2023 Best & Worst Months to Visit Disneyland
Planning a trip to Disneyland and trying to determine the best month to visit in 2023? We analyze crowds, weather, seasonal events, park hours, and other factors to rank every month of the year for Disneyland in this post, plus our 3 favorite weeks to visit. (Updated January 4, 2023.)
It’s been a wild ride since Disneyland and DCA reopened. There have been waves of pent-up demand made for a busy summer, followed by attendance fizzling out, and that process repeating itself multiple times. The debut and subsequent suspensions of Magic Key Annual Pass sales has further complicated crowd predictions, as have ticket deals for Southern California residents.
The good news is that things have started getting back to normal in the last 8 months. Looking forward to 2023, this should be the first normal year at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure since 2018. (Due to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, 2019 was anything but normal. Ditto the following two-plus years, for obvious reasons.)
With that said, there’s no such thing as a totally normal year at Disneyland Resort. While we are fully expecting familiar patterns to return to the attendance dynamic over the course of the entire year, there are some monkey wrenches thrown into the mix very early on.
Thanks to the debuts of Wondrous Journeys Fireworks at Disneyland and World of Color – One at Disney California Adventure for the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary plus the debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Winter 2023 won’t play out as it would normally. Then there’s the return of the short-lived Magic Happens parade and opening of the reimagined Toontown. All of that will upend crowd calendars early in the year. The good news is that just about everything should return to normal by April 2023.
Accordingly, we’re ranking all months of the year. Even if our expectations about crowds are slightly off, weather, seasonal events, and other factors are consistent from year to year, making this resource equally useful for planning a trip to Disneyland in 2023 or 2024.
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 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendars: When to Visit & Avoid. We’ve had a lot of questions for greater guidance in that post, so we thought we’d provide that here. In this, we provide the pros & cons of every month at Disneyland and rank the best and worst times to visit accordingly.
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 2023 – Last year, June was the busiest month of the year, with an average wait time of 38 minutes across all attractions in both parks over the course of the entire month. That made it busier than July, which used to be the busier summer vacation month. (It’s unclear whether rising gas prices contributed to or caused this, but it’s the second consecutive year, so we’re just going to assume June 2023 will be the busier month given the absence of ‘evidence’ to the contrary.)
June being busier than July actually makes sense for one big reason: lower tier Magic Key passholders are not blocked out earlier in June 2023, causing them to descend upon the park. That means there’s a dynamic with both tourists and locals in June, whereas July has fewer of the latter.
The only other major consideration for the summer months is weather. While June is one of the hottest months of the year in California, it’s typically not as hot and humid as Florida. Beyond that, it comes down (mostly) to luck whether June, July, or August will have the “worst” weather. Click here to view our June Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
11. July 2023 – Pretty much the same story with July. This is often the peak of California’s summer tourist season, but it has more narrowly-tailored Magic Key blockouts. We could end up being “wrong” and misjudging the new crowd dynamic, but for now, we’d pick a different month if visiting Disneyland as tourists. At best, July 2023 will rank #9 on this list. There’s too much downside and not enough potential upside.
In general, July is not as bad at Disneyland as Walt Disney World. You still have the potential for hot weather, but it’s not nearly as humid. There’s also an influx of summer tourists, but far fewer than Florida. 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.
10. April 2023 – Easter is April 9, and the week leading up to that will be Spring Break for Los Angeles County School District. The week before that is Spring Break for most Orange County School Districts. That plus 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 during the first half of the month. Consequently, April 2023 will be busier than normal.
This makes for the first couple weeks of April the busiest time of year, and also most expensive dates of the year at hotels near Disneyland Resort. 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.
Normally, there would be two silver linings. First, that the last two weeks of April should be quieter as Spring Break winds down. Second, April weather in Southern California is great, with little precipitation and warmer temperatures–but not too warm. Click here to view our April Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
9. October 2023 – Last year, October was once again the second-busiest month, and only narrowly edged out by June for #1. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as October had become increasingly chaotic in “normal” years. In large part, this can be attributed to Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party at Disney California Adventure and more demand for all things Halloween at both parks.
On top of that, October 2023 has 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, there’s also Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day. While not major holidays on their own, many school districts use that as a proxy for fall breaks. And the schools that don’t typically have their breaks scattered throughout other long weekends in October.
