Are you trying to plan the BEST Disneyland itinerary for your trip?
A trip to Disneyland is always magical, but doing it over the course of three days is even better. Honestly, three days is plenty of time to explore all that the Disneyland Resort has to offer.
We’re breaking down the ultimate 3-day Disneyland itinerary by day, and what you should do, where you should eat, and where you should stay at the Disneyland Resort.
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Day 1: Arrival Day at Disneyland Resort
Try to arrive at the Disneyland Resort as early in the morning or afternoon as possible. This will help you to be able to have as much time as possible at the parks without wasting time on the crowded California highways during rush hour.
I’ve found that the best time to land at LAX is anywhere from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., allowing for morning traffic to dissipate before the afternoon rush hour has started.
This makes the ride to the Disneyland Resort about 30-45 minutes versus almost two hours at peak traffic times!
If I could, I would always stay at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa. The luxury resort offers sweeping views of Disney California Adventure, the Downtown Disney District, or the majestic California mountains.
The resort boasts beautiful rooms that are a sweet escape after a day at the theme parks.
I love this Disney-owned resort most because of how warm and inviting the space is, as well as how easy it is to get to the parks from there.
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Did you know that the Grand Californian is the only resort at Disneyland with direct access to a theme park?
That’s right, Disney’s Grand Californian has an entrance right into Disney California Adventure for resort guests only!
For the sake of this Disneyland itinerary I have you arriving at Disney’s Grand Californian at 12:30 pm. After you check in you’re going to want to grab some lunch.
Skip lunch in the park today and head straight for GCH Craftsman Grill, and sit at the pool bar to order the lobster quesadilla!
This is the perfect California-inspired lunch and the quesadilla is filled with so much lobster it’s almost as if the cheese is just a binder to hold all of the lobster together.
Disneyland After Lunch
The first place you should go after lunch is Disneyland Park. There’s nothing like walking down Main Street U.S.A. at Walt’s original Magic Kingdom. Typically Disneyland Park is open late so you’ll have lots of time to enjoy rides.
If we had to choose one ride to go on first it would be the Disneyland Railroad.
This classic attraction gives a grand circle tour of Disneyland Park with stops at New Orleans Square, Tomorrowland, then back to the Main Street Station.
After that first ride the world is your oyster. Here at ThemeParkHipster, I prefer to do one section of the park at a time versus crisscrossing the park again and again to get on rides.
Typically Fantasyland, Star Wars Land, and Tomorrowland are the busiest sections later in the afternoon, so opting to go to the left and start in Adventureland is a good idea.
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Disneyland at Dinner
Dinner on your first day at the Disneyland Resort should be easy since you’ll want to enjoy as much of the park as possible.
We love Cafe Orleans, which is a table service restaurant serving up the iconic Monte Cristo. Something you MUST add to your Disneyland itinerary.
For the ultimate dining experience, be sure to ask to sit outside, where a live jazz band or Captain Jack Sparrow might come by the gated patio to say hello.
Late Night at Disneyland Park
After dinner, consider staying at Disneyland until they close.
This late night time in the park is the best time to get on many of the attractions in Fantasyland, since most parents traveling with smaller kids will be lined up to watch the fireworks, Fantasmic!, or the parade.
This is also a great time to ride Haunted Mansion since the lines in the afternoon get long and the space in the queue is limited.
Once the park is closed take the quick walk back to your room to turn in for the night and get ready for another big day tomorrow.
Day 2: Your First Full Day at Disneyland Resort
Staring off your first full day at the Disneyland Resort by going to whatever park has Extra Magic Hours for hotel guests.
This time is when the park is going to be the most empty, and when you can get on some big ticket attractions like:
- The Incredicoaster and Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: Breakout at Disney California Adventure
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run or The Matterhorn at Disneyland Park
They will have a super short wait.
After Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are over, head over to Disney California Adventure (or stay there if that’s where EMH was) and explore the park. This park is really a half to three quarter day park if the crowds are light to do everything.
I definitely encourage the use of Genie+ for rides like Radiator Springs Racers and Grizzly River Run.
Time for Breakfast at Disney California Adventure
Breakfast on the second day of your trip should be quick. Since you’ll most likely be spending the morning to late afternoon at Disney California Adventure we suggest eating breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land.
Here you’ll find breakfast favorites like eggs and bacon, and some sweet treats like brioche French toast with caramelized bananas!
Sit outside to enjoy the view of Radiator Springs Racers as cars go by Ornament Valley.
The time between breakfast and lunch is a great time to get in more rides and see some characters along the main hub of Disney California Adventure before the park starts getting too busy.
Do not miss out on snagging a spot in line to see Mickey Mouse in his Hollywood glam outfit. Specific times for character meet and greets can be found on the Disneyland app.
