Headed to Disneyland alone?
When I found out I was going to Disneyland by myself for a work conference, I was SUPER excited to check out the parks- but also, admittedly, a bit nervous to visit as a solo adult. Ultimately, though, I had an ABSOLUTE blast at the resort. Here are some tips and tricks I picked up along the way to make the most of going to Disneyland alone.
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Tips for Going to Disneyland Alone Before You Get to the Park
1. Buy your tickets online.
There are few things I hate more than waiting in a line so why do it unnecessarily?
Pick up your tickets before you go online to save yourself the hassle once you get to the park. It also gives you time to figure out whether you want to check out Disneyland by itself or pick up a Park Hopper Pass, which lets you hit up both the original park and California Adventure, which has a more mature (ahem, alcohol is sold at this park), boardwalk vibe to it.
At the time I’m writing this, tickets to one park start around $83 and max out at $244, depending on the date. Adding the Park Hopper Pass will add an extra $65 to your ticket price.
I originally balked at the price and SERIOUSLY did not want to spend any extra money on a Park Hopper pass. At the end of the day, though, I thought I might get bored if I just stayed at Disneyland- and since I’m not sure when I’ll be headed back, I ultimately coughed up the extra money.
For me, this was an awesome decision- I hit everything in both parks I really wanted to see. However, if you like going at a slower pace or are have a ton of stuff in one particular park you’re prioritizing, a one-park pass might make more sense for you.
Tip- I am a born and bred bargain hunter. However, despite persistently combing the Internet for cheaper tickets, I eventually realized that, except in super limited circumstances (e.g., for military, through certain teachers’ unions, and conferences, like the one I attended- here’s a pretty comprehensive guide), Disney does not offer discounted tickets for single days. However, you CAN often find discounts if you plan on staying for more than one day, especially if you bundle your tickets with your hotel stay. For example, check out the packages at Get Away Today- plus out awesome readers will get $10 off packages when you use the promo code "UPROOTED"!
2. Download the Disneyland app.
Once you order your ticket, you won’t have to stand in line at will-call at the park’s ticket counter if you either (1) print your ticket or (2) have your eticket on your mobile device.
With your smartphone, you can link your purchased tickets with the free Disneyland app (so you don’t have to worry about losing a printed ticket or digging through your email to find the right confirmation email), which a park attendant can directly scan when you hit the gate. The app also has plenty of other cool features, like an interactive map, the ability to make dining reservations, and real time wait times on the rides.
You can also buy Genie+ through the app, which starts at an additional $25 per ticket per day (but fluctuates based on the date and park).
One of the features of Genie+ is that you can select the next available times for Lightning Lane entrances for certain rides, which effectively allows you to skip the majority of the line at some of Disneyland’s most popular attractions, similar to the park’s former FastPass system (more on that in a bit!). If you’re looking to maximize your time while in the parks, it might be worth it to spring for Genie+.
Tip- You will be using your phone a LOT while you’re at the park- both while using the Disneyland app and to keep yourself occupied while you’re waiting in line, so be sure to bring along a battery pack to keep your phone charged.
Tips for Going to Disneyland Alone Once You Enter the Park
3. Accept that all of the adults around you are total dorks and thus, you are among friends.
After entering the park, I immediately felt INCREDIBLY self-conscious about going to Disneyland alone, a park that is largely marketed towards small children. Of course, it didn’t help that the first three people I interacted with at Disneyland were all quick to ask me “Oh, are you here by yourself?”.
After getting my bearings, though, and taking a step back, I realized that 40-50% of Disneyland attendees appeared to adults, 100% sans children. From retired couples to bachelorette parties (I even saw a bachelor party!) to honeymooners, there were TONS of adults hanging out and enjoying the park without kiddos, happy as can be.
