Our free Disneyland crowd calendars cover the best times to visit, and when to avoid in 2023. Higher attendance means longer waits, and this will help you save time at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. These monthly guides offer info & tips about special events weather, prices, reservations, and more.
We’ll preface this an important disclaimer: Disneyland crowds have been a veritable roller coaster since reopening, and it doesn’t appear that’s going to change in the foreseeable future. As of the holiday season, crowds are crushing and pent-up demand is still strong. We’ve visited numerous times in the last few months, and have consistently encountered high wait times, congestion throughout the parks, and long lines–including Lightning Lane return queues!
It’s impossible to overstate just how bad crowds have been at Disneyland this fall. While not every day has been equally busy, attendance and wait times have been incredibly high by historical standards. As compared to October 2019–the last “normal” year at Disneyland (and the busiest year ever until 2022)–the average wait time is up by 8 minutes. That may not seem like much, but it adds up over the course of the day. On top of that, our subjective assessment is that congestion is far, far worse than Fall 2019.
It’s likely that crowds and congestion only worsen for the remainder of the year. The busy Christmas season is right around the corner, which was so popular last year even at top-tier prices that Disneyland ran out of reservations and suspended ticket sales. It’s highly unlikely that November and December will be the months that crowds finally slow down at Disneyland. To the contrary, we’re expecting those months to draw record-setting crowds.
Looking forward to January 2023, the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration kicks off with new nighttime spectaculars and the debut of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. It’s going to be busy during what’s historically a slower season, and that’s even without new Magic Key sales.
Speaking of which, new Magic Key sales have been paused for months now. In the case of the highest tiers, for almost a full year. Only renewals are possible at this point, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. (See When Will Magic Key Passes Go Back on Sale at Disneyland? for our predictions there.) When Magic Key sales do resume, that’ll once again cause crowds to spike.
Currently, there are unknowns and unique variables that influence attendance and crowds at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We’ll be blunt with you–we cannot perfectly predict crowds for 2023 and no one can. Any other Disneyland crowd calendar that claims clairvoyance is lying. There are a few reasons why…
Second, issues with staffing. Disneyland continues to have an insufficient number of Cast Members, despite undertaking a hiring blitz and pretty much nonstop ads touting what a great employer (and corporate citizen!) Disney is, and urging locals to apply for jobs. Consequently, Disneyland tends to allocate more resources (e.g. Cast Members) to weekends, while also releasing more park reservations for those dates.
The end result is a lot of day-to-day variance based on staffing levels and park reservation refills. Both of those things are inconsistent and not easily predictable, and the end result can be random weekdays that are or “feel” busier than their adjacent dates. Likewise, some weekends have felt less busy thanks to superior staffing or more limited reservations for locals. While weekends (Saturdays, especially) tend to be busier, it’s hit or miss.
Third, reservation availability–or rather, lack thereof–has another huge impact. This is incredibly relevant to Disneyland crowd calendars because if reservations run out, there isn’t much variance in crowds at all. If every day is fully booked, they’re usually all equally busy. For the rest of this year, the biggest limiting factor on attendance won’t be organic demand, but rather, reservation availability.
During peak season dates like Thanksgiving and Christmas, organic demand might be significantly higher than the number of available reservations. On a random Wednesday in May 2023, organic demand might only be 2% above reservations. In a normal year, without capacity capped, the former peak season dates would be far busier. In a capacity-constrained environment, both are equally busy. Sold out is sold out–crowd levels are the same for both dates. (In theory–see the above note about staffing which illustrates why this is not always true.)
To us, this sounds like a repeat of a few winters ago, when Disneyland had unprecedented–and unpredicted–crowds in the winter and early spring months. Then, Disneyland was slammed with people the first two months of the year due to a confluence of circumstances: Main Street Electrical Parade’s return, SoCal resident ticket offer, and aggressive marketing campaigns in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
While it’s currently unclear what kind of California resident ticket offer will be released for January through May 2023, it’s almost certain there will be one. (The big question is whether weekends will be blocked out–if so, Saturdays may not be as bad as they are right now.)
