How to Start Your Day at Disneyland

Updated July 4, 2017

So, you know how to get started at California Adventure. It’s busy over there. Be sure you know.

How about Disneyland?

I’m currently working on touring plans that do NOT start with Peter Pan, as just about every blog or book will tell you (and everyone else visiting Disneyland) to start there. After three years running this site, I’ve learned there are smarter ways to tour.

Follow me for what that looks like.

The New Disneyland Strategy 

This plan works best when Disneyland is NOT hosting Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning. With four days a week that are free of EMH/MM, this is your best bet at getting all you want out of Disneyland.

For more on Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning, visit this post. Know exactly what these options mean, if you have access to one or all of them, and how they will affect your visit.

Arrive at the Disneyland Resort an hour prior to park opening. I explain more on why in that post above on EMH/MM. Line up at Rope Drop closest to Tomorrowland.

When it’s time to start, head to the Star Tours FASTPASS machine, which is located to the right of the Buzz Lightyear attraction.

Follow this plan:

1. Grab Star Tours FASTPASS 
2. Ride Space Mountain
3. Ride Matterhorn 
4. Ride Star Tours with FASTPASS 
5. Grab Big Thunder Mountain FASTPASS 
6. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean 
7. Ride Splash Mountain 
8. Grab Indiana Jones FASTPASS 
9. Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with FASTPASS 


  • This plan allows you to tackle all four mountains, Star Tours and Pirates within the first couple of hours after park opening. With that behind you, you’re in great shape for the rest of the day.
  • Save Peter Pan for a time later in the day. Even if you go directly to Peter Pan at park opening, you will most likely wait an hour to ride it. Why? Everyone else goes there first. The attraction is slow loading. It’s just not the smartest way to start your day. Save that hour wait for late afternoon or evening – not in the mid-day sun – but later on after you get other things done. You’ll wait the same amount of time as you would if you went there first thing. But, that first hour is so valuable – use it to do so much more.
  • For guests wanting to do Jedi Training, you will need to adjust this plan to start with registering kids first. Go to registration first thing and then follow this plan. For more on how to register, visit this post.

Here are some recent visits in which I used the plan above so that you can see how they worked out:


5.13.2017 – including lots of improvisation due to a SUPER busy day


Here is a map showing you how to navigate the plan:

The New Disneyland Strategy if you have Extra Magic Hour

Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning are great ways to get started on your day at Disneyland.

If you have EMH/MM privileges, arrive 30 minutes prior to the EMH/MM time to enter and use the following strategy:

1. Grab Space Mountain FASTPASS
2. Ride Ride Star Tours
3. Ride Matterhorn 
4. Ride Space Mountain with FASTPASS 
5. Grab Big Thunder Mountain FASTPASS 
6. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean 
7. Ride Splash Mountain 
8. Grab Indiana Jones FASTPASS 
9. Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with FASTPASS 

This strategy is very much like the one without EMH/MM privileges, but Space Mountain and Star Tours are swapped. Most days, Space Mountain will be distributing FASTPASSES and Star Tours will not.

The New Disneyland Strategy – With Little Ones

If you’re hoping to tackle Fantasyland and focus entirely on attractions for little ones who can’t enjoy the four mountains, I recommend following this plan:

As with the above strategy, this works best on a day without EMH or Magic Morning. Arrive an hour prior to official park opening and prepare to enter the park 30 minutes early. Line up at the Rope Drop closest to Tomorrowland.

  1. Grab Buzz Lightyear FASTPASS
  2. Ride Alice in Wonderland
  3. Ride Storybook Land Canal Boats
  4. Ride Dumbo
  5. Ride it’s a small world
  6. Visit Mickey Mouse in his house in ToonTown
  7. Ride Buzz Lightyear with FASTPASS
  8. Ride Nemo’s Submarine Voyage
  9. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean
  10. Grab Splash Mountain FASTPASS
  11. Ride Winnie the Pooh
  12. Ride Haunted Mansion
  13. Break for lunch and then ride Splash when your FASTPASS time arrives


