Using Disneyland’s new Genie+ line-skipping service, we used a mix of Lightning Lanes and standby to do 32 attractions in one day. This post walks you through our step-by-step day in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with screenshots, return times, tips & tricks, and thoughts at the end about whether Genie+ is worth the money.
It was a long day from rope drop until park closing, so we’ll cut to the chase and skip the basics. If you need background or how this new system works, see our Guide to Genie+ at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Additional posts are coming soon with strategy, ride recommendations & priorities, and more.
While this post covers our experience one specific Saturday at Disneyland and DCA, it actually took us several attempts at this before we got it “right.” Now, what you might be thinking is that we tried and failed on previous days and had to wait until we honed our technique or had a lower crowd day. Actually, the opposite is true…
In typical Disneyland fashion, Genie+ is way easier to use and just generally more “laid back” in the California parks than its Florida counterparts. So much so that we had a difficult time stress-testing itineraries, even with moderate (4/10) crowd levels. One of our goals with these Genie+ resources is replicability–it’s fun for us to be able to accomplish a lot, but useless for planning if you can’t reproduce our results.
We’ve already had to redo and revise our Genie+ resources for Walt Disney World to reflect increased crowds and changes to Genie+ since its launch, and wanted to avoid similar hassles at Disneyland. The good news (I guess?) is that we finally managed to achieve “success” with a busier day at Disneyland to conduct a proper test–one that was a 7/10 on the crowd calendar, which is what we consider the “sweet spot” for Genie+ in Florida.
I know you’re probably crying a river and/or playing the world’s smallest violin for us as we had to “contend” with such low crowds (plus pleasant weather) at Disneyland. Just like my breakthrough best burger research, it’s tough work, but someone’s gotta do it! 😉
Anyway, the point is that this day is not the byproduct of carefully choosing the best day to visit, tweaking our strategy to perfection, or racing around without having fun–things no normal person would do on a fun vacation. To the contrary, you should be able to copy this day so long as it’s not a peak season day for crowds. In fact, you can do better than this with minor adjustments and omissions that we’ll suggest throughout the post.
On the day of our visit, Disneyland operated from 8 am until 11 pm, which meant that the turnstiles would open around 7 am. This is significant because in the California parks, you can book your first Genie+ selection not at 7 am, but upon entering the park…so as early as 7 am on this particular day. Different rule, same result.
We didn’t arrive until 7:45 am, as it was pretty clear from past experience that the clock was not advancing on Lightning Lane reservations during that first hour of entry. Our arrival could’ve been even later, but we’re waking up at ~5 am every day anyway, and wanted to rope drop Fantasyland.
After entering Disneyland, we quickly made our way up Main Street, purchased Genie+ for both of us (sorry, no head to head comparison here), and booked our first Lightning Lane reservation of the day: Space Mountain.
I’m not sure why this is the screenshot I opted to take, of all things. I blame the lack of coffee. Our return time was 8:05 to 9:05 am. As will be explained below, this return time is actually too early for regular guests wanting to use the savviest strategy.
We were close enough to the front of the rope drop pack that starting with Peter Pan’s Flight would’ve made the most sense. However, I dropped back a little to get photos and always get skittish when seeing that line form. Even though it’s not that many people and moves pretty quick, it’s still a tough sell.
Instead, we called an audible and were the very first guests of the day on Snow White’s Enchanted Wish. Following that, we knocked out Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Alice in Wonderland with minimal waits for both.
It would’ve been possible–and pragmatic, in hindsight–to continue our rope drop run of standby attractions with more in Fantasyland.
Experience from previous days suggested this would’ve been possible, but the noticeably larger crowd made us apprehensive. If we pushed our luck, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything via Genie+, which was the whole point of the day.
With that in mind, bouncing over to Tomorrowland and Space Mountain was next on the agenda.
Immediately upon scanning into Space Mountain, I booked the Matterhorn via Genie+ with another immediate return time. You might notice that our Disneyland Genie+ Ride Rankings have Indiana Jones Adventure above Matterhorn. That’s objectively the right placement, but Matterhorn is closer to Space Mountain. It often ends up being more efficient to minimize walking rather than strictly sticking to those priorities.
