My #1 tip I share over and over! Get to the parks before they open! Line up for rope drop and GO! You will get more done in the first few hours than most do all day! So you need to know how the whole arrival process works because it can take 30 minutes or more depending on crowds to get to the main gates.
Here are some PRE-ARRIVAL things I like to mention.
? I recommend getting to the park, meaning the front gates (not the parking structure) 30-45 min before the official posted park hours for the day.
? Make sure you have your tickets ahead of time. Don’t buy them on the morning you arrive because the kiosks outside the gates will have lines. To purchase discounted tickets ahead of time go here! I make a small commission off of this affiliate link and it helps me maintain this website. Thank you for your support!
? Find out what time the park you’re visiting opens. If Disneyland is hosting Magic Morning then go to DCA (Disney California Adventure) that day. Always go to the park that isn’t hosting early entry if you can. And vice versa if DCA is hosting Extra Magic Morning then go to Disneyland that day.
ARRIVAL steps – different ways to get to the park
There are several ways to get to the parks. You can go to the parking structure off Ball or the parking lot off Harbor. Some people walk from their hotel or take an UBER. I highly recommend parking (who wants to walk back to a hotel at the end of a long day) it’s $25 per day. There are lines to get into the parking lot at times so keep that in mind. We like the Mickey and Friends or Pixar Pals parking structure. More details on all Theme park parking options are further down in this post.
There are two sides from which you can enter the parks. Here is a map with both parks and where the parking structures are and a drop off/pick-up location.
If you entered from the Harbor Blvd side from the Toy Story lot or your hotel next you go through a security check point. Sometimes there is a wait/line so factor that into your time it takes to get to the front gate. Have your bags ready and open. If you have no bags there are no bag check lines you can look for. Also the lines to the south tend to be shorter. Below you can see what this security area looks like. Once through security head to the main gates.
For those that parked on the other side in the Mickey and Friends or Pixar Pals parking structure you have two choices.
?️ ride the tram (as featured in the top photo) to the gates or
?️ walk to Disneyland about a 10-15 min walk through Downtown Disney.
Either choice you will go through security. They will look through all of your bags. The security line early in the morning is quick, but as the day goes on it gets longer. We wait for a tram if the lines are short because the tram drops you off close to the gates. There is another option if you go through Downtown Disney. Read this post about riding the monorail into Disneyland!
My point in mentioning all of this is that if you plan to be at the gates by a certain time allow time for all these other things you have to do before you even get to the front gates. On most days they allow guests in both parks as much as 30 minutes before the posted park hours. You can take photos, look around, sometimes get autographs from characters and line up at the ropes so you’re one of the first ones on the rides. Starting your day off early will pay dividends cause the parks get more crowded as the day goes on.
Theme Park Parking
The Disneyland Resort offers 3 parking locations for Guests…
1️⃣ Mickey & Friends Parking Structure and
2️⃣ Pixar Pals Parking Structure
Both of these locations are next to each other and are accessible from Disneyland Drive & West Ball Road. From the parking structure you can walk to Disneyland or take a tram.
3️⃣ Toy Story Parking lot – accessible from South Harbor Boulevard and West Katella Avenue. From the parking lot you take a bus over to the parks.
Daily Parking Rates
- $25.00 per car or motorcycle
- $30.00 per oversized vehicle or motor home
- $35.00 per bus
Parking locations for the theme parks open 90 minutes prior to the earliest Disneyland Resort theme park opening time.
- I prefer to park in Mickey or Pixar over the Toy Story lot personally. I don’t like to wait for the buses that take you to and from the Toy Story lot. But all of the lots offer a form of transportation via bus or tram to the gates.
- There is no bathroom in the Pixar Pals Parking structure. If you have to go head over to Mickey and Friends parking structure.
- They have installed park assist in both structures which lets you know which spots are open (green), not available (red) or handicap (blue).
- On busy days exiting Pixar Pals is going to be a nightmare. For instance after the fireworks when everyone is exciting all traffic from Pixar exits back over out the Mickey and Friends parking structure. So you leave the Pixar structure and weave all the way down and out the Mickey parking structure side. So if you can park in Mickey and Friends on these days that would be my suggestion!
- When parking on a busy day in Pixar Pals park on the lowest level so you don’t have to go down as many levels when you go to exit at the end of the day.
- In the Pixar Pals structure use the set of 3 elevators if you’re going to security and riding the tram. Use the set of 2 elevators if you plan to walk through Downtown Disney.
- If you leave you can come back the same day for no extra fee.
- Once you have parked if you have a stroller you may have to wait in a line to use the elevator so keep that in mind.
More information on Downtown Disney parking and Disneyland Resort hotel parking can be found here.
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