Disneyland Early Entry: Unlock the Gates to Shorter Lines

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If there’s one thing that can make or break a trip to Disneyland, it’s the crowds. With millions of visitors each year, it’s no surprise that the lines for popular attractions can get overwhelming. But what if there was a way to beat the crowds and experience the magic of Disneyland with fewer people around? That’s where Disneyland Early Entry comes in.

This special perk allows guests staying at Disneyland resorts to enter the park before it opens to the general public, giving them a head start on the day’s adventures. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at Disneyland Early Park Entry and how to strategize to make the most of your experience.

What Is Early Entry at Disneyland?

Guests staying at Disneyland resorts are offered the opportunity to enter the theme parks a half an hour before general opening. Early entry is available at both Disneyland Park as well as California Adventure.

 Taking advantage of Early Entry provides you an opportunity to experience a select group of attractions at each park with little to no wait.

What Days Are Early Entry at Disneyland?

Disneyland Early Entry is available most days, unless there is a reason to open the park late, such as in the case of severe weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

Who Gets Early Entry to Disney Parks?

All guests staying at Disney resorts are eligible for Disneyland Early Entry. This includes Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa.

Disneyland Early Entry Rides

Empty walkways in tomorrowland during Disneyland Early Entry.
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While not all rides are available during Disneyland early entry, you’ll find enough of a variety to keep you busy during the half hour before parks open to the public. The list includes several Fantasyland rides that are not available for use with Genie+, making the extra half hour very valuable for experiencing some of the original park attractions.

You’ll also find select shops as well as food and beverage establishments open during this time.

Disneyland Park Attractions

Disneyland Park Dining and Shopping

Disney California Adventure Park Attractions

Disney California Adventure Park Dining and Shopping

Disneyland Early Entry Tips and Tricks

Nearly empty park as guests wait for Disneyland Early Entry
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While planning your early entry half hour at Disney World can become rather complex, we found it easy to plan a Disneyland Early Entry strategy, since the parks are closer to the resorts and fewer people utilize this perk. Still, there are some real advantages to following the Early Entry tips below.

Know Where You Will Enter the Parks

Since you’ll be staying at a Disney resort, your point of entry into the parks will be at one of the Downtown Disney checkpoints.

As frequent travelers to Disney World, this one really threw us for a loop the first time we attended Disneyland Early Entry. We expected to walk right up to the gates of either park and to wait there. Instead, we arrived an hour before early entry and stood outside the gates of Downtown Disney.

When the security checkpoint opens, you will walk through Downtown Disney into the Disneyland Esplanade between California Adventure and Disneyland Park.

Guests staying at Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier will use the far west entrance to Downtown Disney. Guests at Grand Californian Resort and Spa have their own entrance into Downtown Disney. Since it’s located midway into the shopping and dining district, you’ll have a bit of a head start on guests staying at the Disneyland Hotel. For this reason, some guests at Paradise Pier will walk over to the Grand Californian and enter Downtown Disney here.

Guests at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel are also offered another entry point. This one leads directly into California Adventure Park. However, lines do get long here, and the entrance is far from most of the attractions open during this time. Unless you plan to ride Soarin’ first thing, you’re better off using the Downtown Disney route and entering the park through the main turnstiles.

For first-time visitors to Disneyland, we’ve included the map of Downtown Disney and surrounding resorts below. You’ll see the various routes for each hotel.

Map of Downtown Disney at Disneyland, showing the routes onsite resort guests will take to attend Disneyland Early Entry.
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Arrive Earlier than You Think Is Necessary

The growing line outside of Downtown Disney as guests line up for EArly Entry.
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One tip that is applicable for both Disneyland and California Adventure parks is to arrive early. With only a half hour of ride time before the gates open to everyone, you’ll want to be at the front of the pack of those entering the parks during early entry, and that can be a long line of guests.

We advise that you arrive at your Downtown Disney checkpoint 45 minutes to an hour ahead of early entry opening. This was fairly easy for us, since the entry to Downtown Disney was right outside of Disneyland Hotel where we were staying. In fact, we were easily the first or second group in line each morning.

Usually around a half an hour before early entry starts at Disneyland and California Adventure, the security force at Downtown Disney will open the barriers and allow guests to check bags and enter the area.

From here, many guests will start sprinting or walking super fast toward the gates of Disneyland or California Adventure. We honestly didn’t find this necessary. We walked at our normal good clip and were still some of the first people at one of the turnstile lines.

