Ten Tips to Maximize Your Experience at the “Happiest Place on Earth”!

Maximize your experience at the “Happiest Place on Earth”!

#1: Extra Magic Hour & Magic Morning


My number one reason for staying at a Disney Resort Hotel is Extra Magic Hour!

Disneyland Resort Hotel Guests (staying at Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, or Paradise Pier) may take advantage of Extra Magic Hour and enter the parks one hour before the general public each day. Be sure to confirm with the front desk which morning’s your Extra Magic Hour will occur at Disneyland Park or Disney’s California Adventure Park.


Non Disney Hotel guests with a 3+ day Park Hopper ticket may enjoy one Magic Morning during their visit to the Disneyland Park on either a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday (schedule is subject to change) and enter the Disneyland Park one hour before the general public. Unlike Disney Resort Hotel Guests Extra Magic Hour, Magic Morning is a one time event (not everyday).


Make sure you arrive 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to the normal operating hours of the park. This will allow you 15 minutes to get through security and enter the park, then an hour to play at select rides and attractions featuring much smaller lines and crowds before the park opens to the general public.


During my last visit to Disneyland I was able to enjoy several of the most popular attractions with minimal wait times during the Extra Magic Hour and then the first hour of the parks normal operating hours:


  • 8am Hyperspace Mountain
  • 8:15 Hyperspace Mountain (again)
  • 8:30 Matterhorn
  • 8:40 Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • 8:50 Buzz Lightyear (again)
  • 9:00 Star Tours
  • 9:20 acquired Fast Pass for Indiana Jones
  • 9:30 Indiana Jones (without using Fast Pass)
  • 9:40 Tarzan’s Tree House (while waiting for Indiana Jones FP return time)
  • 9:55 Indiana Jones (using Fast Pass)
  • 10:10 Pirates of the Caribbean


This demonstrates the importance of arriving early and taking advantage of early admission.

Later in the day these popular rides will often have a 90+ minute wait time each. I was able to experience all these attractions in 130 minutes rather than an estimated 900+ minutes later in the day.


While Magic Morning only occurs at Disneyland Park, Extra Magic Hour occurs at Disney’s California Adventure Park in addition to Disneyland Park on alternating days. During our Extra Magic Hour we enjoyed the most popular rides multiple times avoiding horrifying lines later in the day. At one point I saw Radiator Springs Racers achieve a nearly 2 ½ hour wait time! Here’s our Extra Magic Hour results:


  • 8am Radiator Springs Racers
  • 8:30 Radiator Springs Racers (again)
  • 8:45 (after a brisk walk) Toy Story Midway Mania
  • 9am acquired Fast Pass for California Screamin’
  • 9:05 Toy Story Midway Mania (again)
  • 9:20 California Screamin’ (without Fast Pass)
  • 9:35 Mickey’s Fun Wheel (while waiting for Fast Pass return time to activate)
  • 9:45 California Screamin’ (Fast Pass)
  • 10am Goofy’s Sky School


#2: Classic Rides and Attractions are best in the afternoon

After lunch, the parks can become very busy and crowded. While the majority of the people are now standing in long lines for the popular rides that we already experienced in the morning, we enjoy shorter lines at the less popular (but still very fun) attractions. One of my favorites that many people miss is walking through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. And I don’t mean the main draw-bridge and tunnel, I’m talking about the easy to miss door on the side. You’ll be treated to an amazing journey through the castle, that no one seems to know about, as I have never witnessed a line.


#3: Speed through lines with a Fast Pass!

For popular rides that I was unable to enjoy in the morning, I seek out a Fast Pass.

Make sure to get your Disneyland Park attractions Fast Passes for: Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Star Tours, Indiana Jones and Hyperspace Mountain; Best rides at Disney’s California Adventure Park for Fast Passes are: Radiator Springs Racers, California Screamin’ and the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.

Acquire a Fast Pass to one of these rides, and while waiting for your return time, go enjoy other neighboring rides with shorter wait times, or take a break and enjoy a tasty treat. You can maximize your Fast Pass experience by adding the new MaxPass feature to your Disneyland Park Tickets!


