When to Visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland to Avoid Crowds

DIsney Castle Fireworks (Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash)
Photo by Jayme McColgan on Unsplash

Figuring out when to visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland can be a daunting task, especially if you want to go when the theme parks in Orlando or Anaheim are the least crowded. If we’re being honest, the one thing no one likes at a theme park is a long line on a hot day. Even though Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim really don’t have a slow season anymore, there are a few times a year when the crowds are lighter and touring the parks is a lot easier. Here’s what you need to know about avoiding crowds at the Disney parks.

Editor’s Note: Both Disney World and Disneyland (when it reopens at the end of April 2021) are subject to capacity controls to allow for social distancing. Advance booking is vital, and tickets can be difficult to get, so plan ahead and make sure you can get tickets before reserving flights and accommodations.

When to Visit Walt Disney World to Avoid Crowds

Walt Disney World’s crowds seem to never calm down, and what was once considered the “off-season” is now prime time to visit the parks thanks to an influx of new entertainment, festivals, and general word-of-mouth about the slower times. But there are still a few lighter-than-normal crowd times to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, though.

1. Mid-January Through Mid- February

This time at Walt Disney World is still one of the slowest times of the year because people are wrapping up holiday travel and holiday spending. During this time, it’s likely that lines for attractions will be short, but park hours are also short. The best experience to see during this slow time is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which runs from January through the end of February.

2. End of August Through Mid-November

Even though this time is warmer than what’s ideal, it’s also slower than usual because kids are heading back to school. The one park to avoid if you don’t want to deal with the crowds at this time of year is Epcot. This is the time that the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival runs, and every day is typically busy, but even more so on the weekends.

3. Early December

Everyone traveling to Walt Disney World in December is sure to enjoy the beautiful holiday decorations and festivities. If you’re planning a trip during this special time, know that the closer you get to Christmas the busier the parks get. Heading to Walt Disney World at the very beginning of the month will ensure that all of the holiday celebrations are in full swing, but the crowds are light relative to the remainder of the holiday season.

When to Visit Disneyland to Avoid Crowds

Disneyland is a little different in terms of crowds than Walt Disney World, especially since most of the guests are locals or coming from within driving distance. Think of times when kids are in school for when the parks are going to be least crowded, and when Disneyland does its main holiday celebrations for when it’s going to be the most crowded.

1. Early January through Mid-March

January through mid-March is the perfect time to visit Disneyland. The crowds are light, kids are back in school, and the weather is nice. Park hours might be shorter during this time, but that shouldn’t deter you from going, especially since the lines will be shorter throughout the day. If you’re looking at an early spring trip, expect Disneyland to come alive with fresh blooms on its iconic cherry blossom trees around the castle hub.

2. Early May

The crowds might start to pick up around this time, but they aren’t unmanageable, especially early in the month. The closer to Memorial Day you get the more crowded the parks tend to get. The weather around this time is perfect for enjoying the entire day out without a break as well.

3. Mid-September through Mid-October

If Halloween is your favorite holiday then mid-September through mid-October is going to be the best time to go to Disneyland. The crowds are manageable but not non-existent. Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have their own way of celebration Halloween that are worth checking out.

4. Early November though Mid-December

There’s nothing like the holidays at Disneyland. The castle gets a magical dusting of snow, Main Street USA is covered in garlands and lights, and even Cars Land gets a festive makeover. Early November through mid-December is a great time to experience the holidays at Disneyland, except for the week of Thanksgiving. Early December can bring some crowds, especially on nice weekends, but it’s not unlike early May crowds. The closer you get to Christmas, the bigger the crowds become.

When Do We Like to Visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland?

This is somewhat of a trick question because the answer is whenever we can! There’s always something new to do at both theme parks, and even if the crowds are large, we enjoy just hanging out at one of the many restaurants or playing at our resort pool. But we really do try to go during the lower crowd times to make sure our families can get in everything we want to do.

If we had to pick, though, our absolute favorite time at Walt Disney World is mid-January through mid-February just because of how much we enjoy the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. Our favorite time to visit Disneyland is mid-September through mid-October for the Halloween festivities at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand513 for theme park travel tips and tricks, and email her at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com for story ideas.

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