Two things affecting Disneyland crowd levels are the events happening throughout the resort and school holidays. These are the two most important Disneyland crowd indicators. 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.
See my overview video of when to visit Disneyland in this guide to Disneyland video.
When to Visit Disneyland 2018
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
The month of December, leading up to Christmas week
Weekends throughout October and beginning of November while the theme parks are decorated for Halloween
Labor Day through Thanksgiving, except avoid weekends
Late January through February
Late April unless Easter falls at that time
January through the beginning of May is what many call the “off season.” These weeks have the least amount of crowds, but a lot of the shows will not be running likethe fireworks. This is important to consider in the debate of when to visit Disneyland.
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This time of year is a blessing and a curse. Many Disneyland rides are closed for refurbishment during the first two months of the year. Check the refurbishment calendar on the official Disneyland website, released 60 days in advance, for closures.
I spent some time putting together a Disneyland attendance calendar detailing all of the different pros and cons of the different months of the year when visiting. The information included in our best time to go to Disneyland calendar is basic 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. This will help you to decide when to visit Disneyland.
Disneyland Calendar Crowds and Special Events 2018
Below I have compiled a listing of Disneyland events and special calendar items to be aware of when deciding the best time to go to Disneyland during 2018. All of these openings and special events will greatly affect the 2018 Disneyland crowd index.
Pixar Fest kicks off April 13th with an incredible new fireworks show themed all around the friends from Pixar and a return of the Pixar Play Parade inside Disneyland Park. Pixar Fest ends on September 3rd.
The crowd favorite Paint the Night parade will return to the Disneyland Resort with nightly performances in Disney California Adventure starting on April 13, 2018. The parade will also include a brand new float!
Star Wars Land is being built behind Frontierland using land taken from backstage areas, the old Big Thunder Ranch Barbeque, and some Rivers of America space. Star Wars Land is expected to open somewhere between late in 2018 and early spring 2019.
Disneyland is currently working on a huge expansion of the infrastructure around the resort including a brand Disneyland new hotel that is expected to open in 2021, a brand new parking structure, and widended streets to accomodate for crowds expected from Star Wars Land.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events January
Disneyland has announced a new set of special after hours events called “Disneyland After Dark”. The first of these nights is Throwback night themed to the 50s and 60s. You can see more info on the official Disneyland page here.
Three Kings Day is celebrate in Disney California Adventure each year immediately following the ending of the Disneyland Christmas celebration.
Disney California Adventure celebrates Lunar New Year from January 26th 2018-February 18, 2018. This is a large cultural festival that will include special entertainment and dining options. This year is the Year of the Dog on the Chinese calendar meaning we could see some cute merchandise featuring Doug from Up.
The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend has been cancelled this year due to construction of Star Wars Land and the brand new Disneyland hotel that was recently announced coming in 2021.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events February
Disneyland Lunar New Year Celebration 2018 continues until February 18, 2018.
There are special menus at some of the table service restaurants for Valentine’s Day. You will also find lots of holiday-specific desserts and special treats all throughout the resort.
One Saturday in February, the “Celebrate Gospel” event brings beautiful song to the Disney California Adventure backlot area. This event has not been officially announced for Disneyland 2018, but assume it will happen either on the second or third weekend of February.
Disneyland Crowd Calendar 2018 Events March
March marks the beginning of the more crowded Spring Break season and the end of the renovation season where more of Disneyland’s attractions are schedule for maintenance.
The Disneyland Food and Wine Festival will return for a longer period in 2018 running from March 2, 2018 until April 12, 2018. The Food and Wine Festival features special festival food booths, cooking demonstrations, and lifestyle presentations. This festival takes place in Disney California Adventure park.
Disney has an Easter egg hunt throughout both theme parks. You can purchase a scavenger hunt packet from participating shops throughout the resort, find all the eggs, turn in your packet, and then receive a prize.
The “Remember…Dreams Come True” fireworks are scheduled to be shown starting March 15 and will likely continue to perform until the start of Pixar Fest on April 13.
Disneyland Crowd Calendar 2018 Events April
Spring Break season continues in Disneyland with lots of crowds expected every day. Follow our Disneyland crowd calendar tips seen below for help avoiding the crowds.
The Disneyland Food and Wine Festival runs from March 2 until April 12 in Disney California Adventure park. This event includes special cooking demonstrations, unique food booths, and special menu items throughout the resort. There are also special ticketed events with celebrity chefs.
Pixar Fest offically kicks off on April 13, 2018 with a brand new fireworks show and return of the Pixar Play Parade inside Disneyland Park!
The Paint the Night parade returns to the Disneyland Resort on April 13th 2018 in Disney California Adventure nightly. This fan-favorite parade will feature a brand new float.
Dapper Day at Disneyland is on April 21st and 22nd. This is a celebration of the vintage style clothing that used to be worn to Disneyland and that was featured heavily in early concept artwork. About 1/10 of the park usually participates. It is lots of fun to be in the parks during the events. The Disneyland crowds in attendance are usually bearable as those who come out for the event are typically in the parks to take photos more than they are to experience attractions.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events May
Grad Nites at Disneyland are scheduled for May 4, 5, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23, 29, 30 and nights in June. These evenings will have certain sections of the theme parks shut down specifically for recent high school graduates. The students visiting the parks will also have access to Disneyland throughout the day. Expect big Disney California Adventure crowds especially later in the evening.
