If you’re considering booking a trip to Disneyland, you’ve probably wondered about the best time of year to visit.
This is probably the question I get asked most often when it comes to Disneyland. People generally want to know if there is a magic formula for visiting the parks when crowds are low.
There are a number of “crowd calendars” posted on various websites, but it’s important to know that there are no official Disney-published crowd calendars nor are there any available crowd calendars based on Disney data. Numbers fluctuate greatly throughout the year and crowds can be difficult to predict.
That said, I DO have some tips based on our own experiences in the parks. We’ve visited Disneyland at least once per year every year since we had our first daughter ten years ago. Now, four kids and a decade later, I’ve put together thoughts about the best time of year to plan a trip to Disneyland.
1. Choose weekdays. The best advice I can offer is not a specific week or month of the year. Instead, I recommend that you choose weekdays whenever possible. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday would be an ideal trip. Add on a Monday and/or Friday if you want to extend your vacation.
2. Go early. Get to the parks twenty to thirty minutes before they open. If the park opens at 8:00am, be at the gates by 7:40am at the latest. Did you know that Disneyland sometimes opens the gates before the listed opening time? True! You will not be able to actually go on any rides (the entrances to the various lands are roped off), but you will be able to snap photos in iconic spots and/or be first in line at the land of your choice. Both Disneyland and California Adventure are notably quieter for the first hour and a half after opening so you should be able to soar around the world, splash down a mountain, or complete a speedy space mission with hardly any wait.
3. If you can swing it, stay on-property at a Disney hotel. That way, you can get an Extra Magic Hour for each morning of your visit. It’s remarkable how many extra rides you can squeeze in during that one hour compared to the rest of the day. Plus, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of parking and get to the parks faster – especially if you stay at the Grand Californian (the closest hotel to the parks!).
4. Use smart tactics to ride more and wait less.
- For starters, be sure to read up on the FASTPASS system. You’ll probably want to grab a few FASTPASSES right when you arrive at the park of your choice.
- If you and/or your kids are willing to ride solo, make liberal use of the “Single Rider” line. It’s like a fast pass for every ride and sometimes you still get to ride with friends/family (no guarantees though).
- If you have a baby with you, you can use the Rider Switch (aka Child Swap or Baby Swap) option. One parent can ride (with older siblings) and then “switch” afterward, using the FASTPASS line. Such a wonderful way for both parents to be able to enjoy rides!
5. Try to avoid school holidays. Examples: spring break, summer vacation, the week of Thanksgiving, and the week before & after Christmas. That being said, don’t skip the holidays altogether! Holiday decor, rides, and shows typically debut in early November and run through the first week of January so you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the merriment of the season with minimal crowds. Our most recent visit was at the end of November and I would say the lines were modest on Thursday and Friday, with an uptick on the weekends (but certainly not unbearable).
6. Be a VIP. If money is no object or you are planning an extra special trip, consider booking a Disneyland Resort VIP Tour. You’ll receive priority access to 30+ attractions and character greetings, plus reserved seatings for shows.
MOST IMPORTANT TIP —> Pick a slot on the calendar that works best for your family and follow tips #1 and #2. If you plan your trip for weekdays, arrive early on each day, and use smart tactics to ride more, you’re bound to have a bevy of fun.
The truth is…ANYTIME is a good time to be at Disneyland. Am I right?
If you visit Disneyland regularly, what would you say is the BEST time of year to visit?