Each time we visit, it seems like Disneyland has gotten more and more crowded and with the park setting new attendance records this year, the crowds aren’t likely to be lightening up anytime soon. So, what is a Disney fan to do? Give up…go home…or- learn how to navigate a packed park and still have a relaxing and fun-filled trip.
Here are our top tips for a relaxing trip to Disneyland:
PRIORITIZE & MANAGE YOUR TIME
Don’t go on long attractions early in the day (Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise- all have ride times of about 15 minutes). Your early morning hours are your best chance to get on as many attractions as possible. Try to go on attractions that tend to fill up later in the day (Indiana Jones, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain RR).
Use Fastpass! The Fastpass system was implemented in 1999 as a ride reservation system to help prevent the hassle of waiting in multi-hour lines. But so many people don’t maximize this awesome tool. When you get to the park, fastpass those rides you’d be disappointed to miss. Make sure to come back during the time window though! The park has started to strictly enforce their fast pass policy.
MAKE ROOM FOR MAINSTREET
So often, we rush past Main Street. We’re so busy and there is so much to see, do, and ride, so we just gallop past one of the Park’s greatest sights. Walt Disney modeled Main Street on his own hometown (Marceline, Missouri) and in our humble opinion, there is no spot in the Park more filled with nostalgia & heart. It’s a great place to go in the afternoon. Get out of the sun and out of the crowds by going into the shops. Pick up presents. Try on silly hats. Stop and watch the band before the parade passes by. Play games at the Arcade. Watch a classic Mickey cartoon in the Cinema. Stop at Coke Corner and listen to some ol’ timey piano music. Visit the Gallery. See Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
EAT AT ‘OFF-TIMES’
Believe us when we say that standing in a 1-hour line for a bread bowl is not fun. It’s just not. Trust us, we tried. Try to be in line for lunch before 11:30 am or after 2 pm. Be having dinner before 5 pm or after 8 pm. Not only will you feel less stressed, but you’ll also enjoy your food more 🙂
TAKE A RIDE ON A TRAIN…
Walt Disney was a huge model train afficianado, so it’s no surprise that when the park was built he made sure to include a fully functioning railroad “leaving every 5-15 minutes for a round trip tour of Disneyland.”
Pick up the train at Main Street U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Toon Town, or Tomorrow Land. Especially enjoyable is the trip between Tomorrowland Station and Main Street U.S.A. because you get to take a journey back to the “Primeval World” of the dinosaurs. Your feet and your sunburned face will thank you for this vacation from your vacation.
DON’T FORGET THE SPECTACLE
No matter how bad the crowds, you should always make room for fireworks and Fantasmic! On super crowded days, we recommend catching the 2nd showing of Fantasmic! after the fireworks. People wait all day for the first showing, but you won’t have to wait longer than 45 minutes for the 2nd one (which they normally have on super crowded days). Watch the fireworks from Main Street then book it through Frontierland and grab a spot in the outdoor seating area of Riverbelle Terrace. Kill the time between shows by sending someone to grab dessert (we recommend Jolly Holiday Bakery or the Stage Door Cafe).
MAKE TIME FOR THE NAP RIDE
Here we are (a few years ago…) taking a nap ride
During peak park hours (3 pm – 6pm) we recommend “The Nap Ride.” Get out of the crowds and out of the sun and head back to your hotel room for a good rest. Take a shower. Take a nap. Catch up on e-mails. Let the kids play in the hotel pool. OR head the other direction and check out the AMC Movie Theatre in Downtown Disney. The truth is that if you are getting to the park by 8 am and staying till midnight, you will need this rest. If you are only staying 1 or 2 days and want to maximize your park time, try to find a cool shady spot (Hungry Bear Cafe in DL and the Animation Studio in DCA). Even a half hour off your feet can make a big difference.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Your trip is not a race! Repeat that to yourself every time you begin to feel the pressure of growing queues and tired feet. Instead, view your trip as a journey and an adventure. Go with the flow. People watch- it’s hilarious and heartwarming. Try something new. Notice something you’ve never noticed before (did you know that the Alps in Storybook Canal line up with Matterhorn?) Remember, if you miss something, well that’s just one more thing to enjoy next time.