If you have ever gone on a Disney vacation, you know how fast a day at one of the parks goes. With the limited hours that the park is open and the wait times for certain rides, Disneyland visits are usually a few days long and still require a lot of compromise. With all of the stress of navigating the park and discussing which ride to go one, most park-goers find themselves frustrated at least once and pretty easily out of time. You might be wondering: can you do Disneyland in 1 day?
Can You Do Disneyland in 1 Day?
The answer is, unequivocally, no. Unless you have rented the entire park to yourself, you cannot experience every inch of the park in one day. I do believe that you can, however, have the ultimate Disneyland experience in one day. You can hit all of the best rides, see the best attractions, and eat the best food from sunrise to late into the night.
Keep Track of Your Time
When considering all of the rides at Disneyland, you probably already know which your favorites are. They may include some classics, like Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion. Maybe you enjoy the more thrilling rides, like Splash Mountain or the Incredicoaster. Whatever you are interested in, it’s best to narrow your rides down to ten.
During regular park hours, you have a maximum of sixteen hours to complete your day. With an average of one hour per wait time for each ride, your ten rides fill up around twelve of those sixteen hours. Remember: you can always shorten your list if you are more interested in experiences than rides!
In between your rides, there are tons of experiences around the park. With so many characters to meet and shows to see, you’re going to want to narrow it down to around three experiences in the day. If that sounds like too little, try swapping a ride for an experience. Adding these three experiences to your itinerary will bring your time up to around fourteen of your sixteen hours.
The remaining two hours around accounting for eating and travel time between parts of the park. You’re probably going to want at least two meals, so make sure that you know exactly where to go before heading there. You definitely will want to coordinate your eating times with where you will be in your day.
Before even heading to the park, it’s important to have a game plan of exactly what you’re going to be doing. If you have ever gone to Disneyland, or any other park for that matter, without a plan you are well aware of how much time is lost just trying to figure out where you want to go next. When considering what the most popular Disneyland rides are, you can create the perfect route through not only Disneyland park, but its sister, Disney California Adventure Park.
Time Saving Tips
Although a much more expensive option than staying at a regular hotel, Disneyland Resort Hotels are the best option for those who want to be the first guests in the park. Staying in one of these resort hotels saves on commuting, parking, and shuttle time, which will also ultimately cut down on waiting in lines for your first few rides.
Disneyland hotels are also a great option for families, as they guarantee guests “extra magic”, like the opportunity to wake up to your favorite Disney characters, preferred access to reservations around the park, and automatic access to the park’s extra magic hours. The hotels are also right next to Downtown Disney, which is open for two hours longer than Disneyland Park. If you are planning to get the most out of your one-day visit, staying at a Disneyland hotel might be a good choice.
If a Disneyland Resort Hotel seems like too steep a price for just one day in the park, staying in one of Disney’s Good Neighbor Hotels is another great option. These hotels are close by the park and work in collaboration with Disney to make sure that you are travelling to and from the park with ease. These hotels do not include any of the extra perks that Disneyland’s official hotels do, and they do include a little bit of travel to get to the park, but you will still be getting to the park much faster than anyone outside of Good Neighbor Hotels.
Once in the park, the best way to keep track of where you have been and where you want to go through this journey, is actually pretty simple. Disneyland and Adventure Park both have full maps available online. While printing out a map is going to be tedious and cumbersome to carry, you can assume that you will have your phone throughout your day at the park.
To make sure that you’re not wasting time trying to navigate with the maps in the park, try taking a screenshot of the maps and then drawing your path out. This way, you can add stops at the rides and experiences that you are interested in stopping by and times for each scheduled event on the map.
If you get Disney’s MaxPass app, you can reserve your spot at select experiences and make sure that you have a FASTPASS for available rides. This can save you on time and make sure that your trip is going smoothly.
If you are going to the park with a large group of people, it might be a good idea to make reservations at a restaurant in the park for lunch or dinner beforehand. If you’re a huge Disney fan or are bringing children, character dining experiences might be the best option. Examples of Character Dining include a breakfast with the Disney Princesses and dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen, where you get to meet Goofy and friends.
These dining experiences are great if you have a little extra money and would like to cut down on time. Not only are you skipping the lines at other in-park eateries, but you also get to meet characters while having a meal. This gives you much more time for rides and other attractions in the park.
It is also important to check with them to make sure that everyone will be satisfied with the itinerary. This means a lot of compromise for some people, but it can still be a fun experience! If you are going to the park with very small children and more than one adult, try to alternate on who will be riding the less thrilling rides with them.
You can always create your own journey through the parks, but here is a pretty simple way to hit all of the rides and attractions that you love. Starting in Disneyland Park, your first stop should be Tomorrowland. Here, you have access to Space Mountain and a few other fan favorites like Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters. For Toy Story fans, you can even get a slice from Pizza Planet in this part of the park!
Next, you will want to move next door to Fantasyland, where plenty of rides and meetups can be found. This is a great place to spend all of your meetups if you are accompanied by kids, as they can meet characters like Peter Pan and all of the Disney Princesses. For one of the more iconic tours in the park, make sure to go through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle while you’re in Fantasyland.
Frontierland is the next stop on this journey, where you can ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This rollercoaster is known for its fast speeds, sharp turns, and overall family fun. As one of the most famous rollercoasters in the world, you’re probably not going to want to miss this one. Frontierland also includes one of the most well-reviewed restaurants in the park, The Golden Horseshoe. This eatery serves up an immersive frontier experience, complete with a stage show and foods that any cowboy would enjoy.
