One of the most commonly asked questions about Disneyland California isn’t about the rides or attractions – it’s about timing. When is the best time to go to Disneyland Resort, and what factors help determine the best time frame for your family?

Do you want more extended hours, lower crowds, or to avoid missing school? Timing your trip may depend on what factors matter most to you.

Here’s what you need to know about scheduling your trip to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park at the perfect time for your family.

What Factors Determine the Best Time to Visit Disneyland?

There are a few things to consider, including crowds, park hours, ticket pricing, school schedules, and even the weather.

Whether you want temperate weather and lower crowds in late January or the vibrant and exciting fireworks and entertainment in July, there’s a right time to go to Disneyland. It just depends on what you prioritize.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Disneyland When it Comes to Crowds?

The more people in the park, the longer you’ll wait for rides, meals, and attractions. So, crowds matter.

Suppose you visit during a busy holiday season like the 4th of July, President’s Day weekend, spring break season, Christmas holiday season, or Thanksgiving week. In that case, you can expect larger than usual crowds.

Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle at Disneyland Resort
Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Avoiding Peak Visitation Periods at Disneyland Park & Disney California Adventure

If your priority is to avoid crowds, there are a few ways to decide the best time to go to Disneyland.

First, avoid holidays, major school breaks, and summer break, as stated above.

Then, plan on visiting Disneyland on weekdays if possible – park attendance spikes on Saturdays and Sundays when kids are out of school, and most people have days off from work.

The “off-season” at Disneyland, such as it is, tempts with lighter crowds and good value.

Mid-September through mid-November (except for October weekends) and mid-January through mid-March are typically Disneyland’s least-busy periods.

Keep in mind, though, that those lower-visitation intervals also tend to coincide with fewer events, periodic attraction closures for upkeep, and reduced operating hours. For some, though, this is the best time to go to Disneyland because the lines are shorter.

School Schedules

Another factor to consider is school schedules, both in how they may influence your availability and their general effect on Disneyland visitation levels.

Summer vacation months, spring break, and any holidays when there are school breaks are heavy visitation times at Disneyland, given all the kids out of school, so avoid them if possible if you want smaller crowds.

Once local kids return to school, the local crowds will plummet on weekdays, making this an excellent time to visit.

The exception is Halloween time, Memorial Day weekend, and during the Disney California Adventure’s Food and Wine Festival — these times are generally busy without regard to the day of the week.

Local schools let out for the year starting in mid-May, with most out by mid-June. Kids head back into the classroom starting in mid-August, with most back after Labor Day.

Holiday decor is one reason to visit Disneyland Resort during the holiday season.
Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

Weather Matters When it Comes to Disneyland

Want great weather — like a comfortably warm but not hot vacation? Avoid the summer months! Not only are June, July, and August crowded times once kids are out of school, it also gets hot, particularly in the late afternoon.

There is not a lot of shade when you’re walking between attractions and rides in either park.

If you want it to be warm enough to go swimming but not bake in the heat, the shoulder seasons like late September, October, late April, and May are best.

These months immediately before and just following summer are among the best times to go. Prices are usually lower for hotels and tickets, and you’ll be more comfortable weather-wise.

Parks can also hit capacity in the summer — and when it is already hot, avoiding crowds and closures is helpful.

BE PREPARED FOR SUN YEAR-ROUND

Just because it’s January and cloudy doesn’t mean that you can’t get sunburned when walking around Disneyland. You definitely can. Wear sun protection year-round.

Ticket Prices & Passes for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park

Disneyland tickets and passes may also influence when you decide to come (or when you can come). Single-day tickets vary in price across the year, being more expensive for days and windows of higher visitation (such as weekends and summertime).

So far, multi-day tickets (two days and longer) do not fluctuate in price based on the date.

Disneyland has replaced its annual-pass system with the Magic Key program, split among four tiers. Magic Key passholders enjoy various perks, but their visits—which require reservations—are impacted by blockout dates designed to manage crowd levels during high-visitation periods.

As you may have read, the resort releases a limited number of reservations per day for annual passholders who are having a tough time securing them.

Choosing a Time to Go to Disneyland: Special Events & Holiday Festivities at Disneyland Resort

What's happening during the 2019 Disneyland Resort holiday season including this year's cool desserts, new merchandise, special events, and more.
(Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park host regular events throughout the year. Some events will naturally inflate the crowds on the property, usually for a single day or weekend.

The most significant events are the Halloween and winter holiday festivities packed to the gills with months-long celebrations and activities. They kick off early: Halloween Time in September and Holidays at the Disneyland Resort in November. 

While some of the activities during these special events do not happen until nightfall, people begin to show up early in the day, leading to inflated numbers and increased crowds.

