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 December 2021, Disneyland is still working its way into being the park we all know and love. Entertainment is still missing, FastPasses are gone forever and all the while capacity is still limited. While we predict that all to change by the end of the year and possibly before, the itinerary is dramatically affected. We’ve taken out any steps that included FastPass, outside of the virtual queue options and just skip any steps with a show that isn’t running. The parks are in a fluid state so we will keep updating as time goes. For now, this itinerary assumes that you are not using Genie+ or Lightning Lane, whenever those do become available. Before getting to any of this itinerary, you’ll need to buy tickets. We prefer buying them from here!
As 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 30 Minutes Early Armed With the Disneyland App
We’re at an in-between state right now where Disneyland’s latest and greatest attraction, Rise of the Resistance, could possibly utilize a virtual queue system. It appears as if the ride will be going with the standby route from now on but that could always change during busy time. Thankfully, you can do the virtual queue from the comfort of your car, hotel room or wherever you might be at 7 AM. That is when you’ll be able to log in to the Disneyland app and try to get a spot. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, then you’ll be able to try again at noon. If trying at 7 AM (which we do recommend) then make sure to login to the app a few minutes prior to 7 and have all of your group’s tickets linked together. If Rise of the Resistance is standby then we recommend riding it first thing in the morning or right before it closes at night. Check the app to see the time it will close because it is likely different than the park closing time.
If the ride is standby and you want to do it first thing then I recommend getting there an hour early. 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, the breakfast chimichanga and there’s a McDonald’s and a few other quick places on Harbor Blvd.
A Couple of Mountains & Ride the Dark Rides
Upon opening, head straight to Space Mountain in Tomorrowland and go for a ride on the mountain. Assuming you got there about a half an hour ahead of opening then you should be one of the first on the ride. If you got there closer to opening then skip this step and go straight to Fantasyland for Peter Pan’s Flight. Really, either one of these two attractions is a good way to start the day, and I’d lean toward Peter Pan’s Flight with a ride on Space via single-rider line later in the day. After making it through that first attraction, whichever you choose, head to Matterhorn Bobsleds and enjoy a trip to see our favorite yeti, Harold. If for some reason you get to the park a couple minutes after opening, skip Peter Pan and Space and go straight for the Matterhorn, picking up the itinerary from that point. We want to get out ahead of the crowds.
After riding the Matterhorn there should be time for a few more attractions in Fantasyland. We highly recommend Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Alice in Wonderland and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Doing all of these in the first hour of park opening should be fairly easy, with Alice and Snow White being the most popular later in the day. If you start to notice the wait times creeping up near half an hour then come back for these dark rides later.
To the Future!
If you went with Peter Pan’s Flight over Space Mountain, now is the time to move on to this attraction. If the wait is half an hour or more than go the Space Mountain exit and ride it via the single rider line. This is the best single rider line in the park and certainly one to utilize if you’re going with adults. If you all need to ride together and the wait is longer at this point then save this for just before closing or when the wait drops. While in Tomorrowland, hit Buzz and Star Tours as the waits should still be lower at this point.
Main Street Snacks and the Classics
We’re close to mid morning by this point so it might be time for a snack on Main Street for some of you, 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, head towards New Orleans Square and Critter Country. Along the way, if the Jungle Cruise wait is under 20 minutes then go for it! From there, we’re going to make the long walk to Splash Mountain. While it’s near the edge of the park and we’ll have to double back for some rides, getting to the attraction before the masses do is key. Mid morning is a good time and should help you avoid those hour long waits. After Splash, take a ride on Big Thunder (again, assuming the wait is under half an hour) to dry off.
Following that, we’ll try to knock off the classic New Orleans Square attractions, Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. One exception to this itinerary is if it’s during Halloween season and Haunted Mansion has the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay going. Make that more of an early morning priority if that’s the case. As long as the lines are under 30 minutes then go standby for both rides, each of them should move quickly.
Lunch at Cafe Orleans or Rancho del Zocalo
Man, we’ve been busy! It’s time to relax and have some 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, take a tour through Galaxy’s Edge in the daylight if you haven’t already been there for the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue. We’ll be back at night but it’s worth seeing in the daylight too! Afterwards 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. 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.
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 Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Finally, catch a ride on the Disneyland Railroad and do the full circle tour. It’s probably easiest to catch the train on Main Street but any of the stations will work. New Orleans Square is probably the hardest place to catch a ride.
Dinner at Plaza Inn or Blue Bayou
Once you have completed your ride on the train 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.
Adventureland and New Orleans Square
This and the previous step can be swapped, especially depending on the time of year. As you may have noticed, we haven’t hit one of the lands in Disneyland hardly at all. It’s time to go to Adventureland and knock out the attractions there. If you weren’t able to get on Jungle Cruise earlier then you’ll want to do both that and Indiana Jones Adventure. If either have waits over 40 minutes then come back for them before close. But, we’re running out of time so you may have to bite the bullet here and just go for it.
If there’s some extra time then use that post-dinner energy and do some attractions that 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.
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 may 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!