Going to Disneyland is an amazing experience that absolutely everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. The sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the park are absolutely magical and entirely worth the ticket cost and travel time, especially if you have little ones or Disney fanatics in tow. Though any day at Disneyland is certainly going to be fantastic, there are definitely some days that are better than others for patronage. There is no single day that is better than the rest but, depending on your group and vacation goals, certain events and times of year may work a little better for you. Let’s talk about some of these desirable booking options.
Best Time to Go to Disneyland…
If You Want to Hit Every Ride
Ride closures are a normal part of any theme park vacation. They can be a bit of a bummer, especially if it is your first time to the area, but are necessary to keep everything safe and running smoothly. Most rides close for maintenance regularly at Disneyland and the dates that specific rides will be down are usually announced well in advance so you can account for it during your trip.
That being said, if you want to get the most bang for your buck and have almost every ride operational during your visit, try going around the time of a school break. Summer Break, Christmas, Spring Break, and other holiday times are usually when the park actively tries to avoid scheduling maintenance days because they know more people will be coming than usual. The park will be crowded but if you want to try to get every ride and attraction on your list in, this is the perfect time to go. Plus, there are usually fun events and shows that occur during these breaks due to the influx of visitors, too!
If You Want Cheaper Tickets
One thing about Disneyland that is not magical is the price tag. Tickets can be rather expensive, especially if you are going in a larger group. Fortunately, there are days when you can get tickets at a discount. Verified third party sellers will usually mark down their ticket prices during non-peak days when they expect the park will have a smaller guest volume in order to sell more tickets. Hotels will also be cheaper around these days and many local restaurants and shops will have deals or sales, too.
If You Want to Avoid the Crowds
Disneyland will always be a popular destination but certain days are definitely busier than others. If you are hoping to beat the crowds and have a free pass to as many rides as possible, go for non-peak days. Usually, you can estimate these times as when kids are in school. As mentioned before, vacations are when parents usually plan trips and college kids make their way to the park so opting for days when they are preoccupied with classes will make all the difference in the world if you want a less crowded Disneyland adventure!
For the Holidays
The holidays are a little extra special at Disneyland. You can experience the park with limited time shows, decorations, and concessions and enjoy a host of other seasonal benefits. There are specific holidays that are celebrated at the parks for specific periods of time, each with their own themed variations on decor, food, and other park-wide aspects. Each of the major holidays will be detailed below; before proceeding, be warned that these are some of the absolute busiest times to go to Disneyland so if crowds are not your thing you may want to opt for a less packed occasion.
- New Years Eve/New Years Day: These two days are some of the busiest out of the entire year. It seems like everyone wants to bring in the new year with Mickey and his pals. That being said, it is definitely worth the trip since you can experience an extra parade, special performances, and a host of extra New Years themed events including a special firework show.
- Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day is celebrated mainly in the restaurants of the parks, with many high end options offering a special menu for lovebirds and foodies alike. Additionally, you can grab some limited edition themed treats and souvenirs from the park as you walk around, too!
- Mardi Gras: Celebrated in New Orleans Square, the Mardi Gras event at Disneyland is great for both kids and grown ups. Grab a beignet and join Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald, and friends for photos while they wear their Mardi Gras attire of choice. You can also watch Tiana and the rest of the Princess and the Frog cast perform while you dine on special Louisiana food, enjoy live jazz music, and see street performers liven up the square!
- Easter: Hunt eggs with the Disney crew this year! The egg hunts are usually spread out over several days and you can grab a map and stickers that can be turned in for a surprise treat at the end of the day. This is a super fun (yet hectic) time to go, especially if you have kiddos who would love the thrill of hunting through the park!
- Independence Day: On July 4th, Disneyland hosts a patriotic event like no other. It varies from year to year but one thing is always certain: the park is packed. Seriously, it is surprising if the park does not reach capacity at one point or another. Be warned, if you try to buy a ticket or re-enter the park while it is at capacity, you will be turned away due to potential hazards with overcrowding the venue. It is best to get there early and stay in the park if you plan on coming on Independence Day.
- Halloween: My personal favorite time to go to Disney! Halloween at Disneyland is filled with spooky decorations, characters decked out in costumes, scary good treats, and a host of fun shows and events. They even have a nighttime event that allows kids to trick or treat through the park, though it is not included with regular admission. Halloween is always packed and tickets sell out fast so be sure to get there early and buy well in advance if you plan on trying to trick or treat.
- Thanksgiving: This is a bit of a lowkey holiday at Disneyland. A dinner is offered in the Grand Hall and some restaurants around the park curate special menus but other than that, the park tends to hop right to Christmas with all of the decorations out by Thanksgiving weekend.
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: This is pretty much the busiest time at the park. The weeks leading up to Christmas are fun and have tons of special events, snacks, souvenirs, and decor pieces set up through the park but the real magic happens on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tons of special events, parades, snow features, and meals dot the park and there is an overall holiday cheer running rampant as you venture through everything. Since it is the busiest period at Disneyland, you should be warned that if tickets sell out, you will not be allowed to enter without one, nor will you be allowed to re-enter if you leave the park then return while it is at capacity. Pro tip: Buy fastpasses early and use them. Lines get insane towards midday.
