Early Entry- How To Get In To Disneyland 30 Minutes Early And Make The Most of It

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Disneyland Early Entry has returned. While pre-closure, Disneyland had multiple early entry programs, after almost a year, they have finally brought back ONE form of early entry for guests. Keep reading to learn how you can get into Disneyland Resort’s parks 30 minutes before other guests, and how to maximize that time.

I tested Early Entry as an invited guest of Disneyland Resort. However, I extended my stay on my own dime to test Early Entry an extra day and to give a better cost analysis. All opinions are my own.

Early Entry At Disneyland Returns – But It’s Different

Early Entry at Disneyland Resort has returned, and can I say – it is about time! I have been hoping we would get more perks for onsite guests at Disneyland Resort, as the addition of several 4 Diamond Hotels like JW Marriott and Westin Anaheim have made it hard to justify the cost of the Disney-owned properties without this added perk.

While pre-closure we saw what was called Extra Magic Hour for onsite guests, off-site guests with tickets of 3 or more days would receive one Magic Morning entry. That made the draw to stay onsite less tempting, so it was no surprise to me that with Early Entry returning, we are only seeing this offered to Disney Hotel Guests at this time. (You can read all about the old Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning here – please note neither of these programs exist at this time.)

So what exactly is the new Early Entry and what do you need to know about it before your vacation? Check out the frequently asked questions here:

What is Early Entry at Disneyland?

Early Entry is the ability to enter Disneyland or Disney California Adventure 30 minutes before other guests to experience select attractions.

The name is a bit deceiving though, as other guests will be able to enter the park at the same time, but only Early Entry guests will be able to go past specific checkpoints and access select rides.

Who can utilize Early Entry at Disneyland Resort?

Early Entry is a perk for guests staying at one of the Disney-owned properties at the Disneyland Resort. These hotels are the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel.

I stayed 2 nights at the Grand Californian (pictured) and 1 night at Paradise Pier during my trip to test Early Entry

Guests staying at these hotels will also need to purchase Disneyland Resort park tickets, or have a Magic Key, and make park reservations.

Pre-Closure, Extra Magic Hour would rotate which park was open each day. One thing I love about Early Entry now is that both parks are available every day of your visit.

The park you go to will be decided by which park you make your reservation for as your “starting park.”

Where Do I Go For Early Entry Into The Parks?

Unlike pre-closure, Early Entry DOES NOT have specially marked gates for those that can enjoy this perk. This is something I really feel needs to change. While it makes sense to let everyone in, and then have the checkpoints later on I feel there are a few reasons to add back in specially marked gates:

  1. They could actually let the Early Entry people in the park a little earlier (more on that later)
  2. Having gates marked “Early Entry” is great advertising as off-site guests will want to know how they can get that perk
  3. I witnessed a few occasions of guests freaking out watching Early Entry folks trying to rush, and even pushing by some guests… YIKES!
back of Disneyland ticket with Magic Morning on it, in front of Disneyland gates
You can see in the background of this old Magic Morning photo that gates were marked above to designate specific lines for that and Extra Magic Hour. I hope they bring the specified gates back.

At Disneyland, guests utilizing Early Entry may only enter through the Main Park Gates.

At California Adventure, the best option (IMO) is to utilize the main gates, however, you can utilize the Grand Californian Entrance if you are a guest of that hotel, and possibly the Paradise Pier entrance (which has you enter near Goofy’s Sky School).

Unfortunately, the day I went to test the Paradise Pier Entrance, it was not open to guests for Early Entry.

What Rides Are Open During Early Entry?

The rides open during Early Entry at Disneyland Resort are limited, but definitely worth the effort to get there.

Rides Open at Disneyland Park During Early Entry Are:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Astro Orbitor
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Disneyland Monorail
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • King Arthur Carrousel
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
  • Space Mountain
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
The Mad Tea Party was nearly empty right as the Early Entry time came to an end.

Shopping and Dining Open at Disneyland Park During Early Entry Are:

  • Fantasyland Fruit Cart
  • Galactic Grill
  • Guide II
  • Esplanade Stroller Shop
  • The Mad Hatter in Fantasyland
  • Market House
  • Plaza Inn (For Minnie and Friends Character Breakfast-Reservations Required)

Rides Open at California Adventure Park For Early Entry Are:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission BREAKOUT!
  • Incredicoaster
  • The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
  • Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure
I had the entire ride to myself on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree about half way through Early Entry in California Adventure.

