Welcome to our Disneyland Galaxy’s Edge Opening Trip Report! The purpose of our trip reports is to give an update on how our strategies are working at the parks. This post covers rope drop at Disney California Adventure.
ABOUT THIS TRIP REPORT
This trip report covers our June 2019 visit to Disneyland Resort. This visit was for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which we visited on day 2 and day 5.
This trip report is intended to supplement our existing Disneyland content (which is almost all linked to at the bottom of this post) with a focus on visits occurring in Summer 2019. Here is what this report will look like in full (links will go up as posts go up):
Day 3 Part 2 — Rope Drop at Disney California Adventure (this post)
If you’re looking for a strategy for visiting Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, we have that as well. We additionally have a more general Guide to Galaxy’s Edge (Star Wars Land).
The remainder of the Disneyland Park content should be somewhat valuable at least into holiday season, as Disneyland has not seen the expected crowd bump from Galaxy’s Edge opening.
The Disney California Adventure content should also remain helpful until the holiday season, with the next significant change at the park occurring on September 17 with the start of Oogie Boogie Bash.
[Editor Note: This post was written by Emily and is from her perspective. I (Kenny) think it’s a good example of how someone who is really knowledgable but not constantly buried in park strategy approaches things.]
California Adventure Rope Drop Summary
If you’ve read our Guide to Rope Drop at Disney California Adventure, you know that we have two primary rope drop strategies. I went with the preferred option of immediately grabbing a FASTPASS (via MaxPass) for Radiator Springs Racers upon scanning into the park, and then heading to Pixar Pier at rope drop. (Keep in mind that MaxPass is a paid FASTPASS enhancement costing $15 per ticket per day.)
Pixar Pier and Paradise Gardens Park have a high concentration of short, low-demand rides. As a result, you can usually wipe out a big chunk of attractions in the area before using your Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS.
This strategy will typically allow you to ride most (if not all) attractions in Cars Land and Pixar Pier easily in the morning, and the strategy is pretty seamless on a day when all rides are operational at rope drop.
However, that’s not always the case. It’s not uncommon for one or more of your top priority rides to have a late opening at Disney California Adventure. When this happens, like it did for me today, you may need to pivot and make some trade-offs on the fly. Read on for my real-time account and thought process as I spend my morning at Disney California Adventure.
Arrival at Disney California Adventure
The schedule park opening time was 8AM. I arrived at the gate at 7:24AM and by 7:27AM they started scanning in the first guests.
They will scan the first few guests’ tickets before actually allowing people through the turnstiles. I was about ten back and the last ones scanned before the first guests were let into the park at 7:30. As soon as your ticket is scanned, you can book your first FASTPASS with MaxPass.
I grabbed a Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS right away with a return time for 8:35AM. As always, I set an alarm on my phone for the time I could get my next FASTPASS (8:35AM, in this case).
Entering the Park
You’re often allowed into the park earlier than the scheduled open time, but you’re just moved to different holding areas inside the park. There are different ropes throughout the park, including near Soarin’ Over California and on Hollywood Boulevard on the way to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
I knew I’d be going straight to Pixar Pier, so I made my way toward Pacific Wharf and was held just past Carthay Circle between the Marvel Land construction and Grizzly Peak. This is also the holding area for Cars Land. Walking briskly, I arrived with a front row spot at the rope.
The crowd this day was relatively small, likely due to the AP blockout and the freshly opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge over at Disneyland. The crowd barely extended to Carthay Circle and was pretty loosely packed. The rope was dropped right at 8AM.
Rope Drop To Pixar Pier
At the front of the crowd, I headed toward Pixar Pier. One family sprinted off the line and had made it almost to Cove Bar before turning to see that next people behind them were a good 60 feet back (maybe they thought there were in Florida). Walking at a quick clip, but far from running, I was among the first five people onto Pixar Pier.
My plan was to get right on Incredicoaster, but rope drop is only good when the rides are operational. Incredicoaster was not. I was told the attraction would open “later”. Annoying, but not the worst thing. I popped over to Toy Story Mania and was on the ride by 8:05AM.
With Incredicoaster still down, I decided to carry on with the remainder of the Pixar Pier attractions. I opted to skip Jessie’s Critter Carousel, even though it was a walk-on. The wait for Jessie’s stays under 10 minutes well into the day so even at a walk-on, it wasn’t worth it.
Pixar Pier was still pretty quiet at 8:15AM, and I made my way to the Pixar Pal-A-Round. Both the swinging and non-swinging Gondolas were a walk-on when I arrived. The Pal-A-Round can be tricky. You want to ride it early, as the wait time can get long, but it’s also a pretty long ride. Including boarding, this can cost you about 10 minutes, which is a lot of precious rope drop time.
That said, we always pretty much target it early, so I did the same today. By 8:26AM, I was off the Pal-A-Round and headed to the Silly Symphony Swings. Another walk-on for another really fun ride. Keeping my eyes on Incredicoaster, but noting that it was still down, I walked onto Jumpin’ Jellyfish at 8:35AM.
DING! At first jump, my alarm went off. It was time to book my next FASTPASS.
