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Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Disneyland insiders know that making the most of your first two hours at Disneyland Parks is crucial. This is not a time to catch up on your beauty sleep because the early bird catches the worm…or the coveted FastPass, in this case! Getting to the Park at “rope drop” and having a plan for your first two hours at Disneyland can mean the difference between walking on rides without a wait first thing in the morning or standing in queue for 90 minutes in mid-afternoon…Wouldn’t you rather maximize your time at Disneyland?

Here are my top Disney insider tips on making the most of the first two hours at Disneyland!

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Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Parking at Mickey & Friends Parking Garage bright and early ensures a good spot & minimal wait for the tram


1. Get Familiar with the Lay of the Lands

If this is your first Disneyland visit, make sure you know your way around a bit before your trip. Study the Park map ahead of time so you aren’t wasting time on Park day wandering around. You can check out the Disneyland website before your trip to view the Park maps.

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

A very light crowd in the early morning through Downtown Disney District

2. Choose Your Disneyland Vacation Dates Wisely

Making the most of your first two hours also depends upon the time of year you are visiting. During holidays and weekends, crowds are naturally heavier. Weekdays, particularly Tuesday and Wednesday in the “off-season” are your best bet for lighter crowds.

Follow these insider tips for your first two hours at Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure park and maximize your time!

Nobody here yet! We arrived 45 minutes before Park opening to wait outside the gates and ensure we’d make it for “rope drop”

Check out my posts about choosing the best Disneyland vacation dates to avoid crowds:


LOOKING FOR MORE PLANNING TIPS? THE Disneyland with Kids: Ultimate Resource Guide IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!


3. Plan of Attack

If you only have one day at Disneyland, then make sure you are making the most of the first two hours. If you have more than one day, I’d recommend taking one of your vacation days to follow this plan.

This doesn’t mean you should sleep until noon on the other days though. I still always recommend that you arrive at rope drop because crowds are considerably lighter in the mornings and you’ll be able to see and do so much more.

Before you step inside the gates, I recommend coming up with your morning schedule.

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Disneyland Morning Itinerary for Little Kids

With younger kids, I’d start in Fantasyland. Hit Peter Pan first (because there is no FastPass for this ride and waits are easily 45+ minutes the rest of the day). Then Dumbo and Alice in Wonderland. The rest of the rides in this area should have minimal wait and you can usually complete everything in about an hour.

Disneyland Morning Itinerary for Older Kids & Adults

With older kids or adults only, decide which direction to go inside each Park. Big kids and grown ups will likely want to hit the mountains first, considering these often have the longest queues. At Disneyland, go straight across the bridge into Fantasyland to access the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Turn right at the hub for Tomorrowland (Space Mountain & Star Tours). Or left for Adventureland (Indiana Jones), Frontierland (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) and Critter Country (Splash Mountain).

At Disney’s California Adventure Park, first stop should be Cars Land for Radiator Springs Racers. Then head to Hollywood Land (Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!) or the Paradise Pier area (Toy Story Midway Mania).

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Grab that FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers first!

4. FastPass is Your Friend

First thing in the morning, lines are already at a minimum. But with each minute that the Park is open, crowds are filling in and what could be a walk-on attraction at first can quickly have a wait. I recommend grabbing a FastPass for highly coveted attractions first and then riding other things in that area before returning to redeem your FastPass.

Please note that you can’t get FastPass during Extra Magic Hour but as soon as the Park opens to regular guests, you can grab your first one!

Here are several ideas:

  • Grab FastPasses for Space Mountain and then go on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues and the rest of the rides in the Tomorrowland area.
  • Or hit Adventureland by getting your FastPasses for Indiana Jones Adventure, riding The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean and maybe even Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion before returning to redeem your FastPass.
  • Over at Disney’s California Adventure Park, your first stop of the day should be to grab a FastPass for Radiator Springs Racers (the FastPass machine is located near the entrance to bug’s land). You can probably just follow the crowd! If crowds are light, you might be able to just hop on that ride immediately instead!
  • Head over to California Screamin’ and get your FastPass there. Then get in queue for Toy Story Mania, take a spin on Mickey’s Fun Wheel and return back to the coaster to redeem your FastPass.
  • My older kids like Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout so we’ll often pick up that FastPass first and then head over to bug’s land for a few rides with their little sister.


5. Disneyland MaxPass Explained

Save even more time by purchasing MaxPass. This allows you to “book” your FastPass reservations from your mobile device. You won’t have to physically walk to the ride to schedule the FastPass – you can do it from your smartphone. I was even able to schedule FastPass on the MaxPass app when I was waiting in queue for another ride – so convenient and what a time saver!

