Early Entry Strategy for Disney California Adventure (2024)

This post may contain compensated links. Find more info in our disclosure policy

One of the most valuable perks of staying at one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels is the 30 minutes Early Entry to Disney California Adventure or Disneyland Park. Having access to the parks as part of this small group of hotel guests is an awesome experience and we really strive to make the most of our Early Entry.

We often get asked what is the best way to use the Early Entry time at Disney California Adventure. With 7 rides to choose from and 30 minutes to play with, we have a few preferred strategies that we consider to work great. For those of you planning your own trip, we’ve included our best early entry strategies for Disney California Adventure and our tips for making the most of your extra 30 minutes in the park!

Pin
Early Entry point at Disney California Adventure

Early Entry Strategy Disney California Adventure tips: We’ve tried and tested these strategies over multiple visits (our most recent stay was in January 2024 so are fully up to date) both with and without our Disney-loving kids.

Note: This article covers Disney California Adventure only. Check out our separate guide to early entry strategies at Disneyland Park California.

Early Entry at Disney California Adventure

Early Entry is an amazing perk for guests staying onsite at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels. With only 3 hotels on site (Disneyland Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Paradise Pier), Early Entry is only granted to this small group of hotel guests and this means lines are typically very short compared to during regular park hours!

Book your stay at a Disneyland hotel now

Hotel guests with a valid park ticket and park reservation can benefit from entry to Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park on alternating days 30 minutes prior to the regular opening time.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
It’s amazing to see the empty streets prior to park opening

Single Park Early Entry (from January 20 2024)

From January 20th 2024, only one park will be open for Early Entry on each day – in 2023/beginning of 2024, both parks were open for Early Entry so guests could choose to start their Early Entry morning in either park providing they had a reservation for that park.

Early Entry Strategy Disney California Adventure tips: if you have access to multiple early entrys (i.e. if you are staying in a Disney property for a couple of nights), we find it fun to split them across the two parks. With two early entries we do one in each park, with three we do 2 in Disneyland and 1 in DCA depending on which park is iop.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Early entry gives a head start on the rope-drop crowds

What time do I need to arrive for Early Entry at Disney California Adventure?

To make the most out of early entry you need to be waiting at the entry point for hotel guests (currently this is on the right as you walk down Performance Corridor towards the Avenger Campus and Cars Land) in advance of the Early Entry opening time – so this means that if the park opens at 8am then Early Entry begins at 7.30am and you need to be on Performance Corridor in advance of this to be ready to enter when cast members begin to scan hotel guests through.

We recommend leaving your hotel around 60 minutes prior to early entry (so 90 minutes prior to regular opening). For a 7.30am early entry you will want to leave your hotel by 6.40am at the latest and have cleared security and arrived at the entrance to Disney California Adventure by 7.15am. It might seem excessive but there are three stages to early entry and it’s really easy to miss some of it waiting in line for park entry:

  • Security: all guests need to pass through security before entering the park. If you are staying onsite then you will pass through security in the Downtown Disney District or, for guests of the Grand Californian and Paradise Pier, at their private security entrances. As many hotel guests will want to utilise early entry this can be a busy time at security so we recommend being in line at around 6.45am for the 7am security opening – we find the main entrance better than the hotel entrances as there are more Cast Members to scan guests in and the entrance is closer to the Early Entry point for hotel guests.
  • Park entrance: after you pass through security you will then make your way to the Disney California Adventure entrance. The first guests are usually scanned in about 40 minutes prior to the park opening, so at around 7.20am for a 8am park opening. There is no separate queue for hotel guests so you will be in line with everyone who is planning to rope drop as well as those there for early entry. The park entrance queues move more slowly, in part because photos have to be taken of guests on the first day of using their ticket. We try to allow 20 minutes for park entry.
  • Early Entry: once you are scanned in you will then walk straight ahead on Buena Vista Street and continue past the fountain onto Performance Corridor. There are signs indicating that hotel guests should stay to the left or right (the Early Entry entrance was on the left side on our most recent visit but we’ve also had visits where it’s on the right side of the street. Keep to the side of the street with the Early Entry signs and you will see the Cast Members where guests with Early Entry are scanned in. You will need your hotel key and/or your reservation details on the Disneyland app so make sure to have both to hand.
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Disney California Adventure

What rides are open during Early Entry at DCA?

