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Six tips for enjoying a theme park in the rain

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Published: October 14, 2009 at 11:00 AM

The rain season has returned to Southern California, after its annual six-month hiatus. Rain is soaking the area, clearing the skies, slicking the streets - and prompting thousands of would-be visitors to put off trips to Disneyland and other area theme parks.

They shouldn't. With the right stuff, and attitude, a rainy day can be a perfect day to visit a theme park - one when you can enjoy rides and attractions without the crowds that can pack a park in better weather. If you are visiting a park when a summer thunderstorm hits, these tips can help you continue to enjoy the park when the rain is pounding, while others waste time cowering in shops and restaurants.

Disneyland poncho patrol

Here are my top tips for enjoying a theme park visit on a rainy day:

Bring the right jacket: Don't rely on a poncho bought in the park to keep you dry. Come prepared with an appropriate rain jacket. This jacket should:

  • Be waterproof
  • Not be too thick (unless you are visiting in the cooler winter months)
  • Have a hood
  • Cover your rear end

That last point is vital. You'll be sitting on wet seats all day, on roller coasters and outdoor rides. You'll want a jacket that comes down far enough to keep your rear dry.

Wear waterproof shoes, with good tread: If your feet get wet, you'll be miserable. And rain-slicked walks trip up hundreds of visitors each year. Good, dry shoes with a solid tread will help you walk through a rainy park in comfort.

Don't bring an umbrella: Why not? You can't bring an umbrella on any rides, so it can't keep you dry there. You'll need the jacket I described above for when you ride, so what's the point of having the umbrella, too? It's just one more thing that you'll have to store whenever you ride, and it's a nuisance to others walking around you on the pathways. Ditch it.

Make advance reservations for your meals: You'll want a dry place to eat for lunch and/or dinner. So will everyone else in the park. Phone ahead, and have your reservations in hand before you leave and you'll avoid the hassle of waiting around for a table in an inside restaurant. Here are some numbers to know:

  • For Walt Disney World: 407-WDW-DINE
  • For Universal Orlando: 407-224-4012
  • For Disneyland: 714-781-DINE

Use the package delivery service: You won't want to carry an umbrella around the park, and you certainly won't want to be carrying around bags of souvenirs, either. Fortunately, many parks offer a package delivery service, where souvenirs you buy anywhere in the park can be delivered to the front gate for you to pick up at the end of the day. (If you are staying on-site, you might even have them delivered to your room!) Take advantage.

If it's open, ride it: The great advantage of visiting a theme park in the rain is smaller crowds. Don't negate that advantage by hitting all the indoor attractions first, in the hopes that the weather will clear later, when you can do the outdoor rides. That's just what everyone else is thinking. Follow that plan, and you'll have the worst of both worlds - rain... and crowds.

Instead, stick to your tour plan and ride whatever is open. Heck, do the outdoor rides first, if you must vary from the plan. With the right jacket and shoes, and with nothing to carry, you can ride in (relative) comfort and enjoy a unique experience.

With little or no wait.

Got another tip for visiting a theme park in the rain? Please share it in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From 63.125.97.2 on October 14, 2009 at 11:13 AM
When DLR used to sell a hard ticket New Years Eve event we were happy if it was raining. The park was less crowded (even though it was sold out) because a lot of people chicken out when it rains, we had short waits for the rides, could find an indoor place to eat and got a great view of the Midnight Fireworks show. Of course this was before they did their New Years Eve Free-for-All they do now and as an AP holder with blackout dates that might be the only special event I would buy hard tickets for if they offered an event again.
From Anthony Murphy on October 14, 2009 at 11:28 AM
I would say, if you happen to be going to WDW and you know its going to rain, pick EPCOT. Everything is mostly indoors there.
From Vickie Boyd on October 14, 2009 at 11:43 AM
Excellent suggestions. (You probably should link back to lightning story, too, just for safety)

I have to add, though, that if you have all of the above and there is no lightning about, GO! Don't change your mind. The parks are usually fairly deserted in the rain. You can ride your heart out on ANYTHING that is open! And hey, hit those water rides. You're wet already. :) Gives you an excuse. I got to ride Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Europe six times in a row without getting out on a rainy day.

