What is July 4th like at Disneyland Resort?

May 19, 2015, 5:56 AM

Haven't been to Disneyland during the summer for a few years, but planning a one-day trip with the family.

Are there special fireworks on July 4th? Or other special entertainment? I assume there will be a full schedule of entertainment: Fantasmic, the new nighttime parade, World of Color.

Does the total experience make up for the higher level of crowds? I'm assuming everything will be more crowded this year because of the 60th anniversary celebration starting Memorial Day weekend.

Instead of July 4th, thinking about taking the kids out of school and going on a weekday before most local schools get out, like June 1st (a Monday). But Touring Plans (which is not 100% accurate) says that week will be pretty busy, with crowd levels around 8 most days.

Any recommendations for the best experience, considering entertainment options, crowd levels, or other intangibles I'm not aware of?

Replies (7)

May 19, 2015, 2:17 PM

I have never visited on the 4th of July, but I have heard from friends who work at the park that it is one of the few days during the summer that has sell-out potential. If you do decide to go on that day, I would recommend not park hopping just in case one of them fills up. Expect waits of over two hours for the most popular attractions and don't plan to do more than 10 or so rides in a day. Disneyland does have a special firework show for 4th of July, but given that the new show is just debuting it's possible they may not show it, so I wouldn't go just for that.

If you're looking for another time to go during the summer, your best bet would be to wait until mid-August or, if you want to go in June, go the first week that Southern California passes are blocked. It won't make much of a difference, but you may find the parks a little less busy (think 45 minutes for headliners vs an hour). I wouldn't trust the Touring Plans calendar as it looks like they're under-predicting a lot of this summer. In my experience, most weekdays during the summer are an 8, but the Touring Plans calendar has a good number of 6 and 7 days (they're even saying 4th of July will be a 6...nope, that day will probably be a 9 or 10).

Honestly, when you decide to go is up to you. If you don't care about doing a lot of attractions, don't mind huge crowds, and just want to go for the experience, you can go on 4th of July. If you want to do a large number of attractions and get the most value for your money, I'd pick a weekday somewhere else during the summer.

May 19, 2015, 8:07 PM

Thanks for the useful information, A.J!

I've heard that the new dynamics of when it will be busy at Disneyland depend on when the lower levels of Passholders are blocked out. But is the summer busy because that's when vacationers from out of town come to visit? So it doesn't matter that the Passholders are blocked out over the middle of the summer because the park will be crowded anyway. I see that everyone except Premium Passholders will be blocked out on 7/04, but I'm guessing it will be busy for the same reason that the week between Christmas and New Year's is crazy busy.

I just wish there were an accurate way to predict when it will be less busy. Of course, once people believe it won't be crowded, then they will want to go because they think it won't be crowded. It's a paradox.

May 19, 2015, 11:06 PM

Up until a couple years ago, the blockout calendar was a very good way to tell what the crowds would be like at Disneyland. Southern California Select valid? Likely a good day to go. Southern California blocked out? Probably lighter than you would expect. Deluxe blocked out? Disney knows it will be packed, so avoid. However, due to changes in the way Disney does passes, while the blockout calendar can be helpful it is no longer the best indicator. Here's why (at least from what I can tell):

-Disneyland no longer offers the Southern California pass. Those who have a pass may still renew it, but no new passes are being sold. As a result, the proportion of Southern California passholders has been decreasing, reducing the correlation between the blockout calendar and crowd levels.
-Disneyland no longer offers annual pass parking except with the Premium pass. For a family who currently has the Southern California pass, it is simple to have one member upgrade to a Premium pass and the rest maintain the Southern California level. However, many of those who visit alone and can afford it are upgrading to the Premium pass as parking gets expensive really quickly if you visit more than once a month (most passholders visit at least twice a month). The Premium pass does not have any blockout dates and the proportion of Premium passholders is increasing, again reducing the correlation with the calendar.
-Blockout day tickets are no longer available, so those who often visit with out-of-town relatives are upgrading to the Premium pass as well, since the one-day ticket price of the park is insane. Again, a lower proportion are actually being blocked out due to this.

Regardless of what is happening on the passholder front, based on my visits over the past few years it seems that the Disneyland Resort is becoming more like Southern California's seasons: there's no real light crowd time or peak crowd time, just variation between moderate and busy, with a few select insane crowd days (Easter week, Christmas week, and 4th of July). I've been on holiday weekends where I was able to do 40 rides in a day and I've been on regular off-season weekdays where all the headliners had 60 minute waits. What has become more important is knowing the crowd patterns, as with a 16 hour operating day the crowd level varies a lot. I've found I can often get more done between opening and 10 A.M. than I can in a whole afternoon, and if you stay until after the fireworks you'll find that wait times have dropped 50-90% throughout the park.

May 20, 2015, 11:09 PM

Thank you so much! You are a wealth of Disneyland experience and insight.

I followed the news when Disneyland stopped selling new Southern California passes and the parking add-on, but I never really thought about how that would change the dynamics of how people would visit the Disney parks.

We've never had annual passes to Disneyland, but I remember visiting on off-season Saturdays not even five years ago where we did a lot in Disneyland from opening until late morning when it started to get crowded, hopped over to the lightly attended California Adventure 1.0, and came back to Disneyland to see nighttime shows.

With the high cost of the one-day tickets and how crowded the Disney parks are getting, we're getting to the point where we think whether it's really worthwhile to keep visiting. Much better value at other local parks like Knott's Berry Farm and Legoland.

May 29, 2015, 3:57 PM

I agree, Disneyland has a very different feel from a few years ago. The crowds are huge, even in "off-season." We try to make the long trip at least once every year or two. The past few years it's been wall-to wall people. We've tried early September, different times in October, early November . . .And while the lines have not really gotten longer, it's just so crowded. Does anyone have any suggestions as to which week might feel less crowded? The week of August 10-14, or the week of August 17-21? The weekend in the middle is the D23 Expo, and the 17th is the first unblocked day for the annual pass holders. Any help would be much appreciated!

May 29, 2015, 10:19 PM

Rachel, you'll probably have better luck with August 10-14, but I don't know how big of a difference there will be. My guess is that crowds will probably be lowest on August 10th, then build toward the weekend and stay high before dropping off slightly on August 19/20th and rising again on August 21st. August 17th may very will be the most crowded day of all those you have listed.

May 29, 2015, 11:15 PM

One day will be a tight squeeze especially on a holiday summer weekend. World of Color is at California Adventure. Are you wanting to do both parks in one day? I wouldn't recommend it because it costs so much more and you won't be able to do either one justice.

I can't advise on the crowd levels. I think we were last there on days predicted to be 7 or 8. I'd say to stick to one park only. Arrive early or by opening, prioritize your top rides/attractions, make a touring plan, use the fast passes, and you should be fine.

If you need to go to City Hall at the beginning of the day for any reason, it is worth it to arrive very early to stand in line at the gate because then you'll be at the front of the City Hall line, which can move slowly. If autographs are important to you, those lines take forever and will affect your ride count.

If you think it would make a big difference in your enjoyment, I happily encourage you to take the kids out of school, but I'm an enabler like that. ;)

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