We Toured Southern California’s Iconic Disney Spots With Adventures by Disney

As Disney fans, any day we get to learn more about the stories behind our favorite Disney movies and attractions is a great day. Enter Adventures by Disney. Adventures by Disney groups travelers with knowledgeable and high-spirited Adventure Guides to take them on journeys to locations around the globe.

We got the chance to go on their Disneyland Resort and Southern California Short Escape, which adds up to three not only great, but magical days and nights touring the most iconic Disney spots in Southern California. Here’s how it all went down.

Day 1: A Very Disney Welcome

A brown and black faux-leather travel bag with a brown faux-leather luggage tag. The luggage tag says "Adventures by Disney" on it.

Prior to the trip, I received the above coordinated travel pouch and luggage tag in the mail, along with a booklet filled with information I would need for the trip. While I tend to like to know every detail before going into any excursion, this itinerary also left lots of room for surprises, which got me really excited for what was ahead!

Upon arriving at the beautiful Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, I was greeted by our chipper Adventure Guides, Alyssa and Lori, who had not only already checked into the hotel for me, but also had a custom Adventures by Disney lanyard, my 4-day Park Hopper (!!) tickets, and maps and schedules of events for Disneyland Resort! These were the first clues that I was about to feel like a VIP all weekend.

After a round of introductions, the group headed off to dinner at Disney California Adventure, but not before popping into Blue Sky Cellar to get a sneak peek at all of the amazing things we have to look forward to once the newly reimagined Pixar Pier comes to life!

A corkboard with concept art of Pixar Pier, at Disney California Adventure

After dinner, we enjoyed a spin on Toy Story Midway Mania (using FASTPASS selections that Alyssa and Lori had put on our tickets as a surprise) and then made our way to our own reserved viewing section for the brand-new Paint the Night Parade! I was seriously amazed by this parade. The lights, the music, and the dancing added up to a visual extravaganza that was nothing short of spectacular. I look forward to watching it again and again in the future!

A light-up parade float with the words "Paint the Night Electrical Parade" lit up on the side of a large circular carriage. Atop the float sits Peter Pan.

A giant, light-up float of Belle in her yellow gown from Beauty and the Beast

Get a look at Disney California Adventure park’s Paint the Night Parade and so much more in our video about all things Pixar Fest!


To commemorate our amazing first day, Alyssa and Lori bestowed us each with a pin to add to our lanyards. This one says “It all started with a mouse,” in honor of Walt Disney’s famous quote: “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.”

A hand holds up an enamel pin with Mickey Mouse on it that says "It all started with a mouse"

Such a perfect way to end day one!

Day 2: Walt’s World

Day two started with a quick jaunt into Disney California Adventure Park during Extra Magic Hour (available to all registered Disneyland Resort Hotel Guests) ) for a pre-breakfast ride on Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! When it comes to waking up, this method is preferable to any alarm clock.

At our breakfast buffet at Storytellers Cafe, I met Kenai from Brother Bear, who was a delightful breakfast companion!

A woman with dark brown hair sits smiling while a bear character from Disneyland Resort (Kenai from Brother Bear) stands beside her

After breakfast, the group boarded a lovely motor coach and headed to The Walt Disney Studios for a private tour!

For any Disney fan, getting the chance to tour the Studios is a special treat. The Studio is filled with uniquely Disney details, like this Mickey Mouse bike rack:

Bike racks that are shaped like Mickey Mouse.

And this street sign at the intersection of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive:

A woman stands in the grass at a street sign at the intersection of two streets, called Mickey Avenue and Dope Drive

Here, Alyssa and Lori regaled us with behind-the-scenes stories of how the studio was built, anecdotes about Walt and those who knew him best, and even a chance to shop at the Studio store! Everything about this was incredible.

An image of a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse on Legends Plaza at The Walt Disney Studios. The statue looks out onto the plaza and towards a building with the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs holding up the roof.

The above, known as Legends Plaza, pays homage to the men and women who have contributed significantly to The Walt Disney Company: Disney Legends. The Partners Statue in the foreground shows Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, hand in hand, gazing upon what they have built. You may recognize it, as the statue can be found in nearly every Disney theme park around the world! In the background, the seven dwarfs hold up the roof of the building. The financial success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs held up the company, so it’s only fitting that on the Studio lot, they are “holding up” the corporate headquarters.

This lovely statue pays homage to Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse.

A statue of a man with glasses, Roy Disney, and Minnie Mouse, sitting and looking at one another on a park bench.

Surrounding the plaza are plaques honoring all of the Disney Legends! I couldn’t help but measure up my hands to Jodi Benson’s, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. If matching hand size equals matching vocal talent, I am expecting a phone call from casting directors very soon. Don’t worry, I am available.

A hand with peach nail polish places their hand over a mold of Jodi Benson's hand, on a plaque honoring Benson as a Disney legend

Even something as simple as walking down a hallway proved fascinating, with Disney movie artwork covering the walls, like the below Moana and Dumbo art pieces. Alyssa described the animation process in great detail as we made our way down this hallway.

A large frame showcasing various pieces of Moana-themed art.

A framed set of black-and-white artwork of characters and sets from the movie, Dumbo

A trip to the Walt Disney Archives (a Disney fan’s dream library) gave me the chance to hold one of Walt’s Academy Award statuettes. It was heavy!

