If you are planning on visiting both of the Disneyland resort parks you need to have a plan. This is how we did Disneyland and California Adventure in one day.
When we planned our first visit to Disneyland we knew that it would be a quick one day visit. Ideally we would have at least a few days to explore the parks and experience everything, but this for this visit we had one day and had to make it work.
Update: We did make it back to Disneyland and California Adventure. Read our full theme park itinerary: 9 Day Southern California Itinerary for Your Theme Park Vacation.
To start planning our 1 day visiting 2 parks at Disneyland I did some initial research and planning. I knew I would have to prioritize what our family wanted to do and skip the other things that were not as important to us.
Tips for Disneyland and California Adventure in One Day
- Plan and do your research ahead of time. Use these tips!
- Download the Disneyland App to your phone. I suggest downloading and logging in on all devices in your party. My phone didn’t work well in the park and we were happy to have my husbands as a back up.
- Purchase tickets (Disneyland park hopper) and Genie+ ahead of time. Link them in the app. Be sure to compare ticket prices to Disneyland prices.
- Create a draft of what you want to do and what you are willing to skip.
- Write out your itinerary on paper or the notes in your phone to be prepared for your day.
Our 1 Day Disneyland and California Adventure Plan
How We Planned Our Day at Disneyland
We set a few basic rules for our visit based on what worked for our family. Everyone is different and you should know what works for your family before you make your itinerary.
- Prioritize rides that are not at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. We visit WDW often and decided to ride attractions that are not at the WDW park.
- Use Genie+. Genie+ is the online FastPass system that allows you to make reservations on your phone instead of walking to each attraction. Genie+ is available for a charge and was worth it to maximize our day at both parks.
- Skip shows and character meet + greets.
- Space Mountain was down for refurbishment during our visit and we decided to skip Splash Mountain and Star Tours. There were a few attractions that are at WDW that we wanted to ride at Disneyland: Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, and Big Thunder Mountain.
- Also we did a lot of backtracking and walking. This itinerary is ideal if you don’t mind walking a lot. Disneyland is a small park and we found it relatively easy to go back and forth.
- Most people start at Indiana Jones because it is one of the most popular attractions. We decided to quickly do the Fantasyland dark rides and secure a Genie+ for Indiana Jones.
- Make a theme park reservation for the park you want to start at. Park hopping starts at 1:00pm. You do not need a park reservation when you hop. You do need a park hopper ticket.
This may seem a bit strict for most people on a family vacation but we know how we like to do theme parks. We don’t mind rushing to the attractions because that was our goal for the trip. We wanted to experience as much of the parks as we could in our short time.
All of our visits to the Disney parks are not like this. We plan rest days at Disney and often take our time. If your goal is to do as much as possible this is the best way to get it done. If you want to go at a slower pace you may want to plan one day at Disneyland and one day at California Adventure to get the most out of your day.
Our 1 Day Disneyland and California Adventure Itinerary
This itinerary was before Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes started. I highly suggest you purchase Genie+ and individual lightning lanes if those attractions are a priority. You can also take advantage of the single rider line to maximize the attractions you experience.
- Arrive at Disneyland around 7:45am for a 9:00am opening. We were the first people at the gate for Disneyland. The kids ran around a bit and played until the crowds started to arrive. We drank our coffee, ate breakfast, and looked at the maps as we waited.
- Once your ticket is scanned you can purchase Genie+(if you haven’t yet) and make your first reservation. We made our Genie+ for Indiana Jones (9:45-10:45am) Guests should also purchase a Rise of the Resistance Individual Lightning Lane if you are planning on riding it.
- Alice in Wonderland (Fantasyland)
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (Fantasyland)
- Snow White’s Scary Adventure (Fantasyland)
- Pinocchio’s Daring Adventure (Fantasyland)
- Pirates of the Caribbean (New Orleans Square)
- Indiana Jones Adventure, Genie+ Time 9:45am-10:45am (Adventureland)
- We arrived at Indiana Jones around 10:30 (Used our Genie+ 9:45-10:45am) While waiting for the ride we attempted to make our next Genie+ but it wasn’t working in the building so we waited until we were done.
- Upon exiting from Indiana Jones make your next Genie+ if you haven’t.