You’ll be using your Park tickets to redeem FastPass – Keep your Park tickets close at hand inside a coin purse on a lanyard, like these:  Mickey and Minnie Mouse Lanyards with Detachable Coin Purse


Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Early morning and the wait time for Radiator Springs Racers is low.

6. Stay Onsite and Enjoy an Extra Magic Hour

Registered Disneyland Resort guests are treated to early entry for each day of their stay. It is recommended to arrive one hour and 15 minutes before Park opening. The schedule is as follows:

Not all rides are open during Extra Magic Hours at Disneyland. Be sure to check with your resort to find out what will be available.

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

7. Magic Mornings at Disneyland

Guests with a valid 3+ day Park ticket (purchased ahead of their visit) can enter Disneyland one hour before official gate opening on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. This is a great way to beat the crowds and enjoy select attractions even earlier. It is recommended to arrive one hour and 15 minutes before official Park opening.


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8. Eat Breakfast Before You Enter the Gates

Breakfast at the Carnation Cafe is just lovely and Breakfast with Minnie & Friends at the Plaza Inn is Character dining perfection. But if you are trying to maximize those first two hours in the Park, stopping for a lengthy breakfast isn’t the best idea.

I recommend that you grab your breakfast to-go outside the Park and eat it while you wait for the gates to open. The Earl of Sandwich and Jamba Juice are two great breakfast locations in the Downtown Disney District that are open before the Park gates. Grab a breakfast sandwich or a smoothie and nibble while you wait at the Park entrance.

We have also brought granola bars and fruit for our first meal and eat those at the gates and then fill up later with an early lunch.


Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

Entering through Sleeping Beauty Castle just after rope drop

9. Arrive for “Rope Drop”

Stroll up to the gates at Park opening time and you’ll see lots of people lined up already waiting to get inside. But arrive at least 30 minutes prior to Park opening and be one of the first allowed entry to Main Street U.S.A. Shops and some dining spots are open and you can visit City Hall, if need be (we always have to visit and pick up a DAS card on our first day).

At the end of Main Street U.S.A. you can line up with other guests to await the official “rope drop” or opening of the Park. What a great way to beat the crowds!

Insider Tips -Make the Most of Your First Two Hours at Disneyland

If you want Characters they are out in full force early in the morning and the waits are minimal.

10. Meet n’ Greets

If you want to guarantee photos and autographs with lots of Characters (without the extra expense of Character dining), then the first few hours of Park opening are the perfect opportunity.

As soon as the gates are opened, you’ll see several Characters hanging out in front of the brick wall. Pass through the tunnels and the Fab 5 are usually posted around the main hub, along with other favorites. On one visit we were able to Meet n’ Greet with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Pinocchio and the Mad Hatter within about 30 minutes.

In order to move things swiftly, have your camera ready and autograph book open with the pen prepped. You can also hand your camera over to the PhotoPass photographer if you’d like them to take a shot with your own camera.


Follow these insider tips for your first two hours at Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure park and maximize your time!

Now Is Not the Time To…

Any other day I’d recommend you take your time and enjoy Main Street U.S.A. However if you are trying to maximize those first two hours, these are the things you should not do.

  • Don’t buy your tickets that morning. ALWAYS pre-purchase your Park tickets, have them in hand and avoid waiting in line at the ticket booth. I recommend my affiliate Get Away Today, who offers discounted Disneyland tickets and full vacation packages.
  • Don’t stop to shop. In fact, I recommend doing all or most of your souvenir shopping on an “off-day” and visit Downtown Disney District instead.
  • Don’t stop at City Hall. Grab your “celebratory button” like those for birthdays or first visits after a few hours or get them on a day when you aren’t trying to maximize time. We always have to visit City Hall to pick up a DAS card on our first day but this can easily take 30 minutes waiting in line and processing.
  • Don’t stop for pictures. The exception being is if you have a clear shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle and can pose your family quickly in front of it. In that case, you should always get the photo!
  • Don’t get in line at Starbucks. Seriously, this line will be a mile long in the morning. Grab your coffee at the hotel or at Downtown Disney District and bring it with you to save yourself the time in line at the Main St. Starbucks.
  • Don’t look at the Main Street windows. But most definitely come back this way later in the day to check them out, they are wonderful!
  • Don’t take the train. Though this is one of my favorite ways to start a Disneyland day (by taking the Grand Circle Tour) this isn’t how you should spend your first 30 minutes if you are maximizing your time. You’ll be better off on foot.


Follow these insider tips for your first two hours at Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure park and maximize your time!

For more lesser known Disney tips,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Lesser Known Disney Tips Loop:

What is your favorite way to spend the first two hours at Disneyland? Share with me in the comments!

Follow these insider tips for your first two hours at Disneyland & Disney's California Adventure park and maximize your time!