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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 even say 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!
This article is about putting the nay-sayers behind you and focusing on what you CAN do. While a lot has changed with the introduction of Disney MaxPass, making two parks in one day even more feasible, 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 and California Adventure in One Day Game Plan
The basic, never break, Disneyland rules
- Where to park at Disneyland Resort, details on each parking lot.
- Get through Disneyland security quickly, you don’t want to be stuck waiting here before your first ride.
- What is “rope drop” anyway and why do I care?
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. Man this picture is giving me major throwback vibes. And if you want to see Disneyland all decked out for the holidays, don’t miss this article.
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. Extra prep reading to get the most of your day:
- You must have a good understanding of the classic FASTPASS system.
- Now let’s talk Disney MaxPass and see MaxPass in action.
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.
- 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
Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: California Adventure Park
- 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 (now Inredicoaster)
- Grabbed Fast Pass for California Screamin’
- Tower of Terror using FASTPASS
- California Screamin’ using FASTPASS (now Inredicoaster)
What happened to the rest of our one day at Disneyland Resort? 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.
Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day: Bonus Tips
- 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?
Disneyland expert who loves the beach, flip flops and pink nail polish.