Disneyland says it’s The Happiest Place on Earth” And our family totally agrees with that statement. It’s so magical and thrilling and full of surprises around every corner. Disney spared no expense when making their parks. They pulled out all the stops and added in every single bell and whistle. Disneyland was not created to be totally seen in one day. There is so much to do and so many things to see that you can’t possibly do it all in one day.
I’m a planner by nature, I like to have a plan and know how everything is going to run. My husband is not and my kids are not… so instead of being able to plan our every move I instead decided that I would know as much as I could about any type of event I would normally want to “plan out” and than be able to go into it with as much knowledge as possible. Disneyland is one of those places you want to plan out. You get more of the fun stuff in if you know what to expect ahead of time. I shared a bunch of tips and tricks for Disneyland in THIS post. One of the biggest things I hear people complain about and use as the reason they don’t go to Disneyland is that they don’t want to pay the money to wait in ridiculously long lines and only ride 4-10 rides a day. To those people who complain about that or think that’s all they will get in in one day I want to SCREAM FROM THE ROOFTOPS… “TIS NOT SO”!!! We ride anywhere from 20-30 rides a day. You can seriously get in the most bang for your buck if you know ahead of time what to plan for and what rides to ride and when to ride them. Taking advantage of the FAST PASS option is huge (I’ll talk more about that later.) and knowing which rides have the long lines and which one have shorter lines helps a lot too. See this post to see when the best time to visit the parks is, so you can get more bang for your buck.
If you grab a Fast Pass for a ride, then go ride one of the rides in the area that has a short wait time while you are waiting for your Fast Time to be ready. Sometimes we can get in 1-3 rides in the 30- 45 minute wait time window. That’s a huge deal. Making sure you are waiting for the right rides and squeezing in all the rides you can when you can is what sends your trip from the “I only rode 1o rides today” to the “I rode 25 rides today, some of them twice” kind of fantastic.
Figure out what rides are in what “Lands” and work around that. If we are going to get a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain in Critter Country then we go ride Winnie the Pooh and Haunted Mansion (if the line is short) while we wait for our Fast Pass time to come up… then we just go walk on the Splash Mountain with our Fast Pass. So all that time we would have spent waiting in line for 1 hr + to ride Splash Mountain we just spent riding 3 rides. See where I’m going with this? Knowing the Park and knowing what to ride while you wait on the Fast Pass is KEY!!! Always get your Fast Pass for a ride before you do the other rides in the “Land” you are in. There is always at least one ride in the Area that has a Fast Pass option, make sure you hit this up first and then you can go wait for the other rides that don’t have long waits. We have friends tell us all the time that they want to do Disneyland with our family so they can do Disneyland right… and while I would love to go to Disneyland with every. single. one of our friends, that’s not really possible, so instead I just show them the lay of the Park and tell them what to do and when.
So grab your map before you head to the park and figure out what you want to do and where it’s at. With our kids we make a list of our MUST rides and then fit in the rest of the rides around riding those MUST ride rides. On a 3 day trip to Disneyland we can ride every.single.ride… some of them (our absolute favorites) 2 or 3 times.
When you get to the park every person in your party can get a Map and then you are all on the same page and ready to ROCK your Disneyland trip.
This is the magic word you want to look for. Fast pass availability comes with your ticket (I’m always surprised at how many people don’t know this). There are a few rides that have fast passes available to you and it makes it so that you don’t have to wait in the long line. The FP system is set up so that you spend your “wait time” doing other things outside of the line. You simply find the FP que for the ride and scan all of your tickets to receive a fast pass for that ride (one person can do this for your whole party, but they MUST have everyone’s ticket). You can only have one at a time per park. You will be given a FP with a return time. Go ride other rides while you wait for your return time and when you come back (make sure you come back within your time frame window, or you lose your pass) you go through the Fast Pass line, which is MUCH shorter than the regular line. Usually you will wait about 5-10 minutes in the Fast Pass line verse the 45min-1 hour wait in the regular line. You can stack fast passes, the way you do this is to get another fast pass as soon as your current one is within its allotted time frame. This can get complicated if you are planning on staying in one area at a time, but if you have older kids and don’t mind going from one side of the park to the next to ride all your big “go to” rides with fast passes,then stacking will work great for you. If you have smaller kids and your fast passes are in different areas of the park this can get complicated. The Fast Pass is kind of like making a dinner reservation. Basically you hold your spot in line while you go and do other things, (ride rides, eat, go to the bathroom ect.) and then when your window of time is ready you simply go straight to the front of the line.
