Jul 7, 2022 - Things to Do

Lightning Lanes and Genie+: How to navigate post-pandemic Disneyland

Disneyland castles with a person wearing Mickey ears in the foreground.
Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

I'm fresh back from my first post-pandemic Disneyland trip and honestly shocked at how well it went.

  • We went on the Saturday of Fourth of July weekend, which honestly sounded like a recipe for disaster when we booked it.
  • Yes, but: We went on nearly every ride and never waited more than 15 minutes.

What I learned: Between the park app, mobile ordering and fast-pass purchase options, Disneyland is much more complicated (and expensive) than it used to be.

  • But if you learn how to use these tools, the experience can be better than it's ever been.

Here are some tips if it's been a few years since you've taken on the California-based amusement park:

Download the Disneyland App

It's free and most of the features are, too.

Once you buy park tickets, connect all of them to your app and have everyone in your party use the same account so it's easier to book experiences and Lightning Lane reservations.

You can check wait times of each ride in real time and create an itinerary.

  • If you mark which attractions you want to hit, Disney will provide tips on the best times to access them.
Pay extra for Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lanes

This new service is $20 per ticket per day and basically replaces the old fast-pass system that provided front-of-the-line access to rides.

Disney Genie+ allows you to book Lightning Lanes access to most of the big-ticket rides, including Space Mountain and Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!

  • Once you book a Lightning Lane, you can't book another one until you use the first one or until two hours have passed since the first booking.
  • You can use a Lightning Lane only once per ride per day.

The catch: Lightning Lanes for the three highest demand rides — Radiator Springs Racers, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — are not included in Disney Genie+.

  • Instead, you can purchase individual Lightning Lanes for up to two of the three. They range from $7-$20.
A woman smiling with Mickey ears.
Jessica on the Mickey & Friends Parking tram getting ready for rope drop. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios
Be there for rope drop

"Rope drop" is a big deal for Disney gurus. It's basically the moment the floodgates open to the rides, and if you're there when the ropes drop, you're almost guaranteed to walk on some of the biggest attractions with no wait.

Disneyland typically opens at 8am, but to actually make "rope drop," you need to be there much earlier.

  • We got to the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure at 6:45am, which allowed us to be in line to the entrance gates at about 7:15am.
  • Cast members start scanning tickets at 7:30am.

Pro tips: Don't use your Lightning Lanes in the first hour or so because the lines are already very light and you want to save them for when the park gets busier later in the day.

Optimize your food breaks

If you want to spend a full 15-hour-plus day in the park, you have to pace yourself.

Make reservations at a few of the park restaurants ahead of time so you know you have a dedicated time and place to rest.

  • You can make reservations through the Disneyland app as soon as you book your tickets.

If sit-down dining isn't your thing, take advantage of mobile ordering through the app.

A space-themed bar.
Oga's Cantina in Disneyland. Photo: Jessica Boehm/Axios
Hit the rides during shows and fireworks

If you're not into shows or fireworks, this is a great time to go on rides with short waits.

  • The rides right around the Fantasmic show — Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain — are usually especially light during this time.

One of my favorite Disney memories was watching the fireworks while riding Big Thunder Mountain over and over again.

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