Our free 2017 Disneyland crowd calendars help you choose the best and worst times to visit. Higher crowds mean longer waits, and this post provides our tips for saving time at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland, our free monthly crowd calendars, and how to have a more pleasant experience in the parks by visiting at the ideal times in terms of crowds, weather, prices, and wait times. (Last updated September 28, 2017.)
We won’t sugar coat things: the rest of 2017 is going to be pretty busy. As of our most recent update, we are three weeks into the Halloween Time at Disneyland season, and so far, every weekend of the event has been chaotic. Disneyland parking has closed to capacity a few times on Fridays and Sundays, traffic has backed up onto I-5, and crowds have been extremely high. And this is all before the start of October, which is the worse month of the Halloween season!
At least in part, this can be attributed to the new entertainment for the Halloween season. Cars Land’s Haul-O-Ween is incredibly fun and well-done, and the Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired overlay to Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure has also been popular. You can read more tips for this time of year in our Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland. Locals love anything new, so that might help explain these higher-than-normal crowds, at least to some degree…
With that said, some days and times of year are better than others for Disneyland trips. Since Disneyland has a high Annual Passholder-base and is a popular destination for convention attendees, times when Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will be crowded are less intuitive than Walt Disney World.
Obviously, the big holidays are all busy. Spring break, Easter week, Christmas week, and Summer vacation are good times to avoid visiting Disneyland if you want to avoid crowds. These aren’t the only busy times, especially given that areas of the park that will be closed due to Star Wars Land construction, which reduces the overall park capacity.
For more on this, and some of the less-intuitive times that might be busy , consult our resources and tips below…
Disneyland crowds and wait times are largely dependent upon tourist vacationing habits (which are largely dependent upon school breaks) and Annual Passholder habits (which are largely dependent upon blockout dates and weekends). Unlike at Walt Disney World, Disneyland has the luxury of blocking out large groups of Annual Passholders during times that it anticipates tourists descending upon Disneyland. As a result of this, during busy tourist seasons, like the summer, many Annual Passholders are blocked out from visiting the parks.
This, in effect, is Disneyland’s way of “neutralizing” some of the heavy tourist seasons. This means there is often little difference between the Busiest and Moderately Busy times. In fact, specific dates within the “Busiest” and “Least Busy” ranges actually fall within the moderately busy range, but creating a calendar of specific crowd conditions is beyond my expertise. In general, there are some things you can glean about crowds by studying the AP blockout schedules provided at Disneyland.com.
As Disney California Adventure has substantially changed Disneyland Resort crowds recently, please note that these crowd patterns have been updated for 2017. So if you previously consulted them, look again, as some things have changed.
We are working on putting together monthly Disneyland crowd calendars (see the next section) that give day by day breakdowns of crowds. For now, here are some general crowd trends:
- Easter Week
- Mid-March through mid-April (Spring Break season)
- Christmas and New Year’s weeks
- Mid to late January*
- Early February*
- Late April
- Mid-June through July 1
- Labor Day until the start of Disneyland’s “official” Halloween season, except weekends.
- Early November through the the official start of Christmas season (mid-November).
*In general, we anticipate early 2018 will have significantly lower crowds early in the year than 2017 did. Very good ticket promotions plus the return of Main Street Electrical Parade made the winter months far busier than anyone expected–a mistake Disneyland is unlikely to repeat.
It’s anticipated that Spring 2018 crowds will pick up beginning with the weekends of Food & Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure. In the meantime, here’s what to expect for the remainder of 2017…
Early Summer 2018 should be less busy than the spring, in large part because the lower tiers of Annual Passes are now blocked out and will remain blocked out until mid-August. Crowds will get worse around mid-July when summer tourist season kicks into high gear. Expect crowds to peak in mid-July, and trend downward through August.
Although summer tourist crowds will tail off in mid-August, this will be temporarily offset by a spike in Annual Passholders beginning at the end of the month who were blocked out for the summer. After Labor Day, you can expect a drop-off in crowds until the official start of Halloween Time at Disneyland. Halloween season is always busy at Disneyland, particularly in October, which is now one of the busiest months of the year.
