This 1-day itinerary for Disneyland with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes offers our step-by-step plan for the park using paid line-skipping. The goal is to illustrate the process of how California’s MaxPass replacement works in practice and cover the best strategy for ride reservations.
This is a theoretical day at Disneyland since there are unknowns that vary from day to day, but that’s true of literally any itinerary. Just like a normal touring plan, there’s a lot here that we can pull from past precedent, historical wait time data, and typical Lightning Lane availability and distribution times. We’ve used Genie+ at Disneyland several times already, and had extensive experience with MaxPass and FastPass before this.
If you have more questions about the basics of using Genie+ at Disneyland or how this overly complicated system works, see our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disneyland & DCA. In our estimation, it’s easier to understand Genie+ at Disneyland when seeing how it works in practice with a run-through of a day in the park…
Enter this 1-day Disneyland itinerary using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. If you’re a type A planner, hopefully this will give you some peace of mind about how Genie+ and Lightning Lanes will work on your vacation. With that said, keep in mind that there will likely be some fluidity with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes in the months to come as tweaks are made.
With this, even if you don’t understand all of the many quirks of Genie+ at Disneyland, hopefully you can mimic the broad strokes of this to come up with your own plan for making ride reservations. As a supplement to this, we’d recommend reading our Disneyland Genie+ Lightning Lane Ride Ranks. That’ll be especially helpful if you already have your own standby touring plan in mind, and just want to supplement that with Genie+ throughout your day.
Anyway, on with our 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes…
Rope Drop Arrival – If you can, we recommend arriving at Disneyland’s security checkpoints about 45 minutes before official park opening time or earlier during peak seasons.
As we cover in our Disneyland Park Opening & Rope Drop Tips, Disneyland’s turnstiles typically open well before park opening, at which time guests are allowed onto Main Street. We recommend heading immediately for the Central Plaza, in front of the Partners statue of Walt Disney & Mickey Mouse.
First Genie+ Selection – At Disneyland, you can’t make Lightning Lane selections until entering the park. This makes booking ride reservations easier, but also presents a predicament: do you start booking return times right away upon entering for rope drop, or wait a little bit?
We advise waiting until the return windows are ~30 minutes after park opening. This gives you the ability to do attractions exclusively via standby lines for the first ~90 minutes that Disneyland is open. A good approach for starting the day is by knocking out rides that don’t offer Genie+ (everything in Fantasyland) plus other attractions you might want to do more than once.
Your first pick via Genie+ should be either Space Mountain or Indiana Jones Adventure. Ideally this will be with an 8:30 am to 9:30 am return window, assuming Disneyland opens at 8 am.
Early Morning Attractions: Fantasyland – Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s better to rope drop Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Space Mountain. While those individually will have longer wait times than anything in Fantasyland, they also take more time to do.
By contrast, if you start out in Fantasyland, you can knock out at least a half-dozen short attractions that are within close proximity in minimal time. In so doing, your aggregate time-savings will be far greater than what you can accomplish by starting in Tomorrowland or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Starting in Fantasyland is also a good way to avoid this area in the middle of the day, when it’s chaotic.
Here’s the ideal order of attractions for Fantasyland:
- Peter Pan’s Flight (skip if you’re not near the front of the rope drop pack)
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
- Alice in Wonderland
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Storybook Land Canal Boats
- Casey Jr. Circus Train
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
- Mad Tea Party
You should be able to hit ~75% of the attractions in Fantasyland in the first hour Disneyland is open if you’re efficient and crowds aren’t terrible. With that said, if any of these have long lines or posted wait times above ~20 minutes, skip them. If something isn’t high priority for your party, skip it. The goal here is to ‘ride the wave’ of crowds–not to do all 9 attractions on the list.
First in Frontier or Tackle Tomorrow – Depending upon crowds and how quickly you knocked out Fantasyland, you should still have time to beat the standby crowds in either Tomorrowland or Frontier. If you’re heading towards Tomorrowland, the headliners you can expect to accomplish are Matterhorn Bobsleds and Space Mountain. If you’re heading the other direction, it’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Haunted Mansion.
We recommend doing as many of these as possible via standby because Genie+ has a no re-ride policy. Basically, focus on the attractions you might want to do more than once. If there isn’t anything you anticipate wanting to repeat, ignore this step and start using Lightning Lane reservations.
Following that, do your first Lightning Lane selection, and book either the other one of those or Matterhorn Bobsleds. Since Matterhorn is essentially in between the two, it can be easier to knock out will crossing the park.
Set Sail for Adventure – It’s still early, and lines should be short compared to what they’ll be later in the day. Take advantage of this by doing Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean via standby.
While you’re in the area, it can make sense to do Indiana Jones Adventure, either via the Lightning Lane–or standby if the line is still short or you’re visiting during the off-season.
