Disneyland fans braving the heat are enjoying a rarity at the park: short lines! A sweltering heat wave across California is tanking attendance at theme parks, including the “Happiest Place on Earth,” where it’s feeling more like a ghost town on scorching days.
The end-of-summer heat wave at Disneyland has sent temperatures climbing to triple digits, but wait times have gone in the opposite direction. A 100-degree scorcher last Wednesday dropped the average wait time for attractions to only 15-19 minutes, some of the shortest lines of the year. The trend mostly continued through the holiday weekend, and crowds at both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure were nearly nonexistent by the 105-degree Labor Day — quiet enough to earn a “Ghost Town” rating on the Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
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Park-goers at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm also enjoyed unusually short lines on Labor Day, with average wait times under 15 minutes. Lines at Universal Studios Hollywood averaged just 20 minutes on Labor Day, and over at Six Flags Magic Mountain — where temps soared to a high of 108 degrees — it was downright too hot to stand in line. Guests there experienced walk-on’s on most rides.
The high temperatures and light crowds come as theme parks are winding down from the summer and gearing up for Halloween. The Disneyland Resort’s annual Halloween Time festivities officially kicked off on Friday, but it’s the hot weather that may be scaring away the big crowds for the start of the season. Attendance at Disneyland historically drops off starting in late August as schools go back in session, but a popular ticket promotion for California residents and strong demand from annual passholders had been helping boost crowds before the heat wave.
What exactly are the lines looking like at Disneyland? Some attractions are certainly more popular than others in the heat. While many outdoor rides are only mustering 5-10 minute waits, many guests are just looking to cool off. Unfortunately, relief from the heat doesn’t always come with relief from the long lines. Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run are some of the highest-demand attractions during the heat wave, pushing 40-60 minutes wait times throughout the day. Demand for seasonal (and air-conditioned) attractions like Haunted Mansion Holiday remains strong as well, but the overall lower attendance at the parks has dragged down wait times at many popular rides. The posted wait times for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Incredicoaster, and Soarin’ Around the World were just 20 minutes on Wednesday afternoon.
Another side effect of the heat wave: more reservation availability. Ticket and passholders found it easier to book a trip to Disneyland this past week as more park reservations became available due to eased demand.
Disney fans shouldn’t count on the shorter lines to last for very long, though. A ticket promotion for locals expires on September 15, so crowds are expected to pick up before the deal comes to an end. Halloween Time is also one of the most popular times of the year to visit Disneyland, and demand typically gets stronger heading into October. Most importantly though, the heat wave will cool off by the end of the week and is expected to make the parks more comfortable — and crowded.
If you’re planning on visiting Disneyland during a heat wave, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your trip to the parks:
1. The hotter it is, the less crowded it will be
If you can stand the heat, going on triple-digit day is usually your best chance at an off-season experience at the parks, and much shorter lines.
2. Go during the day
On really hot days, crowds tend to pick up in the evening as temperatures cool down. Many locals and annual passholders also prefer to visit at night, especially during the Halloween season, so it’s not unusual for lines to actually get a little longer after 5-6pm. The after-hours Oogie Boogie Bash event takes place at California Adventure on select nights, so plan on more crowds at Disneyland on these evenings as well.
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3. Avoid Saturdays (during Halloween Time)
Saturday is expected to be the highest-demand day to visit Disneyland during Halloween Time. Saturdays in October are historically some of the worst days of the year, as the Halloween season crowds kick into high gear.
Have you been to Disneyland during a heat wave? What were the crowds and lines like? Are you planning on visiting the parks during Halloween Time? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!