It's summer at Disneyland Resort, and one thing is clear: This is no ordinary summer. Usually, summer is peak season at Disneyland, but in 2021, capacity is limited (but increasing) with an advance reservation system. That means there's a little planning ahead to be done before the fun, especially now that out-of-state visitors are welcome back! Hop over to our mask policy post before you visit for the latest news. Physical distancing guidelines are gone and fireworks have returned! Disneyland is in the process of a phased reopening, meaning some experiences are unavailable at this time — but it's worth noting that things continue to reopen (and quickly!). Character cavalcades now travel through the parks. Plus the all-new Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park is now open and accepting new recruits!
If you're gearing up for a summer vacation or staycation, no doubt you're looking for a few tips to save your time and sanity. Never fear, the Frog Family is here! We bring you our newly revised tips for Disneyland in summer (with a few nods to how things are done in a normal summer as we are ever hopful that we will get back to how things usually are by next summer).
As the COVID-19 situation and vaccine rate is in flux, we expect this information to change as summer goes on. Hop over to our Disneyland reopening post for the most updated details, as well as our hopful posts with tips and information for visiting Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure right now.
The Frog Family's Hop Tips for Disneyland in Summer 2021
1. Stay close or on-site.
Whether you live locally and are looking for a staycation or are coming from more distant areas, if ever there were a time to stay on-site or close by, it's during the summer months. We prefer to stay within walking distance of the parks so we don't have to worry about parking and can easily hop back to the hotel in the afternoon for a nap or a swim. With the parking trams not running, that walk to and from the structure is a tough one, especially when you are hot and tired. You might get a shorter walk from your hotel! Here's an important tip for Disneyland in summer 2021: Wear good walking shoes! You will be on your feet a lot.
Several of the off-site hotels are even closer to the parks than some of the on-site hotels. Did you know you can book your hotel near Disneyland with us for a hoppin' good discount? We also offer discounts for the Disneyland Resort hotels! Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel and Disneyland Hotel are all open now!
2. Get Park Hopper tickets.
The multi-day Park Hopper tickets aren't that much more expensive at Disneyland than regular admission, and they will let you hop back and forth between the parks, which are right across from each other on the esplanade. This summer, you reserve a park to start your day in, and then you can hop to the other park after 1 p.m.
3. Make use of Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning.
Guests staying on-site are close to the action, but they also get the benefit of having easy access to the theme parks in the morning. Extra Magic Hour, which usually allows one-hour early access to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, is temporarily unavailable. But there's an "unofficial early entry" almost every day right now as the theme parks generally open the gates earlier than posted. It may even be 30 to 60 minutes early. All Disneyland guests can access Fantasyland, and Disney California Adventure guests can access most of the theme park. Entering early is the best way to knock out some of the most popular rides without a wait! Guests at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel also have a dedicated entrance to Disney California Adventure Park.
During a more normal time, if you're staying on-site, you definitely don't want to skip out on your Extra Magic Hour of park time, when the park opens an hour early for Disneyland Resort hotel guests. This is especially true at Disney California Adventure, which usually offers early entry on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, for those of you who want to ride Radiator Springs Racers with the lowest waits. Disneyland offers Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with access to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.
What’s Magic Morning? It is also unavailable right now, but when it's active, people who purchase a 3-day or longer park ticket receive one day of Magic Morning in Disneyland Park, giving them access to the park an hour before opening. In case you missed it, Undercover Tourist is now selling discount, multi-day tickets to the Disneyland Resort! FASTPASS is not working these days, but when it returns, you can acquire FASTPASSes during the early entry times, and even reserve rides in the other park. Keep in mind that the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is not open during Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hours.
4. Stay at least three days during Disneyland in summer.
During the busy summer months, three days will give you time to experience the best of both parks. We suggest two days of Disneyland and one at Disney California Adventure. Park hopping is cheaper per day with a multi-day ticket. It's about $55 whether you add it to a 1-Day ticket or a 5-Day ticket, so it really makes more financial sense to park hop with a multi-day ticket.
Also, a 3-Day ticket (or any multi-day ticket) will save money per day and not be subject to tiers and blackout dates like the 1-Day tickets are. You have 13 days after the first use to visit. You will need to reserve all days in advance, as days do fill up. (Pssst ... you can save even more when you purchase discount Disneyland Resort tickets from your favorite froggy friends. Just remember to make a theme park reservation as soon as you receive your tickets via email.)
