Disney California Adventure Morning Strategy 2023: 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 as hot. Before planning an efficient California Adventure morning strategy there are a few key features that you should 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.

Beginning your day at Disney California Adventure right will set your entire day on a great trajectory. The morning at Disney California Adventure provides the best opportunity to experience a number of attractions in rapid succession.

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Disneyland App To Jumpstart Your MorningMorning 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 PhotoPass and use the NEW Disney Genie+ system!

Pro tip: Download the app and link your tickets 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. In the days before your trip, take a look at the layout and wait times to get a sense of how the layout works.

Doing California Adventure Rope Drop RightCalifornia 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. We recommend arriving to the turnstiles at least 45 minutes before the park officially opens. That means arriving to security at least 15 minutes before that (if you are parking at the Mickey and Friends lot you should arrive even early than that to account for getting from the structure to the main esplanade).

Early Entry UPDATE! Guests staying at Disneyland Resort hotels will be allowed to access select attractions 30 minutes prior to park opening giving those guests an advantage for some popular attractions. Read more about early entry and our advice on what you should prioritize during that 30 minutes if you have it in our Disneyland Early Entry guide!

If you don’t have early entry, don’t worry! Hotel guests don’t get access to all the attractions during this 30 minutes and it won’t negatively impact the parks too much. You will see the largest impact at the most popular attractions so that is something to keep in mind- you won’t be able to walk right on those attractions any longer as a non-Disney hotel guest. There will always be a line already when the park officially opens… but it won’t be too long, so don’t worry!

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.

Disney California Adventure Morning Strategy without Disney Genie Plus

FastPass and MaxPass has been officially retired and replaced by the NEW Disney Genie+ service which allows you to make park attraction reservations from your phone. This service is a great addition back to the park experience and really helps you to experience a lot in the parks.

The main rule of thumb for having a successful day at the Disneyland Resort remains the same: arrive early! Be prepared to get to the resort before official park opening. On weekdays the gates have been opening anywhere from 30-45 minutes before the park officially opens.

Also read our 1-day Disney California Adventure park itinerary.

Disney California Adventure Morning Strategy With No Disney Genie Plus

Here are the areas and experiences you should prioritize in the morning as they’ve seen the longest wait times throughout the day:

Avoid the Crowd!

I recommend NOT heading to Cars Land first to ride Radiator Springs unless you are literally one of the first groups inside the gates. Everyone seems to rush to Radiator Springs Racers first which means within five minutes of the park gates being open the ride often jumps to a 60-minute or more wait time. Since you’ll likely have to wait that long regardless, it makes much more sense to go enjoy other areas of the park first and save that wait for later. I would also highly suggest considering the Single Rider line for this attraction in particular. The queue moves quickly and sometimes groups end up in the same car. If you don’t mind being separate for the attraction, this is a great option.

Try this order instead to maximize your time:

  • If you are up for a very quick burst of crowds you should consider riding WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure first.
    • This touring tip is not for the faint of heart and should only be attempted by families without strollers who are near the rope entering the park. See photo below of Gavin at the front of the crowd after arriving at the park 45 mins before opening.
  • Head to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! first if you are not at the very front of the crowd.
    • Head to this ride first thing and then head straight to Pixar Pier afterwards!
  • Up next, make your way to Toy Story Midway Mania. In the first 45 minutes of the park being open you should be able to ride once or twice with no line!
    • This ride has always been popular and continues to be the case especially as one of the rides geared towards younger kids which don’t have quite as many options at California Adventure. I recommend going here first.
  • Incredicoaster
    • Once you’ve enjoyed Toy Story Midway Mania, head right to Incredicoaster which is right next door.

At this point, I would circle around Pixar Pier riding all of the rides in this area of the park which will have incredibly short wait times such as Goofy’s Sky School, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Symphony Swings, Pixar Pal-A-Round, The Little Mermaid, etc.

Once you’ve finished riding everything in the Pixar Pier/Paradise Gardens Park area of California Adventure then you can leisurely stroll around to other rides in the park.

If you arrive early enough, you’ll be in front of all these people!

The other popular rides that often have the highest wait times are:

  • Radiator Springs Racers – I advocate utilizing the Single Rider line for Radiator Springs Racers if you are not worried about riding separately. The line usually flies by!
  • Soarin’

The good news is that once 11AM hits and people with park hopper tickets can hop over to Disneyland, you’ll start seeing the wait times die down for Soarin’ and Cars Land. Radiator Springs Racers will have a high wait most of the day. While you wait for folks to start park hopping and empty the park a bit, you could enjoy other average wait attractions like Grizzly River Run, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Monsters, INC., and the other attractions in Cars Land.

Disney California Adventure Morning Strategy With Disney Genie Plus

Here’s what you need to know about integrating the new Disney Genie Plus into your Disney California Adventure morning strategy.

This new system works similar to how MaxPass did before the parks closed. Guests will pay $30 per day per person to access Lightning Lanes (previously called FastPass lines) for popular attractions at both parks. Essentially, this is a ‘skip the line’ paid pass.

There are two key differences from FastPass within the new system. The first is that Radiator Springs Racers, is “a la carte” and is not included with the Disney Genie+ pass. You’ll have the option to pay $15-20 to skip the line a single time. The other difference is that guests can only ride each attraction included with Disney Genie Plus once per day.

Read our guide to Disney Genie Plus for more critical information and specific tips on making the most of the service.

