Logistics: I will concede it's a bit of a trek for a day trip but if you happen to be in LA it's bloody easy to find and Disney are terrifyingly efficient at managing you. The second you drive through the entrance no thinking is required: park where you're told, get on the tram when you're told, have a magical day as you're told.
Activities: It's Disneyland, the happiest place on earth and everyone wants a piece of that action, so your main activity will be queuing. We even queued for Fast Pass tickets... which are meant to help you avoid queues for god's sake. Seriously though, there is a reason why Disney is the daddy of all theme parks. In the last two days I have laughed, cried (damn you Frozen sing-along with Elsa generated snow) and been genuinely awestruck by the sheer variety of entertainment on offer. Each and every ride we have been on has had its own unique flavour and offered it's own enchantments.
The kids loved meeting their favourite characters, though the queues were a grind and there is nothing laid on to help make them more bearable. I also noted the standards of physical similarity to the characters were not the same for the men and women; our Captain America was a little bit porky and his boots were a bit scuffed but none of the princesses appeared to have an ounce of body fat or a hair out of place. We met fairies in Pixie Hollow, Superheroes in Hollywood and Anna and Elsa in their own special hall. Every one of these experiences was brilliant, I admire the stamina of those endlessly enthusiastic 'cast members'*. My favourite was the Cap - he made my kid feel like a hero but my daughter's heart belongs to Anna and Elsa.
The shows were brilliant, like humorous cliff notes versions of each film, though I can't help but feel every male actor there secretly wants to be Nathan Lane. They were genuinely funny skits for both adults and children. We saw Beauty & the Beast in the Royal Theatre, Path of the Jedi and the Frozen Sing-along Celebration, which was fucking magical. My daughter sang so loudly people six rows away turned to look at her.
As with all theme parks we didn't get to go on as many rides as we would have liked (see above for discussion on queues) but in two days we did manage the following:
Peter Pan's flight - whimsical
Star Tours - excellent
Enchanted Castle walkthrough - meh
King Arthur's carousel - fine
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters - so good I neglected my children to shoot lasers at Zurg
Monster's Inc Mike & Sully to the Rescue - special mention because we got 'buddy passes' because the cast member running it was impressed with our boy's reading & gave him some as a reward
Turtle Talk with Crush - utterly charming
Grizzly River Run - so good we did it twice
Mickey's Fun Wheel - fucking terrifying massive ferris wheel; kids thought it was fun, I did not
Golden Zephyr - a lovely traditional fairground ride
Ariel's Undersea Adventure - very sweet but a bit uncanny valley
King Triton's Carousel - my kids bloody love a carousel - also, no queue
The parade and fireworks display deserve a very special mention. They are both simply exceptional - nowhere else does this stuff quite like Disney. It's the combination of legacy, spectacle and a healthy dose of 'America, fuck yeah' that make these things really sing. For me it was these shows that really set Disney apart from every other theme park going.
Playground: There are no playgrounds in Disneyland. I find this sinister though I can't quite put my finger on why.
Coffee: The only coffee I could find was not good, very not good. In other troubling news, it is not as easy to get coffee as a place populated by sleep deprived parents should be. I know it's hot in California but people still need caffeine Disney.
Food: I was impressed with the food - there was a huge range of food appropriately themed to each specific area, e.g. turkey legs near the enchanted palace, sourdough in pacific wharf etc. I was also pleasantly surprised that there was always a healthy option available for kids. Yes, my kids ingested vitamins at Disneyland. This was very surprising to me. I couldn't quite shake the feeling all food had been soaked in sugar prior to serving to make it more 'magical', but I will put that down the theme park based paranoia.
Grounds: Each themed area is so well crafted with a sense of humour running through it all, e.g. when R2-D2 pops up before Star Tours a second antennae opens, giving him Mickey Mouse ears - it's this attention to detail that I bloody love. The artificiality of it all is kind of the point; it is absolutely its own place even when it's pretending to be somewhere else. We only saw about 2/3 of Disneyland Park but we covered most of Disney California Adventure and I really loved the style of it. I love the sanitised history of America that's on show, it has a pride in itself and the people there do an excellent job of maintaining the illusion they're in the happiest place on earth.
Accessibility: It's a chaos of noise and confusion when you're in the park but I think Disney are masters of managing this. They devote a goodly amount of time to granting Make a Wish requests so I think they've got it covered on all aspects of this.
Overall: It took me a while to leave my inner cynic behind. On entry I genuinely felt like I'd just walked into an enormous shop with the rides there simply to disorient you into spending more money. It is eye-wateringly expensive and there is merchandise to buy everywhere but it is possible to let that stuff fade into the background. It didn't bother my kids at all - they didn't want to go into shops when they could be waving at Mickey himself. Once I was able to leave my cynical self behind, I too fell in love with Disneyland.
*This is the slightly cultish term used to refer to every member of staff at Disney