DCA for the first time?

We typically get to Disneyland once every 18 months. When we go, it’s only for one day trips, so we’ve never bothered with DCA…ever. We’re planning a day trip in January, and we think it might finally be time to try DCA.
So…Is there enough at DCA to fill one day? Sorry, but park hoppers are just too pricey. I’m worried we’re going to be “done” around 2, wishing we’d chosen Disneyland. We are interested in shows and shopping too. I just worry that there isn’t going to be enough of the magic you find in Disneyland.

  1. Thoughts on whether it will fill a day or not.
  2. Must Dos…especially the hidden extras that I know are everywhere in Disneyland.


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As a solo adult traveler who made the trip to DL/DCA once about 3 years ago, I felt if I do it again DCA could be a solid whole day, DL two good days. I had a travel day, full day, then travel day again last time and i felt rushed in DCA - didn’t do the Cars ride but walked through it.

Yes, you can fill a whole day at DCA. I tend to park hop so I don’t recall doing DCA only for a day in the recent past, but there’s plenty to do. You may be repeating favorite rides by the end of the day, but you will want to! Some of the rides are amazing. The best 4-5 rides at DCA rival the best 1-3 at DL.

Must rides (in order of my preference):

  1. Radiator Springs Racers
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. Incredicoaster
  4. Soarin’
  5. Toy Story Mania
  6. Grizzly River Run (if open and not too cold!)

Must do shows:

  • World of Color (100% worth price of admission alone IMHO)
  • Frozen at Hyperion

Second Tier rides (still do these):

  • The Little Mermaid
  • Pixar Pal-Around
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
  • Silly Symphony Swings

Good for kids:

  • Disney Jr Dance Party
  • Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind
  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel
  • Mickey’s PhilHarmagic
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Meet & Greets (Anna & Elsa, superheroes, etc.)

Only if time and interest:

  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Golden Zephyr
  • Jumpin’ Jellyfish

For my family, absolutely! There is so much to do,especially for my teen boys. They love all the thrill rides there. However, your family’s mileage may very. I think it would be worth it for you to try it at least once. If it is not what you enjoy, then go back to DL only. I personally believe cars land is the best themed “land” in all of the US (DLR and WDW). @Jeff_AZ did an amazing job breaking down the attractions for you, but I would like to add a couple of non-ride attractions that I have enjoyed; Animation Academy and Beasts Library, both located in the same building as Turtle talk with crush.

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I have never parked hopped at DLR even when I had APs for years. I love to stay in one park to totally absorb the experience. There is plenty to do at DCA. Definitely get the MaxPass to streamline the FP collection. Besides the rides, attractions, and shows mentioned by Jeff_AZ, be sure to explore the shops near the main entrance and Hollywoodland. The Cathay Circle is a lovely place for dinner. ADRs are necessary.

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Without knowing how you plan your days (do you do rope drop, take a midday break, stay for evening shows), it’s tough to answer the “will it fill a day or not” question. Part of the answer would also depend on if you’re a regular Disney World visitor, too, in which case some enjoyable attractions (Soarin, Toy Story Midway Mania, and to a lesser extend, the Little Mermaid ride, might not be as special, since they essentially the same as the Florida versions).

Your interest in/tolerance for fast-moving rides or those with significant drops will also make a big difference. Disneyland is full of many rides that are accessible for all guests, while many of DCA’s best attractions are more in the “thrill ride” category. I visited over the summer and couldn’t ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout enough, since it features a variety of different songs, each with slightly different shows, and I enjoyed all of them. However, two of the three other people I was traveling with wouldn’t ride this at all.

The same could be true for the Incredicoaster, which is a very good ride, but only for folks who enjoy roller coasters. On the other hand, Radiator Springs Racers is a great ride that’s accessible to just about anyone. Since part of that ride takes place outside, I’d also recommend riding in the morning and evening. Actually, all of Cars Land at sunset and just after dusk is a different experience than in the daylight, so if you can time you FastPasses right, it’s worth riding twice.

World of Color is a great show, too. Pick up a FastPass for that in the morning, since almost all of the viewing areas are reserved that way and that FastPass doesn’t prevent you from reserving a FP for something else. Just beware that if the breeze is blowing the wrong way that you might find yourself getting rained on a bit. All of the water from those fountains has to land somewhere.


For five years running, my daughters and I spent Spring Break at DLR. We would buy three day, one park per day tickets and spend two days and DL and one day at DCA. It is true that there is less to do than there is at DL, but that just means you can actually do it all in one day! Besides Frozen and WofC, there are often other smaller shows going on in various places. There’s a little band shell on the Pixar Pier that often has a little band playing pixar favorites. There are also often performances in the area in front of the Little Mermaid. I think in January they should be doing the Lunar New Year procession. The Mariachi Divas perform in the Paradise Garden area, etc. I really love catching some of those performances on the fly! Last year during Lunar New Year, they also had special food booths selling some Asian fusion items. They ones I tried were quite good. As far as shopping goes, I think you’ll find plenty on the main street going in (is that Buena Vista?) and there are often items for sale there that are not available in DL or DTD. There’s also a neat store on Pixar Pier with all kinds of Pixar items as well as all the Cars stuff in Cars Land. I think you’ll love it! But it may make you just want to spend two days every time you come to town!


If you were worried about missing out on doing your favorites at DL and could find a way to pull off park hopping tickets and max pass, I field tested a great touring plan last week to great success. we rope dropped at DL and did our favourites all morning and then into afternoon did less popular attractions we still enjoy that don’t have long waits.

Beginning around 11, we started pulling fast passes for DCA, starting with Radiator Springs, then the next popular ride every 90 minutes. Around 4 pm we park hopped to DCA and were able to have FP’s for all the big attractions in DCA. Worked perfectly as a first day of our trip to show the family with us the very best of the whole resort.