If you have always wanted to take a magical Disneyland vacation in the heart of the Christmas season, you might be wondering what you can expect in terms of crowds and availability! The holidays are one of the most busiest times of the entire year for the parks, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyable and that you can’t have a magical experience! Let’s dive into our in-depth Disneyland crowd calendar for December!
No matter what time of year that you are planning on visiting the parks, you should expect at least some level of crowds! Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent reopening of the parks following the events of the pandemic, the “off-seasons” were far more pronounced and less crowded!
Post-pandemic, however, both Disneyland proper and California Adventure have seen large crowds even during the off-season and less popular days or months! The holidays are certainly no exception to this, and the month of December could fairly easily be the busiest month of the year in Anaheim
Do not let the crowd levels deter you from traveling to Anaheim during the month of December though, as there is a reason that the parks are as busy as they are during this time! While the weather is not the best for keeping warm (according to Weather Spark, you can expect around 67°F during the day and occasional rain showers), the potential for clouds and rain can keep you out of the miserable sun that you would likely experience during most other times of the year, and there’s several special events going on during this time that we will talk about further into the article!
Disneyland in December – What Are the Busiest Days?
If you are planning your Disneyland vacation for the month of December, there are definitely some dates that you should take into account before making your theme park reservations!
The first week of December is typically the quietest when it comes to crowd levels, wait times and reservations, although this is dependent on any potential conventions going on in Anaheim during this time! If your vacation priority is attending during the lowest crowd level times in the park, I personally would recommend making your reservations for the first week of December (and steer clear of the weekends if you have the option, as these are always busy)!
As you get closer and closer to Christmas and New Year’s, you will find that the crowd numbers rise substantially, with the busiest week of the month being the week between the two holidays.
Generally, Tuesdays through Thursdays are the quietest days in the parks in terms of crowd levels, although on our last trip to the parks, we attended on a Friday the week before Christmas and the park was nearly empty all day long! After talking with several cast members that day, this was very unexpected and a rare treat for sure! Mondays and weekends are also fairly busy days, especially when the holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday!
A great way to judge whether a day at the park would be busy or relatively relaxed is to check the Disneyland Tier Calendar! As a general rule, the lower the tier for any particular day, the lower the crowd levels (and price!) will likely be. During the month of December, it’s highly unlikely that park guests will see any days that are tier 0-2 as these are typically only seen in the early months of the year!
Managing Heavy Crowds
If you absolutely cannot schedule your vacation to avoid the busiest December weeks (or you’re like me and you have your heart set on visiting Disneyland on Christmas Day), there are plenty of ways that you can plan to navigate the crowds and still get enjoyment out of your day in the park!
One of the absolute best ways to circumvent large crowds is to pay the extra cost to add Genie+ to your ticket each day as this will open up lightning lanes that can be used to bypass standby lines! Thankfully, I recently wrote about how you can craft the best Genie Plus strategy for Disneyland, so definitely refer to it if you need it.
One of the absolute best ways to circumvent large crowds is to pay the extra cost to add Genie+ to your ticket each day, as this will open up Lightning Lanes that can be used to bypass standby lines! If you purchase this additional feature when you book your tickets, you will pay a flat rate of $25 dollars per day per person (these are the current prices, however as you know, prices are always subject to change).
If you don’t purchase the upgrade at the time of booking your tickets, you can still purchase it when you scan into the parks each day. Genie+ purchases have a fluctuating price, however they will not drop below $25 and could get up into the $50 range on busier days.
It is highly recommended to purchase Genie+ when you purchase your tickets, as it has the potential to sell out especially during those busy holiday times! Each Lightning Lane can be used once per ride per day for all listed attractions, and this can be a huge timesaver when dealing with large holiday crowds! Please note: Genie+ is not available for Rise of the Resistance or character meet and greets!
Another great way to successfully navigate large crowds is to mobile order your food and beverage preferences to save time waiting in line! With all of the holiday food and beverage additions that come around during the month of December, you would be amazed at how long the walk-up lines can be to order something even as simple as a hot dog or churro in Pixar Pier!
