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Expecting crowds at Disneyland on your next vacation? These tips will help you beat the crowds at Disneyland and accomplish more in your theme park day!
Disneyland’s slow season seems to be a thing of the past. No matter when you plan to visit Disneyland, you can expect masses of people enjoying Disney with you.
Beating the crowds at Disneyland can easily be accomplished with some strategies under your belt. With just a little bit of preparation and planning, you’ll be able to navigate your way around all of the other Mickey enthusiasts in the park.
These tried and true tips to survive the crowds of people at Disneyland can make your day so much more enjoyable. Do more and wait less? Yes, please!
This post is all about beating the crowds at Disneyland.
Beat the Crowds at Disneyland: Tips from a Pro!
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1. Arrive Before Rope Drop
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be at rope drop. This is the #1 strategy to beating the crowds at Disneyland! The turnstiles open before the scheduled park opening time, allowing you to stroll down Main Street and immediately immerse yourself in the Disney atmosphere. Occasionally, the rope is even dropped early, so you really do get a head start on your Disney day!
I am not a morning person, and getting up early on vacation is definitely not my idea of fun. However, making rope drop means a more enjoyable pace for the day, especially when Disneyland is crowded!
If you have Early Entry from staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, get to the park entrance prior to that starting time. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish in the early mornings by using this strategy!
2. Early Morning Attractions Matter
Choosing what to do in the early morning can save you the headaches of fighting crowds later in the day. I recommend hitting up one of your must-do rides that tends to have long wait times.
For us, this is Space Mountain in Disneyland and Radiator Springs Racers in Disney California Adventure. Both of these rides rack up long (even up to 2 hours!) wait times quickly and will remain that way for a good portion of the day. Doing Space Mountain first thing can be as quick as a 10 minute wait!
So why not Rise of the Resistance? Hoards of people head to this ride right away, so unless you are at the front of the pack, you will be wasting valuable, less busy morning park time waiting in line. Plus, the Space Mountain queue is kind of boring, whereas Rise of the Resistance has an amazing queue that will keep you more entertained while waiting. However, Smuggler’s Run is another good choice for one of your first rides. We’ve literally walked right on with no wait whatsoever.
Autopia is usually the next ride at Disneyland for us since it is close to Space Mountain. It has a full-sun queue that gets hot and is basically a walk on in the early morning. I recommend this if you have kids who love to drive the cars. In DCA, we go to Toy Story Mania next.
After Your First Attraction:
After you have done one or two of the larger attractions, enjoy any rides that have relatively short waits. By doing this, you can check so much off of your list! By late morning, we have usually ridden everything we are most interested in and then whatever else we do for the rest of the day is a bonus. And so much more relaxing!
By not waiting in long lines first thing in the morning, you don’t have wait time fatigue. When you end up waiting in the longer lines, you will have already accomplished so much that it won’t feel like all you do is wait.
Worth noting here: if you have young children who aren’t thrill ride ready, go straight to Fantasyland. This area is really tight and gets super congested as the day goes on. It is always busy. The early morning will be the least crowded time all day.
3. Know How to Use Genie & Genie+
Disney’s free Genie service is available on the Disney app. You can select whatever you are interested in doing for the day, and Genie will create a personalized itinerary for you with tailored-to-your-preferences recommendations. Sounds perfect, right? It’s not.
I suggest using Genie more for seeing what wait times are throughout the park rather than following its recommendations on what to do next. Sometimes, Genie has you doing attractions in an odd order and not using your park time efficiently.
Genie is great for checking current wait times, especially in the morning when you are trying to get the most out of the least crowded time. It is also important to check wait times when crowds are everywhere. When wait times are high, do less popular things or take a break at your hotel.
Aside from the free service, Disney offers a paid Genie+ to skip the lines on certain attractions. More expensive than its Disney World counterpart, Genie+ in Disneyland starts at $25 a day per ticket. For my family of 5, that’s an additional $125 per day!
However, I highly recommend purchasing Genie+ on days when Disneyland is super crowded. Just don’t make a first thing reservation with it as most rides will have shorter lines early in the morning and you can only use Genie+ one time per ride.
This service also comes with unlimited PhotoPass digital downloads. That makes the steep price for a family easier to swallow.
4. Avoid Rides with Lightning Lanes
If you dislike waiting in long lines on busy days, then you will especially hate waiting in ride lines that offer Lightning Lanes (Genie+). The guests who have Genie+ will be loaded onto the ride vehicles much faster, with only a few standby parties added intermittently. Do these rides in the less crowded early morning hours or at night when people are leaving the park.
5. Be Willing to Walk Across the Park
I’m not suggesting you criss-cross across Disneyland for every experience, but it’s not best use of your time to stay in one land and do everything that is there in one shot. Genie will tell you what lines are short. Use this to find attractions near you or in an adjacent land. Disneyland is not as spread out as Disney World. Walking more to avoid crowded lines and congested areas is a benefit worth doing.
Worth noting: I used to wear Toms to Disneyland, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve ditched the cute shoes and am all about stylish sneakers instead. Not all sneakers are created equally, so make sure you bring a pair that has plenty of cushion. I love the Hoka Bondi 7 Running Shoe. It’s super cushiony, has a mesh upper for breathability and is recommended by podiatrists (plus, my feet thank me).
