Disney California Adventure & Disneyland in 1 day

August 16, 2015, 9:22 AM


We have 3 full days in LA from 2nd to 4th October. Our plan was to visit Universal studios on Sunday 4th, leaving either the Friday or Saturday to visit both Disney parks, and another to look around LA itself.

According to a very helpful post from AJ a couple of months ago it should be possible to cover both parks in one day if we're efficient, specifically we'd like to go on:

- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Star Tours
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Grizzly River Run
- California Screamin'
- Aladdin - A Musical Spectacular

I'm not really sure how to approach the shows though:

- Fantasmic 9pm & 10:45pm (Disnelyland)
- World of Colour 9pm & 10:15pm (Adventure)
- Disneyland Forever 9:30pm (Disneyland)

We've already seen Fantasmic twice, and whilst we loved it, we're not that fussed on seeing it again. Unfortunately though the Disneyland Forever time (which we would like to see) probably makes it impossible to see World of Colour - unless we can see the show, and get to World of Colour in the other park in 45 minutes?

Thank you :)

Replies (18)

August 16, 2015, 9:49 AM

I'll take first crack at this, before AJ swoops in and does it even better...

First, I assume you aren't going to have access to Disney's Extra Magic Hours (unless you're staying in a Disney-owned hotel). Given that, I'd start your morning before rope drop (that is, exceedingly early) at whichever park doesn't have Extra Magic Hours. On Saturday, that'd be DCA; on Friday, Disneyland.

With your itinerary, I'd start my day in DCA. Before rope drop, line up near the Carthay Circle Theater (towards the left), to get your Radiator Springs Racers FastPass very first thing. From there, hoof it to the Paradise Pier to do Toy Story Midway Mania before the line forms (it's your one must-do without FastPass). Exit Toy Story, do Screamin' next door.

Wend your way back through DCA, doing Grizzly River Rapids (I'd also add Soarin' to the must-dos), with an eye on your Radiator Springs return time. Aladdin's first performance would be at 10:30, I believe. It'll take nearly an hour to see it, so watch your return times. Also do Tower of Terror nearby if you're so inclined.

Once you've hopped into Disneyland, your selected attractions can be done in any order if you're wise with your Fast Passes. Check the ticket to see when you can get another; don't do a Fast Pass ride until you've acquired your next Fast Pass. I might aim to do Indiana Jones first, Big Thunder last, based on their popularity. If your group doesn't mind riding alone, use Single Rider lines instead of Fast Passes for Indy and Splash (and Matterhorn).

For night shows, it's tricky. Grab Fast Passes for Fantasmic and World of Color during the day (they aren't synched with the rest of the system). Sadly, it really is a kind of either/or for DCA or Disneyland night shows. Most effective might be to stake out a spot on Main Street for the Paint the Night parade (not on your agenda, but good) in a location near the castle so you can stick around afterwards for Disneyland Forever. It's then easiest to go see Fantasmic nearby. The timing is too tight, I think, to reach World of Color, especially with crowds.

Have a great trip!

August 16, 2015, 1:05 PM

Honestly, I live in the L.A. area and I don't think there is much to see there. Just stick with 2 days at Disney and a day at Universal Studios.

August 16, 2015, 5:01 PM

I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you should easily be able to complete your list of rides in one day. The bad news is that you'll need to visit on a busy Saturday due to Mickey's Halloween Party closing Disneyland at 7 P.M. on that Friday. The other bad news is that based on anticipated show schedules it will be impossible to see all three nighttime spectaculars. More on that in a bit.

Douglas's plan is pretty similar to what I'd recommend, but I'll give you my version as well. First off, since you're visiting on a Saturday I recommend arriving very early. The parks open at 8 A.M., so shoot for arriving at the parking garage at 7 A.M. Disneyland has early entry that day, so I would advise starting off with DCA. Once inside, find the line for Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass distribution. When the park opens, secure your Fastpass and book it to Toy Story Midway Mania. If you are lucky you can get back there before the wait exceeds 30 minutes. Ride Toy Story Midway Mania and California Screamin', then head to Grizzly Peak. Ride both Grizzly River Run and Soarin' Over California (since the original version is closing) in either order, then grab a Showpass for World of Color (if you'll be seeing the show). You now have free time until your Radiator Springs Racers Fastpass is valid (your window will likely start in the 10:30-11:30 A.M. range). After redeeming this Fastpass, grab one for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, then get lunch and go to the 12:40 P.M. showing of Aladdin. On most days, this is the first showing of the day. After the show, redeem your Tower of Terror Fastpass and then head over to Disneyland.

