See that image above? That’s the reaction I got when I told my family we were going to Disneyland in the summer! Just kidding, those are their scared faces, because they just got off of Tower of Terror. I have yet to ride the Tower of Terror, because it scares me, probably just as much as it would scare me to go to a Disney Theme park in the middle of the summer. We avoid visiting Disney in the summer. The summertime is not the best time for our family to go, because well…I hate crowds and heat. The best time to visit a Disney Theme Park will differ for everyone. Four factors to keep in mind when you are deciding when you want to take your Disney vacation are:
- Park Hours
- Special Events & Attractions
Crowds play a big factor when we are deciding when to take a Disney vacation. We avoid the busiest times (summer, Christmas, etc), because we don’t want to spend the majority of our vacation fighting crowds. So, in order to go when the crowds are lighter, we have to make a few sacrifices, like taking our kids out of school for a couple of days. This was never a problem when our kids were in elementary school, but now that we have kids in Junior High and High School it’s not something that we can do as easily.
The silver lining with big crowds is that usually all the rides and attractions are running. During slower times of the year you may find that several rides are closed for refurbishment. If you have a specific ride you MUST SEE you may want to check the list of refurbishments for Disney World and Disneyland before you go. While I don’t think a ride closure is enough of a reason not to visit a Disney park, it is helpful to know which rides will be closed so you can give your kids the heads up to avoid any disappointment.
If you go when crowds are lighter you may pay less for your lodging, you may also be able to take advantage of special offers such as the FREE dining plan at Disney World.
I use the following crowd calendars to help me decide when is the best time to visit Disney:
Disney Daily Attendance & Queue Length – This simple chart details the busiest and least busy times to visit the theme parks. They also have calendar of all special events that may be going on each year at the Disney Theme Parks.
TouringPlans.com – This site charges a small yearly fee for you to gain access to an entire year of crowd predictions for Disneyland and/or Disney World. It rates the level of crowds at each park from 1-10. In addition, you will also receive access to the touring plans guide that will help you get the most our of your Disney park visit.
The weather in California is pretty good year round, but there are a few times of the year when the weather is less desirable than others. For instance, the rainy season in Californina is December – March. However, we are from Washington and a little rain doesn’t bother us, in fact I think it helps, because the locals don’t usually head to the park on rainy days. The hottest months are during the summer, usually June – September.
The weather in Florida is a little more unpredictable and undesirable (in my opinion). While they do get sun (with humidity) they also get heavy down pours. The humidity in the summer is crazy! We visited Disney World end of August and while it was manageable, I would have preferred it to be a little less hot and humid. Strangely enough, the summer months are also when they get the most rainfall. If you choose to go during the summer, I suggest hitting the parks in the morning and taking a break in the afternoon. You can head back to the hotel and enjoy the pool and cool off a bit. Then you can head back to the parks in the evening when things cool down a bit.
How late the parks are open is another factor to consider when you are planning your vacation. During busier times of the year, the parks will be open later, sometimes even as late as midnight or 1:00 am. This makes the amount of time you can spend at the park much longer. When the parks are open later, it makes it much easier to take a break during the day and return again at night. There is something magical about the Disney parks at night. My favorite time to ride Thunder Mountain Railroad is at night when all the fireworks are going off, it’s just amazing. Love it!
The trade off for visiting when the parks are less crowded is that the parks will close down earlier. Some parks may even close down as early as 5:00 or 6:00 pm. You will however be able to get more accomplished in the shorter amount of time, because you will be spending less time waiting in line.
SPECIAL EVENTS & ATTRACTIONS
There are times of the year when Disney has special events like Star Wars Weekend or Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. These special events may effect park attendance and in some instances will result in parks closing early. There are even unofficial events like Disney Gay Days that you may or may not want to avoid.
During the busier times you will find that there also more special attractions going on during the week. For instance, during the summer the parades and fireworks may run all week long, while during slower times of the year the parades and fireworks may only operate on weekends.
So, there you have it, some things to keep in mind when you are deciding when to visit the Disney Theme Parks. I would love to hear when is your favorite time is to visit Disneyland or Disney World.
Up Next: I will be sharing some websites and books I use to help me plan and I will also be sharing some ideas to help you decide where to stay when you visit the Disney theme parks.
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