Then there’s Halloween, and everyone knows that those heathens in California celebrate 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. Click here to view our October Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
8. February 2023 – Crowds in February will spike considerably this year. First, there’s the start of the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary. With that ‘100 Years of Wonder’ celebration comes new nighttime spectaculars in both parks, plus the opening of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Disneyland. All of this will make the entirety of February 2023 busier than January–and the exact same dates last year.
On top of that, there’s the week of Presidents’ Day, which will significantly spike crowds (avoid that entire week). Even outside of that, you start to see a slight uptick in crowds later in February. Even before that, the Lunar New Year celebration runs until February 15, 2023…causing increased crowds the first half of the month. Things don’t get any better the final week of the month, as the Magic Happens parade returns on February 24, 2023.
All of that is the downside of February 2023. The upside is fewer refurbishments and warmer weather than January. Click here to view our February Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
7. March 2023 – This month actually “springs forward” considerably, as Los Angeles County won’t have their Spring Breaks in April, making March much more attractive. However, most Orange County school districts do have their Spring Break at the very end of the month, and out of state schools will be scattered throughout the month. Nevertheless, the first ~3 weeks of the months should not be that bad.
Then there’s weather, which is starting to improve in March. It’s also the first full month of Disney California Adventure’s Food & Wine Festival, which usually runs through April. It’s an enjoyable event that does not really draw crowds, but provides a nice way to get a taste of California’s diverse cuisine.
One wildcard is that the Magic Happens parade will bring the return on February 24, 2023. That’s good news from an entertainment perspective, but it’ll likely impact crowds throughout the month of March 2023 as locals try to see it–many for the first time ever.
6. December 2023 – This month slips a bit for our Disneyland rankings for one reason and one only: crowds. 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.)
We spend a lot of time at Disneyland in December, and love every minute of it. If we had no choice but to visit during this month, we absolutely would. So don’t let that ranking discourage you too much–it’s mostly that November is far superior to December. Even this comes with an asterisk, as the first week of December is typically the least-busy of the holiday season. (That’s a relative term–it’s still usually around 5/10 on the crowd calendar.)
That ‘confluence of greatness’ at Disneyland in December means that a lot of Magic Key passholders prioritize visiting in December, as do locals who are not 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 blockouts take effect–but before Christmas vacation crowds arrive–and any day that it rains. Click here to view our December Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
5. August 2023 – This month has seen its stock soar in the last two years, driven largely by the new dynamic of summer vacation crowds dropping precipitously at the start of August, rather than halfway through. There’s no reason to expect this trend to change for August 2023.
The biggest downside is 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. While the entirety of August has improved, crowds get really good mid-month, as that’s when 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 Magic Key passholder blockouts. Strongly consider this week if you’re thinking of doing a late Summer 2023 vacation at Disneyland. Click here to view our August Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
4. January 2023 – The first month of the year ranks highly and is once again the winter doldrums, filled with refurbishments and low crowds. With that said, there are some important caveats to that, as January 2023 will most definitely be a month of high highs and low lows.
First, you do not want to visit in the first week of the new year. That’s because Los Angeles and Orange County schools do not go back into session following their winter breaks until January 9, 2023. Up until then, it’s still the holiday season at Disneyland–especially since ALL Magic Keys were blocked out for (at least) the 12 days before that. Expect crowd levels on par with the worst of Christmas as a result.
Second, you do not want to visit in the last week of the month. That’s because, as discussed above, the Disney100 celebration kicks off on January 27, 2023. That date (or perhaps a couple days before if there are soft openings or previews) until the end of the month will be incredibly busy.
However, just about everything in between should have low crowds. After January 9, it’ll feel like the true off-season at Disneyland. With that said, the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and Southern California ticket specials typically converge to spike crowds a bit in mid-January. There’s also the start of the Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure, which causes a spike to attendance at DCA. It still will be one of the best months of the entire year when all is said and done. Click here to view our January Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
3. May 2023 – Normally, May is a “sweet spot” for Disneyland. It’s before schools are out for summer and also before Magic Key passholders who are blocked out for the summer start making their “last visits.” As such, May normally sees a lull in demand before the arrival of summer tourist season, and everything that brings with it.
That happened to a lesser extent last year, but that’s largely attributable to the return of the Disneyland Forever Fireworks, Main Street Electrical Parade, and World of Color. That was a recipe for a huge surge of attendance among locals, which is precisely what happened. As such, May was busier than expected.
Nothing like that is scheduled for May 2023, with new nighttime spectaculars and attractions all debuting several months before this coming May. As such, it’s likely we’ll see a return to normal, and May 2023 will once again be the sweet spot between spring break and summer seasons. It’ll be a great time to visit after the initial surge for the Disney100 nighttime spectaculars, Toontown, and Magic Happens parade.
