Magic Morning Entry
Basically the only rides you really need to stay away from are the Indiana Jones Adventure or the Rocket Rods. Otherwise everything else in the park has short lines. This is a good time to go on any of the Mountains or thrill rides, which later in the day lines have lines of at least one hour.
Mornings with Magic Morning Entry
The same tips as above. Be sure to note that the Indiana Jones Adventure and Rocket Rods lines will be long. Everyone tries to hurry to get to these attractions, so they often have long lines. The lines on all the rides will be longer on these days since there is early entry. Even though they are longer, at this point they will still be shorter than later in the day.
Mornings Without Magic Morning Entry
Do not go directly to Indy or the Rocket Rods, unless you are near the front and can get there quickly. Since these are newer rides and are close to the Hub people head to them first. I would recommend trying to get to one of the other Mountains, such as Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. You may have a wait but it will probably be shorter than later in the day. If you don't want to ride Space Mountain I would suggest going to the Autopia, Pirate of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion, since they usually have longer lines all day. Maybe try hitting some of the Fantasyland or Toontown rides before their lines grow longer. You could also try the Jungle Cruise so you will have a more energized tour guide.
Midday - Afternoons
This is usually the busiest part of the day. I would recommend relaxing a little during this time since you won't get on too many rides. Take a look at the less popular rides like on of the following.
- The Walt Disney Story, featuring "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln."
- Mark Twain Riverboat
- Sailing Ship Columbia
- Enchanted Tiki Room
- Tarzans Treehouse
- Sleeping Beauty Castle
- The Disney Gallery
- Tom Sawyer Island
There are plenty of attractions to see that are not so crowded. This is also your best time to go shopping since most people are on rides. You may also want to take a look at Tom Sawyer's Island. From about noon to four you will hit the longest lines on rides. In the summer this is the hottest part of the day, so you'll want to find somewhere cool to relax like most of the rides listed above.
It's now getting closer to the big shows (when the park is open late) and people begin getting seats and eating dinner. You may even want to send a family member to stake out seats for a show. Now is a good time to go on the big rides like Big Thunder, Star Tours, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, or Indy, if you're going to watch a show. If your not going to watch a show than wait for Indy and Big Thunder until Fantasmic! has started.
If your not going to watch any shows you've hit the jackpot for short lines. About 30 minutes before to the end of Fantasmic! there are no lines for Big Thunder, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Indy, or the Jungle Cruise. Ride Star Tours and the Matterhorn during the nighttime parade. Space Mountain and Splash Mountain seem to keep their lines long throughout the shows though. Once the shows are over a very large chunk of the crowd leaves and lines are pretty short. Toontown is a good choice (after it's reopened after the fireworks) since there are few little kids. Take your pick of basically anything and you'll find the shortest lines of the day. Note: This is the worst time to shop since everyone "looks" on their way out.
What Line to Choose
Many times rides at Disneyland will have two different lines to choose from, this often confuses people on which line to choose, so they end up following the people in front of them often causing an unnecessary backup. Disney has made two lines to help make your wait shorter and so they can get more people on the ride at one time. Many people also think that the different line means a different ride, which is only true in the case of the Matterhorn, otherwise EVERY other ride in the park has the same ride no matter which line you choose. Here are some tips on which line to choose, by choosing the line I suggest it won't save your hours but maybe a few minutes that might help squeeze an extra ride or two in at the end of the day.
- Indiana Jones has a split line but not until you are almost at the loading platform. I suggest taking the line on the right, since usually the wheelchair guests will be placed in the vehicle that the left line feeds into, which slows that side down.
- I have not really seen any difference in line speed on the Jungle Cruise, but the port side boarding has a little bit of a shorter line since it loads to the back of the boat. It's really up to you which line to choose, but always keep your eyes pealed for the open line (not because this is banana country!). On this attraction people often follow the group and will rarely choose the line that has few to no people in it. Also note that later in the evening when there are shorter lines they will close one side off and only load from one or the other side, so don't anger the skippers by taking the closed line.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean on busier days will have up to two lines open. When you first enter you will have a choice of left or right to go up to the entrance, my suggestion is to take the line with the least amount of people, since I have not seen any speed difference between sides. If you take the right side that line is about 30 feet shorter but that is also the boat that they load the handicapped people into, so it probably about evens out in time.
- On the Haunted Mansion the queue is split into two as you pass through the stone entry into the graveyard area. This split is only to allow more people to wait in line and make the lines shorter there is no difference in speed at all. This is another attraction you should be watching for shorter lines. Guest almost always follow the group and almost no one will choose the shorter line, especially when the end is not in sight. I have seen nights where you can walk all the way to the entrance of the attraction! People will probably get mad a try to tell you that the line is closed, but if you didn't hop over any chains or push any trash cans out of the way they just missed the boat and are a tad jealous.
- The split in the queue on Splash Mountain doesn't occur until you get to inside the ride building. The line on the right seems to run a little faster than the one on the left.
- Big Thunder Mountain probably has the biggest difference in line speed. The line on the left at first seems to run slower than the right one but by the time you ride, you'll be getting off the same time the people, who entered the line with you but chose the right side, are just getting on their train.
- The one ride where a different line means a different ride is the Matterhorn. The line on the Fantasyland side is closed during the parades so that the parade can pass through the area. My personal favorite is the Tomorrowland sideline, to me the ride seems faster than the other side and the line usually seems to run faster.
- Space Mountain splits off into two lines at almost the loading platform. Neither of these lines moves faster than the other so choose either one.
- Both Star Tours and the Autopia have two lines when you first start in the queue. And for both of these rides either line is a good choice and the ride is the same once you get there.
The Child Switch Pass
This is a little gem that is not mentioned anywhere in the official Disneyland information. This pass allows one or two group members to watch a child who cannot ride an attraction while the rest of the group waits in line and rides the ride. Once the majority of the group is done the one or two group members who watched the child can take the Child Switch Pass and walk up the exit to get on the attraction without any wait! This pass really benefits groups or families who have smaller children but still would like to go on the larger attractions that have height and age restrictions.
You can get the pass by finding a Cast Member near the entrance of the ride. Once here tell them that you would like to get a Child Switch Pass, so that one or two members of the group can watch the child(ren) who are not able to go on the ride. They will give the group the pass and you can work from there. If you are traveling with a smaller family some members can even ride twice, first waiting in line and then using the switch pass. Note: This pass only allows one or two people to ride the attraction without waiting, not a large group. It is not given to one or two specific people, so if the person who watched the child decides not to ride a couple people from the group members can ride again without waiting.
The Child Switch Pass is only offered on the larger attractions where there are restrictions on who can and cannot ride. You will be able to find them at rides such as Space Mountain, Star Tours, the Rocket Rods, Indiana Jones, etc. You will not be required to use the pass immediately after your group gets off the attraction, but you will need to use it the same day, since the pass colors change daily to reduce the use of counterfeits. Note: This pass can only be used once anytime during the day. If you wish to ride the attraction again you will need to get another pass a repeat the process. Also the pass is for a given attraction. In other words you cannot use a Star Tours pass on Space Mountain.