Friends, in the normal course of running a theme park ride or attraction, repairs, maintenance, and upgrades need to happen. Also, Disney is keen to keep things lively, fresh, and relevant to whatever seasonal or popular trends are happening. For these reasons, attractions and shows are closed. Disney refers to this closure as a refurbishment and thankfully in most cases, these are short closures.
Because you want to get your precious money’s worth and experience as much of the resort as possible, you need this information to help plan your trip. Like a lot of things in life, Google is our friend here. There are many resources that provide up-to-date refurbishment information. We don’t have a favorite. Most places provide accurate information but it’s usually smart to look over at least 2-3 websites to corroborate the info. The interesting bit here is that Disney itself doesn’t publish this information in an easy to digest format on any of its websites. They do have current, live info on their calendar and mobile apps on a per-attraction/show basis, but they do not list it otherwise. I can understand this as they want to sell tickets and this could be considered a negative influence on that goal.
Here are a few websites we use and cross-check for this important info:
As you are planning your next trip To Disney, please refer to these resources to ensure you have the latest info as to what you may be missing out on. Sometimes, it’s enough to adjust your schedule. Sometimes, you can’t handle not riding Pirates of the Caribbean. We get that!
Disneyland offers many ways to abbreviate your wait in long queues. We’ve written in-depth on the Fast/MaxPass offerings. We will also write more about strategically planning riding attractions that do not offer these advantages. Single-Rider is a really effective way to get on that attraction quickly.
Currently, the rides with Single-Rider at the California Disney parks are as follows:
Indiana Jones Adventure
Disney California Adventure Park:
Grizzly River Run
Goofy’s Sky School
Radiator Springs Racers
As with many of these offerings that Disney provides, there are some trade-offs or compromises. Firstly, it’s called Single-Rider for a reason. It’s just you. If you’re with your family or a group, there’s no guarantee that you’ll all be on the same vehicle together. And chances are, you will not be. For this, we advise using a Fast/MaxPass to ride the attraction once together with your group to get the pictures and have the experience together. For future rides, go Single-Rider. Another gotcha is that sometimes Single-Rider is not available at these locations. Sometimes, due to traffic or other demand-related situations, the attractions do not offer this benefit. Most times, you’ll see a sign or some indication that it’s available or not. Or, asking a Cast Member will get you that information. Because these Single-Rider options are usually taking a different route to get to the platform, please listen and respect the instructions given. Especially from the super helpful Cast Members.
For Matterhorn Bobsleds, the option is extremely efficient and you will get many rides in a very short time. They are constantly pulling from the Single-Rider queues and your wait time is usually very short. You may be placed in either the left or right queue, or you may be given the choice. But if you love this attraction, Single-Rider is pure gold!
Splash Mountain is also really good to take advantage of this program. The lines are much shorter than the Standby or Fast/MaxPass queues. They tend to still be a bit of a wait but very worth it.
Indiana Jones Adventure is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes they don’t do Single-Rider. And even when they do, it’s not as efficient as the others. Still worthwhile to use this on this attraction, absolutely. But they only let a few through at a time since they have to load the handicap elevator and only 6-8 folks can comfortably fit. Again, it’s still better than Standby so go for it.
In Disney California Adventure, definitely use it on Incredicoaster (formerly California Screamin’) and absolutely use it on Radiator Springs Racers. These attractions usually have amazingly long standby lines and the Single-Rider option is heaven!
Here, at ToDisney, we provide the hints and tricks to maximize your fun. The Single-Rider option on these attractions are outstanding ways to accomplish this. As mentioned, always look or ask a Cast Member to find out if Single-Rider is available for that attraction. Also always be kind to those lovely Cast Members! They work hard and have kind of a rough job but they continue to be happy and helpful. If you get on Twitter, send out a hashtag #CastMemberCompliment and mention the name and where they were. Also link @DisneylandToday and/or @Disneyland in your tweet. The company sees these and passes the praise along in a really cool way.
Some of the information here is based on articles from Southern California newspapers or Wikipedia. One amazing article from the L.A. Times has a ton of great information regarding minimizing wait time for attractions.
