How Hot Is Too Hot for a Disney Trip?

August 20, 2022, 7:54 PM · Let's talk about weather - especially those super steamy, hot summer days that so many of us have experienced recently.

How hot is too hot for you to consider visiting a theme park? I mentioned Disney in the headline since Walt Disney World and Disneyland remain America's top theme park resort destinations. But let's consider any theme park for the purpose of today's vote, which you will see below.

Many years ago, summer was the undisputed high season at the Disney theme parks. Sure, the very biggest crowds hit during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year's Day, but the summer brought consistently large crowds to all the Disney World parks and Disneyland.

These days, spring break at Walt Disney World and the fall at Disneyland often deliver crowds as big, and sometimes bigger, than you find during the summer vacation months. Now part of that is due to the overall growth in attendance at Disney, and the fact that the crowds had to spill over somewhere. But many of us who visit the parks frequently, especially at Disneyland, have suspected that summer crowds are not quite as big as they once were.

Over the past couple of years, Disney's new reservation system surely has played a part in that shift. But we were seeing weakening summer attendance at Disneyland before the pandemic. Could hotter summer weather be playing into a seasonal shift among theme park visitation?

Regional parks always have prospered and suffered with the weather. With fewer people planning long-distance trips to them, regional parks rely on good weather to help inspire locals to come out and enjoy the day. Traditionally, it's been rain that has done the most to deter visits, but heat definitely can keep visitors at home or looking for air-conditioned alternatives, instead.

And in California, let's not forget that smoke from the wildfires that often accompany dry summer heatwaves also has a profound affect on people's willingness to spend the day outside, such as at Disneyland.

I am curious to hear how you factor heat into your theme park plans. How hot is "too hot" varies by person, of course. Spending the day out in temperatures in even the high 70s to low 80s (F) can lead to heat exhaustion for some visitors. But with the right precautions and care, many visitors and employees can get through a day with temperatures in the 90s and even beyond.

I know that some people will want to talk about humidity and its effect on how hot it feels on a given day. But at a certain point, the lack of humidity no longer matters in avoiding discomfort and danger.

While 90F and humid feels a lot worse than 90F with lower humidity, moisture in the air can serve to limit how hot a day can get. You rarely see days up in the 100s in Florida, where the mix of high heat and humidity often triggers thunderstorms that serve as a brake on runaway heat. In the west, however, lower humidity can allow the temperature to soar into the 100s. That's nasty and dangerous for anyone, even if it is a so-called "dry heat."

For our vote below, please select the option that best describes your feeling about dealing with heat and theme parks. (Remember that votes on Theme Park Insider are completely anonymous.)

In the comments, we would love to hear some details about how this summer's weather may or may not have affected your theme park plans, if you care to share. As always, thank you for reading Theme Park Insider.

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Replies (14)

August 20, 2022 at 8:19 PM

We're going to Disneyland tomorrow (we're pass holders) but our day changes pretty significantly when it's warm (it's going to be in the mid-80s, which will be a bit unpleasant in my experience). I've certainly done much worse, particularly in Texas, Florida and perhaps most notably at Magic Mountain in the summer. If I have a trip on the books, I'm unlikely to cancel ... but if we found out it was going to be 95 in Anaheim tomorrow? We'd find something else to do.

Now... if I was planning on going to Six Flags Over Texas tomorrow? And this was the only time of year I could go? And it was going to be over 100 degrees? And I didn't already have a Flash Pass paid for? I might be thinking about it.

August 20, 2022 at 8:31 PM

My mom just came back from a trip last week with her grandkids and yes, hot and humid but handled it.

All-time hottest for me was August 1999, heat index close to 100 all weekend. I still remember sitting at a bus stop when a flash storm hit and literally an inch of steam rising from the ground.

But you know what? That was still one of my all-time favorite trips thanks to so much opening: Rock N Roller Coaster, Test Track, Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh, Asia section of Animal Kingdom, DisneyQuest, FastPass and more. Just had to keep hydrated with water, duck into cooler spots now and then and could handle it and I'm someone who usually hates hot weather.

I did luck out cooler weather for an August trip in Disneyland years back and can see humidity worse than pure heat. But oddly, Six Flags or King's Mountain in high heat just comes off far worse, especially in long lines. Maybe it's just because easier to get cooler with stuff in Disney/Universal but I would avoid it more in hotter weather if I had the choice.

August 20, 2022 at 10:01 PM

I try to avoid taking coaster roadtrips during the height of summer both due to crowds and due to heat, but if I'm on a trip to non-local parks it would need to be pretty extreme (like 120+) before I'd consider canceling plans as I don't know when I'm going to get another opportunity to go. That said, I did just do a two week deep south trip at the beginning of August and while it was hot and uncomfortable, I didn't feel like I was dying and did fine going slower than usual and drinking more than I typically would. For the local SoCal parks, however, unless I'm going for a specific reason like a new ride opening or a limited time event, when the temperature gets into the 90+ range I'm likely to defer to a cooler time.

August 20, 2022 at 10:09 PM

We spent 2 weeks at Disney and Universal last month. I voted heat doesn’t make a difference to me because, as Midwesterners, we regularly deal with heat indexes of 105-110 in the summer months. Florida’s heat index is often less than that, and last month was no exception. When you live with that kind of temperature, you learn how to handle it.