Early November will be another lull in crowds, but once Christmas season starts, there will be a similar spike. Crowds will get progressively worse in December, and we wouldn’t expect wait times and crowds to dramatically decrease until mid-January 2018. At that time, there likely will be a lull until mid-February 2018. That is…assuming Disneyland doesn’t bring back Main Street Electrical Parade for another surprise “final” run. 😉
As we’ve gained experience visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure throughout the year as locals with Annual Passes, we’ve begun to notice trends in crowds. With this knowledge, we felt it would make sense to put together rudimentary crowd calendars for Disneyland that offer a day-by-day look at crowds.
So far, we only have a few of these done, but we will keep adding-on in the near future. You can access our Disneyland crowd calendars via the links below, each of which will open in a new browser tab:
Disneyland crowd patterns change regularly due to a variety of factors, including marketing and discount offers. We will update our crowd calendars regularly to reflect changes in crowd trends. Look for a “last updated” date in each of them!
AP Blockout Schedules
In general, if the Deluxe Annual Pass (the highest tier of AP that has block outs) is blocked out, Disneyland is expecting it to otherwise be busy. Since Deluxe Annual Passholders don’t number that high, their absence isn’t significant-enough to offset the “other” gains in crowds. Thus, expect these specific dates to be the absolute most busy. Consult Disneyland’s blockout calendar for an up-to-date list of the dates of these blockouts.
Conversely, when the Southern California Annual Passes are not blocked out on weekends, expect these Annual Passholders to inundate the parks. When these Annual Passes aren’t blocked out on weekends, it’s because Disneyland doesn’t expect heavy tourist crowds.
However, there are so many SoCal Annual Passholders that they more than offset the lack of tourists. Since these Passholders are blocked out most of the summer, Disneyland in the summer isn’t as crowded as Walt Disney World in the summer–but it’s still busy. (Although it’s still rather busy!) Disneyland is primarily a locals’ park (although that is shifting, especially since Cars Land opened).
Similarly, when any Passholder group is going to be, or has been, blocked out for several consecutive days, expect the day before and the day after the blockout to be busy as Passholders attempt to have “one last hurrah” or “return quickly for another dose of the magic.”
While we don’t recommend Annual Passes for many casual guests, depending upon the length of your visit and if you plan on taking another trip within 365 days, it might be worth it for you (in which case the blockout calendar may be even more relevant for you) to buy a lower-tier Annual Pass. Click here to read all of our Disneyland ticket recommendations and see how you can save money on advance purchase tickets!
Crowds should not be the only consideration on when you take a Disneyland vacation. School schedules, weather, special events, and park hours may all affect when you want to visit. Obviously, these variables will also influence crowds.
If school schedules are something around which you must plan, chances are you’re going to go during one of the busier (or at least not one of the least busy) times of the year, as that’s the paramount consideration for many other families planning trips, too. It may seem like a convenient time to visit during one of the ‘holidays’ your kids have off from school, but it’s important to consider whether other schools have these same times off, as well.
Of the traditional school holidays, summer break is probably the best time to visit, as it is the longest school break so you don’t have the concentration of guests all visiting during the same week of other holidays. Since summer break is largely blocked out to SoCal passholders, you can expect to see more tourists in the parks at this time of year.
Most schools have the week before Christmas until the shortly after New Year’s off, making this week-plus an especially busy time. The same is true for President’s Day weekend, Easter week, Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July holiday, and Thanksgiving week. Although schools do vary their Spring Break schedules, don’t expect the parks to be any less busy because of somewhat-staggered Spring Breaks. March and April are also busy times at Disneyland.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t visit during these times, as some people don’t have many other options, but if you do go, at least bring your patience with you, or at least a good plan for touring the parks!
Unlike Florida, Southern California has a pretty temperate climate. The typical hot seasons are hot, but humidity isn’t nearly as bad as it is in Florida. It can get colder at night, and in the winter months, but the weather isn’t nearly as much of a roller coaster ride like it is in Florida. Blue skies and puffy clouds are more rare in California, but overall the weather is much more favorable for vacationing than it is in Walt Disney World.
