Planning a trip to Disneyland and trying to determine the best month to visit? We analyze crowds, weather, seasonal events, park hours, and other factors to rank every month of the year for Disneyland in this post. (This post was last updated July 3, 2017 with summer crowd calendars.)
A lot of resources already exist to help planners choose the best time to visit Disneyland, but they do so from an objective, statistical perspective. While crowd calendars are a great resource, we believe in a more holistic approach to planning a Disneyland visit.
To be sure, everyone loves low crowds, but those low crowds don’t tell the whole story. When it comes to Disneyland, low crowd levels are sometimes accompanied by shorter operating hours, poor weather, additional refurbishments, and a lack of seasonal events. Few people evaluate their vacation’s success by some statistical ‘fun quotient’, so we feel it only makes sense to approach the best months to visit Disneyland from a similar qualitative approach.
That’s our belief, at least, and one that has proven popular with readers of our When to Visit Disneyland post. We’ve had a lot of questions for greater guidance in that post, and now that we are Southern California residents who visit Disneyland regularly, we feel we can provide more detail, providing the pros & cons of every month at Disneyland.
As such, the point of this post is to rank every month of the year for visiting Disneyland in light of all relevant considerations. After ranking each month with accompanying analysis (so you can determine whether you’d weigh the factors differently) we also cut to the chase and choose our 3 favorite weeks of the year for visiting Disneyland.
In order of worst to best, here’s how every month of the year at Disneyland ranks…
12. June – There are two unique wrinkles when it comes to visiting Disneyland that causes it to deviate from Walt Disney World, and both are evidenced in June. The first is Annual Passholders; Disneyland has a lot more of them (by orders of magnitude) than WDW. By virtue of blocking out some tiers of Annual Passholders, Disneyland can manipulate crowds and turn what would otherwise be a crowded time into a less-crowded one.
The other is weather; while it can get hot in Southern California, the region does not have the same issue with unbearable humidity that plagues the Florida parks. While June is one of the hottest months of the year in California, it wouldn’t rank poorly on that basis alone.
It’s the lack of AP blockouts in the first half of June that really causes it to rank poorly, and you can expect a deluge of locals trying to get in their last visits before they are blocked out for the entire months of July and August. If you visit later in June, you’re likely to find that the parks will be quite pleasant–certainly better than this 12 out of 12 ranking would suggest!
11. March – The time leading up to the Easter holiday is a proxy for Spring Break dates for Los Angeles County school districts in 2018, which will mean the last week of March will be busier than normal. (Orange County’s spring break will be the first week of April.)
Other Spring Breaks are scattered throughout the month, giving March the same issues as April. The first week is a notable outlier, with low, pre-break crowd levels and mild temperatures. (We also expect Disney California Adventure’s Food & Wine Festival to potentially return in March 2018, up a month from last year due to the move of Easter.)
10. April – Easter will be April 1, 2018, and that coupled with spring break season in California and other western states means you’ll have a mix of locals and tourists who are on vacation descending upon the parks towards the beginning of the month.
This makes for the busiest time of year, and also most expensive (save for runDisney weekends) dates of the year at hotels near Disneyland. This is especially frustrating at Disneyland, a park that was simply not built to accommodate as many guests as cram into the parks during the month of April. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that April weather in Southern California is great, but that only means you won’t melt…not that you won’t meltdown.
9. October – Disneyland veterans might be surprised to see October rank so poorly, but anyone who has spent regular time in the parks during the last two Octobers will understand why. First, you have a proliferation of Mickey’s Halloween Party dates adding to crowd levels on non-party dates and messing with regular hours on party dates.
Second, you have a surplus of crazy holidays–half of which I think Utah and Nevada are making up just to mess with Disneyland crowd levels. Nevada, you don’t get your own holiday. I’ll sooner recognize “Whacking Day” as an official holiday. Aside from this nonsense Utah and Nevada are celebrating, you also have Columbus Day and Rosh Hashanah.
Then there’s Halloween, and everyone knows us heathens in California celebrate that by taking 13 days off work. 😉 Seriously, though, October has become a really busy month at Disneyland. The weather and seasonal entertainment are both great (just check out our Ultimate Guide to Halloween at Disneyland), but crowds are too unpredictable and heavy.
8. May – This month is a bit of a wildcard, particularly in 2017. On the plus side, it’s before schools are out for summer and also before Annual Passholders who are blocked out for the summer start making their “last visits.”
Despite this, May marks Disneyland’s typical transition to summer, with park hours becoming longer and whatever new entertainment is on-tap for summer debuting by or before Memorial Day. (For 2017, this could be the month that Fantasmic 2.0 and new fireworks debut.)
May is also usually a strong month weather-wise, with mild temperatures. The downside is that crowds are already starting to pick up by this point, and Grad Nites can throw a wrench into crowd levels on any particular evening.
7. July – It might be surprising to see the Florida parks’ worst month in the middle of this list, but thanks to the lack of humidity and summer blockouts for Annual Passholders at Disneyland, July is not that bad.
You still have the potential for hot weather and an influx of summer tourists, but the latter is at least partially offset by far fewer locals than normal. The days around Independence Day are an exception, as they are exceptionally busy despite the blockouts. The upside to July 4th at Disneyland is added entertainment and special fireworks. Click here to view our July Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
6. August – Same story for August as July. There’s the potential for really hot weather, but you still have that reprieve from locals. The additional upside to August is that you don’t have the Independence Day spike, and also that around mid-month, schools start going back into session.
