Our 1-day Disneyland touring plan offers a step-by-step itinerary to efficiently do shows, rides, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and everything new for Disney100. We list restaurants at which we’d dine, things we’d do, and the metaphorical roses we would stop to smell. Essentially, this is our perfect day in California’s castle park. (Updated March 5, 2023.)
This single day Disneyland itinerary has been overhauled several times in the last year, taking into account the ever-evolving entertainment options, addition of Early Entry, Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, elevated crowds, and more. Suffice to say, a lot has changed at Disneyland since the park reopened over a year ago, both from a substantive and strategy perspective.
We visit Disneyland regularly “for the sake of research,” monitoring wait times, testing plans, and fine-tuning our strategy. This Spring 2023 Disneyland itinerary takes into account everything we’ve learned, including when to do Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway via standby, where to watch Wondrous Journeys fireworks, rope drop priority, and how to hit the highlights…
To those points, there are a couple of other resources you should consult if you’re visiting Disneyland in 2023. First, our Guide to Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland for everything you need to know about that. While this itinerary incorporates all of the highlights, you really should read that for a comprehensive look at everything Disneyland is doing for Disney100.
Even with savvy strategy and Lightning Lanes, it’s difficult to do everything at Disneyland in a single day. This plan will help you experience as much as possible, but probably not everything. For our ride ratings and reviews of every attraction, read our comprehensive Best Disneyland Attractions & Ride Guide post. For comprehensive planning assistance covering everything from where to purchase discount tickets to dining and more, read our 2023 Disneyland Resort Vacation Planning Guide.
What we are providing is a rough blueprint of our favorite things to do in an ideal day at Disneyland and when you should do them for the ‘best experience.’ In so doing, we strive to balance a pleasant day in the park with efficiency, rather than just racing from attraction to attraction.
Once you wake up from wherever it is that you are sleeping, here’s what to do…
Rope Drop Arrival – If you can, we recommend arriving at Disneyland’s security checkpoints about 45 minutes before official park opening time or earlier during peak seasons.
As covered in Disneyland Park Opening & Rope Drop Tips, Disneyland’s turnstiles typically open 30-45 minutes before park opening, at which time guests are allowed onto Main Street. We recommend heading immediately for the Central Plaza, in front of the Partners statue of Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse.
Early Morning Attractions: Fantasyland – We always feel a sense of accomplishment by starting the morning in Fantasyland, because there are so many short attractions here within close proximity to one another that can be done quickly. It’s also a good way to avoid this area in the middle of the day, when it’s chaotic.
We highly recommend starting with Peter Pan’s Flight. Next, do Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, followed by Alice in Wonderland. Our other recommendations here for the morning are Dumbo, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, and Storybook Land Canal Boats (in that order). You should be able to hit 75%+ of the attractions in Fantasyland in the first hour the park is open if you are efficient.
Rise & Shine – Since Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened and switched to a standby line, we’ve observed an interesting dynamic emerge: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance isn’t as high of a priority for many guests. There’s stuff the rope drop rush to the Galaxy’s Edge headliner, but there’s now a slight lull most days after that initial rush.
As such, our tentative recommendation for Spring 2023 is doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance about 1 hour after park opening. As the “new ride smell” wears off Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, this will almost certainly change. It could also change with crowd levels. Still, it’s our advice for now to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance early in the day–but not first thing. (It’s a different story if you’re eligible for Early Entry, in which case you can knock out most of Fantasyland and then be at the front of the pack in the rope drop rush to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.)
While you’re in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it might also make sense to do Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run if the wait time is manageable (30 minutes or less). You can also stop for a snack if you’d like a more leisurely morning–the Ronto Wraps are highly recommended.
Head West – At that point, exit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge directly into Frontierland, which should still be relatively quiet.
If you took the correct path, you should be near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad–start by doing that. From there, it’s a “choose your own adventure” kind of dynamic.
Rumble in the Jungle – At this point, you can either continue in the frontier or go deeper and deeper into the jungle.
Our recommendation is to knock out Indiana Jones Adventure followed by Jungle Cruise. Both should still have short waits at this relatively early hour.
Morning Intermission: Matterhorn Macaroon – Once you have a good number of attractions knocked out, consider slowing down and having a snack break. A big part of our days in Disneyland involves eating!
