How to Have a Blast at Disneyland WITHOUT Kids (3 Day Itinerary)

I don’t have kids AND I love Disneyland. Whether you have kiddos or not, it’s worth checking out Disneyland as an adult. Read on if you want to know how to go full “Peter Pan” and let your inner child fly free at Disneyland! 

Disneyland Without Kids

Day One – Arrive at Disneyland

Whether you’re driving or flying, I suggest trying to get to your hotel around 4 or 5 pm. I HIGHLY recommend staying at one of the Disneyland hotels (there are 3: the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel, and Pixar Pier). My favorite is the Grand Californian. It also happens to be the most “grown up” and swankiest of them all, with a fantastic spa and a stellar selection of wines at all the restaurants.  Bonus: you can enter Disneyland California Adventure (aka “DCA”) directly from the hotel. 

Check in, settle in, and then pop down to Napa Rose for a drink at the bar where an amazing array of handcrafted cocktails and fine wines await you.  Napa Rose also happens to have delicious food, so feel free to have dinner at the bar as well (it’s first come first serve, no reservation needed).  If you’re feeling a little less fancy, the eats at the pool bar are also shockingly yummy or head out to Downtown Disney and grab a bite at one of the many restaurants there. Word to the wise, you can make dining reservations 60 days in advance at Disneyland and you absolutely should unless you don’t mind waiting more than an hour to get in. And yes, this includes at Downtown Disney. 

Drinks at Napa Rose
Drinks at Napa Rose & Dinner at GCH Craftsman Bar

After dinner, you’re going to want to call it an early night. You have a fun-filled 2 days ahead of you so you’re going to want to rest up. If you haven’t downloaded the Disneyland App, be sure to do so and spend some time getting familiar with it. Add Genie+ to your tickets if you haven’t already – you can’t access Lightning Lanes without it and you’re going to want those.

Pro Tip #1 – Magic Hours

If you’re staying at one of the Disneyland hotels, then you are allowed to enter the parks early (30 minutes before folks that are not staying at one of the Disneyland hotels). Not all the rides are open, but the ones that are will have NO lines. Why wait 90 minutes for Guardians of the Galaxy or Space Mountain when you don’t have to? This is why you get your cute little butt up extra early and take advantage of Magic Hours. Beats rope dropping any day! 

Day 2 – Pick Your Park and Go! 

*Note: Feel Free to Switch Up the Day 2 and Day 3 Itineraries Depending on Which Park You Want to Start with.*

Start your day at DCA. Once you’re in the park, make your first Lightning Lane reservation using Genie+. I typically choose the Incredicoaster because it often has a long wait but is not usually running during Magic Hours.  Make your way to Guardians of the Galaxy first and ride this incredibly popular ride with no wait. Then pop over to Webslingers and have fun slinging webs like Spidey at the spider bots run amuck. Next speed walk over to Pixar Pier and ride Toy Story Mania. These 3 rides are typically the longest lines in the park once it’s open to gen pop, so riding them during Magic Hours will save you a ton of time. 

After your first 3 rides it’s pretty much a given that the park is now open to the public and is filling up. Make Radiator Springs your next stop and – THIS IS CRITICAL – choose the Single Rider Line.  I don’t care if you’re with a group. You don’t have kids with you so you don’t need to ride together. This tip will save you a 2 hour wait or the $25 bucks per person that you’d have to dish out for Lightning Lanes. Yes, Disney charges you for some, but not most, of the Lightning Lanes and this is one of them. 

After Radiator Springs, head over to the Incredicoaster and redeem your first Lightning Lane.  You can schedule new Lightning Lanes roughly every 2 hours. Keep that in mind, along with the fact that they fill up quickly for the day. Book promptly to make it worth paying for Genie+.

Pro Tip #2 Photopass 

When you pay for Genie+ the photopass is included. So whenever you see one of the Disney professional photographers standing around, feel free to stop for a photo! I guarantee the photos they take are going to be better than your selfies. And if you ask for a “Magic Shot” you’re likely to get a fun surprise in your photo!

