How to do Disneyland in Summer | Tips for a cool, magical adventure
Updated 9/16/18. On top of many families’ bucket lists lies Disneyland in Summer. The kids are off from school and the sun is shining brightly. What better way to commence summer with a visit, or two, to the Happiest Place on Earth?
The key to a successful summer trip is to plan, plan, plan! Summertime brings some of the largest crowds to Disneyland and having a solid game plan can help with navigating those crowds in the hot California sun.
It’s supposed to be the HAPPIEST place on Earth, right? With that thought in mind, here are some strategies for visiting Disneyland this summer to keep your trip as magical as possible.
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Do Your Research Before You Go
Be familiar with the park hours and take that into account on the days you visit. Weekends typically have later evening hours than weekdays at Disneyland in Summer. Yet weekdays may have a chance of being less crowded than weekends. Plan what days you are going to visit carefully. Know what time the shows, parades, and fireworks start and make a note of which ones you want to attend. You can find Disneyland’s hours and entertainment schedule here.
Check Disneyland’s website for attraction closures. There’s nothing that spells disappointment like showing up to take a ride on Space Mountain and finding out it’s closed for refurbishment. Know ahead of time what to expect to prevent any unexpected family disappointments. You can find the list of Closed for Refurbishment rides at the bottom of this page on Disneyland’s website.
Special checklist items to curb the summer crowds
First-time visitor? Make sure you are familiar with the Fastpass and Maxpass system. Download the Disneyland app and learn how to use it. Whatever you can do to beat the heat and reduce your time waiting in line is a lifesaver! You’ll be thanking yourself later when you realize how much time you have saved! Check out our extensive Fastpass guide here to study up.
Make dining reservations in advance! Summers are crowded at Disneyland and those favorite restaurants fill up quickly. While there are many grab-and-go options, there is something to be said for being waited on when you’re on vacation. Make your dining reservations up to 60 days in advance online or by calling (714) 781-DINE (3463).
Ways to Beat the Heat at Disneyland in Summer
Show up early and be prepared! Buy your tickets in advance and plan on showing up to the gates before the park opens. While this isn’t always feasible for families with small children, the earlier you can come the better! The temps are cooler and the lines are shorter! Better to spend that afternoon heat relaxing in the shade with a Dole Whip than baking on the pavement.
Make a backup plan if that summer heat becomes unbearable. Make a note of which rides are indoors and which areas offer a retreat from the heat. This can be a nice emergency strategy to pull out when the family is literally melting down around you. Check out indoor shows, indoor queues and rides, and indoor restaurants for a relief from the heat. Save that emergency list on your phone so you can pull it out in a flash!
Water Rides and Meet & Greets and air conditioning, Oh my!
Find the water! Ride wait times for water rides will skyrocket in the afternoon on high-temperature days because it is the best way to beat the heat at Disneyland in Summer. So, make sure you snag that Fastpass ahead of time so you’re all set for the afternoon. Here are some places you can find the water at Disneyland & California Adventure Park:
Splash Mountain at Disneyland
Grizzly River Run at California Adventure Park
Princess Dot Puddle Park in Bug’s Land at California Adventure Park* (*Check before your visit as Bugs Land will be closing soon to make way for a new superhero-themed land!)
Don’t forget to pack a big Ziploc to store your camera, phone, and autograph book in! Nothing is worse than a wet autograph book! Find other recommendations on what to bring on your trip here.
Meet some characters in both Disneyland and California Adventure! Some character meet and greet options offer indoor queues, so this can be a nice welcoming break from the heat. Check out the Star Wars characters inside the Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland. Aside from meeting favorites like Darth Vader, there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained in the nice air conditioning. Star Wars, not your thing? Check out the Frozen crew in California Adventure inside the Disney Animation building, another air-conditioned area of bliss to take a break in on a hot day. Don’t forget to check your Disneyland app to see what time the characters are available!