If you are doing well, you should be able to get to Disneyland around 2 P.M. Get a Fastpass for Indiana Jones Adventure (return time will likely start in the 5:15-6:15 P.M. range), then head to Tomorrowland. Ride Space Mountain (Ghost Galaxy version due to Halloween) and Star Tours, then you're free to do whatever you want. When you are eligible for another Fastpass, grab one for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you haven't visited for a couple years, be sure to check out Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan's Flight to see the upgrades (ride these during the parade for the shortest waits).

Now for the nighttime spectaculars. Based on the schedule for the week before your visit, World of Color only does one showing per night at 9:45 P.M. Disneyland Forever shows at 9:30 P.M. and Fantasmic is at 9:00 P.M. and 10:30 P.M. Therefore, you're pretty much forced to pick one park or the other for nighttime spectaculars. Personally, I would probably stick with Disneyland and see the two shows there (plus Paint the Night). Find a spot on the west side of the parade route near the hub to watch the parade and fireworks, then head to Fantasmic as soon as the show ends. While I haven't seen the new version of the show, I personally found the original version of World of Color underwhelming. However, if you want to see World of Color instead of the Disneyland shows, just make your way over to DCA around 9 P.M.

The last ride on your list is Splash Mountain. If you stay in Disneyland, I would recommend waiting until after Fantasmic to go ride this. Otherwise, you can ride it at your convenience during the day (use Single Rider). I would also highly recommend that you ride Haunted Mansion as the outstanding Holiday version will be running at that time. Do this whenever you do Splash Mountain. Pirates of the Caribbean may be down at the time of your visit, but you can do that at pretty much any point.

I hope you have a great time at the park. Also, enjoy USH. Crowds should be moderate on the day of your visit so you should have plenty of time to do everything there.

August 17, 2015, 1:22 PM

Thank you so much for the information guys! You've given us great schedules to make sure we get to go on all of the rides we'd want to at both parks which is is a relief.

Shame about the night time spectaculars, but from what you've said maybe we're better off staying at Disneyland and seeing the various shows there rather than worrying about World of Color :)

We're actually pretty flexible with those 3 days - we want to spend 1 day at Disney, 1 day at Universal and 1 day at vegan Oktoberfest in LA... from what you'v said, due to Mickey's Halloween Party running on the Friday, that would be a really bad night to go, so we're thinking of doing Disney on the Saturday or Sunday and Universal (including HHN) on the Friday :) Would you guys recommend a Saturday or Sunday for the two Disney parks? Thanks again

August 17, 2015, 1:55 PM

I would stick with the Disneyland nighttime spectaculars. World of Color is a neat show but everything in it is also in Fantasmic and you can see three shows at Disneyland (two of which are new) vs. one at DCA.

Friday is a good day for Universal. Crowds will probably be moderate during the day, though Halloween Horror Nights is always packed. For Disney, I would probably choose Saturday over Sunday due to passholder blockouts. I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes anymore since the proportion of So Cal passholders is decreasing, but historically Sunday has been the busiest day of the week at Disneyland during the off-season.

August 17, 2015, 7:09 PM

I agree with AJ, World of Color isn't that amazing. Most of it is just showing projections on water, which seems cooler than it actually is. I haven't seen Fantasmic, but I've heard great things about it.

August 19, 2015, 12:16 AM

Also going on that weekend is Gay Days. You can read more on this at www.gaydaysanaheim.com Personally have never been there during this event but I hear it's a big event. I don't know how that is going to affect the crowd, lines, etc. So you may also want to factor that in.

Edited: August 19, 2015, 2:33 AM

Thank you so much for the info guys :) Definitely seems like we're better off missing World of Color then, and seeing the 2 or 3 shows at Disneyland instead.

Friday = Universal
Saturday = Disney
Sunday = Oktoberfest

The Gay Days thing is a bit of a worry, purely from the point of view of the potential added crowds. We're only in LA for those 3 days though (the 3 days the event is running) so don't really have a lot of other options, other than to skip the Disney parks entirely which we'd rather not do (especially since after lots of research, and advice from people on here, we're really excited to go!). But 30,000 people is a lot!

