A Disneyland Road Trip Driving from Nevada to Disneyland

A Disneyland Road Trip Driving from Nevada to Disneyland

Thinking of heading to Disneyland, but want to take in more scenery? Instead of heading straight to the parks, why not make a Disneyland Road Trip of it instead. We love when we are able to get away to the west coast, because we just love California and hey, when the weather is too cold or rainy in Ohio, getting away becomes necessary for our sanity. But getting away is sometimes easier said then done. So, when faced with the absolutely no nonstop flights from Cleveland to California, we decided to make a Disneyland Road Trip of it instead, and head to Nevada first. As a result, this Disney road trip became all about wide open spaces from Las Vegas to Anaheim. And since this was the perfect mini adventure road trip we’re sharing everything we did and where we stayed.

Fly Into Nevada 

For this trip, we flew into Las Vegas. Okay, you may be wondering, why in the heck would you fly into Nevada to go to Disneyland? Well, for starters, have you been to the Los Angeles Airport? If not, it’s a madhouse. Not to mention about an hour from Disneyland itself, not including the L.A. traffic; also bad. And while you may think that LAS ( the Harry Reid International Airport) is just as bad as the Los Angeles Airport, LAX, it’s not. And this was a great experience for us.  The other, and better option for flying to Disneyland is the John Wayne Airport, SNA, but there were no direct flights to anywhere in California from any of the airports we would usually fly out of. We are pretty big non-stop flight snobs.  And unless the layover is long enough that we can get out and explore we will not be sitting in the airport waiting for a connecting flight. So, we flew into Las Vegas to go to Disneyland, got our rental car and headed to Seven Magic Mountains.

See the Sights – Seven Magic Mountains

There are tons of things to see in Nevada, and you could add any one of them to your list! And if you want to try to add more Nevada to your Road Trip to Disneyland, nothings stopping you from grabbing a Hotel Near Las Vegas and staying a night or two while you explore.

Seven Magic Mountains is about 10 miles from LAS and about a 20 or so minute drive. If you’re headed to California from Vegas, its an easy stop. If you’re not familiar with what Seven Magic Mountains is, its an art installation in the middle of the desert by Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone. Honestly, they do just look like large stacks of painted rocks, but they’re kitschy and fun and we loved taking pictures there. After we were done there, we headed to Anaheim!

How Long Does it Take to Drive from Las Vegas to Disneyland?

About 4 Hours. The drive from the Las Vegas Airport to Anaheim, California took us about 4 hours with traffic and stops and its mostly a drive through the desert. Not difficult, and very pretty! So if you’re flying into Vegas, download yourself a playlist and you’ll be there before you know it.

Head to Anaheim, California

Our first day in Anaheim, California, we just explored a bit of the city and found one of our new favorite food spots, the Anaheim Packing House. If you’re visiting Anaheim on a non Disney day or trip, be sure to check this place out. While some people online said its basically just a glorified food court, we thought we were in Food Heaven. Lots of foods to try and the entire building itself is just beautiful. They have everything from fried chicken sandwiches to hot pots to ramen bowls. Lots of fun options for sure! We especially loved Mini Monster for fun drinks and the Crepe Coop for delicious crepes and pastries. It’s similar, though on a smaller scale, to the shops  at Granville Island in Vancouver, BC, or the West Side Market here in Cleveland, OH.

Visit Downtown Disney in Anaheim 

While browsing the city, Downtown Disney is always a must. Its a great place to start your trip off if you have a limited number of days on your tickets. You don’t need tickets for Downtown Disney, since it’s basically just a giant shopping center with shops, restaurants, and hotels. But we loved most about our day at Downtown Disney is the ease of everything! You can simply walk or park and head into the shopping center, for a full day of Disney fun. 

Where Do you Park for Downtown Disney at Disneyland?

Parking for Downtown Disney District is at the Simba Lot, located off Disneyland Drive. The first hour of parking costs $10. But after that you can get your parking ticket validated for 3 hours of same-day parking with a $20-minimum purchase at any Downtown Disney shop, or restaurant. And if you’re really making a day of it, you can get up to 5 hours of parking validation by eating at one of the table service restaurants. Since there are so many Downtown Disney Restaurants you shouldn’t have an issue finding one you like.

While you may not be keen on purchasing anything if you’re just there to browse, know that the parking at Downtown Disney may add up without a validation ticket. Because after the first hour, each additional 30 minutes costs $14 to park, with a minimum $7. The maximum daily parking and lost ticket fee is $66. As you see, this can get pricey! So, aim for the validation. Or if you’re staying at a Hotel near Disneyland, then you can simply take advantage of your hotel parking and walk to Downtown Disney. Anaheim is super walkable, so it’s never a far walk from most of the hotels in the area. 

What can you do at Downtown Disney?

In addition to browsing the Disney Store, and loads of other retailers like the Lego Store, Sephora, the Star Wars Shop, and Splitsville Lanes we love heading to the Disney hotels on property. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel is a beautiful resort, and has gift shops, and restaurants on property. Plus, you can also just lounge about the lobby and the grounds. You can do the same at the other hotels, like Pixar Place, and the iconic Disneyland Hotel, all accessible from the Downtown Disney area. Or you can just find a great place to eat! 


Visit Disneyland Resort

The next day, we started our Disneyland vacation! Since Disneyland Resort is just two parks; Disneyland and California Adventure, you will need to grab the park hopper option on your Disneyland Ticket if you’re hoping to do both parks. One of our favorite things about these parks are how easy they are to navigate. Disneyland is such a nostalgic park, Walt Disney’s own creation, and we loved that it was familiar but different than Disney World in so many ways! Because while you’re still seeing Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, and the fan favorite Cars Land at California Adventure, it has a small theme park feel that you just don’t get at WDW. The parks are also right across from each other at the edge of Downtown Disney. Which means, unlike Disney World, everything is walkable! You don’t have to get on a bus to go to your next park, just walk there!

