Contrarian Advice for Visiting Disneyland

We've all heard the "expert" advice for Disneyland, arrive early, bring a stroller, plan to wait in line. I thought it would be fun to ask travel bloggers who've visited with their own kids for advice that goes against the conventional wisdom.

Balloon seller at Disneyland
Balloon seller at Disneyland

End the Summer at Disneyland

Summer is one of the busiest times at Disneyland BUT the week before Labor Day Weekend is slow and not crowded. Parent-tested 3 years in a row. We just walked onto most rides over and over again.
Kristi Marcelle, Ciao Bambino

Park Hop When Extra Magic Hours End

"Don't go to the specified park for Extra Magic Hours, UNLESS you plan to leave it to park hop after the hour is over. If you stay all day, the regular visitors arrive on top of the resort guests, making it the more crowded park."
Amy Hagstrom Whitley, Pitstops for Kids

You Don't Have to Do it All

Linda Wolfgram Kramer It is possible to have a very enjoyable Disneyland experience without doing any of the following: character meet & greet/autographs, pin trading, Princess Fantasy Faire, parades, World of Color. Plus, if you're not standing in line waiting for all of these things, you'll have a lot more time to go on all the rides. I think this is especially true for first-time visitors.
Linda Wolfgram Kramer, Travels With Children

Get a great seat at the parade

I would think the average person who wants to get a good spot during the parade would line up on the curbs quite early (At least that is what I see every time I visit the park). My advice: "Wait until the very last second to join the parade crowd and head over to where people have been waiting on benches, avoiding Main Street. Everyone scoots up closer to the curb as the parade is coming by, leaving plenty of room to sneak under the rope and within close view of all the action.
Sharlene Armstrong Earnshaw, Trekaroo

Skip Naptime

Everyone says you should go back to your hotel midday to swim or nap. My advice--be there before the gates open and stay as late as your kids can make it. Why waste time at the hotel when you've paid to be at the happiest place on earth?
Linda Wolfgram Kramer, Travels With Children

Astro Orbiter at Disneyland Resort
Astro Orbiter at Disneyland Resort

Hit the Small Rides First

We found it was better to do Dumbo and some other Fantasyland rides early instead of going straight to Space Mtn, Splash Mtn, etc. Both get more crowded as the day goes on but the bigger rides have the FastPass.
Kristen Stewart

Be Sure You're Ready for Soarin'' Over California?

Linda Wolfgram Kramer Contrary to popular belief, not everyone loves Soarin' Over California. If IMAX movies give you trouble, Soarin' may as well. I speak from experience.
Linda Wolfgram Kramer, Travels With Children

Take it Slow

As a season pass-holder, my advice would be to take the park slowly. My favorite memories are of visiting the park with my toddler son and just crusing around Main Street. The flowers were gorgeous, I soaked up the sun while he toddled around and then we watched the Main Street band march down the street. Mickey Mouse came out and found us sitting on a bench and sat by us for a while. We may have made it as far as the carousel that day, but we simply sat in front of it for about 30 minutes while he snacked on his goldfish. It wasn't always easy to be a patient and "slow" mom but those happy days got soaked into my brain and I would love to do them again.
Michelle McCoy, Trekaroo

Love the Rain

I've experienced Disneyland in the rain. It's incredible as you are forced to discover all the little hideaways to stay dry, And Not busy as the place clears out!
Anne Taylor Hartzel, HipTravelMama

They're Never too Young

Visit when your kids are really little because you can be the boss of the itinerary. When they get older they start having a say, which can be annoying ;) Also, when they're really little they're too short for all the big rides, so the super long waits attached to them aren't an issue, unless you really want to go on them !
Corinne McDermott, Have Baby Will Travel

Fireworks over the 5 freeway at Disneyland
Fireworks over the 5 freeway at Disneyland

Go to the Left

We did a VIP tour last year and her big advice was to always go left when you enter a park. Human nature is to go right and if you go in when it opens and go left, you'll get some "no line" time. Also don't forget the rider switch with fast passes.
Kim-Marie Evans, LuxuryTravelMom

More Tips

Taking Pictures of Fireworks
Ten Activities near Disneyland that Kids and Adults will Enjoy
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Cars Land Rides: Mater's Junkyard Jamboree
Bravery at Disney's California Adventure
Cars Land Preview: A sneak peek before the Cars Land Grand Opening

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  1. Ryan at Travel and Graphs on July 9, 2012 at 1:02 p.m.

    "Visit when your kids are really little because you can be the boss of the itinerary. When they get older they start having a say, which can be annoying" haha! that one made me chuckle, as I remember trying to boss my parents around when I was little.

  2. Patrick at Get Lost In on July 11, 2012 at 5:59 a.m.

    And don't forget the best part...Disney can be fun for parents too!

  3. Sammy Corfield on July 12, 2012 at 4:50 a.m.

    The only tip I could suggest is always go to theme parks when all the kids are in school. I don't know about disneyland, but when I was a kid, my parents used to bust me out of school in October to visit thorpe park or alton towers. No queues! I don't think it did me any harm!

  4. Kayaker on July 16, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.

    Wow! Three years of experience at Disneyland? It would be my time now to enjoy the place too! After these very helpful tips or better yet, your best practices are now posted, I believe it will be a great experience for me as well.

  5. Gunnar Todal on July 16, 2012 at 8:48 p.m.

    Interesting advice! I love the disneyland in night . I have no experience in visiting it in rain, but actually I don't like the rain day.

  6. Leslie on July 30, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.

    Great post! Planning my third trip to Disneyland with my three year old in a few weeks... My advice? Use Ridemax! (It's a software program that minimizes wait times and gives you an itinerary for the rides you choose). My husband and I have used it at both Disneyland and Disney World for years and it has been even more helpful when visiting the park with a toddler.

  7. Mun on August 12, 2012 at 9:06 p.m.

    I wish I'd seen this blog post earlier! My family and I just got back from Disneyland Paris. We didn't stay at the resort, but at Fraser Suites Champs Elysees luxury apartments instead. A lot of this holds true even for the Disney theme parks outside the US. And I'm definitely trying out the Labor Day Weekend trick the next time I head there!

  8. Select Registry on September 20, 2012 at 12:09 p.m.

    I actually went to Disney the week before Labor Day Weekend this year and you're advice is right! I actually live in Miami and noticed this trend there too. I think people tend to stick around home that last weekend before school starts, etc. Also, school seems to be starting earlier these days so a lot of families may even be starting before then!

  9. Kali on September 24, 2012 at 5:49 p.m.

    These are all such great ideas. I am afraid to take my child to Disneyland at too young of an age but I guess if you are more going for yourself or your husband you can still take the little ones and then take them again when they would remember going. I never would have thought of going to the left as opposed to the right. That is such a great idea. I don't think I would want to go in the rain though. I would be like all of the others leaving. Thanks for sharing these ideas!