What to Expect During Extra Magic Hours at Disney California Adventure

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Extra Magic Hour at Disney California Adventure (DCA) is a relatively new perk for guests staying in Disney-owned hotels at the Disneyland Resort. Before June of 2012 it was only offered at Disneyland, but with the addition of Cars Land the newer park suddenly found itself in high demand. Recently I stayed in a night in the Grand Californian Hotel (GCH) for the first time and got a chance to experience the Extra Magic Hour with my own eyes. In this post I will share my observations with you. For reference, the day I attended had a 9:00 AM Extra Magic Hour with a 10:00 AM regular park opening, and had a crowd level of 2.3 out of 10.

Lining up:

Even though the crowd level for the day was low, the line to enter DCA for the Extra Magic Hour was large. This was not surprising considering there are almost 2500 Disney-owned hotel rooms full of people that are eligible for this perk. I used the DCA entrance inside the Grand Californian Hotel (from what I could see, the early entry lines at DCA’s main gate weren’t as long because they had 4 turnstiles with 4 lines open compared to the 4 turnstiles at the hotel with 1 line). When I got in the line to enter at 8:45 AM, it went left and stretched back to White Water Snacks and then bent around and went all the way back to Napa Rose/Storytellers Cafe. Cast members said on even moderately busy days this line is much longer, so if you want to be in the park at the start of the Extra Magic Hour, make sure to get in line earlier than I did. Cast members started letting people through the GCH bag check a half hour before the park opened and then let people in the park at 9:00 AM (which is when Extra Magic Hour started). The line moved smoothly, and I was in the park by 9:10 AM.

Extra Magic Hour starts:

After the start of EMH, everyone runs to Cars Land to get in line for Radiator Springs Racers (RSR). I witnessed entire families running briskly walking to Cars Land as soon as they got through the gates. Because of this Radiator Springs Racers quickly went up to a 45 minute posted wait, which is what it stayed at until the park opened for regular day guests at 10:00 AM.

During Extra Magic Hour:

Besides Cars Land, the rest of the park was completely empty until 10:00 AM. I was able to walk on Toy Story Midway Mania, California Screamin’, Soarin’ Over California, and Tower of Terror without waiting; literally zero people were in line for these attractions. As I mentioned before, Radiator Springs Racers was the only attraction with a significant wait time. This got me thinking that perhaps RSR isn’t the best use of your time during the Extra Magic Hour. Sure, you will avoid the long waits the attraction is known for (even on the slowest days we see wait times of around 75 minutes!). But like I said, I was able to ride every other one of the park’s E-Ticket attractions with no wait. This shows that when you experience Extra Magic Hour, you must have a plan in place before you enter the park. My advice is to experience as many attractions as possible during Extra Magic Hour, and then get in line for Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS tickets 10 to 20 minutes before the park opens for its regular operating hours. In case you weren’t aware, Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS distribution does not begin until regular park hours start. But hotel and non-hotel guests are allowed to line up for FASTPASS distribution 30 minutes before the park opens. This line may look long (sometimes stretching from the distribution area all the way back to Tower of Terror), but it usually moves quickly, and you wont be spending more than 30 minutes waiting to get a FASTPASS.

It’s also important to note that in my experience Radiator Springs Racers usually has at least 1 day each week where it has extended maintenance in the morning. This means that it will not open until some time in the afternoon. If RSR is closed there will be signs and cast members posted throughout Cars Land to inform guests and offer any information they have.

Eating During Extra Magic Hours:

First off, you probably won’t want to eat during the Extra Magic Hour. You’re paying a lot of money to stay in that fancy Disney hotel room, and you only have an hour to take advantage of the thin crowds. If you do choose to eat you won’t find many locations that are actually open. The available dining options are: Flo’s V8 Cafe, a breakfast food cart near the Little Mermaid attraction, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe, the Cozy Cone Motel, and Ariel’s Grotto. Other restaurants and food carts usually begin operation at 11:00 AM. Keep in mind that Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe is busy during the first few hours of the day. If you need your Starbucks fix you need to get in line extra early without losing valuable park time.

Conclusion:

You can get a lot done during Extra Magic Hour. If you go in with a solid plan, you might be able to knock out most of the major attractions in Disney California Adventure, leaving your day to soak in the details and experience everything else the park has to offer.

For more information see our page on Disneyland Resort Early Entry.

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Posted on February 11, 2013

15 Responses to “What to Expect During Extra Magic Hours at Disney California Adventure”

  • by Kevin Crossman on February 11, 2013, at 7:14 pm EDT

    This is good advice about doing attractions and avoiding Cars Land, then getting into line 10 minutes before park open. Note too that the “day guests” have a separate queue from the early entry guests, so you’ll be ahead of most of the crowd when you join the line. The two lines are joined at park open, so be sure arrive before then.

  • I stayed at grand Californian and walked thru downtown disney got in line was about the 5
    Family in the turnstile was way faster then the other entrance went straight to racers walked on did the rest of Carsland did soaring and then got in the line for fp for racers it is a separate line as long as you get there before the park opens to regular guest was probably the 100 th in line and I got in line Ab 4 mins before they opened

  • So I arrived generally 20 min at the main gate- immediately went to cars land and went o radiator springs with in 10 min of opening. then got in a ride at soarin and then waiting in line for a fp at RSR. i think that plan is the most efficient- then you can ride toy story after getting the fp, and screamin’ is right next store.

  • When I went to Disneyland in 2011 I had a three day ticket that also included early entry benefits. Is this something dlr is still doing or is the only way to stay on dis property?

  • Just found my answer on the link you provided!

  • Thank you for the advice! We are planning our trip in late April. We have 2 adults, a 3 and a 4 year old. We are staying on site and have the Minnie meal plan. What do you suggest for eating breakfast (or any meal) and making the most of the EMH? I think the Minnie plan only offers character meals for breakfast, but I could be wrong.

    • The most important part of EMH to most people is going to be riding attractions so you’re probably not going to have enough time to eat and ride multiple attractions during EMH with it only being one hour. Just glancing at the projected park hours for April (Disney has not released the official park hours yet) it looks like the parks will open at either 8 or 9 AM, with an EMH of an hour before that. Perhaps you can grab a quick snack or some fruit before EMH and then after you’ve toured the park for a couple of hours do your character meal.

      • Thank you for such a fast response! I just realized we can only use a EMH one time during our stay, not every day. Thank you!

  • Hi. We are currently at Disney’s Grand Californian. We tried EMH this morning and Cars Land AND the Fastpass distribution were roped off. We were told we couldn’t access either until park opening at 10am. So… wait in line an hour to get in an hour early, then wait another hour+ just for Fastpasses? No thanks.

  • Is DCA EMH available in the personalized touring plans?

    • by David Davies on April 16, 2013, at 11:14 pm EDT

      Yes. If you personalize a touring plan for a day where DCA has EMH, you are presented with an option to make use of the EMH time, and you can then set your start time to whenever you plan to arrive at the park.