Visiting Southern California and and only have the time (or money) to do Disneyland and California Adventure in one day? Those of us who go to Disneyland often will say no, don’t do two parks in one day. It’s true, there is a ton to do at each of the parks and to really get the best experience I recommend at least one full day at each park.
But, I also realize that it’s not cheap to visit Disneyland or California Adventure and budgeting for two days is not always in the cards. There is a ton to see, but if you play your cards right, you can do and see a ton in one day. With the introduction of the Disney MaxPass and planning your day out, visiting two parks in one day is more feasible than in years past.
To help plan your trip, I have shared our guide on how to do Disneyland and California Adventure in one day. You won’t get to do everything, but you will get a great taste of both parks and walk (or maybe limp!) away having an amazing experience for both you and the kids.
BOOK YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE
If you are planning to purchase your tickets at the park, forget it. Book your tickets in advance so that is one less thing you will have to do on your one and only day at the parks. Make sure you have booked a Park Hopper ticket that will allow you entry into BOTH parks. Note: When you leave one park, get your hand stamped in case you have time to go back again later in the day!
If you plan to use the MaxPass, you can book your tickets in advance with this already included. Otherwise, you can purchase this at the park once you have arrived through the app.
RESEARCH THE RIDES YOU MUST DO
If you only have one day at the parks, it is important for you to research the rides you want to do. There is no time to wander around the parks aimlessly wondering what to do next. Choosing which rides to do will depend on whether you are with kids and what their ages are. If you are not with children, you can easily skip all the kiddie rides and go for the adrenaline pumping rides first.
RIDE SUGGESTIONS FOR ONE DAY VISITORS
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours
- Photo Op in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle
- Indiana Jones
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Haunted Mansion
- Splash Mountain (If it’s not a hot day, you can easily give this one a miss)
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Walk Through Sleeping Beauty Castle & Fantasyland
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- It’s a Small World
- Walk through Toon Town
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island (if you have time to kill or the kids just need to run around)
- Parade &/or Fireworks
- Radiator Springs
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Soarin’ Around the World
- California Screamin’
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Little Mermaid (for a Fantasyland type of ride, without the long wait or super scary characters)
- Monsters Inc
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (if the line is short)
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (For kids to be kids for a bit!)
- Grizzly River Run (Great on a hot day)
- Ferris Wheel (if the line isn’t too long)
WHICH PARK FIRST?
The first thing to do is find out what time the two parks open. In the height of summer both parks open at the same time, however during off season, California Adventure often opens an hour later and closes an hour earlier. In this case, you should go to the park that opens first. If it is not California Adventure, race over as soon as it opens. Another tactic to keep in mind is to go to the park that does not have the Magic Morning as there will already be plenty of people at that park even when the gates officially open to the general public.
DOWNLOAD THE APP
BUY A MAXPASS
- Read and research as much as you can before you arrive. If you haven’t been to either of the parks before, read whatever you can get your hands on about the attractions and decide what will work for you and what you absolutely can’t miss. Our Planning a Visit to Disneyland post is a great place to start.
- Don’t stress when something goes wrong. You will not be able to do everything and there will be rides closed due to construction or temporary issues. Try to go with the flow and do and see what you can.
- Break up the group from time to time utilizing Single Rider options if you have members of your group who aren’t interested in every ride.
- Mix things up if you see short lines on interesting rides.
- Pack lots of snacks and water so you aren’t wasting time waiting in food lines all day.
- Pick out your lunch and dinner locations in advance by checking menus. Make advance reservations if required.
- Think about what souvenirs you want to buy in advance. Here are some ideas of the best Disney souvenirs worth the money.
HAVE FUN and don’t get too bogged down in doing everything on your list. Enjoy the moments of pure joy and happiness with the kiddos!
What do you think about doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day? What are your tips for doing the most in the least amount of time?
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