There are three types of Disneyland visitors. 1. Regulars/locals. They can go to the park frequently because they live nearby or they have season passes. 2. Once in a lifetime visitors. These are people who will only visit Disneyland once, and they will probably split their park visit into a few days. 3. People who visit the park every once in a while.

I am the third type of visitor, I don’t visit the park on a regular basis, but since I live a few hours away, I make the effort to visit annually. It’s a nice weekend getaway, and I usually spend 1 day at the park. Over the last five years, my husband and I have visited the park at least five times, and we’ve learned a few tricks to help maximize our time in the park and explore our favorite attractions.

Today,¬† I’m going to share my tips for how to maximize a one day visit Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.

The number one thing to keep in mind is that there is no such thing as sleeping in when you want to explore as much as possible.

When plan a visit to Disneyland, especially if your time is limited, you should be willing to wake up on the early side. If you have kids, this will not be a problem.¬† An early morning will give you the opportunity to get ahead of the crowds and visit many rides with little to no lines. When I visit the goal is to arrive at the park no later than 8:30am. You’ll get into the park faster if you have purchased your tickets in advance.

Once inside the park, my strategy is to start with the most popular rides first. In my experience these are the most popular rides:

  • Indiana Jones
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Splash Mountain
  • Star Tours
  • Matterhorn

(you can also see a full list of Disneyland attractions here)

The rides I listed above will have REALLY long lines by noon, so as soon as we get into the park our goal is to target these rides first. Usually, we start with Indiana Jones the ride. Early in the morning the ride has a line of about 15-20, sometimes less.

When we leave this ride, we grab our first fast pass. You can only have one at time and at 8:30am they won’t be valid for a few hours. Some good options for your first fast pass are:

  • Star Tours
  • Space Mountain
  • Matterhorn
  • Splash Mountain
  • Indiana Jones

Pro Tip: Disneyland offers fast passes that guarantee seating for the fantasia show. Last I visited, the station was located near Thunder Mountain Railroad

With our first fast pass in hand we head to Pirates of the Caribbean. It’ll be around 9am. We usually don’t see a line at this time, so hopefully you can zip right in.

These two rides are classics and they will get you into the Disneyland spirit.

Now that you have two popular attractions out of the way, I suggest that you make your way the haunted mansion. This ride is especially fun close to Halloween or Christmas since they change the theme of the ride to get into the spirit. It’s a relaxing experience, and in the morning the wait is very short. By the time you’re done here, it will be around 11am, and if it’s a warm enough day this is a good time for your first splash on Splash Mountain!

This is also a good time for a snack.

Your next ride will depend on which fast pass you selected earlier. You may be able to take advantage of your fast pass at this time, but if you’re not and you didn’t get your fast pass to Star Tours, I would recommend you head over to that ride. The line could be about 40 minutes, but you should consider that a short wait because later in the afternoon the wait can easily surpass 90 minutes.

If you follow these tips, you will be half way through the day and you have already visited the most popular rides at Disneyland. woo hoo! For the remainder of the day you can alternate between standing in line and using a fast pass. Since we wake up early, we like to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon and come back into the park refreshed and ready to enjoy a nice evening.

I hope this early morning schedule helps you maximize your day at Disneyland.

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