Imagine having Disneyland and California Adventure Park all to yourself. You can ride any ride you want by just walking right up and taking a seat. Of course, you’d miss a lot of the things that make Disneyland such a great destination – seeing children hugging Mickey Mouse, watching families laugh together over a great meal, and enjoying the screams and smiles coming from the people on the ride you’re about to take.
But even though Disneyland is a shared experience, and sometimes the park is so crowded it’s hard to see everything you want in one day, there are a few tricks that will help you get as much as you can from your trip to the Magic Kingdom. Among these is the FASTPASS service.
FASTPASS was originally introduced in 1999. As travel became more affordable, park attendance started to increase. The parks have always utilized a system of measuring wait times and identifying congested areas that allows them to effectively redirect traffic and encourage guests to find another ride or attraction instead of waiting in line for one that’s particularly crowded.
But this method wasn’t enough to keep up with the growing number of visitors. So, FASTPASS was created to help guests get more out of their visit even on the busiest days.
FASTPASS is free and available to all guests, and can take as much as an hour off your wait time for the ride of your choice. And it’s not just limited to rides. FASTPASS is available for shows in both parks.
- Editor’s Note: Disney has begun phasing out their popular FastPass system. You can learn more about how to use the replacement for FastPass, which is Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.
How FASTPASS Works
Somewhere near the attraction you want to ride is a FASTPASS kiosk. Above the entrance will be a FASTPASS “return between” timeframe, usually an hour. This is the window of time during which you can redeem your FASTPASS ticket. Insert your admission ticket into the machine. It will return your ticket and issue a FASTPASS with the reserved timeframe printed on it.
Keep both your original ticket and your FASTPASS with you. Make sure you put it in a safe place because you won’t be able to use FASTPASS without that ticket (unless you purchase MaxPass – more on that later).
Return to the ride or attraction anytime during the assigned window. When you arrive at the FASTPASS entrance, scan the same theme park admission ticket or Annual Passport used to make the FASTPASS selection. The attendant will then let you into the FASTPASS line, which will almost always be shorter than the stand-by line. In some cases it will save you up to an hour of wait time.
There are only a limited number of FASTPASS tickets issued for each timeframe, so as they “sell out” the return time will get later and later until FASTPASS distribution ends for that day. This means you want to strategize your FASTPASS and get to the kiosk early.
One very important note about FASTPASS: you can only hold one at a time. Until you redeem the FASTPASS, or return time expires, you won’t be issued another one. This unfortunately means that if you don’t get a FASTPASS for an early timeslot on your desired ride, you might have to ride stand-by for all the other attractions. The most popular rides sell out first. The best way to check FASTPASS availability is through the Disneyland mobile app.
Now that you know how FASTPASS works, let’s talk about the best plan for Disneyland rides.
Please note that the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will greatly affect Park Operations. FASTPASS estimations will change drastically once this added area of Disneyland opens. It may decrease waiting times because visitors will spend most of their time exploring the new ‘land’, or it could increase wait times due to a consistently larger number of guests. Even Disney has no way of predicting the impact.
Both Disneyland Resort and California Adventure Park have a number of FASTPASS rides (*SR indicates which rides have Single Rider available).
They are as follow:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
- Haunted Mansion (and Haunted Mansion Holiday)
- Indiana Jones Adventure (SR)
- “it’s a small world” (and “it’s a small world” Holiday)
- “it’s a small world” Holiday
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (SR)
- Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
- Space Mountain (SR)
- Splash Mountain (SR)
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (SR)
California Adventure Park
- Goofy’s Sky School (SR)
- Grizzly River Run (SR)
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark
- Incredicoaster (SR)
- Radiator Springs Racers (SR)
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Toy Story Midway Mania!
- World of Color
Most Popular/Least Popular
While there’s no way to predict wait times for rides and attractions, there is a general understanding that some rides are more popular than others. These tend to be good candidates for grabbing a FASTPASS early in the day.
The five busiest rides in each park are:
- Space Mountain
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
- Indiana Jones Adventure
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Splash Mountain (summer visits only)
- Star Tours: the Adventures Continue
- Radiator Springs Racers
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
- Toy Story Midway Mania
- Soarin’ Around the World
The least busy FASTPASS rides at Disneyland Park include Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, and Haunted Mansion. For California Adventure Park, you can usually ride Grizzly River Run and Goofy’s Sky School without needing FASTPASS.
As you can see, the most popular rides are the fast, coaster-style rides. The more mild rides tend to have fewer lines as they mainly attract families with small children. So assuming everyone in your party passes the height requirements, focus on riding as many as these top FASTPASS rides as you can.
For the rides that have Single Rider feature, remember that you can use this even if you hold a FASTPASS for the ride. It doesn’t affect you ability to return during you return window. You can ride these rides as many times as you want and still use your FASTPASS. You can also ride stand-by without affecting your FASTPASS.
