A friend of the author posing infront of The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Land during daytime on their 3 day Disneyland itinerary

Disneyland Itinerary (3 Days Planned by a Local)

👉 Jump To: Disneyland Itinerary | Where to Stay | How to Get Around | Planning Tips

Forgoing a Disneyland itinerary can quickly lead to chaos. You might miss your favorite shows, not get on your favorite rides, or get stuck in a long restaurant line.

I basically grew up next door to Disneyland in California, and have been to the park countless times. I have tons of insider Disneyland tips and tricks, and one of the most important is that you need more than one day to fully explore the “happiest place on earth.” 

This is why I made this ultimate 3-day Disneyland itinerary, with every step of your day planned for you! You can modify the itinerary if you prefer to spend 2 days, 4 days, or 5 days at Disneyland.

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions when you make a purchase or hotel reservation through one of our affiliate partners. Note that this site has no affiliation with The Walt Disney Company or its subsidiaries. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

3 Day Disneyland Itinerary

Day 1 – Explore Downtown Disney

The author McKenna Mobley posing inside the souvenir shop in Disneyland
Disney has every kind of souvenir imaginable

Spend your first day exploring Downtown Disney. Get to know the energetic Disney environment, shop for souvenirs, and eat delicious Disney treats in the downtown area. 

Because you need a full day (or more) to explore the Disneyland theme parks, this is the perfect first-day activity to kickstart your dream Disney vacation.

Arrive at Downtown Disney in the late afternoon with a big appetite. After you spend time photographing the famous Disney-themed street, head to a delicious downtown eatery like Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen or my favorite, La Brea Bakery Cafe.

After your delicious gumbo or brioche sandwich, spend the late afternoon shopping for Mickey Mouse Ears or the perfect princess dress at a downtown souvenir shop. The biggest and most popular is World of Disney, where you can find every type of Disney souvenir imaginable. 

The early evenings welcome excited visitors with a live DJ set on the weekends. This kid-friendly event invites visitors of all ages to show off their dance skills with a Disney dance-off. The evening dance session also helps you work up an appetite for an early dinner downtown. I recommend Napolini Pizzeria.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you can find Disney sweets like pretzels and ice cream on desert carts closer to the Disneyland entrance. 

Return to your Disneyland Hotel after you’ve experienced everything the magical downtown area has to offer. The Disneyland Hotel is just steps from downtown, giving you an easy commute to the theme park in the morning. 

Day 2 – Disneyland Theme Park


The author McKenna Mobley and a man taking a picture by themselves at the busy Disneyland entrance
The Disneyland entrance

Spend all of your second day at Disneyland Resort, one of the best things to do in Orange County

With so much to do and see, you will need to spend all day at the theme park to experience the magic and splendor Disneyland has to offer. You will want to arrive as early as the park opens –  at 8 am for regular visitors and 7:30 am for Disney hotel guests.

Pose for an iconic Disneyland photo in front of the historic train station and Mickey Mouse flower mosaic as soon as you enter the park. Next, stroll down the timeless Main Street and take a photo by Walt Disney’s old office above the fire station. 

I recommend reserving a locker on Main Street before you hit the rides because they typically sell out fast. You will encounter many souvenir shops along Main Street but try to resist the capitalist urge until later in the day. Rides should be your main prerogative in the morning. 

Head to the most popular rides first thing. This includes Rise of the Resistance in the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge world and the Millennium Falcon ride at the opposite end of the Star Wars land. 

Next, make your way to either Adventureland to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or walk across the park to Tomorrowland to experience the adrenaline of Space Mountain, both popular Disneyland rides. While in this area of the park, get in line for Star Tours, the original Star Wars ride at Disneyland.

Although these few rides don’t seem like much, they will comprise most of your morning when considering wait times. 

Then it’s time for a snack break. Try the various snack carts around the park like the pretzel or churro carts to temporarily curb your appetite.

👉 Pro Tip: Visit “Town Hall” at the beginning of Main Street to reserve a wheelchair, book a private tour or get a special celebration pin.


The author McKenna Mobley with her father and crowds at the Main Street during the holiday season
My dad & I on Main Street in Disneyland

After your late morning snack, head back to Adventureland to dodge boulders on a four-wheel drive journey on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride. This ride is a classic and shouldn’t be missed; unless it breaks down (which it frequently does).

The famous Pirates of the Caribbean ride is just a short walk from Indiana Jones. Plummet to the bottom of a world removed from the bayou as a series of kid-friendly drops brings you to the belly of a true Pirates of the Caribbean experience. 

By now you may be hungry for lunch. Right next to Pirates is the Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square. This casual restaurant serves gumbo in bread bowls and even has a vegan gumbo option.

