Disneyland Rides Worth the Wait

At The Happiest Blog on Earth, I teach you how to avoid lines, but today we’re going to discover Disneyland rides worth the wait. Because sometimes we go to Disneyland during summer or Christmas break and even when we’ve used all of the best line beating strategies, we may have to wait in a line or two.

Disneyland Rides Worth the Wait

Not all Disneyland lines are created equal. Our worth the wait focuses on not just the best rides, but what queues are both entertaining and interactive. While some lines have you waiting in the hot California sun with little to look at for an hour or more, see which attractions made our list of Disneyland rides worth the wait—keeping you immersed in the Disney magic and somewhat occupied while you wait.

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Disneyland expert who also loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.

10 Disneyland Rides in 2 Hours

10 Disneyland rides in 2 hours, in the middle of summer. It’s possible and maybe a little bit crazy (you can read about more crazy stuff like when I did Disneyland and California Adventure in one day here).

 Disneyland Rides in 2 Hours

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Disneyland expert who also loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.

Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day

Want to do Disneyland AND California Adventure in 1 day?!?

Disneyland goers everywhere will say don’t do it, there’s too much to see, you’ll never get it all done. We’ve heard it before. I’ve even said it myself. And there is total truth in that. There is tons to see. You’ll never get it all done. But the truth is, some people only have 1 day to visit the Disneyland Resort and you CAN indeed do and see a ton in one day if you do it right!

Today’s post is about putting the nay-sayers behind you and focusing on what you CAN do.

How to do Disneyland and California Adventure in ONE DAY! Photo credit: HarshLight / Foter / CC BY, vl8189 / Foter / CC BY
 This post is geared for people doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day, not by doing everything, but by getting a taste of (almost) everything Disneyland and California Adventure have to offer.

My real life Disneyland in one day challenge happened to come on Black Friday when I took my not-so-little brother to Disneyland who had seriously not been there since I last took him when he was about 4 (despite living an hour away!).

Disneyland Resort provided us with two, one day hopper tickets to visit Disneyland and California Adventure. It was the ultimate test of Disneyland and California Adventure in one day—visiting during the busy holiday season!

Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: Game Plan

The Basic, Never Break Rules

1. Get there early! Nothing beats opening Disneyland, especially when you beat the crowds as a result. We parked about 30 minutes before rope drop and got into Disneyland just minutes before the official opening.
2. If you’re doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day, start your day at the non-magic morning park. Magic Mornings are early admission options for guests with a 3+ day tickets, so while everyone was over at California Adventure enjoying their extra hour (and often staying longer for more fun), we opened Disneyland with a low crowd level, even on a holiday.
3. Utilize a touring plan and a wait time app. Make your own plan or create a custom plan over at Touringplans.com. Check out my full review to see why I wouldn’t go to Disneyland in one day without my Touring Plan in hand!

Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: Disneyland Park

Like I mentioned earlier, my brother hadn’t been to Disneyland in ages. I created a plan to go easy on him (well, kinda) and to give him a feel of the park’s nostalgia as well as a taste of the thrill rides we both love.

We decided to leave most of the “kiddy” stuff out which freed up our itinerary big time. This is especially smart way to do Disneyland and California Adventure in one day because most thrill rides have a FASTPASS tied to them.

We started our day at the main gates of Disneyland where I gave him a few tidbits of Disneyland information as we strolled through Main Street and headed over to Tomorrowland.

By noon we had hit almost every “grown up” ride at Disneyland, snuck in a couple of childhood adventures and enjoyed lunch with a front row seat to Dapper Dans.
Here’s how our Disneyland in one day morning went:
  • Star Tours
  • Photo Op in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle (note: be sure to tell the photog you’re with your brother to avoid any awkward photo moments)
  • Indiana Jones
  • Grabbed a Big Thunder Mountain FASTPASS
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Splash Mountain (I almost always ride this in the AM since waits are next to nothing)
  • Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad using FASTPASS
  • Space Mountain closed for a bit, by the time we returned all the FASTPASSES were gone and the wait was 90 mins.
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Walk Through Sleeping Beauty Castle
  • Lunch at Jolly Holiday Bakery
We walked on every ride with our longest wait being 40 minutes for lunch. I was starting to wonder where everyone was on this Black Friday that I had heard was a horrible time (crowd-wise) to visit the parks.
Want budget friendly Disneyland tips? Get our book Disneyland On Any Budget here. 

Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: California Adventure Park

Disney California Adventure gates; how to tell Disneyland and Walt Disney World Apart.
Disney California Adventure gates; how to do Disneyland and California Adventure in one day. 
After lunch, we made our way to California Adventure, waved to Mickey and Daisy and headed to Soarin’. By this time, I was getting a feel for what rides my brother loved and what he wasn’t into. I made some adjustments to our plan and decided to leave out most of the kiddy rides I love to go on, with or without kids. It’s all about compromise, right? 🙂
When we arrived at California Adventure at about 12:30pm, crowds were starting to pick up over at Disneyland but generally low at DCA. 
Here’s how our California Adventure in one day went:
  • Soarin’ single rider option
  • The Little Mermaid (a Fantasyland type of ride, without the long wait)
  • Grabbed a Tower of Terror FASTPASS
  • Radiator Spring Racers single rider option
  • California Screamin’ single rider option
  • Grabbed Fast Pass for California Screamin’
  • Tower of Terror using FASTPASS
  • California Screamin’ using FASTPASS
Can you guess what ride was his favorite? We had spent about 2 1/2 hours at California Adventure, grabbed a treat and went back to Disneyland.

What Happened to the Rest of Our One Day at Disneyland?

It was 3:00pm by now and everyone had apparently realized Disneyland was indeed open on Black Friday. We decided we had been so spoiled, with our longest wait record still being held by the Jolly Holiday for lunch and second place being a 30 minute wait for Radiator Spring Racers.
My brother was worn out and this sister was happy to have had such a great day with rare one-on-one time bonding. We took a stroll past it’s a small world holiday, checked out Mickey’s Toontown, did a little souvenir shopping, then did some more shopping at Downtown Disney and called it a day.
You’re appalled aren’t you? We didn’t even spend a FULL day at both parks and we still did so much! My sister said it was almost against her religion to not close the parks. She couldn’t believe I let our brother wimp out like that ;). Had we stayed a little longer, we would have done some Fantasyland, maybe a night show and been good to go.

Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: Bonus Tips

Surprisingly, our day wasn’t hectic or rushed and we had a blast! Here are a few more tips to help your one day at Disneyland and California Adventure be a success too:
  • Know the ropes. If you haven’t been there before, read whatever you can get your hands on about the attractions and decide what will work for you and what you absolutely can’t miss. Our What to Ride First Guide is a great place to start.
  • Don’t stress when something goes wrong. We missed out on Space Mountain because of a temporary closure. Just go with the flow and don’t let the little things ruin your day.
  • Keep it simple. One reason we were able to get so much done is having 2 adults in our group. It would have been a lot more difficult if we brought 3 kids or a larger group.
  • Pick your favorites. I made a plan based on my absolute favorites, then adjusted once I knew what my brother loved to do.
  • Take a break. It may sound counter productive, but our hour or so break having lunch while watching the Dapper Dans was a perfect recharge to hit California Adventure.

Your Turn!

What do you think about doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day? Am I crazy for advocating such a thing? Is it as crazy as our 10 Rides in 2 Hours schedule? What are your tips for doing the most in the least amount of time?

Tickets for this trip were provided as a courtesy from the Disneyland Resort. 

Disneyland expert who also loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.

The Ultimate Guide to Radiator Springs Racers

Radiator Springs Racers, affectionately know as “the cars ride” is one of California Adventure’s top attractions. Keep reading for everything you need to know to take a drive through Radiator Springs at Disneyland Resort.

Radiator Springs Racers | Disneyland | Disneyland Tips

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Disneyland expert who also loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.