The big question when it comes to Disneyland - WHEN should I go?
If you like quirky charts & reports, check out Disneyland Vacation Tips and they have these to track trends in regards to average weather, temperature, and attendance. There is also plenty of great tried-and-true advice in regards to your Disney vacation.
WHEN will we be able to avoid crowds?
First, I can tell you when it WILL be busy. The parks will be full pretty much anytime that kids are out of school, which would be all holidays and breaks. This would include weekends, summer, Christmas vacation, Thanksgiving weekend, Spring Break, Labor Day, President's Day, and Memorial Day.
There are also random days through the year when you will find it's busier than normal like Bats Day in early May and Gay Days in late September. I've personally been during both of these times and the park is much more crowded than it would be usually during this time of year. There is also an assumption that Superbowl Sunday is a good time to go but really, I've been twice on Superbowl Sunday and it's just as crowded as any other weekend (and seemingly more so, because everyone else had the same great idea that the park wouldn't be busy!).
A Sunny October day, next to giant Autumn pumpkins
from the Disneyland Vacation Tips website:•
2011 Dates to Avoid if You Don't Like Crowds
1.January 15 - 17 Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
2.February 18 - 21 President's Day weekend.
3.April 4 - 15 Spring Break for the local schools.
4.April 23 - 24 Easter weekend.
5.May 6 - 8 Bats Day (aka Goth Day)
6.May 27 - 30 Memorial Day weekend.
7.July 1 - July 4 4th of July weekend.
8.September 2 - 5 Labor Day weekend.
9.September 30 - October 2 Gay Days Disneyland.
10.October 9 - 11 Columbus Day weekend.
11.November 11 - 14 Veteran's Day weekend.
12.November 19 - November 27 Thanksgiving break for schools.
13.December 18 - January 2 Holiday break for schools.
Thumbs up to NO CROWDS!
What does more crowded mean?
It means waiting...lots and lots of waiting. It means standing in line for 60+ minutes for a ride that you might be able to walk on without ANY line during a non-peak time of year. It means waiting in line for the bathroom. It means waiting in long lines for food. It means that you might be standing to eat once you finally do get your food because there aren't any tables or chairs left. It means not being able to see the sidewalk in front of you in congested areas of the park. It means being shoulder to shoulder at certain times. It means if you want to watch a parade or attraction you're going to have to get there very early if you want a seat or even standing room to watch it. I've been during those times and it's a miserable feeling to stand in line and wait for everything, especially with children.
If you hate to wait (and really, who doesn't?), consider going to the park during off-peak times.
Early December. The park is decorated for Christmas, but not crazy-busy.
The most optimal days of the week to visit the park are in the middle: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously Saturday and Sunday will be the busiest days of the week but Monday and Friday (especially Friday evenings) may be heavy as well.
I've found these are good times to go for us:
The first weeks in January, though you might experience some rain & cold weather. Last two times we went during the early part of the year we did experience some heavy rain. Navigating through the park, pushing a stroller and carrying an umbrella (which conveniently turned itself inside-out mid-gust!) wasn't the easiest thing to do and we stuck to inside amusements like Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, Innoventions and the Tiki Room. I wouldn't recommend that first-timers visit this time of year at the risk of having your entire vacation rained out. See the next section for more information about weather.
A cool day in December
September, just after school starts but before Gay Days at the end of the month. You'll have to take the kids out of school but weather is warm and lines are short.
Mid-October through November, ending before Thanksgiving. And the park is all dressed up for fall, it's just beautiful!
The few weeks just after Thanksgiving. Fortunately my son's birthday falls during this time and I've taken him there a few times. The park is decorated for holiday, there are special activities, shows and parades and the crowds are still thin enough.
The Boy's Fifth Birthday in December (no lines and all dressed up for Christmas!)
Keep in mind that Disneyland often schedules revamps and maintenance during slow seasons. You can find that information on the Disneyland Daily Calendar Park hours might also be shorter, so check the calender for the days you'll be in the park.
WHEN will the weather be the best?
Fortunately, Disneyland is in Southern California and weather is generally pretty nice year-round.
Enjoying the twisty slide pool at The Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort
There are times of the year however when you can expect it to be quite hot (July through September).
And there are times when it might rain (December through March).
There are times when it will be very overcast and cloudy for most of the day (usually May and June).
And the rest of the year is usually in the mid-70s so you'll be comfy in shorts!
This was a very warm day in March, nearly 100 degrees. You just never know how weather will be in SoCal!
If you are going during cold weather, dress in layers. Don't be shy about bringing that hat and those gloves. Wear socks and not flip-flops! I had the pleasure of sitting on the cold concrete one icy winter day to watch a parade at the park...brrr!! It was at that time I thought about how nice a blanket would have been to sit on! If the weather warms up and you find yourself overdressed, you can always stuff everything into a rented locker and fetch it later if you need it again (you get in/out privileges for the day).
All bundled up to see Santa at Disney's California Adventure a few years back
I would recommend similar advice for warm weather as well, layers are best. Evenings can still be cool in the summer, so bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt will be necessary or risk having to buy one at a premium price at the park when you get chilly! Believe me, I have many souvenir jackets from the park because of this very reason...
And it's always smart to bring an extra set of clothes and socks anyway because you never know when you might get wet (or soaked!).
In the Bug's Land fountains at Disney's California Adventure
Next up in the series, Disneyland - Where to Stay