Make Time for Summer Treats and Eats
Dole whips are a classic and all-time favorite of many. In other words, make sure you don’t miss out on yours! You can find these in Adventure Land in Disneyland. Pro tip: skip the line outside and go inside for a shorter line. Grab your Dole Whip and stay for an air-conditioned show at The Enchanted Tiki Room! (Side note: these are also vegan!)
Ice cream at Disneyland is the best ice cream around–in my humble opinion. There are many options to choose from at Disneyland and California Adventure. Take a trip down nostalgia lane and check out Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor’s on Main Street in Disneyland. This old-fashioned ice cream parlor is packed with classic favorites. Or if you’re over at California Adventure, pop in at Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop and challenge yourself to the Earthquake! A massive eight topping and eight scoop sundae that only dreams are made of. Try to eat it yourself or split it with the family.
Indulge in the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This restaurant is perfect for hot summer days. The setting transports you to a timeless New Orleans setting. Watch the boats glide by and take a break from the sun inside a beautiful twilight atmosphere. Kids love watching the boats AND they will enjoy the food. They have plenty of vegetarian and vegan accommodations, ask to speak to the chef and they will make your day! Blue Bayou also offers dining packages with reserved seating for Fantasmic! Make your reservation far in advance to ensure your spot! Call (714) 781-DINE (3463) to make a reservation up to 60 days in advance of your trip.
Pros of a Visit to Disneyland in Summer
Less chance of rain! California typically sees more rain in the winter months and coming in the summer alleviates most worries of visiting the park on a rainy day.
It is convenient for many families with children being on vacation, so there is no need to take time away from school to visit Disneyland in Summer.
Most rides and attractions will be open. There is likely to be fewer rides and attractions down for refurbishment in the summer and plenty happening to draw park visitors in. For instance, the fireworks go off every night and there are more showtimes available for fan favorites such as Fantasmic! and World of Color which gives your family plenty of touring flexibility.
New attractions tend to open at the beginning of the summer along with new events and festivals. Such as Pixar Fest this year! Be some of the first to experience any new attractions in the parks.
The summer hours are the longest of the year. If you’re a regular energizer bunny, you could stay from opening time to midnight on most nights in the summer! This is a great advantage for folks that may only have one or two days to spend in the parks.
Summertime means beach time and you can reasonably plan on a hot summer day at the beach on one of your off days from the parks. California has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country and summertime there are so many fun activities to try like surfing and beach volleyball.
Cons of a Visit to Disneyland in Summer
The heat in California can be intense in the summer. Moreover, the hot sun combined with the humidity can make for some sweltering afternoons. For folks that do not do well in the sun and heat, this can be a be a big snag in their vacation.
It may be more expensive to visit in the summer. Because summer is peak travel time everything from your airfare to your hotel stay will likely be more expensive than it would be in the off months.
The crowds will be large since summer is one of the busiest times of the year! Other than the holiday season, the parks see some of their largest crowds in the summer months.
The first few weeks of June may draw out more annual pass holders to check out the new attractions which can make the park even busier than usual.
Hot sun and long lines can be a recipe for bad moods galore. Whether it becomes crabby town in your own group or from those around you, the happiest place on earth can become a little less happy with that combination.
LA traffic may be worse than usual due to a higher volume of tourists flocking to the state. If you plan on taking a drive from Anaheim down to Universal Studios or drive from LAX, the traffic may be more intense than usual. Of course, we know in California to plan for intense traffic regardless of the season!
More Disneyland Planning Tips
There is a ton of information to read up on before planning a Disneyland vacation. Once you’ve decided on your hotel and ticket options, you can shift your focus to planning for crowds, constant activity, food, and souvenir buying. Familiarizing yourself with everything the Disneyland Resort has to offer can definitely make your Disney experience unforgettable for you and your family. Don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE Deals Newsletter to stay on top of the current planning tips, strategies, and Disney deals!
You can discover more about planning your trip to Disneyland from these links: