Disneyland is magical during Christmas. But can be a stressful, hectic place. Disneyland starts the Christmas season very early. November 9th to be exact. This post may seem early. But I am posting late.
People don’t tell you Disneyland is always busy. What was 5 years ago a crowded day is now normal attendance. On a crowded day Disneyland is packed. When I go to Disneyland people complain how crowded it is. Crowding affects certain things. For example, the Christmas parade. People claim spots for normal parades 1-2 hours before. During Christmas you’ve got people trying to take spots 3+ hours before. Families try leaving blankets and backpacks to claim a spot.
On a normal day at Disneyland you could do a little waiting or a lot it depends on a several factors. At Christmas the time you will spend waiting will double on packed days. Especially if you want to watch a parade or a show. You need to arrive to the parade at least an hour in advance so you have your viewing spot. If you want to get a picture taken you have to wait in a line. You want a certain popcorn bucket? You will wait in line.
As someone whose family works at Disneyland who visits every week, Disneyland is crazy during Christmas. You can get lucky and sometimes the crowds are not that bad. You can do everything you want without planning or waiting long. But be prepared for crowds and to stand in lines. You can spend a good chunk of your day waiting for things to happen. On a normal day there is a line for a Castle Picture and even the Christmas tree on Main Street. In the background families who eschew the line pose nearby. They take pics off to the side or near the PhotoPass photographer. If your plans include family photos and E-Ticket rides, do yourself a favor and arrive early.
To save yourself a lot of trouble make rope drop or magic morning at least one day. Make sure that is a weekday. Preferably a Wednesday or Thursday. Attendance picks up around noon. I would also arrive before the second week of December.
Some think magic hours are a waste. I disagree. Disneyland admits you an hour before everyone else this means you can go do whatever you want. Without long lines. Early in the morning means no strangers in the background of your picture.
I always suggest riding Space Mountain or Radiator Springs Racers first. During the magic mornings or the first hour after opening. Those FastPasses run out fast. When I arrive at Disneyland at 3 o’clock and get a FastPass for Space Mountain, the return time is always eleven pm.
Another advantage to magic mornings is you have the park to yourself for an hour. I would head over to New Orleans Square about 10 minutes before rope drop. Ride Haunted Mansion Holiday. The longest you should wait is about 10-15 minutes. And you can still ride many of the E-Ticket rides nearby before the lines get longer than 10 minutes. This includes Splash Mountain, Pirates, and Big Thunder Mountain. To make your Christmas trip enjoyable arrive in the morning. Even when you make rope drop, you can get on these rides fast the hour after the park opens.
Some will try to convince you that magic morning is a waste of time. Magic morning does not waste time. Especially when Disneyland is busy. The argument against rope drop or magic morning is you wake up early and wait to get in. This is the case for anyone coming to Disneyland in the morning hours, anyway. So take advantage of having the park to yourself.
Most visitors to the Disneyland Resort these days are annual pass holders and locals. Who can drive to Disneyland. In Orange County there are over 25 school districts. Alone. And then Los Angeles and the surrounding counties. All the school districts have different calendars for Winter Recess. This means once the second week of December rolls around the locals will be there. By the third week of December many are there in full force. Even with the lower tiered passes blocked out. There are still many pass holders as Disney offers passes that have little to no blackout dates.
I recommend if you’re bringing children make waiting less of a chore. Bring small toys to keep them busy. Go to the store and buy party favors. Make a different goody bag for every day of your trip. The toys from the party isle are cheap and most kids will love them. I also encourage you to bring bubbles. Small note pads and a few crayons can also help entertain younger children.
If you will be sitting on the curb an hour before a parade your child will get bored. I cannot tell you how many kids I have seen having a meltdown because they are sick of staying still. Kids can get bored at Disneyland. All the waiting and walking is taxing on the littles.
I would splurge on a dining reservation that will allow you a perk. Like a World of Color dining package. Or priority seating for parade. It is worth it for fireworks because it is so hard to find a good spot by the castle without waiting for a few hours.
During Christmas make sure you arrive early and get as much done between the hours of opening to noon. If you’re coming on a weekday in the first few hours, you might not need FastPasses for some rides. Take that into consideration when booking FastPasses.
My best advice for you is that Disneyland will be crowded and to not let that detract from your enjoyment. Especially around Thanksgiving and mid-December. Disneyland is amazing and I love visiting. I could not imagine my life without Disneyland. I don’t think most people emphasize how crowded Disneyland is.
Most who travel to Disneyland at Christmas know it will be crowded. Yet, I don’t think they’re prepared for how packed Disneyland can be. Take advantage of a lull in the crowd. On the weekend waiting two hours for a ride wastes time. On weekdays the wait times can be faster. In the mornings most wait times are reasonable.
I do not want to dissuade you from coming. The point is to prepare you. Crowding becomes a problem for people when it keeps them from doing what they want to do. Say your main goals are to take a family picture in front of the castle and ride Haunted Mansion Holiday. Those two simple tasks can turn into a three hour nightmare. But, if you take advantage of magic hours, this can take 30 minutes at most.
The word crowded can be ambiguous this time of year. That’s the whole point is to let you know do you have alternatives. If you get things accomplished by paying extra. Or arriving early and losing an extra half an hour sleep, it’s worth the bother.
Click here to read my post on Christmas Tips at Disneyland. For other Christmas time information.
Here are some helpful posts to help prepare for your visit to Disneyland.