The perfect day at Disneyland is different from person to person. Some people go right, some people go left. Some want to hit all of the areas, some just want to go to one or two. Here’s my take on the perfect day at Disneyland, hopefully it can help you plan your own!
Before you go
If you don’t have an annual pass, I recommend that you buy your tickets online so that you can avoid the slow, agonizing line at the ticket booths. Unless you’re trying to take advantage of special pricing, there’s no reason to put yourself through that. Just download the Disneyland App and link your tickets to it and it can be scanned from your phone. Bye-Bye paper tickets. While you’re at it, also buy the Max pass. It allows to you get fast passes for your favorite rides straight from the Disneyland app so you never have to race the hoards to the machines again. It won’t allow you to make reservations until you have been let into the park, so no sneaky pass getting from the esplanade. The times of your fastpasses will affect your path through the park, but this is the general way I like to go.
If you get there a day early, shop for your souvenirs in Downtown Disney ahead of time so that you aren’t carrying them around the park the next day!
I like to get to the park a bit before opening so that I can go through security and get in line to be allowed in. They’ll usually scan your ticket and let you into the front plaza on Main Street but don’t let you go further than that until it’s officially opening time. I like to maximize my time when I go which is why I get there so early, after all you need to get your money’s worth.
Once in I wander into the Starbucks on Main Street to get my morning iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Once in a while I’ll have breakfast at the Carnation Cafe, but I’m not much of a breakfast eater so the coffee and a little snack are enough. Then I like to hit the more popular rides first since crowds are generally smaller in the mornings so the stand-by times aren’t too bad. If they are that’s when the Max pass comes into play. This way leaves time to watch shows and parades later in the day.
Galaxy’s Edge has changed up this routine a bit. Since it draws such a big crowd, I like to go there first to beat the people traffic and huge wait times. Get in line for either Rise of the Resistance or Smuggler’s Run and fast pass the other. Depending on the crowd, if it gets busy Disneyland will use it’s new virtual queue system to let people into the land and/or ride. You can’t do it until you’re in the park though so if you arrive later be sure to check on the app.
Either way this is also around the time you’ll want to go to Fantasyland. It gets closed for a period in the evening for the fireworks show, and in the afternoon there are more people. So mornings almost always ensure you can go on all of the rides except for Peter Pan in less than 20 minutes. The Peter Pan line is always at LEAST 35 minutes but usually more and you’re in such close quarters you it feels almost claustrophobic. It is probably the cutest ride in Fanatsyland though, so go in the morning or if you don’t care about the fireworks, get to the Red Rose Taverne at that time where they set up a pre-line for Peter Pan to avoid a stampede when the firewords are over.
I like lunching in New Orleans Square, mostly because Cafe Orleans is probably my favorite place to eat at in the park, so I like to save it for my biggest meal. That way I can just snack around dinner time and don’t miss out on any shows or parades to go eat. Get a bowl of gumbo, some pommes frites, and mickey beignets for dessert and you’re all set. From there it’s just a few steps to Pirates of the Caribbean while you wait for your Haunted Mansion and/or Indiana Jones fast passes to be ready. Or head over to the Rivers of America to ride on the Mark Twain Steamboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia.
Either way, the afternoon is when I like to crawl around Adventureland, New Orleans Square, and Frontierland. Once you’ve filled the old tum you’ll have energy to explore Tom Sawyer Island or make the trek into Critter Country to visit a Silly Old Bear that lives there. If you’ve timed your fastpass right it might even be time for a cool down on Splash Mountain!
Take the shortcut through Frontierland by Rancho del Zocalo to cut through Fantasyland and go to Mickey’s Toon Town. There isn’t much to do or eat there, but there are great Instagram spots if you go into Mickey and Minnie’s houses. Otherwise get in line for Roger Rabbit then head back to catch a showing of Mickey’s Magical Map at the Fantasyland Theater and from there you can go take the happiest cruise that ever sailed at It’s a Small World. The two parades go through this area so you can catch one of them from there. Once it’s over, this is your time to hit Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland has some of the longest lines in the park, so evening is the best time to head over. If you get stuck in a long stand-by line you won’t roast in the merciless California sun anymore. It’s also the time a lot of people will start camping out for their parade/fireworks spots so there’ll be less people in line. Be in a line once those things end, otherwise you’ll get trampled as people try to hurry to beat each other back into line. This is usually the time I’m able to make it onto Space Mountain and Star Tours if I haven’t gotten a fast pass. Once that’s done, the rest of the night is a free for all. Sometimes I’ll watch the last parade and then wait for the first fireworks show. Then I head back into Adventureland to hit up Bengal Barbecue for some delicious skewers and wander around New Orleans Square as Fantasmic is starting. Or vice versa.
The last couple of hours are for any rides I didn’t get to or want to get on again. Then in the hour or so before closing I either shop on Main Street or head out of the park and go to World of Disney in Downtown Disney to buy any souvenirs I had my eye on.
Then it’s off back to my hotel to rest my aching feet and dream of mouse ears.
What’s your perfect day at Disneyland? Let me Know in the comments below!
Featured Image via Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/192317846575176331/
I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!