Thanksgiving Week DLR Touring Plans (Monday through Wednesday)

We’re going in 2 weeks, first time since 2016!

I’m hoping to apply lessons learned using Touring Plans for our family’s summer trip to WDW for a Thanksgiving week trip to DLR. This time around we’re a party of six: me, my wife, our three boys (ages 4-8), and their very excited grandma (hasn’t been since 1998!).

Took a while to figure out how DLR FastPass works vs. WDW FastPass, but I think the plans are at a good enough place now to ask for feedback on the plans – the reality checks I got from the WDW side of the forum were very helpful.

Here’s the general game plan:

We’ll be staying at BW Park Place Inn right across from the main gate, flying in on Sunday and visiting the parks Monday through Wednesday using 3-day non-PH tickets.

Monday - DCA
Crowd Calendar: 8/10
https://touringplans.com/plans/print?id=3788360
Notes: Planning to get a MaxPass, rope drop at 8am, and stay through 7:30pm, with breaks at 10:30, 2pm, and 5:30pm for meals. Skipping World of Color.

Tuesday - DL (Fantasyland, Frontierland, New Orleans Square)
Crowd Calendar: 9/10
https://touringplans.com/plans/print?id=3923093
Notes: Planning to get a MaxPass, rope drop at 8am, and stay through 7:30pm, with breaks at 9:30, 11:30, and 6:00pm. Want to watch the parade at 3pm, skipping fireworks.

Wednesday - DL (Galaxy’s Edge, Tomorrowland)
Crowd Calendar: 6/10
https://touringplans.com/plans/print?id=3923098
Notes: Not planning to get a MaxPass, rope drop at 8am, stay through 3:30pm, with break at 10:30am. Need to be out by 4ish to catch airport shuttle to LGB.

Some general thoughts and questions:

  1. You’ll notice we’re missing headliners in both parks (Guardians, Haunted Mansion, Pirates, etc.). This is intentional, either because we already rode them at WDW, or our family isn’t especially into them (or in the case of the kids, downright terrified). I’m totally open to being persuaded otherwise.

  2. Lesson learned at WDW this summer is that scheduling 3+ hours mid-day breaks back at the hotel is critical. While we can get back to our hotel pretty easily … is that really necessary for DLR in November, too?

  3. Corollary to #2: any suggestions for a good spot in DCA for a an early afternoon 2-hour break?

  4. What time do we need to arrive for 8am rope drop? (please don’t say 6:30am :crazy_face:)

  5. Suggestion for a good spot to watch the DLR parade with a 42" tall kid (plan has us in Frontierland just before, if that helps)? How early should we arrive to hold it?

  6. The plans kind of bank on TP being pretty accurate on expected FP return times. Would you say they are?

Thanks, all!

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You should definitely consider The Haunted Mansion. Most kids enjoy the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay which is on display through early January. Did I miss Big Thunder on your plan? Please consider it because it has a great updated ending. Going to DL is not the same without PoC and DL has the better version. Ride the other Fantasyland rides like Pinocchio and Mr. Toad. Don’t miss the submarine ride with Nemo…your boys would love it. I liked your picks for DCA… Consider the Silly Symphony Swings and the Golden Zephyr

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  1. I highly recommend Pirates of the Caribbean as it’s much better than WDW version, IMHO and the last ride designed with Walt. HM is iconic as well but very similar to WDW on the inside. GotG is one of my favorite rides but if you don’t like ToT you probably won’t like it.

  2. Given your early departure in the evenings, you may be able to get away with an in-park break. But if you have to go back to your hotel, it would be feasible.

  3. Try finding a quiet spot in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail or a table under he awnings at Paradise Gardens Park if you want a long meal break. Another good place is the lobby of the Grand Californian.

  4. Arrive at LEAST 30 minutes early if you want to be in the park right at 8am but the earlier the better for getting in at the front of the RD crowd. I never do that myself, however as I’m ok with going to a non-RD attraction or waiting a bit for a headliner.

  5. Thanksgiving Week will be tricky to get a good parade spot, but if you’re in Frontierland, you’re probably best off going to the hub or the west side of Main Street. The quality of your view will depend on how early you get there. You can arrive maybe 15 minutes before and stand behind people, or wait for an hour and have a good view.

  6. I’ve found that TP times are sufficiently accurate to give you a general idea; however, I’d plan to be flexible. Things always change, including ride breakdowns.

