One Day at Disney

Whether you’re visiting a Disney Park as part of a larger trip or you just have limited time the questions remains: is it possible to do Disney in 1 day. The answer is yes, if your expectations are appropriate. The first question to consider is do you want to try and ride as many things as possible? All the shows/parades/fireworks? Do you want to enjoy relaxing meals? One day in the Disney parks means prioritizing what you want to experience, being flexibility, and planning ahead. 

The Parkeology Challenge – ride all Disney World or Disneyland risks across all theme parks in oneall the rides and you aren’t interested in shows or staking out a spot for fireworks. First things first… consider getting up early for Extra Magic Hours if you are a Disney Resort guest. Be there at rope drop – when a literal rope is dropped to allow guests into the park at opening time – to get ahead of a lot of the crowd. The first area on your list should be Fantasyland as Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo, and Alice in Wonderland fill up immediately with families and small children. A low rider capacity in Fantasyland creates long lines and lengthy wait times. As a Peter Pan lover, this will definitely be my strategy when we are back in Disneyland in November. When we visited WDW in 2015, I made our FP reservations at the opening of the 60 day window. We had our first FP for Big Thunder Mountain since I assumed it would be swamped right away. I wanted to be there early but we didn’t get to the park until 10 am. To my surprise the stand-by line was walk-on and the FP didn’t save us much wait time. Know how many FPs you can make and when you will be able to make your next one before you can get to the park. In WDW you can make three up front but at Disneyland you can only make one at a time once you enter the park. Focus FPs on E or D ticket style rides like the mountains, roller coasters, and thrilling attractions. Also consider riding outdoor rides at night when the wait times will be lower and the view has a unique ambiance!
day – is a great planning resource if you want to experience

If you’re not a huge ride fanatic but you want to experience all the entertainment on offer grab a park map. Maps will have listings of shows and times. Another great resource is the Disneyland App or MyDisneyExperience App with descriptions of shows and locations for easier navigation throughout the park. Some shows like Fantasmic also have reservation options on the Disneyland App separate from your other FPs. Disney has some of the best parades and entertainment in the industry – they are a great opportunity to see characters, enjoy classic music, and get up and dance. Unique floats like the fire-breathing Maleficent dragon are a sight!

Want a little bit of everything? Make a list of your top 10 rides, shows, and food items. Plan to enjoysomewhere to sit at the quick service location so you can make it to your next FastPass on time.
some rides in the morning until lunch, relax at shows in air conditioned theaters in the early afternoon hours, and have a slow – paced dinner. Once the sun goes down enjoy a few more rides with shorter wait times. Grab a special treat or dessert before the park closes. A little bit of everything allows you to watch the crowds hurry past without the drama of ride closures, wait times, or finding

The relaxed strategy can be great with young kids who don’t reach height requirements. It allows time for naps and prevents meltdowns. It can also be great for people with a mobility issue. Below is a generic itinerary for each approach with Disneyland Park as an example:

Mickey Beignets
Ride Focused
Nine before noon is a great strategy to get extra rides in during the morning and with good planning you can even get nine rides in before 10 am!

Rope drop to Fantasyland (9-10 am), schedule FastPass for Space Mountain or Matterhorn (if using Extra Magic Hours or Morning Magic schedule first FastPass for Indiana Jones). Hop on Peter Pan’s Flight, Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo first followed by other Fantasyland rides like Casey Jr. Circus Train and Storybook Land Canal Boats. Keep a lookout for when you can schedule your next FastPass for whatever you didn’t choose earlier. Check off smaller Tomorrowland rides next like Astro Orbitor, Finding Neo Submarine Voyage, and Autopia while waiting for FastPass windows for Space Mountain and Matterhorn. Rides like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Mad Tea Party, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey have short waits most of the day and can be on the low priority list. King Arthur Carrousel can be enjoyed at any part of the day.

