1-Day Itinerary to Get the Most of Your Disneyland Visit

There are quite a few difference between the East and West coast Disney Resorts but the most notable is the difference in size. While Walt Disney World spans a staggering 40 square miles, Disneyland is far more condensed. This is great as it means you can see most of both parks in one day. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t stretch out your vacation a little longer if you’d like! Here are my top tips and tricks to cross off nearly all the Disneyland and California Adventure rides on your to-do list. After making a near weekly trip to the happiest place on earth for the last 15 years, I’ve cultivated an all you can do buffet itinerary:

Rope Drop

This is by far the best and most important tip that I can possible give to you – be at the parks before they open and be at the front of the line for rope drop. I know it’s early, I know you’re tired, you’re family will think you are crazy when that alarm goes off at 6:30am. But it will all be worth it when you turn around 5 minutes before rope drop and see the mounds of people waiting in line behind you.

Ever since Carsland opened up 5 years ago, California Adventure has been at the top of the rope drop list. This is even more true now with the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, formerly the Hollywood Tower of Terror. (Don’t even get me started on my rant about how Disney needs to leave the existing rides well enough alone!) So this then begs the question – which do you hit first Radiator Racers or Guardians?

You’re best bet is to have a runner that can grab fastpasses for Radiator Racers while the rest of the group queues up for Guardians. Keep your cell phones handy to check in with each other, you may have to let a few people in front of you on Guardians to keep your party together to ride together. It’s ok, the line should be relatively short for the first ½ hour of the day. Ideally, your RR fastpass will be for the afternoon or evening. If not you’ll need to pay close attention to the time or set an alarm.


It’s a little known fact but, you can hold 2 fastpasses at a time at DLR but no more than 1 per park. So, book it across to Disneyland as soon as you are done with Guardians. Use the Disneyland app, or MouseWait, to check times on some E-Ticket rides. Send your runner to get fastpasses for whichever has the longest current wait time.

  • Space Mountain
  • Thunder Mountain
  • Indiana Jones

*Noticeably absent from this list is Star Tours, Splash Mountain, and the Mattahorn. Do not waste your fastpasses on these rides. You can click HERE to read more about fastpasses to avoid.

You and the rest of your party can now start working your way through standby lines. I recommend starting at Haunted Mansion and working your way across to Tomorrowland – but avoiding Fantasyland. Some of the rides you should be able to knock off are Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Singe Rider, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Astro Orbiters, and by that time your Fastpass window should be open. Next, grab a snack and enjoy the magical AC of Star Tours.

California Adventure

Jumping back across the park, it should be time for Raditor Racers! Next, Using the single rider line take out Soarin’, Grizzly River Run, Goofy’s Fly School, and California Screaming. Grab a FastPass for Midway Mania, then head back around that same path to hit up Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Silly Symphony Swings, Golden Zephyr, and The Little Mermaid.

Whoa! Are you tired yet?? You should be, because you just rode everything at California Adventures. Ok, maybe not everything everything. At this point you can go back and check out anything you missed, then wave good bye cause we’re headed back to Disneyland.

Late Afternoon/Early Evening

By this point it should be getting later but still warm outside. So take advantage of the last bit of sunlight by using the Single Rider line to experience Splash Mountain! We’re going to keep the SR trend going and knock the Matterhorn off next. With the sunset in sight Fantasyland should be clearing out in preparation of the nighttime shows – skip the shows. This is the BEST time to complete any rides in the Fantasyland area; Pinocchio, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, Alice in Wonderland, and any dark rides you’d like. Although, because they are classics the dark rides will often have longer waits than you’d expect. It should be much better by this time of night, but keep in mind it could still be a 30 minute wait.

The Last Round

With whatever time you have left you can go back and hit anything you missed or wanted to ride again. As long as you are in line for a ride at park closing you will get to ride. Disney will not kick you out, so long as you were already in line before closing time.

Final Thoughts

This is a JAM-PACKED 1-day itinerary, but it’s certainly not the only way! If rides aren’t you’re thing or you just aren’t a Go-Go-Go type of person, there are plenty of other itinerary resources on the web. Just remember above all us to have fun, it’s more than just a race.

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