About a week ago we were able to spend a full day at Disneyland for Melissa’s birthday! We decided to splurge on Genie+ because of the big day and Melissa wanting to show her mom around the parks as efficiently as possible. This post will be a mini trip report of the day, including some thoughts on Genie+ and Disneyland during the summer.
We started the day a little later than we usually would for a variety of reasons. Being local to Disneyland has many benefits, one of them is that we don’t feel like we have to rush around very often. Sure, we pack quite a bit in when we have visitors or when I’m working on itineraries but more often than not we drop by for a meal and a few rides before walking back home. Now that I’ve spent a paragraph bragging about living close to Disneyland, I’ll actually talk about the day!
I’m pleased to report that Tangaroa Terrace still offers a delicious breakfast. The restaurant was surprisingly busy that morning and we were meeting a friend at the gate so we got the food to go and ate it inside Disneyland. That ended up working pretty well outside of my yogurt melting into a cold soup (it was still delicious!) and is a fun way to have a great counter-service breakfast inside of Disneyland’s morning charm.
Somewhere along the way, we figured out that Melissa’s mom hadn’t been inside of Disneyland since the 90’s. At that point Melissa jumped into tour guide mode and wanted to fit in most of her favorite attractions. When it’s your wife’s birthday you go along for the ride. All the better when the ride(s) is literal. It was around 10:30 or 11 at that point so we purchased Genie+ hoping for the best.
I’ve had some major beef with Genie+ since it’s integration and we’ve barely used it outside of research purposes. Those trepidations and frustrations remain. That said, this was one of those instances that I would recommend it without much hesitation. We had a one day park hopping ticket, about 12 hours, and wanted to fit in the best rides possible.
Showing up in the late morning generally wouldn’t do us many favors but the crowd levels were surprisingly low. They’ve been surprisingly low for at least a month so maybe at this point it shouldn’t be a surprise? I have a post coming up in the next few days about this very subject so I won’t step on that too much. As it relates to this day, it meant that there were ample attractions to get a Lightning Lane for. Immediately, we grabbed a ride on Big Thunder Mountain, entered the Lightning Lane and grabbed a late entry for Indiana Jones Adventure which had the farthest entry window out.
After a ride on Big Thunder, and with a couple of hours before we could book our next Lightning Lane, we headed back to Galaxy’s Edge for a standby ride on Rise of the Resistance. The wait ended up being around 40 minutes, which is great for an attraction of that quality. I do think there’s some strategy in heading back to Rise at that time. Generally, I recommend going at 7 or 8 at night as that area really empties out. Unfortunately, that does get in the way of nighttime spectaculars here and there. Outside of being one of the first few hundred people in the park (which is great if you want to go that route!) riding Rise in the late morning is an interesting option. Let the first wave of people go and then try to find the sweet spot after the initial rush. This has been a sound strategy for Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom for years and should work here too, at least most of the time.
We walked back from Galaxy’s Edge past Hungry Bear and took a ride with Winnie the Pooh. We did have a birthday to celebrate after all. It was nearly time to book another Lightning Lane as we were walking past Haunted Mansion and noticed next to no line. This was the day of the Haunted Mansion world premiere at Disneyland Resort so they took away Genie+ at the attraction for the day because the ride would be closed at various points. Because of that, the standby queue moved quickly and there was little to no backup. Imagine that! Genie+ giveth and taketh.
Melissa was able to grab a Lightning Lane for Mission: BREAKOUT! about an hour and a half out from our current time so, after a nice little break in Star View Station, we walked over to California Adventure. Once we were there and decided that we had a few minutes to spare, we jumped into the Radiator Springs Racers single rider queue and were through the ride within half an hour. I had a fairly nervous little passenger sitting beside me but he passed with flying colors, adapting much better than I did when dropping suddenly on Guardians. At least there were cool lights!
Earlier in the day, I grabbed a reservation for Lamplight Lounge, which may tell you how empty the park felt, so we headed there for an early dinner around 4:30. The restaurant remains one of Disneyland Resort’s best. I had the Salmon PLT on that day and found it absolutely delicious. The actual restaurant continues to be much stronger and comfortable than the boardwalk dining up above it.
You know what’s best to do after stuffing your face with a very large meal? Ride Disneyland Resort’s largest roller coaster. A Lightning Lane for Incredicoaster was acquired and I’m pleased to say that the meal did not cause any issues on the exciting ride.
We finished off our loop in DCA before heading back to Disneyland. Melissa and her mom staked out a spot for Magic Happens while I grabbed the birthday girl her free drink from Starbucks. Soon enough, the parade started and it remains a wonderful and flamboyant addition to Disneyland.
The next few hours were a quick sprint of attractions, some via Genie+ and some via standby, along with a beautiful sunset. We rode Pirates (standby), followed by the Falcon, Indy and Buzz all via Lightning Lane. Since I’ll continue to knock the pay-to-skip-the-line system, I’ll also say something nice! It’s really fun when you can plan out successive Lightning Lanes. We had the Indy reservation made early in the day and then sandwiched it with two that were readily available. That got us through three attractions in an hour, some of them being extremely popular spots. Maybe my heart was softened by the sunset or maybe it’s because Genie+ is always going to be fun in the moment, but I really enjoyed those evening hours jumping from attraction to attraction. Either way, here are a few sunset photos from a beautiful evening!
After that run of attractions, we hurried over to Main Street to watch Wondrous Journeys. We were a little later getting to a viewing spot than usual and ended up nearly even with Refreshment Corner. This gave me the clearest view of the Main Street projections of the show yet and I was impressed with just how crisp they looked. The show is still best experienced right in front of the castle but there are a wealth of spots to enjoy it from, thanks to just how good it is!
After finishing off our Genie+ usage with Lightning Lanes at Star Tours and Space Mountain, we rode Matterhorn via the single rider line and headed back to Toontown to cap our day with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Going to Toontown after it reopens around 10 PM generally results in short lines. You might find just as short of lines if you go around 7 or so. I’m hoping to do some research on that. On this given night, we waited about 20 minutes for Runaway Railway which isn’t bad at all.
We headed home after that, cutting through the Grand Californian and catching a Lyft there to rest our tired feet. In about 12 hours, we rode 15 attractions, saw the parade and fireworks, had a table-service meal and spent some time at the lounge relaxing. Of those 15 attractions, we utilized Genie+ for 8 of them, single rider for 2 and standby for 5. If you’re refreshing the app fairly often, extra Lightning Lanes do seem to pop up with some frequency. They system has gotten rid of a few bugs and there is definite value there, especially if you’re trying to fit as much into one day as possible.
That we were able to do so much in the middle of July was a real surprise but maybe that is the new normal. We’ll have more on that in the following days, but it ended up being a fantastic day!
Do you have any questions about our day? Let us know in the comments! Planning a trip to Disneyland? Check out our Planning Guide here. 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. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Trip Reports