Our free 2020 Disneyland crowd calendars help you choose the best and worst days & weeks to visit. Higher crowds mean longer waits, and this post provides our tips for saving time at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. Our monthly guides cover info & tips about special events weather, prices, and wait times via the aforementioned free crowd calendars. (Updated January 10, 2020.)
In January 2020, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will have its grand opening, and its impact should be far-reaching. Of course, we wrote the same thing about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge last year, and that did not true true during the opening months of the blockbuster new land. However, there are a variety of reasons why that wasn’t the case, and Star Wars Land crowds have gradually picked up their pace.
The opening of the flagship attraction should be the culmination of that, with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge reaching new peaks throughout 2020. On top of that, Avengers Campus debuts at Disney California Adventure in Summer 2020. As such, we’re anticipating that this year will be a big one for Disneyland Resort, with record crowds at various times throughout the year…
However, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in making a ton of bold crowd calendar predictions that the entire year will be bonkers at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure due to the aforementioned openings. We made that mistake last year, and it blew up in our faces.
With that said, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance could spike crowds for…who knows how long. A weekend? A couple of weeks? Indefinitely? Based upon what has already happened in Florida, we’re inclined to think it’ll have a pronounced and prolonged impact at Disneyland. Probably not so much at Disney California Adventure.
However, Annual Passholder blockouts for the summer at Disneyland plus the debut of the Avengers Campus at DCA present the potential (emphasis added) for larger summer crowds at Disney California Adventure. In other words, during the second half of 2020, we could have a scenario where both parks are significantly busier–Disneyland with summer tourists eager to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and DCA with displaced APs and Marvel fans wanting to see that new area.
Then there’s infrastructure both inside and outside Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Fortunately, this was all upgraded last year thanks to Project Stardust and other ambitious plans. Nevertheless, it still is insufficient on busy days. Before even getting into the parks, guests could encounter congestion on streets leading into the parking structures, longer waits at security, and lines to enter the parks–not to mention more demand for hotel rooms in Anaheim.
Now, let’s discuss more specifics on when to visit California and offer some 2020 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 Annual Passes (including multiple trips per week when we were locals), we’ve noticed trends in crowds. With this knowledge, we felt it would make sense to put together Disneyland crowd calendars.
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.
With that said, 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. The new-ish Disney Flex Annual Pass also gives Disneyland the unprecedented ability to manipulate crowds by simply increasing (or decreasing) the number of available slots for “Reservations Required” dates. As the prevalence of this AP increases (and it will–it’s the best value for money), crowd predictions become less accurate.
Additionally, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens on January 17, 2020 and has the potential to totally upend Disneyland crowd calendars, have no impact at all, or fall somewhere in between. In large part, this depends upon how long Disneyland uses the boarding pass system.
That is more or less a first-come, first-served system of experiencing Rise of the Resistance, and all slots in the virtual queue are likely to be distributed early in the morning. While this system is in use (and that could be for a few weeks or the entire year), we anticipate most locals will confine their visits to the weekends and holidays when they’re off work and can arrive early.
If this happens, weekdays will be largely unaffected by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Normally, weekdays start slow during the off-season with more locals arriving later in the day when they’re off work. If they have no chance of riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance with a late arrival, they’ll shift those visits to weekends…which will be packed.
Of course, these are huge “ifs” right now. Disneyland has yet to even announce its protocol for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, let alone how long that system will last before moving to a regular standby line and/or FastPass/MaxPass. This means 2020 Disneyland crowd calendars require a lot of guesswork and assumptions right now.
As such, we are only updating our 2020 Disneyland crowd calendars for the first three months of the year to start with; that should be sufficient for those of you visiting California sooner rather than later. Anyone planning a trip later in the year can consult our “General Attendance Trends” section below–we’d caution you against over-reliance on crowd calendar predictions for specific dates.
