Race for Tomorrow(land): Head to Tomorrowland to either grab a FastPass for Space Mountain, or to do Space Mountain or–and this is our recommendation–both.
Regardless of whether it’s the classic Space Mountain, Ghost Galaxy at Halloween, or Hyperspace Mountain to promote all things Star Wars, Space Mountain is a blast.
Matterhorn Mornings: Continue the thrill-ride fun by heading over to the edge of Fantasyland and riding the Matterhorn. The peeks you see of Disneyland while racing around on your bobsled as the morning light illuminates the park will start your day out right.
If the line is already over 30 minutes for the Matterhorn, skip it. The ride does have FastPass and MaxPass now, and waiting that long for Matterhorn is going to cause you to wait longer at the next attraction.
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage: Two words: outdoor queue. Not only is this unthemed, outdoor queue unpleasant during the middle of the day when the sun is overhead, but it’s unthemed and the attraction loads incredibly slowly, making this really unpleasant later in the day.
Guest reaction to this attraction is a bit mixed, but we love the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It takes guests aboard actual submarines to get under Tomorowland’s mermaid lagoon. It’s a relatively long attraction with some pretty scenes and fun detail.
With that popularity comes lines that rival some of the park’s biggest rides. There are two lines for this stand, and the one inside the Tiki Room waiting area is almost always shorter.
Magic Mountain(s) – Not the Six Flags version north of Los Angeles, but two-thirds of Disneyland’s “mountain range.” Even though you might’ve already done Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain the previous evening, consider doing them again.
The experiences are very different during the day, and it’s still early enough that you should be able to beat the crowds back to Frontierland and Critter Country. (Depending upon the season.)
Lunch: Carnation Cafe – Our favorite restaurant in Disneyland for an inexpensive, table service meal. We love Carnation Cafe both for its menu and the quaint charm it exudes. It’s hard to describe, but it feels like what you’d expect of a Walt-era restaurant at Disneyland.
We really like the outdoor seating area, and the Sourdough Bacon-Cheese Melt is my favorite thing on the menu. The Meatloaf is shockingly good, too. Also, the Classic Malts are delicious.
Return to Tomorrow(land) – Early afternoon is a good time to hit other Tomorrowland attractions that you’ve missed, including Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, and Jedi Training Academy.
Skip Star Wars Launch Bay unless your kids are huge fans and really want to meet the characters. Otherwise, it’s nothing substantive.
Disneyland Classics: Take Two – As with the first day’s “Relaxing Disneyland Originals” section, post-lunch is the perfect time to do classic Disneyland attractions that either are high capacity or are less popular than “sexy” thrill rides. Attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are certainly worth revisiting, and you should likewise do any classic rides or shows you missed on day one.
Late afternoon is also a great time of day to do ‘it’s a small world.’ The sun is low in the sky, making the open-air outdoor queue more pleasant, and the clean white facade really shines against the crisp blue sky.
Mickey and the Magical Map – Depending upon how much spare time you have, and your fondness for stage shows, you might consider seeing a late afternoon showing of Mickey and the Magical Map. If you have young children, this is a must-do.
If you don’t have kids, it’s definitely skippable. It’s something we rarely see, and if you told me today I could never see it again in my life, I’d probably just shrug. It has a couple of good musical numbers, but this show isn’t the reason anyone is taking a trip to Disneyland.
Sleeping Beauty Sunset – The best time for photos at Disneyland is sunset. The best spot for these sunset photos is Snow White Grotto, on the right side of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Not only can you get photos of the castle and grotto, but also the Wishing Well and Fantasyland by peaking through the castle archway.
After this, head to Tomorrowland. The two best options for stunning sunset and dusk photos are the monorail platform (go up through the exit) and second floor of Star Wars Launch Bay. Both of these locations will offer panoramic views of Tomorrowland and beyond.
Dinner: Plaza Inn – The fried chicken at Plaza Inn (read our full review) is the stuff dreams are made of. To quote Kramer, “I need that chicken, I gotta have that chicken, you leave those roasters alone, Kenny never hurt anybody.” (Just pretend that Plaza Inn is managed by a dude named Kenny.)
If you had a big lunch and another hearty meal is too much, stop at Disneyland’sBeauty and the Beast restuarant, Red Rose Taverne (read our full Red Rose Taverne Review for what we recommend ordering). The food is pretty good and there’s something for everything. We recommend dining in the outdoor seating area to enjoy the ambiance of Fantasyland.
Fantasyland Cleanup – Depending upon when you visit, you may have anywhere from no time after the fireworks (in which case, move this forward) to 2 full hours. Time allowing, plan to do some attractions in Fantasyland both before and after Fantasmic and the fireworks.
From the beginning of the first day until the very end of the second day, it’s taken us a while to come full circle on Fantasyland. However, the end of the night is the second-best time to hit Fantasyland attractions, and the first night was better spent on Disneyland’s stellar night rides.
Hopefully, you only have a handful of attractions left to do this evening. Perhaps Mad Tea Party and Pinocchio? Even if you already did them the first morning, Casey Jr. and Storybook Land Canal Boats could be worth revisiting at night. They’re relaxing, whimsical ways to ‘put a cherry’ on top of your visit to Disneyland, so to speak. (Alternatively, we’re not averse to racing to Adventureland for one last ride on Indiana Jones Adventure, if that’s more your style.)
Nighttime Spectacular: Fantasmic & Fireworks – Fantasmic is Disneyland’s best nighttime entertainment, far superior to its Florida cousin. You’ll want to grab a FastPass earlier in the day for this, and then head to the Rivers of America about 30 minutes before showtime, where you’ll prepare yourself to enter Mickey Mouse’s imagination.
As the masses slowly leave after Fantasmic, start edging your way closer to the waterfront. Trying to run with the bulls (more like inch with the sloths given the pace) and exit as everyone else does is frustrating, so waiting here to watch Disneyland’s fireworks is your best option. Plus, there are projections on the Rivers of America, so it’s actually a pretty good spot.
After the fireworks end, you’ll either continue crossing Fantasyland attractions off your list, revisit some nighttime favorites or, if it’s closing time, slowly make your way towards the exit. Hopefully with a smile on your face, having enjoyed a relaxed-but-fulfilling two days at Disneyland.
Nightcap: Trader Sam’s – If you just haven’t had enough, head 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. Even if you’re not a drinker, it’s a blast.
Plus, it’s a great place to do so more eating…you know, if you weren’t already waddling from all the eating “demanded” of you in this Disneyland itinerary! The convenient location of both Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s are why we consider Disneyland Hotel an ideal location for a Disneyland vacation.
Disneyland veterans: what do you think of our 2-day itinerary? Do you agree or disagree with our approach? Any attractions, restaurants, or other things you’d emphasize? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!