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These Disneyland Secrets were originally posted on my website by Carissa years ago (Carissa is a Disneyland Fan- she’s gone more than 150 times!). I’ve updated it & shared it again today because I know that it is always useful to have the lastest & best insider Disney Tips.  

We recently went to Disney world & shared many tips and we found that sometimes the lines were just way too long to wait (like waiting two hours to see Elsa.  Even Downtown Disney was busy!)  We then found that Disneyland in Los Angeles was no different, so we wanted to share some suggestions of what to do at Disneyland when it is busy.

These ideas for what to do in Disney when the lines are too long are helpful.   Here are 21 secret things to do in Disneyland when it is crazy-crowded.

Pictures of Disneyland theme park with a variety of rides and attractions.

“Our family has visited Disneyland more than 150 times in 8 years!  Some of our trips were during the more crowded times, like spring break, but it gave us the chance to find our favorite parts of Disney (that aren’t rides!)  If you only focus on hitting the rides, you may forget to stop to smell the roses — and of course at Disneyland, they’re in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head!

Without further ado… 21 things to do in place of standing in lines:

21 things to do at disneyland diamond celebration carissa houston featured

What can I do instead of going on a ride (with a long line)?

1. First- I want you to know that the fastest E-ticket ride on “standby” is the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Frontierland in Disneyland): (Standby is the line for folks without a Fastpass — that’s a ticket that lets you go through an expedited line at a specific time.) The wait time for Big Thunder is rarely over 25 minutes and we often see a 5-15 minute posted wait time, even on the busiest days. (That’s when we jump in line!)

2. Oh!  And the Fastest “dark” Disneyland ride line is Pinocchio’s Daring Journey (Fantasyland), because everyone else is in line for the new rides.

3. You don’t have to wait in line for a photo op!  Most people will stop to take photos in front of the  Mickey Mouse flower bed and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!   A better idea?  Instead of taking these first thing, just go back to those spots in the afternoon, after most folks have already been there.

4. Interactive Photo Op stations:  In Disneyland, there are new interactive photo op stations near the Matterhorn Bobsleds (Fantasyland) and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Frontierland). A Photopass photographer will take your photo — and she’s always happy to snap a few shots with your camera too!

5. Take a “spin” in the teacup between Mad Tea Party and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!  It’s not a ride, so usually no lines! “Ride” Dumbo without waiting: Pose on the Dumbo seat (behind Dumbo the Flying Elephant).

6. Discover hidden gems at Disneyland while everyone else waits in line!  Look for little Mickey’s all over the park!

What to do at disneyland when it's crowded : 21 Disneyland Secrets


7. Go to Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition (Frontierland): There’s never a wait and although you do have to pay to play, it’s a whole lot of fun for 50 cents!

8. Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough: The castle corridors lead you through the classic story of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty with retro dioramas amped up by modern technology. (Pause in the hallway of doors just past the diorama of Aurora sleeping to get a scary surprise!)

9. Main Street Cinema (Main Street): Watch clips from vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons that play on several different screens in a cool, dark room.  Visit some of the shops on Main Street to cool down, as well.
Watch a show.  Check out the Mickey and the Magical Map (Fantasyland Theatre) Waltz in at showtime and relax in the shade for 23 glorious minutes!  The kids will love it and you will have a well-deserved break to enjoy a show.

10. Meet a Disney character without waiting in line!
*Disney Princesses like to hang out just inside the entrance tunnel (near City Hall)!
You can even meet the characters in Toontown!

11. Catch up with a Stormtrooper!
How? Well, this one’s not a guarantee, but keep an eye out (You may get to interact with a Disney character before the crowd notices)
*Star Wars Stormtroopers frequently make a fast-paced stomp through the Tomorrowland crowd. They’re friendlier than they look, and they’ll often stop for a quick pic if a kid flags them down!

21 Disneyland Secrets - what to do in Disneyland when it's crowded

12. Get a Single Rider pass.  If you want to go on a ride, consider going on as a single rider.
Example: The wait for Goofy’s Sky School is usually longer than it looks, but anyone over age 7 (the minimum age to ride alone at Disneyland) can ask the Cast Member at the ride entrance for a Single Rider pass and skip the line — you’ll be “flying” in no time!

13. Get in the fast lane in Cars Land: Ride Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree! If you don’t have a Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers, you can expect up to a 2-hour wait time! The other ride in Cars Land, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, loads very quickly and holds a lot of people per round, so you can get on the ride in just a few minutes, even if the line looks long.