Lunch on the Bayou – Three of our Disneyland’s most iconic restaurants are in New Orleans Square: Blue Bayou and Cafe Orleans (read our full review) are both table service restaurants, whereas French Market (read our full review) is counter service.
The latter two offer good value for money, and nice open-air outdoor seating. You can’t go wrong either way, but if you’re short on time, pick French Market. By contrast, Blue Bayou is overpriced, but arguably worth it for the experience of dining inside Pirates of the Caribbean (note: Blue Bayou will be closed from April 21, 2022 through Summer 2022. We do NOT recommend it before reopening, as there are already scrims inside the seating area.)
Before and/or after lunch, aim to accomplish Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad via Genie+ ride reservations. While in the neighborhood of Splash Mountain, do the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Alternating Afternoon Attractions – The middle of the afternoon is when Disneyland sees its longest lines, making this a great time to enjoy some of the gems of Disneyland that go unnoticed by most guests while waiting to redeem Genie+ Lightning Lane selections.
Options here include Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and the adjacent Disney Gallery, Disneyland Railroad, Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through, Mark Twain Riverboat, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes, Tom Sawyer Island, and Sailing Ship Columbia. You won’t have time to do all of these originals, so plan on picking an assortment that are most appealing to you.
From the Genie+ side of the ledger, mix in ride reservations for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Autopia, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world”, and Star Tours — The Adventures Continue. All of these are low to medium priority, so the order you book them doesn’t matter much.
Blast Off to Batuu – We recommend doing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at night rather than first thing in the morning for a couple of reasons. First, crowds are actually worst in the morning and get progressively better as the day wears on. Second, because Star Wars Land is simply better at night. The lighting adds a lot to the moody off-planet atmosphere, and makes the experience even more immersive.
Before arriving to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, be sure to book a Lightning Lane reservation for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run via Genie+ (and do that whenever your window opens), visit Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, and have dinner at Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo.
This brings us to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the most popular addition to Disneyland in decades. At present, this blockbuster attraction closes before the rest of Disneyland–usually at the same time as the fireworks. Wait time data indicates that its line is shortest about 60-90 minutes before the attraction closes.
You’re still looking at about an hour in line, perhaps more when it’s busy, but that’s the best time to line up (assuming you don’t want to purchase the Individual Lightning Lane).
Fireworks – If you’re in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, you’ll have a perfect view of Disneyland’s fireworks from the area in front of the Millennium Falcon. This will not include the emotional music, projections, or low-level effects, but it’s a fun and unique vantage that also avoids the crowds.
With that said, nothing compares with watching from Main Street USA with the pyro exploding above Sleeping Beauty Castle. This is the iconic view, albeit one that everyone else wants, too. Check out our Best Disneyland Fireworks Viewing Locations for recommendations and sample photos.
Final Countdown – At the end of the fireworks, there will be a mass exodus of guests, clogging up walkways outside the parks while waiting for trams, buses, or just walking back to their hotels on Harbor Boulevard. Do not be among them.
Most nights, Disneyland should still be open for another hour or two, and this rivals rope drop as the best time of day to do attractions with minimal waits. What you do is up to you–presumably you’ve knocked out all of the headliners, potentially multiple times. Options now include repeating those, or checking out the Best Disneyland Rides at Night.
That’s a wrap on this step-by-step day in Disneyland using Genie+ to book Lightning Lane ride reservations and standby to do Fantasyland dark rides and everything else. Some of what you accomplish will vary by day and desire, but we think this is probably ~75% accurate, and at the very least, should illustrate how a day could look using Genie+ for those who never used paper FastPass or MaxPass.
The point here is to illustrate how Genie+ could prove advantageous for days you opt to purchase the add-on. Personally, I’d buy strategically rather than length-of-ticket, using Genie+ for one full day in Disneyland and one combined day in Disney California Adventure and Disneyland (if you’re not getting the Park Hopper, it’s still worth buying once in DCA). That’s just me, though, as someone who is relatively frugal but also recognizes that “vacation time is money.”
Finally, even with a lot of things you’d be able to accomplish during the middle of the day condensed for the sake of simplicity, this itinerary might look overwhelming. Like all things Disney, it’ll become simpler and more intuitive once put into practice.
Also, this should also illustrate that you don’t need Genie+ and Lightning Lanes–arriving at rope drop and staying until park closing should enable you to use our normal 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary (No Genie+) and still accomplish pretty much everything. The real advantages with Lightning Lanes comes when arriving late, leaving early, or doing repeat rides. If you’re a ‘commando tourist’ who will show up early and stay late, you might be fine not shelling out the ~$20 per person extra.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Was this 1-Day Disneyland Itinerary w/ Genie+ helpful to illustrate how to leverage Lightning Lanes? If you’ve used Genie+ at Disneyland, were you able to accomplish everything in this touring plan? Do you favor Fantasyland or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for rope drop? Have any questions we didn’t answer with the above? Still confused by how Genie+ or Lightning Lanes work? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!