Our Disneyland Itinerary is a touring plan featuring what attractions, shows, and dining we’d do in one day at the park. This itinerary is our efficient way to experience all of the, what we consider, Disneyland essentials. You can check out all of our park itineraries here.
What this series won’t do is give a plan to experience every single attraction in one day at the park. While we do think rides are one of the most important aspects of Disneyland, our ideal day there isn’t rushing around to every attraction. We do have all of the attractions ranked, as well as ratings for shows, counter-service and table-service restaurants, so if you are simply looking for the best things to do those lists may be a good place to start. Where this post will differ from those is the itinerary will include an efficient plan as well as time for exploring the park.
There are many different factors that go into a theme park day, so we do have to keep this somewhat general. I don’t know how busy the park will be when you visit, whether you purchased MaxPass, where you are staying, etc. What I do assume in this itinerary is that you are spending the full day inside of the park, getting there before the gates open and leaving after the park closes. To do this, I would recommend staying as close as possible whether that be at Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian or a cheaper hotel (which is what we recommend due to a much better value) across the street on Harbor Blvd.
As of May 2021, Disneyland is still working its way into being the park we all know and love. Entertainment and FastPass are not currently running and capacity is still extremely limited. While we predict that all to change by the end of the year and possibly before, the itinerary is dramatically affected. Basically, take out any steps that have to do with shows or FastPass, outside of the virtual queue options. If a step is to FastPass a certain ride then just try to ride it at that time instead. If the wait is over half hour then save it for late at night.
Like always, if you have specific questions then please leave us a comment below. My best advice in this general touring plan is to loosely follow the plan while also keeping a sense of exploration. While Disney World has become a place where it benefits to follow a schedule, Disneyland can still play for those who want to be a little more spontaneous. Let’s get to the plan!
Get There About 45 Minutes Early Armed With the Disneyland App
As of January 2020, Disneyland uses a virtual queue system for their latest attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The virtual queue system allows guests to go about their day while waiting in line digitally for the new ride. We have an entire post detailing how to enter the virtual queue and other tips to go along with it. Being comfortably inside of the park before the listed opening for the day is very important and we do think experiencing that attraction is essential to Disneyland. Once you secure a boarding group, go about the regularly scheduled itinerary and return to the ride whenever your boarding group is called. It may throw off the schedule a little bit but adjust as best you can.
For breakfast, we recommend eating before you go in the parks as the breakfast offerings aren’t great (outside of one or two) once inside and it would be a waste of valuable time. We generally pack a few snacks but other quality options are Tangaroa Terrace, Steakhouse 55 if you want something nicer, and there’s a McDonald’s and a few other quick places on Harbor Blvd.
FastPass Space Mountain & Ride the Dark Rides
Upon opening, head straight to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland (if you are in a group, just send one person with all of the tickets while the rest head to Fantasyland) and get a FastPass. After getting the FastPass go to Fantasyland and immediately get in line for Peter Pan’s Flight. This attraction doesn’t have FastPass and is one of the most popular in the whole park. In fact, this is so popular that it might be worth going straight to the attraction instead of FastPassing the Space Mountain.
After riding Peter Pan there should be time for a few more attractions in Fantasyland. We highly recommend Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. If you’re running low on time before the FastPass window for Space Mountain ends, don’t worry. We’ll be back in Fantasyland later in the day.
To the Future and Space!
After an hour in Fantasyland has passed, head over to Tomorrowland and get a FastPass for Matterhorn Bobsleds along the way. Use your Space Mountain FastPass before the window is up. If any Tomorrowland attractions, notably Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Star Tours, have wait times under 15 minutes then go ahead and get on.
Once you’re through with getting a quick spurt of rides (don’t linger too long), it’s time to cross the park for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. If the Matterhorn FastPass window is almost open then do that first. Once you’re in Galaxy’s Edge there’s a slew of things to do, the top of which is riding Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. As long as the line is under 45 minutes then go for it now. Before or after your ride, take a few minutes to walk around and explore the details and shops. It’s a gorgeous land that is worth checking out. We’ll be back later in the day so don’t linger for too long, as we continue our morning full of rides.
Main Street Snacks and New Orleans Square Attractions
If you haven’t already used your Matterhorn FastPass then the window should be open at this point. After that, it’s time for a snack on Main Street before heading over to the other side of the park. If you are looking for a sweet treat the Jolly Holiday Bakery has the delicious Raspberry Rose Mickey Macaron or Matterhorn Macaroon. I prefer the raspberry option but it isn’t as good of a value. For the brave souls that can stomach a corn dog before noon, this is an opportune time to enjoy the incredible Little Red Wagon. This itinerary requires a lot of eating, just so you know.
After your snack, get a FastPass for Indiana Jones Adventure and head to New Orleans Square. Along the way, if the Jungle Cruise wait is under 20 minutes then go for it! Upon reaching New Orleans Square get a FastPass for Fantasmic! that night (this may only be available on the weekends and also won’t take away from your attraction FastPasses) and then ride both Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. These are both must-do’s that shouldn’t have very long lines due to their high capacities. The one exception to that is if it’s during Halloween season and Haunted Mansion has the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay going. You probably will want a FastPass then. As long as the lines are under 30 minutes then go standby for both rides, each of them should move quickly. After this, riding Splash Mountain via the single-rider line is a good option if you are open to doing this. If not, opt for later that night or use a FastPass later in the day.
Lunch at Cafe Orleans or Rancho del Zocalo
Depending on when your Indy FastPass is available, you’ll be doing that either before or after lunch. No matter what, it won’t be far away from lunch. We recommend Cafe Orleans, as eating out by the river is wonderful. Start with the Pommes Frites, share a Monte Cristo and then finish with the delicious Mickey Beignets.