By this point, we had about 15 or 20 minutes before the start of early entry. Usually, beginning 5 or 10 minutes before the beginning of early entry, guests were allowed to check through the turnstiles and enter the parks.

Know That You Must Check In for Disneyland Early Entry

One thing to note when you arrive at Early Entry is the fact that there is no dedicated line for hotel guests versus local residents or those arriving from other area hotels. That means guests attending Early Entry will be combined at the turnstiles heading into the parks.

As an Disneyland Early Entry guest, you’ll need to locate a second checkpoint once you are inside each park. At Disneyland, this was located before the entrance to Tomorrowland. Look for cast members holding signs that say Early Entry.

In Californian Adventure, this checkpoint was located on Buena Vista Street right across from Carthay Circle Restaurant. If you’re heading for the attractions in the Marvel Campus, make sure that you don’t take a left at the fountain, or you will miss the Early Entry checkpoint.

Once you reach the cast members holding the Early Entry sign, you’ll need to show proof that you are a guest at a Disneyland resort. In most cases, cast members expect you to flash your plastic room key card.

However, we had utilized online check-in and only had a mobile door key on our phones. Since we were using MagicBands, we couldn’t show our MagicMobile pass on our phone either.

This caused no end of confusion for us on days one and two of our trip. We would have to ultimately pull up the reservation in the Disneyland app before we were skeptically allowed entrance to the line. Before day three, we wised up and stopped at the hotel lobby to pick up a plastic room key.

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Disneyland Early Entry Strategy

When visiting Disneyland Park, you can plan your Early Entry time period in one of two ways. If your party plans to hit the big thrills, we suggest tackling one of these first things, while wait times are low. This includes Space Mountain where wait times increase as the day goes on. This strategy is great approach if you do not plan to purchase Genie+.

Alternatively, you could spend the first half hour of the day visiting Fantasyland attractions that are not eligible for Genie+. Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride can have longer lines later in the day. However, by utilizing early entry, you can hit 2 or 3 of these rides with minimal wait.

One thing we do not recommend is using early entry to wait for Rise of the Resistance or Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run. We saw guests rush to the front of the line at the Early Entry checkpoint inside the park, only to dash toward the rope closing off the path toward Star Wars Land (Star Wars Land is not open during Early Entry). 

Here, guests would wait for a half an hour until regular opening and then dash again toward Star Wars Land. While this might seem like a great strategy for being some of the first guests to ride Rise of the Resistance during the day, in reality, you might have a better use for your time.

We rode almost all of the Fantasyland rides, minus Peter Pan, in the first half hour of Early Entry. A few minutes before the park officially opened, we noticed that the line of guests waiting to run into Star Wars Land was only about 30 people deep. We could have easily joined this line after enjoying Fantasyland and still had a minimal wait for Rise of the Resistance or Millennium Falcon.

Disney California Adventure Early Entry Strategy

Empty walkways in the Avengers Campus during California Adventur early entry
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Here again, it’s important to utilize your early entry time wisely, by hitting the rides that tend to generate longer wait times throughout the day. These include Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!, Incredicoaster and Soarin’ Around the World.

Our strategy was to ride WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure first thing. We’d walk right on this ride, and after slinging webs at invading bots, would head over to Mission Breakout! We’d experience both of these headliner attractions with no wait and be on our way toward Radiator Springs Racers. We’d arrive at rope drop for this section of the park right about the time the park officially opened, putting us well ahead of the rest of the morning crowd.

Is Disneyland Early Entry Worth It?

Disneyland early park entry can be a great way to get a jump start on your day, visit some rides without waiting in long lines and experience a much less crowded park. However, there are some drawbacks.

First, you do have to get up pretty early. We were standing in line at Downtown Disney by 6:30 am each morning.

Second, you spend a lot of time waiting in lines to get into the parks, as well as at other rope drop access points. Still, if you don’t like waiting in lengthy lines to experience each ride during the day, strategically utilizing Disneyland Early Entry can give you a jump start on your day, allowing you to visit the attractions that stack up the longest wait times before the crowds have arrived to form long lines.

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Kathleen Hesketh and Ali Patton, mother daughter travel bloggers

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother daughter travel bloggers sharing our knowledge and experience from multiple years of Disney travel with other Disney lovers and first-time visitors, hoping to simplify your vacation experience and help you enjoy all of the magic of a visit to Disney World. As Disney vacation planners, we can now book vacations through Mickey World travel, at no additional charge, and help you realize all of the magic of a trip to Disney.

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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