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Planning Your Day at Disneyland

In this section I am going to focus on planning a successful trip to Disneyland. First off let's try to figure out what a successful trip means. To me it means visiting what's new, what's changed, and my favorites without waiting in massive lines. To less frequent Disneyland guests it may mean to see and do as much as possible in the limited amount of time they have in the park.


Frequent Guest

Since this is the type of guest I am usually I will write about this first. Usually we arrive in the mid-late afternoon and stay in the park until we get tired or the park closes. In these restricted time visits you would be amazed at how much you can actually see and do. The key for us is to keep moving. We spend much of our time "walking the park". We have no real set agenda most of the time. The plan is to keep walking until you find something interesting, or find an attraction with no line. This means you put a lot of miles on your shoes, but you do get to sample the entire park and get on quite a bit. After doing this for a while you will become very good at reading the crowd and figuring out where you want to be heading.

Another valuable tool is the line board, which is located on Main Street as you approach Adventureland. This board will give you an idea what to expect throughout the park. Another great tool is FastPass. If used optimally you can get on several more E-ticket attractions with no wait. In the in-between time you can see less crowded attractions. The system works fairly well for light to semi crowded days. The whole thing seems to collapse on extremely crowded days because your FastPass is not good for several hours and you cannot get that many passes in your short stay at the park.

Full Day Plan

This is how most people visit the park. They are in Southern California for a limited amount of time and decide to spend a day or two at Disneyland (or if you are a local you visit the park with out of town guests for a day). The best advice I can give you is get to the park early, stay late, and go during extended hours.

I say to go during extended hours because there are usually more attractions and entertainment options available on these days, yes the crowds are higher, but the more choices makes up the difference. If you want to do a 10-4 type day, then go during the off season and avoid weekends.

You really want to be at the park when it opens to maximize your day and minimize your wait times. In the first 60-90 minutes the park is open you can really accomplish a lot with not much of a wait. There are two strategies to take here. If you are with little ones (or elderly ones) I would say to go to Fantasyland first thing in the morning. These lines move so slow you feel like your going backwards and they just grow all day long. You can ride pretty much every ride in Fantasyland in the first 60 minutes the park is open usually, where as latter in the day it could take you several(4-5, or more) hours to do the same thing. If you are a thrill seeker or traveling with older children then you probably want to try out the mountains first thing in the morning. If you are at the park for the "rope drop" you will see people running toward each mountain. So pick the one you want and follow the herds. If you move briskly you can do all the mountains in the first hour the park is open.

After your initial rush through the park and you see your first attractions, then its time to figure out a game plan. See where the crowds are and figure out what attractions you want to go on. As the day goes on and the crowds mount start to go to less crowded shows and attractions and take advantage of FastPass more.

In the early afternoon hours, during the hottest and most crowded part of the day try to go to theater shows, or use FastPass. One of our favorite shows is the Billy Hill and the Hillbillies show in Frontierland. Its great entertainment. Also you probably want to schedule in one of the parades if you have youngsters.

As evening approaches you need to make a list of attractions you want to still go on before its time to leave. This is to make sure no one "gets left out". Also be sure to schedule in Fantasmic and Believe (the fireworks show) if they are running the night you are there. These two shows are worth the price of admission by themselves.

Geek tip: If you want a fairly good spot for Fantasmic where you do not have to show up an hour before the show, or be crowded in, the far West side (right in front of the Haunted Mansion) is usually less crowded and offers a pretty good view of the show.

Geek tip: If you want a good spot for the fireworks & then the second Fantasmic show, a good thing to do is arrive in New Orleans Square about the middle of the first Fantasmic (15 min into it). Once the show ends, work your way up to the waters edge near show center (line yourself up with the building on Tom Sawyers Island and the center light tower from Fantasmic, you will see once you get there). This puts you in a good spot for the fireworks, and then after a wait you are in a good spot for the next Fantasmic. After the fireworks and Fantasmic is really one of my favorite times in the park. The crowds are thinning, the remaining soles are walking around like zombies after spending several hours at the park and park takes on an even more magical appearance with the lights on. Also at this time of the day you can start to get back on attractions without really long waits. The last hour or so of the park is very similar in crowd to the first hour the park is open.

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