FastPass Strategy at Rope Drop is a Delicate Dance
Typically, the best bet is to get the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! FASTPASS with MaxPass. This gives you enough time to finish a good chunk of Pixar Pier, make your way to Cars Land to ride Luigi’s Rollickin' Roadsters before cashing in on your Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS.
But what about Soarin’ Over California, you ask? That ride takes forever, even with a FASTPASS, so the idea is that you can grab a FASTPASS for that a little later after you’ve gotten the most out of the morning low crowds.
I know the rules. I know why we do it that way every time. And still, I decided to break the rule and booked the Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS for 9:40AM.
Here was my logic:
Incredicoaster & Goofy Sky School were down, meaning that all I had left on Pixar Pier plan was Golden Zephyr. That wasn’t going to keep me on Pixar Pier longer than 10 minutes.
The Soarin’ Over California wait was getting longer than the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! wait, and I don’t love the Soarin’ Over California queue.
The Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS started in just five minutes so I was thinking I could knock it out and still make it through Cars Land in time for our Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS on time.
Things Don’t Go As Planned
The Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS decision would prove to be a mistake almost immediately. As soon as I got off Jumpin’ Jellyfish at 8:37AM, I walked onto the Golden Zephyr. Before we even had our seatbelt checked, I look up and see Incredicoaster going. By the time we start spinning, Goofy’s Sky School is going, too.
As soon as I was off Golden Zephyr, Incredicoaster had a posted wait of 10 minutes. The real wait time was about five minutes, and I was off by 8:54AM. I started heading to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, but the wait had jumped to 15 minutes. I would have liked the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! FASTPASS after all.
At this point, everything is too tight. I still have to make it onto Radiator Springs Racers by 9:35AM and the Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS is only good until 9:40AM. I briefly considered trying to get Soarin’ Over California in before 9:35AM, but that queue is too unreliable. It would have to wait.
[Editor Note: Kenny here. I actually don’t think the core mistake was getting the Soarin’ FASTPASS. While I wouldn’t have done that, I think the bigger issue was trying to ride Golden Zephyr and Incredicoaster while she was in the middle of a one-hour window with two FASTPASS times.]
The priority now was Cars Land. I went straight to Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters, which does not have FASTPASS and can rack up a long wait quickly as people head there after morning rides on Radiator Springs Racers. I was off by 9:07AM, leaving me with just enough time to fit in Mater's Junkyard Jamboree before Radiator Springs Racers.
Another ride, another DING! While I was on Mater’s at 9:12AM, I was eligible for my third FASTPASS. I finally picked up Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! for 9:20AM. (My mistake didn’t actually hurt my morning that badly.)
Cashing in on FASTPASSes
I was now heading to our first FASTPASS of the day, getting in the Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS queue by 9:18AM. Even with FASTPASS, this queue can get long, so I assumed I’d miss the Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS that was set to expire at 9:40AM.
I got lucky and was off Radiator Springs Racers by 9:35AM and just barely made it to my Soarin’ Over California FASTPASS on time.
Kenny came over from his morning at Disneyland, and finally, after much ado, I made it to Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, cashing in my third FASTPASS at 10:10AM.
Rounding out The day
This really marked the end of our morning rope drop ride block. I made it onto eleven attractions by 10:30AM:
Toy Story Mania
Silly Symphony Swings
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters
Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
Radiator Springs Racers
Soarin’ Over California
Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!
It was now time for coffee and a casual stroll through the park before lunch.
If we were finishing our day in the park and wanted to hit all the attractions, we’d probably have tried to jump on Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! while we were in the area.
Because it doesn’t have FASTPASS, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure is a semi-priority at this point. Jessie’s Critter Carousel is less so because it really very rarely has a wait. Grizzly River Run and Goofy’s Sky School are the remaining FASTPASS rides, and neither should be particularly challenging to get.
There’s plenty of time left in the afternoon for entertainment, including the Red Car Trolley News Boys, PhilharMagic, and Frozen Live at the Hyperion. If you’d like to see a full sample day at Disney California Adventure, check out our Disney California Adventure one-day itinerary.
Until Marvel Land opens, Disney California Adventure should continue to be an easy park on all but the busiest days. That said—rope drop still matters.
Starting with Pixar Pier, I was able to get through a ton of rides quickly, but its not uncommon for these rides to get small waits of, say, 15 minutes. Eight rides with an additional 15 minutes waiting each would cost 2 hours of my day, which is pretty significant.
Since very few people prioritize Disney California Adventure in the morning, it’s your change to cover a huge number of rides with little trouble, you just have to go for it!
All Your Other Disneyland Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disneyland planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
When it comes to hotels, we’ve got reviews of all three Disney hotels: Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. As for tickets, check out where to find discount Disneyland tickets.
Know what to ride with our: Disneyland Rides Guide and Disney California Adventure Rides Guide. And just as important, know how to get on the best rides without the wait with our Disneyland and Disney California Adventure FASTPASS and MaxPass Strategy! For the complete guides to a day at the park, we have a One Day Disneyland Itinerary and a One Day Disney California Adventure Itinerary.
We always recommend arriving at the parks early. If you can get access to Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure or Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning at Disneyland, you’ll have the most time in the parks. Even without those bonus hours, you’ll need to know Rope Drop Strategy at Disneyland and Rope Drop Strategy at Disney California Adventure.
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.