Gay Days is one of the most popular "unofficial" events at Disneyland. It draws crowds of over 30,000 people annually. And in 2021, it fell little earlier than usual, with Gay Days taking place Sept. 17 to 19, 2021. More people come again in March for "Mini Gay Day." (It's for those who need a little red shirt boost in the spring.) Mini Gay Days falls on March 5, 2022. Next fall, Gay Days is Sept. 16 to 18, 2022.
Disneyland Gay Days
There is a schedule of events for each day of Gay Days, with one park playing "host" each day during normal operating hours. Gay Days fell on Saturday, Sept. 18 at Disneyland and Sunday, Sept 19 at Disney California Adventure. But you'll see attendees park hopping as well. There are family-friendly events, in-park meetups, informal chats, celebratory cocktails, a concert and other events. You can find all of the fabulous details on the Gay Days Anaheim website. Whether you are planning to attend Disneyland Gay Days or just visit the parks this same weekend, here are some important details to get you ready!
The Gay Day events are not presented by Disney. Disney does not endorse any group that meets during regular park hours, and as such, does not offer information about the festivities. However, the resort is supportive of the events and the many guests that Gay Days brings to its parks, hotels and restaurants. You'll see special merchandise for sale and even special photo-ops (we did not encounter the photo op signs in 2021). Because this is an unofficial event, the parks are still open to the public. You don’t need a special ticket to visit the parks for Gay Days. Even though Disneyland does not present Gay Days, the event's sponsors include Disney’s Aulani Hotel, Adventures by Disney, Disney Vacation Club and Disney Pride, which is the company’s LGBT diversity group.
Gay Days and Crowds
Disneyland Gay Days do bring in quite a few people, and the impact it has on crowds is growing — along with the general higher crowds the parks see on weekends. The crowd levels can vary each year. When Gay Days aligned with Columbus Day weekend in 2018, there were massive crowds — we saw 300-minute waits for Haunted Mansion Holiday! But other years, such as 2019 when it did not collide with a holiday weekend, it was not as busy. You'll want to book early to visit during Gay Days. With the park reservation system in place, these days sell out.
The advance theme park reservation system is still in place to control park capacity. Mid-September is normally a more quiet time than early October (when Arizona schools are on break). However, a new annual pass — Magic Key — is available, so that may affect crowds of people looking to get back to their magical place. This makes it hard to predict crowds this year.
It's safe to say you should purchase tickets in advance and make your theme park reservations ASAP. If you are attending both days, a multi-day ticket can save you some green, especially if you purchase through your favorite froggy friends! Multi-day tickets can be used any available days within 14 days, even weekend days! Based on park hours, The California Resident Promo 3-day ticket can be used any three days by Sept 30, 2021. Disneyland usually plans for a busy weekend with long park hours, but again, 2021 is not a normal year.
If you already have vacation plans for the Gay Days weekend, don't let the promise of increased crowds stop you, but make sure to arrive ahead of park opening for each day of your trip. Take advantage of the lowest crowds early in the day by riding the most popular rides when you first arrive. (You can also take a peek at our tips for maximizing your time at Disneyland, which always come in handy, whether the park is crowded or not.)
If you're really concerned about the crowds and have a trip planned on these days, then look up the Gay Days schedule online and see the group meals and meet-ups. You can avoid those areas, rides and restaurants at those times to avoid the crowds. With park hopping, you'll see red shirts in either park on either day, but meet-ups and group rides are generally at Disneyland on Saturday and at Disney California Adventure on Sunday. People with Park Hopper tickets may hop between both parks after 1 p.m. Even with more crowds, Gay Days create a fun, festive atmosphere.
If you want to participate in the Gay Days events in the park, arrive early for each meal or ride. You'll see people line up early for rides and restaurants that are on the schedule.
Wear Red or Purchase Disneyland Gay Day Merchandise
There is an official Gay Days red T-shirt that you can purchase. But if you don’t have or want the shirt, the organizers suggest you stick to red shirts. The red shirts help Gay Days participants to identify each other and show their numbers. You’ll see a lot of rainbow colors! You can even purchase rainbow Mickey ear hats in the parks if you need the perfect Disney accessory for the event. We've seen a lot of Disney rainbow souvenirs sold in the parks, especially around Gay Days (and in June for Pride). It goes without saying, but you don't have to officially be part of the event to show your support!