Not only that, most of these individuals (who likely have professional careers and maturely developed personal lives) were totally and unabashedly embracing the whimsy of the park, from wearing personalized mouse ears to Disney themed outfits- I even witnessed a proposal in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
At the end of the day, the thirty year old man casually donning a hat that looks like Goofy’s face is most likely not judging you for checking out “It’s a Small World” by your lonesome. Once I leaned into the dorkiness of it all, I stopped feeling so uncomfortable and was able to get carried away by the wonderful nostalgia of the park.
Tip- If you’re feeling extra uneasy about flying solo at Disney, try to avoid rides or activities that are heavily marketed towards children. For example, one of my first stops in the park was "Breakfast with Minnie", because it was the only spot in the park to get vegan waffles. Boy, oh, boy, was this an awkward introduction to the park. This was the ONLY place in the park that I felt wildly outnumbered by families with little kids and where I vacillated between trying to hide from the characters circulating the restaurant and being offended that none of them came over to greet me. While delicious, the waffles just weren't worth it, y'all.
4. Have an action plan.
Coming into the park, I had the vague idea that I would spend the first part of the day in Disneyland and end it in Disneyland’s cooler, older sister, California Adventure. I had a loose idea of the rides I wanted to hit, but hadn’t really developed a plan as to how to squeeze everything in.
At the beginning of the day, I basically made a list of all the rides I wanted to try in Disneyland and, based on my priorities, zig-zagged around the park, without any regard to the ride’s geographic location. This was incredibly dumb and definitely my biggest mistake while at the resort.
While Disneyland itself is not that big, it’s absolutely brimming with shops and restaurants and characters, all built in concentric circles (check out a map here), so it may be unsurprising to hear that it is epically easy to get pretty turned around in the park.
Instead of crisscrossing the park like a maniac, take advantage of the layout and methodically hit up the “themed lands” in a circular pattern.
After my trip, I found out that conventional wisdom is to hit the themed lands starting from the right and working counter-clockwise (i.e., starting in Tomorrowland, working towards Fantasyland). However, I’d recommend hitting Tomorrowland and then working my way clockwise (i.e., heading over to Adventureland after Tomorrowland).
In my opinion, the south and southwest portion of park is pretty disproportionately stocked with the more adult-friendly rides, like Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure, Star Tours- the Adventure Continues, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, so it’s best to hit these areas up early before the park gets more crowded (and HOT) as the day wears on.
Tip #1- Like most places, lines were way, way shorter at the beginning of the day. So hit up the park as soon as it opens (at 8 am) to maximize your riding pleasure. Tip #2- Wear comfy shoes! I walked over 30 THOUSAND steps during my trip to the parks, which is several thousand more than when my husband and I have been to large cities in Europe, like Paris and Amsterdam.
5. Single rider lines are your new best friends.
You know how I said I felt kind of weird at first going to Disneyland alone? It definitely helps that being a single person lets you do something magical- skip the vast majority of the line on some of Disneyland and California Adventure’s best rides!
In order to cut down on wasted empty seats, certain rides have a “single rider” line, filling in the gaps on rides for uneven parties. Not only does this significantly cut down on your wait time (I never waited more than 20 minutes on a single rider line and once literally got to walk on to a ride), this perk is available for most of my favorite rides.
At the time I’m writing this, single rider lines are available at:
- Disneyland: Matterhorn Bobsleds; Space Mountain; Millennium Falcon, Smuggler’s Run
- California Adventure: Grizzly River Run; Incredicoaster; Goofy’s Sky School; Radiator Springs Racers, Soarin’ Around the World, Web Slingers- A Spiderman Adventures
Although the rides that have this benefit are clearly marked on the map, finding the single rider entrance can be a little tricky (and often feel a bit off as you either enter through the exit or through the handicap entrance).
If you can’t readily find where to enter, just ask a staff member (who, by the way, are cheekily called “cast members”)- they were all incredibly nice and helpful during my time there.
