Disney parks can be intimidating for first time visitors (and returning guests). I’ve mentioned here several times that we go to Disneyland when we visit our family in Southern California, and when we go, we always get lot’s of questions about the park and outfit ideas. There are several professional disney-goers (what a great job right?), but Austin and I wanted to share our recommendations for visiting “The Happiest Place on Earth”. One of the most popular requests is for us to put together a Disneyland itinerary and share our “day at Disney”. Here’s our typical Disneyland itinerary and how we do Disneyland in one day.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
If our schedule allows, we try to visit Disney on a Tuesday or Wednesday. They are usually the least crowded days. Also, we highly recommend getting your tickets online. Make sure you do that at least 24 hrs in advance due to processing. You will get an email with your ticket and you avoid a big line. Well, one of the big lines, ha! When you get to the main entrance, they will scan your email ticket and then give you a printed park ticket. Do not loose that printed ticket! You will need that for getting Fast Pass tickets. If you’re set on getting your picture in front of the castle, do this first! The park will get very crowded as the day goes on, so the earlier you snap your photo, the less people will be in it. We also recommend downloading the Disneyland app. It is usually pretty up-to-date and shares wait time, ride closings and park information all on your phone. See more of our tips here!
When visiting Disneyland, having a good Disneyland itinerary can save you a lot of time. Try to plan out your Disneyland itinerary beforehand, instead of in the rush of the day.
Austin and I like to get to the park around 8:00 am. Always check the hours ahead of time as they do vary between days and seasons. Downtown Disney opens at 7:00 am, however most of the stores open at 9:00 am.
When we arrive to the park, we head straight to Hyperspace Mountain (formerly known as just Space Mountain). It is generally the more popular ride and lines can easily get up to 80-100 minutes during peak hours. Since the crowds are usually smaller in the early morning, the wait could be only 20-30 minutes. After riding, we head straight to Indiana Jones and get a Fast Pass. Indiana Jones is also another popular ride and a Fast Pass will save you a lot of time. If we get our Fast Pass early, our “return time” will usually be around 10:30 or 11:00, so we like to spend the rest of the morning in Tomorrow Land. If you’re new to Fast Pass, here is a general idea of how they work at Disneyland. We also might use this time to grab a coffee on Main Street. The Starbucks line gets very long but it actually moves pretty quick. We are always impressed with how fast they get the line moving. If you want to stay in Tomorrow Land, a fun ride that we really like is Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. The line for that can get pretty long, but if you go early, you probably won’t wait longer than 25 minutes. We also will ride Star Tours (Austin’s Favorite) and Astro Orbiter. If there’s a short line, we will squeeze in Autopia.
After spending the morning in Tomorrow Land, we then venture off to redeem our Fast Pass for Indiana Jones. This ride might be my favorite! After Indiana Jones, we try to go get another Fast Pass for either Matterhorn Bobsleds or Haunted Mansion. If you’re wanting to ride Splash Mountain, get a fast pass for that! I’ve seen the line get up to 3 hours, so I would make sure you get a fast pass for Splash Mountain if you’re wanting to ride it. At this point, the Fast Pass return will probably be around 1:30 or 2:00. So we will usually spend the rest of the morning in New Orleans Square and Frontierland. Pirates of the Caribbean is a classic and a pretty “relaxing” ride if you want to escape the heat or just sit down for a good 10 minutes (maybe 15?)…it’s a long ride.
Disney allows you to bring in your own food, so if you want to do that, be sure to bring a backpack or something easy to carry your snacks inside. If you want to dine at Disney, our favorite lunch spots include:
- Blue Bayou Restaurant: Reservations are a must! This hot spot is typically booked out 3-5 weeks in advance. We’ve eaten here a few times and it’s always a great experience (pricey- but really good).
- Bengal Barbecue (very limited seating)
- Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port: This pizza place is one of our favorites. It’s the best bang for your buck (if there is such a thing at Disney). The Pizza Salad is really good if you’re looking for a “healthier” option.
- Plaza Inn: I believe this is where they do character breakfast in the morning, but they also have amazing homestyle dishes for lunch and dinner. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for something hearty.
If you’re Fast Pass time is ready, go ahead and get in line for that ride. After you turn in your Fast Pass, you will be allowed to get another one! I would suggest getting another Fast Pass for either Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain or any of the previously mentioned rides (especially Space Mountain). Those are typically the longer waits in the afternoon. If you’re looking for a nice easy ride, maybe head over to the Tea Cups or Jungle Cruise. There is also the parade around 4:30 that is fun to watch. We don’t usually sit down for this parade since we stay for the nighttime shows, but it’s still a great one to watch!
If you’re looking for a good snack, you really can’t go wrong at Disney. Our favorites include:
- Churros in Tomorrow Land (there are a few locations that sell this popular treat, we always hit up the stand right across from Buzz Lightyear ride)
- Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street
- Mickey Mouse Pretzel
- Dole Whip at the Tiki Juice Bar near the Enchanted Tiki Hut
- Mickey Mouse Beignets at Cafe Orleans or French Market Restaurant
We actually really enjoy the night shows. The Electrical Parade is really neat and so are the Fireworks. Seriously, they are not your typical fireworks show and we highly recommend sticking around for them. People start lining up for the parades and fireworks pretty early. I would suggest scouting a spot at least an hour before the show. If you’re wanting to see the fireworks, you want to make sure you grab a spot where you can see the castle because they will be projecting movie clips on the castle. I’ve also heard they do the same thing at the Small World building and it’s supposedly less crowded. We haven’t tried it, but I would ask a Disney employee when you get there!
If we eat at the park, we love the clam chowder bread bowls at Royal Street Veranda in Cafe Orleans. They are our favorite!
After dinner, we usually are pretty tired. If we aren’t scouting a spot for the fireworks or the Electrical parade, we will usually ride Small World or Peter Pan’s Flight. Fantasmic! returns on July 17th and we highly recommend seeing this show. It is the best. If you only stayed for one show, I would make it this!
Phew- that was long! I’m sure we missed a few things in this Disneyland itinerary, so please don’t hesitate to comment below or reach out on instagram if you have any questions. Comment below if you have any other Disneyland itinerary recommendations. Have a great weekend! xx Austin + Ashley
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