For those of you who can only make it to the resort for one day, this is the place for you! Here are some tricks and planing advice to make the most out of that one day. It isn’t possible to do everything in the parks in one day but if you follow my advice, depending on the crowds and the number of members in your group, you should be able to do almost if not all of the things you and your group want to do.
If you are going to only Disneyland for the day here is the post for my advice on that situation:
If you are going to only California Adventure for the day here is my post for that:
1. The first thing you want to even think about is which rides, shows, and even food items that you and your group really wants to go on. Try to make a priority list for the group so you know which things you can cut if need be. If you want more information on Disneyland Resort attractions and events look at my page on them here: or go to the Disneyland page here: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/attractions/
Here are a few things which must be decided between as you cannot do both:
Fantasmic or World of Color
World of Color or the fireworks
2. Once you have your list or at least a good idea of which things you will want to do figure out which ride in each park you will want to fastpass first. If you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers then you need to go to California Adventure first. If you are getting a fastpass for that ride and want to see World of Color then you should go next and grab a fastpass for that unless you decide to do the dinning plan.
3. Another thing to do before you go to the parks is to check the Disney official website (https://disneyland.disney.go.com/calendar/#/default/2013/08) and find out the hours for both the parks. You can also take a glance at the show times so you have an idea of when the shows are running.
4. Go to whichever park you are going to start in before it opens. For California Adventure you need to be there before it opens if you want to ride Radiator Springs Racers. Either get in line for a fastpass which will start around Bugsland and go by Carthay Circle Restaurant, or run straight to the ride. This ride line has been known to be 5 hours long. It has slowed down since time has passed since the ride opened but it can easily be 2 hours. If you have a Fantasyland lover in your group or even want to ride a few of the rides then I suggest going there either right after your Radiator Springs Racer fastpass or ride. If you are bypassing Radiator Springs Racer then go to Disneyland first and go straight to Fantasyland. When you reach Fantasyland hit Peter Pan if you want to go on it at all that day. Peter Pan is usually about 45 minutes throughout the day and is often 20 minutes only 10 minutes after the park opens. This is why it is important to get there before the park opens and go straight to that ride if you want to ride it. Alice is also usually 30 to 45 minutes throughout the day but is usually a walk on along with all the other Fantasyland rides first thing in the morning. Matterhorn does not have fastpasses but is usually around 45 minutes or more most of the day. If you want to ride that ride go to it after riding other Fantasyland rides as it usually doesn’t open until at least 30 minutes after the park opens.
5. Use your fastpasses!!!!! This is an amazing time saver which is given to you for free! If you are only there for one day or even if you aren’t go and get a new one in the park you are in every time you can. A new fastpass is available every 2 hours or after the time you can ride the ride of your most recent fastpass. It will be whichever is sooner. For example, if I had an Indiana Jones fastpass for 9am to 10am even if I just got the pass at 850am I can get a new fastpass at 9am. If you get confused or just don’t remember when you last got one, look at the fastpass itself as it will have the time on it. As the day goes on fastpasses will run out try to get a fastpass for all the rides which have them that you really want to ride by about 2 or 3pm.
6. If you are planning on dining at one of the sit-down restaurants make sure to call and make a reservation in advance. Typically 3 days before you plan on going is enough time to make sure you get the reservation. To make a reservation call (714) 781 – 3463. It is also possible to call the day before or even just show up and ask for a table, it is just less likely that you will get it. If you do a walk up you will have to be prepared to wait a long time for a table. Here is my page which contains restaurant reviews and information: Here is the Disney dinning site for more information: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/
7.The most important thing is to be smart about which rides you ride and when. If there is a long line fastpass it or come back to it later. Don’t stand in 60 minute or more lines for a ride that you can fastpass now or later. Pay attention to the times of fastpasses as you walk by a major ride, if they are getting low then get when for that ride when next you can. Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers in California Adventure are usually the first few to run out. Ride the more popular rides early in the day. The morning hours will be when you get the most rides, leave the shows for the afternoon. Nighttime after the fireworks at Disneyland and after World of Color at California Adventure is also the time to ride popular rides. Keep in mind, however that there will be no more fastpasses. Space Mountain and Peter Pan will still be a long wait until after park closes. Indiana Jones and Star Tours will usually be about 45 minutes or so but many other rides will have very short waits. If you go by a ride you want to ride and it has a short wait then ride it. Just by conscious of whether the ride is one that is always short, which means don’t ride it at a time where the longer wait lines are short.
8. Here is some basic ride information that you should know. Radiator Springs Racers is the most popular ride in terms of line length so I suggest riding it first thing or getting a fastpass if you want to ride it. Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn and Toy Story Mania are the longest lines without fastpasses. They are usually about 45 minutes or more and Peter Pan is a 20 minute wait 10 minutes after the park opens. These are the rides you will want to especially ride early on if you want to avoid the line. Autopia is always long with no fastpass and is another ride to go to early on in the day. Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Rapid Run are all usually about an hour wait from around 12pm on. Tower of Terror, Soaring Over California, California Screaming, and Star Tours can have a variance in time. Star Tours and Soaring will be about 45minutes most of the day but can have pockets of smaller time. Screaming and Tower will usually be about 20 minutes most of the time but can have periods of being 45 or more. These two are very unpredictable and though I have find them to be around 20 minutes almost every time I go to them, they can randomly be 45 to 60 minutes. I usually don’t fastpass these rides and will just come back later if it is longer but you may want to grab a fastpass if you really want to go on them. Pirates, Mansion, Little Mermaid, Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Astro Blasters, Bugs Life, Muppet Vision, Captain EO, Tiki Room, and Monster’s Inc are all usually at most 20 minutes. Often these rides are 5 to 15 minutes which makes them great rides to ride when waiting on a fastpass. I will caution those with young children that Bugs Life and Snow White are actually pretty scary for kids. Snow White is very dark for most of the ride which involves the Evil Queen’s dungeon and the dark forest. Bugs Life is 4D which means that things are coming toward you and physically interacting with you at times. Toon Town, Tom Sawyer Island, and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail are great places to take kids and let them run around. They are usually not very crowded and are great places for them to burn some energy while you relax.
