Disneyland Spring 2017 Update
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 pronounced off-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…
On top of that, Disney California Adventure amped up its Lunar New Year Celebration and now has expanded the DCA Food & Wine Festival. (I forgot to report back on it, but Lunar New Year was incredibly well done.)
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…
All refurbished atraccions are plan to open ln “summer 2017” im going to Disney last weekend of may, its not actually summer but i hope its open… this is killing me!
My husband, daughter and I were there the 3rd -5th in March. Fireworks the first night were stopped after a few minutes and cancelled the Saturday unexpectedly (they were letting people Into viewing areas but no fireworks ever happened). Coupled with World of Color having been down for refurb tbere were a lot of unhappy people. DO NOT get stuck in fantasyland during the fireworks/parade times when the castle and surrounding structures are closed. They have to close almost all the attractions for fire safety and with no trail from frontierland open and the area near Its A Small World having restricted and/or closed traffic due to the parade other was a boring nightmare. In some sort of Disney hell scenario they were even shutting down food carts so people were stuck with nothing to do. Once the trail behind Big Thunder gets reopened hopefully this is resolved!
A friend and I traveled down from Washington March 2-3, and were shocked at how crowded the parks were. Someone at the gate said it was the return of sunshine but it was still pretty obnoxious to arrive on non-holiday weekdays and see /so many/ people crowded inside!
Reading your blogs is so helpful! I’m trying to plan a vacation but can’t decide on Disneyland(never been) or returning to Disney World, in November of this year. Your blog info helped tremendously when planning our first trip to WDW 2 years ago. We thought of experiencing DL this time around but are concerned about crowds and weather; that and so much has developed at WDW since. We are traveling with 2 boys, 8 and 10. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Any chance the crowds will die down later this year? Have the incentives been announced through the holiday season at all?
Heading to Disneyland for the first time in May. My family and I are looking forward to it.
Last year, your tips helped us have an amazing, affordable, and memorable time at WDW. You are the only reliable go-to blog around. Recently, my husband and I decided that while our children are still young, we’d like to try and visit as many Disney parks around the world as we can (once a year). Starting with U.S. stops, and then venturing abroad. Eventually, I’d love to get to Tokyo!!
We just booked our reservations for Park Vue Inn for August, and were wondering if you have any discount tips, dining tips, or any other ideas to minimize cost? We took advantage of Free Dining at WDW but they don’t have that at Disneyland (at least I haven’t noticed it). Do they have a fast pass version and will it be available to good neighbor hotel guests too since there are only 3 Disney hotel options for Disneyland. Definitely can’t wait for your spring update on Disneyland. Btw, thank you for all your updates!!
You can get free ice at any restaurant in DL, just ask
We were at Disneyland back in November – Thanksgiving week! ugh! – and the MSEP was running twice a night. So we were meandering Main Street shops when we heard the music begin for the 2nd parade & wandered out to view it easily with loads of space! I don’t know if there are any more dates when they will offer the parade twice an evening (not sure how late the sun sets down there this time of year), but that was brilliant. We’d been to WDW last April & seen the parade there, so planned to skip it at DL, but when it offered itself up so easily, we couldn’t pass it up.
That was Paint the Night that you would’ve seen at Disneyland in November–different parade. MSEP has been more popular since returning January 20, 2017.
Thanks for the post Tom. Your readers from Phoenix thank you. I’m probably going to wait until the rivers reopen with fantastic 2.0
You’re right on the money again, Tom. We were there Feb 20, 21 & 22. I expected the 20th, which was President’s Day, to be very busy, but it was kind of cold and drizzly outside, and DCA was hardly busy at all!
The following day, which I expected to be much lighter, was crazy crowded. I was really surprised. Because of an inaccurate wait time sign, we ended up in line for Hyperspace Mtn for nearly 2 hours – ugh! And in one of the worst queue areas ever!
On Wednesday, we employed an either “short line or FP” policy and therefore had a better day. Having seen the MSEP recently at WDW, and following your advice, we avoided the area entirely.
The cold days in Jan and Feb kept the crowds down. Wait times were near 0 on most rides. Splash Mtn didn’t have a line one night and ee took 3 tours without getting off.
Two weeks ago it was insane. Wait times by 11am were very long for the most popular rides and fast passes were all but gone.
