The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California has now been reopened for nearly two years, and we can finally say that operations have returned to normal. But things are still, practically speaking, quite a bit different in 2023 at the Happiest Place on Earth – some of them permanently so.
If you haven’t been to the parks in awhile, it’s important to get up to date! As a guest, that means you need to come prepared for things to work in very new ways. Many of the old pre-2020 Disneyland tricks and hacks won’t work anymore. You need to have a few new tools at the ready to have the best vacation experience. That’s where this Disneyland guide comes in.
If you are planning a trip to Disneyland in Southern California in 2023, this complete Disneyland planning guide will walk you through all the basics of what to expect this year – new requirements, changes from what you might have experienced before the closures, new ride and land openings, revised touring strategies, and more. I’ve been there first hand all along the way, visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure numerous times since the reopening.
I’ll continue to update this annual guide as the year goes on to reflect more changes. So be sure to bookmark and come back to it if your trip is several months down the road from now.
(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)
What’s New, Returning Soon, or Closed at Disneyland in 2023
Before we get to all the operational changes and new park touring tips, let’s briefly dive into what’s new to see and do at the resort in 2023. And of course, we have to discuss the flip side as well – what’s closed this year for refurbishment or for good.
In the last several months, Disney finally brought an important technological feature to its California parks. MagicBands have been in use at Walt Disney World for about a decade, but now the third generation MagicBand, MagicBand+, works at Disneyland too.
The uses for MagicBand+ at Disneyland are more limited, and fewer guests are using them than do in Orlando. To explore what MagicBands do at Disneyland, check out my guide to Disney MagicBands and the new MagicBand+. They certainly aren’t essential (especially for infrequent visitors), but they are a fun and sometimes useful accessory or souvenir.
In January of this year, Disneyland kicked off a major celebration likely to last all year long – Disney100. This celebration commemorates 100 years of Disney company history. The event includes two new nighttime spectaculars – Wondrous Journeys in Disneyland park and World of Color – ONE in Disney California Adventure. Wondrous Journeys features projections for all showings and adds fireworks on weekends, and might just be my favorite Disney nighttime spectacular ever.
Related: Get details on the best spots to view World of Color from my pal Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth.
The celebration is happening all over the resort as well. Characters have new platinum and purple costumes to match the banners and decor on Sleeping Beauty Castle. And of course, the parks have plenty of new food items and merchandise.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
The year 2023 has already brought a brand new attraction to Disneyland – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The attraction opened on the kickoff day of the Disney100 celebration. Runaway Railway has already been in Orlando in Hollywood Studios for several years, but now it also has a home in Toontown in Disneyland park. The indoor dark ride is family-friendly and has one of the very best queues that Disney Imagineers have ever created.
Check out my complete ride guide and wait time tips article on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway for all the latest details.
Magic Happens Parade
While parades have been back intermittently at Disneyland, a lot of guests have been wondering what would become of the Magic Happens Parade. This parade had only just debuted when the parks closed in March of 2020. Finally as of February 2023, Magic Happens is back! This edgy parade has an energetic vibe and soundtrack and is a much-needed addition to Disneyland park.
The parade goes between Main Street U.S.A. and it’s a small world twice daily. The first showing is in the daytime, and the second is usually after sunset, where elements on the floats light up, making for an extra magical show.
Closures & Coming Soon
There are always a number of short term attraction closures on calendar, so always be sure to check official Disneyland sources before your trip.
But some of these closures will soon result in land, ride, and restaurant reimaginings. These 2023 coming soon offerings to watch for include:
Currently, most of Toontown except for the new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is closed for a major year long refurbishment. The land will reopen March 19, 2023 with several new and reimagined play areas and more green space. Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin will return, and the Gadget Go-Coaster will get a new theme as Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Gadget Coaster.
What used to be the Swiss Family Treehouse and later became Tarzan’s Treehouse is returning to its roots (pun intended) later this year. The new treehouse will be inspired by the Swiss Family Robinson movie once again. The 2023 reopening date is still TBD.
Rogers: The Musical
The Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure has been dark since 2020, but Disney just announced a new show opening soon. In harmony with Avengers Campus right next door, Rogers: The Musical, will have a limited time run in summer 2023. Yes, it’s a musical about Marvel’s Captain America!
