If you only have one day to spend at Disneyland, our Disneyland 1-day itinerary 2023 includes all your must do rides, shows and experiences for the day.
We also figure in utilizing Genie+ which is a paid service that allows you to access a shorter line for attractions called the Lightning Lane.
Keep reading for everything you need to know for a perfect day at Disneyland.
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Disneyland 1-Day Itinerary Prep
Before you arrive to the park, there are some essential steps you should take care to be prepared for your day at Disneyland.
- 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 Disneyland. You can link your park tickets to it, make dining reservations, use the mobile food ordering feature, link your PhotoPass tickets, and utilize the important Disney Genie+ system!
- Download and link your tickets to 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.
- Decide which attractions at Disneyland are the top priority for each member in your group. Have each family member pick at least one attraction that they do not want to miss. This way you can make sure that no matter what each person does their top ride.
- Plan on staying for the entire day and not taking a break so you can maximize your time in the park since you only have one day to spend.
Disneyland 1-Day Itinerary Morning
Guests will be allowed into the park 30 minutes prior to park opening. This helps control the flow of the crowds and can be a big advantage for arriving to the park early. The access points of the park will be blocked off with ropes (hence the term: rope drop!) until the park officially opens. But being inside the park and ready to go at the entrance to the land you want to head to first is a great advantge.
Disneyland Early Entry: Guests staying at Disneyland Resort hotels are given access to 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 too much. The hotel guests don't have access to all the attractions during the 30 minutes so it won't impact your day too much except for those most popular morning rides (Peter Pan!) will already have a line forming by the time you're let in.
Disneyland Rope Drop
Plan to arrive at least one hour prior to the park opening. You want to be lined up at the front gate roughly 45 minutes before opening which means giving yourself at least 15 minutes to get through security and walk over (this is with the assumption that you are staying at a hotel near Disneyland rather than driving into the parks – if you are driving to the Mickey and Friends Parking Structure you will want to allow even more time).
Disneyland breakfast: Get breakfast to go and eat while you're waiting to be let in through the turnstiles, this will help make the time pass quicker or allow some extra time to eat at your hotel. Just make sure you eat before you arrive!
Disneyland Genie+ Strategy
Both Disneyland FastPass and MaxPass have been RETIRED and replaced by the Disneyland Genie Plus service which allows guests to make reservations for attractions from the Disneyland app for a starting fee of $20 per person per day- the price varies depending on day of the season, crowd levels. If you are only planning on spending one day at Disneyland, in this case I absolutely recommend you plan on purchasing it for your day. This will allow you to access the quicker line, called the Lightning Lane, for attractions rather than the longer standby line which will save you hours of time during your day. Read our full guide to Genie+ to get a sense of how it works and use it in conjunction with our 1-day itinerary!
Disneyland 1-Day Morning Itinerary
Start out your morning following our attraction touring plan when the park opens to get the most out of your morning and your Genie+ purchase for the day!
- Grab Space Mountain Genie+ when you enter the park
- Ride Star Tours- The Adventures Continue
- Ride Space Mountain with Genie+
- Grab Indiana Jones Adventure Genie+
- Ride Matterhorn Bobsleds in standby
- Grab a snack from the many food carts on the way to Adventureland when you pass through the park hub if you're hungry
- Ride Haunted Mansion
- Ride Indiana Jones Adventure with Genie+
- Grab Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Genie+
- Ride Pirates of the Caribbean
- Ride Jungle Cruise
- Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with Genie+
- Grab Splash Mountain Disney Genie+
This is about the time many families would take a break for lunch so this is a great time to grab a Genie+ return for an attraction that will have a later return time. I would recommend the option I listed above of Splash Mountain as the most popular time to ride this attraction is in the afternoon when the temperature tends to be highest and this will also be the most comfortable for you to ride, as well!
Disneyland Best Iconic Lunch Spots
For an iconic Disneyland lunch spot, here are my top three table service (sit down dining!) recommendations:
The Carnation Cafe is one of the original restaurants of the Disneyland Resort has been open since the opening day of the resort on July 17th 1955. The Carnation Cafe offers heartier dining options in addition to light lunch food including Walt Disney's favorite chili! Read our full dining review to Carnation Cafe to see the charm of one of the most historic Disneyland restaurants.
