Updated on 2/7/18. It’s a question that most Disney vacation discussions start with: How many days should we spend in each park? Of course, some vacations don’t lend themselves to the luxury of getting to pick exactly how many days you can spend where. Budgets, time and other various aspects come into play when planning a vacation. Still, guests would like to give themselves an adequate amount of time to see most attractions and some details.
Both Disneyland and Disney World offer very different experiences and the ‘How many days at each Disney Park?’ is more relevant at Disney World because of its size and not being such a local park. Still, the question works for both resorts so I’m going to give an amount of time for each U.S. park.
As always with most any post on here, this is opinion-based. Some people value different aspects of a theme park than others. This makes people like some parks more than others. With that being said, I’ll try not to base this too much off of my opinions (although I promise you, I’ve never been wrong about anything in my whole life).
If you do have a limited amount of time, I really recommend using Touring Plans and the Unofficial Guide to Disney World. They have plans that will maximize the amount guests can see and do in a Disney Park in just a day (or two, depending on the plan you follow). Their plans truly work and are a great guide to follow.
Without further ado, here are my recommendations on how much time to spend in each Disney Park (within reason, if I had no responsibilities and endless money I’d spend most of my time there, obviously). We’ll start on the best (I mean, west) coast first.
Disneyland – 2 Days
The only park on this list that I seriously considered giving more than 2 days. There is an incredible amount to see here. You could probably hit all of Disneyland’s E-Ticket attractions in one day (again, probably) but that would all you would have time for. If you do that, and skip a second day, you will definitely be missing out on Disneyland’s charm. There are strolls around New Orleans Square, rides on riverboats, dozens of foods to try, and history to explore. Melissa L. and I spent a little over 3 days here on our last trip and we still didn’t get to everything we wanted to see. Do the big attractions because they are great but don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the parts of Disneyland that make it so unique. As an aside, I recommend spending two evenings in this park, as well. Do Fantasmic! one night and Remember… Dreams Come True (fireworks show) the other night.
Disney’s California Adventure – 1 and a half days
When this park first opened, spending half of a day here would do but since renovation of basically the entire park, the quality here has really gone up. If you really pushed yourself you could see everything in one day, but I like to take my time so that’s why it gets the extra half a day. There’s a pretty decent number of E-Ticket attractions here (Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’, California Screamin’, Grizzly River Run, Toy Story Midway Mania, Tower of Terror) and then quite a few other attractions to see. In California Adventure’s first go-around, it seemed that they didn’t quite understand the value of having beautiful areas to explore. Now, that has been remedied with the addition of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street. Paradise Pier is always fun to take your time walking around and I’m optimistic about the renovation they are doing by Soarin’. World of Color is a must-see but so is Cars Land at dusk. You can typically do both in one day but that will take up a chunk of time so that’s another reason to add a half day here. For the record, If you only had 3 days at Disneyland Resort I’d probably spend 2 at Disneyland and 1 at California Adventure if there was no park-hopper.
Magic Kingdom – 2 Days
Magic Kingdom is like Disneyland in that there is a ton to see. There are several shows and parades that you shouldn’t miss. The sheer number of attractions here is what drives this park. Like Disneyland, there are beautifully themed areas here that could be explored for a whole day by themselves. This is also the most crowded park at Disney World so it’s likely that you’ll be running into more crowds. Two days in Magic Kingdom is about the perfect amount of time, in my opinion. You give yourself time to explore Liberty Square and other parts of the park as well as ride all of the famed attractions.
Epcot – 1 and a half days
When you look at it from a strictly attraction based viewpoint, Epcot doesn’t have a whole lot to do. There aren’t many E-Tickets (Soarin’, Spaceship Earth, Frozen Ever After and Test Track and that might be generous) and Future World could use some help. With that being said, there are a number of factors to look at when considering Epcot. There are the wonderful smaller rides like the films in World Showcase and Living with the Land. There’s an aquarium to visit in The Seas. There’s shopping and details to explore in World Showcase. Then, there’s the food. Oh, the food. Most of the other parks I didn’t factor a ton of time into getting food but it seems necessary in this one. There is food everywhere you go in Epcot and most of it is really pretty good. With all of that in mind, Epcot gets a day and a half from me. You could push it and try to do it in one and miss out on some details. I’d be more likely to try to do this park in 2 days. Either way, I highly encourage anyone to visit World Showcase around sunset and then stay for Illuminations. That’s one of my favorite evenings whenever I go to Disney World.
Animal Kingdom – 1 and a half days
The next two are probably my most controversial picks. I could spend 2 days in Animal Kingdom, no problem. A lot of people could spend a day there and then be done with it. Even though I’m always right about everything, I’ll compromise here and go with a day and a half with a strong lean towards adding more time. Now, it’s not going to take much time to get the big attractions done here. Go close to opening, have a fastpass for Flight of Passage (and if not then Everest), get on Kilimanjaro Safaris, ride Everest, and then go over to Dinosaur and then you have most of the must-see rides done. But, there are several shows that shouldn’t be missed in Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical. There’s also the underrated Flights of Wonder. There are animal-viewing trails to walk on. There are beautiful areas to explore (pretty much everywhere except for DinoLand). With the addition of Pandora – World of Avatar, Rivers of Light and tons of entertainment, this park could use a full 2 days but you can complete everything in a day and a half fairly easily. But, if that means you are missing out on slowly wandering the trails and details of Animal Kingdom then you are missing the point of the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 1/2 a day
I’ll come out and say it, right now this park is bad. If you’re going on a vacation right now, there’s a pretty decent case to make for this park not being worth your money. There are some fun E-Ticket attractions open still. Tower of Terror is arguably the best attraction at Disney World. Everything else is fine but there isn’t much to do here. There are always areas to look at but this park doesn’t have the detail of Magic Kingdom or the nature of Animal Kingdom. Soon (hopefully), this will all be fixed with the addition of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. Until then, the park is just trying to scrape by as passable. As far as nighttime experiences go, the Star Wars fireworks are very fun to see especially if you are a fan of the franchise. Fantasmic! is good but the Studios version is inferior to it’s Disneyland counterpart.
I will try to keep this updated over the years as attractions are added and taken away. What do you think of my recommendations? Would you recommend anything different? Let us know in the comments. Thank you for reading!