5. Get there early.
The first few hours of the day in the parks see the very lowest crowds (especially if they open the gates early and you get bonus morning time). The last few hours in the evenings are also light. If you are walking from your hotel, you should plan to arrive at least an hour to an hour and a half early to get through security and entrance lines. If you are driving, you'll have to park and walk to the parks, which can take 15 to 20 minutes to make that trek (there are benches along the way if you need to rest or you can rent a wheelchair, ECV or stroller at the parking structures). We suggest arriving to the parking structure by 7:45 a.m. when the park opens at 9 a.m. Arriving before park opening is another one of our survival tips for Disneyland in summer. You'll avoid the lines and the heat at that time of day.
6. Check the ride closures.
Before you head to the parks and make your touring plans, check our Disneyland ride refurbishments. We also keep an updated list of what's open at Disneyland (and closed) since some attractions and restaurants and entertainment will reopen at a later date.
7. Learn how to find the shortest waits without FASTPASS.
Before the Disneyland closure, we frogs were experts in FASTPASS and skipping the lines. Since FASTPASS is temporarily unavailable, we have other methods, such as arriving early, staying late and following touring plans. While we do enjoy a bit of spontaneity in our day, a touring plan helps us hit the most popular attractions before lines form, enjoy rides with consistent or low wait times (and do other things) midday and jump in dwindling lines before park closure. Consult the wait times in the Disneyland app to find the shortest waits.
Two rides offer virtual queues: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure. For Rise, you will need to read up on how to join a Boarding Group. It's the only way to ride. The virtual queue for WEB SLINGERS works very similarly to the one for Rise. You cannot hold Boarding Groups for both of them at the same time.
Once FASTPASS returns, we will jump back on the FASTPASS train. Although at times it can seem complicated, Disneyland's FASTPASS Service will save you significant time in line. Used in conjunction with Park Hoppers, you've got even more time savings! We've got the full details on how it works, so you don't have to worry a bit.
8. While MaxPass is temporarily unavailable, purchase PhotoPass+ to get your PhotoPass downloads.
MaxPass, an optional paid service that allows you to make FASTPASS reservations on your phone, is also temporarily unavailable. One extra hopful part of MaxPass is that it came with unlimited PhotoPass photo downloads. If you still want those great professional photos and ride images, you can purchase PhotoPass+ for $19.99 to get all of the images taken that day. Click this link to find out all about using PhotoPass+.
Once FASTPASS and MaxPass return, here's what you need to know: If you really want to get a (frog) leg up on the competition, consider the optional paid Disney MaxPass to skip the lines. You can purchase discount Disneyland tickets already loaded with Disney MaxPass or purchase MaxPass each day through the Disneyland app once you have entered the park. MaxPass allows you to reserve rides through your smartphone. That means that the second you walk in the park, you can select the first FASTPASS! Then, after a short eligibility period, you can select another, no matter where you are. It saves walking and time. Plus MaxPass comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads, so you can keep and share all the great professional character, ride and location photos.
9. Ride the most popular attractions first.
To make the most of your time, ride the most popular attractions with the shortest durations first. Follow our touring plan for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. We have modified park plans for each of the parks, including park hopper plans. In short, here's our advice. At Disneyland, hit Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean first as soon as the park opens. At Disney California Adventure, you'll want to ride Radiator Springs Racers and Toy Story Midway Mania! first.
10. Ride water rides early or late in the day.
With the summer heat in full effect, Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run will see their highest crowds in the afternoon. Stave off the wait by using FASTPASS (when available) or by riding them earlier in the day or later in the evening.
11. Save the longer indoor rides and shows for the hottest part of the day.
During the afternoons when it's especially warm and crowds are at their peak, cool off inside on a longer duration ride or show. Pirates of the Caribbean, Soarin' Over California and "it's a small world" fit the bill. A visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room with a Dole Whip after may be in order! We have a few more tips to beat the heat in our post on hot tips for cool trips to Disneyland in summer.
12. Take a break in the afternoon (and watch the sun).
Sunscreen up, wear a hat and sunglasses and stay hydrated. That means taking frequent water breaks. Bring spray bottles or purchase a spray fan in the park to stay cool in lines. When crowds are at their highest levels, have a break. This is when having a hotel close by comes in handy. Let the kids rest, swim or relax for a few hours. We stayed at Disney's Grand Californian on a hot summer day, and it was so nice to take a shower before heading back to the park for nighttime fun. If you do not have a nearby escape, make dining reservations for an indoor or restaurant during the afternoon, such as Blue Bayou or Lamplight Lounge, to get out of the sun and relax.
