Entering Disneyland theme park for the first time is like stepping into a magical portal carefully crafted by your favorite childhood memories. It’s pristine, whimsical, and extremely detailed with all your favorite Disney movies.
But for anyone who hasn’t been there, it can also be a bit overwhelming. Knowing where to head and how to see as many attractions can be almost impossible.
Well, I’m going to try to make the experience a lot easier.
As someone who’s lived near Disneyland all her life, I’ve gotten to know the Disney theme parks fairly well. I’ve been there more times than I can count and been an annual pass holder for years.
As a fellow local, I want tourists to have an effortless experience, so here are seven tips to make your Disneyland trip a little more magical and devoid of any unnecessary challenges.
Download the Disneyland App (like now) and take advantage of all it offers
Before you go to Disneyland, download the app and make an account. It seems like an obvious go-to but having it handy right away (especially before your visit) shapes your experience at the park.
The Disnelyand app answers all the questions you may be unsure about like theme park hours and showtimes which actually vary according to the time of year. It also lets you know the current waiting time for attractions if the theme parks are open.
Having this handy throughout the trip will make it easier to plan your day and rework your schedule if something isn’t panning out. Also, if you’re hungry while waiting in line for a ride, you can plan ahead by setting a reservation for a restaurant or ordering food to pick-up.
Head to Disneyland first, then California Adventures
There are two main parks located in Disneyland Park: Disneyland and California Adventures. After taking a quick tram ride from the parking lot, you’ll see two huge entrances that head to either park.
Granted, if you don’t have the Park Hopper ticket, which allows you to go to both theme parks, you can just head straight away to either one. But if you want to experience the best of both, deciding between the two is going to be a little more challenging.
California Adventures tends to close earlier and you would think it would make more sense to head there first. Yeah, don’t do that.
Even though it closes earlier, California Adventures is reliably less full throughout the day. Meanwhile, Disneyland only gets more crowded. If you want to experience shorter lines, go to Disneyland first.
Don’t get lost waiting in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland – Know the areas you want to skip
Disneyland offers a variety of rides for all age groups. There are slow rides, water rides and roller coasters, to name a few. That being said, your group may want to avoid certain rides.
For instance, if you’re with a group of teenagers, you may want to skip Fantasyland since it has slower, story-based rides for younger kids, like Pinnochio’s Daring Journey or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. On the opposite end, if you’re with a group of 4 year olds then California Adventure’s Grizzly Peak Area may be too daunting for the little ones.
By knowing your group’s likes and dislikes, you can get a sense of which theme park areas to head to first. The best bet is that if there’s only one ride that you like from that theme park area, it’s better to just skip that section all-together and only go on that ride if you have extra time.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Fantasyland and Tomorrowland can get really crowded. There are a lot of rides that are close together in these areas so you generally want to avoid them if you see a crowd.
If you get to Disneyland early, go on the big attractions
Disneyland rides like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones or Radiator Spring Racers, can have you waiting anywhere from up to 60 minutes to 120 minutes during the day because they are extremely popular.
However, there are ways to avoid this. If you manage to get there when Disneyland or California Adventures opens, head straight to the larger attractions. Your wait time tends to be a lot shorter since it’s earlier in the day.
Furthermore, if you get to Disney’s theme parks ahead of time, you experience a much calmer and comfortable atmosphere. Kids aren’t complaining about lunch and people aren’t sweaty because it’s not too hot yet, so everyone is fairly optimistic.
If you get to Disneyland late, try to wait for the lines to die down on major attractions
If you manage to sleep in past Disneyland’s opening time, that’s still okay! You can still make it in around lunchtime and get through plenty of Disneyland rides.
In the afternoon, it’s best to head to indoor rides or rides with shorter lines that are under 30 minutes and save the bigger attractions until nighttime. While some people have left for the day (to avoid the heat) or have headed off to nearby restaurants outside the parks, the lines for the big attractions still tend to be pretty long.
Even if you’re tempted, wait. Some of the rides, like Big Thunder Mountain or the Incredicoaster, have a different feeling during the nighttime that’s worth the wait. If you wait until it’s closer to closing time, you’ll find that not only will the wait times get shorter but it’ll provide a more visually aesthetic experience.
Don’t underestimate the power of single rider and moving buddy lines
Small groups or pairs don’t spend an hour waiting in line. Instead, take advantage of the single rider and moving buddy lines.
Single rider lines are available all day and for all the major attractions like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, the Incredicoaster, and Radiator Springs. Instead of heading to the front of the line, you just head to the exit. A sign will usually indicate where the single rider line is, but in case you can’t find it, ask one of the cast members. They won’t mind.
Another option is the moving buddy line which is sometimes offered for rides like Toy Story Mania and the Monsters Inc. ride. It’s similar to the single rider line, but two people can go on a ride instead of one person.
This line tends to work a little differently than the single rider line since there isn’t an official line for it and it depends on the time of day and the number of customers. You have to ask one of the cast members who are in charge of the ride and see if it’s available.
Make sure you’re realistic about Fastpass times
The Fastpass option can definitely speed up the waiting time of Disneyland rides but only if you use it wisely. A lot of the time it can end up being a wasted opportunity.
For those who don’t know, the Fastpass option allows you to return to the ride and go on a shorter line.
To truly utilize the Fastpass option on Disneyland rides, you have to be considerate of when you have to return. If the returning time for a ride is until 10 p.m., then you can really only use it for that one ride. You also have to plan on staying until that time.
I’ve found that the Fastpass option is best utilized when it’s within two hours of the time that you scanned it onto your Disney ticket. It is harder to be motivated and use the Fastpass if it’s later at night. Also, the wait is longer during the afternoon so you aren’t really utilizing the fast pass to the best of your ability if you use it at night.
Whether it’s enjoying the nighttime fireworks or seeing your favorite Disney characters come to life, Disneyland truly is one of the happiest places on Earth. It’s a time to reminisce about your Disney movies and embrace your inner child by creatively engaging in imagination and wonder.
I hope that with these tips, you’ve made your journey through “The Happiest Place on Earth” a little easier and gained a little bit of an upper hand on waiting for Disneyland rides on your trip.