Typically, there are 7 rides available at Disney California Adventure in the early entry period. The rides, and their minimum height requirements, are:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission BREAKOUT! (40″/102 cm)
  • Incredicoaster (48″/122 cm)
  • The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure (no height requirement)
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (32″/81 cm)
  • Monsters Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! (no height requirement)
  • Soarin’ Around the World (40″/102 cm)
  • Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure (no height requirement)
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Guardians of the Galaxy

Radiator Springs Racers (not open during Early Entry)

Radiator Springs Racers, the Cars-inspired road race through the town of Radiator Springs, is one of the most popular attractions in DCA and is a popular rope drop ride. The ride appeals to adults and kids alike and our family absolutely loves it! It is the only ride in Disney California Adventure to have a standalone paid Lightening Lane (usually priced between $15 and $20 per person) and the regular line typically exceeds 90 minutes for most of the day – if you don’t want to queue for ages or pay for entry then you need to rope drop Radiator Springs Racers.

Radiator Springs Racers is not open during early entry but, if you time your morning accordingly, you can join the queue just before the road drop crowd and benefit from a really low wait time. Radiator Springs Racers has a 40″/102 cm minimum height requirement.

Pin
Join the line for Radiator Springs Racers just before the park opens

Ride Closures

One thing to note about Early Entry (and rope dropping) is that there can be ride closures: we’ve had mornings where Webslingers wasn’t operational until well after rope drop and another where Incredicoaster didn’t get going until late morning. We find it best to check what’s open and shut with the Cast Member at the Early Entry rope and adjust our plans if necessary.

Genie+

If you haven’t heard of Genie+ it is a paid daily add-on at Disneyland that allows guests to pre-book lightning lane entry on a select list of rides. Guests are allocated a time slot during which they can access the lightning lane for that ride and can reserve a Genie+ slot after tapping in for the Lightening Lane or two hours after reserving their last Genie+. It typically costs between $25 and $30 per guest per day.

Early Entry rides with Genie+ at Disney California Adventure: Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster, Monsters Inc, Soarin’, Web Slingers

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Monster Inc

Early Entry rides without Genie+ at Disney California Adventure: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

We feel that Genie+ has less influence over our early entry strategy at DCA than it does in Disneyland. This is because only one of the Early Entry rides at DCA don’t have Genie+ and you can still ride them relatively quickly either during early entry or in the first hour or so after.

In our experience, it’s more beneficial to use Early Entry to focus on covering DCA’s most popular rides like Guardians of the Galaxy and Web Slingers (if you love them you might want to use your Genie+ for a second go on them later!) and then get in line for Radiator Springs. We find it much quicker to access these rides during Early Entry even compared to Genie+ and we can ride them immediately rather than have to wait for our Genie+ slot.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

Early Entry Strategies at Disney California Aventure

With 30 minutes to play with and 7 rides to choose from, we have a few preferred strategies that we consider to work great for Early Entry.

We’ve tried these strategies alone and as 2 adults. We’ve also done Early Entry with a young baby, a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old (and all 3 together!) so there should be at least one strategy that works for everyone!


Strategy 1: Guardians of the Galaxy and pre-rope drop queue for Radiator Springs Racer

Works for: adults, kids (3/4+)
Tried and tested with: our 3.5-year-old and 5-year-old who both meet the 40″/102 minimum height requirement

As soon as you are permitted early entry walk straight to Guardians of the Galaxy, an awesome free-fall elevator where you will attempt to rescue the Guardians of the Galaxy from the Collector’s fortress.

Guardians of the Galaxy can be quite a time-consuming ride and typically takes us 20 minutes from entering the park to leaving the ride – this is because there are a few bottlenecks in the preboarding journey with both a preshow and a separate line to board the elevator for the actual ride.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Guardians of the Galaxy

After exiting Guardians of the Galaxy, make your way toward Cars Land and Radiator Springs Racer. Radiator Springs Racer only opens at the regular park opening time but you need to get there ahead of the crowd – as soon as the park opens you’re going to see hundreds of rope droppers descend towards the ride and, in order to avoid a long queue/avoid paying for a lightening lane, you are going to want to beat this crowd.

If the park opens at 8am then you have until 7.59am to get in the line for Radiator Springs Racer (we noticed that a lot more Early Entry guests were doing this on our most recent visit, so if you want to walk on to the ride, you will need to join the line at the start of Early Entry). If you have time and there is no queue, you can stop at Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree on the way. It’s also nice to look around Cars Land when it’s quiet as it’s one of the best themed areas in Disneyland California.

