I have been a Walt Disney World fanatic since I was five. I used to buy guidebooks every year, even when I had no plans to visit Walt Disney World that year. When I moved to Los Angeles, one of the first things on my to-do list was to visit Disneyland, the first Disney theme park built. Disneyland only has two theme parks – Disneyland and California Adventure. I was skeptical at first because I have loved Walt Disney World so much. But over the years, I visit Disneyland more and more to the point that I have now visited Disneyland more than I have visited Walt Disney World. Through trial and error, I have discovered how to experience the most of Disneyland without wanting to rip my hair out.
When To Go: The one question many visitors to Disneyland ask themselves is, “When is the best time to go?” In reference to specific dates, I like to check out the website Is It Packed?. They have a forecast calendar and live crowd tracking. While it is not 100% accurate, it does help when it comes to determining when is the best time to go. In reference to the time of day, Disneyland is best first thing in the morning or at the very end of the day. Check out Disneyland’s official website for daily park hours, parade times, and firework times. Trust me, this will come in handy later (the California Adventure park tends to close earlier than the Disneyland park).
Radiator Springs Racers: Although this ride at California Adventure is approaching it’s second birthday, it is the most popular ride in both parks combined and still considered “new.” By the first hour of park opening, the wait to ride standby is almost two hours. Since this is my favorite ride at California Adventure, I am one of those crazies that arrives at the park within an hour of park opening – and it’s not to ride Racers right away. I actually prefer to ride Racers at night in the dark! Most Disney attractions have what is called “Fastpass.” You insert your park ticket into a little kiosk and a second ticket gets printed out with a time frame on it. You can return to that ride within that time frame and skip the lines. However, since Racers is so popular, Fastpass for the ride is sold out within the first hour or two of park opening. If you really want to ride Racers, and trust me YOU DO, it is best to arrive at California Adventure within the first hour of it’s opening. There is usually a wait for the Fastpass kiosk (which is located at the entrance of Cars Land), but that wait is a lot more tolerable than 3 hours without Fastpass. Another option is to wait until less popular times to ride the ride, such as when the World of Color show is going on (times are available online or in your park map upon arrival). And finally, you could always opt to ride as a “single rider.” You won’t be able to sit with your family and friends since you’d be a fill-in for cars that don’t have enough occupants, but the single riders line tends to be much shorter than the regular standby line.
Water Rides: I LOVE water rides, especially log flumes. But unless it’s 90 degrees outside, nobody really likes walking around in wet clothes after getting off a water ride. Just outside of Splash Mountain in Disneyland and Grizzly River Rapids in California Adventure are little gift shops that sell ponchos. Unless you want to get soaking wet, I would purchase one. Whenever I wait in line for water rides wearing a poncho, EVERYONE around me begins asking where did I get the poncho.
Best Time To Ride Popular Rides: Unless you arrive at the park first thing in the morning, expect to wait in long lines for some of the most popular rides such as Screamin’, Tower of Terror, Racers, Soarin’, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Matterhorn Bobsleds and Toy Story Midway Mania. I have discovered the best time to ride these rides are during the common dinner time hours (usually between 6-8 pm), during parades, and during fireworks (unless fireworks and parades are important to you during your visit, then skip this section). This past week when I visited Disneyland, the wait time for Space Mountain went from 75 minutes to down 30 minutes during Mickey’s Soundsational Parade in the main park, and Splash Mountain’s wait time during Fantasmic! was 10 minutes. Toy Story Midway Mania is one of the only rides open on Paradise Pier during the World of Color show at California Adventure, thus making the wait time much less than usual since most guests at the park will be watching World of Color. Check out Disneyland’s official website before leaving for Disneyland or reference your park map for parade and firework times to help you plan which rides you will want to tackle during those times (note: some popular rides are closed during fireworks, such as Screamin’ at California Adventure, and do not reopen for the remainder of the evening). The best rides to ride during parades are: Screamin’, Tower of Terror, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Space Mountain. The best rides to ride during fireworks are: Soarin’, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, Racers, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story Midway Mania.
Avoiding Crowds At The End of the Day: After the fireworks finish, everyone begins to head for the park exit. If you have time, stick around. Most times, the park is actually still open after the fireworks conclude. Since a majority of the days’ guests are now leaving, this is another opportune time to ride some of your favorite rides. If you have filled your ride quota of the day but still want to avoid a headache of crowds, here’s my little secret: stop in to the Enchanted Tiki Room in the Disneyland park just as the fireworks are going off. The 5 minute show will actually give you enough time to sit down, take a breather, and beat the crowds before leaving the park.
Ride Tips: Here are some personal ride tips of mine. Racers – choose one of the middle seats. The seat belt goes across your lap instead of across your body. When the seat belts are locked into place at the start of the ride, the side seats’ seat-belts can feel restrictive. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – if you are a thrill seeker, ask for the last car. The ride feels even faster and the drops even more like you are flying. Space Mountain – even though I do not like this ride, ask to sit in the second car especially if it is your first time. There are only two cars per train on this ride, and since it is mostly in the dark, the second car has a better idea of what’s coming by following the first car. Pirates of Caribbean – the line on the right tends to move much faster in my experience. Splash Mountain – common sense, if you do not want to get soaked then avoid the front two seats.