December 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendar
Our guide to December 2023 at Disneyland offers a free crowd calendar for picking best days to visit & avoiding the busiest ones during Christmas at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. Plus, what’s new, ride closures, what you should expect from a winter visit to Southern California, and more.
As with November, December features highs and lows, with some of the absolute worst crowds of the year, along with weekdays earlier in the month that are not nearly as bad. This is a result of mostly-light tourist numbers earlier in the month, coupled with Christmas vacation and school breaks in Los Angeles and Orange Counties (and around the country) later in the month.
Then there’s the the big reason so many people descend upon Disneyland in December: Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth! Truly–not just in the cliched sense. Disneyland Resort is normally a magical place, but during the holiday season, it just oozes magic.
For more on what makes this season our favorite time of the year in the parks, read our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disneyland. We aren’t the only ones who think this is the most wonderful time of the year at Disneyland, and the crowds bear that out.
Fortunately, this has improved a bit in recent years, and that trend should continue this year. As with this Halloween season, Disneyland Resort has gradually increased the Christmas offerings at Disney California Adventure to better distribute crowds between the two parks.
To accomplish this, Festival of the Holidays–which includes both a foodie event and more entertainment–has been added to the slate of seasonal offerings at DCA. You can read our Guide to Festival of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure for tips on the best way to experience that.
December Weather at Disneyland
Weather is a bit of a mixed bag. First, it’s Southern California’s rainy season. This is almost meaningless, as average rainfall during the month is only around 2″, but that’s still much more than the norm. The average high in Anaheim during December is around 70º and the average low is around 47º.
Personally, we like these cooler daytime temperatures, as this type of weather is perfect for racing around a theme park, especially if you’re carrying a backpack or have kids in tow. However, once the sun goes down, it can be a bit too cold, especially if you stay past 9 p.m. or watch World of Color.
Due to the potential for rain and frigid temperatures in the evening (or even during the day if it gets unseasonably cold), we recommend consulting our What to Pack for Disney in Winter post. Some of that might seem like overkill for Southern California, but it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake before.
December 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendar
Before consulting this or any December 2023 crowd calendars for Disneyland, it’s worth understanding the limitations of projecting attendance, wait times, crowds or congestion. Our main post: 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendars: Best Times to Visit & When to Avoid goes into extensive detail about why Disneyland crowd calendars are currently unreliable, which is why there’s no color-coded calendar or numerical scores for each day of the month.
Suffice to say, this is due to changes in attendance trends, reservation availability for Magic Key passholders, staffing shortages, ticket promotions, and other factors. General trends are a bit easier, but it’s difficult to say a particular day will have low, moderate, or heavy crowds–or how one day of the week will compare to days around it.
What happens going forward with Magic Keymaster demand is an unknown. Pent-up demand among locals could fizzle out, but that could be offset by more reservation availability. If you’re planning a last minute visit, consult Disneyland’s Magic Key Access Calendar. This shows blockout dates and reservation availability all in one handy location—both offer insight into crowd forecasting. Similarly, there’s the Disneyland Theme Park Reservation Calendar for single and multiple-day tickets. (Those are only useful on short notice—dates fill up a couple weeks in advance, at most.)
With that said, here are the best and worst times to visit Disneyland in December 2023…
We’ll start predictions here with high-level advice and narrow it from there. As a general matter, earlier in December 2023 is better than later in the month, which is probably patently obvious given the school breaks for Christmas and New Year’s the last two weeks. However, we still encounter people who are surprised the holiday season is busy because they expect everyone to be at home with their families.
Second, weekdays are all better than weekends. Saturdays and Sundays will be the two busiest days of the week despite the lower tier Magic Key passholders being blocked out.
In past years, evenings were busier as many local Annual Passholders would visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure after work to get their Christmas fix, and for the holiday season entertainment. Consequently, even “light” days on the crowd calendar would be much busier at night.
That’s still true to some extent, but less so given that only the highest tier of Magic Key passes includes free parking. Now, more locals start earlier in the day, often taking a half-day off work to get more bang for buck from their visit. The most popular day for doing this, without question, is Friday. Even other days of the week, it’s common to see crowd levels spike in the mid-afternoon.
Mondays through Thursdays are going to be the best overall days of the week to visit in the first half of December 2023. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will be your absolute best bets, but there’s not a huge difference among Monday through Thursday.
