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Vote of the week: How cold is too cold to visit a theme park?

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Published: January 8, 2010 at 6:56 AM

With arctic cold enveloping much of the United States this week, pushing freezing temperatures all the way down into the theme parks of Central Florida, perhaps this is the week to ask... how cold is too cold to visit a theme park?

Before some of you reflexively answer "it's never too cold!," let's think about this for a minute. You want to get the full value from your theme park trip, right? And when temperatures drop below the comfort of the 70s, water rides begin to look a bit less attractive. So they're out. Roller coasters don't run when temperatures drop too low. Waiting around outside gets miserable when there's no snow to play with, and crowding into limited indoor spaces within a park doesn't sound like much fun, either.

So what's the tipping point here, for you? At what temperature do you say, "to heck with it, let's do something else"? Let's also assume for a moment here that saying to heck with it is an option - that you're not locked into visiting on a specific day due to long-distance travel, as is the case with many Orlando-area visitors.

Tell us your rationale for your vote, in the comments. As always, thank you for reading Theme Park Insider... and keep warm, east coast readers!

Readers' Opinions

From Nick Markham on January 8, 2010 at 7:00 AM
Why someone looks spoiled for thinking 60 degrees cold! It is roughly 10 where I live!
From 75.150.213.58 on January 8, 2010 at 7:22 AM
I used to love Winterfest in the old days. I thought they should do Turkeyfest, ValentineFest, EasterFest and that should take them to just about opening day :)
From Robert OGrosky on January 8, 2010 at 7:52 AM
The coldest its ever been when Ive been at a theme park has been in the upper 20's with flurries at a fright fest at SFGAM. And I dont recall many rides being down and having a great time. As long as ride/shows are open its never too cold to be in a theme park!!!

I remember seeing some pictures from TPR when they were at a theme park in Japan and the night before they got several inches of snow, but the next day the park was open and employes were shoveling and rides were running.

That is how is used to be here but now we close things way too early if there is even a threat of snow or inclement weather.

From 69.61.250.162 on January 8, 2010 at 7:53 AM
Are you serious? 10% (at this moment) feel that 60 degrees is too cold to visit a theme park? What it's no "fun" unless it's 95 and humid in Florida?

Well, my theory is that you can always put on more clothes if it gets cold, but you can't take any more off once you're down to a swimsuit at a waterpark...

From Lynn Wilfong on January 8, 2010 at 8:03 AM
It would have to be as low as the 20's for me not to want to venture into a theme park. We were at Hallow-Scream this year in Williamsburg. It was cloudy and drizzly most of the day. We still hit Roman Rapids late that evening. Cold, shivering, very wet we ran to Bansbury Crossing to buy Jack's Back t-shirts to have something dry to wear. To us it was a great excuse to buy some really cool souvenirs.
From Ryan Sanford on January 8, 2010 at 9:29 AM
We have a foot of snow in Michigan today..
From Jason Read on January 8, 2010 at 9:41 AM
I feel this poll is going to get skewed by us southern Californians with annual passes to their favorite park that can skip out if conditions aren't ideal.
From Joshua Counsil on January 8, 2010 at 9:50 AM
It's never too cold. Bring the pain.

I always love those days at the water parks that people consider too cold. On our first trip to Typhoon Lagoon, nobody would enter the slides or pool, only the snorkeling reef since it was warmer. Our family literally had the entire park (except the reef) to ourselves.

From Ray Schroeder on January 8, 2010 at 11:19 AM
I'd rather have it cold than 100 degrees with 100% humidity. You can always put on another layer. But taking off another layer may get you into trouble ;)
From rick stevens on January 8, 2010 at 12:01 PM
I think it depends on what you are used to. In So Cal it feels cold when it gets into the 50's. We bundle up like it is 20 below. All of you hearty snow folk can put up with far harsher conditions.
From Will Chilcote on January 8, 2010 at 1:03 PM
The trick on riding water rides when its cold is wear a rain poncho or rain coat. Some water rides like "splash mountain" are not worth missing. But, as to temperature as long as its not below 40 if u dress correctly, theme parks can be a lot of fun when its cold out. I love going to Disney and Universal off season, crowds are smaller and u can sometimes even get repeat rides very quickly when its cold.
From 173.162.139.169 on January 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM
I think the wind has a lot to do with tolerating colder temps. I live in the northeast and if it is in the 50's but calm then the weather isn't too bad but riding a roller coaster on a windy day changes my threshold for the cold by a good 10 to 15 degrees.

As far as destination parks go for me personally if it is Disney 50's aren't too bad but for Universal it has to be in the 60s because of the number of outdoor rides.

From 71.236.238.35 on January 8, 2010 at 1:39 PM
We visited Disneyland one November when in dipped down into the high 30s. We went to the nearby Target for hats, scarves and gloves and kept on having fun. It actally made the Christmas overlay feel appropriate!

We also hit WDW 2 January's ago when it was down in the 30s. I had forgotten to leave my wool coat in teh car when I left Oregon, and boy was I glad! I felt sorry for many cast members that were wearing light costumes, they looked pretty misrable. No rides were closed, and as aways had a great time. It some ways it was a nice contrast to the August weather from our typical visit for free dining.

