June 17, 2024

Best & Worst Days of the Week to Do Disneyland & Disney California Adventure

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Wondering which days of the week to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure for the lowest crowds? This guide covers which dates have the lowest and highest wait times, plus commentary about weekdays vs. weekends,

Wondering which days of the week to visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure for the lowest crowds? This guide covers which dates have the lowest and highest wait times, plus commentary about weekdays vs. weekends, Halloween & Christmas seasons, how SoCal ticket deals impact daily attendance, and more.

When it comes to choosing the best and worst times to visit Disneyland, there’s a lot to consider. If you’re planning a trip that will encompass multiple days–including weekdays and weekends, we recommend consulting our Disneyland Crowd Calendars to choose travel dates instead of this. That gets updated fairly regularly, with each individual month receiving a refresh right before it begins for optimal accuracy.

If you’re more concerned with the quality of the overall experience, we also have something more holistic and practical, see our Best & Worst Months to Visit Disneyland. Again, though, that’s for choosing vacation dates. If you’re a Californian or are “only” doing a few days at Disneyland and want to pick the optimal ones, this covers which days of the week to do each park…

For much of the last three years, conventional day of the week wisdom for Disneyland has been irrelevant or flat out wrong. Capacity constraints and the introduction of park reservations were big factors. Even though park reservations are longer needed to limit attendance for regular ticket holders most of the time, they’re still being used to redistribute crowds and normalize numbers.

This is most significant with Magic Key Passholders. Prior to 2019 when the Flex Pass debuted, Annual Passes did not require reservations–they just had blockout dates. For the last few years or so, all Magic Key APs have had both blockout dates and reservations. (With that said, it’s possible that ‘good to go’ days will be added to Magic Keys in 2024, further complicating the calculus.)

Even if you know absolutely nothing about Disneyland and have never visited in your life, you could probably guess which days local Annual Passholders would naturally gravitate to the parks. If not, the answer is Saturdays and Sundays. Those are the days people have off work and school, so those are the days they were proportionately more likely to do Disneyland, all else being equal. A few years ago, Saturdays and Sundays (plus Friday nights) were the busiest days of the week. You might find resources that indicate that’s still the case, but those are outdated. At least, for much of the year.

Even before, Annual Passes had more blockout dates that increasingly attempted to push locals away from weekends. That worked to an extent, and organic demand was manipulated and crowds were spread out throughout the week. Emphasis on ‘to an extent.’ There was no perfect way to manage attendance with surgical precision, and weekends still were busier. That’s the natural end result with theme parks that are more reliant on locals than tourists most of the year. Visiting patterns could only be shifted so much via blockouts.

In the last few years, park reservations have offered much more surgical precision than in the past. These work in tandem with Magic Key Annual Passholder blockouts to further limit the days that many locals can visit. Typically, park reservations for weekends fill up first for Magic Keyholders. And again, this is on top of blockout dates, during which they’re unable to visit entirely.

These blockouts have gotten more aggressive, with half of the tiers of Magic Keys being blocked out most (or all) weekends and another tier having weekend blockouts during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. Only the top tier doesn’t have weekend-specific blockouts, but it is blocked the entire two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

These Magic Key blockouts and reservation limitations have actually been too effective and too aggressive. The end result is that, on average, the busiest days of the week have now flip-flopped. Saturdays and Sundays are now less busy on average, whereas Mondays and Tuesdays have become the two busiest days of the week.

So if you’re planning a multi-day Disneyland vacation and want the short and sweet answer about when to visit that will be true more often than not, the answer is to visit Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Thursdays through Sundays and avoid Mondays through Wednesdays.

Based upon average wait times over the course of the entire year, Fridays and Sundays are objectively the best days to do Disneyland and DCA, followed closely by Thursdays and Saturdays. Mondays through Wednesdays are pretty much equally bad. If you want the relatively quick answer without reading all of the confusing caveats, there you have it.

With that said, there’s more nuance to the recommendations than that, and these generalizations don’t always hold true. That’s because you’re visiting on actual days and not an average of all days. These exceptions become particularly important during

The next biggest predictor of whether the above is true is blockouts. In a nutshell, the more blockouts, the more likely it is that the above will hold true. When Saturdays and Sundays are aggressively blocked out to Annual Passholders, the weekends become even more attractive to everyone else. When they are not blocked out, the weekends become less attractive.

We’re not going to run through the entire calendar to tell you when this is or isn’t the case. That would probably end up being more confusing and ultimately counterproductive. Instead, refer to Disneyland’s Magic Key Blockout Calendar. In particular, you should look for the blockouts on the Believe, Enchant, and Imagine tiers.

When the Believe is blocked out on weekends, those will be good days for you to visit; when the Imagine tier is blocked out on Thursday or Fridays, those will be good days. Conversely, the Mondays through Wednesday will be even worse during those same timeframes.

