• Caitlin McAninch

Disneyland Resort in a Day



When we booked our cruise, I knew we would be spending one day at Disneyland. I mean, we had to go all the way down to Long Beach, which is only 30 minutes from Disneyland, so we may as well make a stop! And we did!

We arrived at our hotel (Desert Inn and Suites) around 4 pm., which gave us plenty of time to wander around Downtown Disney. So after dropping off our luggage, we headed on over. I always love Downtown Disney because it’s like a pre-game for Disneyland. I mean, happy music is playing, there’s pin trading and that Disney vibe is still in the air.


First thing’s first, we headed to my favorite bar, Trader Sam’s, located by the pool at the Disneyland Hotel. It’s the coolest themed bar, with Disney flair and delicious drinks. We only needed one cocktail each and we got a great little buzz.



Afterwards we headed to Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express to grab a quick dinner. And after that, I was ready to go to bed to prepare for our big day at Disneyland!

I figured I might as well just provide a full break down of our day, the order in which we did things, and throw some pics into the mix. So, continue on to see our full at the Disneyland Resort.

Notice: that all the numbers in parenthesis behind a ride name will be the wait times!

We were in line at security at 7:40 am, and were entering California Adventure at 7:50 am. We decided to hit that park first because I wanted to ride Radiator Springs, and I knew we would want a fast pass. As soon as 8 am hit, they dropped the rope and I ran and grabbed a fast pass for cars for 8:40-9:40 am.

Our first ride was Soarin’ (15). Ah! The new “tour” of the world is SO cool. I absolutely love it. I felt like we traveled the whole world.


Next we headed over to Paradise Pier to ride California Screamin’ (10). And then we hopped on Midway Mania (5).



As we headed to Car’s Land, we decided to give Luigi Roadsters (5) a try since we haven’t been on it! It is a really cool ride. I don’t know how they get those cars in sync, but I loved it!



We walked into Radiator Spring’s Racers exactly at 9:32 am with our fast passes, and were boarding the ride at 9:41 am.


After that, I was ready to go to Disneyland. We walked into the park at 9:55 am.


Our first plan was to grab a fast pass for Space Mountain, but the ride and fast pass machine was closed down. So we ran across the park to Indiana Jones. Got a fast pass for that at 10:05 am, which was for 11 am-12 pm.

We got on Jungle Cruise (10) first, then Pirates of the Caribbean (5). By that time, we were getting pretty hungry, and I knew I wanted a Dole Whip Float at some point, and there wasn’t even a line yet, so we got one to share!


Next while we were eating, we headed to my favorite pin-trading store in Frontierland, and traded with some other park visitors. Made me very happy since I actually wore my pin-satchel. After that we hopped on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (10).

I wanted a Chimichanga, which is from the stand outside Big Thunder that also, serves corn on the cob. They are delicious if you ever want tot try one! Then we headed to Indiana Jones, we used our fast pass at 11:10 am.

At that point Dylan also was getting hungry, so we went to Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante so Dylan could eat lunch and charge his dying phone. By the way, Pokémon Go at Disneyland is on point. Dylan was playing all morning.

Next we headed over and got fast passes for Space Mountain, 2:35-3:35 pm.

Then we rode Autopia (20), then Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (15). We then decided we would head over to Fantasyland to kill some time. We first stopped in front of the castle to grab the cliché castle picture.


We were walking through the castle when Dylan said, “Let’s go this way” so we headed back through the right entrance to the side where Snow White’s Wishing Well is. Then Dylan proposed. Which was absolutely amazing and unexpected.


After that, I mean, what else would you do after you just got proposed to? Go on the Matterhorn (15), obviously! So we did that.


Then out of all the dark rides, Pinocchio (10) had the shortest line, so we went on that! Then Alice in Wonderland (25). Then we ran over to get a fast pass for Haunted Mansion 3:30-4:30 pm, then all the way back to Space Mountain.

At that point we used our fast pass for Space Mountain. After that I wanted to ride the Matterhorn (15) again, so we did! Then back tracked to Haunted Mansion, and rode that at 3:30 pm. In case you didn't know, during Halloween and through the Christmas season, the Haunted Mansion gets transformed into the Night Before Christmas. Jack Skeleton and his crew decorate the whole place, which is a fun twist on the ride.


Then, I made us go back to the castle so I could cliché “just got engaged at Disney” photos. Which, by the way, turned out great!


Then, it was time for a break. Dylan and I always take breaks at Disneyland. I mean, by that time it’s always pretty warm in the park, also very busy, and we had a few phone calls to make! So we headed across the street to our hotel, and took about an hour and a half break.

When we got back, I knew we had to head to California Adventure. I had read about the “Late Check Out” at the Tower of Terror, and I for sure wanted to ride that. They had a separate line off to the side for that, which was right next to the Hyperion Theater. We sat, yes sat, in that line for about an hour. They were letting the current line of the Tower of Terror finish up, but not letting anyone else in. Then, at 7:30 pm, they let us move into the actual line queue, starting the Late Check Out portion.


Late Check Out is just during Halloween at the Disneyland Resort. What happens is you board the ride, like normal, and then all the lights go out. And you do the entire ride in pitch-black darkness. It’s actually really creepy. The only light you ever see is when the doors open at the top. We loved it. The only issue was it took a long time to get us on that elevator. We probably got in line around 6:45, and didn’t get off the ride until 8:15 pm.

After that we were headed back to Disneyland, which was at about 8:30 pm.

Our first ride was Splash Mountain (1). There was absolutely no line. It wasn’t cold, so I was sort of confused about where the crowd was. But I learned quickly, they have not switched the “splash-power” for the fall season quite yet. Because we got SOAKED. I have never gotten that wet on Splash Mountain. I was pretty upset.

Next we had dinner at the Plaza Inn, my favorite. Which was perfect timing because the fireworks were going off. I enjoyed my favorite meal, the fried chicken and Dylan had pasta.

Next we headed over to Big Thunder (15) again, which was a quick line wait. We were riding the ride, things were going great, when all the sudden it stopped moving! Right where the climb starts to the big goat drop. And for the first time, Dylan and I got evacuated off a ride at Disneyland! It was neat! We got to get off the ride, walk through it, and see some backstage stuff. It was a really neat experience! Here's us stuck on the ride with a great photo bomb from the guy behind us:


To apologize for our experience, there was a cast member waiting at the exit and he gave us to free passes to any ride in the park, we just had to enter through an exit. At that point we still hadn’t and wanted to go on Peter Pan, so we bypassed that hour-long line and went straight on! It only took about 5 minutes!


By that point it was around 11pm, and I was beat. I always say I want to close out the park, but most of the time I just don’t have the energy. This one of those times. We slowly walked down Main Street and left the parks. It was literally the best 16 hours at Disneyland ever.

So, if you only have one day at the parks, here’s how we did it. Stay consistent with the pattern of grabbing a fast pass, riding a different ride, grab a fast pass, ride your first fast pass ride, then another ride, grab a fast pass, and so on, and you’ll get tons done. Also, go during an off time. We went on a Friday in the middle of September. Not too busy, which makes it a perfect time.

What are your must go-on rides when you have limited time in the parks? Share in the comments below!

Disneyland Resort

Distance: 540 miles

Driving Time: 7 hours & 45 minutes

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