- Explore Toontown Play Areas (Around 10-15 Minutes)
- Gadgets Go Coaster (Toontown)
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin (Toontown)
- I suggest riding this before Gadget’s Go Coaster and we tried, but it was not up and running so we skipped it and went back as we finished exploring Toontown. Toontown also opens an hour after Disneyland opens. Toontown is currently under construction until 2023.
- After Roger Rabbit we secured a Genie+ for Buzz Lightyear (Genie+ 11:30am-12:30pm)
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Genie+ Time 11:30am-12:30pm (Tomorrowland)
- Made a Genie+ for Guardian’s of the Galaxy for 6:15pm-7:15pm.
- Lunch at French Market in New Orleans
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Critter Country)
- Mickey and the Magical Map 2:15pm Show (Fantastyland)
- Made Genie+ for Toy Story Midway Mania! for 5:50pm-6:50pm during the show.
- At this point it was around 3:00 and we walked to California Adventure. The walk from gate to gate is only a few minutes and it makes a Disney hopper pass worth the extra money. It is very easy to park hop at Disneyland.
- Consider purchasing an individual lightning lane for Radiator Springs and/or Web Slingers or use the single rider line to skip the lines.
- Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! (Hollywood Land)
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (Cars Land)
- Both Monsters Inc. and Luigi’s had between a 20-30 minute wait. They do not offer Genie+ and ended up being the longest waits of our day.
- Radiator Springs
- If you can try to secure a Individual Lightning Lane for Radiator Springs early in your day. They were sold out by 3:00pm and we booked it during the early morning.
- Early dinner at Flo’s V8 Cafe.
- During dinner we made a Genie+ for Soarin’ Around the World at 7:15pm-8:00pm. California Adventure closed at 8:00pm and we were surprised a Genie+ was available. As you go through your day always check what is available.
- The Little Mermaid- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (Paradise Pier)
- After The Little Mermaid we had about an hour before our next Genie+. We walked around Pixar Pier, took pictures, tried a few snacks, and explored. There are a few attractions but the lines were quite long.
- Toy Story Mania, Genie+ Time 5:50pm-6:50pm (Pixar Pier)
- Guardians of Galaxy-Mission Breakout!, Genie+ Time 6:15pm-7:15pm (Hollywood Land)
- Soarin’ Around the World, Genie+ Time 7:15pm-8:00pm (Grizzly Peak)
- At any given point throughout the day we had 2-3 Genie+ reservations scheduled. I updated the app while we waited for attractions and it helped save us a lot of time waiting in lines.
- Disneyland was open until 10:00pm so we walked back to Disneyland for our last few rides.
- After we rode Soarin’ I scheduled a Genie+ for Big Thunder Mountain. Once we entered Disneyland we headed straight to Big Thunder. I highly recommend riding Big Thunder at night!
- I secured our final Genie+ of the night for Small World from 8:45pm-9:45pm as I walked to board Big Thunder Mountain.
- Storybook Land Canal Boats (Fantasyland)
- it’s a Small World, Genie+ Time 8:45pm-9:45pm (Fantasyland)
- I was happy we had it’s a Small World because even late at night the wait was over 30 minutes and we walked right on.
- Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
- There was not a wait at all for Nemo. This ride is a bit claustrophobic so keep in mind if you decide to ride. Although you do not submerge you are closed in a submarine with a small window. I remember this ride as a kid, when it was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and I felt the same way.
We did it!! We were exhausted but barely noticed because we were so excited to have the opportunity to experience Disneyland and California Adventure. For a Disney loving family, that lives in the Eastern US, we didn’t know if we would ever make it to the California parks.
Keep in mind this itinerary would need to be tweaked based on Genie+ reservations and what you and your family want to experience. The best tip I can give is to have a flexible plan and discuss everyone’s expectations before you arrive at the parks.
I spent a lot of time before we left for vacation working on our itinerary and tweaking it but once we arrived at the park there were more changes-and that is okay!
My husband and I talked about different options if Genie+ reservations were sold out and we discussed our expectations with the kids so they wouldn’t be disappointed if we didn’t get to something.
We fully utilized the Genie+ and ended up riding 23 attractions. It was ambitious but we had an incredible time. Having this Disneyland itinerary helped keep us focused on the day and made sure we got to everything our family wanted to enjoy.