Morning (10-12 pm): Schedule next FastPass for Indiana Jones Adventure when available. Make a reservation for Fantasmic! with FastPass. Enjoy Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room, and Pirates of the Caribbean and continue to watch for the ability to schedule FastPasses for Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, and Star Tours. Decide whether you want to join the 999 happy haunts in Haunted Manion before lunch.

Afternoon (12-6 pm): Make your way back to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland for the rides you missed earlier and turn in your FastPasses for Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear. Check out ToonTown for rides like Gadget’s Go Coaster and get on Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin with a FastPass. Row a Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe (closes at 5 pm) and take the Riverboat or Steamship.

Evening (6-12 am): Work on FastPasses for Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, “it’s a small world” during this time and enjoy special experiences for these rides at night. See if Pooh will share his honey with you on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Enjoy Fantasmic! at 10:30 pm. Enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge later in the evening when ride times for Smuggler’s Run will be < 40 min. Take a ride around the park on the Disneyland Railroad or Monorail.

Experience Focused
Enjoy the classic 1955 rides such as Disneyland Railroad, Autopia, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, Mark Twain Riverboat, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Jungle Cruise at your leisure.

Morning: Enjoy entertainment in Main Street, USA including the The Straw Hatters and The Dapper Dans (9-5:25 intermittent) Main Street Vehicles. Stroll through Fantasyland to discover the secrets of Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough, Mickey and the Magical Map, Storytelling at Royal Theatre, and the Pearly Band (9-3:30 intermittent). Take a tour of Mickey and Minnie’s house in the Toontown Play Areas.

Afternoon: Disneyland Band (11:40-5:25 pm intermittent), Main Street Piano Player (11:15-5pm intermittent), Main Street Cinema, The Disney Gallery. Take a trip around Tom Sawyer’s Island on Mark Twain Riverboat or Sailing Ship Columbia and visit Pirate’s Lair. Stop by The Disneyland Story Presents Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln then dance with the Jambalaya Jazz or The Bootstrappers (9-3:30 and 1:05-7:35pm). Arrive at The Laughing Stock Co. (12:15 – 5:15 intermittent) for a chuckle before dinner. Flag Retreat Ceremony (4:30).

Evening: Explore Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge but don’t mention the contraband. Have a dole whip at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and catch the sunset from Tarzan’s Treehouse. Get your dancing shoes on after checking out the Star Wars Launch Bay followed by the “Get Your Ears On” Celebration Dance Party (7-11pm). Finish the night with the Main Street Electrical Parade (8:40 or 10:45pm), Fantasmic! (9 or 10:30pm), and Disneyland Forever (9:30pm).

Enjoy rides with short stand-by times < 20 minutes or pick and choose your FastPasses for favorite rides in each area with planned entertainment.

Morning: Take a vehicle down Main Street to get to the Hub making a FastPass for a favorite ride.
Explore Sleeping Beauty Walkthrough. Enjoy some Fantasyland rides with short waits. Feel the wind in your hair on Space Mountain or the Matterhorn. Grab a snack in Fantasyland. Attend Fantasyland shows or listen to the Pearly Band. Take a tour under the sea with Nemo; test your driving or blaster skills with FastPasses when you can.

Afternoon: Lunch. Make more reservations for Big Thunder or Splash Mountain. Embrace your wild side with Indiana Jones and Jungle Cruise. Sing along with the birds and flowers it the Enchanted Tiki Room. Learn the story of the bride of the Haunted Mansion but watch your head. Tap your toes to more tunes with the Jambalaya Jazz or the Bootstrappers. Take a trip down the Rivers of America. As the sun sets take the wild mine train and log into the Briar Patch. Investigate Black Spire Outpost or take a rest at your hotel.

Evening: Find a sweet snack on Main Street. Did you get that song out of your head at “it’s a small world”? Marvel at the twinkling lights of the Main Street Electrical Parade or sights and sounds of Fantasmic! or Disneyland Forever. Take a trip around the park on the Disneyland Railroad or Monorail.

What rides are a must-do on a 1 day Disney trip? Comment below!


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