Arrival Planning

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We are early birds, so we encourage people to try and get to the parks when we do to enjoy empty walkways (as seen in this photo), short wait times and less stress!

Arrival Tips

We arrive to the Mickey and Friends parking structure anywhere from 60-90 minutes prior to official park opening time (check Disneyland’s website for hours, NOT google – it’s not always correct!). The parking structure opens 60 minutes prior to official park opening time on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and 90 minutes before park opening on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Once you exit the parking structure, you can either go through the security checkpoint at the base of the structure, then take the tram in, or bypass the checkpoint at the structure and walk to the Downtown Disney security checkpoint located between ESPN Zone and Rainforest Cafe. We have done both and find that early in the morning, taking the tram in is fine since there is usually no wait. As the morning wears on, lines get longer, so walking to Downtown Disney is faster, in our opinion – just follow the signs to Downtown Disney, or ask a Cast Member along the way.

The gates to the park actually open anywhere from 15-30 minutes prior to scheduled park opening time for guests to wander Main Street in Disneyland or Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. We like to take the early entry time to check out the shops (sometimes they aren’t open that early, but a lot of times they are) and grab a coffee at Starbucks in the Market House in Disneyland or Starbucks at Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe in California Adventure. You can also take the early entry time to visit City Hall in Disneyland or Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure to chat with a knowledgeable Cast Member about your plans for the day or grab a complimentary 1st Visit, “I’m Celebrating,” Happily Ever After, or Honorary Citizen of Disneyland button!

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Empty California Adventure at opening!

Characters on Main Street in Disneyland and Buena Vista Street in DCA

One of our very favorite things about getting into the park before rope drop (during the 15-30 minutes where guests can wander Main Street) is seeing characters like Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Chip ‘n Dale! At Disneyland, we like to wait at the double doors where characters make their grand entrance, located at “Livery Service and Stable,” next to the Mad Hatter Shop. The characters don’t all come out at once, but typically one right after the next. The best part is, your kiddos may get the chance to hold a character’s hand as they walk to their final photo location! At California Adventure, the characters enter through a backstage opening between Disney Junior Dance Party and Carthay Circle Restaurant.

The official Disneyland app gives all appearance times, but the best time, in our opinion, is at or before park opening – there are way less people around and some really adorable opportunities for your little to get one-on-one time with their faves! If you miss the opportunity to see the characters right at opening, they come out of the double doors are Disneyland and the backstage entrance at California Adventure throughout the day, so just check the Disneyland app for appearance times and your little ones may still get the opportunity to hold a character’s hand, etc. See some of our photos below!

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The double doors can be seen in the top left corner of this photo!

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Adorable one-on-one time with Goofy at California Adventure in the morning!

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The entry way for Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and the Citizens of Buena Vista Street is in the background here!

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Empty Disneyland and California Adventure

Once the parks officially open at rope drop, you will get to enjoy empty walkways, short wait times and way less stress! We have arrived at opening 2-3 times a week for over two years and we are never disappointed!

One thing to know is that busy season hours (usually 8:00 AM to midnight at Disneyland and 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM at DCA) during Summer and holidays are actually our favorite. When the park opens at 8:00 AM, less people can usually arrive that early which means less people in the park in the morning. Once slower season rolls around, the weekday hours start later (either 9:00 AM or 10:00 AM) and end earlier (9:00 PM, 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM – you can check the Disneyland schedule up to 6 weeks before your visit to find out what your hours will be). Often times, the later start time means more people will be at the main gate ON TIME (instead of sleeping, ha!), which then means more people will be in the park and rushing to the attractions in the morning. Even with the later opening hours, you can still enjoy slower mornings and we always suggest arriving when the parking structure opens so that you can be ahead of the game!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: There WILL be more people in the mornings at Disneyland on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and more people at California Adventure on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday due to Magic Morning/Extra Magic Hour. Guests with this extra hour in the parks only have access to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland at Disneyland and Paradise Pier, Cars Land and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT in California Adventure, so just expect lines to already be formed at attractions in those lands on the days noted above.

Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning Details:

  • EXTRA MAGIC HOUR is for guests staying at the Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian Hotel and Spa or Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. It allows guests of the Disney Hotels early entry to BOTH parks ONE hour before the parks officially open. California Adventure’s Extra Magic Hour is on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Disneyland’s Extra Magic Hour is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
  • MAGIC MORNING is for guests with a 3+ day ticket and allows ONE day of early entry to Disneyland only on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.

When you get to the main gates on one of the mornings noted above, make sure you’re in the line that just says “entrance” (usually further over to the east side at both parks), vs. the lines that say “Magic Morning/Extra Magic Hour.” If you have Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning, then you’ll want to be in the appropriate line as well.

See below for some photos of our empty mornings at the parks.

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All that said, we highly recommend arriving early to get the most out of your Disneyland or California Adventure visit! Trust us, it’s worth the 1-2 hours of sleep loss for an empty park!