14: Disneyland Diamond Celebration Photopass displays: Roar above Grizzly Peak (near the Grizzly River Run water wheel) or screams on the California Screamin’ loop (outside California Screamin’) at the new interactive Photopass stations.

15. Monsters University dorm (Hollywood Land, near the Hyperion Theatre marquee): People line up to get the forced perspective shot at the picture spot right next to the Aladdin/Frozen marquee. Just turn around, and you’ll see a facade of the dorm from Monsters University! If Sulley’s not doing a meet & greet (if Sulley’s there, so is a line), you can walk right up on the dorm doorstep and show off your scariest monster pose!

16. Disney Animation Building (Hollywood Land): Yep, that’s where you go to meet Anna & Elsa (Use a Fastpass!) but you can experience every other attraction right away!   You can even take a drawing lesson with a Disney Animator (and take away a fantastic free souvenir!), sit in on Turtle Talk with Crush, and record a playback with you as the star of a Disney movie!
Tip: make sure each kid has a question ready to ask Crush!

17. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Grizzly Peak): On our latest Disneyland vacation we hung out on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail every day — twice! It’s one of my kids’ favorite things to do in Disney California Adventure.  There’s only one way in and out, so you can let your kids run rampant! (If you have small kids you may want to station a parent near the entrance.)

18. See a show (but don’t get in line earlier than you have to!)
See Aladdin — a Musical Spectacular:
We’ve watched the Aladdin show dozens of times. Each time, we walk up to join the crowd moments before the Cast Members allow guests to go upstairs and seat themselves on the mezzanine and balcony.

19. Disney Junior — Live on Stage! If you have a little one, you know who Doc McStuffins and Jake are! Once the doors open, the line funnels into a warehouse-sized building with a carpeted floor and everyone just plops down. There’s no audience participation in this show, and there’s no “front row”! Save yourself the trouble of waiting in line with antsy kids: Walk up 5 minutes before show time!

20. See a Disney Character after the show!  While your kids are running around Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, ask the Cast Member at the entrance when Dug (the dog from Up!) will be around for photos (Cast Members know everything!) Dug hangs out just inside the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail entrance, and we never have to wait in line to get a hug, a kiss on the nose, and great photos with him!

21. The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is also the spot for the Wilderness Explorer Ceremony!   Make sure your kids sit in the front row because after the show the host invites everyone to line up to take photos with the main character — and she sends Row 1 first!

A close up of a text about Disneyland.


  • Head to Star Wars Launch Bay and Superhero HQ upstairs. There is a ton of stuff to see in there, and it’s not terribly crowded. IF you’re lucky, you can catch Boba Fett by the watering hole.  If not, you can still get some great pictures in there!
  • Upstairs at the Superhero HQ, there is a place to meet Thor, which I think is spectacular! There are also games to play, things to shop around for, and the cast members are generally not terribly busy, so they’ll talk to you.
  • If you’re planning is to get on the ‘big rides”, head there first! We went on Sat when the crowd index was 85% and didn’t wait more than 25 minutes per ride.
  • Download the Disneyland App to find the best places to go to avoid big lines in the theme parks.   You can also find the times that the park closes and the best return time to be there in time for the park opening the following day.


The Goal was to ride 4 main rides in less than 3 hours
If you wait to ride these rides until later in the day, you will have to wait 80+ minutes per ride.

  1. Space Mountain (20 min wait at 9 am)
  2. Star Tours (use a FastPass)
  3. Pirates of the Carribean
  4. Indiana Jones (Use another FastPass)
  5. Star Tours
  6. Indiana Jones

FastPass Vs. MaxPass:

As you probably know, a FASTPASS is a ticket that lets you go through an expedited line at a specific time.  (In fact, I have another post on the best Disney WORLD rides to reserve with your FASTPASS)   The FASTPASS at Disneyland requires you to go from ride to ride to find the kiosks outside of the ride (if it offers a FASTPASS for that ride).  You will then return during the time specified and use it to get you into the shorter ‘fastpass’ line.

MaxPass is the digital system that you book from your smartphone.  It links your ticket to the Disneyland App & manages it all from your phone.  (You can manage the entire family from the same phone).  The cost of MaxPass is $15/person per day.

Why use MaxPass?   The beauty of the MaxPass is that if you did not plan your trip ahead of time (allowing you to book FastPasses months in advance with My Disney Experience), you can still have as good of a chance as those who did plan months in advance.