It’s not just Magic Key APs, though. The other really big factor is discount tickets for Californians. These are typically offered twice per year, one in the winter and spring for Southern California residents and another in the summer and fall for all Californians. These are almost always blocked out on weekends–either Saturday and Sunday or Friday through Sunday.

Those discount Californian tickets in tandem with the Magic Key blockouts further exaggerate the difference between weekdays and weekends. During these deals, Fridays can become much more attractive if they’re blocked out.

The other major wrinkle here is that crowds noticeably increase during the last couple weeks that these tickets are valid. Californians scramble to use these tickets before they expire, resulting in a surge of crowds in the last couple of weeks (usually late May and late September, as that’s when the ticket deals wrap up).

You might think that this wouldn’t happen because Disneyland still uses reservations to control park attendance and prevent overcrowding. But you’d be wrong. While your logic would be sound, what we’ve actually observed in practice is that Disneyland “magically” finds more capacity and refills the reservations during these timeframes.

Other contributing factors are whether school is in session and if it’s California’s tourist season. In order for Mondays through Wednesdays to truly be bad, there needs to be an ample pool of people to visit the parks during those times. If school is back in session for Southern California districts and out of state tourists are less likely to visit, there might not be much of a difference between weekends and weekdays.

A good illustrative example is late January through mid-February, after MLK Weekend but before Presidents’ Day. School is in session during the week for Los Angeles and Orange County and it’s the least popular time of the year for tourists to visit Southern California. During this stretch, there’s far less demand for weekdays and there are fewer weekend blockouts. Consequently, there’s minimal difference between weekdays and weekends. In fact, weekends might be busier.

Conversely, if many schools throughout California, the West, or the entire country are out of session, there are more than enough tourists to create a meaningful difference between weekdays and weekends. These are also the times of the year when Mondays through Wednesday are the absolute worst days to visit–tourists often arrive over the weekend and make their park days Mondays through Wednesdays.

Yet another variable to consider is Oogie Boogie Bash – A Disney Halloween Party during September and October. On dates when this event occurs, Disney California Adventure closes early. As a result, DCA offers less value to tourists and they tend to flock to Disneyland on Halloween Party days.

The converse is also true: on non-party days, tourists disproportionately do DCA, and Disneyland is less busy. We usually recommend Park Hopper tickets at Disneyland Resort because Park Hopping is so easy, but that’s doubly true during Oogie Boogie Bash season. The optimal approach is going against the grain–doing DCA on party days until about 4 pm, and then Park Hopping over to Disneyland for the rest of the evening. Then start at Disneyland on non-party days.

Speaking of Halloween, the heart of both that and the holiday season can be a big exception. These times of year are tremendously popular with locals who will flock to the park on weekends. Conversely, outside of the holiday weeks and school breaks (which includes fall breaks in October–don’t forget that one), it’s not tourist season in California. The end result is another inversion of the new-normal, and busier weekends than weekdays during the off-peak weeks.

Confused yet?! An illustrative example of times when weekends are likely to be worse would be mid-November or early December–windows when there are no adjacent holidays or school breaks. By contrast, the Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week will almost certainly be busier than the Sunday immediately before that Monday, or the Sunday after it. (Does that make a bit more sense?)

Finally, there is one more caveat we have to add. Disneyland often only has nighttime spectaculars with pyro on Friday through Sunday nights. This means a couple of things, with the obvious being that you should do one of these days if you want to see the nighttime spectacular ‘with fireworks’ instead of ‘with projections.’

The other is that there’s a ton more congestion around Main Street USA on these nights, as far more people want to see the ‘with fireworks’ version. So even though weekends are typically less busy, you will encounter the worst ‘feels like’ crowds of the entire week on and around Main Street around the fireworks. (Conversely, rides have lower wait times shortly before, during, and after the fireworks on those nights because a large number of guests are congregating in a few areas for fireworks.)

We recognize that this is a lot to digest. That’s because there are a ton of different variables that impact day of week recommendations, and no hard and fast rule throughout the entire year despite what can be gleaned from averages. So we figured we’d run through the factors with some ‘teach you to fish’ guidelines rather than doing the fishing for you.

With that said, there are a couple more things we’re going to discuss…

How Much Does Day of the Week Matter?

Over the course of the entire year, the average wait time difference between the worst day (Monday) and best day (Friday) is 5 minutes. That may not seem like much, but a 5 minute difference on every attraction adds up. Over the course of the day, it can amount to an extra few rides–at least, in theory.

However, it’s not usually a 5 minute difference. As noted above, there are some weeks of the year when the differences are virtually nonexistent, and others when the gap is much more pronounced. It largely depends upon the degree of blockouts and whether weekdays have school breaks.

Beyond that, there are also time of day differences. For example, the average Friday isn’t going to see consistent crowd levels throughout the day. It’s going to start slow (especially if school is in session!) and get progressively busier as locals get off work and head to the parks. So you might encounter incredibly low crowd levels to start the day, but moderate to high ones by the end of the night.