It’s also unclear to what extent Disneyland will market the 100 Years of Wonder Anniversary Celebration. Our guess is pretty aggressively. On top of that, the reimagined Mickey’s Toontown will open and the Magic Happens Parade will return at some point in Spring 2023. Those two things will draw (but also absorb!) crowds.
Finally, there’s a chance this holiday season will be the “last hurrah” for pent-up demand and Disneyland crowds will actually decrease in 2023. Household savings are already down, consumer debt has reached new records, and inflation is stinging more. There are also growing fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession, or at least a correction or slowdown. On top of that, Disneyland has significantly increased prices on park tickets, food, merchandise, and just about everything else.
Consequently, it seems increasingly likely that Disneyland will experience its own slowdown in demand at some point in the not-too-distant future. Who knows if any of that will happen, though. I didn’t think “revenge travel” would run this hot for this long. It’ll be interesting to see how all of this actually plays out. Our expectation is that travel patterns and consumer behavior begin to normalize throughout 2023, but we don’t have a crystal ball.
Suffice to say, there are a lot of wildcards that make 2023 Disneyland crowd calendars are far less reliable than in normal years. In our view, it’s downright impossible to forecast the crowd levels on specific dates next year given all of the above. What is possible is offering projections about specific date ranges relative to one another.
For example, we know that the last week of March 2023 and the first week of April 2023 will be busier than the weeks immediately before or after them. That’s because of spring breaks for major West Coast school districts that occur during those time frames. There are a lot of weeks throughout the year like this that we know will be better or worse based on various externalities. However, I could not tell you whether March 28, 2023 will be busier than April 4, 2023 or what their precise crowd level will be on a scale of 1-10. And no one can.
With that in mind, our recommendation would be to look at the general ‘crowd contours’ for busy and less-busy weeks or months (or even refer instead to our Best & Worst Months to Visit Disneyland instead of this post) and not day-by-day crowd predictions.
Accordingly, what we’re going to do here is give you the tools to choose the best days to visit Disneyland–and the worst days to avoid. Rather than making bold and definitive proclamations, we’ll cover the underlying variables that impact crowds so you can assess for yourself which dates are likely to be good or bad. If that’s more work than you want to do, we also have plenty of recommendations–with the asterisk that Disneyland crowds are subject to change!
Now, let’s discuss more specifics on when to visit California and offer some 2023 Disneyland crowd calendar advice. For more on this, and some of the less-intuitive times that might be busy, consult our resources and tips below…
As we’ve gained experience visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure throughout the years as Annual Passholders–and now Magic Keyholders–including multiple trips per week while locals, we’ve noticed trends in crowds and analyzed patterns in wait time data.
Disneyland crowd calendars change regularly due to a variety of factors, including marketing, discounts, park hours, new attraction openings, special events, Anaheim Convention Center events, and even weather (good or bad). We strive to keep our Disneyland crowd calendars updated to reflect changes in attendance trends.
It’s also worth noting that Disneyland typically does not release park hours more than a few months in advance, which means the reliability of crowd calendars is lower further out from any given month. Same goes for theme park reservations, both for Magic Keyholders and regular guests.
Moreover, the relatively new tiered ticket system gives Disneyland a greater ability to manipulate crowds by simply increasing (or decreasing) the prices of tickets on certain dates that would otherwise be more (or less) popular. This causes some people to visit on less expensive/less popular dates, normalizing crowds to some degree. Nevertheless, there still are better and worse days/weeks/months to visit Disneyland, all of which are covered in our monthly guides.
You can access our Disneyland crowd calendars and monthly guides via the links below, each of which will open in a new browser tab:
A few years ago, we rolled out crowd calendars for Disneyland that offered a day-by-day look at crowds with red, yellow, and green dates for heavy, moderate, and low attendance, respectively. Many readers loved these, and they certainly make it easier to see when Disneyland crowds will be good or bad at a glance.
