27 Tips to Make the Most of your Time at Disneyland California

I’m a huge fan of Disney. Many are dubious about visiting as an adult. However I can tell you that I’ve been to Disney in California, Florida, and Paris – as both a teenager and as an adult. Disney is an escape for everyone, it’s a world where life has a soundtrack, everyone is happy, and fun is effortless.

Today, I will be talking about the California Disney Theme Parks! They maybe the Happiest Places on Earth but it can also one of the busiest places on Earth. It’s important to have some strategies to maximize your time at Disneyland.

Disneyland in California is the original Disney park, which opened on July 17 1955. It is the only theme park designed and built to completion under the direct supervision of Walt Disney.

Disney came up with the concept of Disneyland after visiting various amusement parks with his daughters in the 1930s and 1940s. In 2001 they added another park next door, Disney California Adventure.

If you have only one day to visit- most people just focus on just one park: the classic Disneyland. But you can hop between the two.

Discover the magical world of Disney at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, where there is TWO amazing theme parks—Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park for you to explore!

A multi-day ticket will let you make the most of your visit and see what both parks have to offer!

27 Tips to Make the Most of your Time at Disneyland California

1. Buy tickets in advance
When you buy tickets in advance, you’ll go straight through to the entrance and won’t have to spend any time in ticket booth lines. This can save you an hour on a busy day!

IIn addition if you purchase a 3-day ticket or longer, you’ll be eligible for Magic Morning. Where you can enjoy one day of early admission to Disneyland Park, usually on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

2. Pick the Best Times to Visit
While it’s always a good time to visit Disneyland, there are times during the year that are better than others. Visit mid-week in off-season to avoid long queues.

Check the Disneyland opening hours—days with shorter opening hours are when Disney predicts less crowds. The Undercover Tourist recommends the best and worst times of year to visit.

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3. Stay Closeby
If you stay close by, you won’t have to pay to park at Disneyland and you won’t lose any time in the parking garage or waiting for shuttles. There are other benefits of staying at hotels near Disneyland, too!

There are also hotels that are a short walk to the free parking lot shuttles. For the most immersive Disneyland experience, stay on property.

The three on-site hotels — Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel — are creatively-themed with great Disney touches (plus you can save money by purchasing through us!). As a bonus you can enjoy the Extra Magic Hour for every day of your stay at an on-site property

4. Have a plan and prioritize attractions
Get each person in your group to pick a few must-do rides and focus on those first. Hint: If you want to visit the attractions with the longest waits (and no access to FASTPASS) when they have the lowest waits at park opening and closing.

5. Start in Disneyland
And if you have time visit California Adventure in the afternoon. I’ve been told by those that stayed in Disneyland that the park felt crowded and full of exhausted, crying kids in the afternoon. We missed that in California Adventure as it has more adult-orientated rides.

6. Arrive at least an hour before the parks open to get parked (you may need to take a shuttle from the car park), buy your tickets, and be ready queuing at the gate. The morning is quietest and the best time for popular rides.

7. Be Prepared for Security Line
The best way to get through the security line quickly is to be prepared. Make sure all of your bags are out and open for the cast member to peek into. Have keys, cell phone, coins and any metal devices ready to be passed to the guard at the security scanners.

They also often have a special security line for people with no bags. If you have no bags to check, you may save yourself a long line there!

8. Snag a locker
Lockers can be a lifesaver. It’s smart to travel light in the parks, however you want to bring sweatshirts, jackets and cameras. Make renting a locker your first priority of the day. This eliminates the need to haul all of your gear around!

9. Use a FastPass for the busiest rides
Disney’s FASTPASS system is one of the best ways to maximize your time at Disneyland. In case you’re not familiar with the system, certain attractions allow you to insert your park ticket and get a free ticket that give you an allocated time to return and skip the main line.

Disneyland Park FASTPASS Attractions

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Haunted Mansion / Haunted Mansion Holiday
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours — The Adventures Continue
  • “it’s a small world” / “it’s a small world” Holiday
  • Fantasmic!

Disney California Adventure FASTPASS Attractions

  • Incredicoaster
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — Misson: BREAKOUT! / Monsters After Dark
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • World of Color

You are only allowed one pass at a time, but you can get a new one as soon as your time window starts. For example, if your FastPass for one ride says 2-3pm, at 2pm pick up another FastPass before you go on the ride. FastPasses can run out in the afternoon!