Expect this to hold true December 1-15, 2023. Weekday crowds should be fairly moderate, whereas weekends will be bonkers. Think approximately 6/10 v. 9/10 on a numerical scale as a general rule, with some variance among dates.
These daily crowd trends go out the window beginning the weekend before Christmas, and continuing through the end of the year. At this time, Disneyland and DCA will see far fewer Annual Passholders (most will be blocked out) and far more tourists.
All Magic Keys are blocked out December 20, 2023 through January 2, 2024. The top tier being blocked out was a new development as of last year, and it had a slight impact on attendance the first few days, but crowd levels still hit 10/10 almost every day after that. We expect the same to be true this year–expect every day starting December 22, 2023 to have peak season holiday crowd levels of 10/10.
This also makes us pretty confident in the prediction that the weekend before those blockouts will be bonkers, as locals try to get their last visits prior to Christmas. Accordingly, expect December 15-19, 2023 to be particularly busy. Various lower tier passes have blockouts within that time frame (particularly Saturday), but it’ll still likely be a 9/10 crowd level.
The biggest wildcard is the days of December 20-21, 2023. That’s right after the blockout starts, but before tourists arrive in full force. To be sure, those days won’t be uncrowded; they will be some degree of ‘very busy’ regardless. Los Angeles and Orange County school districts are on break, and those weeks are tremendously popular with tourists. It’s simply a question of whether they’ll be 10/10 days or maybe there will be a bit of drop-off and they’re “only” 8/10 or 9/10 days. Or 10/10 days, but with slightly lower wait times. That’s a big difference this time of year.
The major thing that’ll impact attendance is Holiday Time at Disneyland—in particular Disney Merriest Nites, the parade, and nights when the Believe in Holiday Magic nighttime spectacular features fireworks (mostly Friday through Sunday nights, but see the official entertainment schedule to confirm).
During the height of Christmas season, we recommend Park Hopper tickets. Tourists with these should strongly consider mornings at Disneyland before Park Hopping to DCA. Locals from Los Angeles and Orange County who arrive after work tend to make Disneyland more crowded in the evenings.
For most of the month, 1-day tickets have Peak Season pricing. Read our Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets post for multi-day ticket recommendations to avoid having to deal with seasonal pricing. On the plus side, there are some multi-day ticket discounts currently available for all guests.
If there is rain in the forecast, we highly recommend visiting Disneyland on that day. Locals tend to avoid rainy days at Disneyland and DCA, making the parks considerably less busy than normal. This leads to a surge in attendance the day following the rain (avoid those days, or visit DCA the day after a rainy day). This might sound a bit odd or extreme, but (Southern) Californians are not used to rain, and tend to stay inside when it’s raining. We are not even kidding or exaggerating.
Early December is Southern California’s off-season in terms of tourism. Even though Disneyland and Disney California Adventure can be busy in early December, it’s primarily with Californians. As such, off-season occupancy rates will be reflected in hotel prices the first couple weeks of December. With almost zero transition, the week before Christmas through New Year’s is peak season, with exorbitant rates reflecting that.
You can find deals on off-site hotels, the first couple of weeks, but don’t expect the same for closer to the holidays. We rank our favorite (and least favorite) hotels in the area in our Disneyland Area Hotel Rankings & Reviews post. Check out discounted hotel + ticket vacation packages on Get Away Today to save money on off-site hotels.
Overall, December tends to be busier, colder, and wetter than November, which is why it falls a bit on our Best and Worst Months to Visit Disneyland in 2023. With that said, it’s still a wonderful month to visit. Even if you’re traveling during a time with yellow or red crowds, there are ways to beat the hordes of other tourists–namely by rope dropping the parks, having an efficient itinerary, and efficiently using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes (it’s worth the money). Beyond that, Disneyland Resort’s Christmas season is incredible, with holiday entertainment that makes the hassle of any crowds worthwhile.
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!
If you’ve visited Disneyland during December, what did you think of the experience? Have you braved the crowds during Christmas or New Year’s weeks? Did the holiday entertainment make the insane crowds ‘worth it’ for you? What are your thoughts on Holiday Time at Disneyland? Do you agree or disagree with our December 2023 crowd calendar for Disneyland and DCA? If you’ve visited Southern California in December, do you have any tips to add? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!
Any intel on why Dec 5-9 are fully booked? Yet weekends surrounding are open.
Disneyland staffs better on the weekends, which increases capacity–particularly at restaurants.
