Crowds at Disneyland
True story: it once took my husband and me one hour to walk from It’s a Small World to Main Street. By the time we actually got to Main Street, I don’t remember much after that, but I think I was carried by the masses through the front gates.
Then it took about forty-five minutes and practically sitting on a stranger’s lap on the tram ride, to reach our car. It took one hour or so for our car to leave the parking structure and make our way home. Of course, it was the 4th of July and we did decide to leave the park at the same time everyone else did (right after the fireworks show ended.) But, don’t let my horror story scare you. There are strategies to avoid situations like this, its called PLANNING AHEAD!
To understand why the crowds at Disneyland are so bad, you have to go back to 2008 when the recession hit. Disneyland did something awesome for Americans looking for a happy escape from money woes: they introduced a monthly payment plan for annual passes. The monthly payment plans meant that it was suddenly AFFORDABLE to have an Disneyland annual pass. Which resulted in my whole family having passes and approximately 900,000 fellow Disney addicts now becoming Disneyland annual pass holders.
This means that on your next Disneyland trip, you are more likely to run into locals than tourists most of the year. It also means that you may have to wait longer to get on a rides, see your favorite attraction, eat, park and even use the bathroom because there are simply more people at the parks to contend with. Unlike Walt Disney World, which has really busy seasons and dead seasons, at Disneyland what you are looking for in your trip are times that parks are less crowded than others.
Below are the times that I would suggest going and when to avoid going to Disneyland. If you just HAVE to go during one of these busy times then be sure to read my upcoming article on strategies to survive crowded days.
Less Crowded Times
1) The second week of January through February, minus holiday weekends. Weekends in general tend to be more crowded at Disneyland (because of the locals). So make sure you plan to have more weekdays in your trip.
2) First two weeks of March, before the Spring Break crowds come in.
3) End of April through May, again, avoiding holidays. I like this time of year because the weather is nice and the flowers are simply stunning throughout the park.
4) June, July and August, avoiding 4th of July like the plague. I know, I know. It’s the tourist season in California and it can be hot (can you say over 100 degrees?), but if get there earlier in the day and avoid holidays and it can be very pleasant. The beginning of June is particularly pleasant.
Diva tip: If you want to be sneaky, you can check out the blackout days for most of the passes on the Disneyland Annual Pass Holder website and go on a day when most of the passes are blocked out! We have had tremendous luck going on Saturdays during the summer months because many of the annual passes are blocked out. You can find out the blackout dates by clicking HERE
5) September before the Halloween decorations come out (usually third week or so). Why? The kids are back in school!
6) First two weeks in November, again, avoiding holidays. After the Halloween decorations come down and before the Christmas decorations come up (usually week before Thanksgiving).
7) First two weeks in December. The park is decorated for Christmas, which is truly a sight to behold!
Times to Avoid
1) The week between Christmas and New Years Day. Southern California has a lot of out of town visitors for the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl, and everyone seems to have vacation time during this week. We once visited Disneyland during this week on a rainy day…we walked back to New Orleans Square and were so frustrated with all of the people that we decided to go home.
2) Holidays in general. If you don’t have to work, the chances are pretty good everyone else doesn’t either.
3) Weekends. There are a lot of locals on the weekends, particularly on Friday evenings and Sundays. Saturdays are blocked out some of the time, but if it is not blocked out for annual passes it can be unpleasant, too.
4) Special events days. Grad Nites, Gay Days, D23 Expo, and popular conventions at the convention center across the street from the park. These events all bring in MANY extra visitors into the park.
5) First weekend Halloween or Christmas decorations go up. I love, love, love the decorations….So do millions of other people.
I hope you’ll use this advice in planning your next Disneyland vacation and have a great time!