What's the Best First Move When Visiting Disneyland?

April 14, 2023, 9:56 PM · What is your first move when you visit Disneyland?

Walt's original park remains one of the world's most popular, and a bucket-list destination for theme park fans around the world. But what's the best way to see as much as you can on a trip to Disneyland?

Obviously, you should start your day at the rope drop, aiming to enter the park at least a half hour before its published opening time. But where should you go first?

We have been debating that question over on our Theme Park Insider Discussion Forum: What's the best strategy for visiting Disneyland? Now, I want to put the question up for a vote, to see our readers' collective opinion.

So let's get into it. With Early Entry, Disneyland Resort hotel visitors get a 30 minute head start on Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. For that reason, I have been recommending that visitors head left, to the west side of the park, at rope drop, if they are not staying at the hotels and do not have the advantage of that head start.

But on the forum, reader AJ suggested that heading to Space Mountain first still works to help you save what would be a long wait later in the day by clearing that and Star Tours in the first hour. Then you can head to the west side and get several biggies over there before the crowds get too large. He said that Star Wars Rise of the Resistance is pulling so many people at opening that it is leaving the west side relatively clear for the first couple of hours, allowing you to sneak in the two Tomorrowland time-sucks first.

Personally, I still would rather knock off Indy and Thunder first, then go get Space and Star Tours before coming back for Mansion and Pirates. Get Runaway Railway after lunch, followed by Rise of the Resistance. Then save Fantasyland for the late evening, after the kids have gone to bed.

The only tough one to get, for me, is Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Lightning Lane just kills the standby capacity on this attraction, which I estimate is under 500 guests per hour anyway. With the Lightning Lane merge being at the load point, the standby queue today was the second-longest in the park for much of the day, trailing only Rise of the Resistance. With Toontown closing early, usually by 8pm, this is going to be a tough one to fit in an ambitious one-day schedule, unless you go for it right at 10am or whenever Toontown opens.

Our strategy assumes that you will not be buying the Disney Genie+ upgrade to get access to Lightning Lane. While Lightning Lanes can help you experience a lot more attractions in less time, at Disneyland Genie+ is not necessary to be able to enjoy all the top attractions, plus dozens more, in a single day.

If you follow a sound strategy when visiting the park, that is.

So let's get that strategy started.

To see our current strategy, along with our latest reader rankings and a whole bunch of on-ride videos, please visit our Disneyland visitors' guide. And for the latest discounts on multi-day tickets, including a SoCal resident deal on weekday tickets, please visit our partner's Disneyland tickets page.

Replies (9)

April 14, 2023 at 10:13 PM

I wouldn’t even bother with Indy because the ride after its so-called refurbishment is still not functioning properly.

April 14, 2023 at 11:19 PM

Notable is that for the first hour or so, so many are at Galaxy's Edge that lines shorter for most of the rest of the park which can help. One thing to remember on Tomorrowland is folks coming in from the monorail can hit that first so Space Mountain longer. Just depends which you're ready to invest more time waiting for.

April 15, 2023 at 9:18 AM

Leave and go to Universal

April 15, 2023 at 10:28 AM

I will say this folks. Be careful putting all your eggs in the RotResistance basket. Often it is having "technical difficulties" and will throw off your gameplan. Indiana Jones is also guilty of this. If you're interested in Peter Pan, Runaway Railway, and such rides I would say Fantasyland/Toontown can be your most reliable first move.

First 2 hours-

1. Peter Pans Flight
2. Alice in Wonderland
3. Matterhorn Bobsleds
4. Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway
5. Roger Rabbit

Its a good problem to have when there are several smart first move options at a theme park.

April 15, 2023 at 11:22 AM

I say book it straight to Oga's Cantina and start pounding drinks so you can survive the non-stop frustration of dealing with Genie+ and mobile ordering. They only let you have 2-3 drinks, but if you go out and come back in your count starts over.

Roger Rabbit is such a meh ride, I'm surprised that factors into your calculus. Go ride Mr. Toad's, it's the better version and the line is much shorter.

April 15, 2023 at 8:16 PM

I guess I better defend my strategy...

The methodology I use when creating touring plans is only based on two questions: when is a line going to exceed 30 minutes, and when will it drop back below 30 minutes. Basically, the rides to prioritize are those that will get over 30 minutes first, especially if they are unlikely to drop back below it, regardless of which will wind up having the longest line at some point during the day. However, if a ride is already going to be a 30+ minute investment at opening, it's better saved for later in the day as it will consume too much of those precious first two hours. Why 30 minutes? Because in order to get on every noteworthy attraction in Disneyland in a day, you need to average under 30 minutes per attraction (assuming 8 A.M. to 12 A.M. hours).

The way I see it, Disneyland has eleven attractions that routinely exceed a 30 minute wait for a majority of the day on an average day. Based on my data (from both experience and historical data on queue-times), here's when that happens on average (parentheses indicate approximately when the line drops back below 30 minutes)...

30+ Minutes at opening: Peter Pan's Flight (until closing), Rise of the Resistance (until closing)
30+ Minutes by 9 A.M.: Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway (until 11 P.M.), Smugglers Run (until 9 P.M.), Space Mountain (until closing)
30+ Minutes by 10 A.M.: Indiana Jones Adventure (until 11 P.M.), Matterhorn Bobsleds (until 11 P.M.), Mickey's House (until closing)
30+ Minutes by 11 A.M.: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (until 9 P.M.), Haunted Mansion (until 9 P.M.)
30+ Minutes by 12 P.M.: Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (until 8 P.M.)

As I noted on the discussion forum, I developed my plan prior to Toontown reopening, so let's ignore those three attractions. Without those, using my methodology Space Mountain is objectively the best opening play if you are at the park at rope drop, as it will be at it's shortest first thing in the morning and does not shrink toward closing like other attractions do. Afterward, or if you're running a little late, you're best off tackling either Indy or Matterhorn, then working your way toward Thunder and Mansion. Objectively, going directly to either Peter Pan or Rise is a poor start, as while you may experience a shorter wait than later in the day, you'll still be spending so long at them it may compromise your ability to get on other attractions with short waits. How does Toontown likely affect this? Based solely on the data, I'd say it makes Runaway Railway an alternative opening to Space Mountain, but I'd probably still go for the latter unless you want to do character meet and greets or won't be staying until closing, as Toontown has a tendency to be dead when it reopens after the fireworks.

April 15, 2023 at 2:32 PM


I feel you for sure about the Indy ride. I’ve been to Disneyland 3 times. The first time the Indy ride was shut down for refurb, the second time I actually managed to get a Fastpass and ride it and the third time it broke down during operating hours in the morning and stayed down all day.

It reminds me of Test Track over here in Florida always being down, as it’s the first ride to use the system that has been done again, and better elsewhere

April 15, 2023 at 4:00 PM

When my family visited Disneyland, we got on Web Slingers first day. We tried the next only to find it down at 3 pm. It was back up about an hour later but by the time we walked there, it was down again and for the rest of the night. And the final night, Rise of the Resistance was down for a bit.

It's a problem with so many modern rides, so much tech in there, it's easier for a breakdown to happen.

April 16, 2023 at 7:00 PM

Heaven is two turkey drumsticks, large coke, donut. Plant myself on the Main Street porch, watch the world go by.

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