Shopping and Dining Open at California Adventure During Early Entry Are:

  • Cappuccino Cart
  • The Collector’s Warehouse
  • Corn Dog Castle
  • Esplanade Stroller Shop
  • Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe
  • Fillmore’s Taste-In
  • Seaside Souvenirs
  • Oswald’s
  • WEB Suppliers

One thing to note is that while these are the rides and locations intended to be available for Early Entry, they may not be available.

Can I utilize Genie+ During Early Entry?

Genie+ is a great tool to help minimize your time in lines with the use of Lightning Lanes. That said, Lightning Lanes are not available to redeem during Early Entry. However, you can select your first Lightning Lane Attraction as soon as you scan into the park, so it is ready to go as soon as the regular park hours begin.

Another tip: If a Lightning Lane ride is down during Early Entry you can grab a Lightning Lane for it, and if it is still down at the beginning of your return time you will receive a Multi-Experience Pass. My friend Leslie has great advanced Genie+ tips on doing this.

Can I utilize DAS during Early Entry?

You most likely will not need to utilize DAS to get a return time during Early Entry, and from what Cast Members told me, they were not using it at the time. Accommodations for mobility devices or stairs can be made at each ride without the use of DAS.

How Many Days of Early Entry Can I Get On My Trip?

You can get Early Entry for every day that you are a registered guest at one of the Disney-Owned hotels, as long as you have a park ticket or Magic Key, and a park reservation.

I am currently waiting for confirmation that, similar to pre-closure early entry options, you can also use it on the day you check-in to the hotel… if you somehow arrive early enough. I will update this once I have confirmation.

How Does Early Entry Actually Work

Let’s cover how your Early Entry morning will actually start. Again, I hope this changes with time, but for now, this is how things work.

Entering The Parks for Early Entry

Unfortunately, Early Entry doesn’t work out quite as well as I had hoped. If you are lucky… they will start scanning guests into the park a few minutes before Early Entry begins.

Watching guests who are there this week report, it appears now they are waiting until the actual start time of Early Entry to even begin scanning.

When you only have 30 minutes, those 3-5 minutes it can take to walk down Main Street or Buena Vista Street are huge, and I think this will lead to even more people running and pushing.

At the gate, you do not need to show your room key as even regular guests may now scan in at this point.

Accessing The Parks/Rides For Early Entry

As you make your way to the end of the Rope Drop Area, you will see a sign that mentions Early Entry, and in that area, look for a Cast Member giving directions.

At Disneyland, the Early Entry folks were directed to the right, and keys were checked in front of Plaza Inn area.

In California Adventure, Keys were checked either to enter the area by Soarin’ or at a walk-way by Carthay Circle to head towards Avengers Campus. At this time, you could not access Early Entry via Hollywood Blvd (which would be my preferred route for Monsters’ Inc or Guardians of the Galaxy).

At these locations, your Room Key and/or Hotel Reservations will be checked before you are allowed to proceed.

How To Maximize Your Early Entry Time at Disneyland Resort

So you qualify for Early Entry, but maybe you are thinking that there is no way 30 minutes can make a big difference in your day. I was actually shocked at how much I was able to get done in 30 minutes during Early Entry, and how it really set me ahead for my day.

Here is what you need to know to make the most of your Early Entry.

What Time Should I Arrive For Early Entry?

Arrive at the gates between 15-30 minutes before Early Entry begins. If the park opens at 8 am, and Early Entry is at 7:30, be at the gates by 7:15 am.

Stock photo, but yes… I did get up at 5:30 each morning to make sure I made it to Early Entry bright and early.

This is important because security for guests entering the park from Harbor and the Disneyland Parking options will open up at 7:15, so you want to be in line before all of those people get there.

What should I have Ready for Early Entry?

For Early Entry, have your tickets (or bar codes in the app) ready to scan. You will also need a Disney hotel room key and *possibly* a printed reservation confirmation or your hotel reservation on your app.

I only ever needed to show my hotel room key, but at the time of this article, Disney was not printing hotel stay dates on the keys. When Cast Members realized this, they began asking some people to see their reservations in the app to verify dates… but this didn’t happen to everyone.

DISNEY- YOU NEED TO PUT THE RESERVATION DATES BACK ON THE KEYS!

