It’s those times of the year like summer and winter break and holidays and January 4. You went to Disneyland expecting tons of fun. And instead, you realize you went to Disneyland finding tons of lines.
So here’s a roundup of my top 5 tips on how to avoid lines at Disneyland.
Tip #1: Use FastPass
If you are new to the Disney Parks experience, you may not have heard about FastPasses. This is the Disney way of letting a certain number of people skip the long lines every other at the biggest rides. FastPasses are free. You only need your park ticket (or annual pass) and find the FastPass distribution station. It will tell you at which time to return to the FastPass lane of the ride and your wait time during this hour will be cut down to an average of 15 minutes. It’s a really great feature Disney came up with.
New at Disneyland now is Disneyland’s MaxPass, a way to get FastPasses right from your phone. It’s a much more efficient way of doing FastPasses! Read my review and how it works here. If you chose not to go this route, you can still get paper FastPasses at the rides and use your app to see wait times and FastPass availability.
Rides with FastPass at Disneyland:
- Space Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear’s AstroBlasters
- Star Tours
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Indiana Jones
- Roger Rabit’s Car Toon Spin
- Splash Mountain
- Haunted Mansion
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Peter Pan’s Flight
Rides with FastPass at California Adventure:
- California Screamin
- Soarin’ Over the World
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Grizzly River Run
- ToyStory Mania
- Guardians of the Galaxy
So my best advice is to get a FastPass to the busiest ride as soon as you get into the park, and before you do anything else. And then repeat this as soon as your time frame opens up again, approximately every 1.5 hours.
New in 2017: MaxPass
Another update just in: MaxPass has arrived! This pass lets you get FastPasses through the Disney app on your phone, and also lets you download PhotoPass images included in the price of MaxPass. This service comes at a fee of $10/day, and will have a special annual option for annual pass holders. Absolutely worth the extra $10 to save all the running back and forth in the park and between parks just to go get your physical FastPass. Read my review and how to do it here.
Tip #2: Find the Secret Attractions
So if FastPasses are all gone before you even get to the parks, and all lines are at least an hour long, what do you do at the happiest place on earth that doesn’t make you want to shoot yourself?
The Shows and Parades
SHOWS – You find the places no one else knows about! I recommend shows first and foremost. They happen in large theaters, where you can pretty much always get a seat, even if you come 5 minutes before start time (even though I would currently not recommend this strategy for the new Frozen Musical at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure Park). So you may wait for 15 minutes or a half hour, but instead of doing a 3-5 minute ride, you will see a show that’s at least a half an hour long.
And if you didn’t know this: Disney Parks shows are REALLY great! Absolutely worth seeing! The Frozen Musical will be Broadway caliber, and Mickey and the Magical Map at Disneyland Park is an amazing half hour show that resembles Animazement (if you still remember that show stopper at all).
PARADES – You can always find an area to squeeze in to watch the parades along Main Street without sitting on the curb for an hour before it starts. Same with the fireworks. Unless you’re dying to watch it right in front of the castle, come 20 minutes early and you’re good even during busy season. Fireworks are especially well watched from the Rivers of America at New Orleans Square.
My absolutely favorite hidden gem is Disney Animation on Hollywood Boulevard at California Adventure Park. It’s right behind the Off the Page store that focuses on all the Disney art, and is beautiful to visit just by itself. Off the Page even provides sketching services (see image below) where you can chose between 1-8 Disney characters and a real Disney artist will sketch them for you.
This beautiful store is connected to a very large inside attraction, which is basically a big hall, with separate break-out rooms. You’d never be able to tell from the outside just how much hides behind this door!
This movie theater looking building contains The Animation Academy, where you learn to draw one of the Disney characters in each session from Disney artists. It also contains Turtle Talk with Crush, an interactive adventure where you see Crush and his friends on a screen and Crush actually talks and plays with the audience. It then contains the Sorcerer’s Workshop. Apparently, no one knows what that is, so that really doesn’t have a line at all. Inside, you learn how cartoons are made and you make them yourself, and you also visit the Beast’s library where an enchanted book asks you questions to find out which Disney character you are most like.