The quick service restaurant French Market in New Orleans Square recently closed to get a fresh new theme. When it reopens later in 2023, it will be called Tiana’s Palace, featuring Princess and the Frog, leading the way in that section of the park for the eventual refurbishment of Splash Mountain into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure next year.
Disneyland’s shopping and entertainment district, Downtown Disney, is a major construction zone in places right now. Expect a lot of change and some new openings in 2023, although much of the construction may continue well into 2024. For now, La Brea Bakery is gone and has been replaced by a temporary location for Earl of Sandwich. A lot of other new restaurants are coming, so keep watching Disney news for other 2023 annoucements.
Pixar Place Hotel
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel is currently undergoing a renovation to become the Pixar Place Hotel. This property was in dire need of a major refresh so I am excited to see the finished product, slated for some time later this year. The property is still open and hosting guests in the meantime. Before you book, however, be sure to check the latest construction details to find what amenities may be affected.
Disneyland Hotel DVC Tower
Last but not least, there is a new tower under construction at another Disneyland resort hotel – the Villas at the Disneyland Hotel. This property will feature Disney Vacation Club (DVC) units. While no sale date has been announced yet for those who which to purchase DVC ownership, guests who’d like to stay there can start booking soon. Bookings open March 15 for DVC members, March 16 for Magic Keyholders, and March 17 to the general public for a September 2023 opening date.
Essential Tips for Disneyland Planning & Touring in 2023
So now that all of those dates are out of the way, how do you plan your Disneyland vacation differently in 2023? And how do you approach touring the parks in new ways? Here are all my very best practical tips.
Remember the days when you could wake up and decide to go to Disneyland for the day? Or if you are not a local but are within a few hours driving distance, the days when you could decide mid-week to head down to Disneyland for the weekend? While I won’t say those days are long gone, they are certainly fewer and farther between.
With an ever-increasing number of Americans traveling, the demand for Disneyland has continued to exceed supply many times of year. That means you need to plan early to be able to go at all – to find theme park reservation availability, to lock in a hotel that doesn’t cost and arm and a leg, and to book flights to Disneyland if you are coming from longer distances.
How early is early enough? This time last year, I would have said several months in advance. Thankfully, supply and demand have normalized a bit so you don’t need to plan quite that early. But even still, I’d say you need to plan at least a couple of weeks in advance from drive markets. I’d recommend a month or more if you are coming by air or hope to go at peak times like the holidays. If you want to snag the best pricing and availability for hotels, at least several months in advance is necessary.
Secure Theme Park Reservations ASAP
In the last couple of years, we’ve all gotten used to the fact that an increasing number of activities require advance reservations to take part. While a lot of those activities have dropped their reservations requirement, Disneyland is one place keeping them around for the indefinite future.
Be sure to read my comprehensive guide to Disneyland reservations as you are planning your Disneyland trip to make sure you get the reservations part right. The bottom line is that you need to a) check to make sure there are reservations available for the days you want to visit and the ticket type you plan to buy before planning a trip and b) book those reservations ASAP.
While reservations open 120 days in advance for regular theme park tickets, it’s certainly not necessary to book them quite that early. But earlier is better, especially if you plan to go at a high demand time like Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.
Practically speaking, reservations usually remain open for almost all dates more than a week or two out now (especially if you have park hopper tickets, where reservation availability is more generous). Sometimes, there are still reservations available the night before or even same day! No, that shouldn’t make you complacent. Availability can really fluctuate.
There are a lot of factors that might cause the parks to book up more quickly at some times of year. Ticket specials (especially the spring SoCal weekday deal), Disney adjusting allotment of space to annual passes (now known as Magic Keys), or the draw of seasonal offerings like Food and Wine Festival can all cause the parks to fill farther in advance.
Buy the Right Ticket Type
Before making park reservations, guests of course need theme park tickets. So what are your options for regular tickets? Disneyland offers both single day or multi-day tickets (up to 5 total days). There is an optional park hopper add on for both of these as well that costs a $60 flat fee for 2-5 day tickets and $65 extra on all one day tickets.