Unfortunately, that type of crowd calendar is no longer accurate due to the aforementioned variables. Magic Key bookings alone throw a monkey wrench into that, and make it impossible for static color-coded crowd calendars to be truly reliable in the near-term. (We hope to bring these crowd calendars back later in 2023, but won’t do so until clear attendance trends have emerged and reservations are not regularly filling up.)
While we think it’s still possible to ascertain trends in crowds, especially relative to other dates, we’re not comfortable with the level of specificity offered by a numerical score or color-coded stoplight system. This is especially true for planners relying on crowd calendars to choose dates for their dream vacations. This is probably not what you want to hear since everyone loves the clear and easy answer, but we think it’s better to be transparent and honest with you.
With that said, we can offer easy-to-access general attendance trends for Disneyland that can make ‘at a glance’ trip planning and choosing your dates to visit easier…
General Attendance Trends
Disneyland attendance and wait times are largely dependent upon tourist vacationing habits (which are largely dependent upon school breaks and California travel trends), park hours (historical data exists for that), Anaheim Convention Center events, Los Angeles & Orange County School District calendars, and a few other variables.
With that said, the biggest factor of all is local visitor habits. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure crowds are always worse on weekends. The single-biggest and most important piece of advice is avoid weekends if at all possible. If you learn literally nothing else away from our crowd calendars, have it be that. Visit Los Angeles, museums, beaches, or whatever on weekends–traffic will be better, but crowds at those spots will also be worse. (Not as bad as Disneyland, though!)
There are definitely other wildcards that make it more difficult for Disneyland crowd calendars to predict attendance or wait times on specific dates with accuracy far in advance. However, the variables above are knowable fairly far in advance, and make forecasting general seasonal trends much easier. As such, that’s what we’re presenting here:
Overall, we are expecting Disneyland “feels like” crowds to be heavier throughout at least the first quarter of 2023. If you’re planning to visit for Christmas 2023, you should prepare for higher crowd levels. That’ll be especially true for weekends, holidays, and school breaks for local districts and nearby states.
Speaking of which, school schedules, weather, special events, park hours, and more may all affect when you want to visit Disneyland. 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.
Specifically, here are the school districts that have the biggest impact on Disneyland attendance:
Los Angeles Unified (CA)
Orange County – All Districts (CA)
San Diego Unified (CA)
Clark County (NV)
Long Beach Unified (CA)
Riverside Unified (CA)
San Bernardino City Unified (CA)
Fresno Unified (CA)
Elk Grove (CA)
San Francisco Unified (CA)
Phoenix Unified – All Districts (AZ)
Mesa Unified (AZ)
Washoe County (NV)
Tuscon Unified (AZ)
Our crowd calendars take all of these districts into account, as their academic breaks and school schedules can have a significant impact on Disneyland attendance. There’s typically overlap among the top 3 districts in Southern California, which means their breaks are very bad, but confined to a small portion of the overall calendar.
Major districts in Northern California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona all can have a noticeable impact on crowds, as well. (For example, most districts in Utah share a common fall break, and that long weekend gets really bad.) By contrast, we’ve never observed much of an impact from Oregon, Washington, or any other states. Texas and anything east of it are all pretty much Walt Disney World’s market.
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 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 $70 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 days have shorter park hours and busier days 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 peak season. With good plans for touring the parks or strategic use of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, 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 or early fall), Gay Days (fall), HalloweenTime at Disneyland (late summer and fall), CHOC walk (fall), Holidays at Disneyland (fall and winter), and Grad Nites (spring).
During Disneyland’s slower seasons, expect a lot of attractions to be closed for refurbishments and other construction to be occurring. 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).
Traditionally, January and February have been the biggest months for attraction downtime, as those are the low-season for crowds. However, it’s always smart to consult refurbishment calendars to make sure your favorite attractions are operational no matter when you visit.
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.
Do you have any favorite times of year to visit Disneyland? Which special events do you think are best? Do you agree or disagree with our advice about Disneyland crowd calendars, California weather, special events, school schedules, or anything else here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!