Lunch time (10-1), first thing in the morning, Dinner time (4-7), and during the Fireworks or Parades, are the non Peak times. People usually leave to go do things during this time so this is the best time to ride these rides if you are doing them without Fast passes.
Rides with ** (asterics) are great for small kids and babies. We go a lot with newborns so these rides are fantastic to go on and not have to sit out if you have babies or small children. See this post to find out about how to Disneyland with toddlers and small kids.
RIDES WITH FAST PASSES
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 40″- This ride has been redone and is FANTASTIC!! There are long wait times so I do recommend getting a Fast Pass. (You can go ride stuff in New Orleans Sq, Adventure Land or Critter Country while waiting)
Indiana Jones Adventure 46″- This is a very fun ride and always has a long line. Once you get to the inside of the wait area there is still a long time before you actually get on the ride, so I highly recommend getting a fast pass for this ride. If you ride it during the fireworks you will NOT need a fast pass as the line will be shorter. (We have ridden this ride multiple times during the Fireworks show.)
New Orleans Square-
Haunted Mansion (no height restriction)- This ride is one of my most favorites. It is very dark and can be scary for some kids (mine love it). We have never gotten a fast pass for this ride because we go during non peak times, but if you time it right the lines are not long. (This is another ride you can ride over and over again.)
Roger Rabbits Car Toon Spin (no height restriction)- This line has about 20-30 minute waits even when its slow, my kids love it because you can spin the car while you are on the ride, so if you are up for it (and don’t get super motion sick) then get the fast pass for this ride. If you have little kids there are lots of things to do, like Visit Mickey and Minnies house, while you wait for your ride time. The Line is all inside so when you first walk up to the ride it looks like it’s not a long line, do not be deceived, the line is huge and long and wraps around inside the building… get a Fast Pass.
Space Mountain 40″- This ride is a guest favorite so the lines are always VERY long and most of your wait it not inside, so it can get hot. I highly recommend getting the fast pass and then riding the Astro Blasters ride while waiting for your ride time. There is never NOT a time when this ride is busy. This ride “shuts down” a lot but starts back up again fast, so if you are in line and it shuts down… don’t leave its usually because someone lost something and it will start back quickly.
Star Tours- The Adventures Continue 40″- This ride makes me super sick so I don’t usually ride it, but my boys love it. We get the fast pass, or wait to go during the fireworks. Whats nice about this ride is if you have little kids who can’t ride, you can still see the fireworks from outside the ride, so if you are waiting with kids while others ride, you can still watch the fireworks.
Splash Mountain 40″- This is my all time favorite ride. WARNING: You WILL get wet. I highly recommend getting the Fast Pass because this line will ALWAYS be LONG! This ride is in the far corner of the park so there is only one way in and one way out. You can visit with Winnie the Pooh characters or ride the Winnie the Pooh ride while you wait, or you can walk back up the hill to Haunted Mansion. This is not a ride you want to miss so don’t forget to get your fast pass. If you don’t mind getting wet early in the morning or after it gets dark, then I suggest going during those times because the lines will be shorter.
Most of these rides have lines INSIDE the attraction building. Don’t judge your wait time based on the line you see outside, because there will be a long wait inside too. There are very few rides where you can see the whole line from outside. The wait times that are posted outside each ride are usually pretty accurate, give or take 5 minutes.
LONG LINES BUT NO FAST PASS
These rides tend to have longer lines but do not offer fast passes. If you want to ride these rides without the wait I suggest going early in the morning, during meal times or during the fireworks.
**Peter Pan’s Flight- Line is mostly inside. The ride is all inside and air-conditioned. They just redid the ride for the Disney Diamond Celebration so the lines will probably be even longer. Go first thing in the morning or in the evening.
**”its a small world”- line is outside, no shade, the ride is on boats in the water, inside and air-conditioned. This ride is a long ride and very relaxing but the lines are usually very long. If you go during a parade, the lines are shorter. If you are standing at the parade grounds right by the “its a small world” ride then I suggest going and getting in line right when the parade ends. DO NOT try to ride the ride after a parade if you are coming from anywhere else in the park as the Parade watchers will be headed for this ride.
Matterhorn Bobsleds- 42″line is all outside, very little shade (ride is constantly being updated.) The ride is all outside and not air-conditioned. The wait times for this ride are ALWAYS long and not a ton of people can ride the ride at a time so it takes a long time to get on the ride. It’s a very fun ride and worth the wait, but be prepared to wait a long time.