Disneyland’s MaxPass service does not become available until you are in the park, and it is only for the same day.  is only available to book FASTPASSES same day.   It gives those last-minute guests (and locals) the same advantages as the planners.

The best part: you are not limited to the number of Fastpasses that you can book with MaxPass.   You just have to allow a little bit of time in between each booking (set your phone alarm to go off every 45 min. or so to remind you to book the next one.)  You can book 12 in a day (or more) if you have time to squeeze them in!

ANOTHER BONUS: You can usually book an earlier return time using MaxPass than you can when you go to the Kiosk and get a regular FASTPASS.

Final Thoughts & Tips on Disneyland: 

  • If you need a break (or to cool down in an air conditioned building), stop and see the shows.
  • Don’t forget to splurge on some of Disneyland’s well-known treats: Dole Whip and Corn Dogs are always a hit.
  • Be sure to pack the perfect items for Disneyland, plan your trip well so you can make the most of your time there.

Is Disneyland crowded all the time?  Unless you are in Club 33 – you will have to deal with the crowds.   😉   So yes… you can pretty much always expect large crowds at the Disneyland Resort since Disneyland is The Happiest Place on Earth and we all want to be there!    Not to worry — even if you take your Disneyland park vacation at a super crowded time, your family will have an amazing experience at Disneyland if you know where to go to beat the crowds!

Special thanks to Carissa Houston for sharing so many tips today!  Carissa is a Disneyland regular.   

 When was the last time you went to Disneyland?


The Best Disney World Rides to Reserve with FastPass+The Best Disney World Rides to Reserve with FastPass+ 1

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star wars Disney TipsText above the castle in Disneyland.

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. There was a 2-hour wait time to meet Anna & Elsa when they first appeared at Disneyland as well – thankfully there is a Fastpass for that Meet & Greet now! But of course, now that we don’t have to wait long to meet them, my daughter is over it! 🙂

    Thanks so much for posting these tips, Becky!

  2. How many days do you think you need to see all of Disneyland and California Adventure? Do you recommend a hopper pass?

    1. Hi, Rochelle! That’s a great question! The answer depends on how old your kids are, and what your Disneyland vacation budget is! I’ll give you a “big picture” answer here, and if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me directly at!

      To see everything in both Disneyland and California Adventure going at a slow (kid’s!) pace, you should spend at least 2 days in each Park.

      *BUT* You can have an amazing experience with just one day in Disneyland! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

      I don’t like Parkhoppers for little ones, because kids poop out faster if you go back and forth between the Parks. (Plus that extra $40 per ticket could buy a lot of food & souvenirs instead!)

      Happy Planning, Rochelle!

    1. Hi, Michelle! It’s a rumor as of now, but I’m in the “better safe than sorry” camp on this one: I take my kids there each trip just in case the rumors are true (and just in case they’re “too old” for it next trip!)

  3. Love these tips! My husband and I dont live in Cali, but we visit family a few times a year for weeks if not months at a time.
    Sadly, Alladin Show is gone, being replaced by FROZEN in the summer. Pretty cool, but also sad for me, a HUGE Alladin fan.

    Another cool thing to do is head to Star Wars Launch Bay and Superhero HQ upstairs. There is a ton of stuff to see in there, and its not terribly crowded. IF youre lucky, you can catch Boba Fett by the watering hole, if not, you can still get some great pics in there. Upstairs there is a place to meet Thor, which I think is spectacular! There are also games to play, things to shop around for, and the cast members are generally not terribly busy, so theyll talk to you.

    Another thing I wanted to add was that its good to head to Disney with a plan. If you’re plan is to get on the ‘big rides”, head there first! We went on Sat when the crowd index was 85% and didnt wait more than 25 minutes per ride. Here’s what we did:
    Space Mountain (20 min wait at 9 am)
    Star Tours fastpass
    Pirates of the Carribean
    Indiana Jones fastpass
    back to star tours
    rode indiana jones
    That was 4 BIG rides in less than 3 hours.
    The rest of the day was nice because we had already gone on the rides that now had 80+ minute wait times.

    Definitely stop and see the shows and make sure to stay hydrated… but most of all, soak in the magic around you, be inspired, be thankful!
    Catch me on MouseWait as MinnieMaria

    1. Hey Marcus,
      Yes. I updated the into of the post to reflect the fact that the post was previously written & has recently been updated and reshared. 🙂