Disneyland in a Day?

My DH and I are going to Las Vegas for our first child-less trip since my youngest son was born. We visit WDW often but have never been to DL. DH brought up the possibility of us driving out there for a day - Friday, March 6. We can easily get up early and get there before the park opens (we are early risers in the east so getting up at 4AM Vegas time is 2 hours later than our normal wake-up).

Any suggestions on attractions we MUST do? I’m obviously most interestied in non-WDW attractions. Also, park hoppers or not for a one-day visit? I’m leaning toward yes, but I want to go to DL more than DCA (but I also want to do GotG…)
Also - lunch ideas? We will probably just want quick service.


I would go for a park hopper and MaxPass. While many rides are slightly different than they are at WDW, there are a lot of repeats. I would focus on what is unique, personally.

I would start at whichever park opens earlier, obviously. Being first at turnstiles is hard coming from off property, because the parking garage has limitations, but that said, even not getting through til 7:20 for a 7:00 open allowed us that walk on feel for FL.

I’ll assume DLR opens first and I’d head right to FL and knock that out, grabbing a maxpass for Matterhorn as I walked in. If that goes down (it often does and turns into an anything pass) I’d try one more time for it, then cut my loss. After that I’d totally grab one for GOTG or RSR. RSR is so immersive and fun, but if you leave without doing Carsland I’d be okay as an adult.

@lolabear_la and and (ugh - can’t remember new name for user barb/carthay/toad something) and @Jeff_AZ may have more suggestions.

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Thanks! We are going to treat this as a kind of trial run to see if we want to bring the kids to DL instead of WDW next year.
Definitely doing MaxPass and about 90% sure we’ll do parkhoppers since it seems PH is much easier at DL than WDW.
Lunch or dinner ideas? I kind of want to stay and watch Fantasmic! as well - I’ve heard the DL version is better. Thoughts?

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Honestly - I’m all about attractions and shows over meals, especially if I am time limited. We really, really enjoyed the QS in both DLR and DCA, but I’ve heard people say they think WDW is much better.

Having been to WDW many times with the family it was a dream come true to take the family to DLR. I’d been there in 1978 and DH and I went in 1998. We all prefered DLR over WDW across the board.

I’m sure you will get LOTS more advice after the holiday vibe gets people posting again, and mine is very light-weight.

Places we ate in the two parks in 2018:
Red Rose Taverne (sirloin tips on top of the burger!)
Hungry Bear (awesome salads and out of the way)
French Market (ate there twice)

Flo’s V-8 (fun theme)
Smokejumpers (yum - spicy)
Pacific Wharf (like an open air food court) - I had Cucina Cucomonga

I wholly prefer the DL Fantasmic over WDW. And it has it’s own stand-alone FP system, so go ahead and get one. They do offer meal packages, but we did not need one. We had no problems getting spots by queuing early. It might makes sense to pay for a package IF you are squashed for time and have the budget.


Thank you!! I greatly appreciate your “light-weight” advice!

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Definitely get MaxPass. I would recommend PH as well if you can afford it - some of the best rides are at DCA. A couple of questions:

  1. Do you want to ride RotR If so, you will need to be in the park as soon as possible to get a boarding group assigned. Your day will have to be flexible to do this ride. If you will be at WDW soon, I would almost recommend not doing RotR to avoid the uncertainty.

  2. Do you need to ride any of the kid rides? Just headliners? Or a mix?

Definitely do the following if you want to experience attractions that are different from WDW:


  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Incredicoaster
  • Grizzly River Run


  • Indiana Jones
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (so much better than WDW IMO).
  • Matterhorn (much better at night, btw)
  • Space Mountain (if time)

I think most people agree that Fantasmic is better at Disneyland, but I would recommend seeing World of Color if you only have one night unless you really love Fantasmic and think an even better version would be worth missing something new. World of Color is just … awesome.


We are apathetic to RotR - we went to WDW Galaxy’s edge in September, so if we have to skip it, it’s fine with us. Neither of us are huge SW fans (we’ve only seen the original film). I am not going to plan on RotR.

Kids rides are not a must. I want to do Alice in Wornderland (because I love the film) and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (because I miss it at WDW).
I am also intrigued by Roger Rabbit - this is one of DH’s favorite films although it kind of annoys me.

Definitely getting MaxPass and after playing with creating touring plans, I’m planning on PHs since it’s a low crowd day.

I really do love Fantasmic but I’ve seen the WDW version many times and I’d much rather see something new, so I’ll plan on WoC!

Thank you for all your feedback.


With your responses in mind, here is my advice:

  • Start your day at Disneyland. Go on Alice first and do Toad whenever convenient.
  • Get early FPs for Matterhorn and Indiana Jones. Ride Pirates and whatever else you have time for and interests you at DL.
  • Watch the app and get a FP for RSR before they run out (usually between 11am - noon)
  • Leave after lunch (Hungry Bear, French Market both great options - recommend 11am lunch to beat crowds)
  • Go to DCA for the afternoon - ride GotG, RSR, Incredicoaster, and anything else you have time for. Ride RSR when your FP is up. Eat dinner (Carthay Circle is a great TS option, Flo’s or Smokejumper are great QS, also shout-out to Corn Dog Castle).
  • Check out World of Color if offered that evening.
  • If DL is still open, return and catch any rides you missed or repeat favorites. See Fantasmic if Woc is not offered. Note that in off season, they sometimes cut back on nighttime entertainment, including fireworks, and often the parks close early. Fridays are a good bet for longer hours and nighttime entertainment though, so you should be good.