August 20, 2022 at 10:22 PM

Going to a theme park is a trippy experience, the heat only ramps it up. Love it.

August 21, 2022 at 8:23 AM

I remember a very hoy July trip to DHS. It was HOT! We ran all over the park. I drank beer, ate ice cream and pizza, a hot pretzel, all kinds of sugar and by the time we reached the end of the day I swear I'd lost weight.

August 21, 2022 at 11:39 AM

Heat is why people invented splashy log rides and chilled dark rides, and God invented ice cream. Every problem has a solution.

August 21, 2022 at 11:44 AM

As a parent of school age children, we’re kind to stuck visiting the parks in the summer months…Sometimes we’ve gone and it’s been alright and other times it’s just been outright unbearable…Memorial day week in 2006 at Disney World was particularly grueling as I recall…We did manage to take a couple days of days to visit Disneyland this past February during Presidents Day, and while the parks were packed, I forgot what it was like to visit when the weather was nice…In fact our second day there had us getting out the long sleeve / pants type of clothes…

As for our normal summer trips…We generally try to carve out a couple of hours in the afternoon to go back to the hotel and rest or even hit the swimming pool…Head back out to the parks once the heat starts coming down..,G+ and LL has made this a bit of a challenge though but that’s another topic all together…

August 21, 2022 at 4:53 PM

For me, it's always the sun that does me in. If it's hot and muggy, but there are clouds in the sky that block out the sun, I can handle a day at the parks fine.

August 21, 2022 at 11:15 PM

We just did a theme park tour of Texas where the daily high was never below 100 for the entire trip. It was nice that the parks weren’t terrible crowded, and we probably spent more time in water parks than we would have had it been cooler.

As far as Disney, we’ve avoided WDW during summer months due to crowds, and DL isn’t too bad during summer months compared to the heat and humidity we see during the “dog days” of summer on the East Coast.

August 22, 2022 at 12:20 AM

This is the thing that really sucks about being an enthusiast, when most parks have their best weather they are only open on weekends making it impossible to do a long trip. Spring is a crapshoot with the rain, summer is a crapshoot with the heat and humidity even in the north, and fall is beautiful in most areas of the country but the seasonal parks are only open weekends. A few months ago I was so sick of the Florida weather that I wanted to do a quick trip as far away as possible to get some nice cool air, so I thought maybe i'll grab a flight to Minneapolis and spend a few days there. That was until I checked the weather, it was 100 degrees and didn't show any signs of cooling down anytime within the next couple weeks. I am thinking of doing a Norcal trip next summer as that seems to be the one place with consistent nice summer weather and visit CGA for the last time.

Here in Florida I don't even think about going to parks in June-September anymore. November/early December are my ideal times as its nice out and all the holiday decorations are up around the parks, but pretty much all my visits nowadays are November-April.

August 22, 2022 at 6:37 AM

There really isn’t an ideal time, especially nowadays with the staffing challenges. What it really comes down to is if you want to experience all attractions, you probably need to deal with both the crowds and heat of Summer. Outside of Summer, select attractions either close or go into a limited schedule. Operating hours for the park usually shrink as well, and the variable pricing model further incentivizes the parks to do that.

Having pre-teen kids, I also am at the mercy of having to schedule Family vacations around School schedules. Several times we did the final week of August in Florida, which was pretty good for crowds, but the heat was bad and there was often the mild threat of a hurricane moving in. Operating hours were already reduced as well (as early as 6pm close times at SeaWorld).

In 2019 we went to SoCal in July, and because of that I finally had my first opportunity to board the Sailing Ship Columbia and see Fantasmic at Disneyland. Any previous visits we did in the Fall, and they were only running both of those attractions on weekends, which is when I try to avoid Disney. The July weather in SoCal was SO much better than Florida, and the crowds weren’t really too bad during the day either, so I’d actually recommend visiting SoCal then (although pricing could be high all around - flights, hotels, cars and now even park tickets).

When dealing with school schedules, aside from avoiding some heat, you’re not really doing yourself any favors by waiting until the breaks around the Holidays and Spring break to visit Florida. Pricing is jacked up significantly and crowd levels are high. We visited Florida around Thanksgiving last year, and the only day that was truly enjoyable was the Sunday after TG, as most of the crowds had left and we were actually able to accomplish something. I even bit the bullet about halfway through the day and upgraded to a 2-Park pass for Universal, as we actually had the opportunity to get most done in both parks that one day. If not for that very successful (albeit very expensive) day, the entire trip really would have been a downer.

So ultimately, all things considered, it may be best just dealing with some heat of Summer. That is when the most attractions are running, staffing is usually at its best, and you can get some extra bonuses like Electric Ocean at Sea World…

August 22, 2022 at 11:52 PM

I visited DW for seven days in September of 2020 and then again for seven days end of January/beginning February 2021. Never again in September. Never.

August 24, 2022 at 7:27 AM

For local regional parks if the temperature is much above 85 we probably wouldn't go unless we had some pre-planned event or visitors staying with us.

Disney and Universal for us always require a hotel stay, so our approach is to be at the park for rope drop. As soon as it starts to get too hot and we feel uncomfortable then do any indoor a/c rides that have less than a 10-15 minute outdoor wait. Once they are done head back to the hotel room for an afternoon nap and maybe a dip in the pool. Go back to the parks later in the evening once the temperature drops to something reasonable.

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