We will take you through everything you need to do to enjoy the magic of Disney at their Disneyland and California Adventure parks, all in one day.
- 1. Do Your Research
- 2. Choose Your Rides
- 3. Plan Your Route
- 4. Expect to Skip a Few Attractions
- 5. Purchase Tickets Before You Arrive
- 6. Download the Disneyland App
- 7. Visit Mid-Week in the Off-Season
- 8. Get There Early
- 9. Start at Disneyland
- 10. Use the Single Rider Line
- 11. Avoid Queues with Lightning Lanes and Genie+
- 12. Consider Meal Times
- Final Thoughts
1. Do Your Research
First and foremost, you will have to thoroughly research the parks and tickets to get the most out of your trip. It is possible to enjoy Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park in one day, but only if you are well organised.
Researching the parks before visiting will give you a better idea of the attractions and rides that will be open when you visit, where they are situated in the parks, and how long it should take you to get about.
One great way to learn about how long rides last, what the queues are like, and how to plan your day is by looking at other people’s reviews and advice. Knowing the distance between and run-time of certain rides and attractions will only give you part of the picture.
The research you do will help you understand how certain areas in the park can get busier at different parts of the day and if you can avoid queues and busy walkways by planning your itinerary in a certain way.
2. Choose Your Rides
A big part of your research will be looking at the rides and attractions you want to enjoy. Getting to all the rides won’t be possible, so making a list of priorities should be crucial for your preparation.
You will be able to search online for the ride and attraction details, and you can even visit YouTube for video reviews, so you get a better idea of what they are like.
Planning an itinerary should come after choosing the rides you want to visit. Make a list of each of the rides you want to visit and a list of other rides or attractions that aren’t as high a priority. This will ensure you enjoy all of the rides you want to experience and may allow you to enjoy a few others if you still have time.
Some rides are more popular than others, so you will have to factor this into your plan. Depending on how many people are in your party, you can even split up at specific points to ensure you all get to experience the rides you want.
If one person is keen on a ride that others aren’t, they can take advantage of the single rider lane to skip larger queues.
When looking at rides, check for requirements to avoid disappointment. For example, some rides, like the Radiator Springs Racers, have a minimum height requirement. In this case, it is 40″.
3. Plan Your Route
Look at the park layouts and plan your routes. If you are on a strict timescale, the last thing you want to do is get lost. You will be able to find park maps online that you can download and print off to help with your planning.
A well-planned route should provide the shortest distances between rides and attractions and factor in potentially crowded areas.
For example, a straight walk between two rides might take five minutes, but you could get held up in crowds if a parade or display is scheduled for when you plan to pass through the area. The longer route could help to save you time in the long run.
4. Expect to Skip a Few Attractions
Despite your best plans, there is no way to get everything organised precisely to the minute, and crowd levels, queue times, and other unforeseen delays can set you back. This is why it is important to try and plan your itinerary to ensure you don’t miss out on any essential rides or attractions.
Balancing your plan between the best routes to rides you want to go on whilst prioritising certain ones can make this a bit of a juggling act. Try not to leave any attractions that any of your group are desperate to see too late.
5. Purchase Tickets Before You Arrive
Planning is vital to enjoying as much of both parks as possible. One way to do this is by buying tickets in advance.
You will be able to buy online or go in person before you plan to buy your tickets.
Ticket prices can vary depending on when you want to go, as can how busy the park is expected to be. Disney Calendar sites can be an excellent way to check how busy the park may be.
If you plan to buy your tickets in person the night before, you can do this by visiting Downtown Disney. If you make an evening of it, you can enjoy a family meal and tasty treats. This will entitle you to three hours of free parking.
5.1 Disneyland 1 Day Park Hopper Ticket
A Park Hopper ticket will allow you to visit both parks on the same day. You will have to make a park reservation for the first park you plan to visit. After 1 pm, you will then be able to move freely between the parks without the need for reservations.
