Updated June 14, 2017
The success of your morning can determine how your entire day goes at Disneyland. I have some tips for you on how to make the most of your time and how to get everyone started in the right direction.
The benefits of an early arrival are plentiful. Save your slumber for another vacation. There is work to be done at Disneyland!
In this article
Before You Arrive
Before you even arrive on site, I suggest you have the following done:
- Have tickets purchased. Buy online or purchase from your hotel. Lines at the ticket counters on site can be long.
- Eat breakfast. Wake early and enjoy breakfast in your hotel or find something on your way in. If you are wanting to dine with characters, choose a restaurant at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels that serves breakfast. They open as early as 7:00am, which will allow you time to enjoy the meal and then get to the park in time to still enjoy the earlier hours without such a crowded park. A 10:30am reservation in the park is a good idea, too. That allows you to enjoy the earlier hours and then take a break when everyone selse shows up. (Make reservations well before!)
- Apply sunscreen and make sure kids are prepared for their day.
- If you’re lining up outside prior to open, look for restrooms at each end of the waiting area between the parks. Have everyone use the restroom before entering.
Always arrive an hour prior to the park opening. Why?
- Often the gates will open early and you can enter into Main Street (Disneyland) or Buena Vista Street (California Adventure) before the actual slated opening time.
- You’ll get to see the “Rope Drop”, which is a special way to start your day. After you see this, arriving later than the Rope Drop can often feel like you missed the previews at a movie. (Just. Don’t.)
- Cast Members line Main Street with white Mickey gloves while handing out high fives and big smiles. It’s a magical time and shouldn’t be missed. You might just break out in song. Zip a dee doo dah!
- There’s a really positive energy in the morning. Most people are still meltdown-free. It’s a great time to be at the parks!
Here’s a short video from Fresh Baked Disney, which includes a bit of the Rope Drop and a morning walk through the park. Note: The Rope Drop here happens prior to Adventureland. Most often, it happens at the End of Main Street. It’s a similar idea in all locations.
Get Stuff Done
Your morning hours should be busy. Save shopping and snacking for later.
- Lines are shorter in the first few hours before the park gets crowded. This is true year round – even during the busy summer months. It’s always slower in the morning. Take advantage!
- Use FASTPASSES. A handful of rides at each park allows FASTPASSES and you should utilize them whenever possible. A previous post explains all about the passes, how they work and how to make them work for you.
- Be prepared with a plan. Follow my touring plans for how to navigate through the parks (what to ride when and which attractions use FASTPASSES). Or, at least set up your own strategy on what you want to accomplish during these few important hours.
Do this First at Disneyland
This post encompasses your two ways to start at Disneyland – with a general park focus, starting with Peter Pan or a Star Wars focus.
It also includes my new strategy for Disneyland, which steers guests away from Peter Pan. I’m continuing to work on this option, as I think it is more effective than spending your first hour in line for Peter Pan. Stay tuned for more.
Do This First at California Adventure
For a complete, total park plan, see this post for how to start your day at DCA. This post shares info on how to master your morning with or without a focus on the new Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! attraction.
Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Anna & Elsa + Olaf at California Adventure
If you plan to meet Anna & Elsa or Olaf and want to enjoy the new Frozen show, review my post on how to make this happen. A strategy is a must to accomplish all that you’ll want to do.
Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
- For detailed explanations of each, visit this post.
- If you don’t have Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour? Don’t sweat it. There’s still plenty of time for fun and you’ll do just fine by following the posts I share above for each park. (I rarely have either and accomplish everything I want to without it.)
Make Your Own Magic Happen
I’m a big believer in over-doing things. And, there’s no better place to go overboard than Disneyland. Consider these extra touches when planning your visit.
- Utilize the “Vacation Fairy”. As a reward for good behavior, a fairy arrives each night in the hotel to leave gifts for each child. These gifts can be small or big, but mostly tie into the day ahead. I often disguise money-saving snacks and items I would buy for our kids anyway in these gifts, including pool toys, glow sticks and autograph books. Design your gifts with what you have planned for your day. Kids waking to a sweet surprise like this can set the tone for your entire day!
- Give your spouse time for a morning jog or to check in with work prior to leaving the hotel. Surprise him or her with a favorite coffee or breakfast treat as a thank you for putting effort into your trip. Happy adults = happy kids. And, Disneyland can often be much more stressful than a hard day at the office. Show your appreciation and you’ll likely get it back, too!
- If you plan to purchase Mickey Ears for your visit, grab these at The Mad Hatter just before Main Street, to the left of The Opera House. They fold easily and will store in your backpack in between photo ops. If the shops are open prior to Rope Drop, get this done before even departing from Main Street.
- Grab a daily entertainment schedule and map upon going through the ticket turn stiles.
- Review the map and schedule and ask Cast Members questions prior to the Rope Drop.
- Order a coffee at the Market House (serving Starbucks) on Main Street if you’re needing a little help keeping up with the kids’ excitement.
If you start early and enjoy all of the perks of a morning at Disneyland, reward yourself with a mid-day break. Many people will be arriving by noon, so plan to pause for lunch around then or shortly after. Head back to your hotel for a swim, nap or simply a refresh for the evening ahead. You’ve earned it!