#4: Enjoy a meal at Downtown Disney

The restaurants at Downtown Disney are my favorite. I was impressed with every restaurant we dined at during our vacation. With just a short walk from the parks, it was a nice break during meal time and then we returned to the parks for more fun. They were all so wonderful that I can’t recommend just one! We experienced: Tortilla Joe’s, ESPN Zone, Earl of Sandwich, Catal, Naples, and La Brea Bakery (which includes an awesome breakfast opportunity).  


#5: Character Dining is a Disney tradition!

Do not go on a Disney vacation and miss experiencing Character Dining.

There are several Character Dining experiences at Disneyland and each one is filled with Disney magic. It’s an amazing way to interact with your favorite Disney Characters. Typically, Character Dining menus are buffets with a wide variety of options to ensure the entire family enjoys their meal.


#6: Take a break and go for a swim

If you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, then you are just a short stroll from your hotel, and it’s easy to take an afternoon break. During the busy time of the day (2pm-5pm) take a couple hours and go refresh yourself. Take a nap or go for a swim. Now you’re ready for dinner and a nice evening.


#7: Stay Late!

Thanks to your earlier break during the peak of the day, avoiding the crowds and the heat (especially in the summer), you’re now ready for all Disney has to offer in the evening. Make sure you stay until the park closes (even if it’s midnight)! As other tired vacationers begin to go home, you’ll be ready to take on the night as lines begin to lessen. There’s just something magical about Disney at night.


Check out the amazing evening atmosphere in Cars Land – dressed up in beautiful neon lights!


#8: Enjoy a Parade or Nighttime Fireworks Show (or don’t)

My favorite feature of nighttime parades and fireworks shows is they do not require waiting in line! The parades travel a path covering a large portion of the park, so just find a comfortable spot about 30 minutes before the parade begins, or you can always wait until the last minute and stand (if you’re tall) amongst the crowd that gathers along the parade route. Fireworks are in the sky…look up. Ok, so die hard fans of Disney fireworks shows will argue that there are better spots than others to experience the show like in front of the castle. I admit that there is a certain nostalgia and enhancement to the show when located near the castle, I will also admit that there are spots that are more comfortable than others; but let’s be honest, the fireworks are awesome no matter where you stand as long as you can look up without an obstructed view. One of my favorite things to do is watch the fireworks while riding an outdoor ride.


…Or Don’t! One of my favorite times to ride popular attractions is during the parades and nighttime shows. Think about it, if large crowds of people are distracted by these events, then what are they not doing? They are not in line for your favorite ride thereby reducing the long wait times to more manageable wait times!


#9: Hidden Extras

Disneyland is filled with hidden extras. I like finding hidden gems that bring the Disney Magic to life. When you’re in Fantasyland behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, take a glance at the second story windows of the surrounding buildings and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) you just might spot the Evil Queen gazing out at you. One of my favorites is Aladdin’s Other Lamp hidden in Adventureland. I’ll give you a hint: look for it in the back of the bazaar in the marketplace.


#10: Use a Travel Agent who specializes in Disney Destinations!

The Walt Disney Travel Company wants you to have the best experience possible on your Disney Vacation. In an effort to provide amazing customer service they established the College of Disney Knowledge to train and update Travel Agents on all things Disney Travel. Ask your Travel Agent to see their College of Disney Knowledge Graduation Certificate. The best part is that most Travel Agents who specialize in Disney Destinations do not charge a service fee, their services are complimentary when you book your Disney vacation package through them; Disney pays their commission so there should not be an additional fee charged to you! Complimentary professional Travel Agent? Yes Please! Start planning your next Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, or Aulani a Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii vacation with your complimentary Travel Agent now by filling out this Contact Form for Zac Wilson!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy: Top 8 Tips Moms Need to Know for Disneyland with Baby!

3 comments on “Ten Tips to Maximize Your Experience at the “Happiest Place on Earth”!
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