California Adventure Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings

Mornings are the best times at California Adventure to see popular attractions because lines are shorter and the California sun isn’t quite so hot. Before planning an efficient California Adventure morning strategy there are a few key features that you must become familiar with.

As always, we at Mickey Visit recommend planning your day in advance to avoid feeling overwhelmed (especially for Disneyland first timers!) at the parks.

Save on your stay! Disneyland COMBO Hotel + Ticket Discounts Save big when you book your Disneyland tickets and hotel through our recommended travel sponsor (they have worked with Disney for 28 years). Make sure you are getting the best deal for your summer vacation! Book now >

Disneyland App To Jumpstart Your Morning

Morning strategy for Disneyland: Cast member holding plate of food

Disneyland has an app that you can download for either Android or iPhone that will give you the most accurate wait times for rides. This app is a must have for anyone visiting the Disneyland Resort. You can link your park tickets to it, make dining reservations, use the mobile food ordering feature, link your PhotoPass tickets, and book FastPasses with MaxPass!

Pro tip: download this app PRIOR to your trip and become familiar with it. This way when you show up to the gates you are already a pro at using the app. Take a look at the layout of each park on the app so you have a rough idea of where you are going once you enter!

California Adventure Morning Strategy FastPass

Radiator Springs Racers fastpass sign

We have written an ultimate guide to using FastPass at the Disneyland Resort. This is definitely a must read for first time guests. Check out our guide here. FastPasses give you a return window to come ride the attraction later to help avoid guests waiting for hours in the standby line. Be sure to be familiar with FastPass because they are essential for having a smooth start at either park! Some FastPasses go quicker than others due to the popularity of the ride so that is why it is so important to grab them in the morning. Fastpasses are essential to this California Adventure morning strategy guide!

Pro tip: check out the list of attractions that offer FastPass and see which ones are your group’s top must sees. Make those your priority in the morning!

California Adventure MaxPass Strategy

Image of cellphone with maxpass option: Morning Strategy at Disneyland

Last summer, Disney released a mobile version of the FastPass system called MaxPass. MaxPass, unlike FastPass, isn’t a free feature and costs $15 per person per day. Depending on the size of your group, this feasibly may not be an option. But it is a great feature that makes touring the parks a breeze.

MaxPass allows you to book FastPasses from your mobile device so it saves you a walk across the park. This not only helps you grab FastPasses efficiently but it also helps save energy! MaxPass also comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day which is a great additional feature. If you only have one day in the parks, MaxPass is highly recommended for your group.

Doing California Adventure Rope Drop Right

California Adventure: morning strategy: gates at california adventure

Thirty minutes before park opening, cast members will begin letting guests into the parks. This helps control the flow of crowds and it can be a huge advantage for morning park visitors! There will be ropes (guarded by cast members) that block off access points of the lands until the official park opening time. Being one of the first groups positioned at those ropes can be a huge advantage for your California Adventure morning strategy! You can also begin booking MaxPass once you enter the gates so this is also a great plus for groups that plan on purchasing MaxPass. To be there at Rope Drop plan to arrive at least one hour prior to the park opening.

Pro tip: Grab breakfast to go and eat while you're waiting to be let in through the turnstiles. This will help keep adults happy and kids occupied during that early morning wait time. We always recommend either eating here or at your Disneyland hotel.

The Best California Adventure Morning Strategy: Older Kids/Adults

California Adventure morning strategy: Close up of the Guardians of the Galaxy Ride

  • Grab Incredicoaster FastPass with MaxPass once you enter the park
  • Ride Soarin'
  • Ride Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Ride Pixar's Pal-A-Round (Swinging or Non-Swinging)
  • Ride Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Ride Goofy's Fly School
  • Ride Golden Zephyr
  • Ride Silly Symphony Swings 
  • Ride Incredicoaster with FastPass
  • Grab Radiator Springs Racers FastPass with MaxPass
  • Ride Grizzly River Run (This ride may get you WET! Prepare to ride this early in the morning if you have a rain poncho to throw over your clothes. If not and you don't want to get wet, skip this for later since FastPasses are usually available. But keep in mind ride wait times for this ride are extremely short in the morning and you can get cheap rain ponchos at the Dollar Store!)
  • Ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
  • Grab a quick healthy snack at Fillmore's Taste-In or if you prefer churros for breakfast grab a churro at the Cozy Cone Motel
  • Take a bathroom break, if needed, along the way by Flo's V8 Cafe
  • Ride Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
  • Ride Radiator Springs Racers with FastPass
  • Grab Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: BREAKOUT! FastPass with MaxPass
  • Ride Monsters, INC. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Meet some Marvel characters in Hollywood Land if your group is interested in Marvel.
  • If Marvel isn't your thing, break for lunch and ride Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT! after lunch.