From 4.36.109.30 on October 14, 2009 at 12:42 PM
Bless you for your comments about umbrellas. Too many guests rely only on an umbrella when it rains and they are potentially dangerous in a crowded park. I worked at Fantasmic in DHS and we had to tell everyone repeatedly that umbrellas were not permitted in the theater. Many guests only had umbrellas and were less than happy about not being allowed to use them. The problem was, with stadium seating your umbrella was right at eye level for the people sitting behind you. I've personally been nearly impaled by a careless umbrella waver during a sudden rain shower in the parks. Rain gear is easier to carry (zip lock bags are essential - put your gear in it to keep it dry in case of sudden showers, then back in it afterwards to keep everything else dry from your raingear), easier and cheaper to replace if you lose it, and safer for everyone around you.
From Tim Odom on October 14, 2009 at 1:23 PM
Allow me to state that riding Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World during Tropical Storm Fay was not the best idea I have had in my life. Oh, the ride was fun (as fun as Thunder Mountain gets, that is), but seeing as how no one was in the park due to the rediculous amounts of rain, I had no one next to me. Thus, I slid around that seet the entire ride, one of the most painful experiences I have had on a coaster.

So, in short, if you ride Thunder Mountain in the rain, have someone sit next to you or prepare your ribs for some pain.

On a side note, though, riding Splash Mountain in said Tropical Storm was simulataneously hilarious and awesome, and was the only time I have ever been asked at Disney if I wanted to ride again while still on the ride.

From M. Ryan Traylor on October 14, 2009 at 2:17 PM
On a trip to WDW in 2007, we had rain almost everyday of vacation. On the days that it was forecasted for all day, we hit the water parks.

We had our light rain jackets that covered our bums and stayed in the parks the rest of the days. I remember a one ride cycle wait for Dumbo. The longest waits I remember for dark rides at Magic Kingdom.

Here is Los Angeles, rainy days are the best for the theme parks because almost everyone here hates the rain. I welcome the change in weather with open arms. If I'm not working and the rain hits, I cautiously hit the freeway and make way to the park of which I am a pass holder. I've done DL, SFMM, and Knotts all in the rain. I do recommend not riding "X2" in the rain. It's not a lot of fun turning face up into the rain after the first drop.

From Amanda Jenkins on October 14, 2009 at 3:06 PM
Many of my favorite memories at theme parks have been when it was raining. Everyone is usually running into shops or restaurants which means shorter lines for rides. I can't help but laugh at the people squealing when raindrops hit them, yet wait in long lines to ride Splash Mountain, Kali River Rapids, etc...
From Rob P on October 15, 2009 at 2:29 AM
We spent almost an entire week at the Parks in , what seemed like, 24 hours a day torrential rain.
We'd come over from the UK in June 2000 and hadn't packed any serious rain gear so had to make use of the plastic ponchos. But this was fine. If anything the rainy weather made it a surreal atmosphere. Everyone seemed to have that bulldog spirit of " being in it together" which was really fun.
Did we get wet ? Of course
Were any rides closed ? Only when lightning threatened.
Was it uncomfortable ? At times yes.
Did it stop anyone form having fun ? Noooo

and interestingly :

Were the crowds any lighter ? No. It was June and it was packed out.

Although we did hear one man complain to his wife that he was getting soaked through while he was in the line for Jurassic Park River Adventure. Work that one out if you can.

From Cole Ricks on October 15, 2009 at 8:01 AM
Be warned that riding a coaster in the rain can be a slighly painful experience. I rode Thunderhead at Dollywood and Grizzly at Kings Dominion both in the rain and it felt like a bunch of little pinpricks on my face. Sunglasses (yes in the rain) helped keep it out of my eyes, but a jacket with a hood (and maybe with a drawstring to tighten it up) as Robert suggested sounds like it would helped too. Also, I don't know exactly what they are called, but some parks have these drying stations that you stand in and is blows hot air on you after you get off of a water ride. Dollywood's was the best couple of bucks I spent all day to get dried off from the rain.
From 96.52.24.124 on October 15, 2009 at 1:17 PM
never go on dueling dragons
From Bob Miller on October 15, 2009 at 2:16 PM
No matter where Zachary and I go, I always carry my,(as I like to call it) weather bag. In it, is heavy duty ponchos for both of us, a folded umbrella for when it's raining lightly and we're walking. A pair of water moccasins for both of us and a large plastic bag for our shoes and socks so they stay dry. And also a small towel to dry off our feet after we get to where we're going. I've used my weather bag many times, especially in Florida.

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