Once Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has been open for a month or so and crowd trends emerge, we’ll update crowd calendars for the remaining months–and revisit February and March 2020. We also want to underscore that Disneyland crowd calendars for January and February 2020 may not be totally (or even remotely) accurate. It cannot be overstated how much of a wildcard Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is right now.
You can access our Disneyland crowd calendars via the links below, each of which will open in a new browser tab:
Around the Diamond Celebration, we rolled out crowd calendars for Disneyland that offer a day-by-day look at crowds with red, yellow, and green dates for heavy, moderate, and low attendance, respectively. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, a lot has changed.
This started a couple of years ago with yet another Main Street Electrical Parade Farewell Run during the off-season. To make a long story short, we (and literally everyone else) had our crowd calendars woefully under-predicting crowds for its return. Seasonal events also saw spikes in crowds, as did other seemingly random dates.
The last straw for us was last summer with the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Again, literally everyone was predicting a “crowdpocalypse” with Disneyland crowd calendars at 10/10 for pretty much the entire summer. In reality, the parks were dead.
A lot has been written about the opening of Star Wars Land crowds. If you’re curious about this (and how we and everyone else got it so wrong) read our Why Are Star Wars Land Crowds So Low? post. While you might find that interesting, it’s not relevant anymore–in 2020, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds are no longer low. In short, those low crowds were an unforeseeable anomaly–a perfect storm of circumstances that blindsided even Disney management.
However, there have been several of those anomalies in the last few years, to the point that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to offer daily crowd calendar predictions, either via a numerical score or color-coded stoplight system. While we think it’s still possible to ascertain trends in crowds, especially relative to other dates, we’re not comfortable with that level of specificity–especially if guests are relying on our crowd calendars to plan their dream vacations.
If you’re an out-of-town tourist with a wide open calendar for choosing when to visit Disneyland & Disney California Adventure, you can sidestep a lot of this by consulting our 2020 Best & Worst Months to Visit Disneyland. In that, we rank the months and also choose our 3 favorite weeks of 2020 for tourists taking ~4-5 day trips to the parks.
General Attendance Trends
Don’t want to wait for our more specific 2020 Disneyland crowd calendars to be updated with the best and worst dates or weeks later in the year? We have you covered with these generalized attendance trends, which are pretty consistent from year to year and present an overarching picture of relative crowds at Disneyland.
Disneyland attendance and wait times are largely dependent upon tourist vacationing habits (which are largely dependent upon school breaks and California travel trends), Annual Passholder habits (which are largely dependent upon blockout dates, weekends, Los Angeles & Orange County School District Calendars), park hours (historical data exists for that), Anaheim Convention Center events (there’s a calendar for that) and a few other variables.
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:
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Opening Weekend/MLK Day
- Easter Week
- Late March through mid-April (Spring Break season)
- Thanksgiving week
- Christmas and New Year’s weeks
- Most of January and February, except holidays
- Early March
- Mid to late May
- Late June through mid-August
- Third week of November
- Late April
- Early through mid-May
- Late August through mid-September
- First week of November
Expect crowds to spike once Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opens on January 17, 2020. Whether that’s a sustained spike, confined to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or primarily impacts crowds on dates that are popular with Annual Passholders remains to be seen. Unfortunately, it’s truly impossible to know what demand for Star Wars land will look like in the medium and long term.
Overall, we are expecting Disneyland crowds to be heavier throughout 2020 than last year. It seems that there has been lag in Star Wars Land crowds, and we started seeing these crowds materialize towards the end of last year. Summer 2020 will almost certainly be busier than the ghost town it was last year. If you’re planning for October through December 2020–the Halloween and Christmas seasons–you should likewise plan for insane crowds levels.
AP Blockout Schedules
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 general, there are some things you can glean about crowds by studying the AP blockout schedules provided at Disneyland.com. (This is a bit more challenging thanks to the Disney Flex AP, unfortunately.)
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. When 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), 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).
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.
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 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!