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Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort

by Leap on September 23, 2022 1 Los Angeles

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Summary

There's a new perk in town for Disneyland Resort hotel guests, and it's a game changer. A new benefit allows hotel guests to have early entry access every day to either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park (with valid admission and a park reservation). Both parks open early every day! The Early Entry benefit at Disneyland allows guests to access select rides, shops and food locations 30 minutes before other guests can access these areas. That means every day of your hotel stay you can enter a theme park 30 minutes early, including your check-in day if you arrive early enough! We were able to try out Early Entry, and we got SO MUCH done in 30 minutes! Let's hop into all of the details on Early Entry at Disneyland!

Early Entry at Disneyland - Early Entry Sign on Main Street

Overview of Early Entry at Disneyland

Every day, both theme parks open 30 minutes before the official park opening for on-site hotel guests. Other guests can also enter the parks 30 minutes early, but they have to stop at ropes before entering any lands or accessing rides until the park officially opens. When the park opens, the ropes are pulled back — this is called Rope Drop.

But with Early Entry at Disneyland, on-site hotel guests can access areas beyond the ropes for 30 minutes before Rope Drop. It's just one of the many benefits of staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel.

We will go over what Early Entry means for hotel guests and for other park guests without early entry access. Don't worry — Rope Drop is still here and still a toadally awesome way to start your day. You'll just need to strategize where to go in the morning, whether you have early entry access or not! Mornings are some of the very best times to take advantage of low wait times, so rising and shining definitely has its benefits. On less crowded days, Early Entry has little impact on morning crowds, but it could make a difference on peak days.

Early Entry Disneyland Arrival Tips

Early Entry at Disneyland - Morning lines before park opening

During your Disneyland Resort hotel stay (including arrival day if you check in and arrive early enough to take advantage of it), you and other registered Disneyland hotel guests have the privilege of accessing either park 30 minutes before opening. All guests need a valid theme park ticket and theme park reservation to enter the park. If you are park hopping, you'll need to select your starting park and can later hop to the other park after 1 p.m. Only select stores, restaurants and certain lands of Disneyland may be open during this hour. Guests need to show their hotel room key or proof of stay to get access to the park, including showing registration within the Disneyland app.

Here's what you need to know. In order to take advantage of Early Entry, you'll have to arrive at security early. Security from the hotels to Downtown Disney and the Esplanade opens at 7 a.m. Security opens at 7:15 a.m. for guests at the Harbor security entrance. You want to beat the other guests to the park gates. There are no designated turnstiles to enter for Early Entry at the main park gates. Other park guests are mixed in with Early Entry guests so lines to enter the parks can be long.

Early Entry at Disneyland - People wait at Rope Drop for the park to open

Guests of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier hotel have their own dedicated entrances right into Disney California Adventure park. FYI, guests of the Grand Californian or Disneyland Hotel can also use that new Paradise Pier entrance to California Adventure too! But to enter Disneyland Park, all guests have to enter Downtown Disney and walk. The Monorail does open before when Early Entry starts and can shuttle guests straight into Tomorrowland.

During a recent stay at Disneyland Hotel, we hopped in line for security at 6:45 a.m. (by 7 a.m. a long line had formed). We were at the Monorail by about 7:05. The Monorail entrance opened at 7:20 and we were in Disneyland Park by 7:32.

On a different day, we tried the main park entrance. We arrived at the park entrance main turnstiles on a non-peak weekday at 7:20 a.m. Cast members started letting guests in the park at 7:25 a.m. We did not enter Disneyland Park until 7:45 a.m., due to lines. By then, half of Early Entry was over. So the early risers who get through security early and to the theme park gates first (before 7:15) will get the most benefit. Some days the cast members start letting guests in even earlier, which helps move the crowds in faster. It pays to be at the gates as early as possible.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort-Dumbo with view of Matterhorn

At Disneyland Park, Early Entry guests are sent to the Tomorrowland side of the Hub alongside the front of Plaza Inn to show credentials and bypass the rope. We just needed to show our room key, but they may ask to see your reservation confirmation in the app. Then Early Entry guests can head to Tomorrowland or Fantasyland.

Other non-hotel guests line up in the Hub behind ropes. Once the park opens, the ropes are pulled back and all guests have full access to the theme parks. Another option is to take the Monorail into Tomorrowland from Downtown Disney.

For all of the years that we've been Disney frog-natics, we've learned the best ways to get the most from Early Entry. In order to take advantage of the Early Entry Disneyland time, you'll want to arrive at park gates at least 45 to 60 minutes before Early Entry starts (about an hour before official park opening). Have your proof of hotel stay available after you enter. Once you are in the park and past the ropes, you can use some strategies for hitting your must-do rides.

