This article is part of our Insider’s Guide to Disneyland, from the November 2017 issue of the magazine.
Before working for a theme park design firm and managing hotels at Walt Disney World, Ben Wszalek tended the Disneyland Hotel’s front desk, where he learned some of the park’s ins and outs. Here’s what he told L.A. Mag’s Chris Nichols.
1. App It
When I was at the front desk of the hotel, I would always be amazed by the number of people who flew to California, paid thousands of dollars, and upon buying tickets would ask me, “What is there to do?” Do your research. You don’t have to hyper-plan, but there’s so much info just on the Disneyland app. You can buy your tickets, make dining reservations, look at maps, and see wait times at home. You can even see menu items and what they cost.
2. Start Fresh
It’s always good to be first at the gate. The main strategy comes down to two things: Arrive as early as possible so you can get a FastPass, and get the next pass the minute you are eligible. You can rack up a huge cumulative advantage in the first few hours of the day. If I show up at noon, I might have to wait until 7 p.m. for the first Space Mountain FastPass.
3. Time It
There’s definitely a strategy to choosing when to do certain rides. The Finding Nemo subs have the shortest lines at the beginning and end of the day because they’re not everyone’s first choice, and by 10 p.m. kids are heading home. Pinocchio and Snow White are also easier in the evening. Visit Pirates of the Caribbean when everyone is waiting for Fantasmic! They close Fantasyland during the fireworks, so when it reopens, theoretically there is no one in line.
On hot days keep the Enchanted Tiki Room or Lincoln in your back pocket when you’re waiting for your FastPass. They’re air-conditioned, and you can pepper visits throughout your day. The restroom at the Tiki Room is good for families, too. One parent can stay with the kids and enjoy the garden instead of standing in the middle of a busy pathway.
5. Take a Seat
After being closed because of work related to Galaxy’s Edge, Hungry Bear Restaurant reopened along with Rivers of America this summer. It offers a nice view of the river and the characters as they cruise by to perform in Fantasmic! The pirates stay in character and will wave at you before they go on, which can be a fun backstage moment.
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