A woman with dark brown hair and bangs stands in front of a sign with various images of Mickey Mouse, that says Walt Disney Archives. She is holding an Academy Award statuette.

Next, we had lunch at the commissary on campus, to get that full Cast Member experience. I am still thinking about the taco bowl I ordered there, to be perfectly honest. After lunch, we went to a place that I only ever would have dreamed of visiting: Walt Disney Imagineering!

Imagineering is a place that I never thought I’d be able to tour this thoroughly, and I am so thankful that I got the chance. I find it important to share that there’s a hallway that looks like the monorail:

A hallway lit in blue lights that looks like a Disneyland monorail

The Imagineering tour was given by actual Imagineers, whose insight into the process of building theme park attractions opened up my eyes to so many things I didn’t know before! There’s so much that goes into making just one attraction come to life: from the models, to the sound design, to installing the attraction in the Parks, to testing the ride, and so much more—it takes a very, very large village to make these dreams a reality. Learning so much of the nuts and bolts of what makes these attractions come to life somehow made it all even more magical, and I was super excited to go back to Disneyland Resort the next day and see it with fresh eyes.

A woman with dark brown hair and bangs peeks out from behind a marble statue of Snow White, surrounded by statues of the seven dwarves and woodland creatures.

Above are the original Carrara marble statues from Disneyland Resort’s Snow White’s Grotto and Wishing Well! Though photographs aren’t typically allowed, an exception was made for our very special group, and we all got to pose with them! Replicas of these statues now reside in Disneyland Park, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

A grotto with a waterfall, surrounding which are marble-like statues of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as well as woodland creatures.

Another pin for our lanyards commemorated this unforgettable tour:

A hand holding up an enamel pin that has Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on it. The pin says "Imagineering the Magic"

After another round of shopping at the store on the Imagineering campus, we were off to a special surprise: a visit to the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, where Walt first dreamed up the idea for Disneyland!

A vintage carousel horse with a real, brown tail and decorative jewels.
An image of a green bench with a plaque that says "The actual park bench from the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round Where Walt Disney First Dreamed of Disneyland". Next to the plaque is a photograph of Walt Disney smiling in front of the merry-go-round.

This part of the journey was not complete without a ride on the iconic merry-go-round. It was the perfect precursor to our next destination: The Tam O’Shanter, a restaurant frequented by Walt and Disney animators and Imagineers. Walt’s favorite table even has a special dedication!

A table for four at a restaurant called The Tam O'Shanter, with a plaque on the end of the table. Above the table, a drawing of "Imagineers at the Tam"

We had a delicious meal, then headed back to the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, but first, Alyssa and Lori surprised us yet again with a pin reminding us of our visit through Walt’s world.

A hand holds up an enamel pin of Sleeping Beauty Castle with the words "Walt's World" written at the bottom

Day 3: A Disneyland Resort Adventure

Day three was upon us, and it was time to visit one of the most iconic Disney locations in Southern California: Disneyland Resort! We woke up early for an incredible reason: we got to go into the Park before anyone else!

Here I am soaking up the sun’s rays before Disneyland opened.

A selfie of a woman wearing sunglasses and a blue Monsters University baseball cap on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Resort

Next, a character breakfast at Plaza Inn was ripe with photo opps. I had never met Rafiki, Eeyore, or Chip before, and you can tell by my face in these photos that I was incredibly excited.

A woman with dark brown hair and bangs poses with three Disney characters at Disneyland Resort: Eeyore, Rafiki, and Chip from Chip and Dale

Throughout our incredible day at Disneyland Resort, we got the chance to go on so many attractions (thanks for the FASTPASS selections, Alyssa and Lori!) and even go Backstage to hear from Cast Members what it’s like to work on these rides on a day-to-day basis.

We also got the chance to tour Walt’s actual Main Street apartment, which I’ve always been so curious about, and learn about its design and history. Take a peek at the inside:

A woman with long brown hair and wearing a blue Monsters University baseball cap stands inside of a Victorian-styled apartment that once belonged to Walt Disney

Such a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Because this adventure took place during Pixar Fest, we were privy to all of the fun-filled Disney•Pixar food and events like the Pixar Play Parade!

A large parade float of Luxo, the iconic Pixar lamp, above the words "Pixar Fest"

A giant parade float of a pink elephant-like imaginary creature from Inside Out, named Bing Bond

Not only that, we had reserved seating for Fantasmic! as well as Together Forever – A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular.

Disney characters wave at passersby on the Mark Twain Riverboat, during Fantasmic! at Disneyland Resort
A character-filled send-off during Fantasmic!

On a scale of one to ten, this day was a twenty!

Day 4

Another morning waking up in the gorgeous Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, and it was time to pack up and go. We said our goodbyes, but not before receiving another pin—this time Chip and Dale-themed—that I promptly pinned on my jacket.

A hand holding an enamel pin that says "See Ya Real Soon!," with a smiling Chip and Dale wearing white t-shirts that say their respective names on them.

Like the pin says, it wasn’t goodbye. It was a “see ya real soon!” to our Adventure Guides and the new friends made along the way. I will certainly cherish the first-hand memories of the many places that have shaped The Walt Disney Company. Being a VIP for a weekend was the cherry on top of an unforgettable experience. 10/10 would recommend!

Posted 2 years Ago
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