How Long Should We Stay at Disneyland

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Features, Park Wise

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Published on November 21, 2013 at 2:00 am with 34 Comments

Last week we chatted about length of stay at Walt Disney World.  What works at Disney World doesn’t always match what you should do at Disneyland. . . so I gabbed with some Disney geek friends about the perfect vacation length at Disneyland.

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Cost and Vacation Time

Like we decided last week, these are two factors that play a part when planning pretty much any vacation.  Again, at Disneyland the difference between a couple days and a week could add anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars to your bill depending on your accommodations.  Additionally, when looking at vacation time, there is so much to do in Southern California that while you may have been happy spending your week exclusively at Walt Disney World, you might decide that part of your vacation will be spent at the beach or other California attractions leaving just a few days for your Disney fix.

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A Weekend

Since Disneyland has two parks, I often have people ask if they can do it in a weekend.  Yes, you can do it in a weekend.  Can you do it all in a weekend?  Heck no!  In fact, I’m going to say you probably won’t even get half of the attractions done in a weekend.  Although Disneyland offers fewer parks than it’s East Coast counterpart, those two parks are packed to the gills with attractions, restaurants and more.  If you only have a weekend, it’s a great starting point, and I’d never tell anyone not to spend a weekend at the Happiest Place on Earth, but just know you’ll be back.

Get Park Wise: Only have a weekend?  Make the most of your days by arriving at park opening to get as much done as you can in the morning before the late sleepers start rolling in for the day.

A Long Weekend

If you’re looking at what to do on your next four-day weekend, this seems to be a great amount of time to spend at Disneyland.  This allows you to really explore the parks and maybe even hit a few favorites more than once.  Park-hopping is perfect for this length of stay or longer because it allows you the most flexibility.

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Get Park Wise: Consider a Disney Resort or a hotel within walking distance because with four days in Anaheim, you could even take a little time out of the parks to enjoy an afternoon at your resort pool or other activities then head back in for dinner, fireworks and a few rides.

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A Week (or More)

If you’ve got seven days to spend at Disneyland, you’re sittin’ pretty.  This will not only allow you to probably see everything on your list, but you can do it at a leisurely pace.  You can sleep late a day or two or maybe enjoy some slow-paced meals at your favorite table service restaurants.  While the park day tickets get cheaper the longer you stay, the hotel room nights will start to add up, so definitely do a little comparison shopping (or get a great travel agent to do that for you) before committing to a week at Disneyland.

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Often considered the locals’ parks, many Disneyland fans just hit the parks for the day, but with more and more attractions and resort refurbishments, the California Disney offering is quickly becoming a total vacation destination.  When you make a vacation of it, how long do you stay?  Or if you’re strictly a day-tripper, how long do you suggest visiting friends and family set aside to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth?

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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34 Comments

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  1. A MINIMUM for us is 2-3 FULL days at DL and 1.5-2 days at DCA. During non peak crowds this gets us on most attractions along with repeats on our favorites. In the middle we do an extra park in the middle (Rotating Knotts and Universal each trip). A trip to LA/Hollywood is also a must on a day or two. Enjoying new things or favorites like: The Getty, LAMOMA, Star Homes / TMZ tour, the Grove, Melrose ave, rodeo drive, Santa Monica pier/5th st promenade , Chinese theater, paramount/warner brothers studio tours, tv show tapings, gene Autry cowboy museum. Griffith observatory, Catalina island, queen Mary, etc. Side trips I consider requiring another hotel in another area include Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Magic mountain and Santa Barbra. And if a once-in-a-lifetime trip from another state or country, multi-day side trips to Yosemite or San Francisco.

    • So much to do in the area (well, the entire state!). Thanks for some suggestions!

  2. One thing you should really mention is that the longest duration Disneyland ticket available is a 5 day ticket. This means if you are trying to stay for a week, you either have to purchase a 5 day and a 2 day (considerably more expensive than a 7 day to WDW would be) or an annual pass. This is a huge cost factor to consider if you stay longer than 5 days.

    • Could you get a five-day pass but slip in a couple days doing other things (Knotts, etc.) – so you have a week at a hotel, but only five days in the Disney parks?

    • This is a great point! Sometimes I think that people can read my mind. If you’ve read my columns, you know I’m a fan of a “down day” or two, so if spending a week at Disneyland, you can definitely get by with a 5-day ticket in that respect.

  3. I always do a full 10 nights in Anaheim. Usually 6 days at Disney which is plenty of time to check out the entertainment, dining, attractions. And the other 3 days will be spent at Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld San Diego and Universal Studios Hollywood. If I only did Disney for a Weekend or a few days I would be rushing around too much. And I much prefer to take my time and enjoy everything at a casual pace.

