Disneyland wait time

Want to Beat the Lines at Disneyland? A New Study Says Thursday is the Day to Go

Published Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Both natives of Southern California, my husband and I have been to Disneyland a lot growing up and even in our adult years. And now that we have a daughter (who recently turned 3), we get to experience all the magic that Disneyland and California Adventure through her eyes.

Earlier this year, we purchased the three-day SoCal residents Park Hopper pass for $189 each. The pass allowed us to visit both parks in one day, provided we used all three days before the end of May. There was a 10-day blackout period in April, but since my daughter was 2 and free, it was the most economic choice for my husband and me.

The first time we went was on a Thursday in early March, and we were shocked that the lines were practically non-existent. I think we waited less than 10 minutes for any attraction at D-Land. We rode It’s a Small World, the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh’s Adventures, and more multiple times. Even Pirates of the Caribbean was less than 20 minutes.

And California Adventure was even better! My toddler loves Monsters’ Inc. and we were able to ride the attraction over and over again without any wait. The wait times for the attraction in A Bug’s Land and at Paradise Pier were just as great.

Sadly, the second and third time we went at the end of April, and again a couple weeks later in mid-May, we were met with excruciatingly long lines. And as any parent knows, waiting 35 minutes or more in line with a toddler, is not magical at all. In fact, it almost sucks the fun out of the day. There is only so much I can do and bring to entertain my active little one while waiting in line.

We couldn’t figure out what was do different about going in the beginning of March versus the long waits we endured at the end of April and mid-May.  Schools were still in session, Spring Breaks were over, and summer was over a month away. It didn’t make sense to us. Was it just pure luck the first time or unbeknownst to us, did we just bypass lines by planning our day out better in March?

According to a recent study by the Los Angeles Timesthe latter may hold true. Their analysis of wait times at Disneyland and the adjacent California Adventure Park, found that wait times for the most popular attractions were up by 28 percent compared to the first six months of 2015. The average time visitors wait to ride an attraction is 24.4 minutes, the Times found.

Part of that increase in wait time could be attributed to the closure of attractions, such as Mark Twain riverboat and the Disneyland Railroad, due to the construction of the Star Wars-themed land. Additionally, the study reported that September and January are the least crowded months, and Thursday is the least crowded day – the day we went the first time!

Other findings in the Times analysis note that the busiest times are mid-May, July, and the last two weeks of December, which typically coincide with school breaks. Also, the Times says the key to beating Disneyland lines is to arrive before the park opens and get to the most popular attraction first. And using single-rider lines also saves time. 

Most of study totally rings true for us. At our first visit to the Parks in March – on a Thursday – we arrived right at opening, whereas the latter days in April and May, we got stuck in traffic and didn’t get to the park until after 10 a.m. Also, in March, we were able to take advantage, especially at California Adventure, to bypass the lines by asking the attraction greeters if they had any single row passes. Nearly 100 percent of the time we were able to board the attraction right away since we only needed one row and didn’t care if we sat in the front. For some reason, this didn’t work too well on our subsequent visits – maybe because the lines were already long.

The Times study did not factor in FastPasses, a system that reportedly saves time. Our family opted not to use FastPasses as we didn’t find it convenient to cart around our toddler across the park multiple times in order to get the best use of a FastPass. However, we may try out the Disneyland MaxPass system on our next visit. This new digital app was released on July 19 and costs $10 per day but allows you to reserve a FastPass via your phone.

A recent LA Times article about Disneyland wait times offers insight that could be key to avoiding long lines.