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Each day at the Disneyland Resort, one of the two parks opens an hour early for registered Disneyland hotel guests. For three days a week, the park opens one hour early for select ticket holders. For all of the years we've been Disney frog-natics, we've learned the best ways to get the most from these early entry hours. We also have a few tricks in our froggy packs on how to avoid heavy crowds during these times. Disneyland has two categories of early entry: Disneyland Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour. These hours affect everyone, so even if you do not have early entry, it is important to read our tips for maximizing your time in the parks by working around them.
The Ins and Outs of Disneyland Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
What is Disneyland Extra Magic Hour?
During their hotel stay, registered Disneyland hotel guests have the privilege of entering one designated park one hour before opening. Only select stores, restaurants and certain lands of Disneyland may be open during this hour. Guests need to show their hotel room key to get access to the park and use a separate entrance to enter. Other park guests may use the regular turnstiles to enter the park early, as well (usually about 30 minutes early), but they cannot make it past the ropes until the park officially opens for the day. When the park opens, the ropes drop and all guests have full access to the parks. Park ticket admission is required for Extra Magic Hour.
Disneyland Extra Magic Hour currently falls on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with access to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions. In case you were thinking of getting early access to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge with a Disney hotel reservation, Disneyland has announced that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will not be available during Extra Magic Hour or Disneyland Magic Morning.
Disney California Adventure Extra Magic Hour currently falls on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Usually all of California Adventure is open during the Extra Magic Hour, including access to Cars Land. During certain peak times such as Christmas week, both parks might offer Extra Magic Hour the same day to accommodate crowds. Occasionally, other events in the park may affect the Extra Magic Hour schedule, as well, so be sure to check the Entertainment Schedule before your visit.
What is Disneyland Magic Morning?
Disneyland Magic Morning also allows people who are not staying on-site to enter the park an hour before opening for one day in the duration of their multi-day ticket or pass. This is only valid one of three days a week for Disneyland Park, usually Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays. Disneyland Magic Morning occurs at the same time as Extra Magic Hours those days. To get Disneyland Magic Morning, you can purchase a valid 3+ day Disneyland 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 at this time.
How does early entry affect crowds?
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 during 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 at Disneyland 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 Disneyland Magic Morning benefit.
What is Extra Extra Magic Hour?
Sometimes Disneyland Resort offers an Extra Extra Magic Hour at the end of the day for Disneyland Resort hotel guests. It is rare, but when it occurs, it is during a peak time such as summer or after a new popular attraction has opened. They offered Extra Extra Magic Hour in summer 2017 for hotel guests to ride Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! after the park closed for the day.
When to Use Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour
- Use if you can get there early. There is no benefit to showing up to a park early if you don't actually arrive early. 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. On Magic Morning days, the Mickey and Friends parking structure opens 90 minutes before published park opening, so be in line to enter before the garage opens. Hop tip: If you are concerned about getting to the front gate early enough, at times, some of the hotels on Harbor Blvd. across from Disneyland will allow you to park in their lots for $20. It's subject to availability, but can save you a lot of time.
- Use if you are park hopping. Having early entry AND a Park Hopper 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.
- Use if you want to get a jump on collecting FASTPASSes. Disneyland now allows guests to collect some FASTPASSes during the Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour. There are two ways to acquire FASTPASSes: You can collect them physically from a FASTPASS distribution machine or reserve a FASTPASS from your phone with Disney MaxPass through the Disneyland Park App as soon as you enter the park. Not all rides may be distributing FASTPASSes during early entry — the selection depends on the day — but early entry will give you the advantage of starting to reserve FASTPASSes. Only guests with early entry benefits can collect a FASTPASS in person, but other guests may enter the park and wait behind the ropes. So any guest with MaxPass who enters the park before the official opening may start reserving rides and shows during early entry. MaxPass users have the advantage of seeing all available attractions before reserving, saving a walk to the kiosk to find out. We love saving time with MaxPass! The FASTPASS return windows begin once the park is officially open. Priority ride FASTPASSes would be Space Mountain at Disneyland or Radiator Springs Racers (note the new distribution location in Cars Land) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission — Breakout! at Disney California Adventure. Toy Story Midway Mania is another good FASTPASS to grab.
- Use to collect show FASTPASSes for World of Color and Fantasmic! Show FASTPASSes run out quickly. You can now reserve these nighttime extravaganzas through MaxPass (which is especially helpful to park hoppers).
- Use if you want to eat breakfast in the park. There are a surprising number of locations to eat breakfast in Disneyland parks. 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. Our Frog Family recommends the Mickey Mouse pancakes or breakfast burritos!
When to Avoid the Park with the Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour
There are certain circumstances when you should avoid the park with Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour. Here are those times:
- Avoid 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. The other park will be less crowded in the morning. 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 Splash Mountain in summer or Haunted Mansion Holiday in the fall). Priority FASTPASSes at California Adventure are Radiator Springs Racers, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission — Breakout! and Toy Story Midway Mania. 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 before rope drop, 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. It's a good time to grab some coffee or breakfast snacks before rope drop.
- Avoid if you want to do highly popular things. If your speed demon wants to ride Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure with the shortest line 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.
- Avoid 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.
- Avoid if you really don't like 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 Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour.
Tips for Maximizing Disneyland Magic Morning & Extra Magic Hour
- Confirm the Disneyland park hours for Extra Magic Hour and Disneyland Magic Morning days and times before your visit.
- Disneyland Resort recommends arriving at the entrance gate an hour and 15 minutes before the park’s official opening.
- Attractions and lands are subject to change, so be flexible.
- Add plenty of time to park, take shuttles (if you are staying off-site) and get through security. Walk to the park if your hotel is close enough.
- You can find all park hours and early entry hours for the month listed here.
- If you have a Character Dining reservation during Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour, look for the specific Character Dining turnstile at the park entrance.
- Use the entrance to California Adventure through the Grand Californian if you are staying there (it is usually reserved for guests of that hotel until about 11 a.m.).
- 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. Please note that Radiator Springs Racers' FASTPASS distribution is now in Cars Land behind Flo's V8 Cafe.
- If you have MaxPass, make your first FASTPASS Reservation as soon as you go though the turnstile. You won’t be able to use it until the park opens to everyone, but you can likely book your second FASTPASS just after park opening and possibly your third shortly after that (depending on your waiting periods and how quickly you use the first FASTPASSes, giving you a great head start on your day).
- 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 (you know, before rollercoaster hair sets in).
- 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, Alice in Wonderland or Finding Nemo. The Pixar Pal-a-Round is a great option for the morning at Disney California Adventure.
- Delay riding the more popular attractions until the last 10 minutes of the Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour. Many of the other early entry guests will head there first thing and then will have moved on to other areas of the park by that point, leaving you with a short wait just before park opening.
- If you book character dining at the Plaza Inn at Disneyland during Disneyland Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour, bring your confirmation with you and use the Character Dining turnstile to enter the park.
- The Monorail usually opens for Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning in Disneyland Park, but it does not open for Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure because it does not stop there.
- 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 Fantasyland are open for early access. Head to Frontierland or Adventureland for the lightest crowds.
Finally, here’s a fun fact: 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.
Related: Guide to Disneyland FastPass Service
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? Share in the comments below.