People always want to know when it’s going to be crowded at Disneyland, and for good reason. No one likes being body-to-body with strangers and waiting an hour to ride an attraction that last only a few minutes. We have talked about attendance trends numerous times on Babes In Disneyland, but given we are now in the “off” or “low” season at the Disneyland Resort and my husband and son visited Disneyland yesterday, I thought it would be worth it to provide you with a realistic understanding of what it is really like to go during a “slow time of year.” (Please note that this post is addressing Disneyland only because that was my family’s experience this week. The same principles go for Disney California Adventure as well and apply to both parks, as a whole, year after year–not just the winter of 2015.)
There are definitely a lot of positives when it comes to visiting Disneyland during the “off” season. (Click here to read our “Ask The Experts” posts that lists why Disneyland experts LOVE visiting the Resort during the “off” season.) The weather is cool and the attendance is relatively low when compared to the holiday season, spring break or summer. But, as we’ve mentioned on the blog several times before, when attendance is lower, attractions, shows and even entire sections of the parks go under refurbishment. Every ride goes down for refurbishment once per year in order to make sure that it remains safe, well maintained and up to the standards we all expect for Disney attractions. Typically, no more than two or three attractions are down at one time (per park), but this year in particular (likely because of the need to gear up for the 60th anniversary celebration coming to the Resort in May), there are a lot of attractions and entire areas of the parks closed.
Yesterday, my husband and son visited Disneyland for five hours and here is what they rode/experienced:
- Monorail (twice)
- Star Tours
- Alice In Wonderland
- Mickey’s House (they got tired of waiting for Mickey and left)
- Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Disneyland Railroad
- Gadget’s Go Coaster
- Stopped for snacks and a quick meal at Starbucks
I think we can all agree that most of us would be pretty happy to get on that many attractions on an eight- or ten-hour day at Disneyland. That being said, here is a partial list of what was closed:
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- ALL of Critter Country – There was a wall that blocked the entire thing off which means there was no Hungry Bear for lunch or Splash Mountain and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to ride
- Matterhorn Bobsleds
When you add to that attractions that temporarily broke down (or closed) as they often do, that was quite a bit that they couldn’t experience. (In their case, those attractions included Indiana Jones, Rivers of America so that they could get ready for Fantasmic! and Tarzan’s Treehouse.) Plus, there were a lot of construction walls up which just takes away from the beauty of the park. For regulars like us, closures of major attractions or whole areas of the park aren’t a big deal, but if you are a first-time or infrequent visitor, I can’t even imagine what you would think or how disappointed you would be.
This all brings me to the point I have tried to drive home on this blog since I started it in 2007. When you are deciding when to go to Disneyland, you MUST understand that visiting when crowds are low ALWAYS comes with pros and cons.
- The lower the crowds, the more attractions, shows, restaurants and shops will be closed for refurbishment.
- The lower the crowds, usually the wait for attractions is shorter. It is usually easier to get a seats at shows or get selected for Jedi Training Academy.
- When crowds are high, all restaurants, shops, shows and attractions (unless they are down for a long-term refurbishment or replacement) will be open and the park will look its very best.
- When it is crowded, guests wait longer for everything from attractions to food. You must also get to shows earlier and it is tougher for kids to get selected for Jedi Training Academy because there are so many more children. (Learn more about getting selected for Jedi Training Academy.)
You just can’t have it both ways and visiting during the “off” season isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.
It is important to note that although it is a generally less crowded during the “off” season, because so many attractions are closed those people who would normally be riding those rides are now walking in the parks or waiting in line for attractions that typically do not have a long line, thus making it feel more crowded than it actually is. The Jungle Cruise, for example, had a 40-minute wait at one point yesterday. It rarely has a line that long. On the flip side, it is important to note that Disneyland is still offering great entertainment like Fantasmic! this week–something they don’t normally do during the week in the midst of the slow season. It is also important to note, that just because a day is supposed to not be crowded, we have taken our kids out of school before on days with short hours and several attraction closures, thinking the park would be empty and it was packed. Sometimes, even when you think it’s going to be empty, it isn’t.
- Talk with your family about whether you want to see everything Disneyland has to offer or if you will be ok not being able to ride everything–even some of the iconic attractions–if they aren’t available.
- Talk with your family about what it is like to experience really heavy crowds and whether or not your family will be able to enjoy one another’s company if you are in a sea of people during the busy season.
- Check out the refurbishment schedule on Disneyland’s website before your visit. There is no reason to be surprised when you get there.
- Check out the entertainment schedule on the Disneyland website before your visit and make sure the shows or parades you want to see are being offered.
- Read our guide to knowing whether or not it is crowded at the Disneyland Resort.
- Read our guide on things to do when it is really crowded at the Disneyland Resort.
- Learn about the art of scheduling your day at Disneyland.
I hope this sheds a bit of light on the advantages and disadvantages of going to Disneyland during the slow season. As I mentioned at the beginning, please keep in mind that all of this applies to visits to Disney California Adventure as well.
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