When to Experience the Magic
During the Disneyland Resort's peak periods, you could be sharing your day in the park with up to 65,000 other visitors. There's a reason they're all there at the same time, which may be driven by school schedules or a special event, but it's up to you to decide whether to join them.
Best of Times
Every year, Disney adds more seasonal events and promotions, and the “off season” grows shorter. If someone tells you they visited the park when it wasn't busy, ask how many years ago they went and find out if new features have been added that might have increased attendance since then.
The parks are busiest during Presidents' Week, the weeks before and after Easter Sunday, any time a lot of kids are on spring break (which varies by their school calendar), Memorial Day through Labor Day, early October when the Halloween decorations go up, Thanksgiving weekend, and mid-December through New Year's Day. All of that doesn't leave much slack time, but here are your best bets:
Early January through President's Week
The end of Presidents' Week through early March
Two weeks after Easter Sunday through the week before Memorial Day
Labor Day through the week before Columbus Day
The first two weeks of December
If you're planning your Disney vacation during one of the busy periods, make your reservations as early as possible, especially if you want to stay at one of the Disney-owned hotels. If your first choice for accommodations is already booked, make alternate reservations that you can cancel if you need to and keep checking back with your first choice. Last-minute cancellations are common.
If your work or kids' vacation schedule forces you to visit during one of the busier periods, see the tips for how to stay out of line in Chapter 7. You'll need them.
Best of Days
Year-round, Saturday is the theme park's busiest day of the week, and it's most crowded at noon any day. Sundays are usually less crowded, unless the next day is a holiday. Weekdays bring smaller crowds, but parades and shows happen less frequently and rides are more likely to be closed for maintenance.
RAINY DAY FUN
If it's raining, you can count on much smaller crowds than usual. Bring along rain gear (avoid umbrellas), or if you're unprepared, buy one of the plastic Mickey Mouse rain ponchos sold throughout the park on rainy days. Parades, outdoor shows, and even a few outdoor rides may be canceled or closed. On the positive side, much of the park (including most of the attractions) will be open and the lines will be far shorter.
Any time of year, the parks close earlier on weekdays than on weekends, and in general, park hours are shorter in winter when the days are shorter.