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How to Spend More Time on Rides, Less Time in Lines at Disneyland

When the redesigned Tower of Terror ride opened at Disneyland’s California Adventure park recently, parkgoers stood in line for up to five hours to experience just two minutes of thrills and chills.

While that’s hardly typical, wait times for popular rides at Disneyland and California Adventure have been rising. For the first six months of 2017, average wait times reached 24.4 minutes, up a whopping 28 percent since 2015.

Even as wait times have increased, ticket prices have soared, with a one-day pass now selling for as much as $124. At those prices, wasting time waiting on line can seem downright financially punitive.

So, how can visitors to Disney theme parks maximize their thrill-ride time, and minimize their heels-cooling time?

An exhaustive new analysis by the L.A. Times of wait times at the two parks generated a handful of suggestions for making good use of your time, in the process getting the best value for your dollar. It’s all about timing.

  • The best days to visit are Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Saturday is the worst.
  • The best months are September and January, with average wait times under 15 minutes.
  • And the best times to visit are the first hours after opening: 8 a.m. for most visitors, and 7 a.m. for guests at some nearby resort hotels. Wait times peak around 3 p.m., at 29 minutes, almost three times longer than the early-morning times.
  • If you’re a solo visitor, be aware that many rides have a dedicated line for single riders, allowing them significantly quicker access.

And here are several bonus suggestions submitted by readers:

  • Visit on rainy days, which tend to suppress attendance, presumably because Southern California locals are weather wimps.
  • If you must visit on a weekend, arrive after 5 p.m. on Sunday, when many visitors have begun heading home. The park stays open until midnight.
  • “Father’s Day and Easter are practically ghost towns at Disneyland.”

So, to spend as much time as possible on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Space Mountain, plan to visit on a Thursday in January, and be there when the park opens at 8 a.m. You may not be first line, but even if you’re last, the line itself will be a short one.

Reader Reality Check

How much time are you willing to spend waiting for a thrill ride?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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