We all know the primary goal of standing in a queue at Disneyland is to ride the attraction at the end of that line. You either have to just wait until you arrive at that sweet seat, or you can use a shortcut and get close to the finish much faster by reserving your time to get into that shorter queue. Disneyland started issuing FastPasses in late 1999. According to Wikipedia, FastPass is defined to, “allow guests to avoid long lines at the attractions on which the system is installed, freeing them to enjoy other attractions during their wait.”
Considered a virtual queuing system, FastPass is the same as getting in line once you claim it but then you can enjoy other activities in the parks until your scheduled time to return.
FastPasses used to be slightly better than they are today. You used to be able to have one active FastPass per park at a time. You used to be able to return anytime after the first return time. As soon as that first time passed, you could go get another FastPass. We had quite the strategy going at that time. We dashed into Disney’s California Adventure as soon as it opened and ran straight to Radiator Spring’s Racers to grab FastPasses. Then we ran across to Disneyland Resort to grab Space Mountain FastPasses. At that point, if the queue wasn’t too long, we’d get in line for Space Mountain. Once our first time was up, we would grab another FastPass for another ride, etc. Very rarely did we stand in any queue for longer than about 5-10 minutes. But we sure did do a lot of running back and forth from park to park! By the end of the day we had collected quite the stack of FastPasses for our favorite rides, and we could ride them over and over again. That was the life.
Then Disney made a couple changes. First they changed the rule to be that you had to come back during the time specified on your FastPass (as depicted on the photo above, “Return any time between 1:40 pm and 2:40 pm”). We had to plan a new strategy. This was cause for more running back and forth between the parks. The final twist Disney made was only allowing visitors one active FastPass at a time. No longer could you have one per park!
Since these changes, we now tend to spend longer chunks of time in each park at a time. Instead of going back and forth, we are more likely to spend 3-4 hours in each park before switching back to the other park.
Attractions at Disneyland Resort that feature FastPass are:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
Fantasmic! (show ticket; not available via Disney MaxPass)
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
It’s a Small World
It’s a Small World Holiday
Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
Attractions at Disney’s California Adventure with FastPass are:
Goofy’s Sky School
Grizzly River Run
Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
Radiator Springs Racers
Soarin’ Around the World
Toy Story Midway Mania!
World of Color (show ticket; not available via Disney MaxPass)
Recently, in July of 2018, Disneyland introduced MaxPass, an enhanced and paid implementation of the existing FastPass system. MaxPass allows you to digitally reserve FastPasses via the Disneyland App. As soon as you enter the park, scanning your ticket or pass, you can begin taking advantage of the MaxPass program. At a price of $10 per person, per day, you get the added convenience of not having to physically get a FastPass. This is pretty awesome because now there’s no need to run across the park first thing to get a FastPass. You can also use regular FastPasses in the normal way. One really nice benefit to the MaxPass program is that you can get a new one every 90 minutes. Regardless if you’ve used your current ones, you can reserve a new FastPass 90 minutes after reserving your last one. A regular FastPass (not reserved with MaxPass) is only available until two hours after you’ve gotten your last one.
We used the MaxPass program during our last trip to Disneyland and we weren’t sure how it would be. The plan was to use it once just to try it out. We loved it so much we ended up using it most every day we were there. You can buy them with your tickets, or opt-in while you’re at the park. Also, you get free use of the PhotoPass program. This allows you to use the park photographers and the ride photos and download them permanently. That is a much better option than holding your phone up to the screens at the end of the rides.
In our way To Disney, one of our biggest goals is to avoid standing in long queue lines. FastPass and MaxPass are the way to go and offer a great way to plan out your days at the parks. Some are of the opinion that adding FastPass to rides that didn’t already have them makes the experience worse. There is some current debate on whether Disney should add FastPass to Pirates of the Caribbean. Since that ride is so efficient, perhaps FastPass isn’t needed there. Disney has installed what looks like Fast/MaxPass scanner stations in the queue area of Pirates. Last I heard they are still waiting to see if they should use them or not.
The best advice we can give you about the MaxPass and the FastPass, to help you know how To Disney, is to pay attention to the following:
The shows – Fantasmic & World of Color: These FastPasses are different. The usual FastPass rules don’t apply. You can have these passes all day long while having other ride FastPasses.
Return Start and End times – don’t miss these! They are not flexible on this – especially now that everything is electronic. If you try to go early, they won’t let you in. If you show up late, they won’t let you in.