Mobile ordering your food and beverages through the Disney app allows you to go explore other areas of the parks while waiting for your food, and keeps you out of the insanely long wait lines! There are also several restaurants that require mobile ordering for limited release items, so make sure to plan out your meals to the best of your ability before you enter the parks each day!
Another big tip to make sure you are getting the most out of your day is to find the best rope drop strategy for Disneyland the “big ticket“ attractions before the crowds grow in the late morning and early afternoon! Typically you will find that attractions like Webslingers, Radiator Springs Racers and Rise of the Resistance are the attractions that you will get the most benefit out of rope dropping, as these are the attractions that typically have the longest wait times during the day!
I’ve seen all three of these rides reach a two hour or more standby wait during the month of December, so the earlier that you could knock these out, the better in terms of avoiding the long lines and wait times for these attractions!
Our last tip for maximizing your part time and avoiding large crowds is to take a break during the busiest parts of the day! It sounds counterintuitive, but arriving to the park first thing in the morning and staying until park closing is a great way to open up time that would otherwise be spent waiting in line! Typically, crowd levels are at their lowest for the first two hours after opening, and the afternoon crowds begin to taper out in the later evening after dark.
Taking a midday break gives you an opportunity to rest up and refuel to make sure that you are ready to stay late into the evening when the crowd levels drop again! Typically, I like to take my midday breaks between the hours of about 2 PM to 4 PM regardless of the time of the year!
You will find that the later in December you vacation in the parks, the longer that your overall wait times for food, attractions and even meet and greets will become! If you’re looking to keep the wait times as low as possible for your family, you’ll want to visit during the first week of the month or as close to it as possible! The worst wait times can be seen during the week between Christmas and New Year’s when the crowd levels are at their highest!
The holidays are one of my absolute favorite times to visit the parks because of how beautifully everything is decorated in celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and several more winter holidays! The Festival of Holidays typically begins about ten days before Thanksgiving and runs until the week after New Year’s, although I will be the first to admit that I personally feel as though December is the best time to visit to enjoy the holiday magic!
In celebration of all of the different winter holidays, there are several food and beverage items that are only available during the holiday festival! Some of my favorites include the Mickey Gingerbread and of course the world famous Disneyland Candy Canes that are only released on specific days during the festival! There are also several alcoholic beverages available during this festival that are not available during other times of the year, although these are only available in DCA and Downtown Disney!
Another great addition to the Festival of Holidays is the re-theming of the evening shows, including the fireworks! During the month of December, you can see holiday variations of several shows including both World of Color and the Nighttime Spectacular! These shows are both changed from the standard colors and sounds, to fit holiday music and theming which adds a whole new element to the magic of visiting the parks in December! My favorite variation of holiday show was the 2022 World of Color — Season of Light as it truly brought the magic into the holiday season!
Lastly, in celebration of the Festival of Holidays there are several attractions that are given a holiday overlay to help celebrate! The most popular holiday overlay can be found in It’s A Small World, and this is my personal favorite overlay because of the bold and beautiful colors! The outside of the attraction is lit up at night in beautiful reds and greens, and the inside of the attraction has beautiful holiday decorations and messages from all different cultures!
The standard music that we hear during participation in that attraction is also mixed in with a variation of jingle bells, which adds even more fun! Haunted Mansion also is given a holiday overlay, although this typically begins in October in celebration of the Nightmare Before Christmas!
Overall, the holiday celebration and beautiful decorations make any crowd more than worth it, as crazy as it can be sometimes! My best piece of advice is to pick the time of December that works best for you and your family, and just keep in mind some of the best ways to navigate these large crowds during your trip! If you’re a big fan of the holidays, you will find that the crowds don’t bother you as much once you’re able to slow down and truly soak in the magic of the festival!
While December in the happiest place on earth might be chaotic and more crowded than any other time of year, the benefits to going during this magical time are astronomical! We hope that this article gave you some insight on how to manage the crowds during this time of the year, and we hope you enjoyed our Disneyland crowd calendar for December!
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