I was wondering the same thing. Dec 2-10 all booked, while there is still availability for Nov 28-Dec 1 and Dec 11-20. Very odd!
Hi Wow is Wonderful to See the Snow and The Magic in Disneyland Christmas is my Favorite Holiday Season Wow i Want to Be There to Have Fun My Happiness is Endless
planning on going with the family including 1 toddler to Disneyland on dec 25th any advise or line information?
Do we just extrapolate this into corresponding 2019 weeks? I’ll keep checking back and hope that you update the calendar, especially after Star Wars opens.
Thinking of surprising my kids and drive down after we open presents Christmas day-the 28th. Everything I have read say its the most busiest. What are you thoughts??
Planning to take the kids the day after Christmas for the week. I’ve followed this blog for World advice (you single handedly convinced me Victoria and Alberts was worth it; it was)
I’ve been to Land once last October. It seemed more packed than world on a random week, yet easier to navigate. A lot of people are tellingus to avo8d Disney and do universal instead. The kids really really want to see Nightmare before Christmas haunted mansion. Plus nola to LA is a cheap flight. Thanks for the info.
Your site is very helpful. We are planning on going right after New Year’s. Our school is still off. Which day would be less busy? I am taking my 92 year old dad who hasn’t been in decades. I want him to see the holiday decorations.
Does anyone know why the park hours are shorted the week of Dec 18th at Disneyland? Park is open until midnight every day in December, but closes at 9pm in the week leading up to Christmas. Do you think these hours could be extended?
I was wondering the same thing…the first two weeks of December DL is open til midnight then the traditionally busier week before Christmas it closes at 9pm when all the schools are out for winter break….that doesn’t make sense…do they ever change the hours?
Hey Tom! I love your site, thank you. We plan to be there the first week of January…how are the crowds. I see mid January is a great time to come, but I am anticipate mass crowds first week. Am I correct?
That really remains to be seen–particularly with regard to the SoCal resident ticket deal. We’ll be posting a January preview within the next couple of weeks, but the short version is “we don’t know yet.”
We are hoping to visit Disneyland with our young children in Late January early February and were wondering what the best dates are in 2018. Our son is on the spectrum and we would like to have a favorable experience so the less crowded the better. Any suggestions?
Love your website Tom, thank you for all your help! We’ll be staying at the California Grand Hotel next week right before Thanksgiving. In past years, we used the California Grand Hotel’s entrance to California Adventureland, and the line was always very long. Do you think it’s quicker to use California Adventureland’s main entrance even if staying at the Grand Hotel, especially during this busy season?
Thank you for anybody’s thoughts!
You know, my initial reaction to people saying Cali gets cold at night, is that they are nuts because 47 degrees doesn’t seem that cold (I lived in Idaho for 10 years where the winter temps sometimes sank to -20.) However, we went to Disneyland last May, and I, being a know-it-all, didn’t think I’d need a jacket at night. Yeah… I was wronger than wrong. I could not believe how cold it was. I don’t know if it’s something funky with the coast or what, but I was dying. In any case: At least pack a jacket because somehow the cold in Cali feels colder than normal.
I think maybe it’s the cool wind, or perhaps that your body becomes acclimated to the sunshine and warm weather during the day, so it’s more jarring when it gets cold at night. Or maybe both?
We’re the same way though–originally from the Midwest, and we get cold at Disneyland during November and December.
There are several reasons it “feels” colder than the actual temperature my friends. The air is damper in the winter months which is not what we’re used to here, the disparity between daytime and night time can be a 40 degree swing in just a few hours, both Disney and DCA have many “corridors” that direct the chilly winds right at you (this is most noteworthy in the path from Big Thunder to Fantasyland, by the smoking area and lastly, the many man-made bodies of water that the winds are peeling off moisture into the winds.
This is our favorite time of year at DLR!! And, given the changes in pricing, it has become harder to know the crowd calendar. But, I think you both have the right ideas about this time of year with regard to crowds, how to plan accordingly, and the disbursement of crowds between the parks. We start with Fantasyland, move into Tomorrowland, then jump over to NOS and CC before heading over to DCA. Back to Disneyland for nighttime magic… MAXpass will be our friend this season – thanks for the reminder! Merry Christmas and happiest holidays, Sarah & Tom!
Especially during the busier days, it’s definitely a good time of year to purchase MaxPass. It’s our favorite time, too–enjoy your visit and happy holidays!