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Lunch at Disney California Adventure
Before leaving Disney California Adventure to go back to Disneyland Park you’re going to want to have lunch at Lamplight Lounge.
Typically this restaurant is reservations only, but they usually have some first come first served seating at their downstairs bar. This is where we like to sit.
Partly because reservations can be hard to come by, and partly because the view out to Pixar Pier is beautiful!
Do not miss out on the tasty drink menus, yummy sushi rolls, and juicy burgers! Be sure to explore the restaurant before you leave too. It’s filled with nods to all of the Pixar films from Toy Story to Onward.
Your Plans After Lunch
After lunch on day two is the best time to head back over to Disneyland Park to explore more of what that park has to offer.
Consider grabbing a Ronto Wrap with a drink at Oga’s Cantina inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Disneyland’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Using Genie+ will allow you to get through most of the big attractions before dinner.
Dinner at Napa Rose
Speaking of dinner, day two is really where you should treat yourself to a nice dinner. There are two places worth checking out, Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa, and Carthay Circle at Disney California Adventure.
Depending on your taste and the current menu you should be able to decide between the two which is the best for you.
Carthay Circle is more elegant and fine dining, where Napa Rose is more centered around California cuisine and fresh ingredients. If we had to make a choice we would choose Napa Rose, mainly for their incredible wine list and attention to detail on the plates.
Your Plans After Dinner
After dinner you’re going to want to find a spot for either World of Color or Fantasmic! if they are showing at either park.
You will not be able to see both on the same night unless Fantasmic! has two showings. If we had to choose we would always pick Fantasmic! just for the opportunity to see Mickey in a classic show.
Recommended: The ULTIMATE California 7-Day Road Trip Itinerary and Guide!
Late night at the Disneyland Hotel
After the parks are closed for the evening you’re going to want to head over to the Disneyland Hotel. The easiest way to get there from either park is to walk through the Downtown Disney District.
Here is where you’ll find Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, which is home to yummy tiki-inspired drinks, zany antics, and a good time.
The bar has limited seating so you might have to wait, but it’s worth it to have a late night drink at the classic Disneyland bar.
So, be sure to add Trader Sam’s to your Disneyland itinerary.
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Day 3: Disneyland Departure Day
It’s your last day at the Disneyland Resort but that doesn’t mean that you have to get up and leave right away.
Here at ThemeParkHipster, we like to get the most out of our Disney days as we can!
This means always getting the red eye flight back home to have a pretty full day at the parks.
Breakfast at Disneyland
This is the day to have that leisurely breakfast you’ve been waiting for. The one place not to miss is Carnation Cafe right on Main Street U.S.A.
They are serving up breakfast favorites like Mickey waffles in a turn of the century setting. We love getting the Mickey Waffles with a side of potatoes and bacon to get us through til lunch.
If there’s open space, ask to be seated outside to take in the sights and sounds of Main Street U.S.A. Sometimes the Dapper Dans will come by to sing a song, and you might even see a famous mouse wave hello.
One of the coolest things to add to your Disneyland itinerary.
Your Plans After Breakfast
After breakfast while the parks are still less crowded is the best time to get on those last minute rides that you might not have gotten to yet, or favorites that you want to ride one more time.
We always park hop during this time until lunch trying to get in as many rides as we can!
Lunch at Disneyland
The last day at the Disneyland Resort should always be held for the best quick service lunch at Disneyland Park- the grilled cheese and tomato soup at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe.
Grab your lunch then sit out on the plaza to eat while enjoying views of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Your Plans After Lunch
Depending on when your ride back to the airport is set to pick you up this may be your last opportunity to get on any rides or buy any souvenirs you haven’t picked up yet.
You can’t leave Disneyland without a new Christmas ornament or trading pin, which are always easy to pack away in full suitcases.
If you’re planning a last ride, I think it should be either Guardians of the Galaxy- Mission: Breakout or Pirates of the Caribbean.
Both tell a great story and are a lot of fun! Before getting picked up be sure to get those last selfies in front of the castle. A perfect way to end your Disneyland itinerary.
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Final Thoughts on Your Disneyland Itinerary
With so much to do at the Disneyland Resort it can be hard to figure out a good game plan for a short three day trip.
However, I think this Disneyland itinerary is a pretty good one, and I’ve used this format for trips lots of times and haven’t missed one thing yet!
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
Megan is a theme park expert and frequent traveler to magical places. She covers all things Disney and Universal and runs marathons for fun.
She thinks you can tell a lot about someone by the name of their signature lipstick, and hers is NARS Dragon Girl.
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(Original Article Date: August 23, 2020/Updated on June 14, 2022)