Our October 2018 Disneyland preview offers a free crowd calendar for choosing the best and worst days to visit during Halloween season at Disney California Adventure and Disneyland. The bad news is that October is a really crowded month. (Last updated January 3, 2018.)
The big draw for October is Halloween, which you can read about in our Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland. This annual fall event is one of the big reasons crowds have spiked during the month of October in recent years.
With new Halloween decorations and attraction overlays in Disney California, crowds should be (slightly) better distributed between the two parks, but both will still be busy. These new Nightmare Before Christmas decorations and Cars Land overlays will also draw more people to the parks. Locals and tourists alike love the Halloween season at Disneyland Resort…
Steadily improving weather also plays a role, as October is a really pleasant month, with little fairly comfortable temperatures and not much precipitation. While it’s pretty much pleasant year-round in Anaheim, October is one of the “sweet spot” months when (generally speaking) it’s not too hot during the middle of the day and not too chilly at night.
For October, you can expect humidity to remain low even as high temperatures rarely top 80º most of the month. Low temperatures are likewise comfortable, starting at around 60º early in the month, dropping to around 55º by the end of October. This means daytime temperatures that are in the 70s, which is pretty much ideal.
Due to the drop in temperatures once the sun goes down, we recommend packing a light sweater or a long sleeve shirt. Most people overlook this, assuming California equals sunshine and palm trees, but the nights can get chilly. Next, let’s take a look at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure crowds during the month of September.
With that said, let’s take a look at the Disneyland crowd calendar for October…
We’ll start with some “instructions” for the crowd calendar. These are identical to the notes above our September Disneyland CrowdCalendar, so if you’ve already read that, skip down to the calendar itself and the notes below it, which are different for October…
Crowd Calendar “Instructions” – This is a simplistic 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 this Disneyland crowd calendar has not yet been updated for 2018. 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 the below calendar for last year can be used as an approximation for patterns in 2018. While other sites might offer crowd calendars for specific dates months (or a year!) in advance, we’d be weary of putting too much reliance in those.
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 the above predictions. This calendar was created after Disneyland released its Halloween Time at Disneyland schedule and Mickey’s Halloween Party dates. Despite park hours not yet being available, we can anticipate what crowd trends will look like based on what we do know…
For October, there are two things you should expect: heavy crowds and the unexpected. Let’s first discuss the heavy crowds. As mentioned, this might be a surprise to anyone who has not visited Disneyland the last couple of Octobers. The month used to be relatively quiet, aside from weekends leading up to Halloween.
That is no longer the case. Due to Mickey’s Halloween Party, an abundance of Value Season pricing for 1-day park tickets, fall breaks for schools in the West, typically pleasant weather, and the growing popularity of the Halloween Time at Disneyland seasonal overlays, October is now one of the busiest months of the year in terms of sustained crowds at Disneyland. No, you won’t see any dates as bad as New Year’s Eve or Easter week in October, but generally speaking, the entire month is busier.
Then there’s the unpredictability. Things like Gay Days, Nevada Day, Columbus Day, and more cause spikes to crowds. Other fall breaks in school districts in the region cause similar swells in attendance. Mickey’s Halloween Party does not help, either.
Not only do locals come just for Mickey’s Halloween Party, but it also displaces guests to Disney California Adventure, and causes Disneyland to be busier on the days before and after the party, as tourists without Park Hopper tickets avoid Disneyland on party dates. (For this reason, we highly recommend getting Park Hopper tickets and starting your day out at Disneyland on party nights where crowds will be lower, before jumping to Disney California Adventure in the evening.)
Beyond that, you have some of the normal trends. Friday night during Halloween season is the worst evening of the week to visit, and Saturdays will be busy despite the lower tier Annual Passes being blocked out. For the most part, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are going to be the best overall days of any week to visit. Those with Park Hopper tickets should strongly consider Tuesday mornings at Disneyland (despite it being red) before Park Hopping to DCA.
During the day leading up to Mickey’s Halloween Party, Disneyland will be less busy than normal whereas Disney California Adventure will be busier than normal. During the Halloween Party hard ticket event itself, Disneyland is busy, but wait times are not necessarily long. On the other hand, Disney California Adventure will see a dramatic spike due to displaced guests from Disneyland who don’t have hard tickets for the party.
Even though Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have been packed the last two Octobers, dynamic prices for 1-day tickets are at “value” or “regular” prices for most of October. Likewise, Annual Passholder blockouts are minimal.
Honestly, neither of these things make a whole lot of sense, and are likely exacerbating the problem of higher crowds in October. It’s as if Disneyland itself has not caught up to shifting visitation trends, and is basing its pricing and AP blockouts for October on crowd patterns from a few years ago.
Read our Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets post for multi-day ticket recommendations to avoid having to deal with seasonal pricing. On the plus side, there are some multi-day ticket discounts currently available for all guests.
The one bit of good news in all of this is that October is still Southern California’s off-season in terms of tourism. Even though the parks are busy (primarily with Californians), the hotels are not. Off-season occupancy rates will be reflected in hotel prices.
In terms of attractions, the big draws for October will be all things Halloween. In Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters transforms into Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween. This will be the first year for each of these overlays, and we expect them to be popular even if they are basic.
Over at Disneyland, the re-imagined Fantasmic and the Rivers of America attractions will still be new(ish), and popular as a result. However, it’s Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy that will be the really popular draws for October.
Overall, there’s a reason October is #9 on our Best and Worst Months to Visit Disneyland (despite September being #2!). It’s all about the crowds. The weather is perfect, the Halloween seasonal entertainment is exceptional, and hotel prices are attractive. If we were making this crowd calendar ~5 years ago, a good case could be made for putting October #1. For a variety of reasons, that has changed, and high/unpredictable crowds are a huge reason why. You can still have a great time at Disneyland in October, but just have reasonable expectations and a good plan. October is most definitely not off-season at Disneyland.
If you’ve visited Disneyland during the month of October, what did you think of the experience? Did you visit in the last two years, or before in the “good ole days” when October was not as busy? What are your thoughts on Halloween Time at Disneyland? If you’ve visited in October, do you have any tips to add? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!