This year we did one long weekend trip in February for the Lunar Near Year (and also overlapped Superbowl Sunday), 3 different 3-4 day weekend trips over the summer months (none over Holiday weekends and for July the “weekend” for us was a Sunday-Tuesday bc we are blocked Saturdays in July), and just returned from a 3 day weekend with Halloween decorations.
The busiest by far was this last weekend. The summer weekends, especially in June & July were astoundingly less busy. February was COLD and so that cleared out a good amount of crowds late and early, but middle of the day when the sun was out was extremely busy, especially at the Lunar New Year celebration events/food booths/photos, etc.
My best advice if you’re wanting a pleasant time is to look at Magic Key blockouts & try to go on days when more passes are blocked than not. If you can line that up with days that are middle or higher tiered pricing (for 1-day tickets), you’ll also get a Disney experience with better staffing to guest ratios and again, which will make things like crowd control, merchandise & food lines & entry lines much more pleasant.
I think the busy & unenjoyable comments are coming from people who are going when prices are cheaper or their passes unblocked and Disney is staffing to the price level with a worse ratio and it’s definitely making it a less enjoyable experience when everything takes so much longer than you would think going on a traditionally “slower” day (that’s now priced or included on a pass with much more limited unblocked days at a more reasonable price) so it’s shifting a lot of demand to those days on top of Disney trimming the staffing for those days with the logic that paying less than the top-premium price merits a less than a premium experience.
We were at DLR last week. Tue, Wed, Thu – so no weekend crowds. Walking around felt crowded, but the waits weren’t terrible. We rarely waited more than 30 mins. I also found wait times from Disney were almost always high. Radiator Springs had a 60 min posted time so we did single rider and it was a walk-on. I think we waited a bit less than 40 mins for Rise which was posted at 60 mins.
Lolabear’s comments about crowd levels are spot on. If you are well-versed with WDW, I assume you know how to use Genie Plus. With that, and maximizing your time at Rope Drop and closing time, with a break during afternoon peak times, you can have a fabulous time wven if crowds are predicted high. I’ve had a great time even on CL 10 days.
There are many decent hotels off property that are less costly than resort properties, within 10-15 minutes easy and safe walk to the parks, so don’t feel compelled to stay on property. Ask on Chat and you’ll get lots of input on hotels.
Though crowd levels appear lower on the charts in late Jan and Feb, I’ve learned to avoid that time period: hours are shorter and everyone is there for RD and stays til close, so there is no lull.
The walkability between the two parks and the hotels makes DLR superior to WDW, in my opinion. I see many posts by WDW regulars saying how much they loved DLR after visiting here. Plus we don’t have that muggy heat that FLA has. Try it and I’m sure you’ll be glad you did, but do avoid late. Jan, Feb, late Sept-Oct, and 2 weeks around Christmas. Summer weekends, esp later in summer, as well as mid-Aug, are a decent bet on crowds.
Echoing many of the others, but Disneyland to me is much easier to tackle than WDW. It might “feel” crowded at times but the crowd patterns (and behaviors) are much different on the west coast. The walkways are narrower and parks are smaller, but you will probably spend less time in line overall.
With a MUCH lower percentage of tourists, you have fewer guests trying to get everything done. Locals seem to be there to eat, socialize, go on a ride or two, and watch a parade and/or fireworks. My theory is they don’t really mind jumping in a long line with friends, since hanging out is the goal.
With fewer tourists you have fewer rope droppers and much less G+ competition. The mornings are easy. Stack LLs for the late afternoon and evening. And use mobile order to avoid the food lines.
Note: my observations are based on visits in late Sep, mid Dec, and mid Feb. The Sat/Sun before Presidents Day was by far the busiest of these. All keys were blacked out that weekend, so there were many more tourists than usual. TP predicted a CL of 7 but both days were a 9. FWIW, that Sunday morning we walked onto Splash Mtn and Winnie the Pooh, had a quick snack, and then waited maybe 20 minutes for ROTR.
It always feels crowded because the walkways are narrower and queues are outside and can also be narrow. And the crowd pattern is very different from WDW. At DL the crowds will grow into the evenings as the local come into the park. You have to stay pretty late (post-fireworks/projections) to start seeing wait times come down.
However, RD is amazing! You can get so much done in the first two hours of the day. I love it! I would recommend RD and then an afternoon rest break and then back in the parks in the evening. If you use Genie+, you’ll have no problem getting on ride after ride. It’s planning the non-Genie rides that will be a little bit more work. Those are the rides to do first thing in the morning. I personally love RD in FL. Just don’t try to do PPF. Save that and jump in line if it looks shorter and has only a 30 minute wait.
I share your frustration with the hotels. The value resorts at WDW are an amazing value! You get a themed pool, a nice room, Disney service and all at a decent price. This does not really exist in CA. You will pay more, it’s just a matter of how much and what’s important to you - proximity, nice pool/water park, updated rooms, etc.
For those of us who grew up going to DL, there is nothing better. I think it’s worth the hassles that you don’t experience in Florida. Of course, your mileage may vary, but I hope you give it a try!
It’s much better walkways size than it used to be since they widened Adventureland to NOS but I will say something about the ambience of SoCal weather and more laid back vibe of the people in the parks (like they go there more frequent and aren’t rushing everywhere) makes it more pleasant to me than WDW crowds. I never even notice the crowds and it’s so much easier to use Genie+ there and I can get everything in one park per day and almost all of the headliners in both parks in one day I prefer the vibe here, feel more successful in how much I see and the beauty of the original Disneyland is unbeatable worldwide (except I haven’t done Paris). It just feels more magical and I can’t put my fingers on it. Leaving the park in the dry cool evenings even in July with the trees twinkling in the plaza and Batuu lit up at night. And it’s never crowded that late at night. You gotta go and see for yourself.
So glad to hear you came and that you loved it! I was there on Oct 31, too! I must tell you that that day was the lowest crowd level I have ever experienced there, and if you left by 6, you left right about when the crowds swelled up rapidly in Disneyland due to early closure of DCA and the influx of locals for the evening. It was still a fabulous day to the end, as it always is in Disneyland. Where did you end up staying, and did you like it?
October 31st had an awesome crowd level & the weather was perfect! I can only hope to pick another day like that when I go next time.
We stayed at The Anaheim Hotel.
The walk was not bad and it was a cute little hotel. It felt safe there & it had a very relaxing vibe. We enjoyed the pizza press on site on our arrival day. Could not beat the price we got compared to everything else closer on harbor.