Updated December 27, 2018
We have lots of tools in place to avoid lines at Disneyland including starting your day early and using FASTPASSES, but occasionally, you might find yourself in need of a break, despite your detailed planning.
I always encourage guests to leave mid-day when the parks get crowded and the sun is hot, but if you’re on site and are determined to stay, I have some suggestions on what to do.
Note: If the park feels super crowded and you intend to leave mid-day for a break, absolutely ask cast members upon walking out if the parks are close to capacity. If you leave and return and the park is at capacity, you will not be allowed back in.
My first instinct is to recommend walking Main Street (at Disneyland) or Buena Vista Street (at California Adventure). Adults will enjoy that. Children probably won’t like it as much. (I find the window displays and browsing the shops to be fascinating.)
My kids tend to melt down upon hearing this plan. For the safety and sanity of all park guests, let’s consider some other options:
In this article
What to Do at Disneyland
Here’s a map detailing the locations of the below listed attractions. (I recommend saving or taking a screenshot of this on your phone for later use.)
- Star Wars Lanch Bay (Tomorrowland): This indoor attraction is air conditioned and provides a nice break from the heat. Expect Star Wars interactive exhibits, techie stuff and video games. The latest game systems (XBox, specifically) are here.
- Enchanted Tiki Room (Adventureland): A 15 minute tropical show awaits with animatronic birds and flowers coming to life. It’s indoors and is best enjoyed with a Dole Whip, which you can purchase just outside the attraction.
- Tarzan’s Tree House (Adventureland): Climb the stairs to tour Tarzan’s home built into this 80 feet tall (makes me nervous!) tree house.
- Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough (Fantasyland): Climb up and through the castle to follow one of Disney’s oldest tales.
- Mickey and Friends Houses (Toon Town): Explore several character houses here. While in Mickey’s, wait to meet the mouse himself. Note: This is a good way to wait indoors, in air conditioning for the iconic Mickey photo.
- Mark Twain Riverboat or Sailing Ship Columbia (Frontierland): Set sail into the Rivers of America aboard either of these beauties. (On hiatus until mid-2017)
- Explore Tom Sawyer’s Island (Frontierland): Ferry over the rivers to this unique island filled with trails and caves all inspired by the stories of Mark Twain. (on hiatus until mid-2017)
- The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (before Main Street): Watch a short video in the lobby showcasing rare Disneyland memorabilia and/or watch President Lincoln come to life.
- Ride the Disneyland Railroad (4 stops – Main Entrance, New Orleans Square, Toon Town, Tomorrowland): Hop aboard the train to see the park in a whole new way. (on hiatus until mid-2017)
What to Do at California Adventure
Here’s a map of California Adventure’s options. Save/screenshot this one, too.
- Any of the 4 indoor attractions off Hollywood Blvd (Hollywood Land): Animation Academy, Character Close Up, Sorcerer’s Workshop and Turtle Talk with Crush are all fun options that have relatively little wait time.
- Disney Junior Live on Stage! (Hollywood Land): Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers….a live Disney show.
- Cars Land: Beyond the three attractions in Cars Land, the area itself is one of Disney’s best creations in the last 10 years. Walk through this ‘land’, eat, shop or just take in the beauty. It’s just so totally impressive…and I’m not even a huge “Cars” fan!
- The Bakery Tour by Boudin Bakery (Pacific Wharf): This feels like an old school tour we used to watch on the roll-out TVs in elementary school. See how the famous San Francisco sourdough is made, grab a sample and then if you wish, buy a Sourdough Mickey (one of my favorite values at the park) for about $7. It will feed about 10 people for snack time (with all the butter you want!).
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Grizzly Peak): An impressive obstacle course can be found here with seating for adults while kids run.
Attractions with Typically Low Lines
- Winnie the Pooh (Critter Country, Disneyland): Many guests don’t LOVE this ride, but I think it’s sweet and whimsical and always worth the short wait.
- The Little Mermaid (Pixar Pier, California Adventure): This attraction includes no-stop clamshell carriages (similar to The Haunted Mansion’s Doom Buggies), so the line moves fast. And, it’s one of my favorites!
I reviewed this post (as with many) with my 13 year old son, Carter. He advises me on what I’m missing and reigns me in when I start writing dorky content. He was horrified that I failed to include the Magic Shop on Main Street as a must see when you need a break.
Steve Martin got his start there and the magicians will show you tricks (for free) on request. There’s lots of interesting stuff in the shop, too. Add that to your list. Carter insists. (Side note: He’s furious that rhymes.)
While on Main Street, work on this scavenger hunt detailing some historic stops. It takes about an hour.
Bookmark this post on your phone ‘in case of emergency’ at Disneyland. Most of these suggestions require no planning at all and can keep you entertained when you can’t handle one. more. line.
And, while we’re talking lines, take a look at my Pinterest board detailing how to keep kids busy in the parks. I’ve included a variety of options for activities including one of my favorites: Wikki Stix. These are light weight, easily packed and kids can create all sorts of stuff while waiting.
A super crowded visit to Disneyland can make us all a little bit crazy and stressed out. Leave for a few hours mid-day to avoid the longest wait times in line. If you only have one or two days to enjoy the parks and simply don’t want to leave, enjoy the above attractions to take a break ‘on site’. Then, get back to the business of riding rides once people start lining up for dinner.
And, when all else fails, grab a churro and an ice cold Coke. That always works and everybody knows calories don’t count at Disneyland.