LOL! Part of the reason I changed my user name was several people use to confuse “Carthy” for “Carthay” which under the circumstances is completely understandable. However, Carthy is short for “McCarthy,” my maiden name. Also when I joined TP in 2012, I had no idea about the forum and didn’t find it until 2016-17. So as a result, I just used the same user name as always, not a disney centric name. Then when planning my first trip to the world, this was my TP trip name and I liked it so much, I made it my user name. Thank you for thinking of me on this topic, I have lots to say! I will come back in a bit to answer the OP. but first, laundry!


Isn’t it funny I said “toad”?

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Thanks! looking forward to your notes.

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You were on the right track :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I agree with so much that has been said here. My first trip was DL only from 2:00 pm until close and I fell in love.

A couple of thoughts:

Food: DLR QS is a different world better than WDW and the TS reviews do not fair as well. So I would stick to QS to save time.

Same rides but better: I would 100% say to ride BTMRR, SM, and Pirates even though they are repeats. They are so much better on the west.

Alice and Roger Rabbit: Alice is awesome and my favorite “classic” dark ride with a track. I hated Roger Rabbit, I found it very jerky but I also hate the movie. At least it has a FP, but you will have to walk to a part of the park you might otherwise want to skip.

Park Hopper: you could be happy with a day at DL but there is so much to love at DCA. GOTG is so much fun. I love Incredicoaster. I was so so on RSR until I rode it at night. So grab a night time FP for sure (these go early, between 12 and 2 depending on crowds.)

Shows: If you live Fantasmic, go for it, but know it is extremely crowded and congested to get in and out of. I would do the dessert part for WOC, or if you want F! fo the Hungry Bear reserved seating package. Either will save you time so you don’t have to save a seat forever.

Random little things: Definately ride one of the main street vehicles - so charming! Consider watching a short play at the Royal Theater - also charming!

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Beginning of March should be a really nice time to visit. The weather is nice and you will miss most of the spring break crowds. We used to to go a lot in the middle to end of February due to my DS15’s birthday. As for crowds, it is scheduled to CL2, which is pretty low and I suspect it may be a bit higher, but don’t let that dissuade you. I have found over the years that moderate crowds actually allow the park to run smoother (better staffing, rides running more efficiently, etc).

It will take you roughly 4.5 hours to drive from Las Vegas to DLR. Are you spending the night in Anaheim or are you just doing a day trip? If just a day trip (bless you! I could do that when I was younger, but now that sounds waaaaaaay to exhausting!), what time do you plan on leaving? I ask because I highly recommend the park hopper with MaxPass if you are spending the entire day, but if you are only going to be there until 6 pm, then I would recommend picking one park, unless you realllllllly have your heart set on rides in both parks and the extra money doesn’t phase you, then go for it!

Must Do…

I agree with most of what @Jeff_AZ recommends (as I usually do :wink:), however my personal preferences are slightly different.


  • Radiator Spring Racers
  • Maters Junkyard Jamboree (a lot like Alien Saucer Spin with a lot more personality and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (I am a goober, but I just can’t get enough of this one!)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Incredicoaster
  • Grizzly River Run (do this one only if you are huge Kali River Rapid fans, GRR is much better, but not worth the time if you don’t love these types of rides)


  • Indiana Jones
  • Pirates (I agree whole heartedly with @Jeff_AZ)
  • Matterhorn
  • Space Mountain (while technically WDW has this coaster, they felt like very different rides to me).
  • All the FL rides you can comfortably fit in. FL is the one of the best parts of DLR for me. Alice, Mr. Toad, and the canal boats would be my absolute don’t miss though.
  • Roger Rabbit sounds like is a must do for you as well.
  • DLRR - Take the Grand Circle Tour (One complete loop around the park), preferably starting and ending at Main St.

As for lunch, depends on which park you will be at. Here are some of our favorites:


  • Bengal BBQ (Mobile Ordering)
  • Little Red Wagon (Cart with the most amazing Corn dogs)
  • Plaza (Cafeteria Style with the best fried chicken/my personal favorite)
  • Rancho del Zocalo (Cafeteria style/DH’s personal favorite)


  • Flo’s V-8 (mobile ordering)
  • Cozy Cone’s mac n’ cheese in a cone
  • White Water Cafe (not in DCA, but a quick step into the Grand Californian via the private entrance near Grizzly River Rapids)

I hope you fall in love with our little park and bring back the whole family! If you do, I would aim for November. Disneyland is amazing at Christmas time. I just went a few weeks ago and was in tears on It’s a Small World. The rest of the year, I can take it or leave it, but at Christmas time (after dark) it is an absolute must do for me!


I agree with @Barb’s suggestions as well! Mater is one of my faves if you like family rides. And Fantasyland is always a must do for us when we have kids but is fun even without them.

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Thank you so much! All of these responses have been very helpful and I’m getting more excited about experiencing Disneyland!
My DS5 has heard us talking about it and now wants to go to “the Disney in California” too. haha. I definitely see a return trip in our future if this trial run goes well, as I expect it will.