6. Lightning Lanes may be your best friend.
Since not all rides have the single rider lines, you can’t always skip the lines. Or can you?
Of the most adult-friendly rides at the parks that don’t have the single rider perk, almost all of them, like Splash Mountain or the Haunted Mansion, have Lightning Lanes (you can see the full list of rides here).
As mentioned above, access to Lightning Lane entrances will allow you to bypass the line for a ride, if you arrive during the assigned timeframe.
There’s two different ways you can get access to Lightning Lanes:
- You can purchase Genie+ on a per day basis, either when you initially buy your ticket or when you enter the park through the Disneyland app. This will allow you to select available times for Lightning Lanes, one at a time, for as many rides as you like while you’re in the park (although you are limited to one Lightning Lane entrance per ride per day).
- Alternatively, you can still buy access to up to two Lightning Lanes per day, even if you don’t purchase Genie+.
It’s worth noting that purchasing access to Lightning Lanes individually will provide you access to a different set of rides than Genie+ will.
The cost of individual Lightning Lanes will vary, depending on the ride and the date, but usually range between $17 and $25 per person per ride. As noted above, Genie+ will generally cost $25 per person per day (for one park), but pricing may fluctuate, based on demand.
Accordingly, if you have a limited in the park or just want to minimize the amount of time you spend waiting in line, I’d recommend considering purchasing Genie+, given that you’ll usually get a lot more value than buying Lightning Lane entrances individually.
For example, if you purchase Genie+, you can get Lightning Lane passes to the following rides in Disneyland that are geared towards adult guests: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones Adventure, Millennium Falcon, Smugglers Run, Star Tours- The Adventure Continues, and Space Mountain.
On the other hand, the only ride in Disneyland for which you can buy an individual Lightning Lane pass that’s geared more towards adults is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Given this is one of the most popular rides in the park, I’ve read that Lightning Lanes usually cost around $25 for this particular ride.
So, for the same $25 price, you can either get Genie+, with Lightning Lane access to eight awesome rides or get an individual Lightning Lane entrance for JUST the Rise of the Resistance.
Star Wars is cool and all, but if going on the Rise of the Resistance is THAT important to you, I’d suggest just beating the crowds by heading there as soon as you enter the park.
Tip- You may have noticed that several of the rides with Genie+ Lightning Lines also happen to have single rider lines. Given that waiting at a Lightning Lane entrance is typically shorter than a single rider line, I'd suggest using your one allotted Lightning Line entrance for that ride first. Then, if you want to come back and ride it again, you can always skip the majority of the line by entering the single rider line!
7. Prioritize the big kids’ rides.
Part of Disneyland’s charm is its mega-whimsical, nostalgic nature so if you want to go all in on the old school Alice In Wonderland tea cup and flying Dumbo type rides, I totally get it.
However, Disneyland has some pretty awesome rides that cater to an older audience as well. Since I was only spending a day there, I could really only pick the rides that I REALLY wanted to go on and I was pleasantly surprised by almost all of them.
My picks for best rides at Disneyland include: Space Mountain, Indiana Jones Adventure (SO COOL!), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Rise of the Resistancce, and Splash Mountain (with its trippy visuals and folksy singalong vibes, this ride seems like something straight out of Burning Man); I also hear good things about the Matterhorn Bobsleds but it was unfortunately closed for renovations when I went.
For California Adventure, I’d recommend checking out Soarin’ Around the World, Radiator Springs Racers, The Incredicoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, and Grizzly River Run.
Disney is known for its imagination and innovation and each ride boasts its own unique, inventive vibe that is truly a joy to partake in.
8. People watch, to infinity and beyond.
During my evening there, I needed a little break from the rides, so I sat on the newly redesigned Pixar Pier, the boardwalk running through California Adventure, and just people watched and quietly sipped a beer for probably around an hour.