That’s Sarah above, scanning into what would be her last thrill ride of the day at Disneyland.
Matterhorn has a way of bustin’ backs and scramblin’ skullz. That should be its new slogan. Still a classic ride that I enjoy, but the “intensity” definitely has more to do with its rickety ride than actual thrills.
Next up was Indiana Jones Adventure, which we booked immediately upon scanning into Matterhorn. Another instant return.
This is one of the few moderately intense attractions that doesn’t give Sarah issues, but I think part of it is that she just really loves Indiana Jones Adventure. Or maybe Harrison Ford is her celebrity crush. She does make a lot of “jokes” whenever we spot vintage aircraft flying overhead in Southern California. Hmmm.
After really flying through our first three Genie+ attractions, we decided to knock out Jungle Cruise, which had around a 10-15 minute wait.
It received a similar “Monkey Mania” reimagining to Florida’s, with minor tweaks here and there. Personally, I love the changes. “Prejudice against primates is distinctly unpatriotic.” ~Sam Eagle, probably.
Pirates of the Caribbean via standby was up next after that, and likewise had minimal wait. Not quite a walk-on, but pretty close.
These last couple of standby attractions are where are day starts to make sense from a balanced perspective, as wait times were starting to build throughout Disneyland.
After that, I was on my own for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run via the Lightning Lane.
If you’re similarly doing Smugglers Run or the Matterhorn by yourself, there’s always the option for Single Rider. With the former, you’re far less likely to be pilot, but I let someone else in our crew do that anyway (you could say it’s because I’m a nice guy…or because it would’ve been weird to make two couples who were first timers split up from their significant others).
From there, I backtracked to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and did that next.
One thing I want to reiterate is that our approach of knocking out headliners via Genie+ was not necessary the first couple hours of the day. Lines were still short and were this not a “simulation,” we would’ve spent the first 90 minutes solely on standby. The reason we didn’t was over concern that some Lightning Lanes at DCA would be unavailable later if we didn’t move fast knocking things out.
By the time we arrived at Haunted Mansion at around 10:15 am, that was no longer the case.
We breezed through via the Lightning Lane, but there was a line already forming outside the gates of the mansion.
At this point, we were killing time until restaurants lunch, so we opted for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which had a minimal wait via standby.
Perhaps it’s time to give the people what they want and bring back Country Bear Jamboree–or the nextgen trackless dark ride I’ve been armchair Imagineering, Big Al’s Moonshine Maze. It’s like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, but a lot slower and with a “for mature audiences only” warning label.
Splash Mountain was closed for its annual refurbishment, so we couldn’t do that. Technically, that means we didn’t do “every” Genie+ ride in Disneyland, but there’s almost always going to be a closure or two.
In any case, we would’ve had more than enough time to knock this out before lunch.
It’s not relevant to our Genie+ day, but I had the Lobster Mac Bread Bowl.
This is one of my go-to meals at Disneyland. It’s filling, delicious, usually has a hearty amount of lobster, and is relatively inexpensive. I hesitate to even share that because I fear those last two qualities will change if word gets out.
Our next Genie+ stop after lunch was Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin. As noted in our rankings, this has seen a popularity spike of late, presumably as locals do their last rides before it closes for a year.
Or maybe it’s an influx of trenchcoat enthusiasts. (Sorry, all of my better jokes were rejected as “too risque” or likely to “rile up the masses.” Just like a mannequin of Jessica Rabbit in a dress, I guess!)
“It’s a small world” is near Toontown, so we did that with another immediate return time via the Lightning Lane despite a 40 minute standby wait.
Now we were starting to see tremendous time-savings with Genie+ at Disneyland. Had we stuck to standby early, we could’ve had a glorious afternoon and evening of quickly bypassing long lines.
Autopia was next up.
You know, if there’s a version of the iconic car-driving attraction that’s worth the stench and cognitive impairment of vehicle exhaust, it’s this one. The way the track weaves around under the monorail and a thick canopy of trees is lovely and way better than Tomorrowland Speedway. Autopia could be something special if Disney were to invest some money into modernizing it.
