mark Twain, and sometimes even the Columbia offer fun expeditions and tours on the waters around Tom Sawyer’s Island.
One of the most overlooked attractions is Tom Sawyer’s Island as not every guest even realizes it is there or how to get to it.
As it is across the water you have to access Tom Sawyer Island by way of a raft. It’s a short ride with usually a short wait.
Once on the island, there are plenty of things to enjoy, particularly for children. It is one big playground full of activities to do and caves to explore.
In Frontierland, there is one towering e-ticket of a ride in the form of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is one of the best rides in Disneyland.
Big Thunder Mountain is suitable for all ages, provided you meet the 40-inch height requirement. Fun rather than scary, this roller coaster is a must-do attraction. Take some time and look at all the attention to detail on this iconic ride.
However, you shouldn’t just hurry through Frontierland as you rush to the Lightning Lane entrance to the ride, there’s more to this town than meets the eye.
Take in the sites, sounds, and perfumes of Zocalo Square from a gorgeous outdoor seating area lined with desert flowers and succulents. It’s a great place to rest and just watch the world go by.
Or visit the past in the historic Golden Horseshoe Saloon where Walt Disney himself used to enjoy the on-stage entertainment.
If you imagine what you think Disneyland looks like you are probably picturing Fantasyland.
After a stroll down Main Street, you will be drawn to one of the most famous landmarks in the world – Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Certainly not as flashy or imposing as her fellow Princess Cinderella Castle in Disney World, nevertheless this Disneyland Castle is still a sight to be seen.
Walkthrough the castle drawbridge and you will find a child’s paradise crammed full of attractions based on all the best Disney classics.
Fantasyland is the most “attraction dense” area of the park.
A good case for a two-day ticket to Disneyland is the fact that Fantasyland alone holds 13 different attractions!
Many of these rides and attractions are Disneyland classics.
King Arthur Carousel was a favorite of Walt Disney himself. A classic and beautiful fairground carousel – this is a must for all visitors to Disneyland.
Another classic is Dumbo the Flying Elephant. This one is a really popular ride if you are taking your toddler to Disneyland. Lines can be long, so unless you have a young child we would suggest skipping this one.
Casey Junior and Storybook Land Canal Boats are a must. Notice how the rockwork of storybook land blends with either Matterhorn or Big Thunder depending on what’s in the background.
The Matterhorn Bobsleds are an iconic Disney roller coaster.
Surprisingly the Matterhorn Bobsleds was not one of the original rides in Disneyland. It debuted in 1959 – four years after the park originally opened.
The Matterhorn Bobsleds has had many makeovers, but still retain a great sense of nostalgia. It is a very bumpy ride so if you have any back or neck problems, listen to the warning and give them a miss!
Want to get a song stuck in your head for the rest of the day, possibly the rest of your life? Of course I am talking about It’s A Small World.
Every visitor to Disneyland has to experience one of the most iconic of iconic Disney rides. Again, a lot of people are surprised that it wasn’t one of the original Disneyland rides.
It was created for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair and debuted in Disneyland in 1966. Over 300 animatronic dolls dance and sing in a message of world harmony.
The ride experienced a lot of controversy in 1999 when some new Disney characters were introduced into the ride. Look out for Aladdin, Jasmine, Nemo, Ariel, and even our friends from Toy Story Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye.
Fantasyland is also home to a number of classic dark rides.
Mr Toad’s Wild Ride is a lot of fun and is fast loading so usually doesn’t have a long line.
Peter Pan’s Flight is a wonderfully whimsical ride – but has incredibly long lines for most of the day. If you see a wait time of fewer than 30 minutes then get in line!
I have to admit I am not a huge fan of either Snow White’s Scary Adventures or Pinnochio’s Daring Journey. Both are just that bit too scary for young children, and just that bit too strange for most everyone else!
Don’t miss the Mad Tea Party. The teacup ride as it is often known is a must-do Disneyland ride for all ages. It really is a lot of fun.
Another classic is the Alice in Wonderland Ride. Much more upbeat than Snow White or Pinnochio, this is a ride that all ages will enjoy.
You won’t just find an abundance of rides in this part of the park. Fantasyland is full of enchantment. There are lots of things to do as well as experience the rides.
Make a wish at the wishing well. Watch the Evil Queen open her curtains and glare down at the peasants below. See the Cheshire cat appear in a magic mirror and try your hand at claiming the throne by pulling out the legendary sword in the stone!
Tomorrowland (1955), (1959), (1967), (1998)
Tomorrowland has always been a part of Disneyland. However, it has changed many times.
It is difficult to keep up with what a future world should be – therefore Tomorrowland has had major changes in 1959, 1967, and 1998.
With almost 25 years since the last update, as you can imagine, the appeal of Tomorrowland is not its futuristic features.
But that doesn’t mean that this part of Disneyland isn’t any fun. It is home to some great Disney rides!
It is here that you will find the classic Disney roller coaster Space Mountain. Even though the attraction didn’t open until 1977, the original concept was one that Walt Disney himself approved of. He had seen with The Matterhorn Bobsleds that visitors loved the thrill ride and wanted to develop an indoor dark roller coaster ride.
Disneyland had to wait for technology to develop so that the original ideas for Space Mountain could be made a reality. The original Space Mountain was built in Walt Disney World in 1975.