Head down to Jolly Holiday Bakery at the edge of Main Street and get these delicious Disneyland originals. Consult our Top 10 Delicious Disneyland Desserts for other sweet treats to try.
Late Morning Attractions: The Disneyland Classics – This is a good time for lower profile rides that have posted wait times under 30 minutes. What you do really depends on where you are in the park…and posted wait times in the Disneyland app.
One thing we’d recommend doing is rounding out your morning with one of Disneyland’s flagship attractions located in New Orleans Square: Pirates of the Caribbean. You can also hit nearby Splash Mountain and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–or wait until later for them. After that, it’s time for the third big attraction in New Orleans Square: food!
Another alternative is Cafe Orleans, which is a cheaper table service option. This offers good value for money, and nice open-air outdoor seating. It also features a few of the same iconic entrees (in particular, the Monte Cristo) that’s beloved at Blue Bayou.
After you’re done eating (our while waiting on your table), take a few minutes to explore the nooks, crannies, and shops of New Orleans Square, one of Disney’s best theme park lands anywhere.
Afternoon Attractions: Relaxing Disney Originals – The middle of the afternoon is when Disneyland sees its longest lines, making this a great time to enjoy some of the gems of Disneyland that go unnoticed by most guests while waiting for Soundsational, the afternoon parade. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the adjacent Disney Gallery, the Disneyland Railroad, the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through, Mark Twain Riverboat, and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room are all recommended.
Other options include Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, Tom Sawyer Island, and Sailing Ship Columbia. You won’t have time to do all of these originals, so plan on picking an assortment that are most appealing to you.
Magic Happens Parade – Disneyland’s new parade is Magic Happens, which is currently performed once during the daytime and once in the early evening. (For now–this will likely change to two daytime performances once the sun starts setting later.)
The daytime one tends to be slightly less busy, but waiting in the sun can be brutal. Plus, it’s simply not as much fun without the floats and lights fully illuminated. As such, we recommend seeing the second parade, which is best viewed from the end of Main Street (closer to Sleeping Beauty Castle). Be sure to grab a spot at least 30 to 45 minutes in advance of the performance time. For lower crowds and less lead-time, catch it back by “it’s a small world.”
Homestyle Dinner – If you haven’t already eaten, you have a few options for dinner. The first is waiting until you visit Tomorrowland (the next stop). This is the worst possible option, and is to be avoided at all costs.
The second is heading back to Main Street early, and grabbing food at Plaza Inn (home of Disneyland’s glorious fried chicken and our recommended restaurant) or Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe. Nearby both are Refreshment Corner and Little Red Wagon, in case anyone in your party would prefer some form of corn or hot dogs.
You can even multi-task, getting on-the-go meals from Jolly Holiday, Refreshment Corner, or Little Red Wagon before you stake out Magic Happens parade spots. (Don’t try this with Plaza Inn–it’s not conducive to carry out.)
Twilight in Tomorrowland: Head to Tomorrowland and enjoy the early evening atmosphere.
While you’re in Tomorrowland, knock out the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. Not only will the waits be shorter, but the sun should be lower and make the waits more bearable. If the wait time isn’t too long for Space Mountain, you should also do this now.
Evening Alternative: Ride Rerides – Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Matterhorn are the four attractions that we recommend doing at night for a superior experience. If you opt against watching ‘A Christmas Fantasy’ Parade, consider revisiting a couple of these. (Which is precisely why we recommended doing 3 of the 4 earlier in the itinerary!)
Wondrous Journeys – The new nighttime spectacular for Disney100 is Wondrous Journeys and it is…wondrous. Truly. Wondrous Journeys has been met with rave reviews from fans, and Disneyland diehards are going to turn out in full force to see the nighttime spectacular throughout 2023. Accordingly, expect Main Street to be jam-packed for Wondrous Journeys.
With that said, Wondrous Journeys has two versions: “with projections” and “with fireworks.” Both versions have projections, so really it’s with or without pyro. As a good rule of thumb, Wondrous Journeys is presented with fireworks Friday through Sunday nights, and on weekday evenings that are busier (e.g. Presidents’ Day, Spring Break, Easter, etc). Check out the Disneyland Entertainment Schedule or the Disneyland app for dates and showtimes.
