Updated May 2016
The success of your morning can determine how your entire day goes at Disneyland. I have some tips for you on how to make the most of your time and how to get everyone started in the right direction.
The benefits of an early arrival are plentiful. Save your slumber for another vacation. There is work to be done at Disneyland!
In this article
Before You Arrive
Before you even arrive on site, I suggest you have the following done:
- Have tickets purchased. Buy online or purchase from your hotel. Lines at the ticket counters on site can be long.
- Eat breakfast. Wake early and enjoy breakfast in your hotel or find something on your way in. If you are wanting to dine with characters, choose a restaurant at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels that serves breakfast. They open as early as 7:00am, which will allow you time to enjoy the meal and then get to the park in time to still enjoy the earlier hours without such a crowded park. (Make reservations well before!)
- Apply sunscreen and make sure kids are prepared for their day.
- If you’re lining up outside prior to open, look for restrooms at each end of the waiting area between the parks. Have everyone use the restroom before entering.
Always arrive an hour prior to the park opening. Why?
- Often the gates will open early and you can enter into Main Street (Disneyland) or Buena Vista Street (California Adventure) before the actual slated opening time.
- You’ll get to see the “Rope Drop”, which is a special way to start your day. After you see this, arriving later than the Rope Drop can often feel like you missed the previews at a movie. (Just. Don’t.)
- Cast Members line Main Street with white Mickey gloves while handing out high fives and big smiles. It’s a magical time and shouldn’t be missed. You might just break out in song. Zip a dee doo dah!
- There’s a really positive energy in the morning. Most people are still meltdown-free. It’s a great time to be at the parks!
Here’s a short video from Fresh Baked Disney, which includes a bit of the Rope Drop and a morning walk through the park. Note: The Rope Drop here happens prior to Adventureland. Most often, it happens at the End of Main Street. It’s a similar idea in all locations.
Get Stuff Done
Your morning hours should be busy. Save shopping and snacking for later.
- Lines are shorter in the first few hours before the park gets crowded. This is true year round – even during the busy summer months. It’s always slower in the morning. Take advantage!
- Use FASTPASSES. A handful of rides at each park allows FASTPASSES and you should utilize them whenever possible. A previous post explains all about the passes, how they work and how to make them work for you.
- Be prepared with a plan. Follow my touring plans for how to navigate through the parks (what to ride when and which attractions use FASTPASSES). Or, at least set up your own strategy on what you want to accomplish during these few important hours.
Do this First at Disneyland
Ride Peter Pan – Walk down Main Street, see the Rope Drop, and then continue through the castle and you’ll see Peter Pan on your right. Get in line ASAP. It’s a magical ride and will immediately put you in the mood for a day at Disneyland. Get in line for Dumbo shortly after. Both of these are iconic Disney rides and lines will populate quickly.
FASTPASS tip: If you have big kids in your group who wish to ride Indiana Jones, send someone to grab those passes en route to Peter Pan or shortly after. Also, if you have interest in seeing Fantasmic! during the evening, grab that FASTPASS, too. You can find that along Big Thunder Trail.
(Skip the Fantasmic! FASTPASSES, of course, while it’s on hiatus until mid-2017.)
If you’re interested in Star Wars, you’ll want to consider Season of the Force in Tomorrowland. If you have children who want to enjoy Jedi Training, you’ll need to register them first, before Peter Pan. Take a look at my post on how to get the most out of Season of the Force.
Here’s a map for your reference:
Do This First at California Adventure
Ride Toy Story Mania – Walk down Buena Vista, through Carthay Circle and pass CarsLand on your left. Cross over into Paradise Pier to get to Toy Story Mania.
FASTPASS tip: If you plan on riding Radiator Springs Racers, grab that FASTPASS on the way near It’s Tough to Be a Bug in Bugs Land. If you plan to see World of Color that evening, send someone over to grab FASTPASSES for that show near Grizzly River Run. The WOC FASTPASS will not prevent you from pulling other FASTPASSES during your visit.
Here’s a map for your reference:
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Anna & Elsa + Olaf at California Adventure
If you plan to meet Anna & Elsa or Olaf and want to enjoy the new Froznw show, review my post on how to make this happen. A strategy is a must to accomplish all that you’ll want to do. The map, plus lots of other information, can be found on that post.
Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
- What is a Magic Morning? Parks open one hour prior to the regular opening time for guests with Magic Morning privileges. These Magic Mornings happen at Disneyland Park on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. You can enjoy one Magic Morning Experience by purchasing a 3+ Day Park ticket prior to arriving at the parks. Or purchase a Southern California City Pass.
- What is an Extra Magic Hour? Parks open one hour prior to the regular opening time for guests who stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels. These Extra Magic Hours happen at Disneyland Park on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and at California Adventure on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
- If you have the extra hour, follow the above plan and enjoy even fewer lines!
- If you don’t have Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour? Don’t sweat it. There’s still plenty of time for fun and you’ll do just fine by following the plan.
Make Your Own Magic Happen
I’m a big believer in over-doing things. And, there’s no better place to go overboard than Disneyland. Consider these extra touches when planning your visit.
- Utilize the “Vacation Fairy”. As a reward for good behavior, a fairy arrives each night in the hotel to leave gifts for each child. These gifts can be small or big, but mostly tie into the day ahead. I often disguise money-saving snacks and items I would buy for our kids anyway in these gifts, including pool toys, glow sticks and autograph books. Design your gifts with what you have planned for your day. Kids waking to a sweet surprise like this can set the tone for your entire day!
- Give your spouse time for a morning jog or to check in with work prior to leaving the hotel. Surprise him or her with a favorite coffee or breakfast treat as a thank you for putting effort into your trip. Happy adults = happy kids. And, Disneyland can often be much more stressful than a hard day at the office. Show your appreciation and you’ll likely get it back, too!
- If you plan to purchase Mickey Ears for your visit, grab these at The Mad Hatter just before Main Street, to the left of The Opera House. They fold easily and will store in your backpack in between photo ops. If the shops are open prior to Rope Drop, get this done before even departing from Main Street.
- Grab a daily entertainment schedule and map upon going through the ticket turn stiles.
- Review the map and schedule and ask Cast Members questions prior to the Rope Drop.
- Order a coffee at the Market House (serving Starbucks) on Main Street if you’re needing a little help keeping up with the kids’ excitement.
If you start early and enjoy all of the perks of a morning at Disneyland, reward yourself with a mid-day break. Many people will be arriving by noon, so plan to pause for lunch around then or shortly after. Head back to your hotel for a swim, nap or simply a refresh for the evening ahead. You’ve earned it!
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