One of my favorite public speaking quotes is: “If I need to talk for a day, give me five minutes. If I need to talk for five minutes, give me a day”. I think that this quote can be applied similarly to preparing for a day at Disneyland. If you have five days at Disneyland then you need a day to prepare, but if you have a day at Disneyland then you need five days to prepare.
If you are looking to get the most out of a single day at Disneyland then you can find some useful information below. Hopefully you won’t have to spend 5 days preparing.
When is the best time of year? The best time to visit Disneyland is during the off-season. In general, the off-season falls between September and December, with a few key weekends that you want to avoid, like Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas Holiday season. You can find more information (and a nice fancy graph) here.
What is the best day of the week to visit? It is difficult to say which day is the best. The busiest day is Saturday and the least busiest days are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. However, the park tends to be open longer hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and those are the days when you will be able to catch additional events and shows like fireworks and Fantasmic.
Embrace the fastpass. Fastpasses are free! They are offered for a subset of the most popular rides. Just show up to the ride and insert your ticket stub. The pass holds a spot in line for you at a later time. Arrive at the ride anytime after the earliest time and you can jump (metaphorically speaking) pretty close to the front of the line. You can take out your next fastpass after you use your current one, or after the time that is listed on the pass.
The gates to Main Street typically open about a half hour before the scheduled opening time. This means that you can finish exploring main street before the park officially opens. It is difficult to be more efficient than that!
Planning your Day:
- Morning: Ride the most popular rides in the morning. When you enter head left for Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or head right for The Matterhorn Bobsleds, Space Mountain or Star Tours. When you finish one of those sections emerge on main street to check the wait times of the major attractions for the other side. It is a good idea to grab a fastpass for a popular ride and wait in line in another ride while you wait for the fastpass to take effect. This is especially important as it gets busier. You can also try these rides again in the evening when everyone else is at the first parade or the first showing of Fantasmic.
- Midmorning: Take a break from the fast paced attractions by enjoying some popular rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, or the Jungle Cruise.
- Lunch: Stay in the park for lunch. Try to avoid the 11am-2pm lunch crowd.
- Afternoon: Take a break by taking a ride on the Disneyland Railroad and the Mark Twain Riverboat, or the Sailing Ship Columbia. Enjoy a relaxing trip down the water in “It’s a small world” or catch one of the many shows offered, like Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. You can also explore Tarzan’s Treehouse or the Pirate’s Lair on Tom Saywer Island. Then catch some arcade action at Starcade and explore new inventions at Innoventions. Whatever you do, be sure to have a fastpass in your pocket while you are exploring.
- Dinner: Stay in the park for dinner. Try to avoid the 6pm to 8:30 pm dinner crowd.
- Evening: Lines are shorter in the evening when everyone is at the parades or Fantasmic. Fantasmic draws a large crowd to the nearby Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones, leaving other attractions like Space Mountain, the Matterhorn, or Star Tours less crowded. Also, consider checking out Fantasyland and Toontown in the evening when there are less kids.
- Late Evening: Check out the last showing of Fantasmic. Main Street stays open after the rest of the park closes, so this is another good opportunity to check it out if you haven’t already.
The Next Day: RELAX. Take the day off of work.