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Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort

by Leap on June 20, 2022 1 Los Angeles

Ah, summertime! It's one of the hoppiest times of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth. In 2022, we can celebrate the return of all nighttime (and more daytime) entertainment, long days and character hugs. But summer can also be one of the hottest and most crowded times of the year. In summer 2022 all guests need a valid park ticket and a reservation to visit. This just in, more benefits are in store for Disneyland Resort hotel guests, such as Early Entry and hoppin' daily pool parties (in July and August) with your favorite Disney pals!

This past year has brought changes to the way we access Disneyland rides with the new Genie+ and individual Lightning Lanes (the optional paid replacement for FASTPASS and MaxPass). We love using Genie+ to skip the lines. That can help you stay cool since skipping the lines can mean skipping a long queue in the sun!

Some favorite air-conditioned experiences return this summer. Pirates of the Caribbean is back open July 1, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage reopens July 25 and Bobbidi Bobbidi Boutique reopens Aug. 25. Hot Tips for Cool Trips to Disneyland in the Summer

Buckle up because this here's the wildest ride in the wilderness! But seriously, our tips will help you manage crowds and escape the heat.

14 Hot Tips for Cool Trips to Disneyland in the Summer-People pose in front of uncrowded castle

We offer the following tips for managing summer at Disneyland 2022:

  • Purchase tickets well in advance and make a park reservation (up to 120 days in advance for ticket buyers and 90 days for Magic Key holders).
  • Purchase multi-day tickets to save money and so you do not have to worry about blockout dates or tiers. (A sixth, more expensive one-day ticket tier is in place for in-demand days this summer, but with our tickets, you don't have to worry about that.)
  • Book Disneyland Resort hotels early. Another option is to stay at a nearby hotel within walking distance (to avoid parking).
  • Download the Disneyland app to mobile order, check wait times, join restaurant walk-up lists, use Genie+ and access other helpful tools.
  • Make advance dining reservations 60 days in advance at 6 a.m. Or join the Walk-Up List at table-service restaurants.
  • Mobile order food early in the day before you get hungry.
  • Enjoy the new character experiences.
  • Learn the best strategy for riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
  • Arrive before park opening — all guests can enter the park 30 minutes early.
  • Hotel guests get access to select rides, restaurants and stores 30 minutes before the park opens (beginning Aug. 8.
  • Get a Park Hopper ticket to experience both parks and to get more for your Genie+ money.
  • Pack snacks and water to save time and money.
  • Wear sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses to protect your skin.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort-Disneyland Forever at Rivers of America

To help you plan your journey, we invite you to hop over to these hopful posts:

Tips for Hopping to Disneyland in the Summer

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort-Kids at Disneyland Hotel PoolHeading to the Disneyland Resort during your summer vacation requires planning and a cool head. Seriously. The hot California weather can cause meltdowns to your patience as well as your Mickey Ice Cream bar. Don't worry. We are pros at Disney summers and we have frogtastic tips to help you keep your cool! Here are our tips for managing the summer crowds and heat at Disneyland so that you can make it a magical trip.

1. Buy Tickets in Advance

Disneyland in Summer - Long Ticket Lines

You'll be standing in lines all day — you do not want to add a line at the ticket booth. In fact, you really cannot show up at Disneyland and buy a ticket for the same day at this point. A theme park reservation system is in place to limit the number of guests who come to the parks each day. That means you have no choice but to purchase and reserve in advance. Disneyland single-day ticket pricing varies per day and season, so some days are more expensive than others. Here's more info on the best times to visit Disneyland.

Multi-day tickets are the more affordable way to go. We can say with confidence that the more days you buy, the cheaper it is per day to add park hopper privileges! Adding park hopper to a one-day ticket and a five-day ticket will cost you the same price. That's like getting the park hopper on the other four days for free! California residents have great deals on tickets that can be used three different days (with reservations) this summer through Sept. 15.

Undercover Tourist has hopped into discount Disneyland ticket sales, so you can save even more on both park hopper and 1-park per day tickets (and you’ll still get to enjoy one Magic Morning for tickets that are three days and longer)! You can even purchase tickets loaded with Genie+ so you'll be ready to go as soon as you enter the park. Not sure yet if you want Genie+? No worries. You can always purchase it in the Disneyland app it once you enter a theme park each day. You cannot start reserving rides at Disneyland until you have entered a theme park for the day anyway.

