Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort

by Leap on February 7, 2024
9 Los Angeles

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Summary

Disneyland Resort hotel guests have a special perk at the theme parks: Early Access to one theme park 30 minutes before park opening. This benefit allows hotel guests to have early access to either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park every day (with valid admission and a park reservation), depending on which park is hosting Early Entry. 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! 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, one theme park opens 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 select 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 were able to try out Early Entry and we got SO MUCH done in 30 minutes.

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 is 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 large difference on peak days.

Which Park Hosts Early Entry

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Rope Drop

Only one park is open for early access each day. This alternating schedule matches the schedule from before the pandemic:

Disney California Adventure Early Entry Days

Disney California Adventure has Early Entry on:

  • Sunday
  • Monday
  • Wednesday
  • Friday

These days are subject to change for special events, such as runDisney races, the CHOC Walk or during the week between Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

Disneyland Park Early Entry Days

Disneyland has Early Entry on:

  • Tuesday
  • Thursday
  • Saturday

Again, these are subject to change for special events, races, walks and possibly holidays.

Which Park to Reserve?

To take advantage of Early Access, you must be staying at one of the three on-site hotels and have a park ticket and a reservation for that park.

If you are staying off-site, you'll probably want to reserve the park that is not hosting Early Access, as that park will be less crowded at park opening. People with park hoppers can hop as of 11 a.m., but the park that does not have Early Access is the best park to Rope Drop. Why? Because you'll be among the first people to access the attractions. So if you want to be the first person to arrive at popular rides such as Peter Pan's Flight, Radiator Springs Racers or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, going on a non-hosted day means there won't be hotel guests lined up ahead of you.

Early Entry Disneyland Arrival Tips

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - 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 one 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 11 a.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 in the Disneyland app to gain access to the park.

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

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Gate to Theme Park from Pixar Place

Hotel guests can use the dedicated hotel entrances to Disney California Adventure Park (there are two!). Guests of Disney's Grand Californian Hotel can use the hotel's theme park entrance near Grizzly River Run, and guests of all three hotels can use the Pixar Place Hotel entrance (with room key). That entrance leads you into the park to an area across from Pixar Pier!

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

To enter Disneyland Park, all guests have to enter Downtown Disney and walk. The Monorail entrance does open before Early Entry starts and can shuttle guests straight into Tomorrowland. But going in through the front gate of the park may be faster. It just depends on the crowd levels.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Monorail entrance

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

On a different day, we tried the main park entrance. We arrived at the park entrance's 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 the Early Entry time was over. So the early risers who get through security early and to the theme park gates first (before 7:15 a.m.) will benefit the most. On some days, the cast members start letting guests in even earlier, which helps move the crowds in faster. It pays off 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 scan 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.

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. 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

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort- Infographic for Disneyland Park

 

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. We created downloadable lists of the rides, dining spots and stores open during Early Entry at both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure!

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

Disneyland Park Strategies During Early Entry

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - 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've 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. Even if a specific ride does not open as planned, there are a lot of rides in one area — providing a lot of solid choices just a hop, skip and jump away. Peter Pan's Flight and Alice in Wonderland are two good choices 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 unless they are trying it when it's not an Early Entry day and they are at the front of the crowd. We say, save it for midday when all the lines are long.

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. Alternatively, 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. It's important to check the app and 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

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Fantasyland

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. Hop over to our post on riding Rise of the Resistance for more tips. The rope droppers will have less competition when it's not an Early Entry day.

Disney California Adventure Strategies During Early Entry

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Infographic for Disney California Adventure Park

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 poses a good opportunity to ride 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.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Pixar Pier

Rides with long lines most of the day include WEB SLINGERS: 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. If you do not have Early Entry, you'll have better luck rope-dropping this ride on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, when the early crowds are at Disneyland Park.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Rope Droppers

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

If you are staying at Disney's Pixar Place Hotel, the special path for hotel guests leads you to a spot near Corn Dog Castle. The rides open in that area are The Little Mermaid and Incredicoaster.

We do love starting our day at Pixar Pier once the park is open since it's the least crowded area of the park in the morning. If you wanted to hit the open rides in that area, you could grab a breakfast burrito and coffee from Cappuccino Cart, 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, your room key works on the Pixar Place gate too! Or you can go through security by about 7 a.m. and head straight to the main park gate. Your closest rides from the main entrance 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 it's crucial to 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 after Rope Drop anyway, 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 we can save the Multiple Experiences pass to use later in the day for Indiana Jones Adventure or Space Mountain (after we hop to Disneyland).

