It's almost peak season at Disneyland, and if you're gearing up for a summer vacation, no doubt you're looking for a few tips to save your time and sanity. Never fear, the frogs are here! Disneyland will be exceptionally busy this summer as it celebrates its 60th anniversary with new shows, parades and more hoopla, so there is even more reason to be prepared. We'll be bringing you additional tips for enjoying the brand-new Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration entertainment, but in the meantime, we've put together our all-round best tips for Disneyland in summer.
Top Tips for Disneyland in Summer
1. Stay close or on-site. If ever there is a time to stay on-site or close by, it's during the busy 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. Several of the off-site hotels are even closer to the parks than some of the on-site hotels. Guests staying on-site are close to the action, but they also get the benefit of Extra Magic Hour, which allows one hour early access to either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure, including Cars Land.
2. Get there early. The first few hours of the day in the parks see the very lowest crowds, even lower than the last few hours in the evenings. If you are walking from your hotel, you should plan to arrive at least a half hour early. If you are driving, you'll have to park and take the tram to the park, which can add on another half hour.
3. Make use of Extra Magic Morning. If you're staying on-site, you definitely don't want to skip out on your extra hour of park time. This is especially true at Disney California Adventure, which offers early entry on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, for those of you who want to ride Radiator Springs Racers with the lowest waits. While FASTPASS isn't available until the regular park opening, you can either ride Radiator Springs in that first hour or ride a few other popular attractions and then line up early for the Radiator Springs FASTPASS machine.
4. Stay at least three days. During the busy summer months, three days will give you time to experience the best of both parks. Even better, if you're staying off-site and go for three days, you can take advantage of Magic Morning at Disneyland, which allows you to enter the park an hour early on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday.
5. Learn how to use FASTPASS. While it can seem complicated at first, 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.
6. Get Park Hoppers. They 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. The FASTPASS systems in each park are disconnected from each other, meaning you can hold concurrent FASTPASSes in each park.
7. 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.
8. Check the ride closures. Before you head to the parks and make your touring plans, check our ride refurbishment page.
9. Use FASTPASS on the water rides or ride them 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 or by riding them earlier in the day or later in the evening.
10. Save the longer indoor rides 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. Pirates of the Caribbean, Soarin' Over California and It's a Small World fit the bill. Use FASTPASS for the first two, so you don't have to wait in line too long.
11. Take a break in the afternoon. 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 or swim and relax for a few hours.
12. Bring snacks and refillable water bottles. Don't let hunger creep up on you or the little ones while you're waiting in lines! Pack snacks such as dried fruit or crackers to keep the munchies at bay. Bring a refillable water bottle, so you save on drinks and standing in line.
13. Eat during off-peak times. Especially during the summer months, the quick-service and table-service locations get very full during standard lunch and dinner times. If you pack snacks and have a larger breakfast outside of the park, you'll be good to go!
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 Tiki Juice Bar!
15. Make lunch or dinner reservations in advance. There is good news for those of you familiar with Disney World's dining reservation system: It isn't that complicated at Disneyland. Getting reservations for even the most in-demand restaurants such as Blue Bayou and Carthay Circle is doable even during the busy summer months. Reservations for table service restaurants can be made up to 60 days in advance, and resort guests have no advantage over those staying off-site.
16. Get a FASTPASS for World of Color. It's free, and the FASTPASS isn't connected to the rest of the system, so getting one won't impact you're ability to get another one. The passes guarantee you have a place to watch the show. You can get them outside of Grizzly River Run, 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 3-course prix-fixe meal at Ariel's Grotto, Carthay Circle or Wine Country Trattoria, and you get very good reserved seating for the show.
17. Stay late. When the sun goes down, the fun begins! Especially during the summer months, at least one of the parks will be open late. With a break in the afternoon, you can come back to the park recharged and ready for even more hours of fun.
18. If rides are a priority, skip the nighttime entertainment. Now we wouldn't dare dream of missing the soon-to-debut "Disneyland Forever" nighttime projection show or "Paint the Night" parade, but if you're spending a few days at the parks, you might watch them one night and then ride on the other.
19. See the second parade or show. On some evenings, Fantasmic! and the soon-to-debut Paint the Night have two showings. Those second shows are always less crowded, so you have a better chance of getting a good spot without waiting as long.
We hope you've found these tips for Disneyland in summer most helpful. Have a tip we didn't mention? Share it in comments below!