Growing up with an Imagineer dad and then becoming a pass-holder family since our oldest (now a teen) was a baby I can confidently say I have my fair share of Disneyland tips and tricks to make our visits more enjoyable. Beating the heat and escaping the Disneyland crowd is what I am known for. Take note… these are some great tips!!
12 Ways to Beat the Heat + Outsmart the Disneyland Crowd
1. Ice Water is FREE
This may seem like no big deal. But it can be EVERYTHING on a hot and sunny SoCal summer afternoon. People are NOT happy (big people & little people) when they are dehydrated and hot. This solves both. Head to any spot that serves fountain sodas and they will be happy to give you as many cups of ice cold water as you need. My kids may or may not even dump some of their water over their head to chill them out… pun totally intended!
2. Download the Disneyland App
The Disneyland app will be a lifesaver for your journey. (Download the App Here). You can check wait times for all the rides, book dining reservations, see show times. Other things you can do is scan your ticket to the app so that you don’t have to worry about losing your ticket.
*Super Awesome Bonus Tip* – One of the best ways to beat the Disneyland Crowd is now you can order food directly from the Disneyland app. So rather than standing in another line, simply place your order and head to the mobile order counter inside the restaurant and your food will be ready. (That is a guaranteed 30 minute time saver)
3. Divide & Conquer + Head to the Back of the Park
You are going to be excited if you get through those gates early but FOCUS. You can get on a ton of rides early and beat the Disneyland Crowd if you use this strategy
- Send a responsible party to go grab a FASTPASS for your second favorite attraction.
- The rest of the party should head to your number one/ favorite attraction to be joined by the responsible party soon.
- This works best if your top two are near each other.
- You may want to hit up your favorite attraction that does NOT offer FASTPASS first.
- This includes quite a few in Fantasyland.
- After you ride your first ride, head to the back of the park and begin hitting the attractions you like over there.
- Then head to your FASTPASS attraction at the stated time on your ticket.
- Make sure to get another FASTPASS immediately after your ride is over.
This process maximizes the number of attractions you can ride with the least amount of time in queue.
*Bonus Tip – Most people head into Fantasyland and Tomorrowland first, head over to Frontierland and ride Indiana Jones, Big Thunder & Splash Mountain with no waits.
4. Get Disneyland Max Pass
Yes, the Disneyland Max Pass is an extra $10 per guest, and with my family that is an extra $70 that my husband finds hard to let go of, but after the first time we used it we never went back. Here are the benefits of the MaxPass
- You can book your FastPass right from your phone, so no need to walk all the way to a ride just to get a FastPass
- Once you redeem your FastPass you can immediately book another Fastpass, so once I scan my Max pass to get on the ride I immediately book another Fast Pass
- Unlimited Photos – You can download every photopass photo you take, including ride photos, when you have the Max Pass. There is no additional charge. This is great especially if you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary to capture all the special moments
5. Head to Disneyland First then California Adventure
If you are lucky enough to have a park hopper pass make sure you hit up Disneyland Park first. It is usually the more crowded of the two parks and by the afternoon it gets pretty packed. With this tactic when the crowds get overwhelming, you can escape to California Adventure and enjoy the large walkways and the mellow atmosphere. Usually, we head out of Disneyland either right bright or right after lunch right when the Disneyland Crowd is at it’s highest level, then we return in the evening.
6. Cool Off & Escape the Disneyland Crowds
There are a few amazing attractions you MUST head to when the heat and/ or crowds are putting a damper on your day. *The following attractions are known to either be air-conditioned and/or have minimal queue times.
Star Wars HQ
Mickey and the Magical Map
The Disneyland Story with Mr. Lincoln
Watch candy being made at the Candy Palace
Check out the magicians sampling their tricks and illusions inside the Magic Store
Turtle Talk with Crush
The Little Mermaid
Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
It’s Tough to be a Bug
The Bakery Tour
Ghiradelli- they give out chocolate samples
7. Character Meetings
If your little one is hoping to see their favorite character make sure to inquire with Guest Relations (or any information booth). They receive a roster and generally know where most characters will be and around what times.Also download the Disneyland App, as it will have a list of all the characters and times. Arrive a few minutes early to the characters and you can be one of the first in line. This will save you big time. You don’t want your kiddo to see their favorite character only to rush to the line and be told the line has closed. That is never fun!
