"When is the best time to go to Disneyland?" The answer to that question depends on your preferences, but here are the factors to consider to guide your decision.
You could go in the middle of the week in February, on a sunny day when there are no school holidays to avoid crowds. But there won't be any fireworks then. Or you could think about going in the summer when all the rides are running, days are long, and you can see the fireworks and other nighttime shows every day of the week—but the heat and long lines come with that timing.
Your trip is all about you, so the key is to understand the trade-offs of what you'll get and what you'll sacrifice, so that you can pick your own ideal time of year.
Questions to Consider
Ask yourself these questions before you decide when to go to Disneyland:
- Is your calendar flexible? Or do you have kids' school calendars and other schedule constraints to consider?
- Can you go during the week? Or are weekends your only option?
- Do you want to do every single thing at Disneyland and California Adventure, see every parade and have the maximum number of hours to do it all?
- Are you dreaming of doing or seeing some particular thing? Would your trip be ruined if you couldn't?
- Do you hate crowds worse than anything and wish Mickey Mouse would stop inviting so many of his friends to visit every day?
- Do you hate hot weather?
- Would you be disappointed if it rained on your Disneyland day?
- Do you want to see the holiday decorations? Or go to Mickey's Halloween Party?
After you decide what's important by answering the questions above, you can start to narrow down your dates.
When to Go to Do it All
Summer and holidays are probably your best bet, so you can go when Disneyland hours are longest , meaning more hours to play, more things to do, and more rides open. The parks have long hours every day in the summer between the end of May and early September.
They may also be open for more hours during major holiday weekends at other times of the year. (See below for more about that.)
Plus, parades, shows, and fireworks happen every day in the summer. Rides are unlikely to close for maintenance then, which means there's less chance of missing out on that one thing you simply must do.
On the downside, Anaheim's summer weather can be so hot you'll worry you might melt. Anytime the hours are long, the place is also packed, leading to long waits. Hotel rates will also be at the year's highest, increasing your total trip cost.
Even worse, on the big holidays—July 4, Thanksgiving week, and Christmas through New Years—Disneyland can get so crowded that they sometimes stop letting people in for safety reasons, even if they have a ticket.
When to Visit Disneyland for the Most Magic
Go in the middle of the week during less busy times of the year. When fewer people are around, it's easier to interact with everyone. You might get to kiss Donald Duck or dance with Pinocchio. You'll spend more time having fun and less time waiting for it.
January through March get the fewest visitors, except for holiday weekends and school breaks.
On the downside, off-season means you'll have fewer hours to enjoy yourself.
Some rides may close for extended maintenance and upgrades, and some nighttime entertainment may not happen on weekdays.
Your Disneyland Crowd Calendar
Overall, Disneyland is the second-busiest theme park in the world according to the Themed Entertainment Association, with more than 18 million visitors per year. No matter when you go, you won't be alone.
If you hate crowds but can't go during a less-busy time, check these tips for how to stay out of line and spend more time having fun and less time waiting.
If avoiding crowds is your number one goal, these are the least busy times at Disneyland:
- First full week of January through the middle of February
- Third Tuesday of February to mid-March (when spring break starts)
- Mid-April through the third week of May
- First Tuesday of September to the beginning of October
- Second week of November
If you can't go at one of those times, these tips about crowds might help:
- Sundays are usually less busy than Saturdays—unless the following Monday is a holiday.
- Weekdays are less busy than weekends. Fridays are the busiest weekday.
- Some websites provide day-by-day crowd predictions based on history. They can't account for a big celebrity showing up with their entourage or an east coast hurricane driving visitors to California instead, but their predictions are generally accurate. You can use the crowd calendar at touringplans.com or check forecasts at isitpacked.com.
- School holidays and three-day holiday weekends will be busy. That includes President's Day (third Monday of February), Memorial Day (last Monday of May), Labor Day (first Monday of September), and Columbus Day (second Monday of October).
- The first week after season pass blackouts end is also busy as all those pass holders rush back for their Disneyland fix. You can find the blackout dates on the Disneyland website.
The guidelines above are general. For a more detailed look at what to expect at Disneyland by month including annual events, typical hours, monthly weather and other considerations, use these guides to Disneyland in January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December.
The Bottom Line
Once you know the pros and cons of going to Disneyland at different times of the year, don't let them dictate your schedule.
If you want to plan your trip when a lot of things will be going on, or you are dying to see the seasonal decorations, go for it. Just start looking for lodging as far in advance as you can to get better rates.
No matter what time of year it is, your birthday is always a fun time to go to Disneyland. Find out all the fun ways to celebrate a birthday at Disneyland.