9. If you or your child want to take pictures with characters there are a number of ways to do so. There are character breakfasts which are pricey but you will receive fairly long attention from a number of different characters. Storyteller’s Cafe has Chip and Dale and a random assortment of characters and is at the Grand Californian Hotel. It has a buffet as well as a stand alone menu, making it the only character breakfast to have a stand alone meal option as the rest are buffets. Goofy’s kitchen will have goofy and a number of different characters and is the most well known with the best food but is more expensive than the other places. It is located at the Disneyland Hotel PCH Grill has Daisy and other characters and is at the Paradise Peer Hotel. Plaza Inn is the only place inside Disneyland with character dining. It is one of the cheaper options and will have Minnie there along with many other characters. Ariel’s Grotto has the most expensive breakfast and will have Ariel and other characters there. This is the most likely one to have princesses but the others may have them as well. At each character breakfast the characters are randomly chosen and vary by day and time. There will be at least one or two face characters such as the Mad Hatter and Alice and the rest will be characters like Rafiki and Baloo. The non- face characters will usually be not very commonly found in the park and are often not as popular.
Another way to see characters is to see them in the park. Many characters have designated places which they are at for many hours, though will be taking breaks every 20 minutes or so. Fantasy Faire has 3 princesses which change out every hour or so in the Royal Hall. They do not start to make an appearance until probably about 815am but often have a long line so it is better to get there early in the day. They usually have more of the classic princesses such as Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Ariel, and I think Tianna. Merida is over by Small World and is available starting at 830am. Rapunzel and Flyn are at her tower by the Village Haus Restaurant and are there from around 815am on. Tianna is often seen in New Orleans Square by the parasol selling side of French Market Restaurant but the times are fairly random and I do not know when she will be there. Winnie the Pooh, often Tigger and Rabbit are found by the Winnie the Pooh ride from 11am to 5pm. Tinkerbelle and her fairy friends are over near the Tomorrowland entrance where you see large blades of grass. They are then from 815am until 3pm. Mickey and his friends are usually found on Main Street during the day and Mickey and Minnie are found in their houses in Toon Town. Goofy and Mickey can be found on Buena Vista Blvd in California Adventure. Duffy is found on the way to Paradise peer past Ariel’s Grotto. Princesses can be found at the front of the park from about 9 to 11am or so and are also found around the castle. The Evil Queen and the Fairy Godmother are also often spotted around the castle. Cruella de Vill often appears when the Firehouse Five Perform at the Fire Station on Main Street. Alice and the Mad Hatter can be found on Main Street by the Corner Cafe and have a game of musical chairs with the guests around 230pm. They can also be spotted in Fantasyland. Mary Poppins and Burt are usually on Main Street and sometimes Peter Pan and Captain Hook will show up with them at the musical chairs game. Peter Pan and Captain Hook Can also appear in Fantasyland. Mike and Sully California Adventure tends to have less characters than Disneyland and usually only has Mickey, Goofy, sometimes Lilo, Duffy, some of the Cars characters in Cars Land like Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, Mike and Sully who are on Hollywood Pictures Backlot over by the Aladdin musical. Sometimes Mr. and Mrs. Incredible are also found in Hollywood Pictures Backlot over by Aladdin.
10. There are some parts of both parks which close for a period of time and then are reopened later. Fantasyland closes about an hour and a half before the fireworks and reopens a half an hour to an hour after they end. Mickey’s Toon Town closes usually around when the sun starts to go down and before or when Fantasyland Closes. Toon Town does not reopen. All of Paradise Pier closes before World of Color and does not reopen until after both shows. It needs to have every light shut off for the World of Color Show.
11. Certain times of the year and week are better than others to go to Disneyland Resort. Weekdays, especially towards the middle of the week are the best days of the week to go if possible. Sundays are usually not too bad and Saturdays are the most crowded days of the week. February, late April, early May, September, the first week or 2 of December, early November and early October are the better months to go as it is usually less crowded. Major holidays are to be avoided and the first weekend of the Halloween season and the Christmas season in the park is to be avoided. Around September 14th is usually the first weekend of the Halloween season and Veterans Day is usually the start of the Christmas Season.
I can suggest some basic lists of rides in an order which will give you an idea of what you should do and when. These suggestions will not be in a perfect order as there is no way to judge when you will get to use your fastpass and how long the lines are for a particular ride. Decide what you and your group should do by considering the length of the line and the return times for the fastpasses. It is also very hard to predict when going between two different parks. Here are some suggested routes:
1. DCA opening
Radiator Springs Racers (RSR) fastpass or ride
World of Color Fastpass
Soaring Over CA fastpass if not under RSR
Mr. Toad Wild Ride
Indy ride or Space ride or fastpass either
get fastpass for ride based on which ride you haven’t ridden of space or indy or Star Tours if others ridden
Soaring over CA fastpass
Toy Story Mania
CA Screaming (return and fastpass if over 20 min)
Tower of Terror
and any other rides you wish to go on
2. Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
Ride Star Tours
Ride Toy Story
any other rides in either park you want to ride or repeat
DCA- Disney’s California Adventure Dland- Disneyland