Our September 2018 Disneyland preview offers a free crowd calendar for choosing the best days to visit, and–good news!–there are a lot of lightly crowded days this month. With schools back in session throughout the country and tourist season over, there’s a low-crowd window between Labor Day and the start of Halloween Time at Disneyland. (Last updated January 2, 2018.)
Historically, this window between Labor Day and Halloween has the lowest crowd levels of the year at Disneyland. This is flat-out one of the best times of the year to visit Disneyland Resort, and Southern California, in general. Along with our crowd predictions for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, in this post we’ll offer other thoughts on what to expect during this month at Disneyland Resort.
Let’s start with a look at weather. September is a turning point for Southern California, although we probably shouldn’t overemphasis that. Abnormal weather aside, it’s pretty much pleasant year-round in Anaheim. For September, you can expect humidity to remain low even as high temperatures break 80º most of the month. Expect lows of around 65º early in the month, dropping to around 60º by the end of September.
As you can see by the, various graphs on this page, September in Anaheim is fairly comfortable. Humidity and precipitation is low, the hours per day that are “comfortable” is high, and other variables are favorable. Not really all that different from most of the year. This is why people pay the “Sunshine Tax” to live in California. With lows in the 60s in the evening, 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…
We’ll start with some “instructions” for the crowd calendar. These are identical to the notes above our August Disneyland Crowd Calendar, so if you’ve already read that, skip down to the calendar itself and the notes below it, which are different for September…
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 post was updated after Disneyland released its Halloween Time at Disneyland dates and full park hours for September. Aside from Labor Day Weekend which is also (more importantly) the Disneyland Half Marathon and the start of Halloween Time at Disneyland, September should not be too bad. It’ll still have some spikes in crowds, particularly Friday night (the worst evening of the week to visit) and Saturdays. For the most part, Mondays through Thursdays, particularly daytime hours, should be quite light.
An announcement of Halloween Time at Disneyland offerings should be coming (literally) any day now. Even in the absence of that, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect. As indicate in our Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland, the Halloween season will begin in mid-September (likely September 14, 2018).
Most people aren’t ready for Halloween season that early, but Disneyland fans love new stuff, so expect a spike in crowds Friday evening and Saturday as a result. The first Mickey’s Halloween Party will occur in late September, at which time crowds become less predictable.
During the day leading up to the event, 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.
Disney California Adventure having Halloween overlays for a couple of attractions, and it’s possible Paint the Night will move to DCA in time for the start of the Halloween season.
Despite a spike in crowds once Halloween Time at Disneyland and Mickey’s Halloween Parties start, September is still a very good month to visit Disneyland.
As a result of a drop off in tourist attendance, dynamic ticket prices are at “value” or “regular” prices for most of September. Likewise, Annual Passholder blockouts are minimal after the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. Even these factors are not enough to cause a precipitous spike in attendance.
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.
Barring an aggressive (and unprecedented for this time of year) ticket promotion or the unveiling of some special, big draw, attendance in September will be fairly light.
In addition to fall being Disneyland’s off-season, it’s also very much Southern California’s off-season. This will be reflected in hotel prices, with the exception of Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, which is one of the most expensive times of the year in terms of hotel rates.
If you’re checking in after Labor Day, you can expect some of the lowest hotel rates of the year. At some hotels, you can reasonably expect prices that are about half of what they would be during peak season (or even during the Disneyland Half Marathon).
The downside of this is shorter operating hours during the weekdays in September. Outside of weekends, you can expect regular closings of 10 p.m. or earlier. While the earlier closing time might be a bummer, you will easily encounter 2 hours less in terms of lines during the course of the day.
In terms of new attractions, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! is still ‘fresh’ at Disney California Adventure, but Summer of Heroes will (hopefully) be put out of its misery by September. Whether Mission: Breakout and Radiator Springs Racers receive new Halloween overlays remains to be seen.
Over at Disneyland, the re-imagined Fantasmic and the Rivers of America attractions will also still be fresh, and you can expect a return of Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy around September 8. Paint the Night will also be running, maybe probably???
Other than Halloween Time at Disneyland, the main event in September is the aforementioned Disneyland Half Marathon (click here to read our report from last year’s races) over Labor Day weekend. Unless you’re a runner, we’d suggest avoiding Disneyland that weekend.
As of right now, there are no special offers for Disneyland Resort on-site hotels for September. Don’t be surprised if something is released in late July or August, though. It’ll probably be meager–in the 15% to 20% range, but something is better than nothing if staying on-site is a must.
Keep in mind that “low crowds” for 2018 are still nothing compared to what “low crowds” were at Disneyland even a few years ago (it’s all relative!), so we recommend an efficient itinerary for touring Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Failing that, arriving at rope drop is an excellent strategy this time of year. With few tourists in town, you can get more done the first 2 hours the parks are open than the last 4 hours they are open.
Overall, there’s a reason September is #2 on our Best and Worst Months to Visit Disneyland. To be perfectly honest, it could be #1 if not for our bias towards Christmas, and preference for November’s weather. Weekday visits are a pure joy during September, and the parks are a veritable ghost town on many of these days. Halloween Time causes a spike, and Mickey’s Halloween Party throws a monkey wrench into things, but not to nearly the same degree as October, when everyone starts actually caring about Halloween. If you can’t get bring yourself to get excited about Halloween in early September, get excited by the crowds that will come with experiencing the season early.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
If you’ve visited Disneyland during the month of September, what did you think of the experience? Did you find the crowd levels to be manageable? What about the weather? What about crowds during Halloween Time at Disneyland? Are you participating in the Disneyland Half Marathon? If you’ve visited in September, do you have any tips to add? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!