After a delicious afternoon lunch, walk to the Haunted Mansion ride, another Disneyland classic. The Haunted Mansion holiday decor is one of the best sites in the whole park, so you may want to plan your visit to the park during the holidays.

By now, you’re practically finished with this corner of Disneyland. Make your way back to Main Street to take a break from the rides and do some souvenir shopping. This is a great time to pick up some Mickey Mouse Ears or a pick-me-up from the disguised Starbucks Cafe on the corner of the lockers. 


The author McKenna Mobley with her family during Christmas Season in Disneyland

If you need a quick nap, the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln show is a great place to do so. The air-conditioned theater showcases a short film about Abraham Lincoln but it is most visited by park-goers who need a place to nap.

Next, make your way to Fantasy Land. The rides in this area cater to children but it is also nostalgic for adults. Here, you will find the Storybook Land Canal Boats, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Mad Tea Party teacups, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough exhibit.

Don’t forget to check out a classic Disney parade. Showtimes are typically 8:45 pm and 10 pm but check online or ask a Disney cast member beforehand because showtimes frequently change. 

Many people clear out after the parade, making this the perfect time for a crowd-free dinner. There are several tasty restaurants on Main Street like Plaza Inn and Carnation Cafe but my favorite eatery is Pizza Planet in Tomorrowland.

Don’t miss the Disneyland fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle each night, weather permitting. This is the best way to end your Disneyland day with a bang. 

Day 3 – California Adventure & Disneyland 


A man posing in front of The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Land during daytime
The Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Land

Disney California Adventure is one of the top activities to do in California. The same early start recommendation applies in California Adventure as it does in Disneyland. Get to the park as soon as it opens so you can enjoy the most popular rides without long wait times.

Start your third Disney morning off with a brisk stroll down Buena Vista Street, the 1920s-themed main street in California Adventure. While you may be tempted to spend time taking photos here, I recommend getting to the most popular ride in the park, Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land, before the wait time exceeds 90 minutes.

After that thrilling race, head on over to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout ride, formerly known as the Tower of Terror. Feel your stomach in your throat as your elevator plummets three stories down into a pitch-black abyss.

After these main California Adventure rides, it’s time for a snack. You will find similar snack carts around the park as in Disneyland. I like the cheesy fries from Cars Land or an ice cream cone from Ghiradelli if I have a sweet tooth. 


Head to the Incredicoaster in the afternoon before lunch. This thrilling coaster takes you upside-down so it’s best to ride on an empty stomach. Next, make your way down the Pixar Pier and try your luck at the Toy Story Mania shooting game.

Head back towards the entrance to end the day with one of the best rides in the park, Soarin’ Over the World. This California Adventure classic takes visitors above the clouds and around the world. The aerial-movie adventure is one of the greatest Disneyland classics.

You can wait to have lunch in Disneyland or dine at a California Adventure restaurant like Flo’s V8 Cafe and Paradise Garden Grill.  


Illuminated Pixar Fest signage above the entrance gate in Disneyland during nighttime
(photo: Zane Vergara / Shutterstock)

Disney California Adventure is relatively smaller than Disneyland Park, so head back to Disneyland in the evening to get on the rides you missed the previous day. 

This is the perfect time to revisit some of your favorite rides like the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones Adventure, the Storybook Land Canal Boats, and Splash Mountain. Evenings are significantly less crowded than mornings and afternoons in Disneyland, so wait times won’t be a problem now.

If your objective is to hit the rides you missed, start with a rigid ride on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, followed by a submerged ride on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. If you have enough energy after these, hit the Circus Train or Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters with your little ones.

You may be able to catch the Star Wars dance-off and live band play just outside of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage ride in the early evening. There is also a diner in this area where you can stop for dinner, or head back to Pizza Port near Space Mountain.

End the day with a ride on the classic It’s a Small World ride. You might also be able to see a Christmas spectacular show projected It’s a Small World if you go during the holidays. 

One of the best shows, Fantasmic, may also be playing while you’re at the park. Check the schedule ahead of time for a chance to see this ageless classic. 

Catch one more parade on your way out or stay until the fireworks have ended. If it’s not too cold, you might even want to stop for a cone of Dryers Ice Cream on Main Street for dessert. 

Where to Stay Near Disneyland

Best Hotels 

Aerial view of the extreme rides at Disneyland Park in Anaheim during sunset

There are some unique places to stay in Disneyland. Because Disneyland is one of the top theme parks in California, Anaheim caters to tourism and offers visitors plenty of hotels and rental options. DoubleTree Suites is my favorite option for saving money and the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel is the cutest boutique in the area. 

