Here is the deal, we love Disneyland. We think it is so fun and happy and all of the above, but it is also one of those places where you can’t just show up without a plan. At its best Disneyland is a total dream, and at its worst… it is a hot and crowded hell (expect a little bit of both on your trip). We have learned that having an outline and a plan for Disney is the best way to go and can make the difference between being the happiest place on earth versus a thousand dollar 4-day nightmare (obviously, we are being a tad dramatic and speaking in hyperbole but you get our point:). Putting together an itinerary for Disneyland also isn’t a walk in the park. It can be tricky. So we are giving you the Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds and maximize the fun! Disneyland is one of our favorite vacations in the US and we want to make sure you get the most out of your trip.
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A Note About The Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds
Who is this Itinerary for?
This is an itinerary (or a Disney touring plan outline if you will) for families and includes many little kid attractions. This itinerary also works if you have really small children who can’t ride certain attractions by using the Parent Swap feature. You can find out more about it here – Disneyland Rider Switch Service. We also use the Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lanes options for this touring plan. We have learned that if you are wanting to minimize wait times that these options are well worth the cost because it saves so much time and is really convenient. Yes, it is annoying that after paying an arm and a leg for Disney tickets that there is an upcharge but really, they are worth it.
How to use this 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds Outline
This is meant to be an outline. So if there is a ride you want to skip, skip it. If you want to go to a show just add it in and go to the show. If you want to ride something twice, do it! This touring plan is simply meant to be an outline that will help you avoid the bottlenecks in the parks. There is also ample time in each plan to stop and visit a character if needed. This Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds is just that–a guideline to avoid crowds.
We suggest using the Disneyland (Genie) App (see note below) and downloading it a few days before your trip so you can play with the features and get to know it really well. We have included Fantasmic! (returns May 28, 2022), World of Color, and the Disney Junior Dance Party in our outlines. However, there are many parades, fireworks, and other shows that are great and will change depending on the time of year. View and use the app to see what is available when you visit and adjust the outline accordingly.
The Most Important Part of the 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary to Avoid Crowds
Wake up early and use the Disneyland App
Be to the park first thing in the morning! You want to be at the turnstiles when it opens (sometimes you can actually even get inside of the park before it officially opens and will be held back from the attractions by only a rope). I know when you are waking up at the crack of dawn you will be thinking “are you kidding me” but it really is SO much fun to be at the parks when the crowds are the lowest and enjoy time without the hustle and bustle of soo many other people. The best part about this is that you will be able to ride three times the number of rides in the early morning than you would be able to in the middle of the afternoon.
Also, the Disneyland App is a dream! Even if you decide to not use the Genie+ and Lightning Lane options, having a quick easy access map and wait times that are updated right on your phone can help you form the best plan and make adjustments on the fly. You can find out more about the app here – Disneyland Mobile App.
All of the daily Disney itineraries (outlines) assume you are arriving at the park before it opens.
Go back and rest
Go early. If the park opens at 9:00 am you want to be at the turnstiles to get into the park by 8:40. Then after you have an awesome morning, go back to the hotel and rest when the crowds are the highest. Return back to the parks in the evening when they are most magical. Everyone will get a chance to decompress and then get revived for the evening fireworks and shows.
When to leave for the parks in the morning
Depending on where you are staying, and your mode of transportation into the park, you will want to figure out what time you need to leave. Keep in mind that you will have to go through security before you are even able to reach the turnstiles. If you are staying on property leave your hotel 40-50 minutes before the park opens. If you have to park your car we suggest leaving at least an hour before the park opens. Modify based on the time of year. If you know it is a crazy busy time of year (Christmas, middle of summer, weekends, etc.) leave a bit earlier.
What days are the best to visit each park?
I like to use my Touring Plans account and see what they suggest. Their system isn’t perfect, but it does help!
Staying off the property or on??
One of the benefits of staying at a Disneyland resort is that you get to enter the parks 1/2 earlier than the general public. This can make a decent difference in your wait times on those first few hours. However, there are still ways to make the most of your visit even if you don’t stay on the property!
Where to eat and Reservations
All Disney restaurants are not created equal. Some of the restaurants are surprisingly yummy and others are well… not so much. We like to have a large sit-down meal just before we leave the park in the afternoon and then eat something small and quick when we return in the evening. Lunch menus are usually a bit cheaper and just as large as the dinner portions. Make reservations for the places you are able, it will save you SOO much time. You can make your dining reservations here – Disney Dining.