Disneyland Park

The main park at Disneyland Resort is Disneyland! Home to the castle, Galaxy’s Edge, Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, you can even see the famous Jungle Cruise here. It’s a lot like Disney World, so if you are wondering if it’s worth a visit, know that you will be seeing many of the same rides. But Disneyland was so much cuter than we expected, that we would still recommend a visit. Main street USA is filled with details, that you actually notice on a smaller scale, and the rides are very front and center. It’s a Small World is outside, which is neat to see and the New Orleans Square area just couldn’t be more gorgeous! Definitely worth the visit. 

Things to Do California Adventure

At Disney’s California Adventure, (Disneyland’s 2nd park ) you get Cars Land, Pixar Pier, and a few amazing experiences. The New San Fransokyo Big Hero 6 Baymax area just opened up, and there are always great foodie experiences in this park. We love the Mission Breakout ride and the Avengers Campus area too. On a previous visit, we had visited during the Paint the Nite Parade and with small touches of the Main Street Electrical Parade, we were definitely starting to remember why we had loved that parade so much in the first place. And while the Paint the Nite Parade has retired, we always have high hopes that they’ll bring it back! Of course the World of Color show is a MUST SEE. And at Pixar Fest now you get to see the Better Together Parade, which has newer characters from Turning Red, and Soul too! Be sure to check the schedule when you visit, because you never know how long something is going to last! Check out our Disneyland Resort Bucket List Challenge for all the things to do in the parks. 

Do the Special Things During your Visit

It’s so easy to walk into any Disney Vacation with a bucket list of things you need to do; rides, food, experiences. But it’s such fun to add all the special things you can think of. Because, as smaller parks you actually have the time to do more! On this trip we were visiting for Disney’s summer festival at California Adventure, Pixar Fest. Pixar Fest is held every year at Disney’s California Adventure Park and honors all things Pixar! At this festival you get to see a special parade, nighttime show, have meet and greets with rare Disney characters and even try the New Pixar Snacks at Disney made specially for the event. It’s such a fun addition to the park, and is included in the price of your ticket! 


Where to Stay at Disneyland Resort

We broke up our Disneyland trip with a few days to Laguna Beach in between but when we returned to Disneyland to finish out our trip, we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. We were luckily able to snag an OK deal using hotels.com for Disneyland Hotel, which ended up being a surprise stay for my daughter. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a heck of a lot cheaper than if we had booked directly. The last two days there, we tried to get in as much Pixar Fest fun as we could and seeing the new Together Forever Fireworks Show at Disneyland Park was high on the list. Such a fun show, especially for you Pixar fans! Having the ease of staying on property at Disneyland was great for the last few days of the trip as it helped us smash every last thing we wanted to do into the trip. 

Take A Day Trip to Laguna Beach

Another great way to add more scenery to your trip to add a little California Coast Road Trip to your itinerary. Especially since we all need a break from the theme park crowds every once in a while. And Disneyland sure has some crowds. So, of you have a car, why not add a little more adventure to your Disneyland trip by heading to Laguna Beach! We split up our time at Disneyland with this little beach getaway and it was such fun. This little coastal town is all about cute shops, coffee shops and beach time! And we were able to hunt down our very own Rapunzel-esque tower! Definitely one of our favorite things to do near Disneyland, and helps get you out in nature too! 

Where to Stay in Laguna Beach

While Laguna Beach is only about 1 hour from Disneyland, there are days when the traffic is horrid, and you just do not want to drive anymore. As such, we stayed at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, which was a great little getaway from Disneyland. Laguna Beach is located in a canyon and was really the perfect resort to relax and refresh! Of course you don’t have to go this far from the parks if you don’t want. There are so many reasons to stay off property at Disneyland, that you can totally pick and choose a favorite area near Disneyland to keep your budget happier. California is covered in cute beach towns, with attractions of all shapes and sizes. 



Head to Fire State Park, Nevada

If you remember the first part of this post, we never mentioned the other reason we flew into Las Vegas. We have been wanting for a while to see Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. We love hiking and exploring, especially off the beaten path places, and this park has had our interest for a little while now.  Its about an hour from the Las Vegas Airport, so that made it super convenient for us to spend our last two days there. If you’re into hiking and nature, this should be on your must do list. Valley of fire is such a cool place with landscapes like nothing we have ever seen. Did we land on Mars?! Maybe! Complete with pink and red sand, this place was just stunning. We had so much exploring and hiking this area. There’s basically no cell service there so honestly it was a great escape from everything. And did I mention the views?! Ahhhhh

A Disneyland Road Trip from Nevada to California

So that sums it up! A great way to see more on your next Disneyland Vacation! While we weren’t really sure how it was all gonna turn out, we loved this Disney Summer Road Trip as a way to add more nature to the trip. The local shops in Laguna, the rocks at Valley of Fire, the Seven Magic Mountains Artwork in the middle of the dessert! Who knew we could fit so much in, in less than a week. We LOVED this road trip to Disneyland Parks and would definitely do it again! Hopefully these tips and following along our journey has helped give you some great ideas for your next trip! Make it an adventure! 


Thinking about driving to Disneyland? It may just be your safest bet and why not get some outdoor hiking in while you're at it! Check out everything we did from Nevada to Disneyland for a great Disney and Dessert Road Trip. #disneyroadtrip #disneyland #familyvacation #roadtrips #polkadotpixies

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Melanie Renee is a photographer, writer, designer and mom. Visiting Disney destinations since 2010, she is also an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. When she's not creating her next coffee recipe, or designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's seeking beautiful sunsets and planning her next trip .

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