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend has been put on hold indefinitely due to the construction of Star Wars Land, the new Disneyland hotel, and new parking structure.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events June
The brand new Incredicoaster and Pixar Pier will open on June 23rd. The completely renovated version of California Screamin’ will feature a brand new soundtrack, changed lighting, a brand new load sequence and theme, and new ride vehicles. The Pixar Pier area will be designed around the Pixar characters mixed in with a Victorian style.
Disneyland Grad Nites are scheduled for nights in May and June 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9. These events are extremely popular for recently graduated high school seniors and includes special private access to certain areas of Disneyland later in the evening. These dates mean that you’ll want to avoid Disney California Adventure at night where a majority of the event takes place.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events July
Disneyland is a fantastic place to celebrate the 4th of July. The fireworks show is massive and actually consists of all of the fireworks from the preceding six months that were not fired off due to wind cancellations. Disneyland 4th of July can be very crowded due to the popularity of the fireworks show.
Disneyland opened on July 17th in 1955. On smaller birthday years–like this year’s 63rd anniversary–the park celebrates with a small ceremony on Main Street with characters and a replay of the original Walt Disney opening day Disneyland dedication speech.
Tickets for the popular Mickey’s Halloween Party 2018 usually go on sale in July. If you have a preference for which date you attend the party you should be ready to book.
Disneyland Crowd Calendar 2018 Events August
This month will not likely introduce anything new to the parks. The crowds will be big especially towards the end of the month when many of the Disneyland Annual Passports are unblocked. This will be a peak crowd season for buying one day Disneyland tickets.
Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend typically happens over Labor Day Weekend. This event will include a half marathon race, 10k race, 5k race, and kids races. All runDisney Disneyland Marathon weekends have been suspended indefinitely due to construction.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events September
Pixar Fest will officially conclude on September 3rd. There has not been any official announcement on whether this includes the end of all of the entertainment and the Paint the Night parade.
Disneyland Halloween will begin about halfway through September and runs through the end of October.
The first nights of Disneyland Mickey’s Halloween Party after hours event occur during this month. The event consists of a special Halloween entertainment, an opportunity to wear costumes in the parks, and lots of meet and greets.
Universal Studios Hollywood, another extremely popular theme park featuring the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter kicks off their Halloween Horror Nights mid September. You can read more in our Universal Studios Hollywood 2018 guide.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events October
Disneyland Halloween time continues with special attraction overlays and decorations throughout both theme parks.
Every October, the fan-created Disneyland Gay Days are held. You can expect quite a few people in the parks wearing red to demonstrate they are members of the event. Disneyland offers rainbow merchandise and food offerings throughout the park in recognition of the celebration. The event usually takes place the first weekend of October.
On October 18 and 19 2018, the state of Utah has holiday breaks for their schools. The Utah Education Association has a large convention in Anaheim and it can sometimes feel like the entire state of Utah is in Anaheim. Be aware of this seemingly innocent Thursday and Friday in October as they can be some of the busiest days of the year in Disneyland.
Universal Studios Hollywood continues their Halloween Horror Nights through the first week of November.
Disneyland 2018 Crowd Calendar Events November
There is another Dapper Day event each year in early November. This day is a celebration of the classic clothing that used to be worn to Disneyland.
The Marvel Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend usually occurs in early November. The runDisney race weekend includes a 10k Race, 5k Race, Half Marathon, and kids races. These races have been put on indefinite hold during major construction around the resort.
Beginning Thanksgiving weekend, the parks are quite crowded all the way through the Christmas season.
There are a wide variety of food offerings for Thanksgiving throughout the resort. The Disneyland Hotel has a large Thanksgiving buffet with characters and all of the classic Thanksgiving fixings. See our Disneyland restaurant review article for information on booking dining.
Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates Christmas with a fantastic Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter featuring beautiful decorations, live entertainment, and a breathtaking new nighttime spectacular. They also have their Grinchmas celebration featuring characters from the Dr. Suess classic.
Universal Studios Hollywood also has fantastic Christmas offerings with their Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss Grinchmas. Both of these are fantastic additions to any vacation and warrant a drive up to Universal Studios. (You can see information on discount Universal Studios Hollywood tickets 2018 here).
The crowds are typically very heavy during this month, but there is lots of entertainment and special offerings that makes visiting totally worth it!
Disneyland Candlelight Ceremony on Main Street in Disneyland during the first weekend of December. This is the retelling of the birth of Jesus with hundreds of choir singers and a celebrity narrator. You can see video from last year here.
The two college football teams competing in the Rose Bowl visit Disneyland in the couple of days before the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California. The bands from both schools usually also play either marching in the parade or in Town Square in front of the Train Station.
Disneyland is always crowded on New Year’s Eve, but there are lots of special entertainment offerings including bands and the largest Disneyland fireworks celebration of the year. This fireworks show is made up of all of the fireworks shells that were not shot off during the preceding six months due to wind cancellation.
Disneyland 2018 Through the Seasons
Throughout the year there are a few huge special events that make the parks extra magical.
Christmas in Disneyland 2018
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.
Disneyland Crowds Specialists
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>
More Disneyland 2018 Planning Tips
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