August 19, 2015, 5:44 PM

While I haven't been to the event, I've heard from friends who have (or who work at Disneyland) that Gay Days doesn't majorly affect crowds. It will be a bit busier than a typical weekend, but you are not going to see holiday level crowds or anything like that. Expect waits of around 60 minutes for headliners at the peak and get to shows at least 30 minutes early (especially Paint the Night), but other than that I wouldn't worry too much. I've been to the park on Black Friday and during Spring Break and still managed to do almost 40 rides, so I don't think you should have any problem getting all your must ride attractions done.

August 20, 2015, 5:55 AM

I just want to chime in and say that as far as there not being anything to see in L.A, that's not true at all, of course. If you live somewhere (and I think most of us do), it's easy to get bored, and the shine can wear off quickly. I've been to L.A 5 times or so, and only two trips did I go to the parks, though I did hit up both Disney parks, Universal, Knott's, and Magic Mountain. L.A is a cool town.

I may try to get to Disneyland later this year or early next year, so threads like this are a good read for me. I know Disney World "inside out"...see what I did there? But I'm still a newbie at DLR, so I appreciate the comments from the locals or well-seasoned vets!

Edited: August 20, 2015, 12:43 PM

Just something to bear in mind if there is an event on - gay days. We went the second weekend in October last year and it was rammed. We aimed to get there early but despite only being 10 min drive away it took us 1 hour to park and get to bag check, then 20 minutes to get through security and a further 40 min to exchange our online ticket voucher as we got them through an agent (I'd get them direct from Disney next time as u can go straight to the gate). We left our accommodation at 745 aiming to get there at 830 but finally got into Disneyland at about 1030. The shortest ride queue was about 30 min, but typically 50-60 min plus(helped a bit by fast passes). When we went again on the Tuesday it was much quieter until the Halloween tickets arrived from 4. So I would say aim to get there very early maybe 700-730 to get ahead if you are driving and parking there. Also maybe prioritise your list in case you can't fit it all in

August 21, 2015, 8:03 AM

Wow! Almost 40 rides in a single day? That's insane AJ. That makes me feel a lot better about going on the rides we'd like to gone also, hopefully we can get a few extras in too :D

And thanks Gabriel, we're having one day in LA itself (visiting Oktoberfest) and also on our last day we're flying into LAX early and will pay for our bags to go into storage whilst we go and visit the beach :)

Thanks for the heads up Mike, that sounds pretty brutal - we'll make sure we get there early and work rigidly through the list :) To be honest, missing World of Color is a weight off our minds too so thanks again all for the advice on that.

Edited: August 22, 2015, 3:00 AM

You are welcome Nick, it may be that we were just unlucky and caught a bad day. But I guess if you go with the worst expectations things can only be better. I am also more used to Florida which seems a bit less affected by weekend peaks in numbers. I would agree that world of colour, though very nice, isn't as good as fantasmic or the fireworks in Disneyland. And there is the paint the night parade now? To be honest, dare I say, WoC seems to go on a bit to me and gets a bit samey after a few minutes.

Edited: August 28, 2015, 8:34 AM

Hi, I just came across this thread, so impressed with your comprehensive replies! I'm going to have a similar issue. We will be going to California Disneyland resort for the first time over four days in September (Thurs-Sun), but Friday is the Halloween Party at Disneyland, so we were thinking to do DCA that day. Only problem is that day DCA has extra magic hours that we can't access, so we can only enter at 8am. I've heard this means the Toy Story and Radiator Springs fastpass lines will be unbearable. Is that true?
Ideally we would like to start our visit at Disneyland, being our first time and wanting to feel the magic..
Our plan so far:
Thurs: Disneyland starting with character breakfast at 8.10am in the park (DCA opens at 9am)
Fri: DCA (has extra magic hours, but we r not eligible, so only get in at 8am)
Sat: Magic morning from 7am in Disneyland
Sun: Mix of Disneyland & DCA (DCA has extra magic hours that day, which again we are not eligible for)
I can't figure out how to get to the DCA rides without waiting in cazy lines. We have park hopper tickets. I even thought we could do the Disneyland breakfast for the 'magic' first impression and then join the CA line, but I don't think there is enough time.
Any suggestions to solve this would be most appreciated.
Thanks in advance!