8. Pack Lunch
Many theme parks prohibit any outside food or drink (besides water). Disney, however, isn’t one of them.
You can save a ton of money packing snacks and lunch when you visit. Just be sure to pack it in a soft cooler. Large hard-cased coolers are only allowed in the picnic areas.
Not only will this tip save you money but, it will also help you manage everyone’s moods. It is much easier to avoid a hangry (hungry + angry) family member if you have snacks ready to go. Click here to see exactly what I pack in our summer day bag.
9. Parade + Picnic
Waiting for a parade doesn’t have to be blah. Pack a lightweight beach blanket and arrive about an hour and a half early to your parade spot. Have one parent be a squatter. Not a bad gig really now that there is a Starbucks in the park and you can catch up on social media.
Have the other parent (or responsible party) take the kids on a few rides and then head to Pizza Port where they can grab a salad, garlic bread and family sized pizza pie for everyone to share. Its cheaper than grabbing individual meals and Pizza Port will give you all the plates and utensils you need allowing you to head back to your blanket for a picnic right there as you wait for the parade.
*Some of my favorite memories are with us chowing down on pizza, people watching or playing Ellen’s “Head’s Up” iPhone game while we were waiting for the parade. And, I’m not going to lie… sitting front row at the parade is magical!!!
10. Pack Distractions
This is key! You will wind up waiting in lines. It’s just part of the theme park experience. Turn that down time into fun time by packing a few distractions in your backpack. Here are a few things we like to have. It’s age dependent but we have quite the assortment (2-13 years).
- Bubbles (baby, toddler, kid)
- Glow Sticks – I get the 100 pack on Amazon for $8.99 and use them all year long (kids, teens)
- Matchbox Cars (toddlers, kids)
- Head’s Up App & other iPhone App Games (kids, teens)
- Autograph Book and Pen– Also, check out how to make your own autograph book for your kids
- Deck of Cards (kid, teen)
11. Firework Tips
Main Street has the best view of the fireworks but it gets C.R.A.Z.Y. If you prefer a more mellow experience head towards Small World and view the fireworks from there. The view is still very good and you aren’t smashed between a ton of sweaty exhausted people.
The other option is to double dip. What I mean is you can get seats for Fantasmic (there are a few options below with zero wait involved) and then hang out for a few minutes after the show ends. About 10 minutes later the fireworks begin and you will again have a very good view without all the hassle of the crazy crowds.
- Fantasmic Dining Packages are now available.
- The package includes:
- Reserved seating right dab in the center of the show via a special FASTPASS + Your choice of:
- Sit Down Dinner at either Blue Bayou or River Belle Terrace (priciest option)
- Hungry Bear Restaurant Dessert Party (reasonably priced)
- Aladdin’s Oasis Grab & Go Meal (cheapest option)
- Reserved seating right dab in the center of the show via a special FASTPASS + Your choice of:
- You can also grab a fast pass (for FREE) which gives you reserved seating on the sides.
- *I was a bit bummed at our view though with this option. So consider yourself warned!
If you are driving to Disneyland you are likely to get maneuvered into one of the supplementary parking lots which are kind of a pain. To enjoy the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure which has the ease of both the tram and a walkway through Downtown Disney:
- make sure to route yourself so you exit from the 5 freeway on Disneyland Drive.
- Stick to the left as you cross Ball Rd and take the bridge up and over.
*** First Day of Annual Pass has ZERO Block Outs
Many people don’t realize that even if you buy one of the cheaper annual passes there is NO block out days on your first day of entry. Instead, it is treated like a normal ticket!!!
*For discounted Disney Tickets I recommend checking this site.
Need somewhere to stay the night? Here are 15 of the Best Hotels nearby.
Celebrating a Birthday at Disneyland? Check out these great tips to make the most of your special day!
Looking to book Dining Reservations? Disneyland Dining Reservations – 5 things you should know!
Pin for Later-
Do you have any tips for beating the Disneyland crowds or staying cool that I forgot to mention?