This iconic restaurant is located inside the famous Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in New Orleans Square. As guests dine on New Orleans inspired cuisine, you can enjoy watching the boats drift pass on their way to the attraction. The setting in the restaurant is that of a Louisiana inspired bayou with dim lighting and Southern charm. If you're interested in the Blue Bayou, I recommend a splurge on the Fantasmic! dining package to enjoy a meal at one of the most historic Disneyland restaurants and then enjoy front row reserved viewing for Fantasmic! which I recommend you make time for in your Disneyland 1-day itinerary!
The Plaza Inn is a great place to have a hearty dinner of their famous fried chicken or to enjoy brunch for their Minnie & Friends- Breakfast in the Park character dining option.The history and charm of the Plaza Inn makes it one of most historic Disneyland restaurants you cannot miss out on!
Disneyland 1-Day Itinerary Must See Attractions
After lunch, use the Genie+ reservation you booked before you sat down to eat! At this point the most crucial areas and attractions you have left include:
- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
- Toontown (once it reopens on March 8th 2023 we will update this strategy with how to include it in your day!)
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is a great area to spend the afternoon in because it's so spread out with plenty of see and do. This is my favorite area to head to in the afternoons when the crowds tend to be at their highest. Grab yourself a Blue Milk and take a stroll around the land and take in all there is to see. You can even build your own droid if you want or splurge on creating your own specialized lightsaber! You should be able to snag a Genie+ reservation for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run for a relatively reasonable return time. As you wait for your time, enjoy the area- there's plenty to see.
Rise of the Resistance
There are two options to ride Rise of the Resistance: purchase Individual Lightning Lane access (usually about $25 per person) or ride standby. The standby line will be the longest in the morning and afternoon. The shortest time will be dinner time, my experience is usually it will fall to a little over an hour around 6PM. Just don't wait too long if you go that route- they often close Rise down earlier- sometimes as early as 9PM. This is a ride you cannot miss so whether you purchase access and go for convenience or wait in line, make sure you experience it!
Fantasyland + Morning Strategy for Small Kids
Fantasyland can easily be done first thing in the morning if you want to prioritize it, which is a great use of Early Entry if you're staying at a Disney Resort hotel, or the lines will drastically die down after the fireworks end. If you're trying to squeeze everything in during one day at Disneyland I would recommend saving Fantasyland for later. If you have small children though, our earlier ride itinerary may easily be replaced by going directly to Fantasyland (Peter Pan first is the most popular option!) and enjoying the rides while they have their lowest wait times. If this is how you prefer to start your morning, I recommend going through Fantasyland in this order:
- Peter Pan's Flight
- Only if you're at the front of the crowd! If not, skip and do this last after you do the rest of Fantasyland or save for evening.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Alice in Wonderland
- Snow White's Enchanted Wish
- Mr Toad's Wild Ride
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Pinocchio's Daring Journey
- Mad Tea Party
- King Arthur Carrousel
- Bonus tip: it should be slow enough still you can try and ride Jingles!
- Casey Jr. Circus Train
To check height requirements for other attractions around Disneyland and read more about rider switch (how adults can ride without waiting twice even if your kiddo is still not tall enough!), read through our full guide to Disneyland height requirements + rider switch.
Disneyland Nighttime Spectaculars
As you plan your evening, you should also coordinate what nighttime spectaculars you want to see. These special entertainment options are what make Disneyland more than just a theme park and make the experience of spending a day at Disney extra magical. Depending on the time of year you visit, the timing of these may vary along with the specific show being shown so I recommend checking our Disneyland crowd calendar for your specific month of visit and reading our monthly guide to get an idea of what to expect.
- Fantasmic!– this nighttime spectacular is shown nightly most of the year but may only be shown on weekends during slower seasons. Fantasmic! is easily the most popular nighttime spectacular at Disneyland and for good reason! The show brings together incredible performers, the latest in special effects technology and the incredible Disney songbook to tell the story of good vs evil inside Mickey Mouse's imagination. You should not miss this!
- Fireworks– fireworks are shown nightly during peak times of year (summer, holidays) but Disney still runs a projection show every night that is worth watching! I recommend watching the fireworks by its a small world so you don't have to dedicate too much time to saving a spot. You can grab a spot as little as 30 minutes beforehand in this location!
More Disneyland Planning Tips
There is always a lot of information to consider before planning a 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.
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