Special Events Calendar at Disneyland

The following month-by-month breakdown is only a partial list to give you an idea of some of the annual happenings that may help dictate your Disneyland vacation schedule.

On the one hand, you may want to get in on the fun and time your visit for these kinds of organized affairs. On the other hand, the increased Disneyland crowds they draw may mean you avoid the theme parks when they’re underway. 

Keep in mind this doesn’t include the numerous unofficial events that go down at Disneyland Resort. Check the resort’s website for the most up-to-date calendar.

January

  • Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
  • Disneyland After Dark: 80s Nite

February

  • Lunar New Year Celebration (though this is sometimes in late January depending on the lunar calendar)
  • Valentine’s Month
  • Disneyland After Dark: Sweethearts’ Nite

March

  • Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
  • Mardi Gras (sometimes in February)
  • Eggstravaganza
  • Disneyland After Dark: Pixar Nite

April

  • Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
  • Eggstravaganza
  • Disneyland After Dark: Villains Nite

May

  • Grade Nites
  • Star Wars Day
  • Disney Channel Fan Fest

June

  • Grad Nites

July

  • Fourth of July Celebration
  • Disneyland’s Birthday (July 17th)

August

●  Disneyland After Dark: Star Wars Night

September

  • Disneyland Halloween Time
  • Oogie Boogie Bash
  • Plaza de la Familia

October

  • Disneyland Halloween Time
  • Oogie Boogie Bash
  • Plaza de la Familia

November

  • Plaza de la Familia
  • Holidays at the Disneyland Resort

December

  • Holidays at the Disneyland Resort
  • New Year’s Eve

Events in the Area

It’s worth noting that the Anaheim Convention Center is right across the street from Disneyland.

When there’s a major trade show or other event, expect heavier visitation at the resort. That’s most definitely true when the convention center’s hosting D23 Expo, the world’s biggest Disney fan blowout (and next scheduled for September 2022).

So check the events calendar for that venue (and, to some extent, for Orange County/LA in general) as a means of further gauging potential crowd levels at Disneyland.

Remember that convention and business travelers are most likely to visit the park in the evenings after a busy day.

The iconic entrance to Disney California Adventure theme park
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Best Time of Day to Go to Disneyland Resort

If you’re an early bird, you’re in luck. First thing in the morning is the best time to visit Disneyland, even on crowded days.

When you’re one of the first arrivals, you can walk into Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park up to a certain point where Cast Members monitor ropes that keep people from going further into the parks.

About a half-hour before the parks technically open up, folks start queuing up at these points for the “rope drop.” Once the ropes drop, you’ll hopefully get a jump on the big lines. This is because you’ll be deeper into the park than most guests who arrive at the gates right at opening time (and do not know this hack).

The peak time for crowds in the park is in the afternoon. This is particularly true if there is an evening event planned. Otherwise, expect crowds to taper off by late afternoon into the early evening.

The exception to this general rule is holidays — there are fewer crowd fluctuations these days because they are all extremely busy.

Extended p.m. hours when on offer draw some guests to the parks, but many leave before dinner. Families with small or school-aged children seem to dominate the park during the day and then taper off by evening.

Check the Disneyland app for current ride wait times in the app for a sense of real-time busyness in the parks.

Other Factors that Influence Disneyland Trip Timing

Local Fans

If your “usual” park is Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, expect to see things a little differently at Disneyland.

While both parks are heavily influenced by school schedules and the weather, Disneyland has a far larger local fan base, and locals make up a significant amount of the traffic on any given day.

Blockout Dates Give Clues to Disneyland Crowd Levels

Blockout dates prohibiting Magic Key reservations give you a clue to what Disneyland considers peak visitation days.

Reservation Availability

If you are trying to decide the best time to go to Disneyland, the reservation calendar will provide some clues.

When you buy admission (don’t forget to use my discount tickets), you’ll need to select which park you’d like to visit. In the case of Park Hopper tickets, you’ll need to choose a park to visit first. You can visit the second park after 1 p.m.

If the calendar shows only one park available, you can feel confident that both parks will likely be busy. And, of course, if neither park is available then you’ll be forced to choose an alternate day to go.

Plan Your Disneyland Trip at the Right Time for You

Take all of the above into consideration — holidays, the actual time of year and the weather will have the biggest impact on your experience.

Once you’ve picked and booked your dates, you can begin choosing the right place and time to visit Disneyland each day based on what’s going on in the parks.

Simply being aware of the factors that influence how many people are in the parks goes a long way. If you’re aware that crowds fluctuate (and why they do), you can use this information to your advantage and plan appropriately without being confused by an online Disneyland crowd calendar.

When you choose the best time to go to Disneyland, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite rides and attractions with less of a wait.

However, the new Disney Genie should help with wait times when launched and you’ll want to use it no matter when you visit.

Explore More in Disneyland

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