Early Entry Strategies

Early Entry at Disneyland - Scene in Peter Pan's Flight

So you are in the park and have access to select rides. Where do you go first? What can you accomplish in 30 minutes? That depends on the rides you choose. Some rides take longer than others. Some rides build up to really long waits later in the day, so maybe you want to hit them now. And some high-demand rides are not open at Early Entry but you can position yourself to be at the front of the line before the Rope Droppers get there.

Be sure to link your hotel reservations to your Disneyland app so it is easy to show the cast members. You can screenshot the information and save it to your home screen during your journey in case you have phone signal troubles.

Disneyland Park Strategies During Early Entry

Early Entry at Disneyland - Screenshot of wait times in Disneyland appYou may want to access some of the rides that have consistently long lines throughout the day at Disneyland during Early Entry. At Disneyland, these are Space Mountain, Peter Pan's Flight and Alice in Wonderland.

You can knock out several Fantasyland rides during Early Entry because the lines and the rides themselves are short. During early entry we have walked on Snow White's Enchanted Wish, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, King Arthur's Carrousel, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Dumbo all within 25 minutes. Because there are a lot of rides in one area, if a ride does not open as planned, then you still have a lot of choices just a hop, skip and jump away. Peter Pan's Flight and Alice in Wonderland are two good ones to knock out during Early Entry.

Remember to be flexible and have a backup plan if your must-do ride is not open during Early Entry or after Rope Drop. It's common for rides to have a delay in opening, even if they are supposed to be open. Here is a look at wait times just as Early Entry ends and the park officially opens. That 15-minute wait for Peter Pan's Flight jumped from 15 minutes to 45 minutes in seconds, so you definitely want to hop in that line before the park officially opens. it is not a good strategy for anyone to enter that line after Rope Drop. Save it for midday.

 

Space Mountain is a good ride to hit near the end of Early Entry and before the Rope Droppers get access. If it's not open right away, keep an eye on the Disneyland app and hit it when it first opens in the morning. Or use Genie+ and reserve a Lightning Lane for it.

One morning we saw that Space Mountain was closed during Early Entry but Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage was open instead. Definitely check the app to see which rides are open when you visit so you don't waste any time walking over to a closed ride. .

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

While Rise of the Resistance and the rest of Batuu are not open during Early Entry, we do have some tips for Early Entry people who wish to be some of the first people of the day to ride Rise of the Resistance. You can line up in Fantasyland at the gate to Frontierland near the restrooms by Red Rose Taverne. At rope drop, you can take the path to the Frontierland entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. If you are near the front of the group, you will beat most of the crowd coming from the Hub through Frontierland. Hope over to our post on riding Rise of the Resistance for more tips.

Disney California Adventure Strategies During Early Entry

Early Entry at Disneyland - Pixar Pier

Depending on where you are staying, there are three entrances to this park. If you are staying at the Grand Californian Hotel, the hotel theme park entrance puts you in the Grizzly Creek area, which is good for Soarin', or you can head to Pixar Pier. But the Incredicoaster is not necessarily a priority and can be saved for after Rope Drop since that line moves quickly in the first hour of park opening.

Rides with long lines most of the day include WEBSINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! and Soarin' Around the World. You may want to cross them off your list during early entry. To give you a sense of what you can accomplish, we recently rode WEB SLINGERS and Guardians during Early Entry before rope drop. Then we headed over to Toy Story Midway Mania! at park opening and walked right on.

Radiator Springs Racers always has the longest line in the park. Even though Radiator Springs Racers is not included in Early Entry, if you can go to that ride just before Rope Drop, you will be ahead of the crowds. Keep in mind that you will still experience low crowds and short waits for the first hour of park opening, so keep at it and access as many rides as you can in that hour and a half.

Early Entry at Disneyland - Rope Droppers

If WEB SLINGERS, Guardians and Cars Land are your priority, you might book it to Carthay Circle early. You can stay to the left alongside Carthay Circle to Avengers Campus. The Early Entry guests are separated from other park guests by a rope. Hit WEB SLINGERS and Guardians and be ready to pounce on Radiator Springs Racers just before the park opens.

Early Entry at Disneyland - Breakfast corn dog

If you are staying at Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, the special path for hotel guests puts you out near Corn Dog Castle. The only rides open in that area are The Little Mermaid and Incredicoaster. These are rides with pretty short or quick lines even after Rope Drop. You might want to make your way to the other rides that form longer lines faster once the park is open. (Be sure to confirm the opening time of the Paradise Pier entrance during your stay as we have seen it not open early enough for Early Entry. If it's closed you can enter through the Grand Californian or use the Grand Californian entrance into Downtown Disney.)

