Last update October 27th 2016 Disneyland is a fantastic place to visit. What makes it less fantastic? Crowds and lots of them.
Disneyland has over 17 million visitors per year and you will have the most pleasant vacation if you avoid as many of them as possible.
Avoiding the Crowds
Two things affecting Disneyland crowd levels are the events happening throughout the resort and school holidays. So, let’s dive into the question: “when will it be crowded at Disneyland?”
Most weekends will be busy no matter when you visit the resort. Disneyland has over 1 million annual pass holders who frequent the resort after school or work.
Because Disneyland is both a vacation destination and a local hangout, it can be difficult to judge when there will be the most crowds. In the sections below we have taken into consideration the schedule from the nearby convention center and the previous year’s crowd trends to create a calendar that will help you to avoid the crowds at Disneyland.
Disneyland Crowd Trends:
The weeks before and after Easter: mid-March through mid-April, or Spring Break Season
The week before Christmas through the first couple of weeks of January, Christmas Day and New Years Eve bring in some of the largest crowds the park sees all year long.
July through early August, during the time that schools have summer break
During June, most annual passholders are not blocked out yet (they are blocked for many peak summer days)
If July 4th falls close to a weekend, then it will be extremely busy
Also, some rides will be closed for refurbishment at this time of year. So this time of year is a blessing and a curse.
I spent some time putting together a calendar detailing all of the different pros and cons of the different months of the year when visiting. The information included in the calendar is Disneyland crowd levels, park hours, and weather.
Be sure to check the Disneyland calendar on the official Disneyland website for more info on closures, entertainment schedules, and other info.
Disneyland Through the Seasons
Throughout the year there are a few huge special events that make the parks extra magical.
Christmas in Disneyland
At Christmas time you will find Sleeping Beauty Castle lit up with icicles, Main Street laden with decorations, and the rest of the parks beautifully decorated to celebrate the season. Regular shows and experiences are altered to match the holiday theme.
The Haunted Mansion and it’s a Small World each receive holiday overlays that transform both attractions. The Haunted Mansion becomes the Haunted Mansion Holiday, which is themed to the “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
I highly recommend visiting during Christmas, but expect to be joined by lots of crowds if you are there the week of Christmas through the first week of January. The best time to visit and see the Christmas decorations is the first three weeks of December or the second week of January.
During Halloween time, the parks are decorated with jack-o-lanterns and the feeling of fall and Halloween is in the air. See all of the information on Disneyland Halloween in our huge guide.
Disney turns Space Mountain into Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy. Space ghosts are added throughout this classic indoor roller coaster and also the soundtrack is switched to one a bit spookier. The Haunted Mansion is also transformed to be themed to Nightmare Before Christmas. This Haunted Mansion conversion runs from the end of September until the beginning of January.
Mickey’s Halloween Party
Disneyland hosts a separately ticketed party on select nights throughout September and October that features a special Halloween theme with extra entertainment, costumes, and Halloween decorations.
During Mickey’s Halloween Party, Disney characters are out in full force with the classic characters like Mickey Mouse and the gang donning their own Halloween costumes and rarely seen villains creeping out. During the event you can find characters in meet and greets scattered throughout the park and in a special character cavalcade parade twice a night. Regular park guests get to join in the fun by wearing their own costumes to the event. This is the only time that adults are allowed to wear costumes of any sort to Disneyland. In almost every land of the park, kids and adults alike can receive candy on the trick or treat trails. To finish off the night, the spookiest fireworks show of the year brings the castle to life.
In Summertime, Disney often opens new experiences and attractions. This is the best time to “get em while they are hot,” but be careful because that is the same mindset of every visitor and new attractions often have long lines.
The rest of the year Disney has shorter weekend events going on that celebrate certain cultures or smaller holidays like the Lunar New Year, high school graduation, or the 4th of July. In the past they have also held 24 hour days where the parks operate around the clock.
Recommended Length of Stay
The recommended length for a trip is anything between one and a half days and three full days. Anything more than three days isn’t quite necessary. When we do a trip to Disneyland, it is usually about 2 and a half days over a weekend.
Now that you know when you want to visit Disneyland, it is time to figure out the logistics of where and how you will book your trip. The benefit of staying longer is being able to see and do everything you want at a more leisurely pace. You would also have time to return to your favorite experiences.
Who to Book With
Now that you have decided when you want to visit Disneyland, it is time to book your trip. We highly recommend a Disneyland package to have the best experience and save the most money while planning your Disneyland vacation. More info here>