What Ride Should I Choose To Do First For Early Entry at Disneyland?

Which ride you choose will depend on what your goals are for Early Entry. Is it knocking out some rides that get long waits later in the day, getting the most rides as possible done, or something else?

My friend Jessica, who tested out strategies as well, has Early Entry Plans you can purchase that break down different strategies based on your goals. I also have my strategies a little further down,

What I can tell you is I would not choose Space Mountain as my first ride. It is far back, and oftentimes is not ready to open, so by the time you get back there, learn it is down, and make your way to another ride, you have lost valuable time.

I did not do Peter Pan first… and would not suggest hitting it first for Early Entry.

What Ride Should I Choose To Do First For Early Entry at California Adventure?

California Adventure is a bit trickier to choose which ride to start with. Part of the problem in this park is that the rides that are open are much more spread out. Often only one ride in land is open.

The other issue is that several of the rides were down both days I started at this park. Soarin, Incredicoaster, and even WEB Slingers were down on the same day.

What Happens If A Ride Is Down During Early Entry?

So what happens if a ride is down during Early Entry? Not much. Guests in line will be told so they can leave, or choose to wait it out. Guests on the ride will go through the regular motions when a ride breaks down while you are on it.

You will not get a multi-experience pass to make up for the ride going down. Those are not granted during Early Entry. Trust me… several of us asked.

How Can I Maximize My Early Entry Time?

So how can you maximize your Early Entry time? I am excited to share my top tips and strategies that I, and a dozen other Disneyland experts, tested out during Early Entry.

This information is available to my email subscribers at no charge, but because if everyone knows these strategies, they may not work as well, it is ONLY available to my email subscribers.

Early Entry Strategies To Maximize Your Extra Time in Disneyland

These Early Entry strategies will help you make the most of your time in the park. My Early Entry Strategies are based on getting in the maximum amount of rides to cut your wait times for your entire day, not just for Early Entry. My friend Jessica has other strategies that are based on other focuses, such as going with little kids, etc.

Note: I mention purchasing Genie+ in all of these strategies but you can save yourself time and hassle by pre-purchasing Genie+ on your Disneyland tickets, and even save a little money when you buy through my partners at Get Away Today.

Early Entry Strategy #1 – Disneyland Resort, Fantasyland

  • Arrive at main gate 30 minutes before Early Entry begins (1 hour before park opening)
  • Scan in to park, immediately purchase Genie+ if you plan to use it later that day
  • Make your way down Main Street, while pulling up your Room Reservation or Room Key (I suggest reservation in the app)
  • Once checked in to Early Entry, take the Main Castle pathway to enter Fantasyland
    • Start with Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
    • Pinocchio
    • Dumbo
    • If using Genie+ for later in day, snag a Lightning Lane (I suggest Space Mountain or Matterhorn since you are in this area)
    • Check time – If at less than 10 minutes to Rope Drop for regular guests hope in line for Peter Pan, If more than 10 minutes, you can add in Mr Toad’s Wild Ride before Peter Pan
    • Mr Toad’s Wild Ride if you haven’t fit it in yet
    • At Rope Drop, head to Alice in Wonderland
    • Mad Tea Party (Teacups)
    • Storybookland Canal Boats
    • Carousel if desired
    • “it’s a small world”
    • Stop to hydrage, use restroom, etc before heading to your Lightning Lane (if using Genie+) or next area of the park

Using this strategy I was able to finish all of Fantasyland 35 minutes after park opening (65 minutes after Early Entry began)

Early Entry Strategy #2 – Disneyland, Tomorrowland

  • Arrive at main gate 30 minutes before Early Entry begins (1 hour before park opening)
  • Scan in to park, immediately purchase Genie+ if you plan to use it later that day
  • Make your way down Main Street, while pulling up your Room Reservation or Room Key (I suggest reservation in the app)
  • Once checked in to Early Entry, head in to Tomorrowland
    • If you have small children and older/taller children – split up: Older/Taller kids head to Star Tours, smaller kids and a parent can do Astro Orbitor and Buzz Lightyear
    • If your entire group can and wants to do all rides, start with Star Tours, followed by Astro Orbitors (if desired) and Buzz Lightyear
    • If you are utilizing Genie+, grab a Lightning Lane Return Time for a ride later in the day (I suggest Matterhorn, Space Mountain if it wasn’t up during Early Entry, or Indiana Jones)
    • If Space Mountain is open head there next
    • After Space Mountain, hop in line right before official Park Opening for Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
    • After Finding Nemo, head to Autopia if desired
    • Matterhorn if open and you did not get a Lightning Lane for it
    • Break for water, restrooms, etc before heading to another land to take advantage of low early morning crowds – My suggestion is Adventureland

Before we get in to the California Adventure Strategies – just a reminder that the rides available in this park are much more spread out, and honestly, many of them have height requirements or thrill factors to them that some may not be interested in.