2. Arrive Early

Disneyland in Summer - Lines in Morning

We cannot stress this enough. You want to arrive early at Disneyland. Parking lots open one hour before the earliest park opening time, security opens 45 minutes before opening time and the turnstiles open about 30 minutes before park opening. Park guests are held from the rides until park opening time when cast members drop the ropes (hence, rope drop) and allow guests to head to the attractions. The first hour of park opening has the shortest lines of the day. You can accomplish a lot in the first two hours, so we highly recommend arriving early.

If you are staying on-site take advantage of Early Entry (returning Aug. 8). On-site hotel guests can access certain rides, shops and restaurants 30 minutes before the parks officially open. But that requires this tactic — arriving early for the early entry. Say what? With security bag checks and metal detectors and sometimes lines for parking transportation, it takes a while to make it to the park gates. Aim to be through security and at the front gate of Disneyland before early entry begins. That will give you the best use of that magical time. Otherwise, you might spend your morning time waiting in line to get in. That is not very magical!

In the past, Disneyland offered Magic Morning hours on select days, but Early Entry is for both parks every day!

If you're staying at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, you can take advantage of its own entrance into Disney California Adventure Park. Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel now has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure too near Corn Dog Castle!

If you do not have Early Entry, you should also arrive early. Aim to arrive at the gate 30 minutes before park opening and once you enter the park, go as far as the ropes. Grab your coffee and perhaps a pastry. When the park opens, you will be the first in line for the shortest wait times of the day.

Arriving early helps to manage summer crowds and heat at Disneyland, allowing you to beat the harsh midday sun and the late risers. You can start making Genie+ reservations as soon as you enter the park.

3. Use Genie+ Throughout the Day

It is tempting to run on Indiana Jones Adventure or Guardians of the Galaxy with no wait first thing in the morning. But you can reserve a Genie+ for one of those rides right away, then go on some attractions that do not offer Genie+ such as Mater's Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters, Pirates of the Caribbean or most of the rides in Fantasyland (especially Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo) while their lines are short. Use your Genie+ selection toward the end of its window and then select the next one as soon as you redeem the first one. You don't want to use up all your Genie+ options first thing in the morning because you'll want options for the afternoon when lines are longer.

If you are park hopping, you can use Genie+ strategically to make it so you have almost no wait for rides in your second park. You can make a selection for a ride in the other park in the morning. It will automatically select the first available time after 1 p.m. for you.

4. Consider Individual Lightning Lanes

Space Traveler Disney - Rise of the Resistance

Lightning Lane is the new name for the FASTPASS Return entrance. But now there are two ways to access this faster line: Genie+ and by purchasing in individual Lighting Lane for up to two new or popular rides that are not included in Genie+ rides. 

Individual Lightning Lane selections at Disneyland include:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

Individual Lightning Lane selections at Disney California Adventure include:

  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

These a la carte options can be purchased same-day, in-park on a first-available time basis. You can pay-per-Lightning Lane for a particular attraction once per day and pay to upgrade for up to a total of two different individual Lightning Lane rides per day. The price can vary. These rides all have a standby line for no additional cost. You can use this whether or not use Genie+ for the day.

5. Use Single Rider Lines

15 Reasons We Say "Yes!" to Disneyland for Adults-Single Rider Lines

A number of attractions offer a much shorter Single Rider line, and if you have kids ages 7 and up willing to ride alone, that could be a time-saver for you. Keep in mind that they may close the Single Rider lines if they get long. With Single Rider, you do not get to choose your seat, so if you must have the front seat, then Single Rider is not for you. The following Disneyland rides offer Single Rider (at least during a normal year):

  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Splash Mountain
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

The following Disney California Adventure rides offer Single Rider:

  • Grizzly River Run
  • Incredicoaster
  • Goofy’s Sky School
  • Radiator Springs Racers
  • WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure

There is another option at Disney California Adventure — the Buddy Pass. At times, Monster’s Inc. offers Buddy Passes to small groups of one or two people to fill in empty rows. The row can also accommodate two adults and one small child. We do not see the Toy Story Midway Mania Buddy Pass in use much these days.

You may notice that Radiator Springs Racers and WEB SLINGERS are both rides with individual Lighting Lanes and both offer Single Rider. If your party can split up, Single Rider allows you to skip the line for free instead of purchasing an individual Lightning Lane.

6. Visit Water Attractions Early or Late

Disneyland in Summer - Grizzly River Run

The summer heat sends waves of people to Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run. Once the day heats up, the line for these attractions will grow. Use Genie+ or ride early. You will stay cool for some time and have plenty of time to dry off during the day. If you miss your window to ride these attractions early, ride them later at night. People usually lose interest in the water rides once it gets dark.

