The Happiest Place on Earth is also one of the most popular and this is reflected in the crowd level of the parks nearly year round. It's rare to find a day that is considered slow at the Disney parks anymore. If you can, you can try to visit at a time of year when the crowd levels are expected to be down and not when Disneyland is crowded.
But that doesn't mean the crowds should ruin your day or stop you from experiencing everything Disneyland has to offer! Here are our top strategies on how to handle a day when Disneyland is crowded.
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1. Download the Disneyland App
Be familiar with how mobile ordering works and how to use Genie+ so you're prepared before you arrive. Spend some time at home getting familiar with it so you know how to find everything once you arrive. Disney works hard at giving you options to beat the lines- utilize these resources on days when Disneyland is crowded.
Mobile Ordering is a great feature at the parks and is available at select locations. It's really easy to use and convenient! Basically, you order your food and pay in advance on the Disneyland app. Then when you arrive at the restaurant, you click ‘prepare my order,' and voila! Your order is ready in minutes and you don't have to stand in the LONG lines that tend to build on busy days for your food. Everyone wins!
Disney Genie+ is a paid program at Disneyland that replaced the previous FastPass/MaxPass program at the parks. This paid service includes access to quicker lines to 15 attractions in both parks plus the option to pay for access for certain individual attractions.
The Disneyland app features access to both these services which can be lifesavers when you're trying to navigate heavy crowds at Disneyland.
2. Use Genie+ to Skip Lines
Disney Genie+ program is a paid service that includes 15 attractions across both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The new service is very similar to the previous FastPass/MaxPass system that it replaced at Disneyland. This system is a great help on busy days at Disneyland as it allows you to reserve a virtual spot in line via the app and the complimentary Disney Genie app also helps plan your day.
Essentially for certain attractions there's two line options: a standby line and a Lightning Lane.The Genie+ program gives you access to the Lightning Lane which is significantly shorter than the standby line. It costs $20 per person, per day and include your access to ride reservations plus all your photo downloads for the day.
Read through our entire guide to Disney's Genie+ program so you know what it is and how to maximize its use- this is a must for dealing with a crowded day.
3. Arrive Early to Disneyland
We can't stress enough how arriving to the parks EARLY before they open will maximize your time- even on the most crowded days!
Here are our tips for morning arrivals and strategies to help you spend those morning hours riding your favorite attractions without standing in long lines:
- Arrive an hour prior to the scheduled park opening. This will put you in a good position to be let into the parks early and position yourself at Rope Drop. Typically, Disney lets guests into the parks 15-30 minutes prior to opening time and they have ropes up blocking off entry into the main ‘lands' of the parks. If you're there at Rope Drop, you will have the advantage of literally walking on to some of the most popular rides.
- Show up with a strategy in mind so you can go straight from ride to ride without having to sit and discuss with your group. This will save so much time!
- Check out our morning strategy for Disneyland which includes plans for small kids and big kids/adults.
- Check out our morning strategy for California Adventure which includes plans for small kids and big kids/adults.
- Be prepared with games and other ways to keep kids entertained in line. The Disney Parks Play App is a good one and it won’t use your data. Other favorites for most kiddos is Pokémon Go or games like Heads Up!
- Have snacks ready. You're on vacation- feed your kids candy all day if that's what it takes to keep them happy in line. Or do whatever works best for your family. Either way, come prepared with snacks for the morning hours so you don't have to stop in between rides.
4. Stay Until Disneyland Closes
If your group can handle staying up late (the perks of having teenagers!) I recommend taking an afternoon break so you can rest and come back to shut down the parks! If Disneyland is crowded during your visit chances are you're visiting during what Disney would consider a peak time of year (holidays/spring break/summer/etc.) and the parks will likely be open until 11PM/midnight. Even on the most crowded days of the year you can enjoy shorter lines after the fireworks!
Taking a midday break can be a huge help for this tip and also just for your sanity! The afternoon can feel the most overwhelming when you're at Disneyland when it's crowded. Take a break, go back to your hotel and cool down in the pool. You'll arrive back to Disney refreshed and ready to stay all night!
Stay until park closing and you'll be amazed at how much you can get done between in those last few hours. We've had great success with this option even on some of the most crowded days of the year like Thanksgiving!
5. Find Alternatives to Lines When Disneyland is Crowded
Have a list of things you want to do besides rides with long wait times ready for the afternoon when the wait times get intense when Disneyland is crowded. Usually you will end up with an hour or two waiting for your FastPass times if you planned accordingly.
Rather than melt in hot afternoon lines- go explore other options for awhile to take a break. You’d be surprised just at how much there is to see and do in Disneyland besides rides.
Here are our top favorite things to do when Disneyland is crowded:
- Grab a Blue Milk in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and enjoy the atmosphere while you look for characters such as Stormtroopers, Rey, Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.
- Ride the Main Street car vehicles and horse drawn carriage rides on Main Street U.S.A.
- Grab a Dole Whip and watch a show at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland.
- Walk through Tarzan's Tree House in Adventureland.
- Run around Tom Sawyer's Island to take a break from the crowds in Frontierland. Or ride the Mark Twain Riverboat or the Sailing Ship Columbia in Frontierland.
- Watch Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln located near the entrance of Main Street U.S.A.
- Enjoy a stroll through Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Through in Fantasyland.
- Ride the Disneyland Railroad around the park and enjoy the scenery.
- Watch a show or performance! Look for ‘entertainment' on the Disneyland app to find current times.
- Ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Critter Country which usually has low wait times all day long even with large crowds.
Here are our top favorite things to do when California Adventure is crowded:
- Enjoy Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Grizzly Peak.
- Explore all there is to do inside the Animation Academy in California Adventure. Find the Beast's Library, learn to draw from a real Disney artist or have a chat with Crush.
- Disney Junior Dance Party in Hollywood Land is perfect for toddlers and small children.
- Enjoy the delicious smells and sights at The Bakery Tour in Pacific Wharf.
- Take the time to notice all the details and things to see in Cars Land.
- Enjoy the games on Pixar Pier which typically have low wait times all day long.
- Treat yourself to Everything but the Kitchen Sink icecream sundae at Clarabelle's on Buena Vista Street.
- Find characters such as Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Panther, and other Marvel favorites in Avengers Campus.
- Ride The Little Mermaid which usually has low wait times all day long even with large crowds.
- Spend time watching the shows in Avengers Campus which are consistent throughout the day.
The biggest two factors that helped us on our last visit when Disneyland was extremely crowded: arriving early and patience. Seriously, remembering to be patient will help so much. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated with the crowds. Take a deep breath. If you need some space, retreat out of the walkways and breathe for a moment.
Plus if you purchase Genie+ it is fully possible to still ride everything you want without waiting in long lines. Check out our post from August when we were there on one of the busiest days all month! We still got everything done we wanted and had a great time. You can too even when Disneyland is crowded. A busy day at Disneyland is still a good day!
Remember: you’re here to have fun and you can’t control the crowds. Just work with it the best you can. Slow down and enjoy being in the most magical place on Earth.
Ready to Plan Your Disneyland Vacation?
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:
- California Adventure Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings
- Disneyland Morning Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings
- How to Plan Your Disneyland Trip
- Lamplight Lounge Dining Review
- 40+ Places to Find Cheap Food in Disneyland
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