We do love starting our day at Paradise Pier once the park is open since it's the least crowded area of the park in the morning. So if you wanted to hit the open rides in that area and then grab a breakfast corndog or get a breakfast burrito and coffee from Cappuccino Cart, you could then hit the other rides in the Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park areas at park opening. It's not a bad plan and will save you some walking to the main park gate.

If you are staying at the Disneyland Hotel, go through security by about 7 a.m. and head straight to the main park gate. Your closest rides are Soarin', WEB SLINGERS and Guardians.

Keep in mind that not all rides open as planned during Early Entry or just after Rope Drop. So pay attention to cast members near Carthay Circle and the Rope Droppers in front of Avengers Campus. The day we visited, they were informing everyone that Radiator Springs would not be open at park opening. The folks who got the message adjusted their plans. But we saw many who must not have gotten the memo head there anyway after Rope Drop just to be turned away.

We have a not-so-secret strategy when we use Genie+ in the morning. We always book Toy Story Midway Mania! as soon as we enter the park before it opens. Sometimes there is a few-minute delay in the ride opening. If that hoppens, we get a Multiple Experiences pass. (Hey, it's hoppened three out of three times in our recent visits.) We immediately rebook Toy Story Midway Mania! since the ride usually opens shortly after that and save the Multiple Experiences pass for later in the day for Indiana Jones Adventure or Space Mountain after we hop to Disneyland.

Tips for Disneyland Early Entry

Early Entry at Disneyland - Space Mountain 10-minute wait

If you are staying on-site at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels, you definitely want to take advantage of this benefit. Even if you are not early risers, you'll be surprised by how much you can do in the park during Early Entry and within the first two hours of park opening. If you need to take a break, go have brunch or a late breakfast after your early time in the park.

Here are a few tips when taking advantage of the Early Entry benefit at Disneyland Resort:

  • Arrive early to Early Entry. Being early means getting to the park gates earlier than Early Entry. You don't want to spend the half hour waiting in security lines or long lines to enter the park. Be at the park gates 50 to 60 minutes before park opening.
  • Reserve your starting park when park hopping. This is the park you'll be able to enter during Early Entry.
  • Link your hotel reservation to the Disneyland app. Take a screenshot and save it to your home screen or a folder so it's easy to pull up.
  • Get a jump on making Lightning Lane selections. At Disneyland, all guests can purchase Genie+ (if they don't already have it) and start making Lightning Lane selections as soon as they enter a theme park. That's true for Genie+ or individual Lightning Lane access for select rides a la carte through the Disneyland app. Ride windows are available as the first available times. The Genie+ return windows begin once the park is officially open.
  • Eat a late breakfast. There are a few locations to eat breakfast in Disneyland parks. If you are the type of family that does not like to eat right away (or you are short on time), 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 breakfast burritos at Galactic Grill, the Ronto Morning Wrap at Ronto Roasters or the breakfast chimichanga at Ship to Shore Marketplace at Disneyland. At California Adventure, mobile order a breakfast burrito from the Cappuccino Cart or get a full breakfast at Pym Test Kitchen!
  • Enjoy brunch. We also like to visit Disney California Adventure early and then have a late character breakfast or brunch at Storytellers Café. It's just outside the park near Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa theme park entrance.
  • If you are using Genie+, use Early Entry to ride attractions that are not included in Genie+ but tend to get long lines (if they are open). These include Peter Pan's Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Alice in Wonderland or Space Mountain. WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, Guardians, and Soarin' Around the World are great choices at Disney California Adventure. Even though Radiator Springs Racers is not open during Early Entry, it can get the longest lines in the park, so try to hop in line before the park opens if you do not wish to spring for individual Lightning Lane access or use single rider.
  • Visit the most popular ride right before Rope Drop. What? Why not first? If everyone heads to the most in-demand attraction at the start of Early Entry, you might spend your half an hour in one line. Instead, walk on a few other rides, then hop in line. Maybe all the other Early Entry people will have moved on, and you'll be in line before the park opens to everyone else.
  • Use dedicated hotel entrances to Disney California Adventure and Paradise Pier. There is one for Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa guests and a new one for Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel guests.
  • Take the monorail. Hotel guests have early entry access to the Monorail from Downtown Disney (check hours on Disneyland's website).
  • Arrive early on check-in day. You can use the Early Entry benefit each day of your hotel stay, even on the day you check in (if you can arrive early enough). Drop those bags and hustle. If you check in online, you will get a text when your room is ready.
  • Be flexible. Sometimes the listed rides are not open or there is a longer line than you anticipated. Hop over to a different ride and a shorter line. Do not spend all of Early Entry in one line.
  • View wait times on the Disneyland app.
  • Check the Early Entry hours for your stay. At peak times, such as the holidays, or on special occasions, such as Disney+ Day (Sept. 8, 2022), hotel guests may get in a full hour early each day. BTW Disney+ subscribers get in 30 minutes early on Disney+ Day even if they are not staying on-site.