Following that, we knocked out Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters and Star Tours in quick succession. Both had instant return times, and given that the attractions are directly across from each other, it’s easy to do them as a 1-2 punch with in minimal time.
With that, we were done with every (operational) Genie+ attraction at Disneyland. It was 1:30 pm.
Approaching Disney California Adventure presented us with a dilemma: whether to knock out attractions with near-immediate return times via the Lightning Lanes or use Genie+ to book Soarin’ Around the World, which had returns inching closer to the end of the night.
This is precisely why we rushed through Genie+ at Disneyland–we knew Soarin’ would pose problems later in the day.
Hedging our bets with Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout seemed like the savvy approach.
Despite a lengthy posted wait time, it was a near-immediate return time. That might not be the case later in the day, and having to wait 120 minutes to book multiple headliners if we prioritized Soarin’ could cause us to miss something else.
With Mission Breakout off the table, this left only two popular Genie+ attractions on the table. At that point, we felt comfortable going for Soarin’ Around the World and taking that 120 minute hit. This was the right move, as much more of a delay would’ve made Soarin’ unavailable.
If we were touring Disneyland and DCA as “real people” and not with the aim of writing a blog post titled “We Did Every Genie+ Ride at Disneyland & DCA In A Day,” our approach would’ve been different.
While waiting that 120 minutes, we did a lot.
Radiator Springs Racers via Single Rider, Little Mermaid dark ride, Lunar New Year processional, ceremonial flinging of that Spider-Man dummy into the stratosphere, and some character stuff.
As soon as our 120 minute wait was up, I used Genie+ to book Incredicoaster.
Even though the clock was advancing on Toy Story Midway Mania, it felt pragmatic to knock out a few more instant returns first. It was a gamble either way, though.
After that, Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
With a ride roster that tilts towards adults arguably a bit too much, this dark ride has become increasingly popular with families–and it has a miserable outdoor standby queue. As such, doing it via the Lightning Lane or earlier in the day is surprisingly important. Just mentioning that because this unassuming dark ride’s wait times can sneak up on you if not properly accounted for in your itinerary.
After that, we used Genie+ to do Goofy’s Sky School for the first time in a long time.
Obviously, the above image is not from the attraction. I had planned on getting a photo of Paradise Pier from the elevated view, not remembering just how wild that little wild mouse gets. The first turn threw my camera into my face and that’s about all I remember of it. Above is a different mouse, who we met after getting off Goofy’s Sky School.
With that, we used Genie+ to book our last Lightning Lane of the day: Toy Story Midway Mania. We really pushed our luck with this, but it worked out in the end.
The above screenshot also illustrates that Genie+ won’t prevent you from making conflicting plans.
For the next couple of hours, we wandered around, ate, and enjoyed more of Lunar New Year at DCA. We also saw the Sh-Boom lighting in Cars Land, a magical little moment that we hadn’t seen for a while.
Objectively, this would’ve been a great time to have some Lightning Lane reservations in our pockets, as wait times were at their peaks. We love strolling around DCA and Disneyland at sunset and dusk, so it was no issue for us.
Web Slingers was pretty consistently posting a 90 to 120 minute wait time, so that was out of the question for us.
At the end of the night, it was down to 60 minutes posed with an actual wait likely lower. Rope drop or right before close is definitely the best option for the interactive Spider-Man dark ride.
Finally, our windows opened for Soarin’ Around the World and Toy Story Midway Mania within 5 minutes of one another.
Despite it having the earlier end time, we did Toy Story Midway Mania first. Soarin’ is notorious for taking forever even with the Lightning Lane, so that was the thinking there. In actuality, either way would’ve been fine.
We done with Soarin’ Around the World, and by extension, every operational Genie+ attraction in both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, by around 7:45 pm.
This left us with several more hours before the parks closed, which we mostly spent at Disneyland wandering and doing laid back attractions, like the Grand Circle Tour of the Disneyland Railroad. All of that’s beyond the scope of this already-lengthy post and we still have some ground to cover, so we’ll skip that.