While it didn’t make the cut for our best weeks of the year, there’s a fourth “sweet spot” in the exact middle of the month that has long operating hours, reduced crowds, and Annual Pass blockouts. Strongly consider this week if you’re thinking of doing a summer vacation at Disneyland. Click here to view our August Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
5. December – One of our best months of the year for the Florida parks, December slips considerably on our Disneyland rankings. This is for one reason and one only: crowds. Even the beginning of December is pretty crowded at Disneyland. Everything else about December at Disneyland is great: cool weather, beautiful decorations, wonderful entertainment, and great food. (See our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disneyland for more on why this is the greatest time of year at the parks.)
That ‘confluence of greatness’ at Disneyland in December means that a lot of Annual Passholders prioritize visiting in December, as do locals who are not Annual Passholders but visit once or twice per year. Add to that tourists, who are drawn to the parks this time of year, and it’s a recipe for heavy attendance. About the only times that are not chaotic are the couple of days after most Annual Passholder blockouts take effect–but before Christmas vacation crowds arrive–and any day that it rains.
4. February – Despite 2017 being utter insanity during January and February, we suspect this was a one-off due to a confluence of bad circumstances and poor planning on the part of Disneyland management. Consequently, we are predicting a return to normal in 2018.
If that proves true, January and February are pretty much a tie, with each having their own downsides. The late-January into early-February segment of dates having the same upsides. If forced to choose, we are inclined to give January a slight edge, primarily because of the holiday spikes in crowds that fall in February.
These include Super Bowl weekend (no, contrary to urban legend, the parks are not dead during the Super Bowl because “everyone” is watching television) and the week of Presidents’ Day. Even outside of that, you start to see a slight uptick in crowds. That’s the downside. The upside is fewer refurbishments and warmer weather.
3. January – While we lamented the “holiday hangover” at Walt Disney World in our rankings of its month, we have never witnessed the same issue with Christmas decor lingering well past the expiration of the holiday season at Disneyland.
Instead, the California parks declare war on Christmas by embracing other holidays and cultural traditions celebrated by the diverse population of Southern California. This is highlighted with the extension of the Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure.
You also have the absolute lowest weekday crowds of the year in mid-January, and these low crowds coupled with jacket weather make for a perfect (maybe not perfect for those looking to escape winter weather in their home states, but perfect to us!) time to visit Disneyland.
The downside is the refurbishment calendar, which is almost always at its heaviest in January. If you’re okay with trading a few closed attractions for the shortest lines of the year everywhere else, January is the perfect month of the year for you.
2. September – Disneyland in September shares the same low crowd levels as Walt Disney World, but what it doesn’t share is humidity and hot weather.
By contrast, September is typically a warm but totally bearable in Anaheim. On top of the crowds and pleasant weather, you have the start of Halloween Time at Disneyland, which is one of the best seasonal events of the year.
1. November – Christmas is the absolute best time of the year at Disneyland. However, as noted above, there is no early December lull in crowds like you’ll find at WDW. Instead, the sweet spot for enjoying the holiday season entertainment is right after it starts in mid-November.
Unlike the Florida parks, it all starts in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on the same day, so there’s no “compromise” in going early. Between the entertainment, lighter crowds (relative to the rest of the Christmas season), and typically good weather, mid-November is an unbeatable time to visit. Just avoid Thanksgiving week.
Want to cut past all of those rankings and simply looking for a point-blank recommendation as to when you should visit Disneyland? Here are our 3 favorite weeks of the year, followed by some explanation:
- Week before Thanksgiving Week
- Second week of September
- Last week of January/First week of February
Our first (and favorite) week to visit is the week before Thanksgiving week (not the week that includes the Thursday of Thanksgiving–the week before that). Typically, Christmas season at Disneyland starts the weekend before this, meaning you have a week gap between the start of Disneyland’s holiday season and the start of actual holiday travel. This is a ‘sweet spot’ for low crowds, perfect weather, and seasonal entertainment.
The second week of September ranks highly because it’s after school is back in session and also falls within the Halloween Time at Disneyland, but is not so late during the Halloween season that you have to contend with Mickey’s Halloween Party or the crowds that show up on non-party nights. Southern California weather is typically pretty good at this time of the year, too.
Finally, late January into early February. Really, this could be just about any weekday in mid-January through February (save for holidays), but we’ll pinpoint this week that connects the two months as being the best. In addition to low crowds and great weather, there’s the (expanded) Lunar New Year Celebration, so you get some bonus seasonal entertainment this year. With that said, it’s about tradeoffs. The beginning of the year is “Refurbishment Season” at Disneyland, and you will find a high number of attraction closures (notably, Haunted Mansion and ‘it’s a small world’ every year, both of which are typically completed by this point) during this timeframe.
However, crowds are at their absolute lowest, and cool weather makes touring the parks incredibly pleasant. Even if you only follow this guide loosely, we think you’re bound to choose a good time to visit Disneyland. As for figuring out the other details of your trip, we highly recommend reading our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide, which offers comprehensive advice.
What do you think about the best and worst months to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? Any specific ideal months/weeks of your own that you’d recommend people visit Disneyland? Do you think weather plays any factor when it comes to the SoCal parks? Do you think crowds have increased over the last couple of years, across the board? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments below!