Guests who stay at one of the official Disneyland resorts are granted earlier access to the parks than other guests. These include Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, and Paradise Pier Hotel. Staying here is a great option to maximize the chance of getting on the best rides first.

Best Neighborhoods & Areas

Sunset skyline view of the illuminated Anaheim Hills area
Anaheim Hills during a magnificent sunset

While it may be the most convenient option to stay in one of Disneyland’s three hotels, it isn’t the most budget-friendly. There are hundreds of hotels in surrounding neighborhoods like the tourist-free Anaheim Hills neighborhood and the Anaheim Resort Area.

The Anaheim Resort Area hosts the largest number of hotels in Anaheim, so you are sure to find open accommodation there. The Anaheim Colony Historic District is another great neighborhood to stay in but is a little farther from the theme park. It does house the best restaurants in town, however.

You will find the most budget-friendly options in Southwest Anaheim, which is also within walking distance of the parks.

  • Anaheim Hills (Search apartments in Anaheim Hills) – This Anaheim neighborhood offers visitors some peace and quiet. Its hillside establishments offer the best aerial view of the Disneyland town below and are the perfect place to stay for those looking to escape Disney chaos. 
  • Anaheim Resort Area (Search apartments in Anaheim Resort Area) – Here you will find the most hotels in the area. Your options are not limited in the Resort Area, from luxurious 5-star hotels to budget accommodation options.
  • Anaheim Colony Historic District (Search apartments in Anaheim Colony Historic District) – This Anaheim neighborhood is perhaps the most family-friendly area near Disneyland. There is a multitude of restaurants, public parks, and breweries. 
  • Southwest Anaheim (Search apartments in Southwest Anaheim) – This Disneyland neighborhood is the most densely populated area in Anaheim. You will find most of the local action here like entertainment venues, delicious cuisine, and the local schools.

👉 Keep Reading: Where to Stay in Los Angeles (Best Areas & Hotels)

How to Get Around Disneyland

A closeup photo of the author McKenna Mobley and a man posing on the main street during the Christmas season

The main way to get around Disneyland is to walk, but there are also motorized ways to get around the park. 

One of the most popular modes of transportation in Disneyland is the Monorail. There are two stops in Disneyland, in Tomorrowland by the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and in Downtown Disney. It runs every 10 minutes and is the most efficient way to exit the park.

Another great way to get around Disneyland is by riding the Disneyland Railroad. With multiple stations around the park, the Disneyland Railroad is the best way to efficiently get from one land to the next. There are also secret sets and attractions along the way for railroad riders only, making the railroad an ideal pastime. 

I like to take either the train or Monorail when the Southern California weather has taken a sour turn at Disneyland. This is a great pastime to wait out the weather. To avoid a wet and unpleasant Disney experience, research the best time to visit Disneyland for prime weather.

Disneyland Itinerary Planning Tips

Tip #1 – Order Food Through the App

View inside the busy restaurant from the top floor of Disneyland during the Christmas season
A photo of the Golden Nugget in Disneyland from the top floor

Never wait in a long food line again by ordering your food to go through the Disneyland App. This frees up time so you can go on more rides after you devour your delicious entre. 

App reservations can be made for most Disney restaurants except the ones that take reservations months in advance like the Blue Bayou.

Tip #2 – Use Free Transportation When Tired

You will often find me on the Disneyland Railroad when I’m tired of walking around the park. I like to take the train around the whole park but you can get off at any station.  

The Mark Twain Riverboat is another great activity to do when you’re tired. Although you can’t get off around the park, this round-trip steamboat ride will take you to sites that are only accessible via boat. 

🏰 Planning a Visit to Disney World? Katie is Travel Lemming’s Orlando local and writes tons of Disney World guides, including a fantastic Disney World itinerary to follow!

Tip #3 – Skip the Lightning Lane

Disneyland has officially replaced Fast Passes with Lightning Lane passes. They are essentially the same but can only be accessed via the app and come with a fee.

These skip-the-line passes are now $17 per person per ride. I recommend saving some money and not paying for Lightning Lane. Instead, get to the park early to go on the most popular rides first.

Tip #4 – Make a Reservation

Everyone needs a reservation to visit Disneyland. Not to be confused with a purchased ticket, reservations are a separate necessity.

You can still purchase your entrance ticket at the gate but each guest is required to show their online reservation for entry access. Don’t make the mistake of showing up to the theme park without a reservation because you just might be turned away. 

Tip #5 – Reserve a Locker at Disneyland

Façade of "It's a Small World" castle in Disneyland during daytime

Lockers are helpful for storing your souvenirs and other excess gear that you don’t want to haul around the park.