The best Restaurants in Disneyland Park
Sit Down Restaurants with Reservations
- The Blue Bayou
- Cafe Orleans
Quick Service Restaurants
- Bengal Barbecue
- French Market
- Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe
The best Restaurants in Disney California Adventure
Sit down Restaurants with Reservations
- Cathy Circle Lounge
- Wine Country Trattoria
Quick Service Restaurants
- Cozy Cone Motel
- Flo’s V8 Cafe
- Pacific Wharf Cafe
The Ultimate 4 Day Disneyland Itinerary To Avoid Crowds
First thing when arriving, check times for parades, and shows. Fit them in and create breaks when needed to watch them.
- Rise of the Resistance
Get Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lane RIGHT as you enter the park (Lightning Lane on your phone). When you get your arrival time to ride, work that into the schedule below. We have found that the wait time for this ride is usually HOURS and so going the lightning lane route is so efficient. Also, in our opinion, this ride is absolutely worth the hype! We love it!
- Get Indiana Jones Genie+ (Genie+ on phone)
- Ride Peter Pan’s Flight – Fantasyland
- Dumbo – Fantasyland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – Fantasyland
- Alice in Wonderland – Fantasyland
- Mad Tea Party – Fantasyland
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures – Fantasyland
- King Arthur Carrousel – Fantasyland
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey – Fantasyland
- Storybook Canal Boats – Fantasyland
- Indiana Jones (use Genie+ Reservation) – Adventureland
- Get Space Mountain Genie+ (Genie+ on phone)
- Winnie the Pooh – Critter Country
- Pirates of the Caribbean – New Orleans Square
- FREE TIME
- Jungle Cruise – Adventureland
- Tarzan’s Tree House – Adventureland
- Get Buzz Lightyear Genie+ (Genie+ on phone)
- Tiki Room – Adventureland
- Space Mountain (use Genie+ Reservation) – Tomorrowland
- FREE TIME
- Buzz Lightyear (use Genie+ Reservation) – Tomorrowland
- Get Star Tours Genie+ (Genie+ on phone)
- Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln – Main Street, U.S.A.
- Watch Parade/Fireworks – Main Street/Fantasyland
- Star Tours (use Genie+ Reservation) – Tomorrowland
Day 1 Tips
Peter Pan is one of the cutest and most nostalgic rides in Disneyland. It also gets busy REALLY fast! We suggest this is the first place you visit in the morning RIGHT after opening. They usually will start forming a line for this ride before the ride even opens so head straight to Peter Pan, go through the castle and hop in the line. The cast members are tricky because they will keep the lines on the outside of the ride so it makes it seem like it is a seriously long wait. Don’t be fooled by this and knock this baby out right when the park opens.
If you are visiting Disneyland on a day that isn’t too busy and lines aren’t too long, we suggest riding the Storybook Canal Boats at night. Trust us, IT IS SOOO CUTE when it is all lit up!
Explore the park in your downtime. We love the shops on Main Street and back in New Orleans Square. Disneyland offers something nearly everywhere you turn.
Visiting Galaxy’s Edge and Riding Rise of the Resistance
Galaxy’s Edge is an experience in and of itself and is amazing! We have set aside some time further into the itinerary to explore and hang out in this area of the park.
However, if you are able to snag a Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lane, do it! Sometimes the Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lanes go FAST and so if you can ride it, do it!
Disney California Adventure
- WEBSLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure
Get your WEBSLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure Lightning Lane reservation RIGHT as you enter the park (Lightning Lane on your phone). When you get your arrival time to ride, work that into the schedule below. We have found that the wait time for this ride is usually HOURS and so going the lightning lane route is so efficient.
- Get Genie+ Reservation for Incredicoaster (Genie+ on phone)
- Toy Story Mania – Pixar Pier
- Jessie’s Carousel – Pixar Pier
- Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind – Pixar Pier
- Pixar Pal-A-Round – Pixar Pier
- The Incredibles Coaster (use Genie+ Reservation) – Pixar Pier
- Get Genie+ Reservation for Guardians of the Galaxy (Genie+ on phone)
- Disney Junior Dance Party! – Hollywood Land
- Animation Academy – Hollywood Land
- Explore and visit Avengers Campus Dr. Strange Show and Spider-Man – Avengers Campus
- Guardians of the Galaxy (use Genie+ Reservation) – Avengers Campus
- Get Goofy’s Sky School Genie+ Reservation (Genie+ on phone)
- FREE TIME
- Goofy’s Sky School (use Genie+ Reservation) – Paradise Gardens Park
- Get Genie+ Reservation for Grizzly River Run (Genie+ on phone)
- Little Mermaid – Paradise Gardens Park
- Golden Zephyr – Paradise Gardens Park
- Silly Symphony Swings – Paradise Gardens Park
- Grizzly River Run (use Genie+ Reservation) – Grizzly Peak
- Monsters, Inc. – Hollywood Land
Day 2 Tips
Because DCA has two huge draws right now (Radiator Springs and the New Avengers Campus) we are breaking them up between the days. You will notice that on the first day you will be making the most of the new Avengers Campus and won’t be spending any time in Radiator Springs. Day two will be devoted to Radiator Springs and exploring that area of the park more!
