Disneyland (CA)

Cars Land Survival Guide: General Admission

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Arrive at DCA at least 45 minutes before park opening...

Looking for traffic avoidance advice as you drive down the crowded Route 66? Well, pull up to the pump and fill up on some free touring info, certain to make your first (or next) visit to Cars Land at at Disney California Adventure a little less fraught.

Recently, we related our step-by-step plan for surviving the Early Entry hour at Cars Land. Since the publication of that piece, Disnelyand announced the expansion of Extra Magic Hours for resort hotel guests to 7 days per week at both parks, now through September 13, 2012. Our advice is to take full advantage of the early admission programs if you are eligible for them, but that’s out of reach for the bulk of visitors this summer.

As a result of this temporary adjustment to early entry operations, general admission visitors this summer will never be the first into Cars Land, no matter how early they line up. If you are one of the unwashed masses unable to enter the park early, you can still enjoy all the new Cars Land attractions; it just may take a little more effort. Follow this plan to a “Model T” and you are likely to find yourself cruising in the fast lane, while everyone else languishes in long lines.

...and wait in line for a Radiator Springs FASTPASS...

Selecting the right day to visit is crucial. Avoiding DCA on an Extra Magic Hour morning — when resort hotel guests are allowed in early – is currently impossible. However, on four days of the week, Annual Passholders are also allowed in early (now through mid-September). Therefore, your best day to visit DCA is Saturday, when the majority of Annual Passholders are barred from entering by blackout dates. The next best days are usually Tuesday and Thursday. Sunday is the busiest day for Passholder early entry.

  • Arrive at the park’s front gates, ticket in hand, at least 30 to 45 minutes before the official opening time. Hotel guests and Annual Passholders who have registered for early entry will be allowed in ahead of you through designated turnstiles. Active hotel keycards or special wristbands are required, so don’t bother trying to sneak in.
  • As soon as the general public is permitted through the turnstiles (usually at least 30 prior to the official opening time) proceed down Buena Vista Street to Carthay Circle. Look for signs designating the start of the Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS queue.
...and wait...
  • Have one noble, self-sacrificing member of your party take everyone’s admission tickets and hop into the line for Fastpass distribution, which will not begin moving until the official park opening time. The queue may stretch through Hollywood Land all the way to Tower of Terror; if you are standing past the Animation building, you are looking at about a 30 to 45 minute wait once the line begins moving.
  • At park opening (8 a.m. every day this summer) a musical fanfare will announce the “rope drop,” and employees will carefully walk the crowd towards Cars Land. FASTPASS tickets will be distributed to those waiting in the queue, and will likely be gone for the day before 9:30 a.m. On busy days, unless you are already in line by opening time, it is possible you may not get a FASTPASS at all.
  • The rest of your party (minus the FASTPASS retriever) should proceed through Cars Land to Luigi’s Flying Tires. The wait may already be quite long, thanks to early entry guests, but it won’t get much shorter all day. So if this ride (a slow-loading blend of bumper cars and air hockey) is high on your to-do list, do it now.
It's only 8:15 a.m. and FASTPASSes for the morning are running out quickly!


  • Take a look at the single rider line for Radiator Springs Racers. If the wait is 30 minutes or less, and your party doesn’t mind being separated, take a trip through the singles queue. Otherwise, wait until your FASTPASS is active.
  • Experience Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree next. If the wait is over 30 minutes, skip it and check back in the late afternoon, when the queue usually dwindles.
  • If you’ve made good time to this point and want to take a breather, grab some breakfast at Flo’s V8 Cafe or Cozy Cone Motel, or pose for a photo with Lightning or Mater.
  • Secure a World of Color FASTPASS if you want to see the first showing of the night.
  • Enjoy the park’s other top attractions, which should be much less crowded than Cars Land. Also keep a close eye on your Radiator Springs Racers FASTPASS return window; this is the resort’s only attraction where the end time printed on your FASTPASS ticket is being enforced.
  • Be sure to stop back in Cars Land in the evening to enjoy the sunset neon lighting ceremony and evening illumination on the rock work. A second ride on Radiator Springs Racers after dark is a very different experience; try the single rider line during a performance of World of Color.
Victory! Got in line at 7:40 a.m., got a Fastpass at 8:30 a.m., can use it at 12:40 p.m.


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Seth Kubersky

Author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando. Co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and Beyond Disney. Contributor to Unofficial Guides to WDW and Las Vegas. Live Active Cultures columnist for the Orlando Weekly. Travel and arts journalist. Theatrical director and producer.

6 thoughts on “Cars Land Survival Guide: General Admission

  • Your tips were useful. What we did was modify the first part about racers. We went straight to the ride, we had a 40 minute wait at that point (7:20am, early magic hour) and then straight to the racers fast pass line for a 20 minute line at 8am. We got to ride it twice in 1 day without having to wait 2 hours each time!!

  • Now that the 7-day EMH program has stopped, I would be interested in your thoughts on general admission plan for Tuesdays & Thursdays. I did buy the 2013 UG, maybe that’s where I should start?

  • How’s child swap handled for popular rides that babies are allowed on? For example, at DHS, we can’t do child swap for toy story mania because we could take the baby. Sometimes we don’t want to. But most of the time, the child swap ticket is the back door way to obtain entry into the fastpass line.

    Frankly when the baby is sleeping, it’s nice to get a child swap so that we don’t wait twice.

    Also, is the child swap when there is not a fastpass line?

  • So, you waited 50 minutes in a line just to get a fastpass!?! Wouldn’t that time have been better spent in line for the actual ride?


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