Four Hour Tour Plan: Disneyland
Published: April 25, 2008 at 1:12 PM
Theme Park Insider's "Four-Hour Tours" are designed to get you and your family to the very best attractions in the world's top theme parks... before anyone can get tired and cranky. That leaves you free to enjoy the rest of your day... with a swim, a nap, or with pressure-free time to wander the park.
Please visit our Four-Hour Tours page for an explanation of the concept, as well as links to additional Four-Hour Tours. The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those at Disneyland most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers. You may click on the attraction links below to see complete attraction descriptions and reviews.
Before you go: Avoid the wait at the park's ticket booths by buying your tickets online at the Disneyland website and printing them out at home. Keep in mind that, unlike with Walt Disney World tickets, there is no option to buy an upgrade that keeps your Disneyland tickets from expiring 14 days after their first use. So do not buy more days than you will use on this trip. If you wish to upgrade your ticket to add additional days once you arrive, you can do so through Disney's Guest Relations desk at City Hall.
Disneyland is much smaller than Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, yet gets almost as many visitors, so this park can get quite crowded. Try to avoid weekends, as well as the week between Christmas and New Year's, to avoid the largest crowds. Also, pick early June over late August for a summer vacation trip, as most Southern California schools start and end their year late.
Part of this tour plan includes lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant, located within the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You will want to make reservations several weeks in advance, by calling 1-714-781-3463. Be as sweet as you can, and request a waterside table when you make your reservation, and again when you check in. Hosts have immense latitude on who gets these, so don't be a jerk about it.
When you get there: If you, like most visitors, are driving to Disney via Interstate 5, you'll likely part in the Mickey and Friends parking garage and take the tram to Downtown Disney, where you can make the short walk to Disneyland. Plan on at least 45 minutes (an hour in the summer) to park, take the tram and walk to the park after you leave the highway. You will want to arrive at the park's front gate a few minutes before the park opens. You can check Disneyland's operating hours on the Disneyland website.
1. Once in the park, head down Main Street and turn right into Tomorrowland for your first ride of the day, on the musical indoor roller coaster, Space Mountain.
2. After exiting Space Mountain, head left, back toward Main Street, stopping for a ride on the shoot-'em-up dark ride, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.
3. Then it's back across Main Street and into Adventureland, where you will stop to get Fastpasses, Disney's ride reservation tickets for the Indiana Jones Adventure, which you will ride later in the morning.
4. Walk past the treehouse and down around the Rivers of America into Critter Country, for a trip on the flume ride, Splash Mountain.
5. After Splash, you will work your way back toward Indiana Jones, stopping first for a ride on the Haunted Mansion.
6. Next, continue around the river and across New Orleans Square toward the Disneyland classic, the original Pirates of the Caribbean.
7. Now it's time for your ride on the Indiana Jones Adventure.
8. Wrap up your morning by walking back toward and past Pirates, to the entrance for the Blue Bayou Restaurant. If you were not able to get reservations, at the Bayou, you might enjoy a break from the park by dining at one of the many sit-down restaurants in the adjacent Downtown Disney shopping district, located just outside the park's front gate.
Chill out for the remainder of the afternoon, either returning to your hotel for a break or wandering the park without a plan.
In the evening: We recommend returning to Disneyland in the evening, for the park's highly rated Fantasmic! nighttime show. Arrive a couple hours early, though, and catch rides on the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, two classic Disney coasters that are even better rides at night.