Tips for The Summer Crowds

by Todd Pickering, contributing writer

I have recently toured the parks with two pals that (shudder) were completely disinterested in any entertainment stops whatsoever. With summer and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge upon us it got me thinking how to hit the parks with attractions being the only priority. As Entertainment Writer here at West Coast MousePlanet you can find article after article on the richness and joy that entertainment brings to the parks. However, we will dash all that aside to bring you some tips to try and make dealing with the crowds and maximize your wait times. Park guests have actually been overheard to muse that because of Star Wars Land (that is what most people seem to call it) the rest of the park should be empty come this summer. One doesn't need Madame Leota's crystal ball to tell you that very long queues are what the future brings for this and many summers to come.

For those people out there reading this article without any knowledge of Disneyland Resort, the Fastpass system comes with your park admission and allows you to use your ticket to reserve return times to certain attractions. You may also pay for Max Pass, which allows you to make reservations on your phone. This summer will bring many changes to the resort and with the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge we feel that your smartphone may be increasingly necessary with the high tech land. The Disneyland web site explains all about Fastpass and MaxPass.

New Orleans Square at 8:23 a.m. is a picturesque place to be. Photo by Todd Pickering.

I spent many very early mornings in the park on weekends in May to get the feel for crowds, and even brought along an eight-year-old companion, Zaida, to see how many attractions we could hit in the morning in two hours. Our big goal was to able to ride Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye for Zaida's first time. Here is our exact timing of two hours on a Saturday morning:

8:08 Enter the parks. We were late!

8:10 Bathroom break

8:14 Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

8:23 Pirates of the Caribbean

8:42 Got Fastpass for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

8:47 Haunted Mansion

9:04 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

9:09 Bathroom Break

9:13 Splash Mountain

9:30 The Jungle Cruise

9:51 Churros

10:19 Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

New Orleans Square looks much more crowded at 10:03 a.m. than at 8:23 a.m. Photo by Todd Pickering.

A big tip for the Indiana Jones attraction is that the line is very long, physically; the attraction sits outside of the berm that surrounds the park. It eats up your precious morning time walking onto that ride first thing as the park just fills up more and more each moment. Getting a Fastpass for later is a good idea so you can hit all of the other mentioned attractions, especially the ones without Fastpass. We didn't get onto Indiana Jones within the two hour time frame but the Fastpass helped and it was certainly quite the highlight. The Jungle Cruise at 9:30 only had a 15 minute posted wait that was more like 12 minutes. Keep in mind with little ones this pace is intense and I would not recommend it with a much younger touring companion than Zaida. Another great reason to go this way is that Adventureland is quite congested in the afternoon. It left us free to enter from the front to grab a Dole Whip and gives you the option of slipping into the Tiki Room later (remember that it is air conditioned for the summer months ahead) without having to brave a land as congested as Fantasyland. Also keep in mind that there was no shopping, no character meet and greets, and no stopping for photos.

Adventureland on a busy day is very congested and is lovely to avoid if at all possible. Photo by Todd Pickering.

MousePlanet also timed a similar morning going the opposite direction into Tomorrowland and it is no problem riding every single attraction in Tomorrowland by hitting Space Mountain early or even grabbing a Fastpass for a return within the first hour. Ride some of the other attractions that have no Fastpass like Finding Nemo or The Astro Orbiters straight away when everyone else is on the E-Ticket attractions. Also keep in mind that Finding Nemo is the slowest load in the park. Even though the submarines themselves are air-conditioned, the queue is not and taking the Tomorrowland route helps in getting on this attraction during the first hour. By going this direction you may even be able to slip over to the Matterhorn at the top of your two-hour Tomorrowland journey. Remember that Space Mountain is always the attraction that runs out of Fastpass first for the day so make sure you nab one earlier in the day, or ride it first thing to get it out of the way.

Speaking of the Matterhorn, a great tip is to grab a Fastpass for this attraction early as the return times may only be within an hour from when you are there. It seems counterintuitive, but if you head over to "it's a small world," which has a much quicker loading process, by the time you are finished there the Matterhorn Fastpass may be ready (with time for bathroom breaks and snacks and maybe some quick shopping). You may find the earlier 30-minute wait for the Matterhorn has already gone up to a 60 minute wait within a 30 minute time period.

This scenario has also works well with the Haunted Mansion. Grab a Fastpass with a return time within 15 minutes, allowing you to grab beignets and have a bathroom break while the queue's time has also doubled. The bottom line is that on busy days wait times can double within minutes. This is a good indication that the park has reached somewhat of a capacity and resting may finally be in order.

Peter Pan, day or night, rain or shine has a wait. Photo by Todd Pickering.

What to do about Peter Pan is the big question. At rope drop with no Magic Morning (also available to read about on the Disneyland website) and in the rain we attempted to get immediately on Peter Pan and it was a 40 minute wait at 8:01. One morning after the crowds dispersed the wait time went down to 30 minutes. Keep in mind that if you wait for 50 minutes for this one attraction you have been in a queue for an hour while the park just gets more full. Disney probably needs to build a second one somewhere in Fantasyland if only they could find the space. The other three dark ride attractions are practically walk-ons in the early morning hours. The parades are good times to hit Fantasyland if you are ignoring all entertainment and right after the fireworks ends but you have to lurk around that area until all is cleared and once again you have a very short window before Peter Pan's wait is all full. At any case best of luck on this one. Without Fastpass for any of these attractions there will just have to be wait times factored in with the crowds. Also keep in mind that Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge has no attractions for the little ones so the queues may be even worse this year; only time will tell. Keep following MousePlanet for updates all summer and sign up for our weekly newsletter. It's easy.

Keep in mind that Fantasmic! is not connected to the attraction Fastpass system. Photo by Todd Pickering.

For the summer heat and crowds you can see that hitting the parks early is truly the only way to go. If you are visiting from out of town you can enjoy an afternoon nap or swim in the pool. If you are touring as a Southern Californian the weekend freeways are much more accessible but keep in mind that this summer we still have no idea when the second garage opens and how long the queues will be for the garages. In our experience 7 a.m. entry is a lot easier than say 7:17 entry. The early bird in these cases truly gets the worm. Upon entering the park the Guidemap has a listing of all the Fastpass locations and your Entertainment Guide also has a listing of all of the Fastpass attractions. Do not hesitate to ask Cast Members for help with the Fastpass or Max Pass. Oh, and I know that many of you may do absolutely no entertainment except for Fantasmic! so I need to reiterate that the reserved seating requires a Fastpass that is not on line with any of the attractions. It is located right next to the Mark Twain Riverboat in Frontierland. They sell out the early show which is usually around 9 p.m. as early as 9 a.m. and then go onto the 10:30 show which is usually sold out by 10:00 a.m. During this summer expect these sell out times to be even earlier.

See, I couldn't get through this article without referencing some sort of entertainment. I tried. And thank you Zaida for being part of the MousePlanet Research Team. Make sure to wear your sun screen, drink plenty of fluids and we'll see you in the parks this summer

Zaida was a trooper helping MousePlanet out with this very difficult research. Photo by Todd Pickering.