On selected mornings, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure open their gates an hour early, allowing qualifying guests to enjoy a Magic Morning. It's an appealing idea, with the promise of smaller crowds and shorter lines.
Magic Morning early entry gets you inside one park early each day, but not all areas are open (and not all their rides will be running).
Why Early Entry Isn't Everything You Expect
Who wouldn't want to get into the Disneyland parks early? Most people imagine having the place to themselves, with short lines and no crowds. Unfortunately, the reality is quite different.
Early entry is available to all the guests in the Disneyland hotels. Those three hotels alone have more than 2,500 rooms. That means more than 5,000 Disney hotel guests have the same privileges you do - plus the people staying in Good Neighbor hotels and those who bought multi-day tickets with early entry options.
Compare that number to Disneyland's average daily attendance of 40,000 people per day (as reported by the Themed Entertainment Association).
And the entire park will not be open during early entry. In fact, the crowds can be almost as thick as they are after normal entry times. By the time the parks open, wait times are up to 60 minutes for Peter Pan and 40 minutes for Star Tours.
Tips to Get the Most out of a Magic Morning
You are far from alone and lines to get in can be quite long. If you enter through the main gates, get there early. Disney recommends being at the gate 15 minutes early, but a half hour is better during busy times.
Allow 15 to 30 minutes to walk from the Disneyland Hotel or Paradise Pier to the gate, including time to get through security. If you're checking out of your hotel, allow an extra 30 minutes to get checked out and check your luggage.
Everyone hurries to the rides as soon as they get in and lines are soon as long as they are during regular hours. To get the maximum magic in your morning, pick one ride that you want to enjoy the most, then spend the rest of it walking around, taking pictures, and enjoying the place.
You may be able to get a head start by using the monorail entrance instead of the main gates. Use it to go straight to Tomorrowland, then cut across the park to Fantasyland and Peter Pan.
If you want to enjoy the rides, focus on ones don't have FASTPASS options - but you'll need to be there early enough to get inside the gate on time and get in line quickly.
If you're staying in a Disney hotel, don't go to the main gate for your early entry. Instead, use the Monorail entrance in Downtown Disney, which is reserved just for hotel guests during Magic Morning hours. The lines are much shorter there than at the main entrance. And if you want to ride Finding Nemo, the Monorail will take you right to its entrance.
For California Adventure, hotel guests can use the entrance through the Grand Californian, walking through the lobby and past the Napa Rose Hotel to find it.
How to Get Into Disneyland During Magic Morning
Getting early entry into the park is easy as long as you meet one of the qualifications below - just take your ticket to the regular entrance. If you're staying in a Disney hotel or want to use the Downtown Disney Monorail entrance, you'll need to show your room key, too. As of mid-2013, Magic Mornings are available if you:
- Stay at one of the Disney Hotels or buy selected Disneyland Vacation or Good Neighbor Packages. Days and rules for hotel guests are on the Disneyland website.
- Buy a Disneyland ticket that includes Magic Morning admission. If you're more interested in one park than the other and are buying a three-day ticket, you may want to check the Disneyland website for the schedule and adjust the days you visit to meet your needs.