Best Time to Visit Disneyland
Typically when you're asking this question you're wanting to know when the slowest time with the least amount of crowd is. We'd say that true for 90% of people. Nobody likes battling massive crowds and waiting in hour+ lines. There are some advantages to going during a busier time and some negatives to going during a slow time. There's no "perfect" time to visit Disneyland but we can help you find one that matches what you'd like to experience on your vacation.
Slow Times at Disneyland
Historically the slow times at Disneyland have always been around the holidays, school breaks, conferences, and events at Disneyland such as runDisney and Grad Nights. This is all still very true. Avoiding these times will help bring down the crowds and your waiting times significantly. The best months and weeks to look at for these slow times are as follows:
- January to February: Anytime after January 7th through February 28th are great times to visit. Keep in mind the 2 holidays and plan around them. Also be aware that there is typically a runDisney event in January each year. Avoid these dates at all cost. You can view their event schedule here.
- May: The first week of May is typically slow as spring breaks have finished but school is still in session. Any later than this and you'll start hitting Grad Nights which draw in a lot of high school graduates and a runDisney event, usually the Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon.
- August: The very last week of August can be great as most schools are back in session. There is the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon the last day of August or around then so try to finish up before those dates.
- September: Great month to visit minus the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon dates and Labour Day week. Mickey's Halloween Party starts at the end of September and the first ones are usually really busy with locals. Keep in mind that on the nights of these events they close Disneyland Park early so you're forced to leave the park if you haven't purchase a separate event ticket. If you have a 1 park per day ticket DO NOT attend Disneyland Park on these event dates as you'll lose out on a lot of park time.
- October: This month is full of events, mostly Mickey's Halloween Party which is a separately ticketed event. If you're planning on attending one the earlier in the month the better and try to avoid any weekend parties. Typically the days between the Halloween parties are great days to attend the parks. The unofficial Gay Days at the parks typically occurs around the first week in October and draws in a semi-large crowd.
- November: This is always an interesting month. Usually around the 2nd week of November all the Holiday celebration decor is up and running. This always draws in a crowd the first few days. Avoid those few days. Before this is a great time to go, usually the first week on November. Around November 9th there is a runDisney event, the Super Heroes 1/2 Marathon. Avoid these days if at all possible. Beyond the start of the Holiday celebration, avoid Thanksgiving week and you should be good.
- December: The first 2 weeks in December are great times to visit. Anytime after this and you'll see crowds, crowds, crowds. School's out for holiday break and everyone is flocking to take part in the Holiday celebration. Historically Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are 3 of the busiest days at the parks.
Now let's talk about the downside of slow times at the parks before we get into the busy times. Slow times are the perfect times for Disney to refurbish attractions. You can expect 1-2 major attractions to be closed during these times. It's a real bummer but it makes sense to Disney. They need to do it at some point so why not when crowds are low? Also during these times is when the firework shows and parades drop in frequency. Instead of the fireworks playing every night as they do during the busy season, they only do them 3 times a week. For the parades, instead of having 2-3 shows a day they'll only have 1. Many times other shows will also not play during this time, usually street performers and certain transportation vehicles.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the slow times bring less park hours. Some weeks only have the parks open from 9-10 am to 8-9 pm. Extra Magic Hour and Magic Morning Early Entry will give you an extra hour if you're staying on property. Until the weekends you won't see any later hours like 10 pm, 11 pm, or 12 am.
We're not trying to scare you into not attending a slow week. We still prefer them over a busy one. Just be prepared for things like refurbishments and less park hours and you'll be fine.
Busy Times at Disneyland
We're sure you've put it together by now, the busy times are all the dates we didn't mention above or told you to avoid. We won't list out the dates but as you can imagine Summer is one of the busiest times to visit Disneyland. School's out for the summer and everyone wants to experience all the new things that Disneyland has to offer. Holidays throughout the year always draw in crowds, so do events such as the runDisney and new ride openings. Of course if you like to participate in these things then these are great times to go!
One thing you'll find during the busy times is almost all if not all attractions and shows are running. These are typically not times for ride refurbishments which is great news! You can expect firework shows almost every night and long park hours. The parades should have multiple shows throughout the day. Of course you can also expect longer wait time for rides, food, and shows. Bottlenecks will be happening all over the parks, specifically around Star Tours, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. California Adventure doesn't see bottlenecks like Disneyland Park does.
We mention this because slow and busy seasons affect the type of deals you can expect to get on your tickets to Disneyland. During the slow season at the parks is also a good time to buy your tickets. You can expect bigger discounts and better ticket promotions such as free character dining or a free day. These promotions don't last long so be sure to buy quickly. We always suggest buying your tickets January-mid February for the best deals of the year. Historically Disney has raised their ticket prices at the end of February.
There are promotions that do run end of April-mid May that usually include a free day of character dining. Of course these change every year so nothing is guaranteed but be sure to take a look and see what's being offered. We always suggest Park Savers to receive the best deals and promotions on Disneyland tickets. They are an authorized seller of Disneyland tickets.
Just remember, no matter what time you visit the parks, it's going to be a magical experience. Crowds or not you'll get in all the attractions and shows you want. We always suggest using Fastpass to help you get the most out of your time at the parks.