Our list of Lightning Lane ride rankings for Disney California Adventure covers how you should prioritize the 7 attractions that offer line skipping access. This offers recommendations for the paid FastPass and MaxPass replacement based upon a combination of time-saved and how quickly reservations fill up at DCA.
The goal of these DCA Genie+ rankings is to give you the tools and info you need to build your own itinerary with Genie+ at Disneyland Resort. Either for Disney California Adventure alone or in tandem with Disneyland as you Park Hop between the two.
Park Hopping to Disney California Adventure is likely going to be popular with a lot of Genie+ buyers, especially given DCA’s relatively low Genie+ ride count as compared to Disneyland. This presents something of a predicament, as how these rankings should be utilized depends upon whether you’re starting your day at DCA or Disneyland…
Before we get to that problem, let’s start with the basic purpose of this post. This is intended to supplement our Guide to Genie+ at Disneyland & California Adventure FAQfor all of the foundational need-to-know info about this paid FastPass replacement. Genie+ can be confusing and convoluted, but it’s a successor to MaxPass at Disneyland. So, it’s not totally untrodden territory…unless you’re new to Disneyland or never used MaxPass, in which case, it is!
These ride priorities are for Lightning Lanes via Genie+ and not Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL), which are pay-per-ride. At present, the two ILL attractions in Disney California Adventure are Radiator Springs Racers and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. We are not keen on buying a la carte front of line access, and would instead recommend doing one at park opening and the other shortly before closing. Single rider is also a great option for Radiator Springs Racers, except on weekends or evenings, when locals can clog it up.
If you’re beginning at Disney California Adventure, use the rankings intuitively, booking each Genie+ Lightning Lane selection in the order they’re presented below. You’ll have earlier return times this way, and can probably knock out all of the DCA Lightning Lanes before Park Hopping time rolls around.
Same goes if you’re staying in DCA all day. In that case, you might actually want to delay booking your first Genie+ reservation for a bit to focus on standby lines early-on, saving the Lightning Lanes for later in the day when crowds and wait times build.
However, if you’re starting at Disneyland and won’t be entering Disney California Adventure until the afternoon, your approach probably needs to be different. This is a bit counterintuitive, but it’ll make more sense once explained.
There are a couple of Genie+ attractions in DCA that sometimes have return times that are multiple hours in the future. By contrast, most of the remaining attractions have immediate return times until late afternoon on most days. (Obviously, crowds vary and on peak season days, all attractions will have more lag between booking and return times.)
If you book a Genie+ reservation for an attraction with a return time several hours in the future, you have to wait 2 hours before reserving your next Lightning Lane. During those 2 hours, the clock is advancing on everything else, with the gap potentially growing on current and return times. By contrast, if you book a ride with an immediate return time, you can make your next Genie+ reservation as soon as you scan into that Lightning Lane.
For example, let’s say Soarin’ Around the World has a return time of 6:20 pm as of 1 pm. By contrast, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout has a return time of 1:05 pm at 1 pm. You can book the latter, scan into the Lightning Lane immediately, and still book that 7 pm return time (+/- 5 minutes) for Soarin. Attempting to book them in reverse order will not yield the same results. (This isn’t just an hypothetical–we’ve experienced this exact scenario at DCA multiple times.)
There’s no perfect across-the-board “solution” to this problem, as wait times and Genie+ return times vary, as do each party’s priorities. Our generalized advice would be to look at return times v. wait times, and use your judgment. If something with a high posted wait time has an instant return time in the afternoon, book that immediately rather than waiting, as the gap will likely grow in early evening.
However, you don’t want to wait too long to book Soarin’ Around the World, as it does run out of Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations. Same goes for Toy Story Midway Mania on many days. We know that’s a lot to digest and it complicates how to approach these DCA Genie+ ride rankings–that is, unless you aren’t Park Hopping, in which case, it’s a pretty easy park!
Anyway, on with the ride rankings for Genie+ at DCA…
Genie+ Ride Rankings at Disney California Adventure
1. Soarin’ Around the World – Likely due to the attraction operating without one of its theaters, Soarin’ Around the World has become the most “popular” Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation in all of Disneyland Resort. If the attraction switched over to Soarin’ Over California, it actually would be the most popular–without any capacity shenanigans.
2. Toy Story Midway Mania – While theme park scholars and historians will debate whether Toy Story Midway Mania is a worthy successor to Malibu-Ritos for centuries to come, there’s little arguing its superior staying power. The interactive shooter ride has only gotten more popular since its debut, making Toy Story Midway Mania an easy #2 pick here. If you or your kids will want to play multiple times, consider hitting it via standby early in the morning, too.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! – If this list were subjective, Mission Breakout would be our #1 pick. Its longer wait times, quality, and fun makes it a must-do attraction where Genie+ saves a good chunk of time. However, its Lightning Lane availability is usually plentiful into the evening, and it often has near-immediate return times earlier in the day.
4. Grizzly River Run – Like Splash Mountain, demand for Grizzly River Run is skewed by season, and winter weather caused it to drop prior to its annual refurbishment. Historical wait times and MaxPass experience suggests Grizzly River Run is a more popular attraction when it reopens, and top 4 once summer hits.
5. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! – In a park with a dearth of family-friendly attractions, the stock of Superstar Limo: Monstrous Edition increases a bit. Long standby wait times have become the norm here, with a boring outdoor queue that moves at a glacial pace. Be sure to get a Lightning Lane reservation here.
6. Goofy’s Sky School – If you want the bodily punishment offered by the Matterhorn but without anything that makes that roller coaster so iconic, Goofy’s Sky School is for you! It not ranking last isn’t any form of endorsement, just a reflection of the reality that its return times tend to be more delayed than Incredicoaster.
7. Incredicoaster – Despite being a downgrade as compared to California Screamin’, this is still a great roller coaster and one that’s incredibly popular. However, FastPass and MaxPass availability was always fairly easy and that continues to be the case with Genie+ Lightning Lanes. Quick return times are the norm on all but the busiest days of the year.
Ultimately, you should be able to knock out all 7 attractions via Genie+ using Lightning Lanes during a fullday in Disney California Adventure. In fact, we’ve yet to encounter any scenario in which it’s not possible to accomplish them all when starting in the morning. On a good day, you can knock out all of these after 1 pm–or at least, all of them that are worth doing. That’s likely going to be the key consideration for many parties, as buying Genie+ for DCA alone likely isn’t going to be worth the money for a lot of people.
Of course, all of this is also subject to change. Soarin’s popularity will likely decrease once the other theater is back up…and increase once the superior Soarin’ Over California returns. It’s also entirely possible that Genie+ will be tweaked at DCA, adding the ability to re-ride attractions or becoming available as an add-on to Magic Key Passes. Those are the biggest potential changes, and neither are even being rumored at this point, so you should be fine. Otherwise, you shouldn’t run into too many problems!
How would you rank your ride priorities using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes in Disney California Adventure? Will you Park Hop to DCA, or spend the whole day there when using Genie Plus? Surprised to see Soarin’ Around the World at #1, or is that the obvious top pick given its popularity (or rather, capacity woes)? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or skipping it at DCA? Do you agree or disagree with our rankings? Any questions we can help you answer? 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!