At the Disneyland Resort every day of the week one of the two parks opens one hour early for on-site hotel guests and three days a week at Disneyland for select ticket holders. Here’s how to get a jump on the action, learn to get the most from these hours or take note of our secrets to avoid them. Disneyland has two categories of early entry: Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning. These hours affect everyone, so even if you do not have early entry, it is important to read on for tips on how to maximize your time in the parks by working around them.
The Ins and Outs of Disneyland Extra Magic Hour & Magic Morning
What is the Disneyland Extra Magic Hour?
Disneyland registered on-site hotel guests have the privilege of entering one designated park one hour before opening every day of their stay. Only select stores, restaurants and certain lands of Disneyland may be open during this hour. Guests need to show their room key to get access to the park, while regular guests stay behind the rope.
The Disneyland Extra Magic Hour currently falls on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with access to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions.
The Disney California Adventure Extra Magic Hour currently falls on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Usually all of California Adventure (except for A Bug’s Land) is open during the Extra Magic Hour, including access to Cars Land.
What is Disneyland Magic Morning?
Magic Morning also allows people who are not staying on-site to enter the park an hour before opening for one day of the duration of their multi-day ticket or pass. This is only valid one of three days a week for Disneyland Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. To get Disneyland Magic Morning, you can purchase a valid 3+ day theme park ticket in advance of your resort arrival or at the main entrance ticket booth. There is no Magic Morning access to California Adventure.
How does early entry affect crowds?
The Disneyland Extra Magic Hour and Disneyland Magic Morning do affect crowd levels, although not as strongly as Extra Magic Hours do at Disney World (more on this below). Quite simply, the park that holds the early entry is more crowded at park opening and throughout the day than it is on days that it does not have an early entry option. The early hour is not crowded, but people without park hoppers flock to that park and stay there, so it just happens to draw more people. Once regular ticket holders enter the park, it fills faster than the other park. The California Adventure Extra Magic hour may not be as crowded as Disneyland because only Disney Resort hotel guests have access in that hour.
While resort guests do not have to head to the park with the Extra Magic Hour, many think that is where they are supposed to go. And if you are a resort guest, you can do a lot within that morning Extra Magic Hour if you ride the most popular rides with the shortest durations. After all, it is the least busy hour of the day!
For those of you who are familiar with Extra Magic Hours at Disney World, it is important to note that the Disneyland Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning do not have as much impact on crowds. There are several reasons for this. First, there simply aren't that many official Disneyland hotels, and thus not as many Disneyland hotel guests. Second, because park hopping is cheaper than at Disney World and the parks are right next door to each other, many more people hop between parks vs. staying in one park per day. Third, because there are so many other LA attractions and Disneyland has only two parks, many people visit for a day or two vs. the three required to qualify for the Magic Morning benefit.
When to Use Disneyland Extra Magic Hours or Magic Morning
- If you intend to visit during the Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning. There is no benefit for showing up to a park with the Extra Magic Hour if you don't actually attend during the Extra Magic Hour or you arrive late. If you're taking advantage of Magic Morning, remember to allow extra time to park, take buses or trams, and get through security bag check so you can take advantage of your full hour.
- If you are Park Hopping. Having early entry AND a ParkHopper ticket is the best of both worlds. In this situation, you can go to the park with Magic Morning/Extra Magic Hour during that hour and then hop over to the other park when it opens and get another very uncrowded first hour in that park.
- If you want to do Jedi Training at Disneyland or collect FastPasses.
Even though you cannot collect FastPasses or sign up for shows during the Disneyland Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning, you do have an advantage in getting to the front of the line by lining up just before official park opening and before other guests arrive. This can be helpful for Jedi Training, which fills up a lot faster on early access mornings. Priority FastPasses would be Space Mountain or Indiana Jones. The good news is that you no longer need FastPasses for Frozen Live at the Hyperion (just show up 45 to 60 minutes before the show), so we recommend using that time to get a jump on FastPasses for Radiator Springs, Soarin’, or Tower of Terror (through the end of 2016—it has gotten more popular since it is going away in early January).
- If you want to eat breakfast in the park. There are a surprising number of breakfast meals in the park. If you are the type of family that does not like to eat right away, you can hop out of bed, take advantage of early entry and then take a break to refuel by having breakfast in the park. Perhaps some Mickey Mouse pancakes or breakfast burritos will hit the spot nicely.
When to Avoid the Park with the Disneyland Extra Magic Hour
There are certain circumstances when you should avoid the park with the Disneyland Extra Magic Hour. Here are those times.