Best California Adventure Morning Strategy with Disney Genie Plus: Older Kids/AdultsCalifornia Adventure morning strategy: Close up of the Guardians of the Galaxy Ride

The below strategy assumes that you are open to using Single Rider for Radiator Springs Racers, that you will arrive to the park immediately at opening, and that you want to ride the Incredicoaster multiple times.

  • Grab Disney Genie Plus for Toy Story Midway Mania
  • If you are actually at rope drop and near the front of the rope near Avengers Campus, you can go directly to WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure
    • This will be the shortest line for the attraction all day if you execute well. If you are not at the very front of the group you should move on to Toy Story Mania or Radiator Springs Racers if you do not want to utilize the Single Rider line.
  • Ride Toy Story Midway Mania with your Disney Genie Plus 
    • You should enjoy the attraction with little to no wait time
  • Grab Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: BREAKOUT! Disney Genie Plus with aim of using about an hour after park opening
  • Ride Incredicoaster
  • Ride Radiator Springs Racers with Single Rider
  • Ride Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: BREAKOUT!
  • Grab Soarin’ Disney Genie Plus immediately after redeeming Guardians
  • Ride Silly Symphony Swings 
  • Grab Incredicoaster Disney Genie Plus
  • Ride Pixar’s Pal-A-Round (Swinging or Non-Swinging)
  • Ride Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Ride Soarin’
  • Ride Goofy’s Sky School
  • Ride Golden Zephyr
  • Ride Incredicoaster with Genie+
  • 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 Disney Genie Plus passes are consistently 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 Monsters, INC. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Meet some Marvel characters in Avengers Campus if your group is interested in Marvel.

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 Disney Genie Plus passes 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.

Note: Make sure to keep an eye on your Disney Genie Plus times! You are able to pull a new Disney Genie Plus pass every two hours. I set a timer if my next Disney Genie Plus pass is further than two hours away. If this is the case, go ahead and grab the next FastPass on your list. Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT! and Toy Story Midway Mania will all run out of Disney Genie Plus passes by the afternoon so watch these closely.

The Best California Adventure Morning Strategy with Disney Genie Plus: Younger Kids and the Young at HeartToy Story Midway Mania sign

  • Grab Toy Story Midway Mania FastPass with Disney Genie Plus when you enter the park
  • Ride Radiator Springs Racers in the standby queue or Single Rider line
  • Ride Toy Story Midway Mania with Disney Genie Plus
  • Pull Disney Genie Plus for Soarin’
  • Ride The Little Mermaid- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Ride Soarin’ With Disney Genie Plus
  • Pull Disney Genie Plus for Monsters, INC. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Ride Silly Symphony Swings
  • Ride Monsters, INC. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Pull Disney Genie Plus for Goofy’s Fly School
  • Ride Jumpin’ Jellyfish
  • Ride Golden Zephy
  • Ride Pixar’s Pal-A-Round
  • Ride Goofy’s Sky School with Disney Genie Plus
  • Ride Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Ride Jessie’s Critter Carousel
  • 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
  • If Frozen characters are a must, meet them in the Animation Building in Hollywood Land
  • Grab Grizzly River Run FastPass with Disney Genie Plus
  • Break for lunch and ride Grizzly River Run with Disney Genie Plus
    • Be warned, Grizzly River Run is a real water ride and will leave you SOAKED afterwards!

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 Disney Genie Plus passes along the way!

This Disney California Adventure morning strategy is perfect to tee you up to park hop when Disneyland Park opens to guests that started their day in Disney California Adventure at 1 pm.

How to Ride WEB SLINGS: A Spider-Man Attraction

Disneyland previously used a virtual queue WEB SLINGERS- A Spider-Man Adventure. Now, the attraction has a standby queue and included in Genie+.

If you are early to the park and ready to go, you can consider riding WEB Slingers as your first attraction of the day. If you are not in this first group, you should save the attraction for later in the afternoon. Read more about the new attraction and the rest of the new Avengers Campus.

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.

About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the content director of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and Disney Dose- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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5 comments add your comment

  1. Do you suggest getting your first Genie + selection right away when entering the park or waiting a few hours? We are going at peak travel time in July but not exactly sure when to start making Genie + selections..I want to wait a bit and do rides first as standby and then ride some a second time with the Genie + but worried about spots no longer being available if we wait too long? Its so tough to know what to do!

    • Absolutely make your first selection! Your ride time won’t be until at least 30 minutes until after the park opens which gives you time to ride some rides standby before using the LL reservation which will also give you some time to redeem as well, start stacking those reservations as soon as you scan in.

  2. I don’t really understand the strategy for DCA morning with adults using Genie Plus.
    It seems that you change genie plus reservation ?
    I don’t really understand the term « redeem » you use about Guardians (I am French).
    Can you help me to understand ?
    Thank you for your kindness.

  3. Hi Lindsay! Thank you so much for this, I’ve really enjoyed reading your blogs and making our itinerary as we speak 🙂

    In your section for adults and bigger kids with genie pass you said to do this…

    Ride Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: BREAKOUT!
    Grab Soarin’ Disney Genie Plus immediately after redeeming Guardians
    Ride Silly Symphony Swings
    Grab Incredicoaster Disney Genie Plus
    Ride Pixar’s Pal-A-Round (Swinging or Non-Swinging)

    You mention grabbing a genie plus for Soarin’ and then ride the swings and then grab a genie plus for incredicoaster. Can you have two genie plus rides in your que at one time? Don’t we have to redeem the Soarin’ genie plus pass first before grabbing one for the incredicoaster?

    Appreciate your insight!

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