From Emily G on January 8, 2010 at 2:31 PM
I am used to a pretty cold climate during winter and most of autumn and spring and whilst I prefer to visit on a warm and sunny day I would pretty much visit at any other temperature provided that there wasn't any snow or ice on the ground. I wouldn't even consider the water rides at a temperature of less than 80F though (maybe colder with a poncho but they just aren't as enjoyable without blazing temperatures). It was pretty chilly one day on our recent vacation to Orlando and it ended up being the busiest theme park visit of our trip by a long way. In my experience this isn’t always the case though and the queues can be the lightest on a cold or rainy day.
From Joshua Counsil on January 8, 2010 at 2:35 PM
Rick -
"Harsh" is relative. I considered Orlando's August weather much harsher than Ottawa's January weather.
From 32.179.114.182 on January 8, 2010 at 4:31 PM
It really depends on the park and how much indoor activity is available. A park like Magic Kingdom that has a lot of indoor attractions I could probably enjoy in lower temperatures. However, a park where the majority of the attractions I'd like to see are outside and the que line involves standing outside, I would not want to visit in whether less than fifty degrees (and even that low may be too low for me to pay full price the same as if I were paying for a 80 degree day).
From Joseph Staconis on January 8, 2010 at 6:55 PM
I was at Six Flags Magic Mountain during a cold snap where it was in the 30 during the day in California no joke all the rides were open when the wind hits your face on the rides it made it extra cold

Rain Shine Day of an earthqauke (Disneyland) if the park is open I'm going

From James Rao on January 8, 2010 at 7:40 PM
When I went to Silver Dollar City in 2009 for the Christmas Festival the day started at about 38 and dropped into the low 20's by the end of the night. Once it got below freezing it was really very, very cold. We still had a good time, and we expected it to be cold, but above freezing would have made for a much more comfortable evening.
From David Sutter on January 9, 2010 at 5:52 AM
Id say somewere around 45 is m limits...before foguring in wind chill on coasters...
From 67.8.63.61 on January 9, 2010 at 11:39 AM
I said 40s. The low temp for the day has to be 50 or above for me to go.
From 75.74.4.149 on January 9, 2010 at 1:43 PM
Relatively speaking - it's never too cold considering the fact that one can head for the indoor shows and enjoy the day. In Central Florida, I frequent the park in January and Febraury in 30 degree weather in the early morning and leave the park shortly after 2:00 p.m. after the temps reach above 60 degrees.
From Larry Zimmerman on January 9, 2010 at 6:15 PM
One of my favorite memories is an early season solo ride on Alpengeist -- it was somewhere around 45 degrees, and the theming was most appropriate. When I got off the ride, I truly felt like I had been schussing Alpine slopes. My ears were red, my nose frozen, and I felt chilled to the core. So, can it be too cold for a park? Yes, but you're only as warm as you feel!
From Erin B on January 9, 2010 at 6:53 PM
I believe we had some 30-40 degree nights at Cedar Point during Halloweekends. Makes for some freezing Magnum marathons, but it's still a good time :)
From 71.185.193.80 on January 10, 2010 at 7:36 AM
We were at Hersheypark for Christmas Candylane one evening this year when the temperature was around 20*. Brrr! Lots of fun though, and it definitely was Christmassy! I might not be up to Disney in those temperatures, but if the highs were in the 40's, I'd probably be okay.
From 98.216.137.223 on January 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM
We've visited Hersheypark in the high 20s to mid 30s. Dress warm and plenty of hot-chocolate!
From Will Chilcote on January 10, 2010 at 1:57 PM
The Alpinegiest story reminded me of an early june trip to Busch Gardens. It was about 65-70 degrees and slightly raining and I went on Alpinegiest. The rain on the coaster hit like ice bullets. LOL Very interesting experience.
From Mary Ann Nowak on January 10, 2010 at 5:42 PM
I live near Chicago and have been to Great America's Fright Fest all bundled up when it's been below 50 -- hats, gloves, etc. and it has been fine. But I expect that up here in Chicagoland and am prepared for it. (Same thing for Cedar Point.) You aren't prepared for that in Florida! Went on my annual 3 day visit with my Florida resident daughter to Walt Disney World for the Christmas holiday early December this year. It rained on and off most of the time -- and one day it rained constantly -- I am used to being at theme parks when it is cold and rainy -- but it was absolutely miserable. If this was my first trip to Disney World, like it may have been for some, I would have been very upset -- but you can't control the weather! We tried to stay for the Candlelight Processional, but were met with a torrential downpour. Coupled with the cold and wet clothes it made for a miserable experience and we left the park at 6:30 p.m., along with the masses. The following day Magic Kingdom was open until 1 a.m. -- after Cinderella lit the castle for the evening -- there was a mass exodus because it had gotten so cold!
From Tiffany Alfonso on January 12, 2010 at 7:24 AM
For the record, the minimum of doing Disney or any other CF (Central Florida) theme park is 60 degrees. I agree that January is the best time to visit the parks, as children are suffering classroom fever and crowds are not hokey (save for the turismos - both Argentinean youth herds and Brazilian tour groups). This weekend sees me at DHS (that's Disney's Hollywood Studios for you), where a bulk of their attractions are indoors. (In fact, almost all the high-liner rides are indoors!)
From Mike Saperstein on January 13, 2010 at 3:02 PM
Just got back from WDW, was there this past Sunday through Tuesday.

Sunday was in the 30s most of the day. I hated the weather, and had to wear two sweatshirts plus mittens, but my entire family still had a great time. The other two days were only barely warmer. Of course it was finally warming up yesterday afternoon and that's when we had to leave!! :-(

The best plus of the cold weather -- there were only 2 long lines the entire three days we were there, and one was because I screwed up our fastpass strategy. We got a TON done in a very short time, hitting almost all the attractions in Magic Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Epcot in 2.5 park days.

I will always prefer 70 degrees or more, and for an "average" theme park might vote 50 or lower as too cold, but for WDW I'd have to say it's never too cold!!

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