Follow the Schedule
Gay Days participants can follow a schedule if they want to meet up with other participants. Consult the website to find out about parties, meals, scavenger hunts, group rides, group rides, group photos, discounts, teen events, concerts and free activities dedicated to families with children. Whether you are participating in Gay Days or not, knowing the general schedule can help you manage your time in the parks. The most important scheduling detail to know for all park guests is which park is scheduled for Gay Days. For example, the event is at the parks on the following days:
- Saturday — Gay Days at Disneyland Park
- Sunday — Gay Days at Disney California Adventure Park
There are other Gay Days festivities Friday night, as well.
Find Gay Days Menu Items
Over the years, we have seen (and enjoyed!) special Gay Days dessert menu items, and even some meal packages at several quick-service restaurants in each park all weekend. The culinary team creates special Gay Days rainbow food items (and a rainbow tumbler) for Sept. 17-19, 2021. We went on a hunt for items in the park:
- Mickey Rainbow Rice Crispy Treats at Candy Palace, Hunny Spot, Trolley Treats, Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff and Marceline’s Confectionery
- Rainbow Sugar Cookies at Jolly Holiday Bakery Café, Plaza Inn, Market House, Alien Pizza Planet, Galactic Grill, Hungry Bear Restaurant, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café, Pacific Wharf Café, Pacific Wharf Gourmet Coffee Cart and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta
- Rainbow Cake at Plaza Inn and Flo’s V8 Café
- Specialty cocktails at Lamplight Lounge
- Rainbow glow cube at Hollywood Lounge
- Rainbow Cotton Candy at outdoor vending carts
- Rainbow Pizza at Alien Pizza Planet
- Rainbow Grey Stuff (it just had rainbow sprinkles)
- Rainbow slush at Galactic Grill
Check out our favorite quick-service restaurants in Disneyland and California Adventure for some ideas on where to eat. Since you can expect weekend crowds in the parks, you might also make an advance reservation at a table-service restaurant to secure your table.
Look for Photo-Ops and Entertainment
In doorways, restaurant entrances or storefronts, keep an eye out for fun photo-ops with signs and giant photo frames. We did not catch any in 2021. We hope they retune in 2022. You might find a rainbow Mickey, a rainbow Disneyland sign or a rainbow picture frame. You can have a cast member take your picture to commemorate the day. If you follow the official Gay Days schedule, you can also jump in some group photos (in each park). That sea of red shirts in front of the castle just keeps growing and growing each year!
Outside of the amusement parks, there are pool parties, mixers, live music, DJs, dancing, brunch and other events in Downtown Disney and the hotels. Some require tickets, but many are free.
Enjoy Halloween Time, But Watch out for Oogie Boogie
Gay Days in the fall also hoppen to fall during Halloween Time at Disneyland, so there is a lot going on in the parks that weekend. This can also affect your planning. In 2021, the Disneyland Halloween Party, Oogie Boogie Bash, shortened the regular park hours at Disney California Adventure on Sunday, Sept. 19. Oogie Boogie Bash takes place from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Party guests start arriving at 3 p.m. The park closes at 6 p.m., so we use our park hopper ticket to hop over to Disneyland about 3 p.m.
Some people like to extend their trip to make a long weekend of Gay Days. If that is your plan, keep in mind that Halloween parties fall on the Thursday before and the Tuesday after Gay Days weekend. Disney California Adventure closed at 6 p.m. those days, as well. Plan ahead by checking the schedule for future Gay Days.
All Halloween parties are sold out for 2021. But no worries; you can have plenty of Halloween fun in the regular operating hours. In case you missed it, Undercover Tourist is now selling discount 2-day, 3-day, 4-day or even 5-day Disneyland Resort tickets. If you still need tickets for Gay Days weekend (or any day of the year), you can get a jump on savings.
If you are interested in other unofficial events at Disneyland, check out our post on Dapper Day. These unofficial days at Disneyland offer a unique way to experience the parks and meet other people. They can also affect crowds. Knowing about them can help you join the fun or plan the best time for your family to visit.
Have you visited Gay Days in the past? if you have any tips or questions, please leave them in the comments below. If you are looking for discount lodging in the Anaheim and Los Angeles areas, Undercover Tourist now books discount hotel rooms for Disneyland Resort hotels and many more Los Angeles area hotels!
Related: Full Schedule of Disneyland Events