6. Download the Disneyland App
The Disneyland app is a great resource that can help keep you updated about wait times for rides and attractions. Another great benefit is that you can pre-order meals, saving time when you need to refuel for the busy day ahead. You will be able to order and pay, so all you have to do is turn up and enjoy your meal.
You can also book reservations using the app. Reservations can be cancelled or amended, but there will be a $10 charge if you don’t show up.
The app is completely free and offers a great range of benefits. You can download it to all mobile devices and link your credit card and Disneyland tickets to it.
You will be able to join virtual queues for popular rides to help you save time. The waiting times are always fairly accurate, making it easier for you to decide which ride to visit next. You can also check Lightning Lane/FASTPASS ticket availability and wait times using the app or get the Genie+ service for $20 a day. This has taken over from the MaxPass option, which was $15 a day.
MaxPass saves you from having to buy Lightning Lane/FASTPASS tickets from kiosks and includes all the photos taken of you on rides or by PhotoPass photographers.
You will be able to find out the essential information you need to enjoy your day, including the park opening and closing times, and you will be able to access the online map to find your way about easily.
Planning is advised, but you can also check when showtimes start and when characters are available to meet for fun photo opportunities.
Park tickets are available to buy using the app. However, you will pay full price. Sometimes, you can find great online deals for discounted tickets, which is worth investigating.
Finally, the app includes games that you can play if you find yourself waiting in line, with each ride and attraction offering a different Play Disney Parks experience.
7. Visit Mid-Week in the Off-Season
Midweek and off-season tickets for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are usually cheaper than peak and weekend tickets, and the parks won’t be as crowded.
This will help save you money, but it can also make a big difference to how many rides and attractions you will be able to visit. Fewer crowds and shorter queues will help you navigate the park quickly
Visiting during major US holidays or when kids are off school means the park is more likely to be busy, so finding a quieter time can help. Some dates you can expect to be busy every year include:
- New Year
- MKL Jr. Day
- Presidents Day
- Spring Break
- Graduation days
- Summer holidays
- October holidays
Disneyland Calendars are a great way to get a general idea of when parks are likely to be busy.
8. Get There Early
To get the most out of your day between the two parks, you should try to get to the park for opening time. This will give you the maximum amount of time in the parks to enjoy as many rides as possible.
Another benefit of getting in as soon as the park opens is that it will not be as crowded, and queuing times for the more popular attractions will be shorter. It can be good to start with the busier rides and more popular attractions when planning your trip. By doing these when the park is not at its fullest, you will save a lot of time.
It can also help if you are staying in a Disneyland resort hotel with exclusive entrances and a ‘Magic Hour’ that allows early admittance for hotel guests.
If you aren’t a guest at a hotel, getting to the park around one hour before opening to queue is recommended and getting that precious early start.
9. Start at Disneyland
Because Disneyland is the bigger and busier park, getting a headstart here is recommended. Getting in early before the park fills up will make it easier to get about and reduce waiting times for rides and attractions.
With a park hopper ticket, you will also have to stay in the first park until 1 pm. After this time you can move freely between the parks. The early start will let you move freely and get on popular rides and attractions more efficiently, and because you are limited to the one park until 1 pm, it is better to be in the bigger park with more attractions.
10. Use the Single Rider Line
If you are travelling alone, you will be able to use single rider lines. This line is dedicated to individuals going on a ride. It allows the Disney cast members (that’s what the staff at Disney resorts and parks are known as) to fill rides up to capacity if people travelling in groups have an odd number.
The single rider line moves more quickly as guests are seated in any available spots. This is great if you don’t mind being next to a stranger.
If you are travelling in a group, it can be a good idea to go over your plans beforehand, and if individuals are keen on certain rides while others aren’t, splitting up will help save time. Just make sure you plan a good meetup place for afterwards and stay in touch.
After splitting, an excellent way to meet up is by snack bars or carts. This way, the first back to the meeting point can buy snacks and drinks, so you can eat on the move when the others arrive—queuing while waiting for the rest of your group to arrive stops you from wasting time.