Disneyland California Adventure
Disneyland California Adventure

Pro Tip #3 – Food & Drinks 

Food vendors don’t typically open in the Parks until 10 am with limited exceptions. So you may want to bring a snack into the park with you if you usually eat breakfast. And yes, Disney lets you bring food and non-alcoholic drinks into the parks.  2 things to know about DCA: (1) there IS a Starbucks, but it’s always insanely crowded so mobile order as early as possible on the Disneyland app, and (2)  you can buy booze at almost every food vendor and restaurant in DCA. Yep, you heard me right – alcohol at Disney! That starts at 11 am. And you can mobile order your adult beverages using the app.  After you’ve been on the Incredicoaster, go ahead and grab your first cocktail of the day, you’ve earned it.  After that you can ride some more rides or check out some of the shows – whatever strikes your fancy. The app will show you the wait times for all the rides. Don’t feel like you have to hit every ride because you’ll be back later in the day. 

Grab Lunch and Take a Break

DCA, in addition to having grown-up beverages, has the better food options of the two parks.  Lots of sit down restaurants (you’ll need a reservation), and also great fast casual options that you can order from using the app.  Lunch as you see fit!  Then it’s time for a break. Personally, I like to go lounge by the pool with cocktails and usually a nap. But you can also casually stroll through the shops in DCA or Downtown Disney or grab a spot at the bar at Lamplight Lounge and enjoy the view of the Incredicoaster and the Mickey Ferris Wheel.

Nighttime Fun at California Adventure

After you feel rested, head back into DCA around 4 or 5pm.  Hopefully you have a Lightning Lane ready to go for something you’d like to ride. Then it’s time for dinner. Personally, I like to make a dinner reservation at Wine Country Trattoria.  After dinner you may have time for another ride or perhaps you want to do a little shopping or just enjoy a drink somewhere. Your main entertainment for the evening is World of Color – a beautiful water show that’s a bit like the fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas (but Disney-fied).  After the show, wind down with a nightcap – either in the park, at Downtown Disney, or at the Grand Californian.  And then head to bed … so you can do it all over again tomorrow at Disneyland Park! 

DCA at Night

Day Three – Disneyland Proper

Wake up early and take advantage of your Magic Hours at Disneyland Park. ESPECIALLY, if you want to ride Rise of the Resistance (unless you’re willing to pay for the Lightning Lane). Alternatively, make your way to Space Mountain or Peter Pan’s Flight. They’re both open during Magic Hours and they always have long lines the rest of the day. While you’re  in line, book a Lightning Lane for Indiana Jones. After that, head over to Haunted Mansion.  At this point, the park is open to the general public and you really need to rely on the app to check out ride wait times and then choose accordingly. 

Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park

Pro Tip # 4 – Zigzag Around the Park! 

If you insist on trying to ride all the rides in one area of either park with no regard to the wait times shown on the app, you will end up riding less rides and waiting longer.  Not fun! You need to be willing to zigzag across the park and get those steps in if you want to get on as many rides as possible. 

Take a Break at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

Booze is MUCH harder to come by in Disneyland proper. Your only options are Oga’s Cantina, Carnation Cafe, and Blue Bayou – all of which require reservations. If you’re able to get one – awesome. Short of that, head out of the park for lunch. Personally, I like to head to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (check out my prior post explaining why it’s the BEST bar at Disneyland here). It’s in the pool area of the Disneyland Hotel.  Trader Sam’s opens at 11:30. Put your name on the waitlist. You may have a bit of a wait so feel free to kill time in the shop at the Disneyland Hotel, in Downtown Disney, or (if you’re staying at the Disneyland Hotel) at the pool.  Once you get in, enjoy a tropical cocktail (or three) and grab some lunch.  After, it’s time for a siesta – either poolside or in your room.    

Disneyland Hotel Pool
Disneyland Hotel Pool

Nighttime at Disneyland

Head back towards the park around 4 or 5 pm.  Grab dinner – I like to make a reservation either somewhere in Downtown Disney or at Carnation Cafe. Fireworks and the projections on the Castle are something you are not going to want to miss. If you want a spot with a good view, you’re going to have to stake it out early. Like 2 hours before early. If you don’t care all that much, you can also watch the show over by It’s a Small World instead. You’ll still want to be there about an hour before to secure a decent view. 

Nighttime at Disneyland

After the fireworks, most of the folks with little kids head out. This means shorter lines and the park is open until midnight! So you can ride to your heart’s content. You can also bail and head back to Downtown Disney for drinks. It’s totally up to you! Whatever feels more fun in the moment is what you should roll with.  

You now have everything you need to have a blast at Disneyland without kids. I mean, yes, there will still be kids at the parks, but they won’t be yours!  Cheers! 

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