    • Sounds like a nice vacation!

  4. I just want to add that the Disney Good Neighbor hotels are a lot cheaper than the Disney Hotel, and quite walkable to the resort. I book three nights at the Tropicana on Harbor when I take my adult son with autism – we do three day Park Hoppers (although only two real “days” in the parks as by the time we fly in, get to the hotel, etc. it is afternoon, and early afternoon our last day we have to start driving to my folks in the Inland Empire to beat traffic – and avoid nighttime driving). Of course, this was back when we could get a GAC for my son…..we’d probably have to budget an extra day or so using a DAS to cover the same amount of Joe-desired rides etc.

    Traffic and parking can eat up a lot of time and money. Either stay within
    walking distance of the resort, or pick a hotel that runs a shuttle to the park.

    • Very true! At Disneyland, it’s far less important to stay at a Disney resort than it is at Walt Disney World. You could easily be closer to a park at an off-property resort than you are at a Disney owned and operated one.

  5. I have to agree slightly with this article. IF you don’t have kids, 1-2 days at Disneyland is great and you can easily do most of the attractions at both parks. I have, more than once taken large group trips to Disneyland with friends, and even with high crowd levels we were able to do almost everything in the park (Disneyland only) in a single day as long as we stayed open to close. We were even able to see the parade, fireworks and fantasmic. If we had 2 days, we could have easily done DCA. Disneyland and DCA can easily be conquered, having done a majority of the attractions in 1-2 days.

    If you do have kids, definitely go for 3-4 days. I took my daughter (6) for the 1st time in October and after 2.5 days at the park, I felt like we could have done more, that said, we did A LOT and many things we rode multiple times. We took it slow, very much different from how we do it on “adults only” trips, because we can stay in the park the entire time it’s open.

    • Some great thoughts! Thanks for sharing this week!

  6. My perfect week at Disneyland is based on 5-day Park Hoppers, I have been using the same itinerary for the last 5 years and have found no reason to change it so far. =)
    We arrive Sunday afternoon, check-in get settled and relax, dip in pool, dinner and then, if we are not to tired from the days travels(which really doesn’t matter once the excitement of being so close to Disneyland kicks in!), Disneyland that night for a few favorite rides, maybe Fantasmic! and fireworks.
    Monday is a full day at Disneyland with a mid day break, planned expertly right after Splash Mountain, back to the Hotel for some pool time and rest.
    Tuesday is a full day at DCA, with the same mid day break after… you guessed it! Grizzly River Run.
    Wednesday is Beach day or any other Cali attraction we want to see. We usually drive down to Dana Point, my home town, and walk around the harbor. That night is spent in Downtown Disney for drinks(Trader Sam’s), dinner(Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen), and maybe a movie.
    Thursday is kind of a make up day for both parks, rides we haven’t made it on yet, shows, restaurants, and shopping. This is a good Magic Morning day too.
    Friday is a great day to sleep in! Our last park day is of course spent at Disneyland.
    We usually leave right after the fireworks… Goodbye Disneyland! =(
    Saturday we check-out and travel home, already dreaming of our next trip back!

    • Where do you live now?

      • In Colorado, 10 to 11 long hours away from Disneyland.

    • Sounds like that would be a great schedule to build on or tweak for many visitors. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  7. Being a DL local I have attempted to do all attractions in one day…it takes one and a quarter days (winter days) to finish everything it is possible to do the entire resort with a family in about 3 days.

    • Interesting. Seems like it would take longer than that to do every attraction in both parks, especially with wait times involved.

  8. My boyfriend & I keep talking about doing a weekend at Disneyland sometime but he thinks just one day or 1.5 days is enough. NO NO NO! He gives the argument “It’s smaller than Disney World.” Yeah but it’s got twice as many attractions jammed in there. I need at least 3 or 4 days considering I haven’t been there since 1989 and want to check out all the things I missed/skipped over because I was a “too cool” teenager.

    • Don’t suppose you could show him this column?

      I feel your pain and wish you luck — I went a decade without Disneyland and finally went in 2009; haven’t gotten back since. Hence the retirement-to-Anaheim plan.

    • Dear Amy: Haven’t been since 1989?!? You must stay at least four (4) days (five would be better). Tell the BF, “9 out of 10 Disney Geeks agree.” :) There is just too much to soak up and experience, and you’ve never been to Cal Adventure, version .01, much less .02.

    • You couldn’t even get through Disneyland in one day! Tell him to suck it up, buttercup, and put his ears on!

  9. Although I agree that 3-4 days is enough to thoroughly enjoy Disneyland and California Adventure, two weeks in Southern California would just scratch the surface of the wonderful entertainment available there.