Also, some of these rides that have Genie+ don’t usually have long waits. For example, you can usually get the Goofy’s Sky School Genie+ reservation and then ride it almost immediately and bypass any wait. If you have that availability, do it!
- Get Matterhorn Bobsleds Genie+ Reservation (Genie+ on phone)
- Finding Nemo Submarines – Tomorrowland
- Autopia – Tomorrowland
- Astro Orbiter – Tomorrowland
- “It’s a small world” – Fantasyland
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (use Genie+ reservation) – Fantasyland
- Get Star Wars Millennium Falcon Genie+ reservation
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin – Mickey’s Toontown
- Mickey’s House – Mickey’s Toontown
- Minnie’s House – Mickey’s Toontown
- Gadget’s Go-Coaster – Mickey’s Toontown
- Star Wars Millennium Falcon (use Genie+ reservation) – Galaxy’s Edge
- Get Splash Mountain Genie+ reservation (Genie+ on phone)
- Explore and play in Galaxy’s Edge
- Splash Mountain (use Genie+ reservation) – Critter Country
- Get Genie+ Reservation for Big Thunder Mountain (Genie+ on phone)
- FREE TIME
- Mark Twain Steamboat – Frontierland
- Tom Sawyer Island – Adventureland
- Big Thunder Mountain (use Genie+ reservation) – Frontierland
- Visit some of the attractions that you would like to ride a second time or take the Disneyland Railroad around the park.
- Fantasmic! – New Orleans Square
Day 3 Tips
Mickey’s Toontown opens an hour after the rest of the park. To minimize wait times we suggest being there RIGHT when it opens.
At time of writing Fantasmic! Is scheduled to reopen at the end of the month. It is the opinion of experts that Fantasmic! will have a virtual queue like World of Color (more on that below). To join a virtual queue, there is a specific sign up time and you need to click the “join now” and it will assign you a return time and location.
Right now, our favorite viewing place to watch Fantasmic! is over by the Haunted Mansion. It isn’t as busy and the viewing is usually just as good. So if you can snag this viewing location than do it! We suggest getting to your designated viewing destination and scouting out a spot at least about an hour before the show begins (we also like to have something to sit on while waiting – a small blanket, hotel towel or something will do the trick). Once you get your spot, be prepared that people are going to try and come and crowd you out. Our biggest piece of advice – don’t let them.
Disney California Adventure Park
- Get Radiator Springs Racers Lightning Lane RIGHT as you enter the park (Lightning Lane on your phone). When you get your arrival time to ride, work that into the schedule below. We have found that the wait time for this ride is usually HOURS and so going the lightning lane route is so efficient. Our kids LOVE this ride!
- Get Soarin’ Around the World Genie+ reservation (Genie+ on phone)
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – Cars Land
- Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters – Cars Land
- Soarin’ Around the World – Condor Flats
- Visit some of the attractions that you would like to ride a second time
- FREE TIME
- World of Color Show – Paradise Gardens
Tips for Day 4
Radiator Springs Racers gets SOOO busy no matter the time of year and often FastPasses will run out before the middle of the day. We suggest that you get to the park before opening and are one of the first people through the turnstiles and in line for the ride. It will be a foot race so be prepared.
Also, like Peter Pan, lines for Toy Story, Radiator Springs, Guardians of the Galaxy and usually the roller coaster will have lines forming before the rides even open. If you want to ride one of these rides right when the park opens be sure to ask a cast member where the line starts.
World of Color Tips
We love watching World of Color on our last day! It is awesome! You will need to join a Virtual Queue on your Disneyland App to do so. Scroll to the end of your “tip board” and join the Virtual Queue as soon as you can. This usually changes based on how busy the park is and during the time of year that you visit. For example, the current time to join the virtual queue on this screenshot is at 12:00 noon. We want to be as quick as you can and join that queue as FAST as you can! Once the spots are gone, they are gone.
Have So Much Fun Visiting Disneyland!
We hope this 4-Day Disney Itinerary to Avoid Crowds helps!! Please let us know how your Disney trip goes! What tricks do you use to make the most out of Disney vacations? Want more California fun? See all of our posts on how to Get Discount Disneyland Tickets and how to make the most of your vacation below!