Our February Disneyland preview offers a free crowd calendar for choosing the best days to visit. The good news is that February will see low crowd levels for much of the month. The bad news is that there is currently a sea of construction walls at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland.
The first point there is the important one, as we were apprehensive about how beginning of the year crowds would be after last year was incredibly busy. So apprehensive, in fact, that we didn’t do a January crowd calendar, and waited until the absolute last minute to post this one. While this may be too late for some of you, the plus side is that it should be significantly more reliable as a result of our decision to wait.
We already covered this in our January preview, but we’ll quickly recap it here again in case you didn’t read that. Last year, Disneyland was slammed with people the first two months of the year due to a confluence of circumstances: Main Street Electrical Parade’s return, a better-than-normal SoCal resident ticket offer, and aggressive marketing campaigns in Los Angeles and Orange Counties…
This was a significant departure from recent history. Normally, January and February are the slowest months of the year at Disneyland. The weather is typically colder, and tends to be the “rainy season” (although apparently not this year as we enter yet another drought).
February is also the holiday hangover, a stretch of nothing after the popular, back-to-back Halloween and Holiday Times at Disneyland. This is noteworthy because many in Southern and Northern California make their annual pilgrimage to Disneyland Resort between September and December.
More notably than all of that, the beginning of the year is “refurbishment season.” Last year, this was not so much the case, but refurbishment season has returned in full force. (The good news is that the refurbishment list makes things look worse than they are–most of what’s listed are shops or restaurants.) Not only are there the normal projects and attraction closures, but this year there are also two huge projects: Pixar Pier construction and the Main Street track replacement.
While the latter project may seem insignificant, it’s actually a pretty big deal because there are construction walls up and down Main Street. This means the view of Sleeping Beauty Castle is obstructed, which is problematic for Southern California’s Instagram-obsessed local audience. (We’re not kidding–this has unquestionably deterred some people from visiting.)
This should be obvious given that there are refurbishments up and down Main Street, but no parades are running during the month of February. Less obvious, there are no fireworks shows scheduled. The only nighttime spectacular that is running is Fantasmic. You’d expect that to then draw huge crowds as a result, but thus far our observation has been that Fantasmic is less busy (particularly weekdays) than any time we saw last year.
All of this helps explain lower crowd levels observed thus far at Disneyland, but the biggest variable is the SoCal resident ticket deal. This year, it’s not nearly the value it was last year. The discount is much more modest, amounting to around a 25% savings for most tickets. (To put the discount into perspective, for the same money this year, locals receive one day less across the board on these ticket specials.)
This is not to say the rest of the month will be smooth sailing in terms of crowds, and that February will be a ghost town for the duration of the month. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the crowd calendar…
We’ll start with some “instructions” for the crowd calendar. These are identical to the notes above our previous crowd calendars, so if you’ve already read any of those, you know the gist of this.
Crowd Calendar Instructions – This is a simplified Disneyland crowd calendar with a “stop light” system. Our methodology is based upon historic wait time information, anecdotal observations, special events, school schedules, dynamic ticket prices, and more. Second, expect Disney California Adventure crowds to almost always track Disneyland crowds–with a few exceptions–albeit with a proportionately lower number of guests.
Note that Disneyland crowds for specific dates cannot be predicted with a high degree of certainty more than a couple of months in advance. General crowd trends and patterns are a bit easier, and as such, this should be used as an approximation for patterns–not something you rely heavily upon when booking a trip to Disneyland. While other sites offer crowd calendars for specific dates months (or a year!) in advance, we’d be weary of putting too much reliance in those. There are simply too many inconsistent variables for such calendars to be reliable so far in advance.
Finally, we do not recommend using this as a proxy for crowds at other Los Angeles attractions or theme parks, like Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, or Six Flags Magic Mountain. Disneyland Resort crowds are unique; they are artificially manipulated by Disney and also impacted by extraneous variables that do not impact the aforementioned theme parks to nearly the same degree.
Now some notes about our predictions. First, you’ll notice a lot of green, particularly Mondays through Thursdays. This is in large part based upon our experience with past February weekdays, with last year excluded as an anomaly. It’s also taking into account holidays, giving more weight to those that are significant in California (Chinese New Year) and less weight to those that are bigger on the East Coast (Mardi Gras).
In the interest of full disclosure, one variable we’ve discounted more than we normally would is park hours. If park hours are to be believed, many weekdays in February–even those that aren’t holidays or holiday-adjacent–will be packed. Our rationale for discounting these hours is that in large part, Disneyland builds its calendar based upon past trends. Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland does not have the benefit of data derived from forward-looking on-site hotel bookings as a means of forecasting crowds.
If Disneyland’s planners are predicating these hours on last February, as we suspect they are, we believe they are mistaken. We’ve already covered why we don’t think this February is comparable to last February. The potential upside to this is that there’s likely to be days that the parks are ghost towns, but Disneyland is still open until 11 p.m. or midnight. The potential downside is that we’re missing something that Disneyland’s planners have taken into account, and our green days will actually be more like “orange” days, in between yellow and red.
The next thing you’ll notice is that the Saturday and Sunday of Presidents’ Day Weekend are not red, but the Friday and Monday are red. This has everything to do with school calendars and blockout dates for Annual Passholders. All of these days should be avoided if you can, but we feel the weekend itself is the better option should you “have” to attend during that 4-day long weekend.
Crowds should get progressively better in the week that follows, to the point that we’re predicting Thursday will be downright uncrowded. Park hours “disagree” with us on that one, for what it’s worth, but Presidents’ Day does not tend to result in a weeklong spike in crowds at Disneyland. No local school districts (at least noteworthy ones) have the whole week off.
As noted, we are anticipating that Chinese New Year will be a popular holiday in the park, and this is in large part due to Disney California Adventure’s amped up Lunar New Year Celebration. This has already been a popular draw ahead of the holiday itself, and for good reason: the celebration is fantastic. (Do not miss the “Hurry Home” tag ahead of World of Color or the excellent GuGu Drum Group.)
This is probably coming too late for most of you, but February is one of the cheapest months of the year in terms of off-site hotel prices. At some locations, you can expect to pay about half the price of peak summer season pricing. We booked several hotels for ourselves this month to knock out more reviews, and noticed many hotels below $100/night.
Overall, February ranks very highly on our Best and Worst Months to Visit Disneyland. Despite the construction walls engulfing Main Street, we’ve had an exceptional time on our visits thus far this January and February, and that’s been almost entirely due to the low crowd levels. Personally, we’d take a few refurbishments and low crowds any day of the week over the insanity that was last February. As the month wears on, it’ll be interesting to see whether crowds pick up, or if Disneyland’s park hours are “wrong.” We’re banking on the latter, in which case this February will be the ultimate double-dip: low crowds plus late hours.
Have you visited Disneyland in February? Any thoughts on the refurbishment projects going on in Disney California Adventure and Disneyland this year? Did they impact your experience negatively, or do you fear that they will? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!