The Disneyland Space Mountain first opened on 27 May 1977. It is remarkable to hear now but the development cost was $20 million. A drop in the ocean in present-day Disney parks reality.
It is funny to think now that the Star Wars universe first started an association with Disney in the 1980s. When Star Tours first debuted in Disneyland in 1987 it used cutting-edge technology.
I still remember how amazing it was and how I stood in line for hours when the new Star Tours – The Aventure continues debuted in 2013.
Now it is still worth experiencing. However, it is no longer the headline attraction that it once was – particularly since galaxy’s Edge opened. Many thought that it would be strange that a Star Wars attraction was located in Tomorrowland rather than being relocated to Galaxy’s Edge. This was never a realistic expectation. Even though the location of Star Tours in Disney’s Hollywood Studios meant that it could be incorporated into Galaxy’s Edge, it really doesn’t seem to matter that it is entirely separate in Disneyland.
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters are a lot of fun. Combining the idea of a shooting gallery with a dark Disney ride, guests battle Emporer Zurg and compete for the highest score.
You will also find Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland. This is probably one of my least favorite Disneyland rides. It always seems to have a long line, as it is very slow loading.
Even my extreme roller coaster-loving children avoid it because it just doesn’t feel quite right! The ride vehicle seems to tilt at a slightly unnerving angle. It’s certainly a ride that you can skip.
The Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage is another ride that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Lines are always long as this is a slow-loading ride.
You should definitely experience the Finding Nemo ride if lines are less than an hour and this is your first time. After that, the novelty really does wear off. Be cautious too – if you think you may be claustrophobic this really is not the one for you.
Autopia is more of a look back in time rather than to a future world! It is fun, particularly if you have small children. You drive a car around a track.
It’s more fun than I just made that sound, but again if lines are long then this really is something you could miss.
Many feel that Tomorrowland has lacked direction and needs a major rethink. It has certainly undergone many changes without really finding its way.
The Flight to the Moon changed sponsorships eventually and later became Mission to Mars, which later became a counter service pizza restaurant.
Carousel of Progress, later became America Sings, and then became nothing, and then became Innoventions, and then became a character meet and greet, which is temporarily unavailable.
The Peoplemover eventually became the Rocket Rods, which quickly became nothing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, of all the lands in Disneyland Tomorrowland might be the least impressive. It’s also been nearly a quarter-century since its last real update. Perhaps it is time for a rethink.
New Lands of Disneyland
An additional four lands have been developed since the opening day of Disneyland.
These lands and the year in which they opened are as follows.
- New Orleans Square (1966)
- Critter Country (1989)
- Mickey’s Toontown (1993)
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge aka. Batuu (2019)
Disneyland New Orleans Square
This area is unique to Disneyland and cannot be found in any other Disney park. Taking up just over 3 acres, this extension was planned even before Disneyland opened.
However, it didn’t open until July 1966. Walt Disney attended the opening ceremony in what turned out to be his last major public appearance before he died in December 1966.
New Orleans Square has the last attraction that Walt Disney was personally involved in – Pirates of the Caribbean. This classic Disney boat ride is a must-do for every visitor to the park.
Another attraction that has to be on your to-do list is Haunted Mansion. This ride debuted in August 1969 and takes guests on a journey in their own personal Doom Buggy.
Whilst there are other versions of Haunted Mansion in other Disney parks around the world, the Disneyland one is the only one to have the Nightmare Before Christmas makeover, Haunted Mansion Holiday. Make sure you stop by to see this version if you can – some think it is better than the original.
Critter Country in Disneyland
You will find Critter Country tucked behind New Orleans Square towards the back of the Disneyland park.
It is a small land which has just two attractions.
Splash Mountain is in Critter Country. This classic, yet controversial, Disney ride opened in 1989. Disney announced that Splash Mountain would undergo a complete retheme to follow the story of Tiana and her friends from Princess and the Frog.
It is a very fun ride, but be aware you will most likely get wet. Sometimes ridiculously wet.
A cute, but missable attraction in Critter Country is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It is a bright and colorful ride suitable for all ages, but most definitely aimed at a younger crowd.
Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland
This is the area that is accessed via Fantasyland and located at the most northerly part of the Disneyland park.
Right now it is closed for extensive refurbishment.
It was never a very exciting land. Sure you could visit Mickey and Minnie’s house. You could also ride the rather strange Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin.
The most exciting announcement is that this land will be hosting the new Mickey and Minnie’s Railway. This is already in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is a lot of fun. It will be a great addition to this land which has up to now been rather one of wasted opportunity.
Disneyland Star War’s: Galaxy’s Edge
You have probably heard of this one!
Originally the spot was marked for Discovery Bay, which would have been a sort of alternate Tomorrowland with a SteamPunk motif based on the Big Thunder storyline.
So thank goodness they abandoned this and went with the Star Wars theme. I am not even a huge Star Wars fan but I am a big fan of Galaxy’s Edge.
The attention to detail and the attractions are quite simply breathtaking. You really do feel as though you are in a Galaxy Far Far Away.
Star Wars Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a motion simulator ride. This attraction brilliantly illustrates just how far technology has moved forward since the classic motion simulator ride Star Tours was launched.
What can I say about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Amazing. Some would say the very best Disney park attraction. Is it worth that two-hour wait? Probably.
Which one is your favorite of all the different lands in Disneyland?