I did notice though that the haunted house and screaming had fast pass return rimes that were shorter than the lines. Go figure.
I also saw MSEP campers around 4pm staking out spots.
We are going today and again on Sunday so hopefully the crowds will be down a littke.
Having lunch and dinner reservations is the way to go though.
On top of all of the other reasons which sound spot on, they threw in AP Days, which last week made weekdays that would usually be maybe a 3/10 or 4/10 turn into 8/10 days. All for a button and a picture with the country bears. As an out of state passholder who strategically plans little jaunts to make having the pass worth it, it was disappointing to find out that all of my typically deft maneuvers failed me in the usually very quiet 1st week of March.
I forgot about AP Days. I’ve joked about how locals will wait in line for a button…but that’s exactly what people have done for the MSEP buttons.
I really wonder why Disneyland scheduled *so much* this year. Attendance must’ve been dismal last Jan-March, but they way overcorrected.
We did the dinner with reserved seating for the parade. The seating was quite good — in the middle of the Main St. hub across from the train station. You face the train station, so you cannot see the castle or the parade as it comes down Main St. But, we got there only 15 minutes before it started on the first Saturday night of the parade, and had no problem finding a good viewing seat.
Definitely a good idea for an out-of-towner who must see MSEP. The parade doesn’t matter to me enough to splurge on the dinner package, so if crowds don’t die down a bit, I guess we just won’t see it before it’s retired.
We’re heading out the first week of May. I have my fingers crossed that the crowds will have abated slightly by then.
Given the high number of APs at DLR, high crowds may also be due in part to the 13-months-for-the-price-of-12 deal being extended through November. It’s an incentive for sure. There’s just way too many refurbishments right now. That combined with back to back AP Days and Food & Wine Festival, followed closely by the summer onslaught, I don’t see any ‘quiet’ days in the near future. Boo!
That might be playing a part, too.
Once the summer blockout starts for the SoCal Select, I think crowds will drop at least a bit. Hopefully, Disneyland learns from the huge crowds this winter into spring and dials things back next January.
Tom, I found that column up to your usual standards! interesting on the crowds. I think you nailed the reasons. I don’t think it would be this bad if the drought was ongoing. I lived out there years ago and it was the same thing. If there was even a drizzle, DL would be almost a ghost town and DCA would be desolate. Imagine if that were the situation at WDW where it rains approximately 654 days a year.
The return of both MSEP and Remember were designed to pull locals in during a very slow period and with all the attention going to Star Wars and Marvel additions that many fans downright abhor. The weather and the fact SoCal has many people who don’t work regularly and can — and will — wait on a sidewalk hours for an ancient parade to go by have made matters worse.
Finally two comments: greatly respect you for not reporting on the Food and Wine Gouge Fest going on because you feel prices are too high and portions are too little. Most bloggers would cover it anyway and give Disney the free PR it craves while making small criticisms. I like your way a whole lot better. … and … just finished reading your Tokyo trip report and it was quite an enjoyable read and put me very much in the mood for my upcoming visit!
I suspect tourists who read my comments about the rain still underestimate how big of an impact the rain has on attendance, in large part because it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Even living here, I still can’t get over it. I’m not going to complain too loudly, though, because I don’t mind the rain at all, and it makes for an easy and enjoyable visit!
With regard to pricing and portions at the food festivals, someone in TDA is asleep at the wheel. Prices *really* spiked for Festival of the Holidays, and guests visibly voted with their wallets. I was in the parks enough during that to observe just how poorly those booths were doing (often with 4-5 CMs staffed and zero people in line!). I figured they’d self-correct for Lunar New Year, but no. Ditto this year’s DCA F&WF. The sad thing is that these are enjoyable offerings, but the way Disney is handling the food component is off-putting. I have no doubt they’d be more profitable if prices were lowered a bit (thereby increasing purchases). But, what do I know? I’m just a blogger, not some genius with an MBA.
Interesting insight on the crowds. Having been to WDW before, we visited DL for the first time last month. We couldn’t get over the crowds on a Tuesday! From open to close it was busier than the busiest day at WDW! On top of the long list of rides being refurbished, the ones that were open had hour or longer wait times.
All in all we still managed to enjoy our first DL visit but they really need to do something about those crowds!