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Who doesn’t love a Disneyland vacation? Whether you’re there for the weekend or a longer family vacation you want to get the most out of your time in the Magic Kingdom. To help you out I’ve compiled some tips from the times I’ve been to Disneyland this year.

Work your Fast Passes

Depending on your priorities the first thing you do when you enter the park is get one of the following Fast Passes: Space Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers (in California Adventure) or Splash Mountain.

Most of your time at Disneyland will be spent in line and these rides have the longest lines. Radiator Springs Racers, in fact, has been known to run out of Fast Passes not long after the park opens. So, if you want to ride that at all, that’s the first Fast Pass you get.

Once you’ve got it, look at your Fast Pass. On there it will tell you when you can get the next one (often before you use this one on the ride). At the appointed time, go for a second Fast Pass from the previous list or get a Fast pass for: Star Tours, Indiana Jones Adventure or California Screamin’ (in California Adventure) as they tend to have the second longest wait times.

Then as you use a Fast Pass, work your way on down through the list of rides and Fast Passes. Since each Fast Pass can be a couple of hours, and depending on how much time you spend in the park, you may not have time for more than four to six Fast Passes in a day.

Enjoy iconic, less crowded rides.

Between Fast Passes, wait in line for the rides that move a bit faster such as: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, the Tea Cups, the Matterhorn or any of the rides for younger kids. These move especially well at night so don’t stress about catching those between Fast Passes.

Mix it Up

One thing Disney does so well is create a variety of rides and entertainment from roller coasters to immersive rides like Star Tours and simpler, delightful ones like Astro Orbitor or the Silly Symphony Swings in California Adventure. There’s variety for young kids (like Toon town) and older kids (Tomorrowland is rocking Star Wars with Star Wars Launch Bay) and the kid in all of us (I like Pirates of the Caribbean every time or my best friend’s favorite Toy Story Midway Mania!). Which leads to…

Enjoy the park

Disneyland isn’t just about the rides. You’ve flown all this way, you’ve got these days with your family at the most magical place on earth and Disney works to make sure the park as a whole is delightful and entertaining. So enjoy the walk between rides. You might discover Snow White’s Wishing Well. Or you may just enjoy a stroll through New Orleans Square. You also never know what character you’ll meet.

Save your shopping

Main Street shops are open an hour after the latest park closes (most nights Disneyland closes at midnight). And you can get most of the shop merchandise in the big store in Downtown Disney (without needing a park pass). So don’t let the need to find that perfect souvenir steal park time. Hit the rides, catch a show, take pictures with a character. Then stop after or later or the next day to find that perfect souvenir of your trip.

Speaking of shows…

Catch a show

They’re not rides and maybe your teenager would rather you had gone to Six Flags. But the World of Color is pretty magnificent and will probably make even your surly teenager smile at least once (on the awesome Pirates section if nothing else). Whether you catch one of the Main Street parades, the World of Color in California Adventure, or one of the princess shows (like Fantasy Faire or Anna & Elsa’s Royal Welcome in California Adventure) Disney will make it worth the time.

Check out the park at night!

I love Disneyland at night. Lines are shorter. Many of them move a little faster. Fewer people in the park means you can move around easier (and quicker to hit four rides in like an hour or two if you work your Fast Passes). If you’re schedule allows it (and you don’t have young kids with a bedtime) definitely make time for Disney after dark.

Stationary Characters

There are places throughout the park where characters have a wait time and a line and you can be sure to see them. Some good ones to check out are the Star Wars Launch Bay for Star Wars characters, Cars Land (in California Adventure) has characters from Radiator Springs and Toon Town has both Mickey and Minnie’s houses.

The thing I enjoyed most about the Star Wars Launch Bay was that it wasn’t just a photo op. The setting is designed to be a little more immersive and the characters take time to interact with you in order to create a moment.


What’s your favorite tip for making the most of a Disneyland vacation?

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