Either way, we recommend watching Wondrous Journeys from Main Street as that’s the only spot to see the show in its entirety, with all details and effects present. It is much easier to snag a good spot (without camping out in advance) on “with projections” days, when you only need to arrive 15 minutes in advance. On “with fireworks” dates, arriving more like 30-45 minutes early is advisable, or even more if you want one of the absolute best spots. To that point, see our Disneyland Fireworks Viewing Guide for recommendations as to the best and worst spots for the show.
Fantasmic! – After Wondrous Journeys, head back to the Rivers of America for Fantasmic. This is the must-do of Disneyland entertainment, featuring live performers, Disney characters, mist screens, projections, and pyro. It’s also worth noting that you can arrive to the Rivers of America about 10 minutes before Wondrous Journeys starts and slip into a spot then, and watch the fireworks from here while waiting for Fantasmic.
Beyond that recommendation, strategy for Fantasmic is beyond the scope of this itinerary. Just be aware that the Rivers of America is chaotic and viewing is very competitive. As a result, consider purchasing the Hungry Bear On-the-Go Dining Package for Fantasmic or reading our Viewing Guide for Fantasmic at Disneyland. Whatever you do, don’t go into Fantasmic “cold.” You need to understand how viewing this works so you’re not overwhelmed by the crowds and chaos.
Note that some seasons of the year, the schedule for Fantasmic and fireworks might differ, with fewer nightly performances or no pyro. (The fireworks are also canceled frequently, due to even the mildest Santa Ana winds.) Be sure to consult a daily times guide to make sure these options are being shown during your visit.
Late Train to Runnamuck Park – While it might be tempting to run(away) to the newest headliner attraction at Disneyland to start your day, the better option is doing Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in the evening, after Toontown reopens following the fireworks.
Like most family-friendly attractions, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has shorter lines late at night. The other upside of waiting to do it is experiencing shorter lines in Fantasyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, as the newer Toontown ride pulls crowds away from those lands. At least, for now. (Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway has already demonstrated it doesn’t have the same long-term appeal as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Florida, so we’d bet that the “new ride smell” will wear off by summer, and we’ll have to update this itinerary again then.)
Blast Off to Batuu – If you don’t mind criss-crossing the park again, we recommend returning to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at night. The crowds get better and the land is simply better in the evening. The lighting adds a lot to the moody off-planet atmosphere, and makes the experience even more immersive.
While you’re in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, be do Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run if you didn’t earlier, visit Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, and simply wander around. Just keep in mind that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance usually stops running early–so if you missed it before, you’ll actually want to return earlier. Doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at around 7 to 8 pm is a good alternative to the first hour of the morning.
Park Closing Tranquility – If you still have time before Disneyland closes, use that to hit whichever attractions you missed, or perhaps return to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to finish up whatever you didn’t get to there before. Now is a good time for Space Mountain, which typically has one of the longest wait times in Disneyland. The standby line is also excruciatingly slow-moving due to the Lightning Lane.
Things like the Pixie Hollow water show, grabbing a seat under the popcorn lights on a Main Street porch, and wandering around in the neon of Tomorrowland can all be fun experiences. Also, keep in mind that the shops on Main Street are typically open an hour after park closing, making that the time to get your souvenir shopping done.
Nightcap: Trader Sam’s – End it all at the beginning, by the adults in your party heading to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland Hotel after Disneyland closes for drinks and uniquely Disney fun. Trader Sam’s is more fun than a barrel of drunken monkeys, and even if you’re not a drinker, the interactive and detailed Trader Sam’s is a great time.
Plus, it’s a great place to do so more eating…you know, if you weren’t already waddling from all the eating this itinerary calls for! The convenient location of both Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s are why we consider Disneyland Hotel an ideal location for a day at Disneyland.
If you’re able to do even 75% of the things on the Daily Trip Blueprint, you are pretty much assured of having an amazing day at Disneyland. 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 at Disneyland should be amazing, so if you don’t have a great time, it’s probably your own fault! ;))
What would you include in your ideal day at Disneyland? If you haven’t visited Disneyland yet, what do you plan on doing? Are the new attractions in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge among your must-dos? Think it’s worth the effort of scoring a boarding pass for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance? Do you agree or disagree with our step by step Disneyland itinerary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!