Next is a stroll over to Critter Country, where arguably the most famous ride in the park is. Splash Mountain, one of the first log rides to be established in a major theme park, is definitely one that you won’t want to miss. Its timeless charm has been entertaining kids and adults alike for generations, and the final drop of the ride will have your heart racing. Critter Country has even more family fun in store, with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh only a few steps away from Splash Mountain.
Visiting Adventure Land
If you’ve made it through Critter Country before the afternoon, this is the perfect time to go over to Disney California Adventure Park. It’s a quick walk over from Disneyland and includes even more fun. The first stop to make in Adventure Park is in Hollywood Land for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout.
Mission: Breakout is an updated version of Disney’s classic ride, the Tower of Terror, but with a fun twist involving your favorite rag-tag group of Marvel characters. The ride officially opened in 2016 and has quickly become incredibly popular. If you’re a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, this is a can’t-miss ride.
Cars Land is next up, as Radiator Springs Racers has quickly become a fan favorite. The ride includes very fast speeds and gorgeous terrain that makes you feel like you’re right in “Cars”. This part of the park also includes Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters—two more fast-paced racer rides.
Before you head back to Disneyland park, you’re going to want to visit Pixar Pier. This area includes the largest and most intimidating coaster in either parks: Incredicoaster. Previously California Screamin’, this coaster is currently the fastest coaster to include an inversion and also the longest coaster to reach a speed of 55 miles per hour. If you’re a thrill seeker, this is the ride for you.
Finally, if you want to take a journey under the sea, make sure to make a quick stop in Paradise Gardens to ride The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. This ride is a favorite for all fans of the film, with its colorful characters and songs straight out of the movie.
The Last Half
Now that you have finished at Adventure Park, you can make your way back into Disneyland to finish up the day. From the front of the park, follow the signs to a galaxy far, far away. The newest addition to the park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is a straight shoot from Frontierland and you’re going to want to see this place before dark. Toted as one of Disneyland’s most immersive parts of the park yet, you are guaranteed to feel as though you just stepped into one of the Star Wars films.
Galaxy’s Edge only has two rides confirmed at this point, including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but there is plenty to do. With the Play Disney Parks app, parkgoers can translate alien languages, control droids, and choose a side to fight on during your journey through Galaxy’s Edge. There are also a lot of park experiences, like meet and greets and Jedi activities for kids. Did I mention that you can actually eat at the cantina from Star Wars: A New Hope?
Once you’re done exploring Galaxy’s Edge, the perfect next stop is Adventureland. This is one of the most popular areas of the park and for good reason. This part of the park includes one of the most popular rides in Disneyland, Indiana Jones Adventure.
Indiana Jones Adventure has become one of the most popular rides in the park since its inception in 1995. If you have never ridden it, it is a dark ride that includes some thrilling elements like pyrotechnics and sudden drops. If you like Pirates, you will definitely enjoy this ride as well.
New Orleans Square is possibly the most historic park of the park, as it includes both Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. Both of these rides have existed in the park since it’s humble beginnings and were originally designed by Walt Disney himself. For many, a trip to Disneyland means at least one go-around on both of these iconic rides. Both rides can be considered a bit scary, which is why they are the perfect final rides to go on in Disneyland Park. New Orleans Square also includes well-loved eatery, French Market Restaurant. The menu includes authentic Louisiana cuisine, like po-boys and jambalaya.
As every Disneyland lover knows, the best way to end a day at the Happiest Place on Earth is to watch one of its nightly spectaculars. The available shows are dependent on the time of year, but the most prominent show is Fantasmic! This show involves multiple Disney characters, special effects, and fireworks. Nightly spectaculars are usually held at either 9 pm or 10:30 pm in the park, so make sure to check the schedules before heading to the park.
What Do You Want?
I have already touched on some of the rides and experiences that you are probably not going to want to miss, I want to make sure that you have a full grasp of what is available. Barring any of these rides being closed for refurbishment, most Disney enthusiasts will tell you that there are a handful of classic rides that you cannot miss during a visit.
These rides include Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Mad Tea Party. The outline above hit every part of the park that these rides are a part of, so if riding these is important to you, I suggest you try following that tract.
If you are going with kids, they might want to see the rides that include some of their favorite Disney characters. Some of the more notable of these rides would include Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party, The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Radiator Springs Racers, Snow Whites Scary Adventures, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, and Peter Pan’s Flight. These rides are definitely some to ask your child about if you think they might be interested.
For fans of the popular saga, Star Wars experiences and rides can be found in either the newly christened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge part of the park or in Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland will still include Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, the Star Wars Launch Bay, and various meet and greets with popular Star Wars characters. Galaxy’s Edge will include the two rides mentioned above and a multitude of experiences.
Some of the experiences include a workshop in which you can make your own lightsaber, a depot where you can create a droid, and a stall where you can meet all kinds of out-of-this-world creatures. George Lucas fans might also want to ride Indiana Jones Adventure, which is not too far a distance from Galaxy’s Edge or Tomorrowland.
What are the hours for Disneyland Park?
Normal Disneyland hours are every day from 8 am to 12 am. Extra magic hour is usually from 7 am to 8 am. These hours are subject to change, so make sure to check online before planning anything!
What are the hours for Disney California Adventure Park?
Adventure Park’s normal hours are from 8 am to 9 pm. These hours rarely change but it is a good idea to check beforehand anyway.
Is the park experience the same all year?
Absolutely not! Both Disneyland and Adventure Park change seasonally, with some rides like The Haunted Mansion changing completely for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. If you are a regular Disney parks attendee, try going during a time of year that you usually wouldn’t for an entirely new experience.