Overall, we’ve had excellent experiences using Genie+ to more efficiently tour Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We accomplished a total of 32 attractions, which is more than we’ve done in a single day at Disneyland Resort in a very long time. That’s also without really “pushing” ourselves, as we spent a lot of time enjoying entertainment and strolling around the parks. It’s likely that we could’ve hit 40 attractions had we been serious about maximizing our ride count–but we wanted a more balanced and fun day.
The bottom line is that you can accomplish significantly more per day at Disneyland and DCA via Lightning Lanes. The whole Genie+ system is also much easier to use at Disneyland Resort than at any of the Walt Disney World parks, and you can do so while waking up later and spending less time on your phone.
We’ll update our full guide soon, but here are a few quick tips in the meantime:
- There’s no need to be awake or in the park at 7 am for the purpose of Genie+ at Disneyland.
- Rope dropping the parks is still recommended, especially since there’s no way to skip the lines in Fantasyland.
- Focusing on standby to start the day is ideal. Ride the wave of crowds, so to speak, doing as much as possible via standby before using your first Lightning Lane. (Another reason you might not want to book a Lightning Lane as soon as you enter the park in the morning.)
- You can’t book the same attraction twice with Genie+, but can do both standby and Lightning Lane for the same ride.
- Unless you do every single available attraction in both parks via Lightning Lanes, it’s likely you’ll run out of Genie+ rides before running out of time, which is the opposite of what usually happens at Walt Disney World. (This plus no re-rides is why you want to focus on standby first.)
- You can scan into Lightning Lanes 5 minutes prior to their scheduled arrival time and 15 minutes after the window closes.
- Book the next Lightning Lane reservation as soon as you’ve scanned into the attraction checkpoint.
- If you miss your Lightning Lane attraction window, you can’t rebook the attraction.
- Genie+ is very thrill-ride heavy at Disneyland Resort, and as such, may not be worthwhile for all parties.
- If someone in your party can’t or doesn’t want to do a certain ride (e.g. Matterhorn), book it via Genie+ anyway and someone else can use their redemption for a second ride!
- Genie+ at Disneyland includes PhotoPass, so be sure to link and download those on-ride photos at the exit of relevant attractions.
Even though it’s stressed a few times in this post, the importance of following regular rope drop strategy cannot be overstated. It’s unlikely that most average tourists will want to do every single Genie+ ride at Disneyland Resort in a single day. For one, different attractions appeal to different demos–the same party may not want to do both Autopia and Matterhorn, and hopefully no one wants to do Goofy’s Sky School.
For another, so many attractions have instant return times most days–even well into the afternoon–that there’s simply not a huge sense of urgency to start booking and doing Lightning Lane attractions right at park opening unless you plan on doing every single Genie+ ride in both parks. Focusing on standby first makes sense because there’s a high probability you’ll run out of Lightning Lane rides before running out of time. As such, you’re better off doing standby earlier in the day when those lines are shorter than they will be later. This is especially true if you want to do everything in Fantasyland or multiple rides on any headliner–or both.
Ultimately, our impression of Genie+ at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure thus far is positive, much more so than at Walt Disney World. We’ve spent far less time on our phones using it in the California parks, and have found the experience in general is less stressful because everything is lower stakes. While it may not be evident here, again, this doesn’t really reflect how a normal tourist will use Genie+ or Lightning Lanes on a leisurely day of touring. Rather, we were trying to stress test the system and push it to its limit for “sport,” or whatever you want to call this. It’s like the difference in enjoying hot dogs on a family cookout versus Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Our regular days at Disneyland and DCA using Genie+ have been far less eventful and more closely resemble how you’d use it. They’re just a lot less interesting for post purposes, since they mostly involve circling the park, doing an attraction, then booking an immediate return time for another in close proximity, and repeating that process. Right now, Genie+ offers a significant competitive advantage at Disneyland because the parks’ California-centric guest base is buying it in far lower numbers than its Florida counterpart. While things will likely be different on peak season days or if a Magic Key add-on is offered, we currently highly recommend that all tourists purchase Genie+ for at least one day of their Disneyland vacations.
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!
Thoughts on our day in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure using the paid Genie+ service to do every eligible Lightning Lane attraction? Are you planning on buying Genie+ or skipping it at DLR? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? 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!