If you want a (slightly) cheaper option then we recommend Rancho del Zocalo or the French Market for a counter-service option. Rancho del Zocalo serves Mexican food while French Market is Creole inspired. There’s also the corn dog option or a classic Disneyland Chimichanga but we prefer going some place to relax and sit down for a while.
After lunch, continue the FastPass tour of the park by getting one for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. After that head back to Fantasyland for a ride on it’s a small world. To complete all of the lands in Disneyland, make your way over to Toontown and check on Roger Rabbit’s wait time. If it’s more than 25 minutes, come back for it later at night or eventually use a FastPass. Exploring Toontown for a few minutes, with the visual gags is probably worth it even though it is easily the worst land in the park. On the way back from Toontown check the wait times on any Fantasyland attractions that you skipped earlier, as well as Mad Tea Party and Snow White’s Scary Adventure.
A Relaxing Late Afternoon
At this point, it’s time to wind down a little bit. The whole day has been on the go, aside from lunch, and it’s time to sit and get out of the heat. We’ll start this journey at the front of the park with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, a classic attraction full of Disney history. After this, walk over to Adventureland for another classic, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Grab a Dole Whip while you wait for the show to start and then enjoy birds singing those sweet and catchy melodies.
After the Tiki Room, head over to the Rivers of America and take the Mark Twain Riverboat for a loop around the river. While you’ll be outside in the sun, the riverboat is a little cooler being on the water. Find a nice place to sit on the boat or walk around and take photos. After a loop around the river, walk along the river front over to the New Orleans Square train station. It’s possible that your Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass is available. If so, use it before the train, if not then hop on the Disneyland Railroad and do a full loop. Riding Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh while in this area is an option here but isn’t essential. If you did use the Big Thunder FastPass before the train ride then take the train to Main Street instead of doing a full loop.
Dinner at Plaza Inn or Blue Bayou
Once you have completed your ride on the train and/or Big Thunder Mountain then it’s time for dinner (unless you choose to do the next step first). Our pick for dinner would be Plaza Inn on Main Street for some delicious fried chicken. This is a counter-service restaurant that serves comfort food. If you don’t like fried chicken for some reason but still want a counter-service meal then choose whichever you didn’t for lunch, French Market or Rancho del Zocalo.
If you want a fancier meal and a quintessential Disneyland experience then Blue Bayou is a good option. Located inside of Pirates of the Caribbean, this restaurant has one of the best atmospheres Disney has ever created. Frankly, we think the prices are too high for some average food so we don’t necessarily recommend this option. Having said that, I do think it is worth trying at least once.
Evening Attractions and New Orleans Square
This and the previous step can be swapped, especially depending on the time of year. Some attractions are better to ride once the sun goes down. Among those are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise and the Matterhorn. Granted, you probably won’t have time for all of those in this time slot but that’s why we have some earlier in the itinerary. Pick and choose which ones you want to do most here and there may be time for some other attractions after the nighttime spectaculars. Keep knocking off attractions with FastPass too, if there are any available.
The other aspect of this section is making sure you have time to hang out in New Orleans Square around sunset and after. Live jazz music will be played near French Market and this is a perfect place to relax and watch as the energy shifts with the lighting. Wander through the alley in New Orleans Square and walk by the river for a few peaceful moments.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Go see the fireworks on Main Street and Fantasmic! on the river. Depending on the time of your FastPass for Fantasmic! this can be a bit of a rush. We absolutely recommend doing both though. If you would rather only do one of the shows then we’d choose Fantasmic! Disneyland firework shows rotate fairly often but if Remember… Dreams Come True is showing while you are at the park then you can’t go wrong there.
Back to Galaxy’s Edge and filling in the holes
When Fantasmic! wraps up it’s time to head back to Galaxy’s Edge to explore the beautiful land at night. While most of Disneyland is gorgeous at night, the lighting here is truly spectacular. If you’re interested, the line at Smugglers Run should be low or the single-rider line is an option. If you’ve completed most of this itinerary then spend as long as you want here in Galaxy’s Edge. Try the different snacks and drinks, look in all of the shops and maybe encounter some characters. Oga’s Cantina is a good option, but you will need an advanced reservation for the bar. If you have missed out on a good portion of the itinerary then it’s time to fill in the holes on attractions you missed. There are some in Fantasyland (Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Dumbo) that we likely didn’t get to and the same goes with Tomorrowland (Autopia, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage). We don’t consider any of those absolute essentials but they are old rides that some consider classics.
More than anything, use this peaceful time to enjoy the park. Some of my favorite memories at Disney Parks are wandering through the empty streets and enjoying the details of the park. My favorite areas for this in Disneyland outside of Galaxy’s Edge are Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Fantasyland.
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar
If there is any energy left, walk over to the Disneyland Hotel and enjoy a nightcap at Trader Sam’s. We love this place, even though we aren’t big drinkers, because of the crazy amount of fun here and all of the details inside the bar. There are plenty of good food options here, as well, if you aren’t stuffed from this plan. Obviously, this step won’t be for everyone but this is one of the better places for adults to go in Disneyland Resort.
Completing this whole itinerary is a tall task. Even with missing a few steps, this will lead to an excellent day at Disneyland. I know this isn’t always an option, but we do recommend two full days at Disneyland and one at California Adventure. Even if you are able to be at Disneyland for two days, then following this itinerary the first day and then filling in the cracks, repeating favorites and adding in other attractions on the second day will lead to a great trip.
As always, if you have questions or thoughts on our Disneyland itinerary then leave a comment below. If you are planning a trip to Disneyland, then check out our planning guide. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. You can do all of that on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!