There are tons of other holidays celebrate too, bringing in other cultures aside from Americanized holidays, too, so be sure to check Disneyland’s schedule of events to see if there is anything interesting for your family to attend.
Special Events at Disneyland
Disneyland offers a host of special event days that are highly sought out and well loved by patrons. From food festivals to races, there is truly something for everyone at these events. Attendance, in general, is rather high on these days but, unless otherwise noted in the individual listing below, you can likely manage fairly well with children on most of them. Additionally, keep in mind that other events happen all the time at Disneyland; this article just contains a select few that are popular and super fun!
- 90s Nite: One of the most popular Disneyland After Dark events, 90s Nite is a fan favorite for a reason. In 2019, 90s Nite tickets were ninety nine dollars and include a complimentary fanny pack, stamp map, Indiana Jones Decoder Card, themed guide map, and complimentary photo downloads. The event also has a ton of exclusive shopping ventures, food items, and includes a visit with 90s Disney characters! This is a cannot skip night for anyone who loves the 90s. The event runs from nine pm to one am, making it perfect for night owls looking for something to do while in the area, too.
- Food and Wine Festival: Though this one is not technically in Disneyland, the event is so popular that I could not leave it off of the list. Hosted in Disney California Adventure, this event is a true celebration of food, fun, and fine wines hosted by none other than Guy Fieri. Taste your way through global cuisines and sample wines and drinks from around the world while experiencing a host of fun events and shows! This is a cannot miss day for anyone who loves to cook, eat, or partake in some amazing fun!
- Dia De Los Muertos: Disneyland goes all out to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Hosted at Frontierland, the Dia De Los Muertos event features a fantastic celebration of Mexican culture through food, music, storytelling, shows, and special events. The design is absolutely stunning and all in all, this is an amazing day at the park for anyone lucky enough to get in.
- Disney’s Happiest Haunts Tour: Another nighttime event, the Happiest Haunts Tour is a fantastic Halloween themed event that is one of my definite to dos. For ninety nine dollars, attendees are taken on a two and a half hour tour of the Halloween decked out park and experience a ton of tricks and treats along the way. Poltergeists await you around every turn, creating a bit of fun chaos, and your favorite characters are all out in their Halloween costumes, including one spook from the Haunted Mansion who just might scare the life out of you! This event does sell out quickly and requires that anyone under eighteen and the tour requires the purchase of regular park admission, as well. There are a few different tours each year so be on the lookout for booking dates and feel free to call ahead for more information!
- Disneyland Races: If you enjoy fitness and running, runDisney might be something you are interested in. Disneyland hosts a ton of different themed races through the year, though 2019 events have been cancelled due to renovations of a few areas. Participants can opt to join any of the races by paying the fee. Some of the themes are Star Wars, Superheroes, and Princesses. These races are super fun and come in several different lengths to suit any level of fitness and ability; there are even tracks for kids! A little tip: use the training plan if you want to participate so you know what to expect!
Consider the Weather…
When you are planning a trip to Disneyland or California in general, it is important to consider the weather. While short showers are common year round, some seasons in California are rather hot and can be uncomfortable if you are not used to such weather. Many people agree that March through May and September through October are the best times to go since the weather is comfortable, warm, and relatively clear for the most part, lowering your chances of having a rain out on one of your park days. Regardless of when you choose to go, be sure to read forecasts and pack according to what the weather will be like; it is better to have too much in your suitcase than not enough so do not be afraid to throw in some extra clothes, especially if you are going during colder months when layering is a good idea or during the summer when water rides are popular!
Questions and Answers
1. Can I plan my trip according to what characters will be available in the park?
Somewhat, yes. You can use the Disneyland app to find out which characters are going to be in the park and where they are currently located. You cannot, however, see what characters will be out and about on future days so booking decisions cannot be made based on this. Usually Disneyland is pretty good about having most characters available each day but sometimes breaks are needed or things happen to make it impossible.
2. Can I get a refund if it rains or is too hot or cold on the day of my trip?
They do not under usual circumstances. The weather in California is usually rather fair but if it rains excessively the park does remain open. Most people just bring ponchos and do not let the weather put a damper on things. You are only at the park for a little while so make the most of it! The weather will likely pass soon anyways. A little tip: be sure to always check the forecast before you head out and pack ponchos and other rain items as needed, especially if you are visiting the parks during rainy months or when it is particularly cold in case of snow.
3. Are water rides open year round?
Yep! You can enjoy Disneyland water rides year round. Just be sure to pack warm clothing and perhaps try to do them towards the end of the day if it is cold out to prevent having to walk around in wet clothing or with wet hair. Just a heads up, the rides are still super popular during the winter months so do not assume you will be fast tracked due to the temperature. Everyone loves a good water ride in the parks, no matter how freezing cold it is out!
4. Is there a way to know which rides will be closed when?
If you are concerned about your favorite ride being closed, you can check online for the dates of its refurbishment and maintenance scheduling. Sites like Undercover Tourist make it easy with their detailed third party master lists; just find your ride’s name and you are all set. Do take into account, though, that rides do sometimes have issues so be prepared for it to maybe be closed anyways. Disneyland does not experience many emergency closures but it does occur on occasion, though they are usually resolved before the day is over when possible, giving you a chance to still experience the ride.