    For me the perfect Disneyland visit seems to be to relocate back to Southern California and live in a tiny room with a hot plate so I can afford an AP and visit a few hours a day, a few times a week. Not a vacation but a lifestyle!

    • 3 Days minimum for adults, 4 days minimum with kids. Back when me and my wife started going regularly in 2006, a 4 day trip was plenty long enough with a lot of relaxing time. Now it just covers the minimum with all the attractions they’ve added since then.

    • Oh, absolutely! There’s so much to do in the area that one could spend weeks and weeks there and still have things they’d want to experience!

  10. to save cash consider the Southern California CityPass at $319. It includes 3 day park hopper for DL, 1 day at Universal and 1 day at Sea World.

    Normally I take three full days to see DL and DCA. And then I’ll freak out and add another day at the last minute.

    • That’s a great option for those who are planning to venture past the pixie-dusted gates of Disney! And, yes, no matter which Disney resort I’m visiting, I always have the urge for “just one more day!”

  11. Hmm lets see What are the “must do” attractions (from an adult perspective)
    DCA since its smaller: 1 Buena vista street (soaking in the atmosphere, red trolley, pic with Walt statue) 2. Soarin 3. Grizzly 4. Mermaid 5 Screemin 6. Toy Story 7. Radiator Racers 8. Tower 9. Monsters Inc 10. Animation Building and shows 11. World of Color 12. Aladdin

    Disneyland Oh boy this is a lot
    1. Main street (atmosphere, cinema, Mr Lincoln)2. Tiki room 3. Jungle cruise 4. Indianajones 5. Pirates 6 . Haunted mansion 7. Splash mountain (I don’t consider Pooh a must see since every park has a similar version and Tokyo’s is far superior) 8. Thunder mountain. 9. Roger rabbit 10-14 all the classic fantasyland dark rides 15. Matterhorn 16. Nemo subs 17. Space mtn. 18 Star tours. 19 Fantasmic 20. Fireworks

    Given that you can comfortably do 10 attractions in a full day (I recently did 13 in Tokyo Disneyland and Disney sea where wait times are generally much longer) from my list you need at least 1 day for DCA and at least 2 for Disneyland. So 3 days minimum and 4 days if you want a more leisurely time and time to do other attractions that are good but I didn’t consider must do like storybook land or Rivers of America, tea cups, fantasy faire etc. Oh and I always recommend staying off site since most hotels are justacross the street. Its easy to find a nice hotel for 100-150 and some have shuttles to the resort, but you’re always better off renting a car in CA anyways.

    • Lots to do in both parks! Your list has me wishing I was headed West!

  12. Disney Resort vacations are the best! I’m a SoCal native now living in a state that requires a 5 hour drive to get to Mickey’s parking lot. Making my vacation productive as well as restorative took about 3 visits. Now I always opt for a 3 or 4 day vacation. My preference is midweek. Off-site hotels are the best bargain and, as many have stated, usually across the street. Luckily, I have family members living in the area who rarely miss an opportunity to share the cost. My work allows for afternoon or early morning drive time for better scheduling. I prefer the hotels with balconies facing the parks so when I’m really tired after the drive I can see the fireworks from the room. It’s 1 day for Disneyland, 1 day for Downtown Disney, and 1 Day for DCA. I mix and match, occasionally taking Downtown Disney in smaller doses. That way I can schedule evening offerings (World of Color, Fantasmic, Fireworks, etc.) without giving up my attractions addiction. Happily, I visit enough I can rotate evening offerings during different visits. I use this same method when I’m visiting other theme parks except I rotate those stays with the beach, museums, galleries, (Go Angels!) etc. I would be totally depressed if I had to travel farther than 1 state to get to SoCal so I feel the pain of the long distance planner.

    If my addiction gets much worse I’ll be with DobbysCloset looking for a room with my hotplate strapped to my back.

    • Maybe you two could be roomies! ;)

  13. As long as you can. I’ve found that it is easier to do the side trips first. On the occasions I have gone to Disneyland first, I’ve never made it anywhere else. Remember, it’s called a vacation. As long as you are enjoying yourself who cares about anything else?

    • Absolutely agree with this! Besides, how can you really follow up Disney? Haha!!

  14. Coming from San Francisco we usually get down to Disneyland once a year. We NEED the 5 day park hopper, especially after Carsland and BVS, for an extra day in DCA. We did other things in Southern California one year, we visited Hollywood, Sant Monica, and some other random parts of LA, but we’ve never done that again. It was nice to see once, but honestly its overrated. LA just felt like a giant parking lot. Disneyland is the only reason we need to go to Southern California for a week. Yes I am a biased and proud San Franciscan.

    • Sounds like five days is a pretty good amount of time to see the parks.