Over the course of the past year, I have heard a lot of stories of guests who bought the wrong ticket in the first place or who changed their minds about what ticket was right for them after more research. In most cases, however, you really can’t afford to do this right now. You need get your ticket purchase right out of the gate because Disneyland doesn’t make it easy to change or upgrade tickets from afar.
For this reason, I highly recommend buying multi-day Disneyland tickets from Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today. Get Away Today is the only place that offers refundable Disneyland tickets if you get this ticket purchasing step wrong (free if you purchase their $75 Peace of Mind Plan or otherwise a $50 per ticket fee). Plus, their tickets are discounted off of regular Disney direct prices! Book discounted Disneyland park tickets from Get Away Today here. (And also be sure to peek at their discounted Disneyland hotels and vacation packages too – use code TYKES10 for $10 in additional package savings.)
So what else do you need to watch for in terms of tickets? Here’s what is tripping up many guests and what to know:
- One day tickets are the most complicated, with 7 different prices, corresponding to 7 different tiers (inexplicably numbered Tiers 0-6). Only Tier 6 tickets can be used every day on the calendar. Other tiers have blockout dates. Be sure that the tier you purchase will allow you to go on the day you want (as well as any day you might switch to if your vacation plans are not yet firm).
- Multi-day tickets thankfully do not have tiers at all, so you are eligible to book any day on the calendar with them.
- Multi-day tickets expire 13 days after first use. This makes them great for a multi-day vacation for out-of-towners. Locals who can bunch up several single day visits in a two week window might find some value as well, although usually the SoCal ticket specials are better for anyone who lives nearby.
- Park hopper tickets and single-park-per-day tickets each have their own separate reservation availability calendar, regardless of the number of days you purchase on these tickets. Make sure you are checking the reservation calendar that matches the ticket type you intend to buy. The single-park-per-day reservation calendar usually fills up first. If you are booking more last minute, paying extra for park hopper will likely open up more days on the reservation calendar to you.
- Magic Key (annual pass) reservations are a totally separate system. Magic Key dates open up 90 days in advance, and many popular dates become booked very quickly. Magic Keys are not always on sale (or only some types are available), so they may not be an option for many guests to even purchase.
Consider New Hotel Options
A lot of Disneyland visitors have their favorite hotels they’ve stayed in year after year, and loyalty and familiarity are certainly good things. But whether it’s been a while since you’ve investigated the choices or you are coming to Disneyland as a first timer, I’d encourage all Disneyland visitors to shop around and look at the hotel options anew.
The 2020 closures brought a lot of changes to the hotel market. Multiple new hotels have opened, some of which have some pretty tempting perks and value propositions. Additionally, the prices of a lot of hotels have gone up quite a bit in these inflationary times. As I’ve been monitoring prices closely, I’ve noticed some hotels have had much more substantial price increases than others and some have changed their included benefits. The relative prices have shifted considerably, and a hotel that used to be a deal or value may not be anymore relative to its current benefits.
If you want to get a peek at what my top hotel picks are in 2023, check out this fully updated guide to hotels within walking distance of Disneyland.
Additionally, Disney has changed its benefits for on-property hotel guests. This changes the incentives for some guests deciding between a Disneyland owned hotel or an off-property Good Neighbor Hotel nearby. Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning are both gone, but guests at on-property hotels get 30 minutes of early entry into either park every morning. You can get a lot done in 30 minutes, but query carefully whether this is a benefit you will fully use before paying several hundred dollars more per night to stay on-property (especially at Paradise Pier with its current 2023 construction).
Finally, one important thing to keep in mind – conventions and other special events have largely returned to the Anaheim area making hotel demand higher than ever at some times you might not expect. Walking distance hotels especially seem to book up quickly in 2023 as a lot of travelers don’t want the hassle of shuttles or harder-to-find (and increasingly expensive) ridesharing to the parks. So earlier really is better when it comes to being able to plan a Disneyland vacation with your preferred logistics.
Park Hop at 11:00 AM!
For guests who purchase Disneyland’s park hopper ticket add on, the year 2023 brings a welcome policy change for the better. Since the reopening, park hopping has only been allowed at the Disneyland Resort starting at 1:00pm. As of February 4, 2023, the park hopping time at Disneyland has been moved up to 11:00am!
