Tip of the week: Visit now, but check the refurb schedule first
Published: September 25, 2012 at 10:24 AM
You know how I mentioned it's the slow season for theme parks? Well, that's my first tip this week - go now. Heck, go any weekday when kids are in school around the theme parks you want to visit. Non-holiday weekdays between late August and mid-May see the fewest average number of visitors at the year-round parks in Central Florida and Southern California.
This is what you want to see - a nice, empty theme park street, such as the new Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure
Schools in Southern California used to run from early September until mid-June, but most major districts are moving back their calendars to match the same mid-August to late-May calendar you'll find in use in Central Florida (and around the country). That's also helping to tighten up the busy spring break schedule to mid- to late-March, instead of bleeding into mid-April as it used to do in Southern California.
With kids in school and their families at home, you'll often find nearly empty queues, wide open streets, and short to non-existent wait times throughout the parks. You'll also find abundant deals, include free dining plans at the Walt Disney World Resort, and reduced hotel rates for both on-property and nearby upscale hotels.
But there are a few tradeoffs. You'll also find great reduced operating hours, and reduced show schedules. Don't expect to find all the parades, street shows, character greetings and night-time spectacles that you'll find on the schedule if you visit in mid-summer. But sharp off season visitors usually report that they still can do even more visiting on a school day than they could on a July visit, even with the reduced hours and fewer shows.
So those aren't really that big a deal as tradeoffs. The tradeoff you really have to watch for is refurbishments. Theme parks use the slow season to fix and refresh their most popular rides, the ones they don't dare close to repair during the busy seasons, if they don't have to. That brings us to our second tip in this Tip of the Week - be sure to check the park's refurbishment schedule before you visit, if there's a specific ride you have your heart set on experiencing.
You can find schedule attraction closures and refurbishments on top theme parks' calendar pages:
- Walt Disney World
- Universal Orlando
- Disneyland Resort (click individual days to see what will be down)
- Universal Studios Hollywood lists upcoming closures on its FAQ page
I'd still encourage you to visit during the off-season, if you can. Popular rides can - and do - suffer unplanned closures during the busy seasons, too. So coming in mid-summer provides no iron-clad guarantee you'll get on that dream ride the day you visit, either. But visiting on a slow, off-season day gives you a chance to do more in a park, at a more leisurely, relaxed, enjoyable pace than visitors get to experience during the hot days of summer. If you don't have kids, or they're on an unusual school schedule, give an off-season visit a try.
For more tips and advice for planning a theme park vacation, visit our 100 Travel Tips for Visiting Theme Parks page.