It’s perhaps the best-kept — and most surprising — Disneyland secret, but it could save you some time on your next trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Short lines at Disneyland may seem more like something out of Fantasyland these days. Crowds have surged in recent months, fueled by a combination of seasonal events, a ticket promotion, and returning attractions. Disneyland’s high attendance comes as the park gears up for the summer season, and with wait times for rides like Space Mountain and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance getting unbearably long, some Disney fans have found a way to spend a little less time waiting in line.
For a quieter Disneyland experience (and shorter lines), sometimes it’s simply all about picking the right day of the week to visit. Surprisingly, the best day to go isn’t a random weekday — it’s Sunday.
The Best Days to Go
Guests who book a reservation and visit the parks on Sunday typically enjoy the shortest lines of the week. Sundays, as well as Fridays, often have a better chance of being less crowded, according to the Disneyland Crowd Calendar. Granted, the parks are still drawing strong attendance everyday, especially during peak times (like over Spring Break season/Easter Weekend), but wait times at Disneyland have for the most part trended lower on Sundays and Fridays.
The average wait time at Disneyland last Sunday was only about 30 minutes. The posted wait time for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, one of the most popular attractions at the resort, dropped to only 20 minutes at one point in the afternoon. Over at Disney California Adventure, park-goers there also enjoyed a seemingly off-season experience; the average wait time was just 24 minutes on Sunday.
Disneyland Average Wait Times (in minutes)
Source: Disneyland Crowd Tracker
The start of the work week brought considerably longer lines at both parks. On Monday, the average wait time at Disneyland was 20% longer, while California Adventure’s average peaked as high as 36 minutes. The line for Millennium Falcon tripled compared to Sunday, climbing to over 60 minutes long at times. Things more or less followed the same trend for the rest of the week (daily averages of 35-37 minutes), except for the next best day to go: Friday. Wait times on Fridays also tend to dip, but unlike Sundays, crowds noticeably pick up on Friday evenings.
Crowds Priced Out
So, what exactly is making some days better to go than others? Less crowded weekends are certainly an anomaly as far as theme park attendance is concerned. Nearby Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood typically see crowds spike on weekends, with average wait times as much as five times longer than during the week. Why is Disneyland bucking the trend? At least some of the big weekend crowds may have simply been priced out.
One of the biggest driving forces to a more manageable Sunday at Disneyland is currently a popular ticket promotion for locals. At about $67/day for 3-day tickets, the SoCal resident exclusive deal is the most affordable ticket option (standard park admission goes for over $160 a pop on peak days). The catch, however, is that the discounted tickets aren’t valid on weekends. The result, naturally, is bigger crowds and longer lines on weekdays.
It’s also the cost of regular tickets that may have some Disney fans rethinking their weekend plans. Tickets are regularly priced 20-30 percent higher on Fridays and weekends. While a pricier Friday still attracts locals from the ticket promotion, it frequently sees shorter lines than the rest of the week (especially in the morning/afternoon). Saturday is typically most expensive, but many shrug off the premium as demand has remained strong among tourists and high-tier passholders. That leaves Sunday as the odd day out — invalid for many locals and priced higher for peak crowds that don’t really show up.
Another factor that’s driving attendance up during the week: local annual passholders. Magic Key, the resort’s new AP program, has been a hit with Disney diehards. Some of the passes are loaded with blockout dates, though. The Imagine Key, the cheapest tier exclusively for local residents, is completely blocked out on all weekends, including most Fridays. Only the program’s two highest tiers (Dream and Believe) are valid through the summer season and on most weekends, but are no longer available for purchase due to high demand. Still, all annual passholders are feeling the pinch of the parks’ strict reservation system, as Magic Key bookings go quickly — way more quickly than regular tickets. Even current Dream and Believe passholders are having no luck securing a weekend trip, unless they plan way ahead. Magic Key reservations for Saturdays and Sundays are sold out through the end of June.
Lines Getting Longer?
It’s all according to plan for Disney, as park officials look to boost attendance throughout the week during the off-season. Park capacity isn’t the only thing being maximized though. Disneyland’s new line-cutting services Genie+ and Lightning Lane promise guests quicker entry to the parks’ highest demand attractions, for a fee. Genie+ service is an extra $20 per ticket per day, while individual Lightning Lane access can be purchased for $7 to $20. The add-ons are proving to be hot sellers on crowded days, but they haven’t been without controversy among the Disney faithful. With wait times for popular attractions like Space Mountain stretching past 80 minutes last Tuesday, a now normal occurrence, many are wondering if Genie+ is only making lines even longer.
These numbers make me crazy. I expanded the queues for Space Mountain and Star Tours to handle guest demand. These numbers are the result of guests waiting outside the queue due to Genie+ which pushed people outside to wait before they wait in queue. Nuts! #Disneyland pic.twitter.com/wAPD6FIYo1
— Jim Shull (@JimShull) April 19, 2022
The long-term impact Genie+ is having on lines is still unclear. What is certain is that the changes Disneyland has made to the way it handles park capacity and ride wait times are here to stay. Sunday may not be the best day to visit for long, though. The local ticket promotion’s last valid day is May 26, and with more annual pass blockout dates about to kick in, demand is expected to shift as the parks head into the summer season.
Long lines at Disneyland are practically a given these days, but for now, going on a Sunday could help you spend just a little less time waiting in line on your next trip to the parks.
Have you been to Disneyland lately? What’s your favorite day to visit? Are you waiting a lot longer in line than before? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!