Here are the Top 5 FASTPASS rides between Disneyland and California Adventure Park. They also happen to be some of the best Disneyland rides.
1. Space Mountain
Space Mountain is located inside Disneyland Park. It has remained one of the most popular rides since it opened in 1977. The roller coaster is located in Tomorrowland and has always fit the ‘Future’ concept of that corner of the park. It has served as an anchor for the many futuristic rides and shows associated with Star Wars, because the entire ride takes place in the dark, where you’re surrounded by projections of stars and galaxies.
Space Mountain trains have 2 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 12 passengers per train. The seats are on the small side, which makes the ride more exciting (and perhaps more romantic) because you are less encumbered by normal restraints that go over your shoulders on larger roller coasters. With just a lap bar holding you in, you feel more movement when you go through tight turns.
The excitement of the ride comes from the near darkness. Because you have little frame of reference, it can often feel like you’re going faster than you are. And since you can’t see what turn is coming next, it’s a surprise each and every time, no matter how often you ride.
The line you wait in is almost entirely indoor and well designed. The last segment wraps around the upper part of the loading dock, so you’ll be watching the cars load and unload till it’s you turn. The entire look is futuristic and reminiscent of a space station. There is a height requirement. You must be 40” (102cm) or taller to ride. But it is one of the most unique roller coasters in existence. Though it has small drops, and is dark and loud, it’s a favorite for all ages. This make’s it a great choice for FASTPASS. A trip to Disneyland Park isn’t complete without a ride on this iconic coaster. The ride takes a photo at the end of the run so you can commemorate your experience.
2. Radiator Springs Racers
Topping the list of most popular California Adventure Park rides is Radiator Springs Racers located in the Cars Land section of the park. When it first opened in June 2015, the wait times were as long as six hours. Although you won’t be waiting that long anymore, it’s beneficial to get a FASTPASS, because this popular ride can still take up to two hours to ride stand-by.
This is a story-based ride that appeals to kids, tweens, teens and adults, although there is a 40” (102cm) minimum height requirement. The line is queued up mostly outside, which is a good thing for wait times on rainy days, but plan on wearing a hat and sunscreen since it’s mostly sunny in Southern California.
After you pass under the marquee mounted on a large archway near the Radiator Springs Courthouse, you’ll find the older part of town (called Stanley’s Oasis) that sits between the cliffs of Ornament Valley. Expect to see three of the town’s ‘earliest’ buildings before entering the Comfy Cavern Motor Court to board a convertible racecar.
The loading dock services four cars at a time and each car seats six people in two rows of three. The first part of the four and a half minute ride is fairly smooth. After passing through peaceful, idyllic scenery, the cars enter a darkride portion of the attraction where it will feel like you’re nearly running into several audio-animatronic vehicles.
After several twists and turns through an exciting “Cars” based storyline, you’ll pair up with the other car you loaded with. If your party is somewhat large, you might see a friend or family member revving up next to you. Take a minute to size each other up because after a few seconds, the ride turns into a high-speed racetrack, where you’ll be competing for first place. During this last part of the ride, you’ll take twists and turns at speeds upwards of 40 miles and hour. There are tight turns and a series of ups and downs that will feel like you’re lifting off the track.
Be sure to get a FASTPASS early in the day. Or, if you don’t mind being split up from your party, use the Single Rider feature as often as you want.
3. Indiana Jones Adventure
For anyone who is a fan of the Indiana Jones trilogy, just the mention of the name will bring to mind the iconic theme song. The character of Indiana Jones is a professor of archeology who ends up taking a number of adventures in foreign lands during the 1930’s. Archeological digs that uncovered artifacts from lost cultures in Egypt and North India during that time-period made travel to those locations glamorous and mysterious. It is this concept of tourism that the ride is based on. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland Park opened in 1995, but because it’s set in a different time period it hasn’t become ‘dated’ like some of the rides that are more futuristic in nature.
The queue is immersive and designed with great detail. The line moves mostly inside the temple, so not only is indoors, the meandering makes you feel as though you’re going deeper into an underground chamber. Details such as rope tied railings, low lighting and petroglyph warning-signs transport you back in time.
As you approach the final stretch, an old-time film plays on a projector above your head and sets the scene for the story. Indiana Jones has gone into the Temple of the Forbidden Eye to rescue some tourists who looked “Mara” in the eye. But even though this rescue mission is underway, tours, with people like you, are still being conducted.
At the loading dock, guests board a troop transport, which is large open-air jeep that seats twelve riders in three rows of four. Because the only thing holding you into your seat is a seat belt low across you lap, and the jeep is open on both sides, this ride has a more restrictive height requirement. You must be at least 46” (117cm) to ride.