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Welcome to the West and much more laid-back world of planning that is Disneyland!

First off, with the ages of your kids you’ve made an excellent choice in where to stay- the walk is SO short that it will be really easy to go back to your hotel as you see fit. So you definitely have the option of a quick nap in the middle of the day when crowds are at their peak to be able to return and catch the evenings/nighttime ambiance of the parks, even if not doing any of the nighttime spectaculars.

We love and are big on the nighttime spectaculars so that’s always a priority to be well-rested for them but even if you don’t enjoy them, the time while everyone else is watching them is prime nighttime ride time (especially in Tomorrowland on the DL side and most everything in DCA) that you could take advantage of if you’ve had a nice midday rest at the hotel. With the hotel being so nice & close as well, then bed isn’t too far away so you can still get some decent sleep before rope drop the next morning. Which can help alleviate some of the lateness that you are out and about making an early start the next morning more difficult.

Now, onto your questions…

  1. Just my 2 cents on some of the headliners that you’ve elected to skip. As already mentioned, Haunted Mansion with the holiday overlay is amazingly executed and one of my top 3 rides in DLR so I would be loathe to miss it. Even when my kids (ages 8,6 and 2) have been in the “No Way Jose” camp on riding regular Haunted Mansion with ghosts, they have always happy to ride the holiday version with Jack Skellington and crew. It has its own slight flavor of creepiness so may still not be tame enough for your kids, but watching the film is a good barometer because nothing in the film is scarier than what’s seen in the ride. Also, Pirates in DLR is one of my favorites and currently one of my 2 yr olds favorites and he is NOT keen on scary rides (but he does LOVE anything pirate-related right now so that gets him through the scarier patches of it bc there are some parts where it is pitch-black). So if your boys are at all pirate-inclined, I would make every effort to ride it. As for DCA, the theming on Guardians makes the ride itself a LOT less scary. You know your children best and they may not know which way they fare on handling drops unless they try it, but my oldest had refused every ride on Tower of Terror at DLR since he was tall enough (and we never tried to push him too much even when it was going away and it was his last chance to ride it), he did ride it once on our big WDW trip when he was 4.5 and didn’t absolutely hate it, but also never ever rode it in DLR bc he wasn’t a fan of the theming. But between his love of the Guardians and better ability to cope with the drops as he has gotten older, has fallen in love with the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout. It is one of his top 3 in DLR and I have heard it (very well described) as “a falling party in a box” If any of the adults are at all interested, I highly recommend trying it out with a rider switch and having anyone not interested spend their time in the Animation Building exploring the Sorcerer’s Workshop, drawing a character at the Animation Academy or just sitting down and soaking in the ambiance of the lobby that plays 360-surround musical clips and art-work from some of the best Disney animation. Also, I see Space Mountain is missing and while WDW does have a Space Mountain the two are not entirely comparable as DLR’s is a completely different ride apparatus (you sit side by side in the coaster rather than the single file toboggan style at WDW) and that alone improves the experience to be much smoother coaster. Also, right now Disneyland’s Space Mountain has the Hyperspace Mountain overlay which is a Star Wars themed Space Mountain and is truly spectacular and unique from WDW so if you are at all Star Wars inclined, especially to the music, it’s a must-ride.

  2. November weather in DLR is very tame so you wouldn’t necessarily need a break from the heat but the crowds at midday are at their peak and I find getting off my feet and getting out of the thick of the crowds a nice way to re-charge for some evening touring. Your hotel location is just as good as it can get (except for maybe the Grand Californian). But I do also know there are many days when we do elect to just save the time going in between the hotel and park even being right across the street and find somewhere in the parks to settle down for a rest (so moving on to your #3…).