Autopia- 32″ line is all outside (very little shade). The ride is all outside and parts of it are shaded. This is a long wait when the lines a long because not a ton of people can ride at a time… but its a ton of fun so I recommend waiting.
**Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage- line is outside but shaded. The ride is inside a submarine (doesn’t really go under the water) and is air conditioned but its in a very small space so not good for people who don’t like being sandwiched into a small space. The line does have water spouts to keep you cool.
**Jungle Cruise- line is outside and inside, some shade. The whole ride is outside and you may get splashed (not a lot, but it could still happen.) Its a fun ride and when you get off the ride you can ask the Disney Cast Members for a Map and they will give you a map of the ride.
**The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh- This ride is back in the far corner of Critter country by the beginning of the Splash Mountain ride and exit. The line is rarely ever long and the ride is in an air-conditioned space. (ride this while you wait on Fast Passes)
New Orleans Square:
**Pirates of the Caribean- inside and outside (some shade). The ride is inside in a boat on water and its air-conditioned (you may get wet). The line moves quickly so even if it’s a longer line you will still get on pretty fast.
**Astro Orbiter: This ride is close to the Fireworks and if you can time it just right you can be on the ride during the fireworks which is so much fun to see from the top of the ride. You can also see some of the fireworks while standing in line. The ride and line are all outside and depending on the time of day the line can be long.
**Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters- This ride has a FASTPASS but it’s rarely open and not at all needed. We ride this ride over and over again because the line goes so fast. If you go during the Fireworks you literally can almost just walk off and walk right back on the ride. The Line is mostly inside and the ride is all inside and air-conditioned. It’s so much fun for kids and Adults. At the end of the ride you can have your picture emailed too you and you can swap scores with your family members.
Gadgets Go Coaster- 35″ This is a fun ride for the little ones who are not big enough for the other roller coasters. The ride is all outside but there are water spouts to keep you cool in the summer.
**Alice in Wonderland- Ride is inside and wraps around a lot. The line is all outside but shaded. The line isn’t usually very long but it does take a long time.
**Casey Jr Circus Train- Small train cars take you around the Storybook Canal. The ride and line are all outside. The line moves pretty fast and is usually not terribly long.
**Snow Whites Scary Adventure- Most of the line is inside in the shade, the ride itself is air-conditioned but it can be scary for small children. The line does move fairly quickly.
**Storybook Land Canal Boats- Ride is outside and in a boat. You are taken through lots of different tiny displays of scenes from different movies (we love this ride). This ride closes during parades and fireworks so plan accordingly.
**Dumbo The Flying Elephant- ride and line are all outside. This line is hit or miss, sometimes its fast and other times it goes very slowly.
**King Arthurs Carousel- This ride is all outside but it does have water spouts to keep you cool in the summer. The line moves quickly because so many people can ride at the same time.
Mad Tea Party- The ride and line are outside but there are water spouts to keep you cool in the summer. This ride is very fast and can make a person very dizzy and cause nausea. Not recomeneded for babies.
**Mr. Toads Wild Ride- This line is partially inside and depending on the time and day the line can go quickly or take about 20 minutes. It is a bit scary at the end.
**Pinocchios Daring Journey- The ride is inside in air-conditioning but the line is not. The line moves pretty quickly.
There are some other fun things to do that are not really “rides”-
–The Mark Twain River boat AND Sailing Ship Columbia take turns carrying passengers around the Rivers of America in the middle of Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Frontierland. Each boat takes turns so you just have to watch for which one is going. The last boat ride is at 5:45. You can walk around the boats and see all the fun details while the ship sails and you can be up on the deck while the ship is sailing as well.
The Disneyland Railroad takes you all around the outskirts of the park and you can see lots of fun “behind the scenes” stuff. Not only can the Train take you to different areas of the park you can also ride it around the Park and see all the cool things the Train has to offer. The stop between Tomorrowland and Main St has a fun dinosaur show that you can see while riding the train. There are 4 stops on the trains path: ToonTown (right in front of ToonTown and the Princess Faire), MainStreet USA (right above the entrance to the park), New Orleans Square (Directly to the left of Haunted Mansion) and Tomorrowland (hidden behind the Autotopia Ride).
STAY TUNED FOR DISNEYS CALIFORNIA ADVENTURES RIDE GUIDE.
Be sure to Visit my other Disneyland posts so you can get the most from your trip: