If you’re visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, it may be part of a greater Japan trip, and you may only have one day for Tokyo DisneySea. This plan covers our “perfect day” at Tokyo DisneySea, focusing on everything we would do in one day if that’s all of the time we had. Note that in our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide we recommend 3 days at Tokyo DisneySea if you have the time (with a Disney fan being able to spend even more time there), so you necessarily will have to skip some things if you only have one day. Since Tokyo DisneySea is so much more than a series of attractions, this post covers how we recommend enjoying the ambiance, restaurants at which you should dine, and of course, attractions you should do. This post continues our series of single-day itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We call this series our “Daily Trip Blueprints,” or DTBs for short…a corny nod to our website name!
These Daily Trip Blueprints aren’t touring plans or strategy guides for doing as much in a single day at Tokyo DisneySea as possible. If you follow this guide, you won’t do every single attraction in the park. The thing about racing from attraction to attraction at Tokyo DisneySea is that it totally misses the point of what makes the park so special. Don’t get me wrong, it has a stellar attraction lineup, but its theming “lineup” is out of this world, and much more impressive.
It’s truly a park where you should slow down and take it in. So this guide tries to find a way to allow you to slow down and enjoy the experience…while still experiencing a lot. Most park strategy guides focus solely on number of attractions, and totally ignore the great things that make Disney Disney. If you’re only after our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions so you can put together your own checklist of attractions to complete, read our comprehensive Best Tokyo DisneySea Attractions & Ride Guide post.
This guide assumes a couple of things, both of which should be strongly noted: first, that you’re visiting during a weekday at a moderately-crowded time of year, and second, that no seasonal events are occurring during your visit. The first assumption is of the utmost importance. Unless you’ve been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland on a major holiday, you probably have never seen the kind of crowds the Tokyo parks get on weekends or during busy season. If you visit when it’s busier, you will wait in long lines for everything, including to get into the park. The second assumption is for the ease of writing this guide. I would say that over half of the year there is some sort of seasonal event going on at Tokyo DisneySea, and most of them have some entertainment worth seeing. Plan to pencil this into your schedule as time permits.
If budget is no issue, you’re going to want to stay at Hotel MiraCosta for your 1-day in Tokyo DisneySea. It is the only hotel in the world that is located–get this–inside of a Disney theme park. Just as importantly, staying here (or any of the three Disney hotels) gives you the “Happy 15” perk, which is 15 minutes of early entry into the park. You might scoff at only 15 minutes of early entry, but don’t underestimate its importance. If the MiraCosta is out of your budget, we recommend the Hilton Tokyo Bay (read our hotel review), which is an official partner hotel, and located on the monorail loop. Make sure to book it early or check rates regularly, as prices fluctuate.
Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, eat breakfast, and then get started on your day…
Arrive Early – If you’re staying at the MiraCosta, you’ll want to arrive at the special entrance at least 30 minutes before official park opening. If you’re staying at the Hilton Tokyo Bay or another non-Disney hotel, you will want to arrive even earlier than that. In an ideal world, you’d arrive to the turnstiles at least an hour before park opening…and you still won’t even be at the front of the line!
Skip Toy Story Mania – Toy Story Mania is the single most popular attraction in all of Tokyo Disney Resort, and there is a mad dash for it once the turnstiles open. Seriously, it’s like the running of the bulls, if all the bulls were super polite. It builds long lines, both for standby and for FastPass (distribution) immediately, and is just not worth it. Yes, the queue is cooler than both US versions, but otherwise, it’s the exact same attraction as is found in the US. Skipping this frees up a lot of time elsewhere.
Tower of Terror FastPasses – Instead, head in the same direction as the throngs of people going to Toy Story Mania, and instead get Tower of Terror FastPasses. This is not the same version of the attraction that’s found in the US parks, and you’ll absolutely want to do it. Actually, the best strategy here is to send the fastest person in your party here for FastPasses while the rest of the group heads the other direction, preparing to line-up for Journey to the Center of the Earth while the runner crisscrosses the park more efficiently. Literally every minute matters. There’s no stopping to smell the roses right now.
Ride Journey to the Center of the Earth – One of Disney’s best queues anywhere leads to a hybrid dark ride and thrill ride that is inside Mount Prometheus, Journey to the Center of the Earth is Tokyo DisneySea’s flagship attraction. If you anticipate wanting to do this twice, just skip the Tower of Terror FastPass and head straight here, getting a FastPass, then getting in line. (You’ll then need to find a time to get a Tower of Terror FastPass later.)
Ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – This will have a short line and readily available FastPasses later in the evening, so if its line is already long, skip it. If it’s 15 minutes or less, do it now.
Ride Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull – This is similar to the Indiana Jones Adventure attraction in Disneyland, but different-enough that you will want to do it. We highly recommend doing it via the Single Rider line, as it’s almost unused by Japanese guests, and is the difference between a virtual walk-on and a long wait. If you’re unwilling to do Single Rider, you need to either skip 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and do it via standby after Journey to the Center of the Earth, or have this be your second FastPass after Tower of Terror.
Strategic Snacking – At this point, the instant you become remotely hungry, you need to start grabbing snacks. Popcorn, Gyoza Bun, and Eukiwa Buns are the most popular snacks in Tokyo DisneySea, in our experience, and long lines can develop for each of them. Tokyo’s popcorn has garnered worldwide attention among Disney fans in recent years, but we aren’t fans. You should still try at least one flavor to see for yourself. Read our Awesome Tokyo DisneySea Snacks post to get an idea of what other snacks you might want to try throughout the day.
Big Band Beat Lottery – Due to its popularity, Big Band Beat utilizes a (free) lottery system for seating. Go to the lottery drawing location on the way to using your Tower of Terror FastPass, and pick an afternoon showtime for Big Band Beat. If you win, awesome. If you don’t, consider jumping in the standby line for the first show about 20-30 minutes before it starts.
FastPass Time – At this point you’ll probably be able to use your Tower of Terror FastPass and get another FastPass. Do these things plus Big Band Beat as necessary before lunch. We’d probably just grab another Tower of Terror FastPass or Journey to the Center of the Earth FastPass, depending upon which is more convenient and/or desired. You’re on your own in terms of FastPasses for the rest of this plan.
Vulcania Lunch – The alternative to this would be lunch at Magellan’s, Tokyo DisneySea’s flagship table service restaurant and the most gorgeous Disney restaurant in the world, but given that you have only a single day, we think doing two awesome counter service restaurants plus snacking is a better use of your time. You’ll get to see inside Magellan’s later in this plan, anyway. This counter service restaurant is unlike anything you will see anywhere else in the world.
Afternoon Shows – Along with Big Band Beat, there are two shows you’ll want to see: Mystic Rhythms and A Table is Waiting. Prioritize Mystic Rhythms after Big Band Beat. A Table is Waiting is goofy fun, but not essential if you’re feeling crunched for time.
Explore American Waterfront – There are layers upon layers of detail in American Waterfront, and although this land is prettier at night, the details are easier to ascertain during the daytime hours.
Tokyo DisneySea Bar-Hop – No, this isn’t an itinerary for lushes, and no, it’s not a waste of time to visit bars if you only have a day in Tokyo DisneySea. This two-stop bar-hop is here because it’s tricky to predict precisely when you’ll see each of the shows and because these bars are something to behold. This bar-hop consists of the Teddy Roosevelt Lounge, a masculine bar themed to the exploits of the former US president, and Magellan’s Lounge, a bar on the upper level of the stunning S.E.A. table service restaurant. Make these stops even if you only order Coke–these places are worth seeing. Make these stops quick!
Fortress Explorations – You haven’t experienced a Disney “play area” until you’ve done Fortress Explorations. Calling it a play area is actually a bit insulting to it.
Venetian Gondolas Sunset Cruise – In terms of wait times, the Venetian Gondolas are a much better option early in the day, right after all of the headliners. However, nothing beats a gondola ride at sunset with views of the sky aglow behind Mount Prometheus, returning right as the popcorn lights of the Venice section of Mediterranean Harbor light up against the deep blue dusk sky. Pure perfection. From here, enjoy a dusk walk across the park as it starts to light up. (You may have to move this up in the itinerary depending upon the time of sunset when you visit.)
The Awesomest Arabian Coast Experience – Once you arrive on the other side of the park, you’re in for another treat…a Chandu Tail! Start at Sultan’s Oasis by ordering a Chandu Tail, along with any other snacks you might want. Then, head to Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage, one of the highlights of modern Disney Imagineering (repeat as many times as necessary, and don’t feel guilty for eating Chandu’s tail!). Move on to dinner at Casbah Food Court. Then head on to the gorgeous, double-decker Caravan Carousel. Finally, explore the corridors, nooks, and crannies of the Arabian Coast at night.
Port Discovery – Lines for StormRider and Aquatopia should be shorter now, and Aquatopia is better experienced at night, anyway. Do these if you have some breathing room in terms of time.
Railway to the Waterfront – Take the DisneySea Electric Railway from Port Discovery to American Waterfront, checking out Toyville Trolley Park at night once you get there. Also spend some time exploring the beautifully-detailed land if time allows, and if you didn’t do so earlier.
Time Enough at Last – If you’ve done everything else with efficiency and the park hasn’t been too crowded, you might have some free time here. You have a few options, from heading back to Lost River Delta to wandering by the outside of Mermaid Lagoon to Fantasmic or seasonal entertainment in Mediterranean Harbor. We like Fantasmic, but in a single day, you might be better off spending the night hours soaking up other lands.
Closing Mysterious Island – This is the most iconic land in Tokyo DisneySea, and although you saw it earlier in the plan, there’s something about wandering through it late at night as the park empties. The background noises are especially ominous, Mount Prometheus’ eruptions are especially chilling, and everything just feels more…mysterious.
Some of these things are going to have to be cut or contracted depending upon how much time other things take, but if you’re able to do even two-thirds of the things on the Daily Trip Blueprint, you have knocked out a good chunk of Tokyo DisneySea’s highlights. You will notice there are some big name attractions and entire areas missing (you never step food in Mermaid Lagoon!) but that’s going to happen on a 1-day visit. You’ll have a great time, regardless, if you follow this itinerary. That’s our DTB by DTB.com Guarantee! (Please note that this guarantee has no cash value and is not offered to residents of any state except Wyoming. Also note that any day you are in Tokyo DisneySea should be amazing, so if you don’t have a great time, it’s your own fault! ;))
If you’re visiting Japan for the first time and are overwhelmed with planning, definitely check out our Tokyo Disney Resort Planning Guide. It covers much more than the parks, from getting there to WiFi to currency and much, much more. For more photos and an idea of what we did day-by-day during our first visit, read our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report.
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What would you include in your ideal day in Tokyo DisneySea? If you haven’t visited Tokyo DisneySea yet, what do you plan on doing? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments!