January is the only month I’ve not been to Disneyland, yet going at different times of the year has taught us that some times are better than others for an optimal visit. Here are the pros and cons of which time of year to go, even though I’m torn, because I’d go to Disneyland any time of year, even the busiest summer Saturday. The best time of year to go is now, whenever you read this, because Disneyland is fun year round and I’d go this weekend if someone offered me a ride. I am a huge advocate of taking kids out of school to travel, especially to Disneyland, which is much better during the week than on weekends, and during the school year vs summer break. It’s easy to suggest taking kids out of school to visit Disneyland outside of summer, but it’s also easy to do. Sure, there’s missed homework and some teacher scorn, but deep down, everyone is jealous because they want to be there, too.
The weather is comfortably cool. Normally one would worry about rain, but thanks to the massive drought, that’s almost a nonissue. If it rains, buy a parka and continue on. But it’s not going to rain because we no longer have that season here. I avoid Christmas break, but I know people who say Christmas day is a great day to go. Another friend says the morning and early afternoon of New Year’s Eve are good, but then the crowds pick up in the afternoon, but that the next morning, New Year’s Day, is another great time, as the late night revelers are sleeping. Watch the holiday weekends in February, but I’ve been there during that time and the lines aren’t too bad.
This is the ideal season for most. The weather is warm, but not hot. The only thing to consider is Spring Break. It seems like it is always Spring Break for some group of schools each week from the start of March to mid-to-late-April. Late April through early May is a sweet spot of great weather and fast moving lines. May brings Grad Nights, which are different from when I went as a high school senior. Now the students get in the park earlier and there isn’t a formal dress code, which I only mention because when I went, we had to wear dressy shoes and skirts or dresses all night. Walking Disneyland all night in flats is not comfortable. The last two years, I’ve been to Disneyland and California Adventure at the same time as Grad Nights and didn’t find them to be a problem at all.
Disneyland kicks off summer at Memorial Day Weekend, which is filled with special festivities. It’s a lot of fun, but if the summer crowds are not your thing, go before mid-May.
This is usually the easiest time for people to go, which is why it is the busiest. There will be crowds and longer lines, but with more people mean more offerings. Fireworks shows are frequent, other shows are abundant, rides are running to the max, and the park is open long hours. The downside is all the people – so many people – and it can be hot.
One way around that is to take advantage of Magic Morning then head back to the pool mid-day for a refreshing break, and back to the parks afterward. The best ride may be Splash Mountain to cool off during the heat.
This is the winning season. This was our first September trip, and I’ll get to the many benefits of that, but first, October. October is great because the weather can be hot, but it cools off at night, and it’s Halloween in the park. Even if you don’t get special tickets to the Halloween party, the parks are decorated and you can’t help but get into the spirit.
November is another winner because once the Halloween decorations go away, the Christmas holiday flare comes out. The parks are extra magical and filled with many great spots for holiday card photos. To this day, my son insists he met the real Santa Claus at California Adventure. Every holiday detail is perfect at Disneyland.
September is an all-around winner. This is a great time to score room deals to stay on site. This year, we went to the park right after Labor Day. We arrived at the Grand Californian on Labor Day, which felt pretty busy, but the crowds had decreased in the parks the next day, and by Wednesday, it was perfect. The longest line was at Starbucks. At first the reduced hours seemed like a negative – the park was open from 9 a.m. (Magic Morning opening) or 10 a.m. for the general public to 8 p.m. I thought I would have wanted the parks open later, and maybe I would have, but the hours turned out to be a blessing. We got to the parks as they opened, then stayed nearly until 8 p.m. when we’d grab food at Downtown Disney to eat at the hotel pool. There was no pressure to push ourselves toward total exhaustion and we were able to sleep in. These are perfect hours for younger families.
The second benefit of September is that the Halloween celebration begins early. We missed the Disney Halloween by a week, which was a bummer, but our schedule couldn’t be changed. We’ll have to go back. I would go back right this second if I could, even if it was the middle of summer with long lines. Disneyland Parks are always fun and the magic is real because my kids rarely fight while we’re there. Needless to say, I wish we could live there.