13. Bring snacks and refillable water bottles.
Don't let hunger creep up on you or the little ones! Pack snacks such as dried fruit or crackers to keep the munchies at bay. Bring a refillable water bottle so you save on drinks. The refill stations are open.
14. Use Mobile Order service.
Especially during the summer months, the quick-service and table-service locations get very full during standard lunch and dinner times. You can skip the lines by using Mobile Order service at several quick-service locations in both parks and in some of the hotels. In fact, at some times or locations, Mobile Order is the only way to order right now.
One of our biggest tips for Disneyland in summer 2021 is to order food in advance. In the morning, go ahead and order lunch, snacks and maybe even dinner through Mobile Order. Choose the times you expect to get hungry. If you wait until you are hungry to order, you might find that the first window is a couple of hours away.
15. Cool off with a frozen treat.
In the heat of summer, nothing beats an ice cream cone from Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor or a Dole Whip from the Tropical Hideaway (both now offer Mobile Order)! You can find more Dole Whip flavors at Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland or lemon Dole Whip and ice cream at Adorable Snowman’s Frosted Treats at Pixar Pier. We love making a pit stop for ice cream at the Cozy Cone Motel or milkshakes with road gravel topping at Flo's in Cars Land.
16. Make lunch or dinner reservations in advance.
Reservations for table-service restaurants can be made up to 60 days in advance, and resort guests have access to a limited number of reservations for select dining venues. Read more about the ins and outs of Disneyland's dining reservations. You'll want to reserve early as there are limited options this summer and they are in high demand, especially for Blue Bayou, which now serves beer, wine and hurricanes!
Speaking of food, there are limited breakfast options in the parks right now. Don't froget to eat breakfast before you arrive.
17. Get a FASTPASS for World of Color or Fantasmic! (Skip this tip for now as these nighttime entertainment options have not returned yet.)
It's free, and the FASTPASS isn't connected to the rest of the system, so getting one won't impact your ability to get another one. The passes guarantee you have a place to watch the shows. You can get a World of Color FASTPASS outside of The Little Mermaid, and we recommend getting them earlier in the day if there are two shows and you want to see the first. Another option is to book the World of Color dining package. Book a three-course, prix-fixe meal at Carthay Circle or Wine Country Trattoria for a voucher that accesses reserved viewing. Or, book the World of Color Dessert Party to enjoy treats and drinks while seated at tables during the show.
You can collect a Fantasmic! FASTPASS at the Frontierland dock early in the day. Both shows also have great stand-by viewing if you are willing to hop in place early (about an hour and a half before showtime). Fantasmic! offers dining packages, as well.
18. Enjoy the new ways of meeting characters.
Can I just say that I prefer the new character interactions to the old method of waiting in line for a hug or an autograph? We have interacted with so many more characters in this physically distanced time than ever before. We see characters interacting with characters from other stories or grouped together. The princesses and pirates chat with us and ask us questions. The best part is that we don't have to wait to see them, and we catch them doing things we've never seen before!
Hop over to our post on meeting characters for some ideas of where to find them and frequent their locations to find new characters throughout the day!
19. Stay late and catch fireworks.
Disneyland Park closes at 10 p.m. starting in July, just in time to allow for nightly fireworks, which have been blasting off since July 4! Disney California Adventure closes at 9 p.m. this summer. Nighttime entertainment such as Fantasmic! and World of Color are not currently scheduled. Normally, when the sun goes down, the fun begins! Focus on shorter wait times and the beauty of the parks lighting up. Wave good-bye to characters. Take photos. Relax on a bench with ice cream. Be in line when the park closes.
At the end of the night, shops on Main Street, U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street stay open an hour after park closing for shopping. This is a great way to have bonus time in the park, enjoy the beautiful lights, take uncrowded photos, shop and relax. Remember that as long as you are in line for a ride when the park closes, you can stay in line and ride.
During "normal" summer months, at least one of the parks is open late. With a break in the afternoon, you can come back to the park recharged and ready for even more hours of fun. Disneyland Resort nighttime entertainment is the best, with World of Color, Fantasmic!, fireworks and more!
20. Get ready for heroic encounters in Avengers Campus.
Disneyland's newest land, Avengers Campus, is now open in Disney California Adventure Park! There are a few things you should know before you go, including how to access the land, rides, food and of course, Super Heroes. All of it is toadally epic, but it helps to read up before your trip — which you can do here.
We hope you've found these tips for Disneyland in summer most hopful. Have a tip we didn't mention? Share it in the comments below!