  • Toontown typically opens an hour after official park opening. Hence, the wait to go there. I like for families to meet Mickey there if possible, and it’s nice to get it crossed off your list early. Meeting Mickey at his house is more of an experience. I love it.
  • I also understand that it may not be easy to take kids into Toontown, show them all the fun on the way to Mickey’s house and then pull them out of it to follow the plan. If you think this will be an issue, skip it and meet him on Main Street instead.
  • This is a really ambitious plan, so on busy days, you might only get the first half done before lunch. But, I wanted to provide you with the main idea. My goal for you is to knock out popular, but reasonable, attractions for little ones early. Those include Alice in Wonderland, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Dumbo. Return to Fantasyland later in the day to enjoy the King Arthur’s Carrousel, Casey Junior’s Circus Train, Mad Tea Party (teacups), Pinocchio, etc, etc. Ride Peter Pan during the evening so that you’re not standing in that long line in the sun.
  • I recommend returning to Toontown around sunset. This area of the park gets hot mid-day because it has fewer trees than other parts due to fireworks being shot off just behind it. So, it always feels hotter than other lands. Save it for late afternoon or early evening.
  • Fill in the rest of your day with Jungle Cruise, Autopia, Tiki Room, the rest of Fantasyland, Toontown and the Star Wars Launch Bay if your crew would be interested in it.
  • Keep in mind that Disneyland includes some rides that might be scary for little ones. Visit this post to review those.
  • For guests wanting to do Jedi Training, you will need to adjust this plan to start with registering kids first. Go to registration first thing and then follow this plan. For more on how to register, visit this post.

Here is a map showing you how to navigate the plan:

Basic Planning

If you don’t want to follow the detailed strategy above, you can essentially start out in one of two directions – off to conquer all of the Star Wars stuff in Tomorrowland or to Peter Pan.

Read below for what those options look like:

Option 1: Star Wars Focused

Go directly to Tomorrowland, to your right.

Be sure to review my post on the Star Wars Launch Bay for lots of details and your strategy. Follow the strategy in that post and then start with one of my touring plans when you finish there. Pay close attention to Jedi Training if you’re interested in having your child participate. You must register your child at park opening, or he/she won’t be able to join the fun.

***My only change to the touring plans would be to scratch off Peter Pan (as well as everything you accomplished in Tomorrowland). By the time you finish with Star Wars, the line for Peter Pan will be enormous. Save it for late at night if you can. Mid-day lines for Peter Pan are crowded and hot. If you plan to stay until close and kids can handle it, I recommend leaving Peter Pan until the very last option and getting in line just before the park officially closes. Don’t spend actual park time waiting in that line. If you are in line at 8:59pm and the park closes at 9:00pm, you can wait as long as it takes to ride that attraction or any other. You just have to be in line prior to close.

Not interested in Star Wars? Go for this next option.

Option 2: Everything Else

Start with Peter Pan as directed in all of my touring plans and just keep going. Pull FASTPASSES and work your way through the plans to make the best use of your time.

While I am working toward redesigning my plans to not start with Peter Pan, I understand there are many of you who want to go there first. The touring plans linked above will show you how.


FASTPASSES are used in all of my plans, so be sure to know how this works. The actual machines can be seen here, below. You slide in your theme park ticket and out comes a FASTPASS. It’s like magic.

Visit this post to learn all there is to know about FASTPASSES. I also detail what attractions offer Single Rider options and also which work for Rider Swap.


FASTPASS options at Disneyland:

  • Autopia
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Matterhorn
  • Haunted Mansion (sometimes uses FASTPASSES)
  • Star Tours

Some Tips

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Three dark rides (Snow White, Pinocchio, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride) all have super short wait times at the close of day. I recommend you skip these three until the park is nearly closed. You should be able to enjoy all three within 20 minutes if the lines are low enough. (I’ve actually walked onto each of these moments before the park closes.)
  • Have one person keep track of all theme park tickets and FASTPASSES. If children have lanyards for their pin trading, do not allow them to hold their own tickets or passes. One person should be in charge of all tickets and passes, and it should absolutely be an adult.
  • If you’re nervous about meeting the times on your FASTPASSES, set an alarm on your phone for each. While Disneyland used to be flexible on arrival, now they insist you arrive during your designated range of times.

Got other ideas? Find me on Facebook and let’s chat!

Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation


  1. First, I need to say THANK YOU for all of this information. Because of your methods, I rode everything on the list in Disneyland….BEFORE noon (showed up at rope drop).

    A few things to note here (and I apologize if it’s already been said) but some info before I begin:

    Arrival: ~7:30am, Wednesday June 14
    Went solo


    1. Grab fast pass for Star Tours
    2. Rode Space Mountain (5-10 minute wait, line was moving so quickly it was hard to keep up)
    3. Rode Matterhorn (Being a single rider, I “walked-on”)
    4. Rode Star Tours with fast pass
    5. Rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (no fast pass needed, 5 minute wait)
    6. Grab fast pass for Indiana Jones
    7. Rode Splash Mountain (walk on, single rider)
    8. Rode Haunted Mansion (5 minute wait)
    9. Rode Pirates of the Caribbean (5 minute wait)
    10. Rode Indiana Jones with fast pass

    That hit all the major stuff for me in Disneyland. Time to completion: About 4 hours

    A note about the “Single Rider” option: I saw multiple groups do the “single rider” and quite a few of them managed to sit with their family/friends anyway and skipped the line.

    I then switched over to California Adventure, where I also was able to walk on many rides (even in the afternoon). I’ll post a comment there about what I did on the article for that one (link at the top of the page).

  2. Hi Casey, it is the best article i have read on the internet so far, thank you for sharing! so according to this tips, do not need to grab FT for all the rides, isnt it? i will visit disney just on my own, and will do single ride, do you think is it still worth to get FT for some busy rides?Thank you ^^

  3. Hey Casey! I know you’re super busy with the opening of Guardians today! Looks awesome! We arrive at DLR Monday night and I’m worried about some of our planning due to rides opening and closing. Specifically, I’m torn on what to do on my Wednesday and Thursday mornings both which will be at Disneyland. With Space closed on Wednesday, we’ll have to try to do it Thursday which is MM. However, most suggest doing Fantasyland during MM. Thoughts??? Help please!

    • Hi, Sabrina.

      I would use my plan for Disneyland and substitute grabbing the Buzz Lightyear FASTPASS instead of Space Mountain. Grab that, ride Star Tours, ride Matterhorn and then anything else you can fit in prior to your Star Tours FASTPASS time. Does that help?

  4. Hi Casey! I am going to DLR with a 3 and 6 year old first week of April with 4 adults for one day (actually 6 hours as are coming from a cruise in Long Beach). My 3 year old is Minnie crazed and my 6 year old is Star Wars crazed. Should we split up? My 6 year old will probably just do star tours and want to wander around the bay and I think would enjoy the rides you have on the littles. Would appreciate your advice on how to maximize our time there! We plan to be there when doors open and leave around 3:30 in hopes we will make it back to Long Beach before 6! Hopefully the traffic isn’t too bad!

    • Hey, there. I think you should split up for a bit to tackle Star Wars Land and avoid waits. Take the 3 year old to Fantasyland and then Toontown, which opens about an hour after the park opens. Then, meet back for lunch so you can enjoy the park together. Have fun!

  5. I didn’t read the links in this article so I am not sure you addressed ride closures, which should be included in this post. Ride closures happened to us several times during our first and recent trip this past weekend. On our first trip and on our first day of our first trip many big attractions were down at opening. This really screwed up our first day which crowd level wise was a 10 out of ten, and made going to Tomorrowland first was a huge mistake since both star tours and hyper were closed. So, trying to learn from our mistake we tried to use the line apps to see what would be down when first entering. I checked the app which said Peter Pan was not closed so we head there but it was down – again, messed us up. We woke up early and stood in line for a long time to get to a popular attraction before the line built but all that planning and waiting didn’t help. Maybe you could discuss things like this as these ride closures affected us 2 out of 3 days at park opening and therefor do not seem rare. Going to closed attractions first thing in the day really made us feel like failures at park planning even though I spent so much time and effort doing it.