This California Adventure morning strategy will take you through the most popular rides for older kids and adults before lunchtime. Spend the afternoons doing the attractions with lower wait times, repeating favorites, and keep grabbing those FastPasses along the way! The bonus of this California Adventure morning strategy is it tries to take into account minimal walking back and forth across the park to conserve energy for the entire day. The key to this energy saver is with using MaxPass there is no need to run to each FastPass distribution point. However, this plan can easily be used with regular FastPass for your group.

Note: Make sure to keep an eye on your FastPass times! Sometimes MaxPass will let you hold TWO FASTPASSES if the wait for the first FirstPass you pulled is longer than usual. If this is the case, go ahead and grab the next FastPass on your list. Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT!, and Toy Story Midway Mania will all run out of FastPasses by the afternoon so watch these closely.

Pro tip: Assign one person to keep track of everyone’s FastPasses and park tickets so they can run and grab FastPasses during snack breaks/restroom breaks/etc. Again, the perk of adding MaxPass is that you won’t have to criss cross the park to keep up with this plan.

The Best California Adventure Morning Strategy: Younger Kids and the Young at Heart

Toy Story Midway Mania sign

  • Grab Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass with MaxPass when you enter the park
  • Ride Soarin'
  • Ride Pixar's Pal-A-Round
  • Ride Silly Symphony Swings
  • Ride Goofy's Fly School
  • Ride Jumpin' Jellyfish
  • Ride Golden Zephy
  • Ride Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Ride Jessie's Critter Carousel
  • Ride Toy Story Midway Mania with FastPass
  • Grab Radiator Springs Racers FastPass with MaxPass
  • Ride The Little Mermaid- Ariel's Undersea Adventure
  • Grab a quick healthy snack at Fillmore's Taste-In
  • Take a bathroom break, if needed, along the way by Flo's V8 Cafe
  • Ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
  • Ride Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters
  • Ride Radiator Springs Racers with FastPass (If your FastPass time isn't ready yet skip to the next step until it is. Set an alarm on your phone so you don't lose track of time!)
  • Ride Monsters, INC. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • If Frozen characters are a must, meet them in the Animation Building in Hollywood Land
  • Grab Grizzly River Run FastPass with MaxPass
  • Break for lunch and ride Grizzly River Run with FastPass after lunch.

This California Adventure morning strategy will hit all the higher wait time youngster attractions first which is especially great for little ones in the California sun. Spend the afternoons doing the attractions with lower wait times, meeting characters, and keep grabbing those FastPasses along the way! The bonus of this California Adventure morning strategy is it tries to take into account minimal walking back and forth across the park to conserve energy for the entire day.

The key to this energy saver is with using MaxPass there is no need to run to each FastPass distribution point. However, this plan can easily be used with regular FastPass for your group.

Pro tip: Assign one person to keep track of everyone’s FastPasses and park tickets so they can run and grab FastPasses during snack breaks/restroom breaks/etc. And make sure that person is an adult! This will keep your California Adventure morning strategy free of stress!

How to Handle Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge for Park Hoppers

If you have a park hopper ticket and plan on bouncing over to Disneyland to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, it may be helpful to plan ahead.

This new immersive Star Wars themed land does not offer FastPass for the current ride open (Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run) but it does have a Boarding Pass in place in case the land reaches capacity. When the land hits capacity, guests will have to get a Boarding Pass to be put in a virtual line (similar to FastPass) and wait for their turn to be called to enter. Guests can only make a Boarding Pass reservation from inside Disneyland Park meaning that you cannot make one in California Adventure.

So far the new land hasn't had to use the Boarding Pass system much this summer but this could change with the busy Halloween and holiday season around the corner. If you want to ensure you have guaranteed access into the land after you've experienced California Adventure, your best bet is to make either a reservation for Oga's Cantina or Savi's Workshop.

Oga's Cantina is like a Star Wars themed bar with the main highlight being DJ Rex playing a mix of Star Wars songs. Completely family friendly and very popular, you can make same day reservations for this experience on the Disneyland website starting at 7AM. I recommend making a reservation for Oga's Cantina for the time of day you know you'll be hopping over to Disneyland so you have guaranteed access to the land. Guests with a reservation to either Oga's Cantina or Savi's Workshop won't need a Boarding Pass if that system is in place as the reservation serves as access to the new land.

More Disneyland Planning Tips

There is always a lot of information to consider before planning an Disneyland vacation. Make sure to spend time planning your days in the theme parks and become familiar with everything Disneyland has to offer. Don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE Deals Newsletter to stay on top of the current planning tips, strategies, and deals.

You can discover more about planning your trip to Disneyland from these links:

Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.

Leave a Comment