- If you do not have access to the early entry hour. Since you won't be able to go on any rides during Disneyland Extra Magic Hour, we recommend avoiding the park that has them and the crowds that come with them. Sometimes you may want to visit a park with the Extra Magic Hour because it's the only day you'll be able to see a special show or parade. During crowded times, it's especially good to enter early, have a solid touring plan, and use your FastPasses wisely. Priority FastPasses at Disneyland include Space Mountain and Indiana Jones (and Splash Mountain in summer). Priority FastPasses at California Adventure are Radiator Springs Racers and Soarin’ Around the World. Keep in mind that you can still enter the park early without having access to the attractions. You will be restricted to certain areas. At Disneyland, it is a great time to visit the many characters who are out greeting guests. Then before the official opening you can make your way to the rope drop. There is not much going on in California Adventure, so you do not need to get there until closer to rope drop. People will line up at the ropes nearest to the attractions they want to visit first.
- If you want to do highly popular things. If your young Padawan wants to participate in Jedi Training at Disneyland or your speed demon wants to ride Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure but you do not have early morning access, visit on a day it isn't happening in that park. We once arrived early on a day that was not having an Extra Magic Hour and were able to hop right on Radiator Springs Racers with no wait. It is much easier to get a spot in the Jedi Training if you don’t have to get in line behind all the early morning guests.
- If you are not morning people. Let’s face it. Some families are not early risers. If your family takes some time to get going or really needs a solid sit-down breakfast before getting moving, an Extra Magic Hour might not be worth the stress and frustration. If you are a night owl, you might benefit from staying extra late in the park, when crowds tend to die down a bit.
- If you want to avoid crowds. In our opinion, we try to avoid the park with the extra hour. We find that entering the other park before opening gives just as much benefit and has the lowest crowds all day. For example, we find Sunday mornings at Disneyland park to be very quiet for the first hour or two. We recently encountered an empty Fantasyland on a Sunday morning and got to hang out with the rarely seen Peter Pan (and Captain Hook). You can usually enter the parks 30 minutes before opening any day (usually an entrance is designated for early entry guests and the other lines are for regular guests, who have access to characters and shopping. The lands will be roped off, but once the opening announcement is made and the rope is dropped you are free to walk anywhere you want. That first hour is delightfully uncrowded, whereas if you show up at rope drop at the park with early entry you’ll encounter lines and crowds right away. It isn't always worth dealing with the bigger crowds brought on by Disneyland Extra Magic Hour/Magic Morning.
Tips for Maximizing Disneyland Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning
- Disneyland Resort recommends arriving at the entrance gate an hour and 15 minutes before the park’s official opening.
- Add plenty of time to park, take shuttles (if you are staying off-site) and get through security.
- You can find all park hours and early entry hours for the month listed here.
- Use the hotel entrance to California Adventure through the Grand Californian if you are staying there.
- Buy a Park Hopper ticket to take advantage of the Early Entry in one park and the lower crowds at the other park.
- Take advantage of being in the park early to get to the front of the line (at park opening) for FastPasses for popular shows and attractions.
- Whenever you enter the park before it opens, visit characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Daisy or any of their friends. They are usually out early, and lines are shorter than later in the day.
- The early morning is a great time to capture those iconic shots. There is less demand for PhotoPass Photographers just after park opening so get those professional shots while you all look fresh.
- Use Extra Magic Hour to ride rides that do not offer FastPasses but tend to get long lines (if they are open) such as Peter Pan, Dumbo or Finding Nemo. Toy Story Midway Mania at California Adventure is a great choice if it is open or if you hit it just after opening.
- Before rope drop (whether you were in the park for early entry or not), assess which areas of the park were open for Extra Magic Hour, and at rope drop, head to a land that was not open. There will be no lines. So let’s say Tomorrowland and Fanstasyland are open for early access. Head to Frontierland or Adventureland for the smallest crowds.
- Finally, here’s a fun fact and not really a tip: Pay attention to the morning music, especially just after rope drop. Disneyland plays fast marching music to get you moving quickly into the park. If you stay until the evening (especially after fireworks), note the slow lullaby-ish music encouraging you to slow down and linger and shop before leaving. It’s a fun Disneyland mind trick.
While we've covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, you'll be well prepared to pick a park the next time you visit Disneyland. Have a tip for using Disneyland Extra Magic Hour or Disneyland Magic Morning.