Tips for Disneyland Early Entry

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - 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 an early riser, 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 the park opens.
  • 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 through the Disneyland app. Ride windows are provided as the first available times. The Genie+ return windows begin once the park is officially open.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Girls with Mickey pancakes at Red Rose Taverne.

  • 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. Of course, we love the Mickey Pancakes and Little Town Harvest Bowl at Red Rose Taverne as well. At California Adventure, mobile order a breakfast burrito from the Cappuccino Cart or get a full breakfast at Pym Test Kitchen! Did you know that Smokejumper's Grill now has breakfast burritos and sandwiches?
  • Enjoy brunch. We also like to visit Disney California Adventure early and 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 have 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 Pixar Pier. There is one for Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa guests and a new (and uncrowded) entrance across the street from Disney's Pixar Place Hotel.
  • 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 arrive early enough). Drop those bags at the hotel 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. Hours can vary. At peak times, such as the holidays, hotel guests may get in a full hour early each day. Or the park that has Early Entry could change for a special event, such as a race.

Rope Drop Strategies for People Without Early Entry

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - 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 have a few tricks on how to avoid crowds for guests without Early Entry! Since this perk is reserved for only hotel guests, it does not affect others' experiences very much. But you can still get that Rope Drop experience if you know where to go.

Rope Drop the park that does not have Early Entry. You'll enter a park with nobody else in it! Keep your eye on the map and wait times in the Disneyland app, avoiding rides that are not yet open.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Indiana Hones ride vehicle

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

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Mickey in his casual clothes in Toontown

At Disneyland, Early Entry is for select rides in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, so if the park does have Early Entry hours, you'll want to head to Adventureland, Frontierland and Critter Country. Maybe hit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge if that is a priority. Even Toontown is pretty empty after park opening these days. And you might catch Mickey outside his house in the first 30 minutes after the park opens!

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+

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.

Our Top Tips and Strategies for Early Entry at Disneyland Resort - Pirates of the Caribbean Auction scene

Follow a Park Plan

We have some handy Disneyland park 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 to areas where there aren't any people yet. We usually suggest Adventureland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square and Critter Country in Disneyland Park.
  • Get on rides that do not offer Genie+ first while the lines are the shortest for the day. Save your first Genie+ reservation for the end of the first time 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 the roller coaster hair sets in).

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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Comments

Dec 4, 2023 at 4:48 p.m.
CarolCap Says...

Great post. This is the first I’ve seen about the change to early entry in January 2024,this will now probably have us schedule a morning or two at California adventure on the mornings when all the early entry folks are going to Disneyland! Just a note, somewhere in the post you referred to a 1pm start of rope dropping rather than the updated 11 am. Perhaps by the time of our trip, March 30 to April 10, there will be open park hopping??

Reply
Dec 20, 2023 at 9:06 p.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi CarolCap!

Thanks for hopping by! We do not expect open park hopping, but we do hope it returns soon! We'll be sure to update this post (and others) if & when we hear of any official news.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Feb 3, 2023 at 2:40 p.m.
Cara Says...

This article has been so helpful as we plan our trip. Do you know what days of the week each Park offers the early entry. We want to make sure and reserve the right day to get the early entry. Also, any recommendations on table service dining that you love at each park?

Reply
Feb 3, 2023 at 9:29 a.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi Cara!

The Early Entry benefit is available every day at either park. As for table-service dining, some of our favorites include Lamplight Lounge, Carthay Circle and Wine Country Trattoria at Disney California Adventure and Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans at Disneyland Park.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Feb 1, 2023 at 1:43 p.m.
Mia Says...

So it’s best to take the monorail for early entry vs the main gate? This article has helped me so much (:

Reply
Feb 1, 2023 at 3:05 p.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi Mia!

Thanks so much for hopping by! Yes, especially if you're staying at a Disneyland hotel — hotel guests have early entry access to the monorail from Downtown Disney so it can be a quicker option.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Jan 1, 2023 at 4:29 p.m.
Ken Carlson Says...

Can you use the early entry on checkin day and checkout day?

We are hoping to book a room for one night and then get two early entries out of it.

And happy near year! Woke up today thinking about Disneyland.

Reply
Jan 3, 2023 at 1:35 p.m.
FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ken!

Yes! Early Entry can be used on each day of your hotel stay.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
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?

Reply

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