    I would like to warn people about the touringplans paid service which I have used for WDW and for this recent visit to DL. For our trip to WDW they predicted crowd level of 6 to 8 but they were mostly 9 to 10 for most of the parks for most of the 6 days we were there. For our DL trip they were even more off. Our first day was predicted to be a 5 but it was a 10 (Friday). Our last day was predicted to be a 3 but it was a 6 (Monday). We had planned somewhat around these predicted crowd levels so if you are paying for this service only for their crowd predictions, I would reconsider. Apparently, they only based their predictions on the past instead of considering actual holiday school break dates which were different this year than the past. I did not know that they would ignore significant facts such as that when making their predictions.

    • Hi, Romaine.

      That is frustrating. I’m sorry. There are signs up outside both parks – before security – noting what is closed that day. Other than that notice on site, there is no way to know what rids will be down, especially if they’re unexpected and temporary. I keep this list as up to date as possible, but that won’t cover unexpected or temporary closures:

      I’ve heard the same about the Touring Plans crowd predictors. There is really no use any longer for any app outside of the free Disneyland app. The park is now providing most of the information 3rd party apps do, so trust Disney over outside sources. The Disneyland app will tell you which attractions are down, too.

  6. Is buzz lightyear still disconnected? Do you know how often they get changed? Also, do you know what ride in California adventure is disconnected?

  7. We will be using our e-tickets through the Disneyland app next week and won’t have physical tickets. Will this be a problem for getting fastpasses?

  8. Hello
    I wanted to know that if I was to the Buzz Lightyer fastpast and then. A Space Mountain Fast Pass. Can i then go to Disney California Adventure side to get another\3rd fast past for Radiator Springs Racers

  9. Hey Casey:
    Thank you for all your information. We are so excited for our upcoming trip, being WDW Lifers but first time for my children here. I saw you went to WDW recently, are the Big Thunder Mountain rides virtually the same for Disneyland and WDW? I am getting Confused if there is a Frozen show in March. Nothing has taken the place of Aladdin in DCA yet, right? Also, are there shows at Fantasy Faire or just princess meet n greets?

    • BTMRR is similar, but you should still ride it. Frozen show doesn’t start until May 27. The shows at Fantasy Faire are half Frozen and half Tangled. Princess meet-n-greets are there too.

  10. How are the CM’s about enforcing the return times? We are about to return to the DLR at the end of April (after a long hiatus-haven’t been since 2009) and when we were there then, you just had to return anytime after your initial return time. For example, like your FP ticket shows above shows return time of 9:40 and 10:40, as long as you showed up anytime of the day after 9:40, they would let you on. Is this still the case. Or do you have to adhere to the return times?

  11. Does it matter if I grab the space mountain tickets before the buzz light year tickets? Will the connected tickets lock me out of buying the disconnected tickets if I get the connected first in other words? Also, if I have small children but have 4 ppl that can ride rides, can I get 2 fast passes of different rides for the same times then get rider switch tickets to trade? Just wondering if I can get 2 fast passes for space mountain for one group and 2 fast passes for the other group for the same time for star tours and obtain rider switch at both and then trade?

    • It doesn’t matter which order you go in. Just be sure to know which are connected and disconnected. Rider switch ideally works like that, but some cast members are occasionally difficult about it. Just know that going in. It should work, though.

  12. Are those the only 4 thats disconnected? Can you also get some for Indiana Jones & Space Mountain? I also noticed that they cover the fastpass machines when they are not in use. Thank you!

    • Space Mountain and Indy are connected. Unfortunately you can’t pull those and others. This is a tough post to keep updated. Currently, Buzz Lightyear and Fantasmic! Are disconnected.

  13. Hi, Casey!!! 2 girlfriends & I are coming in a day early for a conference to specifically see Disneyland & CA in one day. We will be arriving Jan 10th & then taking the next day to conquer both parks. DL opens early (not staying in a DL hotel), so thinking we should arrive early to CA by picking up FPs according to your Tour Guide of both parks. Disappointed to see Soarin will be refurbished during our trip. Should be able to conquer all in a day? Hope to see you in the parks! Looking forward to it as I’m a DW pro & follow Shannon religiously. 🙂

    • Hi, MinnieSue! Yes, I would start at DCA with RSR and then head over to Disneyland unless there is more at DCA that you want to see. Soarin is the same as WDW, so don’t stress over that. I recommend spending much more time at DLR than at DCA, especially if you only have one day. Let me know what other questions come up!