On top of that, May is also usually a strong month weather-wise, with mild temperatures. The downside is that Grad Nites can throw a wrench into crowd levels on any particular evening. Click here to view our May Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
2. September 2023 – Disneyland in September shares the same low crowd levels as Walt Disney World, but what it doesn’t share is humidity and hot weather. Last year, September was surprisingly busy, but it still had the lowest average wait times of the year. That was driven at least in part by the D23 Expo, which will not occur in September 2023.
Halloween Time will likely start the Friday after Labor Day, and that’ll cause a bit of a bump to crowds. However, that’s mostly a plus as the added seasonal entertainment far outweighs the increased attendance. Moreover, the spook season crowds shouldn’t show up in full force until October. September is reliably off-season, as school has just gone back into session and California’s summer tourist season has come to an end. Weekends can still see higher crowds, but weekdays tend to be great. We expect the same for September 2023.
As an added bonus, September is typically warm but totally bearable in Anaheim. On top of the crowds and pleasant weather, you have the Halloween entertainment, special food, and attraction overlays, which we highly recommend seeing. Click here to view our September Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
1. November 2023 – Christmas is the absolute best time of the year at Disneyland from a qualitative perspective. The sweet spot for enjoying the holiday season entertainment is the beginning of November and right after the popular Veterans Day holiday in mid-November until Thanksgiving.
With that said, it’s important to note that from a quantitative perspective, November 2023 is not #1. Average wait times will almost certainly be lower in January, March, May, August, September, and maybe July. If this were purely a crowd calendar ranking, November 2023 would be #6.
However, the elevated attendance is not that pronounced until Thanksgiving week (one of the very worst weeks of the year), and early November (minus Veterans Day weekend) can be relatively relaxed. Moreover, this is not a simply a ranking of the months based on crowds–it’s qualitative, and no month is better than November from that perspective.
Unlike the Florida parks, the holiday season all starts in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on the same day, so there’s no disadvantage in going early. This entertainment is exceptional, and makes the higher crowd levels totally worth it. The festive atmosphere, attraction overlays, decorations, and seasonal foods–plus typically good weather make mid-November an unbeatable time to visit, even with only so-so crowds. Click here to view our November Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
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:
- Thanksgiving “Bookends” (November 12-18, 2023 or November 26 to December 2, 2023)
- First or second week of September (August 27 through September 9, 2023)
- Mid-May (May 7-21, 2023)
Our first (and favorite) week to visit is the weeks before and after Thanksgiving week. 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.
September 2023 is trickier because there are a couple of holiday weeks in the second half of the month. While those don’t have a major impact on crowds, we’d still skew towards late August and early September 2023 as a result. We’d definitely opt for the earlier window here, as Halloween Time at Disneyland will be fully kicked off by then.
Another good week will be September 17-23, 2023. For the spook season fans out there, that’s honestly the best option, as all West Coast schools will be back in session and the entirety of those dates are within the Halloween Time at Disneyland. This is a good option because these dates are not so late during the Halloween season that you have to contend with the crowds that show up in full force to see the special offerings and overlays. Southern California weather is typically pretty good at this time of the year, too.
Finally, we like just about any dates in May 2023 up until the end of the month, when locals will be scrambling to use the remainder of their SoCal tickets, which expire on May 25, 2023. This is after the madness of Spring Break and Easter, but before summer tourist season. It’s also before locals try to get their last visits in before the summer blockouts. With nothing new of import debuting in May 2023, it should be a great month to visit.
All in all, this should be a useful guide to strategically plan your visit (or visits) to Disneyland Resort in 2023 or even 2024. While some of the dates will shift–and any impact of things debuting or returning in 2023 won’t be relevant, the general contours of these rankings remain (mostly) consistent from year to year. Even if you only follow this guide loosely, we think you’re bound to choose a good time to head to Disneyland!
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
What do you think about the best and worst months to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in 2023? 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!
Thanks for your thoughtful and entertaining analysis as always! Our family is scheduled to visit Disneyland (first time in 5 years, first time ever for three of my kids) the week after Easter April 10-15 during their Spring Break which it appears may still have substantial spring break crowds. Our alternative option would be the week of May 22, after their school is out, which looks also complicated by end of the local ticket deal and Grad nights. Which do you think would be the better option between the two in terms of crowds? Thanks!!