1-Day Disneyland Itinerary

Our 1-day Disneyland touring plan offers a step-by-step itinerary to efficiently do shows, rides, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 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 November 1, 2022.)

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 is the revised Late 2022 Disneyland itinerary we’ve devised as a result, including rope drop priority and how to hit the highlights of the holiday season.

To those points, there are a couple of other resources you should consult if you’re visiting Disneyland in the next two months. First, our Ultimate Guide to Christmas 2022 at Disneyland. While this itinerary incorporates a couple of the highlights, you really should read that for a comprehensive look at everything Disneyland does for Christmas.

Second, our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disneyland & DCA. If you’re visiting this holiday season, that means you are–more than likely–visiting on some of the busiest days of the year at Disneyland. While this itinerary will be helpful in beating the crowds, you really want might to consider paid FastPass to reduce your wait times significantly. (If so, consult our 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary w/ Genie+ Lightning Lanes.)

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 2022-2023 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.

For added convenience, we also recommend staying at Disneyland Hotel or Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel for your visit. Staying at one of these hotels puts you in a good position to utilize Early Entry to do more. If these hotels are outside of your budget, check out our Disneyland Area Hotel Reviews & Rankings for more on the pros and cons of each hotel near Disneyland–many are actually closer to the parks than Disneyland Hotel!

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, but only if you’re towards the front of the pack. If not, skip it. Next, do Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, followed by Alice in Wonderland. Our other must-dos here for the morning are Dumbo, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Mad Tea Party (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.

Haunted Mansion Holiday – An attraction that happens when two holidays collide, Haunted Mansion Holiday has been running at Disneyland for the last 20+ years. While it is divisive with some Disneyland purists, it is incredibly popular during the holidays, and most guests love it.

Around late afternoon and dinner-time, Haunted Mansion Holiday draws its longest waits of the day. While we recommend doing it earlier to avoid crowds, make sure to return to the area at night, because it’s lit up beautifully.

Rumble in the Jungle – At this point, you can either go deeper and deeper into the jungle or the frontier.

Given the time of year, our recommendation is to knock out Indiana Jones Adventure followed by Jungle Cruise. Both should still have relatively short waits at this relatively early hour.

Head West – At that point, bounce to the Frontierland, which should still be relatively quiet.

Start with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, then do Splash Mountain, followed by the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. At this point, wait times are likely starting to get longer, consider backtracking to Main Street for a snack. Or, you can head to the nearby Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for a Ronto Wrap if you’re trying to minimize your steps!

matterhorn-macaroon

Morning Snack: Matterhorn Macaroon – With Fantasyland and more mostly crossed off your list, it’s time to slow down and have 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. After that, it’s time for the third big attraction in New Orleans Square: food!

Mealtime in New Orleans – Three of our absolute favorite Disneyland restaurants are in New Orleans Square. Our top recommendation is Blue Bayou, Disneyland’s most popular restaurant due to its location along the water in Pirates of the Caribbean. If it’s your first visit to Disneyland, Blue Bayou is a must-do rite of passage restaurant.

Other alternatives are Cafe Orleans (read our full review) is a table service option, whereas French Market (read our full review) is counter service. Both offer good value for money, and nice open-air outdoor seating. You can’t go wrong either way, but if you’re short on time, pick French Market.

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.

Twilight in Tomorrowland: Head to Tomorrowland and enjoy the atmosphere as day transitions to night.

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.

A Christmas Fantasy – Unlike Walt Disney World, seasonal entertainment is included with the regular price of admission at Disneyland.

The holiday highlight is ‘A Christmas Fantasy’ Parade, which has two daily performances. 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 Christmas 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) looking back at the Christmas tree. Be sure to grab a spot at least 30 to 45 minutes in advance of the performance time.

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!)

We have a full list of the 10 Best Disneyland Attractions at Night, in case you have time for more than these–or want alternatives.

Outer Space: Shorter Waits at Night – 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.

This roller coaster through outer space is very popular, and also has the Hyperspace Mountain (Star Wars-themed) version depending upon when you visit. This plan does not change based upon the version you’re seeing.

Blast Off to Batuu – We recommend doing everything in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at night rather than first thing in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, crowds are actually worst in the morning and get progressively better as the day wears on. (Just keep in mind that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance usually stops running early–get to it shortly before it closes for the day.)

Second, because Star Wars Land is simply better at night. 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 sure to do Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, visit Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, and have dinner at Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo. From the area in front of the Millennium Falcon, you’ll have a perfect view of Disneyland’s fireworks.

If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition.

Fantasmic! – After leaving Star Wars Land, 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. While you can watch the fireworks from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the best practice is to arrive to the Rivers of America about 10 minutes before the fireworks start 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.

Better at Night: Part 2 – If you made the smart choice and opted to watch “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade at dusk, you’ll still have a few ‘better at night’ attractions to experience.

In addition to the ones we mentioned above, you’ll also want to at least see the exteriors of Haunted Mansion Holiday and “it’s a small world” holiday if you’re visiting for Christmas at Disneyland, which runs through January 8, 2023. In addition to those, you should have time to knock out another attraction or two, or simply enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Disneyland during the holiday season.

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.

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! ;))

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!

Your Thoughts

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!

94 Responses to “1-Day Disneyland Itinerary”
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