  3. If you really don’t want to lose the time walking back and forth or getting back in through security, we have used all of the following as places to bunker down and relax within/near DCA: Grand Californian lobby (no one will care that you are not a guest to go in and sit down and enjoy the common areas especially on the first floor and it’s a beautiful space). Know that you will have to re-do security to get back to the parks or even Downtown Disney so you may want to give yourself 5-15 min. to get through security as the checkpoints from the hotel do not lend themselves to overwhelming crowds and have the propensity to easily back-up- doesn’t happen often but we have been caught in a throng trying to get out of GCH and back into the parks or into DTD for dinner. Within the parks: Animation Building lobby has some indoor seating that can be quite pleasant but after 2 hours you may have watched the looping animation clip 5-6 times so don’t know if that will become annoying to you. Also you can’t bring strollers in so getting the kids to enjoy a stroller nap won’t be possible- if that’s your aim. There is a pathway behind Grizzly River Run that has a few benches that puts you right smack in the middle of the beautiful atmosphere of the Redwood theming that is on-point but again for 2 hours may get tired of seeing the same thing. There is a part of this pathway that allows you to watch the geyser going off, potentially soaking some rafts, but there is no bench seating in that area and being November I’m not so sure if there will be much geyser action, but we have easily killed 30-45 minutes watching the geyser go off and have even had the younger kids nod off for their midday naps in the stroller while doing so. But this view doesn’t quite give you a break off your feet. Redwood Creek Challenge trail as mentioned above is also an excellent choice with more variety on your views, plenty of places for the adults to sit and enjoy and same wonderful Redwood theming. But this one also doesn’t allow strollers in and is more of a let the kids run off a lot of steam break than rest and recoup). For the best break off our feet where we’ve let the kids just stroller nap, we usually find a corner of either indoor or out of the way outdoor quick service seating where we can get a table, get some snacks or water (or break out of our own packed snacks/drinks) and then camp out at the table. There’s a litany of places that we’ve done this but our go-to’s are a booth at the Starbucks (Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe), the Doc Hudson side of Flo’s Cafe closest to the restrooms in Carsland and the semi-covered tables in the patio areas near Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta (and stretching all the way down to Goofy’s Sky School - it’s a big area that is a very nice haven). The areas nearer to the Pizza & Pasta place will be quieter but you may still have a lot of action in that area during the holidays because they use the walkway near there to run a lot of holiday performances which may include much livelier music than you’ll want for a quiet break. They also currently have the Plaza de Familia activities setup near Goofy’s Sky school so there are still some things to wander and see and do near the table if you want to take turns having some rest, some explore at the table. Also, inside the Boudin Bakery Tour building there are an extremely limited amount of tables that are also good for a rest (but seating is limited and isn’t an entirely unknown corner so may require just the right timing to show up and get a seat). And lastly, the terraces on either side of the sit-down Wine Country Trattoria have seating that gives you a view overlooking one of the main walkways of DCA so major people watching opportunities during the 2 hr break and they are back far enough away to feel relaxing and close to adult beverages if the adults would like to partake.

  4. With your hotel being close you won’t need more than 5 minutes to walk to security, but I would plan to arrive at security at least 45 min if not 60 min. before opening to avoid the very long lines that tend to start building 30-45 min. before park open. Arriving earlier than 45 min. security is likely to only be a 5-10 min. wait and closer to the front of the turnstile lines that will be let in starting at 7:30am so you’ll very likely be inside the gates, purchasing MaxPass, making your first selection and positioned for rope drop all with a few minutes to spare vs. showing up closer to 30 min before (and even in between 30-45 min. before) can put you at a 20-30 min. wait through security and then potentially be in an even longer line to enter the turnstiles that would put you arriving behind rope drop. We’ve done both and it’s always much easier to just push to be there as close to 45 min. before hand to not be in those longer lines for the start of your day. It sets a tone of impatience and frustration vs. a tone of excitement and readiness when you start your day in the very long lines.

  5. For the parade, we are front-row people and will often show up at least 45-60 min. to be able to secure a front row seat. We find that the hub and Main Street fill up first and fast and so we avoid those areas tending to either place ourselves in Town Square or anywhere along the route from the Alice bathrooms all the way up to it’s a small world area- wherever we can find the best spot. The first parade will be more crowded than the 2nd parade but I see you have dinner plans (at the very wonderful Cafe Orleans) that would conflict with the 2nd parade so I would be sure to start your search for a spot by 45 min before-hand and seeing that you have Flag Retreat book-marked for your next step following the parade, I would look in the Town Square area for sure.

  6. I find that the FP times are very subject to change and therefore very hard for TP to predict and hardly ever line up very well with my plan. HOWEVER, TouringPlans usually vastly underestimates what you can get done with MaxPass (since MaxPass itself is fairly new and they don’t gather as much data in DLR as they do in WDW they are limited, but from what they do have available they give very conservative times on the Maxpass, I find). And one of the beauties of DLR in general, is that if you have a lineup of what you want to accomplish and know the rules of MaxPass, it’s really, really easy to re-arrange the pieces around what MaxPass times you have available to you to make everything work out. And with you arriving for RD (or even close to it) you’ll be able to get the best hour(s) of the day doing the most done. The best advice I have to knowing if your plans will be successful is to monitor the Disneyland app on a date near your trip that is similar operating hours and crowd levels to see how the trends of MaxPass times and wait times match to what the plans say and then make notes/adjustments based on ideas for how to wiggle them around if need be. And I would also make sure to know what you’re willing to skip or de-prioritize if choices need to be made as the day goes on. I always try to plan my must-do things for early in the day/early in the trip and leave wiggle room on the back end to fit in anything that for whatever reason couldn’t be executed early on.