It’s still not quite like the good old days when there was no time restriction on park hopping, but at least this frees guests up to make lunch reservations in whatever park they prefer. It also helps with using and redeeming Genie+ Lightning Lanes more strategically (more on that below).
Adjust Your Disneyland Dining & Restaurant Strategy in 2023
For a long time after the parks first reopened, things simply weren’t up to speed on the Disneyland dining front. Finally almost all restaurants are open (and at full capacity) in 2023, but the dining scene has changed quite a bit.
Some menus are still pared back to a more limited number of choices at some restaurants. Reservations at table service restaurants are also harder to get, and quick service restaurants have increasingly moved towards encouraging guests to mobile order.
Table Service Restaurants
For table service restaurants, my best advice is to book early (and often). Reservations didn’t used to be incredibly hard to get at Disneyland except for a very few popular restaurants, but they are much more challenging in 2023. You may not be able to secure your top choice, so consider making backup reservations for restaurants you are happy with when you see they are available – because those too may soon be gone!
When do you need to plan to book dining reservations? Officially, Disneyland table service reservations open up exactly 60 days in advance, usually at 6:00 am PT. Some restaurants, however, will not open up availability at that time, releasing all availability several days later or releasing additional times in dribs and drabs.
How do you navigate the uncertainty? My best advice is to at least set an alarm to try first thing in the morning 60 days in advance. After that, I would suggest saving yourself dozens of fruitless refreshes and sign up for a Disney dining reservation monitor service.
I highly recommend the site Mouse Dining, which is a great tool to help you snag a hard to find reservation by notifying you of cancellations or Disney adding capacity. Mouse Dining has both a free and a paid version, and I’ve had personal success using it to snag reservations many times. If you are serious about a specific hard-to-get restaurant you’ll likely need the paid service which sends text alerts to be competitive. If you are more casually looking for openings at one of several places, the free version which sends email alerts can usually get the job done. A lot of guests book multiple or extra reservations to hedge their bets and cancel some as their plans firm up. Snagging those cancellations is possible, especially with some assistance
All hope is not lost for the last minute planners either! Disneyland recent changed its cancellation policies for table service reservations, allowing guests to cancel until 2 hours in advance with no penalty. This means it’s possible to snag a same day reservation off of these cancellations. Additionally, most table service restaurants have walkup availability too. You can join a same day walkup wait list on the Disneyland app on the day of your visit.
Quick Service Restaurants & Mobile Ordering
If you don’t want a fancier or longer meal, head for one of Disneyland’s quick service restaurants. Actually, don’t physically head there. First, you need to open the Disneyland app. The new normal for these dining locations is that you need to mobile order your food on the app. Disneyland has thankfully added back cashiers to many of these restaurants to enable walk up orders, but they are in smaller numbers than before. Mobile ordering will still save you time almost all the time.
To use mobile ordering, the app will first display a list of available time windows for you to return to each restaurant to pick up your order. The closer you get to peak mealtimes, the more other guests start to place their mobile orders. And the farther out the return times become (although this thankfully has improved somewhat).
The bottom line? It’s essential to order on the early side, especially if there is a particular popular restaurant that is a must-do for you. You can always cancel an order with no penalty before your pickup window if you change your mind. You can also modify your pickup window if you are running late. See the quick and easy guide to Disneyland mobile ordering that my friend Casey at Disneyland Daily has created with step-by-step instructions.
Master the Disneyland App
Speaking of the Disneyland app, it’s important for more than just mobile ordering. It’s a backup for your theme park ticket, your ticket to Lightning Lanes (more on that later), your park map, the way to access your PhotoPass images, and more. Disneyland has even been testing it to check out of stores by allowing guests to self-scan merchandise in the app.
It’s essential that you download the app, know your login and password, and load a credit card to your account. Every adult doesn’t need to have it, but the most tech-savvy adult in your party (or at least the one managing the Disneyland vacation planning) should. If more than one adult will be using it, it sometimes easiest both to log in to the same account so that both phones get alerts.
Note that Disney gift cards are now a permitted method of payment in the app as of 2021. So if you’ve acquired Disney gift cards at a discount, you can finally use them to save on food too. The only problem is that the app doesn’t store the gift card each time, so be prepared to enter the 16 digit code anew for each purchase (hot tip: copy and paste the number in your phone’s text notes so you don’t have to fish out the card each time).