The newest addition to this place is a meet and greet with Elsa and Anna. Well ok. Do expect a wait time for this one. Not quite the wait as you’d have on a ride, but compare it to waiting at Mickey or Minnie’s house inside Toon Town.
Anyway. You can spend a good 2 hours in there just having fun, with basically no wait times. As an added plus: It’s nice and chilly when it’s hot outside, and nice and warm when it’s cold outside. A nice hideout, even just to sit in the foyer area and watch the 360 degree screens that keep changing images and themes.
Tip #3: Dining and Show Packages
Shows like World of Color are hard to navigate unless you have some sort of package. You won’t have a nice view. But there’s ways around that! You can get a FastPass for World of Color as well! I recommend being at the park early, if not first thing in the morning, because last time I checked, they go fast.
The Frozen Musical will be overrun for a while as well. And the Main Street Electrical Parade is back and will be crowded for sure. And as soon as the all-time favorite Fantasmic comes back to the Rivers of America, dining packages will be offered for this again, too.
So a beautiful alternative to trying a run for a FastPass or squeezing into an available spot last minute are the dining and show packages. These packages come for various budgets as an on-the-go picnic pack, elaborate dinners at Carthay Circle or the Blue Bayou , or dessert parties.
You have to eat anyway, you might as well get reserved and preferred seating for a show or a parade out of it. The more expensive the dinner, the better the view. We’ve done this and you walk up to your chosen show 15 minutes before start, you are in a large, non-crowded section just for guests with these packages, and that section will be in a premium viewing spot! Call Disney Dining at (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463, go online here, or use your official Disneyland app to make reservations and to check availability and latest pricing.
Tip #4: Be nice to cast members
When you’re nice to people, you never know what will happen. I mean, I get it. You’re frustrated, your kids are whining about their hurting feet. You WANT to whine about your hurting feet. Your husband was done 5 hours ago. Understandably, that’s when we yell at the cast members, because it’s reasonable enough at this point of our day to assume that they work there, so this is all their fault. I get it.
It’s just that it’s really not their fault that Disney sold a gazillion tickets for the parks that day and they’re just trying to do their job as good as they can. And they really have more power than you think, so use them as a resource!
See cast members have these little computer scanners and they have the power to give you front of the line passes if they like you. This is nothing you can or should ask for, but it’s been heard of that some people were given several of these on really busy days just for asking nicely about single rider passes instead of stomping with their feet because the line was too long. 🙂
Tip #5: Single Rider Passes
Complaining about the line being too long isn’t going to get you anywhere. But asking if this ride has a single rider line will get you a single rider ticket if they do have it. If the ride you’re currently at doesn’t, just ask which rides do. They’ll tell you!
A single rider pass is a paper ticket a cast member at the ride hands you that gives you access to a special line other than the standby and the FastPass lines. This line is the fastest there is; virtually a few minutes (unless you’re at Radiator Springs on January 4 – then it’s still an hour. But that’s still much better than a 3-hour standby line!).
The drawback is that you are not guaranteed to sit with your party. You will be placed whenever a seat is open and you cannot express a preference for anything else. So you might have to wait for your party at the exit for a couple minutes. Maybe that’s just me, but I think that beats waiting in line for several hours!
Rides with single rider tickets change, so this list may not be comprehensive.
Single Rider Pass Rides at Disneyland:
- Indiana Jones
- Splash Mountain
Single Rider Passes at California Adventure:
- Grizzly River Run
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Radiator Springs Racers
The newest secret I’ve discovered are BUDDY PASSES – which is a single rider ticket, but for 2 people at a time. As far as I know, this one only exists for Monster’s Inc at California Adventure Park. Cuts your line down to 2 minutes and you get to ride with your little one together. You never know which ride might add these. And if you don’t ask, the information won’t be volunteered. It’s one of the Disney secrets you now know!