Rain isn’t as common in Disneyland as it is in Walt Disney World. It does rain in the fall months at Disneyland, but torrential downpours in SoCal aren’t too common. In fact, if you’re a Southern Californian trying to plan the best time to schedule a 1-day visit to the park, the absolute best time to go is while it’s raining.
The parks generally clear out (there are usually long lines at City Hall of people requesting refunds), and significantly shorter waits are common. So, if you have a poncho or umbrella and want lower than normal crowds, a rainy day is the perfect time to go. (By contrast, the day after it rains will be considerably worse than normal, as locals will postpone their visits.)
Make sure to pack some jeans, sweatshirts, and maybe even coats if traveling during the months of October through March. It won’t necessarily be cold during your trip, but the weather can drop below 50 degrees during these months. Consider your tolerance to cold, and weather you’re willing to purchase countless $60 Mickey Mouse sweatshirts during your trip when, inevitably, members of your family get cold!
Not considering park hours when planning your trip is a huge mistake. Usually less busy times of year have shorter park hours and busier times of year have longer park hours. Thus, many feel they can basically get the same amount done in a shorter day during a less busy time of year than they could during a busier time of year. Due to FastPass and good plans for touring the parks, this isn’t true. By strategizing well, you can accomplish more during a busy day with longer hours than during a shorter day with light crowds.
Also important to note is that on days with longer hours, Disneyland will have more entertainment scheduled. Even during short days and slow times of the year, Fantasmic and World of Color play to packed houses. However, on days that offer multiple showings of these entertainment offerings, the later showings are almost always less crowded. If you want to avoid waiting multiple hours for a good view of Fantasmic, go on a longer day with multiple showings!
Similarly, your sleep habits make a difference here. If you’re a night owl, days with shorter hours may be a bad idea, as by the time you roll out of bed, you may find that you only have a few hours to enjoy the parks. Conversely, if you rise early and generally want to leave the parks by 7 pm or so, the shorter/less busy days are great times for you to visit. Make sure you check Disneyland’s park hours calendar when planning your trip. While this calendar is subject to change, it doesn’t change nearly as much as Walt Disney World’s calendar, which is almost never accurate when first posted.
Disneyland doesn’t have nearly as many special events as Walt Disney World, but there are some events worth planning for or around. Basically, these events are the D23 Expo (every other year, towards the end of summer), Gay Days (fall), HalloweenTime at Disneyland (late summer and fall), Half Marathon (fall), CHOC walk (fall), Holidays at Disneyland (fall and winter), and Grad Nites (spring).
On a personal note, our absolute favorite time to visit is during Christmas-time at Disneyland. The parks look gorgeous, there are special attraction-overlays, and lots of seasonal foods available. You can read more about Christmas-time at Disneyland in our in-depth guide.
During Disneyland’s slower seasons, expect a lot of attractions to be down. Not only is maintenance and upkeep better at Disneyland than Walt Disney World, but Disneyland also has a few seasonal attraction overlays, which lead to popular attractions like it’s a small world, Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain being closed for a few weeks each in the fall (and late-winter in the case of it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion).
If you’re visiting in the fall or spring, be sure to consult refurbishment calendars to make sure your favorite attractions are operational.
If you must visit Disneyland when it’s busy (as is the case for many with kids in school), it’s important to have a good plan of attack when you visit the parks. Determine which attractions are best and the ones to experience, figure out where you want to eat in advance and dine at hours when the parks are busiest, and most importantly, arrive at the park before it opens and get as much done as you can in the first few hours of operation when lines are much shorter than they will be later in the day.
If you’re heading to Disneyland, we have tons of posts to help you plan, including our Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets, a look at Disneyland Area Hotel Reviews & Rankings, our Unique Packing List for Disney Trips, an index of our Disneyland Resort Restaurant Reviews, and a number of other things in our comprehensive Disneyland Trip Planning Guide!
Do you have any favorite times to visit Disneyland? Which special events do you think are best? If you have any questions or other tips about the best and worst days to visit Disneyland, please share them in the comments!