7. Visit in Early Summer

If you do not like the heat, visit in early June. The "June Gloom" cloud cover usually does not burn off until the afternoon, which keeps things a little cooler and more comfortable than in July or August.

8. Take a Midday Break

If you are staying locally, take a break from the park mid-day. Mid-afternoon tends to get crowded and hot, so go take the tadpoles for a dip in the pool. I know I love to get some pool time or a nap and shower in before going back into the park for round two. If you do not have a room close by, the afternoon is a great time to see a show, enjoy a reservation lunch at a relaxing restaurant such as Carthay Circle or Blue Bayou, or leave the park to have a character dining brunch. You can also chill out at Downtown Disney with a bite, beverage and maybe even a game of bowling at Splitsville Lanes. You will all feel refreshed and ready to hop back into the park for evening entertainment, which you do not want to miss.

Stay in the park as late as you can. Many people leave after the fireworks, so the lines take a sharp dive. Late night is one of our favorite times to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. If you can, stick it out and enjoy the rare warm nights of Southern California.

9. Make Dining Reservations and Show/Parade Packages ASAP

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort-Blue Bayou Fantaamic menuYou can make reservations for table-service restaurants inside the parks, Downtown Disney and the hotels 60 days in advance (starting at 6 a.m. PST). You can use the Disneyland app or do it online. Being able to sit down and relax for a nice meal will really help you to recharge and have the energy for long days in the parks.

You can also get dining packages for parades and certain shows. Reserve the Plaza Inn dining package to get a reserved viewing area for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Book a World of Color dessert party or dining package at Wine Country Trattoria or Storytellers Café. Fantasmic! also offers dining packages at Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace and Hungry Bear. If you cannot get a reservation, check the Disneyland app for Walk-Up availability. For most dining packages, you can upgrade to the package through your server.

10. Join a Virtual Queue for World of Color

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort-World of ColorYou used to be able to grab a free FASTPASS in person for shows such as World of Color or Fantasmic! Now that FASTPASS is gone, you can join a virtual queue through the Disneyland app for World of Color instead. (Fantasmic! is standby or dining package only.) You need to have entered a theme park before noon to join. You also need a valid park ticket or park hopper for the park that has the show you want to see. The virtual queue opens at noon each day and spots fill quickly. Hop over to our Disneyland virtual queue post for the details.

11. Get Park Hopper Tickets

Disneyland in Summer - Cars Land

If you only have a few days in the parks, spring for Park Hopper tickets. We have several reasons why you should hop. The price goes down per day the longer you stay. If you buy a 4-day Park Hopper ticket from Undercover Tourist, then it costs the same $60 to add park hopping as it does to add it to a 1-Park ticket.

The two parks are a minute’s walk from each other, so it's quick and easy to hop. Plus, hopping allows you to see all the nighttime entertainment. Park hopping is a little different these days. With a park hopper ticket, you choose which park to start in when you make your reservation. Then you can hop back and forth beginning at 1 p.m.

Here's a hop tip: The park hopper tickets usually have better availability on the Disneyland theme park availability calendar. So you'll usually get better access to parks and dates if reservations are scarce. Also, if you really want to go to a particular park and reservations are full that day for 1-Park tickets, you can reserve a park hopper for the other park and still gain access to the park you want to visit beginning at 1 p.m.

12. Know How to Cool Off

The Disneyland sun is strong. It may not be as humid as Disney World, but you will definitely be feeling the heat and sun, especially in July, August and through the fall. Bring sunscreen, hats and even umbrellas or thin blankets for shade. People bring cooling towels, fans and spray bottles to keep cool.

Our favorites rides and shows for cooling off at Disneyland Park include:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • it’s a small world
  • Splash Mountain
  • Space Mountain (the cold air is so refreshing!)
  • Star Tours
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • The Enchanted Tiki Room (bring your Dole Pineapple Whip inside and enjoy it while you watch the air-conditioned show)
  • Tale of the Lion King (shaded)
  • “Tangled” or “Beauty and the Beast” live shows at the Royal Theatre (shaded)
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (dark and air-conditioned)
  • Take a shaded trip around the park on the Disneyland Railroad

Disneyland in Summer - Art Class at Animation Academy

Our favorite ways to cool off at California Adventure include (note that some of these experiences may not be initially available):

