Theme Park Insider

How to endure extreme heat at Disneyland, and other theme parks

June 19, 2016, 9:10 AM · Summer vacation means summer heat. But the heat that's hitting Southern California this week is exceptional. A high temperature of 105 degrees is forecast for the Disneyland Resort on Monday, with 108 expected at Universal Studios Hollywood and 110 at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Obviously, if you're a local and have access to air conditioning at home, this is the time to hunker down and watch your favorite ride videos on YouTube rather than hitting the parks. But if you're visiting Southern California and you're stuck with these as your vacation days, what should you do?

Here are our top tips for enduring extreme heat at Disneyland and other theme parks:

Drink lots of water before you go — Hydration keeps your body's internal air conditioner working. Without adequate water, you'll start overheating quickly in these temperatures. And notice that we said water, not soft drinks, juices, beer, or any other beverage. You want nice, plain water in your body for hot days, and you want to start loading up before you get to the park. Bring a water bottle and refill it throughout the day as you keep drinking, too. Sure, drinking a lot means going to the bathroom frequently. But every single bathroom we've found at Disneyland is air conditioned and indoors. Why not take every excuse to get inside and use them?

Sunscreen and light clothes — Sunscreen's always a must for day in the parks, and especially so on extreme heat days, when you'll probably want to bring some extra along for to reapply as it sweats off during the day. Light-colored and loose fitting clothes also help you to avoid overheating, too. (But don't wear something that disappears when it gets wet. We'll tell you why in a minute.)

No running — Yes, that's always a rule in the parks, but these are not days for the theme park power walk, either. Conserve your energy as much as you can while you are outside. For little ones, that means skipping playground attractions, such as the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.

Have you seen a good show lately? — The more time you can spend sitting in dark, air-conditioned theaters, the better. We think that Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room is one of the best animatronic shows ever made. Have you seen it recently? Here's your excuse, if you haven't. Or even if you have. Long indoor rides such as Pirates and Small World are great picks, too. But don't wait outside in the sun too long for them.

Don't eat so much — As much as we love feasting on unique and fun theme park food, extreme heat days aren't ones where you want to feel extra weight in your belly. Go for lighter meals... with plenty of water... to keep you fueled throughout the day. If you've ever wanted an excuse to have a Mickey bar for lunch, here ya go.

You can't get enough water rides — Basically, our advice for extreme heat days is the same for our advice for rainy days: Stay inside as much as you can, plan ahead with meal and ride reservations so you minimize waits in the sun, and dress appropriately. But there's one big difference — water rides are totally in play on extreme heat days. Get ready to install Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah as your earworm today — Splash Mountain is about to become your best friend. These are great days to sit in the splash zone at Universal's Waterworld and pretty much all SeaWorld shows, too.

Now, this is why we suggested not wearing clothes so light and loose that the become transparent when they get wet. Between your sweating and all those rides on flumes and rapids, you're going to be wet a lot on an extreme heat day. Remember that when picking your clothes for the day.

Drink more water — You've been reading this for the past few minutes, so it's probably time to drink some more water again. Keep cool, insiders!

Replies (11)

June 19, 2016 at 10:36 AM · At WDW, the basic strategy is to run to the water parks during the hottest afternoons, or back to the resort for the pool or a nap.
June 19, 2016 at 1:29 PM · In 1999, my sister and I visited WDW in a particuarly brutal August weekend. Temperatures in the high 90s but as Florida residents know, the humidity pushes it even more, sucks your energy away and killer to be around. Thankfully, a lot more at WDW is indoors like Epcot and so you can cool off and not be too much in the heat. I'm convinced a key reason Universe of Energy remains popular is because folks enjoy something they can sit in the cool for 40 minutes as a long break. Just have to keep cool, plenty of liquids and limit your team as much as you can.

Do remember waiting at bus stop when we got one of those Florida flash downpours and the heat so much, literally an inch of steam rising from the ground. It's tough but if you're smart enough to duck into an air-conditioned building at times, it works out. Again, a key benefit of WDW, so much more indoors to help out.

June 19, 2016 at 2:54 PM · Get there early or get there before sundown. The mid morning to mid afternoon is the hottest period.
June 19, 2016 at 3:16 PM · It can be worse at some of the Midwestern theme parks like Six Flags where wait areas are all outdoors. Chicago has some nasty hot summers too and Great America can be downright dangerous to some waiting an hour outside for roller coaster. Ditto for Cedar Point or King's Island and obviously the Six Flags parks in California affected as well. You really have to load up on fans and water there, not helped by long walking around so those places can be worse than Disney in terms of keeping cool with less AC buildings.
June 19, 2016 at 10:04 PM · All good suggestions. On really hot days I usually do the things that require you to be in the sun as early as possible (like long open-air queues and outside rides.) When it starts to become unbearable I hit up Splash Mountain and Grizzly River Run and do the higher capacity indoor rides. At around 3:00-4:00 I just chill for a couple of hours and enjoy a long relaxed early dinner inside the park or at DD or if I happen to be staying at a hotel I'll go back there and crash out until the sun starts going down. The thing about the heat in California is that even if it's get really hot during the day it will usually cool down enough in the evening to become rather pleasant. During these times I always stay until the end.
June 20, 2016 at 5:11 AM · Sunday, when it was 106 at Universal Studios Hollywood, the park deployed extra misters on all pathways and opened the Globe Theater to guests, where they could sit in the large air-conditioned room and watch movies while cooling off. (We watched the beginning of Jurassic World.) Those were nice touches that helped make the heat a bit more bearable.
June 20, 2016 at 5:13 AM · This article should be handed out to all guests at parks when the temp gets over 90. Also, many parks have places where they hand out free water, as the danger can be very serious. We hit the big themed parks (Disney and Universal) at other times than summer, but we tend to hit a Six Flags type in summer, and those lines are almost exclusively outdoors. Water is key. Alcohol is bad.
June 20, 2016 at 8:56 AM · In the old who's better - Disneyland or WDW's Magic Kingdom battle, there is little doubt who wins in the, "Which park is easier to endure on a hot day" contest. The Magic Kingdom wins hands down. It was designed to win this one, and it needed to. It can get really hot at Disneyland, but Orlando's enduring heat and humidity justified the addition of a much greater number of indoor, air-conditioned attractions.
If you are at The Magic Kingdom take great advantage of cooling spaces. While Disneyland has more attraction than The Magic Kingdom, it lacks a lot of shows and rides that either take place indoors and or that have considerable indoor queues. There are also thousands of square feet of more indoor air-conditioned quick service dining space in Florida. Enjoy.
If you are at Disneyland on an especially hot day - listen to your body and hydrate.
You may also want to consider downloading the OSHA Heat app to your smart phone. Based on your location, it can tell you what the current temp and humidity is and then calculate your heat risk. It's intended more for use by people who work out in the heat, but we all know dragging family around a theme park is a job itself.
June 20, 2016 at 10:24 AM · Great stuff, Rob.

I've written before about how much I love Animation Academy, but on a hot day in California, it's especially wonderful. Other nice places to hide from the heat at Disneyland are the Main Street Opera House, the Main Street Cinema, the lounge at Carthay Circle, and of course, the great "break room" of the Disneyland Resort - the Grand Californian's lobby.

June 20, 2016 at 12:07 PM · I advise everyone to get a cooling towel to wear around your neck. You just need to put regular tap water on them and they instantly cool you. I think Amazon sells them. I use mine all the time when I'm mowing the grass or working in the yard.
June 21, 2016 at 11:40 AM · Felt like I was gonna pass out at Great Adventure and La Ronde. It's really hot.

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