Disneyland (and perhaps, even more so, California Adventure) is absolutely stuffed with interesting folks I wouldn’t pinpoint on the street as being Disney enthusiasts. So many rockabilly chicks and punk-rockers- these parks are just brimming with everyone from guys who look like muscleheads to dudes proudly displaying their Star Wars tats, all while confidently and non-ironically rocking those famous mouse ears.
Tip- Although you can’t sip a beer in regular ol’ Disneyland (no alcohol is sold in the original park), you can take people watching to a whole new level there by hanging out around Club 33, the super-exclusive members-only club for Disneyland’s most VIP guests. Annual fees for the club are rumored to be around $30,000 and Tom Hanks and Kanye West are believed to be members. Even if you don’t have a celebrity-sighting here, New Orleans Square is totally gorgeous (a deadringer for one of my most favorite cities), so definitely a great place to people-watch nonetheless.
9. Take advantage of your surroundings.
I had an absolute blast going on rides at Disney, but I also really just enjoyed being at the parks themselves. Both Disneyland and California Adventure are totally pristine and with an insane attention-to-detail throughout, it’s impossible not to be blown away by the aesthetics, whether you’re a design lover like me (be sure to check out Carsland in California Adventure, a design nerd’s paradise) or if you’re a botanical enthusiast.
It’s not infrequent to turn a corner and run into a barbershop quartet or even a parade being marshalled by Mickey himself. The parks are full of stimuli, from fun food and interesting smells to weird social dynamics and nostalgic throwbacks.
Although your tastes are surely different than mine, I enjoyed scoping out the following things at the Disney resort:
- Trying to find the weirdest Mickey ears worn by people (props goes out to the goth-looking lass with ears made of spiderwebs and dripping with plastic arachnids)
- Finding and consuming as many Mickey-shaped vegan things as possible
- Congratulating every bride and/or groom from the bachelor/bachelorette parties and honeymooners
- Collecting as many free Disneyland pins as possible (I got mine at my ill-fated character breakfast, City Hall in Disneyland and the Chamber of Commerce in California Adventure; you can get them for being a first time visitor or for celebrating pretty much anything under the sun)
- Hunting down the best craft beer at California Adventure (in my opinion, the winner goes to Karl Strauss Mosaic Session IPA!)
Figure out what piques your interest about the parks (perhaps trying to track down the parks’ infamous feral cats?) and see where your Disney adventure takes you!
10. Finding an Adult Escape.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by kiddos, I’d first tell you to head over to California Adventure, which is unmistakable geared more towards an older crowd.
If even that is too child-infested to your liking, you can always escape the parks for a bit and check out Downtown Disney, an area full of upscale shops, restaurants, and bars that far and away have a much more mature vibe than the parks.
A stand-out for me was the nightly live jazz at Jazz Kitchen and Coastal Bistro (check out the performance schedule here).
Alternatively, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar was one of the best tiki bars I’ve ever been to. Just make sure to go when it first opens at 4 pm to snag a seat at the bar (note that Sam’s is a little bit further outside the parks by the Disneyland Hotel, but easily within walking distance or perhaps even by the trusty monorail?).
11. Get some Dole Whip.
If all else fails, make sure to end your day with a serving of the infamous Dole Whip, an airy soft-serve pineapple cup of pure unadulterated (and non-dairy!) joy. Considering you just walked 30,000 steps, may have spotted Kanye, and totally gamed the single rider line perk, treat yourself with a Dole Whip float, with the tangy frozen confection smothered with pineapple juice and topped with a maraschino cherry and a tropical umbrella.
You can get it at the Tiki Juice Bar in the park itself or at The Coffee Shop at the Disneyland Hotel, where they’ll even add in a splash of rum for you. Sit back and drink in the last of that delicious Disneyland goodness.
There you have it- I would 100% recommend going to Disneyland alone and can’t wait to see what’s the next solo adventure I’ll have. Do you have any tips or tricks on how to enjoy going to Disneyland alone? Let me know in the comments below!