Happy planning and ask any other questions you may have as you get ready!!!

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Thanks all for your helpful answers.

Looks like there’s a consensus re. Haunted Mansion and Pirates. Will definitely reconsider those.

Also liking the rest spot recommendations; we’ve always wanted to check out the Grand Californian.

Thank you, and yes! Loved this ride at WDW. 8 yr old did, too; 6 yr old and 4 yr old bowed out loudly right when we were about to board. Still hoping to sneak it in if we can get a FP.

Thanks! I’m curious, which attractions would you say are RD?

Haha, no kidding!!! WDW was an 18-month marathon; DLR came together just three months ago.

Thank you so much for your super-thorough answer!

That’s a good question cause it depends on what your definition is, but if you want to know which attractions build a long line quickly that doesn’t let up for the rest of the day, I’d say these (in order):

DL:

  1. Space Mountain
  2. Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run
  3. Matterhorn (especially while at half capacity)
  4. Peter Pan

DCA:

  1. Radiator Springs
  2. TSMM
  3. Soarin’
  4. GotG

The rest of the rides fluctuate enough that you can usually find a short wait either in the first two hours or during random lulls throughout the day. That includes the wet rides that don’t develop lines until the heat arrives.

I usually get fastpasses for most of these rides and ride the others in the first two hours. I often “RD” a slow loading ride like Dumbo or do a bunch of small rides like Alice, Snow White, Buzz Lightyear, etc.

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I very much agree with @Jeff_AZ! One caveat that I would like to mention is, I like to RD rides that don’t have fast passes. During our EMH in DL we will crank out almost all of FL, then at rope drop hit the storybook canal ride (which can be a deceptively long line). One particularly fruitful morning we had completed 12 rides and breakfast before 11am. Not sure if your ticket comes with EMH, but if it does, I highly recommend using it. My approach to crowds is hit it hard first thing in the morning, then back to the hotel by 1 for a rest, then head back for the evening. One thing I noticed on your list is that you do not have a night ride on Its a Small World. I highly recommend it! Throughout the year it is a “meh” ride for me, but during the holidays with the overlay it becomes a “must do!”

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This is usually our plan as well. The only exception is Peter Pan which if we don’t arrive in time to have a wait less than 20 min, we skip it and come back later in the day. I’ve wasted too many EMHs in the line for Peter Pan only to see the line staying the same length the whole rest of the day - in other words, no time saved, but lost the opportunity to ride other rides with no wait.

If you are going to RD Peter Pan, have a stroller runner to drop off your stroller while everyone else gets straight in line.

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Thanks, both! I think our plans generally follow those strategies, and I appreciate the specific suggestions. Just added a FP for “It’s a Small World” in the evening, along with a viewing of the lighting at 5:15!

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I have to double-check the tickets, but I think we have Magic Morning on Tuesday in DL. I have my doubts about getting there right at 7am, but maybe we can make it between 7 and 8.

If we do, how do we navigate through all the crowds at the gate waiting to get in at the regular time?

IIRC they have certain lines for EMH. It’s hard to tell which ones from far away but it says it on the sign above the turnstile. Just don’t show up at 7:50am - it will be super confusing.

Also, try to join a line behind a tree. Those lines split into two gates and therefore move twice as fast.

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Agree with everything on this thread, having been to DL last October and WDW this October. I want to second (or third) thinking again about Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not a big Tower of Terror fan, but I loved GotG. It’s so much fun.

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Us as well.

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There are usually separate gates for those entering for regular park opening. I know it is super hard to get there for EMH, but I cannot emphasize enough (especially with high crowd levels) that it will pay off in spades! You could ride from 7-12 a days worth of rides then back to the hotel for 2-3 hours to rest and stack FPs through MP. Then go back and use your FPs and tie up any loose ends.

If you absolutely cannot make EMH, then I would go in as early as possible and RD Adventure and Frontier land.

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