My friend Jessica from the Happiest Blog on Earth has even more detail and information in this detailed guide to the Disneyland app.
See Characters Up Close & Get Hugs Again!
One of the favorite parts of a Disneyland vacation for many visitors – especially young kids – is seeing favorite Disney characters. These encounters were highly modified for a long time. But in 2023, hugs and close encounters are back for character meet-and-greets!
There are still characters that pop up in the distanced spots (especially on the Disneyland Railroad balcony overlooking Town Square in Main Street U.S.A.). So if you don’t want to wait in a long line to see a character, this is a helpful alternative I’m glad has stuck around. Check the Disneyland app under the Entertainment menu option to see the many locations where characters will appear in the parks, both near and far.
Disneyland character dining has returned entirely to its pre-2020 modes of operation as well. Characters come by tables again in addition to sometimes doing a parade or dance a few times per hour. Some restaurants will also take a character photo with guests to start the meal. See all the details in my complete guide to Disneyland character meals.
Have a New Strategy for Lines & Crowds
If you don’t want to be standing in line for rides (who does?), you’ve got a LOT new to learn in 2023. Fastpass, MaxPass, Extra Magic Hour, Magic Morning, even virtual queues…. most of the tricks and hacks we used to use to shortcut lines in the pre-pandemic days are GONE.
In their place are a few brand new tools that you absolutely need to know about. Whether you use them or not, they will affect how long the lines are and what rides you should do and when.
So what are these new options? The most important ones to know about are Disney Genie+ and paid Lightning Lane. Disney Genie+ is a pretty close cousin to MaxPass and allows guests Lightning Lane access for up to 20 eligible attractions. Paid Lightning Lane is a separate Fastpass-like offering for 3 additional super-popular rides with a separate fee. If you want short waits most like the Fastpasses of old, these are upcharges that you should seriously consider. The flip side of course is that they can make standby lines for everyone else much longer. See my complete FAQ for Disneyland’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane and then read these additional advanced Disneyland Genie+ strategies for all the details.
For those of you who like to shortcut lines by going during less busy times, is it even possible to find a less crowded day to go to Disneyland in 2023? With the theme park reservations requirement, there are fewer really slow days at Disneyland. That said, midweek dates are still usually going to be less crowded than a holiday weekend – except for when a special like the current spring SoCal offer on weekdays is live.
Disneyland crowd calendars can help, but I find them less reliable than before, especially many months in advance. Personally I’d say that it’s less important to try to game the dates you are going to go to hope to luck into low crowds rather than just pick what works best for your travel schedule.
How else can you minimize your Disneyland wait times in 2023? This is an ever changing target, but here has been working of late:
- Rope dropping still works. Starting early is vital to a successful touring plan. Get in the front of the line to enter the parks up to an hour before park opening and you’ll be in prime position for your first ride of choice – and probably also your second and third. Although early entry means that on-property guests now have a half hour head start on all other guests, there aren’t enough on-property guests to make lines long by the time everyone else is let in at rope drop.
- Use single rider lines when available. Single rider lines are back but not necessarily for all the rides that offered them in 2020 (RIP Indy & Space Mountain single rider). But they are a great benefit, especially if you are flying solo or have older kids who are ok riding alone.
- Know when paid Lightning Lanes may sell out for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. While most rides offering Genie+ or paid Lightning Lane don’t run out of reservation times until late in the day, paid Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge can still go very fast on high crowd days. Check out the latest strategies and trends in my Guide to riding Rise of the Resistance.
- Hop in line for one last ride a minute or two before closing time. As long as you are in line before the park officially closes, you get to ride. Lines are often very short at this hour as many guests head for the exits. Squeeze in one last ride, especially if you are a night owl!
- Ride during the fireworks or parades. Now that fireworks, parades, and other shows are back at Disneyland, a lot of guests won’t be on rides in the minutes that lead up to and during the shows. Fantasyland attractions close during the fireworks, but you can head elsewhere in the park to find shorter ride lines.
Disneyland is undoubtedly different in 2023, but still exudes much of the same joy that we all expect from the Happiest Place on Earth. And now you should be armed with all the information you need to adjust accordingly and take maximum advantage of the new rules.
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