That said, I think that Early Entry is a great time to get pictures with nobody else in them… like my Pixar Pier picture I took with my selfie timer. I also saw lots of Photopass Photographers out in California Adventure during Early Entry as well.

Early Entry Strategy #3- California Adventure – Avengers Campus

  • Arrive at main gate 30 minutes before Early Entry begins (1 hour before park opening)
  • Scan in to park, immediately purchase Genie+ if you plan to use it later that day
  • Make your way down Buena Vista Street, while pulling up your Room Reservation or Room Key (I suggest reservation in the app)
  • Go to the Carthay Circle check point
    • Head to WEB Slingers
    • After WEB Slingers, head to Guardians of the Galaxy if your want to do this ride
    • Because both rides are lengthy, at this point it should be close to Rope Drop, head through the path that goes to Cars Land to *hopefully* beat the Rope Drop crowd to line up for Radiator Springs Racers (if it is open)
    • If using Genie+ Grab a Lightning Lane for Toy Story Midway Mania
    • After RSR, or if that ride is down, go to Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
    • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
    • Head to Pixar Pier
    • Incredicoaster (line should still be short, or utilize Single Rider – if line is long, instead head to Toy Story Midway Mania, and as soon as you scan in for your Lightning Lane, get a return time for Incredicoaster)
    • Toy Story Midway Mania
    • Work your way around Pixar Pier and Paradise Garden Park ending at Little Mermaid

Early Entry Strategy #4 – California Adventure – Multiple Lands

This one is a little off-the-wall but still worked somewhat well considering all the rides that were down. Also, this plan utilizes other gates to enter, which WILL check your room reservation/key at the same time you scan in.

  • Arrive at the Grand California Entrance if a guest of that hotel an hour before park opening, 30 minutes before Early Entry
  • If not staying at the Grand, the Paradise Pier Hotel Entrance is a decent option, for this plan as well
  • Scan in to park, immediately purchase Genie+ if needed
    • Start with Littler Mermaid
    • Next, grab some photos around the Pixar Pier bridge – Nobody else in them – YAY!
    • Head to Cars Land and hop on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
    • Finish Mater’s before Park Opening and beat the Rope Droppers to wait in line for Radiator Springs Racers
    • Grab a Lightning Lane for Toy Story Midway Mania
    • After Radiator Springs Racers, ride Luigi’s if desired
    • Head to Pixar Pier and follow the same ride order as above, grabbing Lightning Lanes for Guardians, Sorain’ or another ride while working around Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park

Realisticly, with Early Entry, and these strategies, you could get most of the park done within 3 hours of park opening. Take a break, and then parkhop to Disneyland. Don’t forget if you are parkhopping to start grabbing those Lightning Lanes once you are done with making/using them in DCA.

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4 thoughts on “Early Entry- How To Get In To Disneyland 30 Minutes Early And Make The Most of It”

  1. Thanks Becca for sharing your SUPER detailed tips and observations about Early Entry and Disneyland Resorts!!!
    I agree with you that the starting entrance for Early Entry should be outside of the Main Gates and separate from the Rope Drop entries (like it used to be)!!!
    We’re definitely going to test out your strategies to make the most of our visit!
    Have a great day!
    💙 Joy

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I really hope we see some positive changes to Early Entry over the next few months. One changes that seems to be in effect already is that the monorail last week was loading and being at Tomorrowland by 7:30. This was not the case the week before.

      Reply
      • Hi Becca! Thank you SO much for these helpful tips. Are you saying the monorail was loading early enough to be at Tomorrowland by 7:30am? If that’s the case, that would be the fastest way to get in, correct?

        Reply
        • The first week it was not. The second week, there were a few reports that it was loading and dropping at exactly 7:30 in Tomorrowland. I would plan on walking to the main gates, but asking the monorail station if they anticipate it will be loading in time to drop off in Tomorrowland at 7:30.

          Reply

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