One of the big questions when it comes to planning a Disneyland vacation is WHEN should we go? You not only have to figure out a perfect date between work and school schedules but you want to take weather, holidays and special events into consideration as well! So many things to consider before you visit Disneyland.
Here is my guide to the seasons, with tips on the best times of year to visit Disneyland!
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When Will We Be Able to Avoid Crowds?
The parks will be packed anytime that kids are out of school, which would be all holidays and breaks. This would include weekends, summer, Christmas vacation, Thanksgiving weekend, Spring Break, Labor Day, President’s Day, and Memorial Day.
There are also random days through the year when you will find it’s busier than normal like Bats Day in early May and Gay Days in late September. I’ve personally been during both of these times and the park is much more crowded than it would be usually during this time of year.
There is also an assumption that Superbowl Sunday is a good time to go but really, I’ve been twice on Superbowl Sunday and it’s just as crowded as any other weekend (probably more so, because everyone else had the same great idea that the park wouldn’t be busy!).
Dates to Avoid if You Don’t Like Crowds
- Martin Luther King Jr. weekend
- Superbowl Sunday
- President’s Day weekend
- Spring Break for the local schools
- Easter weekend
- Bats Day (aka Goth Day)
- Memorial Day weekend
- 4th of July weekend
- Labor Day weekend
- Gay Days Disneyland (traditionally late September/early October)
- Columbus Day weekend
- Veteran’s Day weekend
- Thanksgiving break for schools
- Holiday/Winter break for schools, including Christmas and New Years
For more details on what dates to avoid, check out this post for 2017.
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What Does More Crowded Mean?
- It means waiting…lots and lots of waiting.
- It means standing in line for 60+ minutes for a ride that you might be able to walk on without ANY line during a non-peak time of year.
- It means waiting in line for the bathroom.
- It means waiting in long lines for food.
- It means that you might be standing to eat once you finally do get your food because there aren’t any tables or chairs left.
- It means not being able to see the sidewalk in front of you in congested areas of the park.
- It means being shoulder to shoulder at certain times.
- It means if you want to watch a parade or attraction you’re going to have to get there very early if you want a seat or even standing room to watch it.
I’ve been during those times and it’s a miserable feeling to stand in line and wait for everything, especially with children.
Plan an Off-Peak Vacation
If you hate to wait (and really, who doesn’t?), consider going to the park during off-peak times. The most optimal days of the week to visit the park are in the middle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the week but Monday and Friday (especially Friday evenings when locals get off work) may be heavy as well.
Planning your Disneyland vacation takes preparation, especially if you’re a newbie. A good research book helps and I highly recommend these for everyone!
I’ve found these are good times to visit:
The first weeks in January – though you might experience some rain & cold weather.
Twice we went during the early part of the year and did experience some heavy rain. Navigating through the park, pushing a stroller and carrying an umbrella (which conveniently turned itself inside-out mid-gust!) wasn’t the easiest thing to do and we stuck to inside amusements like the show in the Golden Horseshoe and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
I wouldn’t recommend that first-timers visit this time of year at the risk of having your entire vacation rained out. (See the next section for more information about weather).
Then again, you might not have any rain at all and have a very warm visit, as we did on one very hot January visit!
Late April to Mid-May– just after Spring Break is over and before kids are out for summer. Springtime at Disneyland and the flowers are in bloom. You might have a few light spring showers.
September – just after Labor Day but before Gay Days (late September). You’ll have to take the kids out of school but weather is warm and lines are short. It’s a great time to go if you like to take breaks at the pool for swimming.
Mid-October through November – ending before Thanksgiving. And the park is all dressed up for fall, it’s just beautiful!
The weather is still usually warm (and sometimes VERY hot). Consider avoiding days on which Mickey’s Halloween Party takes place because the parks will be more crowded. If you choose to attend Mickey’s Halloween Party, don’t use a Park ticket that day because you’ll be able to access the Parks early with your special event hard ticket.
If you’re going to have the kids dress in costume, keep the warm weather in mind!
Late-November through first two weeks of December – the few weeks just after Thanksgiving.
Fortunately my son’s birthday falls during this time and I’ve taken him there a few times. The park is decorated for the winter holidays, there are special activities, shows and parades and the crowds are still thin enough.
Keep in mind that Disneyland often schedules revamps and maintenance during slow seasons or off-peak times. You can find that information on the Disneyland Daily Calendar Park hours might also be shorter, so check the calendar for the days you’ll be in the park.
When Will the Weather Be the Best?
Fortunately, Disneyland is in Southern California and weather is generally pretty nice year-round. There are times of the year however when you can expect it to be quite hot (July through September). And there are times when it might rain (December through March). There are times when it will be very overcast and cloudy for most of the day (usually May and June). But an overcast day never hurt anyone and you’ll be at Disneyland, so who cares about a little May-Gray or June-Gloom?!
And the rest of the year is usually in the mid-70s so you’ll be comfy in shorts!
If you are going during cold weather, dress in layers. Don’t be shy about bringing that hat and those gloves. Wear socks and not flip-flops!
I had the pleasure of sitting on the cold concrete one icy winter day to watch a parade at the Park…brrr!! It was at that time I thought about how nice a blanket would have been to sit on!
If the weather warms up and you find yourself overdressed, you can always stuff everything into a rented locker and fetch it later if you need it again (you get in/out privileges for the day). Pack a poncho if rain is in the forecast as it’s much easier than dealing with an umbrella.
I would recommend similar advice for warm weather as well, layers are best. Evenings can still be cool in the summer, so bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt will be necessary or risk having to buy one at a premium price at the park when you get chilly! Believe me, I have many souvenir jackets from the park because of this very reason.
And it’s always smart to bring an extra set of clothes and socks anyway because you never know when you might get wet (or soaked!)
So what is your favorite time of year to visit Disneyland? Share your reasons in the comments!