It's summer at Disneyland Resort, and one thing is clear: Disneyland is back to a normal summer, although capacity is still controlled by an advanced reservation system. That means there's a little planning ahead to be done before the fun! Summer is peak season at Disneyland, and in 2023 we have more to celebrate with the Disney 100 Years of Wonder anniversary entertainment, a parade, a new ride and a reimagined Toontown to play in. At Disney California Adventure Rogers: The Musical fills the Hyperion Theater while a special World of Color show lights up our night. Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park turns two and has new characters making appearances!
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 trusted tips for tackling Disneyland in the summer.
The Frog Family's Hop Tips for Disneyland in Summer 2023
1. Stay Close or On-Site
Whether you live locally and are looking for a staycation or are coming from more distant areas, if there were ever a time and reason to stay on-site or close by, it's during the summer months to beat the crowds. 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. It's so nice to escape the afternoon crowds and heat for a bit to make the most of morning and evening time.
We recently stayed at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa on a warm weekend. It was so nice to hit the pool midday! It is right next to the hotel entrance to Disney California Adventure. After cooling off, we hopped back to the theme parks, refreshed and ready for nighttime entertainment. Mommy Frog and I eased our aching flippers with a foot massage at the spa, which is also right near the pool and theme park entrance. It really helped us make it from rope drop to fireworks with hoppy feet.
Several off-site hotels are even closer to the parks than some on-site hotels, and they can help you save money. Did you know you can book your hotel near Disneyland with us for a hoppin' good discount? We also offer discounts for Disneyland Resort hotels! Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel and Disneyland Hotel are all open now! On-site hotel guests have a better theme park reservation availability than other park guests.
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 allow you to hop back and forth between the parks, which are right across from each other on the Esplanade. It actually costs less money to add a park hopping 5-Day ticket (or any multi-day ticket) than it does to add a park hopper to a 1-Day ticket. This summer, you'll reserve a park to start your day in, and then you can hop to the other park and back as early as 11 a.m.
In fact, as summer days start to book up, you may notice that Park Hopper tickets have better theme park availability than 1-Park per day tickets. This hopful link to the availability calendar shows current availability for 1-Park, Park Hopper and Disneyland Resort hotel guests. You may notice that hotel guests have the best availability of all. That's just one of the perks of staying on-site!
3. Make Use of Disneyland Resort Hotel Perks
Guests staying on-site are close to the action, but they also get the benefit of having Early Entry to the theme parks. Hotel guests may enter the parks to access select rides, restaurants and shops 30 minutes before the parks open every day (with a park ticket and reservation of course). If you're staying on-site, you definitely don't want to skip out on your Early Entry park time, when each park opens 30 minutes early every day. Keep in mind that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is not open during Early Entry. However, Early entry guests can line up in Fantasyland and be amongst the first people to get to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the morning.
Another hotel guest benefit is being able to send packages to the hotel for next-day pickup. Pool parties with characters returned last summer, and paddle board classes in pools are available this summer.
4. Stay Three to Five Days at Disneyland in Summer
During the busy summer months, three days will give you enough time to experience the best attractions in both parks. We suggest at least two days at Disneyland and one at Disney California Adventure. Park hopping is cheaper per day with a multi-day ticket. It's $60 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. If you have small children, a longer trip allows you to slow down, and let them explore all the new discoveries in Toontown. A longer trip allows Star Wars fans the time they need fully experience Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
Also, a multi-day ticket saves money per day and is not 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. (Psst ... 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. Arrive Early
The first few hours of the day in the parks see the very lowest crowds. The last few hours in the evenings during and after fireworks are also light. If you are walking from your hotel, you should plan to arrive an hour early to get through security and entrance lines. If you are driving, the parking lots open one hour before the earliest theme park opening time. Arriving before the park opens is another one of our survival tips for Disneyland in summer. You'll avoid the lines and the heat. Then you can focus on shows, characters, food and other experiences once the lines get long.
Keep in mind that all guests can enter the theme parks 30 minutes early, every day. Entering early before rope drop (official park opening, when guests can access the attractions) is the best way to knock out some of the most popular rides without a wait! Guests at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel have a dedicated entrance to Disney California Adventure Park, which makes it easy. All Disney hotel guests with a room key can access the pathway to Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure.
6. Check the Ride Closures
Before you head to the parks and make your plans, check our Disneyland ride refurbishments. We also keep an updated list of what's open at Disneyland (and closed) since just a couple attractions are closed for refurbishment at the start of summer. You won't be able to cool off at Splash Mountain this summer as it is undergoing a transformation to Tiana's Bayou Adventure. It will reopen in 2024. On the other hand, Donald's Boat in Toontown has a splash pad and CenTOONial Fountain has low water tables for tadpoles to cool off on hot days.