10. Consider the single rider line.
If you are visiting the park alone or you family can’t ride, this is the best way to skip huge queues. If you don’t mind splitting your group up on the actual ride, you can experience the following attractions at super low waits on select attractions:

Disneyland Single Rider Attractions

  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Star Tours

Disney California Adventure Single Rider Attractions

  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Incredicoaster
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Grizzly River Run

11. Download the Disneyland app before you arrive.
It has wait times, show listings, character locations, park maps, restaurant menus and so much more.

12. Take advantage of Extra Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hours
The only way you benefit from the Extra Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hours is if you actually show up early for them. Both allow one-hour early admission into the parks, a huge leap on the rest of the touring population. You want to get to the park at least a half hour before the extra hour begins.

Some attractions now distribute FASTPASSes during these special hours but availability is not guaranteed. The FASTPASSes’ return windows will become active once the park opens to the general public.

13. Use Rider Switch if you have Children
If you have young ones that are not tall enough to ride (or don’t want to ride), go to the entrance of the ride with the entire party and get a digital Rider Switch return window added to the supervising parent’s park ticket (along with up to two other people).

One parent can supervise the young ones while the rest of the party rides, then once the riders return, the supervising parent can have a turn to ride while skipping the line. You can also use Rider Switch with FASTPASS.

14. Park Hop
It’s much easier to hop at Disneyland than it is at Disney World. Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure are just a short hop, skip and a jump away from each other.

With the entrances maybe a minute walk apart, park hopping can be an effective way to maximize your time at Disneyland.

15. Save the shows for later in the day
The parks are least busy the first few hours of the day. You don’t want to find yourself in a 30-minute show when Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo will see their lowest waits of the day! When lines peak in the afternoon, it’s showtime (rest those legs).

16. Pack your own Snacks and Water
You’ll save time, money and meltdowns by packing your own snacks and water.

17. Make Dining Reservations
Knowing when and where you’re going to eat can be a timesaver. By eliminating the time it takes to consider your options, hopping right to your restaurant really speeds up your day.

Check out the Disneyland Mobile app to see your options and reserve.

18. Eat During off-peak Hours or Dine on the Move
If you can’t secure a reservation or would rather dine at a quick service location. Off peak is from 10:30 a.m to noon and then 3 p.m to 5 p.m.

You can save some time by dining on Disneyland eats that can be enjoyed on the move. Turkey legs, corn dogs, meat skewers, chili and Frito bag and chili cone queso are all compact enough to be munched on while you’re moving.

19. Use the Mobile Order Service
The days of long food lines are gone. With Disneyland Mobile Order Service, you can order food from anywhere. Make a food order while you’re in line for a ride, at the back of the long restaurant line or even in your hotel room.

Just stop by the Mobile Order window and pick up your food.

20. Bring your own lunch
If you really want to save time and money, bring your own lunch. Think picnic items such as sandwiches, raw veggies and fresh fruits. You may even bring a full picnic and store it a locker outside of the park near the Picnic Area.Just no glass containers, loose ice or dry ice are allowed though security.

21. Buy your Souvenirs Ahead of Time
Save Money and time buy souvenirs online and at discount shops before the tip for your family to wear.

22. Wait until the End of the Evening to Shop
If you must shop, wait until the park closes. The shops on Main Street U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street are open an hour after the parks close. Also, World of Disney in Downtown Disney is open one hour after Disneyland closes.

23. Know When and Where your Favorite Characters are
While a handful of Disney characters have their own dedicated meet-and-greet stations, most of them are listed on the official site with published times. However, with the right strategies, you may very well land that meeting with favorites. The Disneyland Mobile app offers the locations of all the characters. 

24. See the Second Show – Parades and Fantasmic!
During the busiest times of year, there are often two showings of the parades and Fantasmic! The later you stay, the less time you need to stake out a viewing location for these shows.

25. Ride during show times
The wait times drop significantly for rides in New Orleans Square and Critter Country during Fantasmic!, making show time the best time to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain.

You may also find shorter lines in Disneyland during fireworks and at available rides at Disney California Adventure during World of Color if the park is still open.

26. Make sure you are in a ride line when the park closes
Once you’re in a line, you will get to ride even if it is already past park closing time.

27. Pick up an Entertainment Times Guide
Grab a park map at the entrance and seek out a times guide. You will find one near the tunnel in Disneyland and to the right of the trolley stop just inside the entrance to Disney California Adventure.

Even though you can find everything you need in the Disneyland Mobile app, the paper guide is a great quick reference that does not require Wi-Fi or phone battery. It has information for the week, running from Friday to Thursday.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips to maximize your time at Disneyland and California Adventure Park.

If you have two or even three days then you could savour the Disney magic by visiting the two themeparks in California.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check them out for yourself.

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