Our 1-day Tokyo Disneyland touring plan covers our ideal day in the park with attractions ordered to minimize time in line and maximize efficiency. To that end, these are the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, the shows we’d see, and the details we’d try to enjoy. (Last updated August 13, 2018.)
This post continues our series of 1-day park itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” Note that in our Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Planning Guide we recommend 2 days at Tokyo Disneyland if you have the time, and the park has a really impressive attraction slate (and often, long lines), so you necessarily will have to skip some things if you only have one day. If you’re visiting Tokyo DisneySea, check out our 1-Day Tokyo DisneySea itinerary.
This Tokyo Disneyland 1-day itinerary focuses on doing as much in a single day at Tokyo Disneyland as possible, which includes both attractions and enjoying atmosphere. If you follow this guide, you won’t do every single attraction in the park. This guide prioritizes efficiency, but still allows time to slow down and experience the little details that set Tokyo Disneyland apart from the other Disneyland style parks found throughout the world. Even though it’s a “greatest hits” park to a degree, it’s really so much more than that.
I have described Tokyo Disneyland as a “Bizarro Magic Kingdom” and this applies to attractions, too. If you only have 1 day, your time is best spent doing original attractions that are unique to Tokyo Disneyland. For that reason, view the following as skippable if you are crunched for time: Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Dumbo, Alice’s Tea Party, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Adventures, plus Pirates of the Caribbean and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin if you’ve been to Disneyland. While doing these can be fun, they should be the first thing to skip if you’re in a time crunch. You can see the full attraction lineup in our Tokyo Disneyland Attraction Guide post.
This Tokyo Disneyland 1-Day Guide assumes you’re visiting during a weekday at a moderately-crowded time of year. Unless you’ve been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland on New Year’s Eve or some other 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. Read our When to Visit Tokyo Disneylandpost to prevent yourself from having these issues.
The second assumption is that there is no seasonal entertainment during your visit (which is a poor assumption–but it’s an assumption I’m making for the sake of making this easier to write). All of the seasonal entertainment we have seen at Tokyo Disneyland is well done, so plan to pencil this into your schedule as time permits. We’re also going to assume intelligent and efficient use of the FastPass system. This means getting a FastPass as soon as you’re eligible, and using them accordingly. Since windows for FastPasses will vary, most of the time we gloss over FastPass utilization, with a few exceptions.
If budget is no issue, you’re going to want to stay at Tokyo Disneyland Hotel for your 1-day in Tokyo Disneyland. It is located a short walk from Tokyo Disneyland, and some rooms have views into the park. 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. If it doesn’t fit within your budget, try the Hilton Tokyo Bay (read our hotel review), which is located on the monorail loop.
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 Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, plan to arrive at the Happy 15 entrance 30 minutes before official park opening. If you’re staying at a non-Disney hotel, you will want to arrive even earlier than that because the regular turnstile lines will be even longer than the Happy 15 line.
On busy days, we try to arrive an hour before park opening (even if you get there that early, you’ll still find other people in front of you in line.
Monsters & Pooh/Pan Dash – The unassailable strategy for first thing in the morning is running to Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek (use the shortcut through World Bazaar into Tomorrowland on the right) to get FastPasses and then racing to Fantasyland.
Start by checking the wait at Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. With Peter Pan’s Flight now drawing longer lines (and not having FastPass), doing it first if Pooh’s line exceeds 30 minutes is a good idea. Pooh typically has a short line the last hour that the park is open, whereas Peter Pan’s Flight does not die down to the same degree.
Must-Do Headliners – Other attractions that you’ll want to find time to do include Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, plus Pirates of the Caribbean and Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin if you haven’t done the Disneyland versions. You’ll want to get a FastPass for the first two on that list (Haunted Mansion is usually the last attraction to run out of FastPass), and if you’re going to do it, do Car Toon Spin early, as it’s popular and doesn’t have FastPass. Hitting that right after Hunny Hunt isn’t a bad idea.
Get Another Monsters FastPass – Depending upon how busy of a day it is, you should be able to get another Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek FastPass for your second or third FastPass. The line for this attraction will never get short (unlike Hunny Hunt), so if you plan to do it more than once, you’ll want a second FastPass.
Nighttime Show Lottery – Depending upon crowds, the various entertainment spectaculars might utilize a free lottery system for preferred seating. Starting in Summer 2018 for the new entertainment, there are four things with lotteries, and you should play them all.
Go to the lottery drawing location in Tomorrowland when redeeming your Monsters FastPass or getting another FastPass for Space Mountain. The only show we don’t necessarily recommend seeing is One Man’s Dream II, unless you’re really into characters. (Unrelated, but another Tomorrowland show we recommend skipping is Stitch Encounter–you won’t understand it at all unless you speak Japanese.)
Splash Mountain Single Rider – Although Splash Mountain is similar to its US cousins, we still highly recommend doing it in Tokyo Disneyland. Critter Country at Tokyo Disneyland was built specifically for Splash Mountain, and the level of detail in this entire area–including in the queue and on the ride itself–is unparalleled. The other reason we recommend doing it is because there’s a Single Rider line that is relatively unpopular, meaning you can wait about 5-10 minutes for this attraction, even when the posted wait time exceeds 2 hours.