6. Eat at Off-Peak Times
There are several benefits to eating at off-peak times. Everyone wants lunch around 12pm or dinner at 5pm or 6pm. Eating your lunch at 11am or 2pm and dinner at 4:30pm or 8pm will save you time and sanity. Plus, the lines aren’t as long, the food is ready faster, you are more likely to find a table and you can linger a little longer to rest your feet.
Keep snacks in your park bag to nosh on so you can postpone your eating time. You’re tummy and mood will thank you later.
7. Mobile Order to Beat the Crowds at Disneyland
You can mobile order from your Disneyland app and most snacks and table service restaurants offer it. You can mobile order in the morning for anytime you want in the day. Once your selected time window is ready, let the restaurant know you are there, and they will prepare your order. It’s super easy and can save a lot of time on busy days.
Note: some food ordering windows fill up quickly. Take this into consideration if you have your heart set on eating a particular treat or meal.
8. Learn the Shortcuts to Beat the Crowds at Disneyland
Some walkways congest easily, especially in the sea of strollers and scooters and people stopping in the middle of walkways. It’s a zoo by Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. Likewise crossing through Fantasyland by the Carousal and Dumbo.
Walk along the water, the back route into Fantasyland, the sidewalks on main street or the path into Frontierland from Fantasy Faire.
9. Do Less Popular Attractions to Survive the Crowds
When Disneyland is crowded, seek out the less popular attractions. This is a great time to catch a show or watch a band and live music. Take a boat ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia. Explore Tom Sawyer’s Island. Shop!
In DCA, go to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. My kids have loved this open play area with ziplines, mini climbing wall, trails and more since they were little. It’s still a must do for my 13 and 15 year olds.
One of our favorite things to do is find the Disneyland cats. Yes, Disneyland has cats that freely roam the parks to help with unwanted critters. This cute kitty greeted us everyday on our last trip! Just don’t feed them or pick them up; Disney frowns on that.
10. Split Up Your Party
We often split up at some point in the day at Disneyland. My daughter isn’t a big roller coaster fan and my sons can’t get enough. On our very first trip, my mother-in-law, daughter and I splurged on a princess character lunch, while all the males in the group got ice cream and rode thrill rides. Sometimes, half of us will head back to the hotel half an hour sooner than the rest.
You can also get on rides faster with 2 people as opposed to 5. Cast members want to fill ride vehicles to capacity to keep lines moving, and often there is room for a party of 2 to do so.
Don’t be afraid to split up when it’s busy. Whatever makes your trip work and keeps your group happy, do it! Just make sure both parties have the essentials they need in their park bags.
11. Go to Downtown Disney to Beat the Crowds
Abandon the parks for a while, but keep the Disney vibes going by heading to Downtown Disney. It’s a quick walk from Disneyland, and the monorail goes between Downtown Disney and Tomorrowland, so getting from the parks and Downtown is super easy. There are fun shops, places to get a cheaper lunch, cute kiosks filled with souvenirs, street style entertainment and more!
My kids have always loved the Lego store here. It has life-size Disney theming made out of Legos on the exterior and is a paradise for Lego lovers on the inside. I’ve purchased Lego keychains for their car bag mini gifts and Lego Disney sets as Mickey gifts for the hotel room. My teenage son still shopped here on our last trip.
12. Go Back to the Hotel When Disneyland is Crowded
My favorite thing to do when Disneyland gets busy is go back to the hotel. We always start our day early with rope drop, so by the time we go back to the hotel, we’ve accomplished most of what we want to do and we’re ready to rest our feet.
Sometimes we grab a late lunch near our hotel to save money. We always rest and soak our achy feet in the hotel hot tub. It’s super easy to go back to the hotel for a midday break at Disneyland since so many hotels are walkable or have a free shuttle. See my full review on the different types of properties to stay at while at Disneyland here.
After resting, eating, swimming, whatever it is you want to do, head back to the parks feeling refreshed and with your nighttime layers ready to go.
13. Hit the Rides During Parades & Fireworks
If you have multiple days at Disneyland, spend one day watching the parade and fireworks and the others hitting up the attractions during these times. The wait times are much better on crowded days during the parades and fireworks.
Take advantage and do some things still on your list or take in the festive nighttime atmosphere. Remember to be on the side of the parade route that accommodates what you’re wanting to accomplish so you don’t get stuck and waste this beat the crowds tip!
14. Stay Late to Beat the Crowds at Disneyland
Many people leave the park in the evening hours, particularly those with little kids. Stay until closing to maximize your time and wait less. The parks are so fun at night with everything lit up, especially during the holidays. Outdoor rides are a whole new experience in the dark, and you won’t have to weave your way through the masses of people.
Some lands, such as Fantasyland and New Orleans Square, get really congested and quickly feel crowded. Avoid these spots at the busiest times of the day, mainly peak afternoon hours. Other lands, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, are much more spread out and can handle the crowds much better.
Multiple day park hopper tickets are really the way to go when your are expecting large crowds at Disneyland. Disney California Adventure is much more open, but there are not as many attractions.
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This post is all about how to beat the crowds at Disneyland.
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