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Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort

by Leap on May 1, 2023 1 Los Angeles

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland ResortAh, summertime! It's one of the hoppiest times of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth. In 2023, we can celebrate the Disney 100 Years of Magic anniversary, the Magic Happens parade, a refurbished Toontown with new water tables and a splash pad (not to mention a new ride). At Disney California Adventure, Rogers: The Musical hoppens on select days starting June 30, and you can soon hug Baymax in the new San Fransokyo Square! Plus, we love those long days and nighttime entertainment. But summer can also be one of the hottest and most crowded times of the year. In summer 2023, all guests need a valid park ticket and a reservation to visit.

You are going to want to use your tools to maximize time, including Genie+ and individual Lightning Lanes, arriving before park opening, using mobile order and taking advantage of Early Entry if you are staying on-site. You also might want to make dining reservations midday to rest and get out of the sun. We love using Genie+ to skip the lines. That can also help you stay cool since skipping the lines can mean skipping a long queue outside in the sun!

Hot Tips for Cool Trips to Disneyland in the Summer

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - dancers

Our tips will help you manage crowds and escape the heat.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - centoonial fountainWe offer the following tips for managing summer at Disneyland 2023:

  • 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, as well as avoid blackout dates and tiered pricing. (California residents can get hoppin' deals on 3-day resident tickets as low as $78 a day this summer!)
  • Book Disneyland Resort hotels early. Another option is to stay at a nearby hotel within walking distance (to save money and avoid parking).
  • Be aware of schedule changes. Disneyland Park closes at 8 p.m. June 13 and 15 for Pride Night. In 2023, Disney California Adventure closes at 9 p.m. June 2, 4, 7, 9, 14 and 16 for Grad Nite.
  • Have a picnic in Toontown under a shady tree, and cool off in the water at CenTOONial Fountain or Donald's Boat!
  • 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 the park opens — all guests can enter the park up to the ropes 30 minutes early.
  • Hotel guests get access to select rides, restaurants and stores 30 minutes before the park opens with Early Entry.
  • 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.
  • Cool off at the water fountain and splash pad in Toontown.
  • Take breaks midday, but come back to the parks for nighttime entertainment.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - world of color

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 Pool

Heading 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 typically 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 hopping to a one-day ticket actually costs more than adding park hopping to a five-day ticket. That's like getting the park hopper on the other four days for free! California residents can get a great deal on tickets that can be used three different days (with reservations) in summer through mid-Sept.

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. You can even purchase tickets loaded with Genie+ so you'll be ready to go as soon as you enter the park. Not yet sure if you want Genie+? No worries. You can always purchase it in the Disneyland app 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. But, keep in mind that we offer the cheapest price for Genie+. The price can vary each day in the park, so you can lock in the lowest price by buying tickets with Genie+ included.

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 about 60 minutes before opening time and the turnstiles open about 45 minutes before park opening. Park guests are held back 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.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - Early Entry SignIf you are staying on-site, take advantage of Early Entry. On-site hotel guests can access certain rides, shops and restaurants 30 minutes before the parks officially open. But that requires a special tactic — arriving early for the early entry. Say what? With security bag checks, metal detectors and lines for shuttle transportation, it takes a while to make it to the park gates. Aim to be through security and at Disneyland's front gate 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! Any guest of the three on-site hotels with a room key can use it.

If you do not have Early Entry, you should also arrive early. Aim to arrive at the gate 30 minutes before the park opens and once you enter the park, go as far as the ropes. 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

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - matterhorn

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. You just have to make sure the ride is showing an 11 a.m. or later ride window before you can select a Lightning Lane.

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
  • Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway

The individual Lightning Lane selection at Disney California Adventure includes:

  • Radiator Springs Racers

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

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - Single Rider Lines

Several 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
  • Space Mountain (it's back again after a testing period)

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
  • Soarin'

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 these days, so may not come back.

You may notice that Radiator Springs Racers has an individual Lighting Lane and offers 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. Grizzly River Run is your only water ride in 2023. Splash Mountain is closed permanently as of May 31, 2023. But the good news is that Tiana's Bayou Adventure will replace it in 2024.

Once the day heats up, the line for water rides 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 Grizzly River Run without a long line, try single rider or ride it later at night. People usually lose interest in getting wet 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

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - hotel life jackets

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 in or a nap and shower before going back to 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 Lamplight Lounge, 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, a 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.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - Pluto plays with girl

The reimagined Toontown is a great place to get the wiggles out, take a sensory break or splash in some water to cool off. There are places for kids to climb, slide and play. You can have a picnic on a lawn and play with the characters who are walking around. If you have small children, you could spend hours in Mickey's Toontown! Hop over to our post on visiting Toontown with kids.

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 second showing of Magic Happens. Book a World of Color dessert party or dining package at Wine Country Trattoria or Storytellers Café. (Psst ... you can join the World of Color virtual queue for free at 12 p.m. daily.) Fantasmic! usually offers dining packages at Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace and Hungry Bear, but the show is temporarily paused through Labor Day 2023. If you cannot get a dining reservation, check the Disneyland app for Walk-Up availability. For most dining packages, you can upgrade to the package through your server. We go over the packages we think are most worth it in our dining packages post.

10. Join a Virtual Queue for World of Color

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - World of ColorYou can join a virtual queue through the Disneyland app for World of Color. 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 2-day or 3-day 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 11 a.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 11 a.m.

12. Know How to Cool Off

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - souvenir

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
  • Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway
  • 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
  • Guardians (the outside portion of the queue is shaded)
  • 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 at 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

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - fantasmic ticket

In the summertime, there are often two parades and two showings of Fantasmic! and World of Color. The later time is always less crowded. (Fantasmic! is temporarily closed summer of 2023.) The second Magic Happens parade is less hot. The ride wait times usually take a dip during the parades and shows (including Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance!), so use the first show to take advantage of shorter wait times! This summer, the rides are staying open during World of Color during park operating hours. Ride with short waits and a view of the show!Toy Story Midway Mania also stays open during the first World of Color and has no wait then!

14. Mobile Order Food

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - clam chowder

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.

15. Relax on a Bench Near the Castle

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - characters band

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 (about 11:45 a.m.) towards the Train Station in Town Square for another performance. We have seen characters on their way to meet guests.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - Characters and DL Band

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 - Snow White at Well

Hang out by the wishing well. We often run into characters there! 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.

Managing Summer Crowds and Heat at Disneyland Resort - Alice and Mad HatterThe path from the castle past Pixie Hollow and all the way to "it's a small world" is also a great place to catch characters. Some are on the move, and some pose for pics on the raised area across from "it's a small world." Mornings in Fantasyland are pretty special too! You just never know what characters will come by.

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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