Planning a trip to Disneyland + California Adventure in one day is a big challenge, but it can be done successfully. With a bit of planning before you arrive and flexibility inside the park, you can have an awesome day at the California parks.
Disneyland and California Adventure are two parks that are located at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. They are so close together, making it easy to hop from park to park. The walk from the Disneyland gate to the California Adventure gate is a few minutes and you can easily visit both.
We have visited the Walt Disney World resort and have planned many visits. This was completely different. The process and planning took a lot of research. Luckily I am putting it all together for you to plan an amazing one day at Disneyland and California Adventure.
Tips for Planning a Trip to Disneyland + California Adventure in One Day
Do Your Research
I always start with looking at a map or a list of attractions before I visit a park. You can read books or do a google search to learn more about the parks. I like to check out books from our local library to learn more about what to expect. You should have some understanding of what is at each park.
Disneyland vs. California Adventure: A Quick Overview
Both of the parks have something unique and awesome for families. We love Disney and I knew I wanted to visit Disneyland because it is the park that Walt Disney actually walked through. There is history inside Disneyland and we knew it had to be part of our visit.
Disneyland has the classic rides and is similar to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Disneyland will be home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening in 2019. A few of our favorites from Disneyland are: Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, It’s a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, and all of the Fantasyland classic dark rides.
California Adventure is the newer park out of the two and is similar to Hollywood Studios. Cars Land and Guardians of the Galaxy are at California Adventure and we have been wanting to experience them since they opened. California Adventure also has Pixar Pier, Soarin, and the Marvel characters.
To us there was no debate we knew we would visit both parks and make it work.
Decide What Rides and Attractions Your Family Likes
Every family is different. It depends on the age of your kids and what they like. During each of our visits to the Disney parks our kids interests have changed. They have grown up visiting Disney and it has been awesome to see different aspects of the park at different stages of their lives.
I always go through the ride descriptions and height requirements to see what will work for our family on this visit. During our visit to California Adventure my youngest was an inch short to ride the Incredicoaster. We decided to save it for our next visit so we could ride it for the first time as a family. There is also an option to do rider switch/child swap where the older kids can ride and an adult can switch out.
A few of the dark ride attractions at Fantasyland in Disneyland, Snow White, Pinocchio, Mr. Toad, can have scary scenes and might be intense for little ones. Do your research on the rides and you will save yourself time and stress inside the parks.
Plan Your Route
This goes along with my planning tips for Disney from above. Once you decide on the rides and attractions, I recommend you look at the park map and decide how you will approach the park. Not everyone agrees with me on this one but I write out every ride we are going to do.
Read: Disneyland Itinerary + California Itinerary for One Day in the Parks (Coming Next Week!)
Often it may change but I do the work before we arrive so we can have a much easier visit. Planning your route makes for less walking and backtracking, less stress, and more fun as a family.
Be Prepared to Skip Some Attractions
Doing Disneyland and California Adventure in one day means you can’t see it all. We fit a lot in but we left some things out too. We didn’t plan time to meet characters or watch shows, although our plans were flexible and some of those things ended up fitting.
If meeting the characters are high on your family priority list, take time to plan it into your day and skip something else. Plan to do rides during the nightly shows or fireworks, often the lines are short. If you want to see the shows that is okay too! Make a plan that works for your family. Also check ride refurbishments ahead of time to know what will be open during your visit.
Purchase Tickets Before You Arrive
Don’t waste time waiting in line for tickets before you arrive. Purchase your tickets online, I also suggest purchasing MaxPass as an add on with your ticket. MaxPass is the FastPass service that allows you to make FastPass reservations from your phone. I will be writing a post on how to do everything for MaxPass that will be up soon.
You want to purchase the park hopper ticket for 1 Day/2 Parks with MaxPass. To purchase MaxPass you must do it online, or after you enter the park the day of your visit. After you purchase tickets, connect them to your Disneyland account and download the Disneyland app.
The Disneyland app will show you wait times, park hours, and it is where you will make and use your FastPass reservations. You can also use Mobile Ordering for some restaurants at the park.
MaxPass costs $15.00 as I publish this, per person. It is worth it on busy crowd days or if your time is limited. I do not think you would need it if you had many days to visit and it was a low crowd day. I highly suggest you download the Disneyland App on all devices in your party. There were times where mine didn’t work and I was happy to have my husbands to use as a back up.
We did all the before trip planning and we were ready to go! To say we were excited for our first visit to Disneyland would be an understatement. Disney vacations hold special memories for us and we couldn’t wait to see what the parks had in store for us.
The planning tips for Disneyland helped my family make the best of our limited time in the parks. I am so happy I planned ahead of time and was able to enjoy and create new memories at Disneyland.