With the Guardians of the Galaxy – MISSION: Breakout conversion underway, Rivers of America construction nearly complete, construction ongoing for Star Wars Land, and a host of other projects underway, we thought now would be a good time for another Disneyland update.
Many of you have asked why we haven’t posted much about Disneyland in the last few months, and the answer is simple: we haven’t been going. This isn’t because we are again feeling the downside of ‘moving to the magic.’ To the contrary, we have really wanted to go, but we have been busy. When we haven’t, Disneyland has been busy.
The crowds have been probably the biggest story of 2017 thus far at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. We’ll start this Spring 2017 update with some analysis on what has happened and why…
Suffice to say, Disneyland has been busy. That’s probably an understatement. In a normal year, January and February are the slowest months of the year at Disneyland. The last two years were probably slower than normal due to downtime leading up to the kickoff of the Diamond Celebration (2 years ago) followed by the closure of the Rivers of America and large-scale refurbishments (last year). This has led to a pronouncedoff-season vibe at Disneyland, one that has been tough to find at Walt Disney World in the last decade.
Well, someone in Disney’s management must’ve noticed the low crowd numbers Disneyland has reported the last few years, and decided to do something about it. The problem is, they didn’t just do something, they did multiple things. First came the announcement of Main Street Electrical Parade making its homecoming at Disneyland in a limited time engagement before it’d be retired. Then came the nostalgia-drenched, heart-tugging ad for the parade. In case you haven’t seen it:
If you haven’t seen it, you either don’t live in the Los Angeles television market, or do but live off the grid. I still cannot turn my TV on for an hour without seeing this advertisement, which has no doubt been effective in persuading locals to make a visit.
Failing that ad, there have been a variety of print ads and billboards featuring the floats with various Los Angeles landmarks. (The whole Main Street Electrical Parade ad campaign has been nothing short of brilliant.)
To no one’s surprise, Main Street Electrical Parade debuted to monster crowds, and those have remained steady with fan-favorite fireworks ‘Remember… Dreams Come True’ joining them for a double-dose of nostalgia.
As if that wasn’t enough to motivate the famously-nostalgic local audience to visit Disneyland this spring, Disneyland offered an even better ticket offer for SoCal residents this spring. For the same price as last year’s offer, residents get a 3-day ticket instead of a 2-day one. Given the draw Main Street Electrical Parade has been, Disney probably could’ve raised the price and left it as a 2-day ticket…
To further compound matters, Southern California’s famous sunshine has been in liquid form quite a bit over the last few months. The good news is that the drought is (basically) over. The bad news is that the significant spike in rainy days (and nights) has led to pent-up demand on clear days.
The end result is entertainment (and marketing for it) that has drawn locals in hordes along with cheaper tickets to facilitate the visit for those who are not Annual Passholders. This is problematic (for guests) because this time of year is still Disneyland’s refurbishment season, meaning that an inordinate number of attractions in both parks are down.
Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue. The reduced capacity of the parks (capacity being reduced because attractions and their queues are a big part of what gives parks their capacity–which is the reason why Disneyland could never move totally to a ‘virtual queue’ system) is usually more than offset by significantly lower guest attendance this time of year.
As you’ve probably deduced…it is an issue this year. Wait times have spiked on what would normally be off-season weekdays, as guests crowd into the park. Nowhere has this been felt more than on Main Street, where guests had been camping out up 5 hours in advance (you read that correctly) for Main Street Electrical Parade. (When the majority of guests are locals who have no opportunity-cost in missing out on other attractions, this is the result.)
Fortunately, this policy changed last week to restrict camping out until the viewing areas were set up, and also to prohibit the saving of seats. Not a total solution to the problem, but a good start that makes things more inviting to tourists.
There’s more good news if you’re planning a Disneyland vacation in the near future: this is mainly a problem on evenings (the SoCal workday ends at like 3 p.m., FYI) and weekends. If you arrive at rope drop and Park Hop to Disney California Adventure by late afternoon, your experience with these crowds will be minimal. You’ll still encounter more crowded parks than you would’ve last year, and it won’t feel like a “dead” off-season day, but it won’t feel like peak season, either.
Your other option if you’re visiting from out of town and are flexible with which days you visit Disneyland during your trip is to hope for rain. Southern Californians are deathly terrified of even a light drizzle. I’ve written this a lot on the blog and maybe you’ve thought it’s a joke, but it is not. If you go on a day that rains, you are looking at crowd levels of about half what they’d otherwise be on a clear day. (The potential downside here is Main Street Electrical Parade being cancelled. For some reason, it does not run in the rain at Disneyland.) That covers the update on crowds–on Page 2, we will take a look around the parks…