If you’re planning on visiting Disneyland anytime soon, be prepared to wait a lot longer in line. The “Happiest Place on Earth” feels more like the “Most Crowded Place on Earth” these days, and fans are now bracing for more park sell-outs and bigger crowds.
Demand for Disneyland has surged in recent weeks, fueled by a combination of discounted tickets and seasonal events. The unusually high attendance also comes as Disneyland has relaxed a number of restrictions, including lifting face covering requirements. Reservations are still required though, but that hasn’t stopped throngs of visitors from jamming the parks just about every day of the week.
“We were really surprised at how crowded it was for a random Tuesday,” longtime Disneyland fan Joanna Hofstetter told us, who visited the parks on March 1. “It feels like it’s way worse than it used to be. Some of the lines are ridiculously long and move very slowly compared to last year.”
Weekday Wait Times Soar
Just how bad are the lines? For a weekday in early March, wait times may have been high enough for some park-goers to do a double take. The average wait time at Disneyland on Wednesday peaked at 45 minutes by 3:00pm, according to the Disneyland Crowd Tracker. Popular attractions like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Space Mountain reached wait times of well over one hour throughout the day. Over at Disney California Adventure, things weren’t any better. The average wait time there climbed to almost 60 minutes, as the lines for rides like Soarin’ Over California and Radiator Springs Racers stretched over two hours long at times.
Disneyland Average Wait Times (in minutes)
Source: Disneyland Crowd Tracker
For Disneyland veterans, it’s an unwelcome surprise — it’s not supposed to be this crowded this time of the year, especially during the week. Indeed, January through early March is traditionally considered the “off-season” at the Disneyland Resort, a period of brief reprieve from the crowds between the holidays and Spring Break. Disneyland is certainly no stranger to long lines, but unseasonably lengthy wait times is becoming more of the norm. Things were mostly manageable on weekdays earlier this year, but attendance picked up substantially by mid-February. Bigger crowds are now expected through April as schools get out of session for Spring Break, according to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
More Park Sell-Outs
On top of the long lines, high demand is also causing another headache for Disneyland fans: a lack of reservation availability. Reservations for both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are mostly sold out through the end of March. The reservation system has allowed park officials to better manage attendance, but it’s also caused a bit of a stir among the Disney faithful. Last November, reservations became notoriously hard to come by as demand swelled for the holiday season. Availability has improved since then, but the Spring Break season is now driving another reservation shortage.
Still, it’s not just seasonal demand that’s making Disneyland more crowded. A ticket promotion for local residents is also helping boost attendance — and making reservations even harder to grab. The Southern California Resident Weekday Ticket Offer allows SoCal residents to visit a park on three days (Monday through Friday) until May 26 for a discounted rate, which breaks down to about $67/day for admission. The promotion is proving to be a hit with locals, and it’s making a weekday trip to the parks not as quiet as it used to be.
It’s all by design for Disneyland. Since reopening, the parks have taken a new approach to reining in attendance. Disney is keeping sales of its revamped annual pass program Magic Key limited, and two tiers of the popular passes remain sold out. The new Genie+ and Lightning Lane services are also giving guests the ability to skip the lines of high-demand attractions for a fee. All of this, coupled with a strict reservation system, is helping Disneyland solve some of its overcrowding woes and maximize capacity heading into the summer season.
Before You Go…
Disneyland is looking to keep demand going as the parks kick into high gear for the summer. Nighttime spectaculars, including the Main Street Electrical Parade and World of Color, are set to return on April 22. Fantasmic! is also scheduled to return on May 28. So if you’re planning on going to Disneyland soon, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your visit:
1. Book a reservation early
This goes without saying, but now that we’re in the middle of the Spring Break season and with the summer just around the corner, reservations are going quickly again. Book at least four weeks in advance to secure a reservation on a desired date. Weekdays in March and mid-April (April 11-15 in particular) are the highest-demand dates right now as that’s when schools are on Spring Break.
2. Fridays and weekends are less crowded
Attendance on Fridays and weekends has been trending lower over the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly due to the ticket promotion not being valid on weekends, but higher-priced regular tickets and Magic Key blockout dates are also helping keep the crowds away. This trend may fade once things really pick up for Spring Break, but for now, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays have been better bets.
3. Arrive at the park early
The lines at Disneyland are by far the shortest in the morning, so get there at park opening if possible and get as much as you can done by noon. The average wait time at Disneyland before 11:00am is typically only 15-20 minutes, before spiking to 40+ minutes by 12:00pm. Don’t count on shorter lines in the late afternoon either, as crowds don’t tend to calm down until the evening (after 8:00pm).
Are you planning on visiting Disneyland soon? How long have the lines been? Is it more or less crowded than before? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!