Edited: August 28, 2015, 3:11 PM

Vick, that's a bit of a different issue, but since the original questions appear to have been resolved I'll just answer it here. You have four days at the parks which will be more than enough time to get everything in, so I wouldn't worry too much about crowding issues. Expect moderate crowds on Thursday and Friday but heavy crowds on Saturday and Sunday. Most likely Thursday will be the least busy and the days will get busier until Sunday. With park hoppers, there is no need to rigidly constrain yourself to one park per day. I would suggest focusing on Disneyland on Thursday and DCA on Friday, but feel free to switch back and forth if the urge arises. Saturday and Sunday can be used to hit things you missed in either park and revisit your favorite attractions.

As for DCA, even though you are not eligible for early entry you may enter the park 30 minutes before opening and join the queue for Radiator Springs Racers Fastpasses right away. Although some from early entry will be in line, distribution will not begin until opening and you will likely have your Fastpass within 20 minutes of opening. However, since it likely won't be too busy you may be better off skipping Fastpass and going straight to the ride as the line probably will only be about 30 minutes (remember, it can take 20 minutes with a Fastpass once you return). Toy Story Midway Mania is usually 30 minutes or less for the first hour or two, so as long as you go there directly after getting a Fastpass or riding Radiator Springs Racers you shouldn't have to worry about too long of a wait (no Fastpass for this one, unfortunately).

August 28, 2015, 4:15 PM

Hi AJ, thanks for your quick reply. Sorry if I wrote in the wrong thread. This is the first time I have ever posted on a discussion group!
It's good to hear you think the wait times for DCA on the Friday could be manageable. Apart from this one glitch I think the rest of the plan works.
I had another brainwave to get in to DCA on a non-magic hours day: MM in Disneyland on Thurs instead of Sat... Sat MM means arriving at the park at a crazy 7am, but on Thursday its a comparatively moderate 8am :-) Also I wonder if Disneyland would be quieter on the Friday because of the early close due to Halloween party? not sure how to fit in character breakfast w this kind of plan though... What do you think?

Edited: August 28, 2015, 5:08 PM

No worries, Vick. I'm not a moderator or anything, I've just noticed that it works a little differently on each forum. On here, people will usually start a new thread with questions since threads close after a month. Don't worry, you're not breaking any rules (at least that I know of), it's just for future reference.

The Disneyland Resort has some very interesting off-season traffic patterns due to a dominance by passholders. On Mon-Thurs, crowds usually are pretty reasonable all day (note that the parks are never dead, but you won't see huge crowds on these days). On Fridays, the parks are pretty quiet in the morning and afternoon, but evenings are very busy as passholders come after work (you'll see a massive increase in crowds between 3-5 P.M.). Saturdays are busy with the traditional crowd pattern you would expect from a theme park (moderate at opening, increases until noon, busy until the fireworks, then decreases toward closing). Sundays are the busiest of all due to the So Cal pass, with heavy crowds from about 10 A.M. until 6 P.M. You may find the evening crowd shrinks quicker on Sunday than Saturday, but with all the new nighttime entertainment offerings this may no longer be the case. Due to these traffic patterns, you will benefit more from using the Magic Morning on Saturday than on Thursday. Thursday shouldn't be overly busy and you probably will see wait times peak at 30-45 minutes for headliners. Saturday, however, may have lines of an hour or more, so getting in early and taking care of the popular/low capacity rides before crowds arrive is a good idea. Advice about visiting on a non-early entry day mainly pertains to seasons with a large number of tourists, not late September. I've visited both parks on early entry days in the off-season and usually the early entry won't make lines more than 10-15 minutes longer than they would have been otherwise.

As for Friday at Disneyland, it will be pretty light in the morning and early afternoon. However, the guests for Mickey's Halloween Party can enter 3 hours before closing, so at that point the park will get very busy very quickly. If you miss a major attraction on Thursday for some reason or you get bored of DCA, I would maybe hop over here for a couple hours after lunch, but otherwise I would stick with just DCA on Friday.

August 28, 2015, 5:12 PM

Thanks so much for your help!
I'm sure I'll be back for advice :-)

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