  • Grizzly River Run
  • The Little Mermaid — Ariel's Undersea Adventure
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Disney Animation (Turtle Talk, meeting Anna, Elsa and Olaf; taking an art lesson at Animation Academy; and the Sorcerer’s Workshop)
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic
  • Eat at Carthay Circle Restaurant or Lounge
  • Grab an inside, downstairs table at Lamplight Lounge and cool off with a frosty drink

Disneyland in Summer - Trader Sam's Dole Whip Rum FloatYou can find some great spots to cool off just outside the parks, as well. Hop over to Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel for delicious foods and tropical drinks in a nice cool, dark environment. You'll want to make a reservation in advance to get inside. Try the Dole Whip with a coconut rum float, or without the rum for the tadpoles. Yum! When at Disney California Adventure, we love hopping through the theme park entrance to Disney's Grand Californian. You can chill in the air-conditioned lobby, or have a poolside meal at the GHC Craftsman Bar.

Another way to stay cool is to indulge in the many ice cream treats, fresh fruit, frozen lemonades and icy drinks in the park. May we recommend the Pixar Pier Parfait at Adorable Snowman's Frosted Treats or one of the Dole Whip Loaded Whips at the Tropical Hideaway? Of course, a Mickey ice cream bar always does the trick.

Be sure to stay hydrated by carrying water with you! Filling stations and fountains are open. You can get free ice from restaurants and usually water too.

If you can leave the park midday to hop in the hotel pool, you'll be refreshed and ready to tackle nighttime entertainment. Each of the Disneyland Hotels has a pool party each day with Disney characters.

13. Catch a Later Parade or Show

In the summertime, there are often two parades and two showings of Fantasmic!, World of Color or the Main Street Electrical Parade. The later time is always less crowded. The ride wait times usually take a dip during the shows (especially in the area of Fantasmic!), so use the first show to take advantage of shorter wait times! Keep in mind that many Pixar Pier attractions close during World of Color, so get those in before show time.

14. Mobile Order Food

At most quick-service dining locations, you can mobile order your food through the Disneyland app. You do not have to wait in line. Hooray! Definitely plan ahead though, especially if you want to eat dinner near Man Street, U.S.A. while you wait for the parade. Try to order a few hours in advance. You can always cancel before you tap, "I'm here, prepare my order," without getting charged. But it's nice to have options once the food lines get really long and the mobile order windows get further away at meal or snack time. Plus, you can see seasonal specials at the top of the ordering screen. Our favorite seasonal snack this summer is the Firefly at Refreshment Corner. It's Fritos covered in chili, cheese and jalapeños.

15. Relax on a Bench Near the Castle

Some of the most surprising things happened while we were simply sitting on a bench near the castle. We spend so much time rushing around the park trying to get it all in, but there is tremendous value in just sitting still and observing. While sitting near the castle, we have seen the Disneyland Band play, with Mickey and friends dancing about and then parading down Main Street. We have seen Mary Poppins and Bert stroll by (as well as other characters on their way to meet guests). We have also seen the Pearly Band play with Mary Poppins and Bert dancing in a show or hopping aboard King Arthur's Carrousel. And it is fun to people-watch, as well! These are not necessarily things you will find on any entertainment schedule, but they have been special experiences for our family.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort-Anna poses by wishing wellWe recently caught Anna by the wishing well! Be sure to check out our unscheduled character sightings post to find out when to see the characters march with the band or when to catch character cavalcades. The benches just behind the churro cart to the right of the castle and near the path to the Wishing Well make a great place to sit and watch for characters coming from the pretty path to Tomorrowland. So sometimes we grab some ice cream or popcorn and have a seat to rest (or wait for a parade) and see what will happen next. Usually, some ducks come by to say hello, which is always fun for the little frogs.

Summer can be an amazing time at Disneyland due to the long days and exciting entertainment. Do not let the fear of crowds stop your fun. If you plan well, you can manage those summer crowds, beat the heat and have a great time.

How do you beat the heat and have a great visit during the summer at Disneyland? Do you have any more questions about summer crowds and heat at Disneyland? Share in the comments below!

Related: Disneyland Tips to Maximize Your Time

Related: Tips on Meeting Your Favorite Disneyland Characters

Related: Top 10 Tips For Using A Stroller at Disneyland

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Leap!
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Jun 28, 2016 at 8:09 p.m. akajako Says...

Thanks for the tip re: Jedi Training!!! My 7 Year old is dying to be part of the show.

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