Next available time: At the bottom of the ticket it says “Another FastPass ticket will be available after X time”. For the most part, as soon as the first “next available time” hits, you are free to get a new FastPass. As mentioned before, you can collect a new FastPass every two hours (or every 90 minutes if it’s by MaxPass). What this means is that if your FastPass return time is between 1:40 pm and 2:40 pm, and it’s only 10 am, you can get another FastPass at noon. You don’t have to wait until 1:40 pm to get your next one.
Attractions go down. Use this to your advantage! Shhh this one is a secret…If you return to your attraction during your scheduled time and it is temporarily down, your FastPass is now available the rest of the day! Use it during the busiest part of the day!
If you want to maximize your attraction play, take advantage of MaxPass and FastPass. They are great programs and worth the bit of effort it takes to plan and use.
I took this during our last trip to Disneyland. This attraction was recently re-themed from California Screamin’ to The Incredicoaster to fit in with the new Pixar Pier land. The actual coaster remains the same, just new artwork and story with the Parr family from Dinsey/Pixar’s The Incredibles. Still one of the fastest coasters in Disneyland, it’s a ton of fun.
–If the above video doesn’t play, it’s also on YouTube: HERE
Our way To Disney is both simple and complicated. The simple side of things is pretty much this: we do mostly attractions. We’re not into meet & greets or character meals or parades. Disney is magical. Quite literally. Places like Universal Studios and other theme or amusement parks are fun. Disney is magical. This comes from things that are environmental, like music, smells, decorations, etc. The level of immersion when you walk into an attraction like Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean is a testament to this magic. You get the magic when you ride the attractions and experience the immersive story-telling. From Cast Members being extra happy and very polite to sight lines and forced perspective convincing your willing mind that Sleeping Beauty’s Castle must be 500 feet tall.
Complications are introduced with what we do between riding these attractions. We eat. We walk. We play games on our phones like HeadsUp! We use amazing tools Disney provides like FastPass and MaxPass to ensure our wait in the queues are minimal. We take advantage of single-rider options on attractions that offer it. For example, Indiana Jones Adventure. Yes, we’ll generally take a ride as a family first, usually with FastPasses. From then on, it’s single-rider or bust. Same with Incredicoaster and most recently, Space Mountain. Maximize riding the attractions, minimize the waiting. Before MaxPass we would literally sprint to FastPass distribution areas for attractions like Radiator Springs Racers as soon as we got through the ticket turnstiles. (Thank goodness for MaxPass!)
MaxPass is a recent addition Disney introduced in July of 2017. For a cost of $10 per person, per day, it affords you the amazing convenience and ability to digitally reserve FastPasses through your phone on the Disneyland App. You just have to have entered the park. It’s super great as you can collect your entire party’s tickets or passes on your device and reserve FastPasses all at once. No more running to the FastPass distribution machines and feeding it ticket after ticket hoping you all get the same return time. So awesome and so worth the money. PhotoPass is also included, and that allows you to download photos from attractions and from the photographers around the parks. We consider MaxPass a must-do for at least a few of the days of your trip, if not every day. To be clear, your entire party can participate in MaxPass with just one phone, but a MaxPass must be purchased for each ticket. If you have youngsters without phones, no worries.
FastPasses are reservations for a future time on an attraction. A shorter queue is provided to assure a faster arrival to the attraction. MaxPass is a digital version of this that removes the physical aspect, no tickets, no actual distribution locations. It’s right on your phone.
Rope drop is always a goal but rarely has it happened for us. It’s especially nice to take advantage of this opening ceremony for the fanfare and the anticipation as the crowds press you in towards the literal rope, cutting off your access to further magic. If you’re at Disneyland and get close to the barrier heretofore mentioned, speed your way through the castle gates to Peter Pan’s Flight. That classic attraction is ALWAYS in a long wait. Another way to get through that queue is to take advantage of Extra Magic Hour or One Magic Morning. These are benefits to Disneyland hotel residents or multi-day ticket holders, respectively. As the title infers, you get into the parks one hour before the normal park opening. These are great ways to ride these commonly busy attractions.
Please enjoy Disneyland in your own way. We’ve taken years to develop our way and we completely enjoy all the benefits. We look forward to sharing more and more ways To Disney. If you have some requests or questions, leave them in the comments. It can be a lot of work and put a toll on your feet after several days. But as I’ve always said and will continue to say, it is all worth it.