Hi there, everyone! Our family just happened to be staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel this week when they introduced a new perk, Early Entry (EE) for Disneyland Resort Hotel guests. Early Entry is just what it sounds like: each day resort hotel guests get access to their choice of Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure Park for 30 minutes before regular park opening. We spent a few days this last week taking advantage of EE from Monday through Wednesday. Here’s what we experienced.
OUR DISNEYLAND DAY
- ARRIVAL TIME
To take advantage of EE, it is vital to arrive early at the security checkpoint! At Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, the Downtown Disney bag check opens one hour prior to the start of EE time; 6:30am for this day. The Grand’s DCA entrance was not available for Early Entry.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after this article was originally published, Carrie reported back that she heard from others that the Grand Californian’s DCA entrance *was* actually available for Early Entry. However, it ended up opening about an hour later than the Downtown Disney bag check. Because of this delay, the Downtown Disney entrance still seems like the best approach.]
We arrived at the Downtown Disney entrance at 6:30am to find there were only about 10 people in front of us for the bag check. It was super quick and we were through in just a few minutes. Security can get backed up here quickly due to the fact that there are only three bag check lanes available and all of the Paradise Pier guests are eligible to use this entrance too.
- CHOOSING A GATE
When we arrived at the Disneyland gates at 6:34am we were able to choose any gate that had the word “ENTRANCE” above it. We chose one almost all the way to the right (next to the stroller rental, which was open) as the first guests in line. It put us closer to the hotel reservation checkpoint later in the process. (More on that in a moment.) Also, this side of the lines didn’t fill up as quickly. So if you get there a little later and see long lines keep walking. You may get lucky!
As there are no dedicated early entry gates, it is super important that you arrive at your gate BEFORE 7:15am. The security bag check for the Harbor Boulevard guests is opened at that time and those guests are allowed to get in the same entry lines as the resort hotel guests. If you get to the gate later you will have to wait behind all the other guests. At 7:25am they scanned our tickets and we were let directly inside. Side note: No countdown or official opening ceremony was in place at this time for early entry.
- HOTEL RESERVATION CHECK
Disneyland: As you WALK up to the end of Main Street you will see that the area around the Walt Statue or the “hub” is roped off for regular day guests. Resort hotel guests will be directed to the far right walkway into Tomorrowland. (That’s why it was better to line up on the far right. They direct all traffic to the righthand side of the street.) There are Cast members located directly in the walkway in front of the Plaza Inn restaurant that will check your hotel reservation on the Disneyland App. Have your app open and ready to show the reservation. We were not held at this checkpoint and were able to show our reservation and WALK directly to Fantasyland. Side Note: Take a screen shot of your reservation page. It will help you avoid having to fumble with the app. We showed the cast members my pic and got in with no problems.
California Adventure: As you walk up Buena Vista Street, you will notice all areas roped off at each hub spoke. The Hotel Reservation Check was located on the sidewalk to the right of Carthay Circle restaurant. There was a bit of delay as guests were pulling up their reservations on the app. Have it ready to go! We were not held at this check point and were able to proceed directly to the rides.
- OUR GAME PLAN
6:30am – Bag Check
6:34am – At the gates (first in line)
7:26am – Let us in
7:28am – Reservation check
7:30am – Peter Pan
7:33am – Alice
7:40am – Dumbo
7:46am – Snow White
7:50am – Pinocchio
7:55am – Mr. Toad
7:59am – Casey Jr. Circus Train
6:30am – Bag check
6:34am – At the gates (first in line)
7:30am – Let us in
7:35am – Reservation check (some confusion on the app that wasn’t working)
7:37am – Web Slingers
7:50am – Radiator Springs Racers (we were going to hop in line and wait for it to open at 8:00am, but it was not opening with the park)
7:56am – Incredicoaster (it was down also)
- FINAL THOUGHTS
Disneyland Park Attractions
- Alice in Wonderland
- Astro Orbitor
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Disneyland Monorail
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- King Arthur Carrousel
- Mad Tea Party
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
- Snow White’s Enchanted Wish
- Space Mountain
- Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
The Disneyland Early Entry was totally worth it and we were able to get on quite a few rides during EE. Hotel guests were pretty sparse. The lines never really built up until the regular day guests arrived.
Disney California Adventure Park Attractions
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout
- The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
- Monster’s Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue
- Soarin’ Around the World
- WEB Slinger’s – A Spider-Man Adventure
The DCA rides were few and far between. There was only one Hotel Reservation Check for all of DCA and some rides were a 10 minute walk from check-in. DCA just didn’t seem worth it for the amount of time we spent waiting to get in. Add that to several rides were down (not opening at EE that were scheduled to open) and the fact that the ride wait times were not showing correctly and it was a recipe for disaster.
On our second day of EE at Disneyland, we cut our rides short after Dumbo, then headed to the Fantasyland entrance for Galaxy’s Edge at 7:45am. Security opened the giant gate at 7:56am and let us enter at 8:01am and we “walked” straight to Rise of the Resistance and were in the second transport vehicle for the day! No wait! No buying an Individual Lightning Lane pass for $20 extra bucks a person.
For regular day guests, it was the same procedure as other days. You proceed to the rope drop areas and there is an announcement for opening.