Read our full guide to Radiator Springs Racer, including our rope drop strategy, here!

Strategy 2: Soarin’ and pre-rope drop queue for Radiator Springs

Works for: adults, kids (3/4+)
Tried and tested with: our 3.5-year-old and 5-year-old who both meet the 40″/102 minimum height requirement

Soarin’ is another Disney California adventure highlight and the ride makes it possible to travel all around the world before the park officially opens! After hang gliding over world wonders including Sydney Harbour and the Pyramids of Egypt you should just about have time to make your way to Cars Land to join the line for Radiator Springs before the rope drops and the crowds start to arrive – you can still save a significant amount of time if you join the line any time up until the park opens.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Soarin’

As before, if the park opens at 8am then you have until 7.59am at the latest to get in the line for Radiator Springs Racer.

Strategy 3: Web Slingers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and pre-rope drop queue for Radiator Springs

Works for: adults, kids (3/4+)
Tried and tested with: our 3.5-year-old and 5-year-old who both meet the 40″/102 minimum height requirement

Start the day in the Avengers Campus where you will ride Web Slingers, one of our favourite rides in Disney California Adventure. Riders board Web Slinger carriages for this interactive ride and use their arms to sling webs to help capture escaped spider bots wreaking havoc in the Campus.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Web Slingers

It takes about 15 minutes all in to ride Web Slingers when it is a walk on so you should have time to squeeze in a ride on Cars Land’s Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree on the way to join the pre-rope drop Radiator Springs Racers line.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Radiator Springs Racers

Strategy 4: Guardians of the Galaxy, Incredicoaster

Works for: adults, older kids/teens
Tried and tested with: adults

This duo is an excellent showcase of the Disney California Adventure thrill rides.

The morning starts with Guardians of the Galaxy which, as I mentioned before, can be quite time-consuming – it typically takes us 20 minutes from passing the early entry point to leaving the ride.

From there, it’s around an 8-minute walk to Incredicoaster, an exhilarating steel rollercoaster on Pixar Pier. You should have enough time to make it before the rope drop crowds start filtering through.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Incredicoaster

Early Entry Strategy Disney California Adventure tips: many of the rope drop crowd are focused on Webslingers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Radiator Springs so it can take a while for the crowds to make it as far as Pixar Pier.

Strategy 5: Webslingers, Monsters Inc, Little Mermaid

Works for: families, infants and young kids
Tried and tested with: adults, and kids aged 5, 3 and 9 months

This is a great strategy if you have a very young child in your group as there are no height or age restrictions on any of the rides.

The first stop is the Avengers Campus to ride Webslingers. Webslingers is a great ride for all the family. If you have an infant, you can pop them in their carrier and get to work on destroying those spider bots!

From there, it’s a short walk to Monsters Inc, a fun ride for all the family. Riders help Mike and Sulley return Boo, a human child, home from Monstropolis.

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Monsters Inc.

Next up is the Little Mermaid, an adorable undersea adventure full of color and sound. We’ve found this stays walk-on for up to half an hour after opening which is lucky for us because our kids like to ride it multiple times in a row!

Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

What should I do after Early Entry at Disney California Adventure?

Here are some of our typical mornings at DCA:

  • rope drop Radiator Springs Racers (as detailed in our Early Entry strategies) – you can read our full guide to rope dropping Radiator Springs Racers here
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
It’s amazing to experience Cars Land before the rope drop crowds arrive
  • late breakfast at Lamplight lounge
  • on days we have Genie+ we reserve Toy Story Mania as soon as the park opens and ride that when our slot comes up
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Toy Story Mania
  • make our way around Pixar Pier – if you start at Little Mermaid from around 9.30am you can usually do a nice loop around the rides without too much queuing. Jumpin Jellyfish, Goofy’s Sky School, Golden Zephyr, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind and the Pixar Pal-A-Round Swinging all tend to be close to walk on before the crowds start filtering through that part of the park.
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Pixar Pal-A-Round
  • start with Toy Story Mania and work your way around to Pixar Pal Around Swinging, Inside out Emotional Whirlwind, Goofy’s Sky School, Golden Zephyr and Jumpin Jellyfish.
Disneyland California Adventure Early Entry StrategyPin
Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind

Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This site is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any other way associated with The Walt Disney Company or its subsidiaries.