11. Avoid Queues with Lightning Lanes and Genie+
Disney Genie is a part of the Disneyland App that helps you plan a personalised itinerary to plan your day.
Disney Genie+ lets you link your ticket and has taken over from Disneyland’s previous queue cutting service, FASTPASS. This will cost $20 per day but will let you book attraction reservations when you are attending.
Like the MaxPass, Disney Genie+ includes Photopass, meaning you will get all of your pictures. When you consider the cost of Photopass alone is $19.99, it works out as a good deal.
When you book a reservation for an attraction, you will have an hour slot where you can use the lightning queue to avoid long lines. It is worth noting that not all attractions allow the Disney Genie+ booking option.
Some rides and attractions have lightning queues that are not included in the Genie+ system, and you will have to pay between $7 and $20 to access the lightning queue for these attractions. These tend to be some of the more popular rides, so getting in early and getting them out of the way before the park gets busy can save you time and money.
The Disneyland and California Adventure rides and attractions that allow the use of the Genie+ app are:
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Star Tours
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- It’s a Small World
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Haunted Mansion
- Indiana Jones
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Monsters Inc.
- Goofy’s Sky School
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Grizzly River Run
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
The rides that have separate lightening lanes that must be paid for are:
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Star Wars: Rise of Resistance
- Web Slingers: A Spiderman Adventure
These lists are subject to change, so it is always worth taking the time to check before you visit Disneyland and California Adventure Park.
Genie+ can be purchased in advance to help you plan. You will be able to book rides and attractions after scanning into the park in the morning.
12. Consider Meal Times
Mealtimes are essential but can feel like they eat into your fun time (excuse the pun). Planning when you are going to eat meals, booking reservations, or pre-ordering food can help reduce the time you spend eating and waiting when you can explore the parks and their attractions.
Pre-packing food to keep you going through the day is another excellent way to save time and money. This means you can stop anywhere and have something to eat or eat while walking between attractions.
Managing your time efficiently is a critical factor in ensuring you get to see and do all the things you want to if you are visiting Disneyland and California Adventure on the same day. Of course, your Disneyland itinerary should set aside time for eating, but there are still ways to maximise your time in the theme park.
Is it better to go to Disneyland first or California Adventure?
Generally speaking, spending as many as two days at Disneyland and one day at California Adventure is advised. This is advice for people who want to enjoy everything the parks offer.
If you are doing both parks in one day, visiting Disneyland first is advised as you will not be able to visit the other park on a one-day park hopper ticket until after 1 pm.
People’s preferences may differ, but more people are likely to spend more time in Disneyland, so starting here and enjoying the main attractions before the park fills up will allow more time for other rides and attractions.
Can you hop back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure?
Using your one-day park hopper ticket, you will be able to pass between the two parks freely. You will need to book an initial reservation at the park you plan to start with and stay in that park until 1 pm.
Is Disney Genie Plus worth it?
Disney Genie+ can help make your day easier to plan, help you book spots in the lightning lane, and give you free access to Disney Photopass, usually costing $19.99. The time you can save using Disney Genie+ is worth the $20 it costs per day.
How many rides can you ride in a day at Disneyland Park?
It is possible to ride every ride at Disneyland Park in one day. However, this could end up being a stressful and challenging task as you will have to keep on top of booking lightning line reservations and race between rides.
It is important to remember that Disneyland is a theme park meant to be enjoyed, so while planning can help you fit everything in, you should also ensure you are enjoying your day.
Having the time to spend days at the different Disney parks is a luxury some people don’t have. If you have a financial budget or time restraint, there is absolutely no reason you can’t enjoy both parks in one day.
By following the advice given above, you should be able to plan a great family vacation to California and enjoy the magic of Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure park all in one day.
- Plan Your Ultimate Family Trip To Disneyland California With These 10 Top Tips
- Which Is Better, Disneyland Park Or Disney California Adventure Park?
More about our TFVG Author
Karly is a The Family Vacation Guide guest travel contributor.