      Recommended dining options for DLR in one day: Carnation Cafe for breakfast (Walt’s favorite – get Oscar’s special) and then Cafe Orleans for lunch (monte cristo, pomme frites and beignets for dessert). Make reservations for both….and they’re both DLR unique. If you can work in a dining experience that evening (Paint the Night starts on January 11), do so! You’ll have dining at Blue Bayou and then reserved seating for the parade. I’ll be at Blue Bayou that night, too.

  14. Hi Casey, any idea if the frozen show at DLR is playing through the holidays? We go tomorrow and I’m not seeing this listed on the Disneyland event schedule. Thanks! Jennie

  15. I was there 11/1. For DLR, no fastpass for the Fantasty Faire show. I asked about and they said just show up 30 minutes before. I can say – shows did not reach full capacity (the two times I saw) until about 10 minutes before showtime. Thanks.

  16. Casey,
    I’m looking at our upcoming visit and would like some clarification on the different options for Anna/Elsa/Frozen shows.
    I have down to get Anna/Elsa return tickets when we first enter CA. You mentioned in a post that they have a song-along. How is this different than what’s offered at Disneyland – “The Frozen Show?” I don’t want to repeat if they are similar shows.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • They’re actually very different shows. The one at DCA is super sweet and it’s a singalong. I completely enjoy that one. The one at DLR is more snarky and almost vaudeville in nature and people love it because it’s a twist on the movie you’ve likely seen a dozen times. Both are fun!

  17. I heard that the FASTPASS for the Frozen show is gone now. Or at least going away in the near future as it isn’t as crazy busy anymore. Is this true?

  18. Hi I recently purchased an AP and have since been to the park 5 times but can only manage to get on two rides since the lines are crazy long. I’ve read your suggestions about how to go about obtaining FPs but I don’t understand what you mean when you say they are “disconnected” would you mind clarifying this?

  19. Hi! Thanks so much for the updated post on FastPass. I was wondering how to maximize FastPass and Rider Switch. It will just be my husband and I with our 16-month old so we plan on using Rider Switch quite a bit. Do both adults need a FP to get a Rider Switch ticket?

  20. Hi, we’re staying on property and plan to do the magic morning each morning. Do FASTPASS machines only open after the park opens? I plan to follow your suggestion of riding Peter Pan first, then send my hubby to ride Dumbo with the kids while I run for FASTPASSES. What’s your suggestion as for as me lining up for the passes during the magic morning? THANKS

    • All Disneyland FASTPASS machines SHOULD work during Magic Morning. The only one I know of that does not is Radiator Springs Racers at DCA. Great plan……ride Peter Pan and then run for the passes as designed in this post while your husband takes kids to Dumbo. Well done.

  21. Hi
    I have a question, can I grab space Mountain FP after Buzz Lightyear, then go to get frozen show and Fantasmic?
    or I have to grab all the disconnected FP, THEN grab connected FP?Thank you so much

    • You should be able to grab all four since Buzz, Frozen Show and Fantasmic! are disconnected. Space Mountain is connected, so this would be your only one that inhibits grabbing others.

  22. my two kids ages 2 1/2 and 4months don’t pay to get in the parks, so they don’t have APs …if I were to get fastpasses for my husband and I would they allow my kids to use the fastpass line?

    • Hi, Stefanie.

      Since children cannot hold theme park tickets, they cannot pull FASTPASSES. Therefore, they don’t need them to ride a FASTPASS attraction with you. Little ones will be just fine without them.

  23. I have entered the park, and like you mentioned, left the rest of the family to sleep in while I gather fast passes. You did a good job of it, but you can’t STRESS THIS ENOUGH – your full party must be in the park with their tickets scanned at the front entrance in order for this to work. A ticket will not scan for a fastpass UNLESS, it has been scanned at the entry to Disneyland signaling to the computer that you are in fact, in the park. I, was very lucky though. One cast member saw me try to get fastpasses and it wasn’t working. I explained that I let my family sleep in and she helped me to get my fast passes. This will not always work, however.

  24. Thanks again for an informative article! I had no idea the Buzz Lightyear ride was disconnected. Questions: Is this the only disconnected ride in DL? As far as you know, has it always been disconnected?