7. Learn How to Find the Shortest Waits
We frogs know a few ways to skip the lines. We've already discussed arriving early and staying late. We also offer park plans to help you find your way through the most attractions. While we do enjoy a bit of spontaneity in our day, having a park plan in place 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. You can also use the free Genie feature in the Disneyland app. You can input your interests and Genie will make suggestions for when to ride rides with the shortest wait. Don't get this confused with the option paid Genie+, which we will get into shortly.
If all the riders of your party are at least 7 years old and OK with being separated on rides to fill empty seats, using Single Rider lines can shave hours off of your day. If you have smaller tadpoles who are not tall enough or brave enough to ride, ask the cast member at the ride entrance about Rider Switch before riding. Our guide to Disneyland height requirements and Rider Switch can get you up to speed. One more thing: You can skip food lines with Mobile Order. We will get into more detail about that in a little bit.
8. Use Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane
Both FASTPASS and MaxPass have been retired. The FASTPASS return entrances remain and are now called Lightning Lanes. There are two main ways to access these lines, which bypass the standard queues for a shorter time in line. Genie+ is an optional paid service that allows you to make Lightning Lane selections on your phone for up to 20 rides across the resort. Genie+ comes with unlimited PhotoPass photo downloads. Most thrill rides and a few other popular rides are on Genie+, but there are a lot of rides that just have one standby line. Three of the most in-demand rides are not on Genie+, but they have Lightning Lane access too. For those rides, you can pay for individual access to skip the line if you wish, whether or not you use Genie+.
Guests cannot start making Genie+ or individual Lightning Lane selections until they have entered a theme park for the day. You can purchase discount Disneyland tickets already loaded with Genie+ or purchase Genie+ each day through the Disneyland app once you have entered the park. We have a couple of hopful posts to explain Genie+ and individual Lightning Lanes in more detail:
- Our Complete Guide to Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ Services at Disneyland (a beginner's guide to understanding these services and the free Genie planning features)
- Answering Your Disneyland Genie Plus Frequently Asked Questions (for more advanced users and former MaxPass users who want to know more)
If you are familiar with Genie+ and individual Lightning Lanes at Disney World, definitely read up on how to use these services at Disneyland as things operate differently between the parks. The good news is that there are a lot more choices throughout the day at Disneyland. Also, both rides that offer individual Lightning Lane lines at Disney California Adventure have Single Rider, so that's a way to skip the line without paying any extra money.
If you plan to use Genie+, we highly recommend getting MagicBand+. It allows you to enter the theme parks or Lightning Lanes with a tap of your wrist instead of pulling out your phone all the time.
9. Don't Head to the Most Popular Attractions First
What? Really? Yes! Especially if you are using Genie+. You can hit some of the less-busy attractions first because their lines will be very short. The most popular rides will have everyone heading there first. Go ride a lot of rides without Genie+ in a short period of time instead of standing in one hour-long (or longer) line for the most popular rides. Then use your Genie+ strategically to ride those rides when the lines are long.
To make the most of your time, follow our touring plan for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. We have 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. An alternative is to hit all the Fantasyland rides at park opening but save the most popular one, Peter Pan's Flight, until the end of your run since the line is instantly long if you are not one of the first people on it. Go ride it when all the other lines are long since it stays pretty consistent.
Go ride a lot of rides in a short time at park opening instead of waiting in one long line. At park opening, everyone else will be heading to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.
At Disney California Adventure, you'll want to ride Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters before hitting the Radiator Springs Racers Single Rider line. An alternative plan is to head straight to Pixar Pier and hit Incredicoaster, Toy Story Midway Mania!, Pixar Pal-A-Round and other rides in that area before the lines develop. Guardians of the Galaxy does have its shortest wait of the day in the first hour of park opening. Everyone else heads to Radiator Springs Racers and WEB SLINGERS first. Avoid those two to accomplish a lot elsewhere.
10. Ride Water Rides Early or Late in the Day
With the summer heat in full effect (and being the only water ride this year) Grizzly River Run will see its highest crowds in the afternoon. Stave off the wait by using Genie+ or by riding earlier or later in the day.
11. Save the Longer Indoor or Shaded 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 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 may be in order! Explore the fun indoor queue in Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway before boarding the ride. We have a few more tips to beat the heat in our post on hot tips for cool trips to Disneyland in summer.
This summer you can escape the heat and hit the Hyperion for a showing of Rogers: The Musical in Disney California Adventure. At Disneyland, watch Tale of the Lion King or Storytelling at the Royal Theatre to get out of the sun. Watch the second parade run of Magic Happens, because it is much cooler.