Dine at Grandma Sara’s – Did you know that Grandma Sara (who is actually an opossum that looks a little too young to be a grandma) has a kitchen in Tokyo Disneyland? Well, she does, and her kitchen is spectacular. More important than the solid comfort food is that the theming in here is first-rate. Actually, the design is the main draw, with the food being pretty good, too. Go here for an early lunch, as this place gets busy at lunchtime. (“Rope dropping” Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall, mentioned below, might be a good alternative.)
Afternoon Shows – When crowds are at their peak in the middle of the afternoon, consider watching one of the park’s less popular shows: Country Bear Jamboree and/or The Enchanted Tiki Room: Stitch Presents “Aloha E Komo Mai!”
The latter is a bit divisive (I like it), while the former is undeniably awesome. If you’re visiting between summer and Christmas, note that you’ll get a seasonal version of Country Bear Jamboree, which is basically like winning the lottery.
Dreaming Up Parade – We really don’t have a ton of attraction recommendations, which may cause you to wonder why Tokyo Disneyland will take so much time: it’s the entertainment. There are (at least) 2 must-see parades, plus other shows and entertainment, all of which eats big chunks of the day.
Dreaming Up is the new parade for Tokyo Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary, and it’s incredibly popular, so you’ll want to grab a spot ~30 minutes before parade time. Consult our Dreaming Up Review & Tips post for recommended viewing locations.
Dinner with the Queen – So I’m putting the next two items right next to one another, even though they probably won’t work out to be that way unless you’re a pig like we are. You either want to do an early dinner at Queen of Hearts Banquet Hall and snacking throughout the rest of the night, or snacking all afternoon and a late dinner.
Strategic Snacking – There are some mega E-Ticket attractions at Tokyo Disneyland that you won’t find on any map, and these are the snacks. From the highly-touted popcorn to Tipo Torta (think churros, except actually awesome) to Toy Story Alien Mochi to Squeezers mango drinks to the seafood pizza at Captain Hook’s Galley to the pizza (and bizarrely-awesome show) at Pan Galactic Pizza Port, Tokyo Disneyland has some amazing snack options.
Ambiance on the Rivers of America – Right around sunset, consider doing the Rivers of America Trifecta: Beaver Brothers Explorer Canoes, Western River Railroad, and Mark Twain Riverboat–in that order. The canoes are great with the late afternoon light in your face, Wester River Railroad is stunning at dusk, and by the time you get to the Mark Twain Riverboat, it should be dark.
Every truly patriotic person enjoys a good nighttime cruise aboard the Mark Twain. In fact, I believe Mark Twain said this about nighttime cruises on his namesake ship: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Sage words, Mr. Twain.
Let’s Party Gras – This show debuted in Summer 2018 for the 35th Anniversary Happiest Celebration, and has been hugely popular since. If you’re unable to get seats via lottery, your best bet is watching one of the early-evening shows before the fireworks and Dreamlights.
In this show, the Three Caballeros, Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy and other friends put on a fun and lively show inspired by a festive Mardi Gras carnival. It’s a high-energy spectacle with some humorous moments and vibrant costumes–we highly recommend seeing it.
Nighttime Spectaculars – You’ll want to get good spots for both the Cinderella Castle projection show (currently ‘Celebrate! Tokyo Disneyland) and Dreamlights. Other guests will stake out spots early, but the good news here is that guests in the front “rows” are required to sit and there are no kids on shoulders (it’s prohibited–and enforced), so you’ll be able to see over other guests.
Because of this, you shouldn’t have an issue getting spots 30 minutes before showtime with good visibility. You could theoretically get one spot for both, but with the way they are usually spaced apart during the course of the night, I don’t recommend this.
Currently, ‘Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland’ is being shown twice nightly. While the second show is far less crowded, it also interferes with the best time to do attractions with minimal waits. As such, we recommend seeing the first showing of ‘Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland.’
Rumble in the Jungle – After Jungle Cruise was reimagined, it was incredibly popular. On our recent trip, we discovered that’s no longer the case. It is different at night, so you’ll want to hit it then (should be close to a walk-on), followed by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (10-20 minute wait).
From there, race over to Pooh’s Hunny Hunt for (hopefully) a second ride on that. Depending upon crowds, you might be able to do it twice, as it’s often a 5-minute wait at the end of the night. Walk out towards Tomorrowland, where the dances lights on Space Mountain and the future is a desolate place.
Slow Stroll Through World Bazaar – World Bazaar closes roughly 30 minutes after park closing, but I would not plan on shopping during that hour. The stores are chaotic, with guests rushing to buy trinkets or cutely-boxed foods for friends and family who didn’t accompany them on the trip. Instead, slowly make your way out, noting the differences between World Bazaar and Main Street. Look at the windows, which honor Imagineers, Disney executives, and Oriental Land Company executives.
Some of these things are going to have to be cut depending upon how much time other things take, but if you’re able to do even half of the things on this 1-Day Tokyo Disneyland Plan, you have knocked out a good chunk of the park’s highlights. Regardless, you’ll have a great time if you follow this itinerary.
If you’re thinking of 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.
What would you include in your ideal day in Tokyo Disneyland? Does your ideal day or strategy differ at all from what we’ve shared in this touring plan? If you haven’t visited Tokyo Disneyland yet, what do you plan on doing? Any questions? Share your questions and thoughts in the comments!