There’s also typically much more of a difference in crowds between weeks rather than within them. Accordingly, choosing a good time to visit Disneyland is significantly more important than how you allocate your days within the week.

Even more important is arriving early, which is the simplest way to beat crowds at Disneyland. Due to guest demographics, wait times increase over the course of the day–Disneyland crowds tend to be much more late-arriving than Walt Disney World crowds. And as mentioned above, that’s even more pronounced when school is in session and it isn’t California’s tourist season.

Just as crucial is having savvy strategy. Picking a great day or week to visit can make touring the parks significantly easier, but so too can having a good itinerary that zigs when others zag. Then there’s the option of buying your way out of crowds with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which is another good fail safe option. (Unlike Walt Disney World, Genie+ works pretty flawlessly at Disneyland.)

Choosing the best days of the week–and avoiding the worst ones–at Disneyland is pretty low priority in the grand scheme of planning and comes after all of those things. Honestly, if I were doing a Southern California vacation that included, for example, days at the best beaches near Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood, I might prioritize traffic (generally lower on weekends) or crowds at those destinations (generally higher on weekends) over Disneyland day-of-week crowd trends. In other words, there are a lot of moving parts to consider!

With all of that said, these best & worst Disneyland day of week recommendations can be useful for those boxed into less than ideal travel dates due to school or work schedules. Same goes for anyone who realistically won’t have the option to arrive early or stay late. There’s a reason those times are most advantageous–because it’s simply not feasible for many families with small children.

Ditto anyone who doesn’t want to pay extra for Genie+ on principle, or because it’s not in their vacation budget. For anyone this describes, carefully choosing days of the week for each park can relieve some pressure and result in shorter wait times. The bottom line is that choosing the best days of the week and avoiding the worst ones can matter, but usually not that much.

Moreover, day of the week recommendations are pretty easy to disrupt. We already covered some of the reasons for this above. Other factors that cannot be planned around include bad weather (Southern Californians are terrified of rain) or inordinate attraction downtime. Either of those things can be enough to turn a “bad” day into a “good” one in terms of wait times, or vice-versa.

We realize that a lot of this is conditional to the point that it almost might be useless. (Sorry!) With that in mind, I’ll let you in on a few of our favorite “secret” times to visit Disneyland. (They are not really secrets, but that sounds cooler, right?!)

The first is rope dropping the parks on Friday. As mentioned above, this is typically the slowest day of the week and it is disproportionately less crowded early in the day. Do as many high-priority rides as possible first thing, and then switch gears as the crowds start to materialize. Do less popular attractions, a table service dinner, or perhaps an evening outside the parks.

Second, do Sunday nights. In a way, this is the “opposite” of the Friday advice. Instead of locals arriving late to start their weekend, they are leaving early to wrap up their weekend and prepare for the upcoming school or workweek. This really only “works” if you’re able to stay until the bitter end, but those final few hours between around 9 pm and midnight are pure bliss!

Finally, our absolute favorite days to visit Disneyland are when it’s rainy. If there’s any amount of precipitation in the forecast, disregard all other day of week advice, drop everything you’re doing and head to Disneyland. That line about Californians being terrified of rain might read as a joke, but it very much is not.

We try to make a point of visiting when it’s raining–this is one big way that Disneyland is very different from Walt Disney World. Floridians and tourists are totally nonplussed by any weather short of a hurricane. They remain undeterred, and continue visiting in full force. Meanwhile, Californians will stay home if there’s even a slight drizzle. Obviously, you can’t really plan for this–and it’s very infrequent–but if it’s even sprinkling a bit, you should get to the parks!

Honestly, these last few random time of day tips are probably better and more reliably good advice than the entirety of the day of the week recommendations. But we’ve had a lot of people ask about this, and the problem is that it’s not as straightforward as the averages imply (or even as is the case at Walt Disney World) due to those pesky locals!

Ultimately, simply by virtue of researching and reading a post about the best and worst days of the week to visit Disneyland, you’ve done more to prepare and plan than 95% of guests–no thanks to this post itself, but because you’re almost certainly not reading just this strategy. While the advice here is theoretically useful, it’s pretty far from make or break.

You’re much better off using the other resources on this blog to choose good months or weeks to visit. If that’s not an option (or even if it is), remember to arrive early or stay late. Failing that, use our itineraries to prioritize attractions in the best order. Don’t want to do that for some odd reason, spend the money on Genie+ and buy your way out of lines. If you’d rather not spend money and go with the flow during a midday-only visit…I guess this is the best advice for you!

Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and many other SoCal cities!

Your Thoughts

Which days are your favorites for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? If you’re a local, have you noticed a shift from weekends being busier to weekdays being busier in the era of Magic Key (and other ticket) reservations? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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