Since Project Stardust helped pave the way for Disneyland’s most recent expansion, a crowded day at the parks is rare. Still, you don’t want to be caught off guard when the Disneyland resort is suddenly packed with people. This holiday season (and throughout the year) as the crowds return, I want to give you some key survival tips to help you manage a day with Disneyland crowds. Take this advice and you won’t get dragged down by high attendance park days. You can still have fun at Disneyland, even when it’s crowded.
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Take the Side Entrance
One really easy solution to crowds is to avoid areas where they funnel. The main gate is the first place where the Disneyland crowds have to squeeze in and form lines. You can bypass a lot of this by simply using a different gate. If you are a guest at Disney’s Grand Californian, for example, you have access to a side entrance into the Grizzly Peak area of Disney’s California Adventure park. Over on the Disneyland side, there is another side entrance hiding in plain sight. The Monorail station at the end of Downtown Disney takes guests straight into Tomorrowland. What’s great about this is that it transports you deep inside the park so you can also bypass the crowds on Main Street. Whatever entrance you’re taking to get into the parks, be sure to have your bag(s) ready for security to look through them. This will help to keep the line moving so everyone can get in and have fun.
Make a Lunch Reservation
The early afternoon is the busiest time of day in the parks. It’s not ideal to be out and about, looking for attractions with the shortest wait times. Instead, plan to duck out from the crowds during this time by making a dining reservation. The table service restaurants at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure are terrific experiences and they take the stress out of finding a table amidst the Disneyland crowds. You can also bring your own food into Disneyland and find a quiet spot to enjoy lunch. The important part of this tip is that you aren’t following the “normal” schedule and having lunch while everyone else is.
It costs $15 per person and worth every penny. Maxpass lets you use your phone to grab Fastpasses versus going to a physical location to get your Fastpass. It makes a humongous difference. Once your window opens to select another Fastpass, even if you’re standing in line for another attraction, you can use Maxpass to get your next Fastpass. If you have a park hopper pass, you can even select Fastpasses across the parks. That means while you are in the Fastpass queue for the Incredicoaster, you can get a Fastpass for the Haunted Mansion. Start making selections as soon as you’ve scanned your tickets and entered either park. This works even if you go back to your resort to rest. You can be making Fastpass selections for your evening while the kids are napping. Maxpass frees up your time and lets you do more. It also includes Photopass for free.
To travel the park on a crowded day, the Disneyland Railroad is essential. not only does it provide a scenic rest for about 20 minutes while you make the grand circle tour, but it’s also an effective form of travel. It’s the best way to get to New Orleans Square or Mickey’s Toontown in the back of the park without having to surf through the crowds. Taking the railroad to various stops and disembarking to visit the local attractions is a unique way to see the park that minimizes foot traffic. You can even transfer from the monorail to the Railroad in Tomorrowland or vice versa.
Convenient railroad side attractions include:
- The Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Splash Mountain
- Winnie the Pooh
- It’s a Small World
- The Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Finding Nemo
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Space Mountain
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Another time-saver that many people still don’t use is mobile order. It’s a convenient way to beat the Disney crowds at counter service restaurants. You can place your order on your smartphone and pay so you only need to pick up your food when you arrive at the location. With mobile order and Maxpass you can significantly reduce the time you spend waiting in lines at Disneyland on a crowded day. Your My Disney Experience app will tell you when your order is ready to be picked up. Just go to the mobile order window to collect your order and find a spot to enjoy. Be prepared from puzzled looks from other guests who didn’t know about mobile ordering that are standing in line while you walking up to get your food.
What other tips do you have to help navigate Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure on a busy day?