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. You can refill your water bottles at fill stations or get free iced water from most restaurants. Wear or bring a fan to stay cool. Bring spray bottles or purchase a spray fan in the park to stay cool in lines.
When crowds are at their highest levels, take 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 the Disneyland Hotel on a hot summer day, and it was so nice to jump in the pool, slide down the Monorail water slide and 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 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 — the refill stations are open! You can usually get a small cup of iced water at quick-service restaurants, too.
14. 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; more details below)! You can find more Dole Whip flavors at Tropical Hideaway in Adventureland. Adorable Snowman’s Frosted Treats at Pixar Pier has lemon or mango Dole Whip. 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. Of course, a Mickey bar or ice cream sandwich is always good too!
15. 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 the Mobile Order service at several quick-service locations in both parks and in some of the hotels.
One of our biggest tips for Disneyland in summer 2023 is to order food in advance. You can plan ahead with Mobile Order. Order dinner early so that, come dinner time, you are ready to tap, "I'm here, prepare my order," instead of facing long food lines and hangry family members. 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're hungry to order, you might find that the first available pick-up window is a couple of hours away.
If you plan to camp out to watch the Magic Happens parade, plan your mobile order pick-up window in advance to acquire food in the vicinity you expect to wait for the parade and have a small picnic.
16. Make Reservations for Dining and Special Experiences in Advance
Reservations for table-service restaurants can be made up to 60 days in advance at 6 a.m. Read more about the ins and outs of Disneyland's dining reservations. You'll want to reserve early as restaurants are in high demand, especially Blue Bayou, which now serves beer, wine and hurricanes! You might want to reserve dining packages that include vouchers for viewing areas for the Magic Happens parade, Fantasmic! (temporarily closed for summer 2023) or World of Color. We discuss the Disneyland dining packages in a separate post (and can help you determine which ones are worth it or not).
Additionally, if you're interested in any special experiences such as Savi's Workshop or Droid Depot, make sure to book reservations ahead of time (up to 60 days in advance).
17. Join the Free Virtual Queue for World of Color
There is a virtual queue to access a reserved area to watch certain nighttime shows such as World of Color. You have to have entered a theme park that day to join the virtual queue. You can join the virtual queue in the Disneyland app right at noon each day. You'll also need a theme park ticket and reservation that is valid for accessing Disney California Adventure in the evening. That means having a Park Hopper ticket or a reservation for that park. Hop over to our Disneyland virtual queues post for all the details and tips for joining. All the virtual queue spaces are distributed quickly, so read up, set an alarm a few minutes before go-time and move quickly. At this time, no attractions utilize a virtual queue to ride.
18. Get in There and Hug Your Favorite Characters
You can once again hug your favorite characters and pose for photos with them! You can once again find the general range of times that groups of characters may be in a particular location in the Disneyland app. Hop over to our post on meeting characters for some ideas of where to find them. We find a lot of roaming characters in Fantasyland and in Toontown.
19. Stay Late and Catch Fireworks and Other Shows
Disneyland Park closes at midnight most days in summer. Disney California Adventure closes at 9 or 10 p.m. (Check the hours online or in the Disneyland app before you visit.) Nighttime entertainment (Wondrous Journey Disneyland fireworks and World of Color — One) is extra exciting with Disney 100 versions of shows this summer! You'll want to stay late to catch these amazing shows. If you don't love shows, take advantage of shorter ride wait times during them.
Sadly, Fantasmic!, is closed for summer 2023. But there are other great options to light up your night. Plus, you don't want to miss the daytime Magic Happens Parade.
Our biggest time-saving advice is to catch the later show or parade (except there is only one fireworks show) when offered. It is much less crowded and you can hop in place without investing a lot of wait time. If you cannot join the virtual queue for World of Color or get a dining package, see the later show because many people who joined the virtual queue don't show up, and that leaves plenty of space for you! Our guide to the best Disneyland shows will help you decide which shows not to miss.
Your tadpoles will love the not-too-late dance party in Tomorrowland. Stitch, a DJ and several rotating characters teach dance moves from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. nightly at Stitch's Interplanetary Beach Party Blast.
At the end of the night, shops on Main Street, U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street stay open an hour after the park closes for shopping. This is a great way to have bonus time in the park. You can 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.
20. Get Ready for Heroic Encounters on Avengers Campus
You'll want to visit Disney California Adventure's newest land, Avengers Campus! There are a few things you should know before you go. That includes the rides, food, smaller shows that have Avengers springing to action and of course, the Super Heroes themselves. The land introduces new characters all the time based on the latest movies and Disney+ shows. 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!
Related: The Ins and Outs of Disneyland Dining Reservations
Related: Top Tips to Maximize Your Time at Disneyland