The Less-Than-One-Day Guide to Disneyland

Ideally, I would have four days at Disneyland. One day devoted to rides in each park, one day to not go on any rides and just simply enjoy walking around, shopping and eating a LOT of yummy food, and a fourth day to do whatever.

However, the past three times I’ve been at Disneyland, I’ve only had a day or less. So I’ve become quite the pro at getting things done in short amounts of time. Here are my basic tips for a fantastic, less-than-24-hours at Disneyland.

Trust me. The more fearful will say you should stick to one park over another if you have less than a day. I say no! Getting a park-hopper amps up the value that you can get for your money, gives you endless options of ways to fill your day, and, if you’re Disneylanding with friends, gives everyone an opportunity to grasp the happy!

Obviously, you can’t see EVERYTHING (unless it’s raining and the lines are ridiculously short because Californians are terrified of rain and won’t come near Disneyland for fear of melting…ahem, getting wet, and you decide to ride California Screamin in a SoCal hurricane…not that I have personal experience or anything), but you can still see and experience a good deal of the Happiest Place on Earth. The key is to pick the top rides/experiences/attractions/shows/characters you want to see.

For this less than 13 hour Disney experience our list was:

  • Indiana Jones
  • California Screamin
  • Soarin Over CA
  • Pirates of the Caribean
  • Space Mountain
  • Tower of Terror
  • Midway Mania
  • World of Color
  • Animation Academy
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle
  • Aladdin-The Musical Spectacular

And yes, indeed, we actually saw and did everything we wanted to do, plus some. And we ate a LOT. Mostly at my urging because if I could spend a day eating my way through Disneyland, I totally would.

If it’s your first time at Disneyland, pick the rides that sound most appealing or appropriate for the age groups you’re with. And take advice from Disney old-timers. Everyone loves Soarin over CA. Walk through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle simply cause you can. Midway Mania is a fun ride for everyone in the family. And if you’re in to getting scared, Tower of Terror is the way to go. And seeing some show, parade or music event is a must-do, because very few people do performance better than Disney.

These will save your life. Or at least your patience. If you want to see World of Color, grabbing a fast pass is the FIRST THING YOU DO. Don’t go to a ride, don’t grab breakfast, don’t be distracted by Donald or Pluto or Mater or Aladdin. Go get that Fast Pass!

Then, again, prioritize. There are rides that have exorbitantly long lines: Screamin, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, etc. Go for the fast passes. They save you time and give you a chance to hop on rides with shorter waits or see other attractions.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I like to eat. Especially when I travel. I’m a firm believer that nothing incites the feeling of missing out more than not getting experience the food of wherever you are. Disneyland is a special place and has fantastic food you won’t find elsewhere. Or at least not with that fantastic Disney spin. So, explore the little shops and carts. Get the pineapple juice near the Tiki Room, try pretzels in Frontierland, get mint juleps in New Orleans Square, enjoy a cocktail at the Cathay Circle Lounge, ice cream on Main Street and a chocolate Mickey Mouse cookie on the Pacific Wharf. It’s all about location and atmosphere.

So there you have it! Four steps to make a quick trip at Disneyland feel like you didn’t miss out on anything important. Lines and waits will always vary, but using fast-passes, knowing what you want to see, and having plenty of options will make for a happy day.

What are your must-sees at Disneyland?


2 thoughts on “The Less-Than-One-Day Guide to Disneyland

  1. I just got back from a day at EPCOT, and I agree on the Fast Passes, even more so there because there are fewer rides and everyone’s trying to get on them! We needed them for Soarin and Test Track, got into Mission Space quite early! Another trick is to be willing to split up your group and go single into the rides, you can avoid lines that way too!

  2. I used to be in the “One Park” camp if you only have a day. But, I recently went for three days with my kids and my parents joined us on the last day. We already had park hoppers, so they got the one day pass for both parks. We bopped back and forth moe than I thought we would and it mad the stay a lot more fun with a lot more options. One of the cool things was to be able to go to the Blue Sky Imagineering area in DCA where they had all kinds of Fantasy Faire stuff on display, and then go see the completed Fantasy Faire in Disneyland. Having a park hopper also opens up your dining options. Yes…it costs more, but I think you get the value out of it.

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