The jeep passes into the darkness through one of three doors, randomly assigned by Mara to receive one of the three blessings: Fountain of Eternal Youth, Hall of Promise, or the Observatory of the Future. But before the prize can be claimed, the face of Mara appears at the far end of the chamber and the ‘tourists’ look her in the eye. Instead of riches and rewards, Mara’s anger sets the jeep on a race to out-run her wrath.
It’s at this point where the ride starts to jump and feel like an all-terrain, off-road experience. The jeep enters a large room of the temple with a rope-bridge suspended over a pit of lava. Mara tries to burn this away using the green rays that shoot from her eyes, but the jeep makes it across and rushes into a series of catacombs each boasting a different obstacle. Swarming beetles, snakes and skeletal warriors who throw spears and shoot poison darts make the ride exciting as the jeep jerks back and forth.
At the end of the ride, Indiana Jones appears, hanging from a rope. He begs the transport for a ride, but a giant round boulder starts rolling down toward the jeep. At the last minute the ground seems to disappear and you drop down before the boulder crushes you. After your photo is taken, you’ll see Indiana Jones, who barely made it though, making some kind of sarcastic comment.
After you disembark the ride, you get to enjoy a long walk through an exit that’s just as well designed as the entrance. This ride never disappoints and makes the list of Top 5 FASTPASS rides.
- Check out our Indiana Jones Adventure ride review here!
4. Toy Story Midway Mania
Toy Story Midway Mania makes the list of Top 5 FASTPASS rides, because it’s the only one that has no age or height restrictions. While this makes is a great ride for the whole family, it means it will always be busy. So FASTPASS for this ride is a must-have. Especially because unlike the other rides that carry 12 passengers, Toy Story Midway Mania cars travel in pairs, and can only carry up to four people each. But, it’s worth the wait, especially when a FASTPASS cuts that wait in half.
Toy Story Midway Mania is about as immersive as an arcade game can get. Passengers wear 3D glasses and travel along in swiveling carnival cars as they twirl around different area of Andy’s room. Each rider gets to use the Spring-Action
Launcher attached to their seat to shoot at moving objects with virtual darts, baseballs, eggs, and other toy-jectiles. Get as competitive as you can. Every time you hit your mark, you get points. At the end, of the ride they’re tallied up. There are even secret targets worth lots of points. And all the Toys are there – Hamm, Rex, Trixie, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Jessie, to name a few.
There’s no losing with this ride. It’s comfortable, fun and enjoyable for all ages. If you have young children, try to ride earlier in the day when they’re not as tired. If you’re traveling without kids, you might have better luck in the evening if you miss out on a FASTPASS.
5. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
The final Top 5 FASTPASS rides is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad located in Disneyland Park. Set in the heart of Frontierland, this roller coaster takes you back to the early 1800’s when gold was discovered on Big Thunder Mountain in the American Southwest.
The coaster is a mine train that takes you through bat-infested tunnels dripping with stalactites before emerging at the top of the mining shaft and plunging down a winding track full of tight turns and gentle bumps. The coaster has two sections of action, with a transition over a hill with a bleating animatronic goat.
The whole ride lasts about 3 minutes and can get up to speeds as great as 35miles per hour. Because it uses shoulder bars to hold you in, the minimum height requirement is 40” (102cm). Guests can expect to spend the time waiting in line mostly outdoors. The décor is similar to Radiator Springs Racers with red rock and a southwest feel. Be sure to note the mining equipment and gear, as well as small fossils built into the rocks as you make your way toward the loading dock.
Though Big Thunder Mountain Railroad tends to have smaller wait times than other rides, it can fill up quickly and remain busy for hours at a time. The FASTPASS kiosk usually closes mid-day, even on less crowded days, so if you want a taste of the old west, grab your FASTPASS early.
MaxPass is a new feature offered through the Disneyland mobile app that not only allows you to book FASTPASS on your phone, but park hopper ticket holders can have a FASTPASS for one ride in each park at the same time.
It also has the added feature of PhotoPass, which is a great way to take advantage of the photos some of these rides snap as you’re going through the final drop. But read the fine print and always check FASTPASS times. MaxPass does guarantee FASTPASS.
FASTPASS isn’t just a good way to ensure you get to ride your favorite attraction. Without having to invest all that time standing in line, and having a designated return window, you can schedule the rest of the day around the rides you know you want to take.
And here’s where FASTPASS gets cool. The FASTPASS system for attractions is separate from FASTPASS for shows. This means you can hold a FASTPASS for World of Color in California Adventure Park, or Fantasmic in Disneyland Resort the entire day and still use FASTPASS for rides. So as soon as you grab the FASTPASS for your first ride, grab one for a show. This will give you access to a Preferred Viewing Area that is roped off into sections labeled by signs, allowing you to enjoy your day right up until the show is starting.
FASTPASS is a must if you visit the park on a busy day. It’s also great to use if you’re limited in the amount of time you can spend at the parks. Do lots of research and understand how the system works so you can make the most out of your time in the Magic Kingdom.
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