Rope Drop Strategies for People Without Early Entry

Early Entry at Disneyland - People waiting for rope drop

If you do not have access to the Early Entry hour, you should still arrive early. You are a Rope Dropper but you are not staying at a Disneyland hotel. What should you do at Rope Drop? We do have a few tricks in our froggy packs on how to avoid crowds for guests without Early Entry. Since this perk is reserved for only hotel guests and is dispersed across two parks instead of one, it does not affect others' experiences very much. But you can still get that Rope Drop experience if you know where to go.

We recently rope dropped without using Early Entry or Genie+. At park opening, we headed to Adventureland and New Orleans Square, where all our rides were walk-on. We kept our eye on the map and wait times in the Disneyland app, avoiding rides that were not yet open. Space Mountain did not open for Early Entry or park opening, so when it opened at about 8:30 a.m. with a 10-minute wait, we hopped over and got on in eight minutes.

Head to Rides and Lands that Are Not Open During Early Entry

Early Entry at Disneyland - Indiana Hones ride vehicle

At Disneyland, Early Entry is for select rides in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, so you'll want to head to Adventureland, Frontierland and Critter Country. Maybe hit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge if that is a priority.

At Disney California Adventure, the open rides are more dispersed around the park. We enjoy starting our day in Pixar Pier since most guests head to Radiator Springs Racers and WEB SLINGERS at Rope Drop. Cast members should let you know if a ride is open or closed. If you love Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!, that is a good ride to Rope Drop, especially if you want to ride more than once. However, if Radiator Springs Racers is down and people rush to Guardians instead, then expect to wait a bit because there will be a surge. If you are at the front of the Rope Drop crowd, head to WEB SLINGERS. If you are at the back, head to Pixar Pier.

Hit Rides Without Genie+

Early Entry at Disneyland - Pirates of the Caribbean Auction scene

If you plan to use Genie+, focus on rides that do not offer Genie+ during Early Entry. Those rides don't have a skip-the-line option later.

Follow a Touring Plan

We have some handy Disneyland Touring Plans that will get you off to a great start. They work best if you are in the park for Rope Drop.

Other Disneyland Morning Tips

  • Arrive an hour before park opening. You can check park hours in the app or at the link.
  • Parking lots open about an hour before the earliest park opening.
  • Walk-in security opens about 45 minutes before park opening (one hour for hotel security entrances).
  • Theme park gates open about 30-35 minutes before park opening.
  • Head straight to the park. Get in line for coffee or go to the front of the ropes as far as you can. Greet characters if they are out.
  • Buy Genie+ if you do not have it and book your first Lightning Lane.
  • Figure out which lands are open for early entry and avoid those lands if possible.
  • Head where there are no people yet. We usually suggest Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country.
  • Ride rides that do not offer Genie+ first while the lines are the shortest of the day. Save your first Genie+ reservation for the end of the first window. As soon as you redeem it, book your next one. Priority Lightning Lanes are Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain, Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT! or Toy Story Midway Mania!
  • 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 roller coaster hair sets in).
  • If you book character dining at the Plaza Inn at Disneyland during Early Entry, bring your confirmation with you. Use the "Character Dining" turnstile to enter the park.
  • If you have an early morning reservation in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge right at park opening, arrive about 25 minutes early. Bring proof of your reservation and use the special turnstile to enter the park early so you will be on time for your reservation. This is usually the first turnstile, all the way to the left.

We are still learning about this new service. Have a tip for using Disneyland Early Entry? Share in the comments below. And be sure to get a jump on saving on a Disneyland Resort hotel stay or discount Disneyland Resort tickets when you book with your favorite frogs at Undercover Tourist!

Related: Our Complete Guide to Disney Genie and Genie+ Services at Disneyland

Related: All of the Magical Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Aug 31, 2022 at 2:29 a.m. Kathleen Says...

For Disneyland EE - can you get close to rise of the resistance so that you beat the crowd there at rope drop? Basically, do they hold you at Fantasy land until 8am so you can't beat rope drop folks or can you wander over to star wars land so you are there before anyone?

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