The off-season is back at SoCal theme parks

September 5, 2019, 4:22 PM · If you're one of those theme park fans who keeps checking attraction wait times on parks' apps, even when you're miles away at home or work, you probably have noticed something amazing this week. The off-season — recently thought to be an endangered or even extinct phenomenon — is back.

Yes, the threat of Hurricane Dorian kept crowds away in Florida. And 90-plus degree daytime highs have not helped lure anyone to the parks in Southern California. But this also was the week that SoCal Select annual pass blocks lifted after the summer at the Disneyland Resort — which in past years has unleashed a flood of visitors to the parks, and a holiday week typically is good for at least a modest boost in crowd sizes, too.

Yet wait times at Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood have held below an hour even for the most popular attractions this week. Many top rides have been walk-ons frequently, too. If you've got the means to get there, this has been an amazing week to visit the parks in Southern California and Central Florida. There's not much need for Fastpass, Universal Express, or any other front-of-line passes right now. There just aren't very many big lines to be found.

If short lines were not enough to entice you into planning an extra trip to the parks, I just clicked around our ticket links and found some nice discounts to several parks, as well. Perhaps the best are at Knott's Berry Farm, which is offering one-day tickets for more than 40 percent off right now, as well as Knott's Scary Farm tickets starting at $37.75.

Down the road at Disneyland and California Adventure, you can get up to $32 off multi-day tickets at the parks, where Halloween Time kicks off this Friday.

Universal Studios Hollywood is getting ready for its Halloween Horror Nights, and the park is offering two-night passes to the event for just $87. These passes are good for Thursday and Sunday nights, but that includes Hollywood's new 1980s-themed Throwback Thursdays, featuring live bands playing '80s hits.

SeaWorld San Diego is participating in the Kids Free San Diego promotion that gets a child in free with a discounted adult admission. If you're not interested in that deal, you can choose a Free All Day Dining or a seven-days-for-the-price-of-one deal, instead.

Legoland California also is doing the Kids Free San Diego deal, in addition to a second-day-free option.

And if your heart is set on visiting Orlando, remember we have that "Volcano Bay Free" deal at the Universal Orlando Resort.

As always, we encourage you to shop around for deals, but we also encourage you to follow us here to see the deals available from our authorized ticket partner. See you in the parks!

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Replies (6)

September 6, 2019 at 8:17 AM

This is exactly why I wonder what good it is for Disney and Universal to continue to push their Halloween events earlier and earlier in the year. There's no level of event or discount that's going to encourage parents to pull their kids out of school for the first couple weeks of the year. With many school districts around the country stretching the calendar even further into August now (and a growing minority switching to year-round schedules), theme parks are foolish to attempt to combat the priority of education. The last couple of weeks of August (excluding Labor Day weekend) and the first couple weeks of September will ALWAYS be dead periods at theme parks on weekdays.

September 6, 2019 at 9:44 AM

I sure hope this lasts through November 10th, because I'll be at DLR November 6-10th! Woo hoo!

September 6, 2019 at 10:14 AM

Yes, I admit, I am one of "those" who check wait times (for UO). It was fascinating to watch Hagrid range from 120-240 minutes all summer long. Even when popular rides were 15-20 min (two other Potter rides). Just this past week has Hagrid gone down to 90-120 minutes (yikes!). I read that the time estimates are overestimates by 25-50% to account for stoppage and weather. I will be there in IOA early October to see for myself.

September 6, 2019 at 10:23 PM

I think Disney finally reached a tipping point, there's a general lukewarm feeling about Galaxy's Edge, and combined with high prices, I think people are just not as excited about going to Disneyland. I truly hope it turns around, especially when Rise of the Resistance opens.

They tried to make GE the next generation of theme park following the example of Harry Potter, but IMO it was an experiment that didn't work. They made it hyper real and immersive, but it lacks charm.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter immerses you in familiar settings which people have an emotional attachment to. GE tried to do the immersiveness, but made up a brand new planet that nobody knows or has an emotional attachment to, besides the Millennium Falcon. IMO a setting that was actually from the movies, like Tatooine, would have drawn infinitely more interest.

Yes, it would have been hard to accurately create Tatooine, a desert planet. Other lands in Disneyland are an amalgamation of themes, some of which don't logically exist together in the real world. Snow White doesn't really live next to Peter Pan. But people are willing to forgive some inconsistencies if the experience is compelling enough.

In creating DCA, Paul Pressler said (paraphrasing) "Let's try to do something that's not the usual Disney theme park". In GE, Disney tried to push the boundaries on theme park immersiveness, but somehow ignored what worked with Walt's original design.

Yes, the final judgement will come when RotR opens, but so far, the crowds are telling the story.

September 7, 2019 at 12:41 AM

I'll be honest...the low crowds, more than anything, is what is making me tempted to visit Disneyland this fall. While they all help, it's not Star Wars, it's not Hyperspace Mountain, and it's not the Electrical Parade, it's 30 minute waits for E-ticket attractions. Judging from the app, most lines this past week have been about half what they were at the same time last year, and if that continues I might just have to make my next visit a bit sooner than anticipated.

September 7, 2019 at 12:10 PM

The prices clearly are keeping people away, and I cannot wait to visit GE. Now that SW has its own land, I would say Hyperspace Mountain needs to go, and it is high time for Tomorrowland to be revamped to a positive outlook on the future. It is the area in the greatest need of a redo on both coasts. As to the lines, DL is always fun to go, but WDW should have walk up attractions right now, but as I type this, there are 30 minute lines for Haunted Mansion in Orlando. This is due to an unnecessary need to hang onto FP+. A few weeks ago Disney said they had some big announcement, and in some circles, people were hoping they would finally walk that back a bit. The fast movers don't need it always. As to people predicting or calling GE a failure, I don't see it. Wait for ROTR to open, which looks amazing. Disney is still fun, they have just made some decisions in the last seven years contrary to their customer is always first approach. I think they will find that catering only to the top 1% is a long term mistake, and the requirement that you must pre-plan your entire vacation just is not fun.

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