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.
Speaking specifically for 2022, the itinerary has been updated so that it doesn’t show any Toontown attractions as the land will be closed until 2023. In that same vein, this itinerary assumes that you are not using Genie+ or Lightning Lane, although we do have Genie+ attraction rankings in case you do splurge. Before getting to any of this itinerary, you’ll need to buy tickets. We prefer buying them from here!
We don’t have breakfast in this plan as we recommend eating before you go in the parks. 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, the breakfast chimichanga and there’s a McDonald’s and a few other quick places on Harbor Blvd.
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 For 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. From there, go straight to Peter Pan’s Flight. There will be a bit of a wait here, assuming you did Space first. It’s probably worth it as the ride will have a long wait all day. The other option here is going right before closing. After making it through those first two attractions, 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.
Now that Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has dropped the virtual queue, there is an argument to be made for this being your first ride of the day. Heading back to Toontown within the first hour of park opening is a good way to go, at least through the summer of 2023. The ride is well worth doing and will be popular for a while thanks to the ‘newness’ of it all. You could save it for evening as the standby line tends to drop significantly after dark but that’s fitting a lot in during those hours.
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, take a ride on Big Thunder (again, assuming the wait is under half an hour) and then head for Jungle Cruise! These two might have a long wait and if they do, circle back to them. Jungle Cruise will have short lines in the evening. Big Thunder is more of a wild card as the popularity is a little higher. It might be worth waiting out regardless of the time at this point in the morning.
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. 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. Check the wait times on any Fantasyland attractions that you skipped earlier, as well as Mad Tea Party, afterwards.
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.
This is likely mixed in with the previous step or following dinner, depending on when you’d like to see Disneyland’s daytime parade. It is finally back after a brief debut before the pandemic and a long wait post-reopen. But it is back and we thoroughly enjoy the show! Generally, Magic Happens is at 3:30 or 6:30. I’d probably pick the later one but there isn’t a huge difference and if you want to do something that isn’t waiting in line in the middle of the afternoon, 3:30 will suffice. Don’t miss it though!
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. I do like to make Indy the last attraction of the night as it and Space Mountain have the most consistently long lines. So if you’re sure you can make it through close then go that route!
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.
Rise of the Resistance before it closes
We’ve left one of the big attractions off the list, as Rise of the Resistance is Disneyland’s latest and greatest. The reason we didn’t rope drop it here is that riding it around 8 PM has been a sweet spot that is far less of a hassle. The ride generally closes at 9 or 10 PM each night so the line thins before that. Don’t pay too much attention to the wait time listed, as that is usually inflated.
One risk of going this route is that Rise of the Resistance does shut down from time to time. If you have multiple days at the park and this is your first, then waiting until the evening doesn’t have much risk because you could always do it later. If it’s your only day at the park then this becomes a little more risky. Whatever you choose, Rise of the Resistance is not to be missed.
At least through the 2023 summer, there’s only one nighttime spectacular to see – Wondrous Journeys! The show is a joy and not to be missed. Fantasmic will be down for a while which is a shame but will make the night less complicated in trying to squeeze both in. If you want to get up close for Wondrous Journeys then arrive about an hour before the show. If Main Street is okay with you then half an hour early should suffice.
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!