There are two locker stations in Disneyland. One is right outside of the main Disneyland gate and the other is on Main Street by Starbucks. I recommend storing your goods in the Main Street lockers so you don’t have to exit and re-enter the park every time.

Tip #6 – Go Single Rider

Skip the long lines and get on your favorite rides faster by going in the single-rider line. Although you won’t be sitting next to your friends and family, this Disneyland loophole allows you to turn a two-hour wait into a 15-minute one.

This is especially helpful on crowded rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Indiana Jones Adventure, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight.

Tip #7 – Wear Comfortable Walking Shoes

The author McKenna Mobley posing for a photo near the trolley tracks on Main Street in Disneyland

You will likely rack up 3-10 miles during a full day at Disneyland. Make sure you wear your most comfortable walking shoes when you visit this Walt Disney Company theme park. 

My favorite walking shoes are Salomons. These comfy shoes give me happy feet and allow me to explore Disneyland all day without feeling lethargic.

For more tips on what to bring, see Katie’s guide to packing for Disney.

Tip #8 – Bring Your Own Food to Save Money

Disney treats are extremely tasty but they come with a hefty price tag. I recommend bringing your own lunch and dinner to save some serious money on theme park food.

The snacks aren’t too expensive, however, and should be tried at least once. Try a Dole Whip pineapple ice cream cone by the Jungle Cruise ride or a famous gumbo bread bowl from Cafe Orleans. 

Tip #9 – Don’t Miss Oga’s Cantina on Your Disneyland Itinerary

The new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land is one of the most visited areas in Disneyland. The set magic is spectacular and you feel like you’ve been transported to a galaxy far far away.

Oga’s Cantina is a bar that resembles the cantina from the early Star Wars movies. It is by far one of the coolest places in Disneyland and can’t be missed. The alcoholic drinks resemble drinks from the movies and the decor is out of this world.

Tip #10 – Stock Up on Shows in Your Free Time

A sunny crowded day in the street of Fantasyland in Disneyland
A photo I took of a crowded day in Fantasyland

This itinerary includes some of the main Disneyland shows but there are many more to choose from. If you have free time in your Disney schedule, I recommend stopping by Disney classics like World of Color, the Dapper Dans, the Aladdin show, and Storytelling at Royal Theatre.

Tip #11 – Buy a Multi-Day Disneyland Ticket

You will save money by buying a multi-day ticket as opposed to separate one-day tickets. Depending on which days you choose to visit Disneyland, you may save upwards of $20. 

I recommend purchasing your multi-day tickets online so you can consult the Disney calendar and compare the prices of the cheapest days to go.

Tip #12 – Don’t Visit Disneyland During Grad Night

Many Southern California high schools and middle schools celebrate their graduation at Disneyland. The parks are incredibly crowded at this time and they even close early so the graduates can have a dance party to themselves.

Research when Grad Night is ahead of time (typically in May/June), and plan your Disney trip around that time. There’s nothing worse than getting unexpectedly kicked out of the park when you hoped to stay until closing. 

Tip #13 – Make a Reservation at the Blue Bayou Months in Advance 

Dine with flickering fireflies by your side at the Blue Bayou inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This romantic restaurant is one of the most popular in the park but is also one of the hardest to get a reservation for.

Reserve seats months in advance for your chance to try Southern cuisine inside a Disneyland ride. Be sure to wave to the riders as they float past.

Tip #14 – Enjoy Free Chocolate and Bread in California Adventure

A Disney tip not many people know about is the free chocolate and bread samples that are given out on California Adventure’s Pacific Wharf.

Try a sample of a steaming hot slice of sourdough bread, baked fresh that morning, or a mouthwatering square of caramel-filled Ghirardelli chocolate to curb your appetite. It tastes even better because it’s free.

Tip #15 – Stay off Property to Save Money

View of the illuminated Disneyland Castle from a distance during nighttime
A nighttime perspective of the castle

The three official Disneyland hotels are spectacular accommodations and give guests early entry into the parks but they are also extremely expensive. I recommend staying at a non-Disney-affiliated hotel to save money on accommodation.

There are budget-friendly options all around Anaheim, some within walking distance of the park and others only a short rideshare ride away. 


This 3-day Disneyland itinerary allows you to fully explore the entertainment and attractions of the two theme parks. While you’re here, check out even more of the best places to visit in California!

Enjoy your Disneyland itinerary!

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  1. Dear Writer,
    Thank you so much to share your experience. They are very helpful for me.
    We plan to visit Disney next year in first week of May, but we don’t have time to visit all parks. We also have grandma to join our trip. Are there the parking spaces in Disney? Because We plan to stay outside Disney about 20 mins drive from the hotel. If you have any advices (hotels, etc) please to hear from you.
    Advance Thank you.
    Best Regards,

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