Is it Packed? Disneyland Crowds in March

Is it Packed? Disneyland Crowds in March
Soundsational Parade” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

Often, you’ll find that March is a popular spring break month. With that in mind, it’s important to assess whether your trip to Disneyland Resort is worthwhile. In this piece, explore why March is typically a great time to visit the SoCal parks, how to beat the crowds, and what events are of particular interest on an annual basis.

From year to year, the crowds for spring break change. College spring breaks often are well before the traditional school district spring breaks; however, sometimes, it seems that everyone has their break at the same time. As such, the spring months at Disneyland (March through May), can be tricky to navigate. 

Nonetheless, March trips to the Resort are among the best you can expect in terms of crowd size and park happenings.

Need-to-know terms for your California Disneyland visit

Most of your trip, as well as throughout the planning, you will read and hear about Disney-specific elements. This list compiles terms used frequently in this post that will help you navigate March crowds and enjoy any trip to Disneyland.

The Disneyland Resort Mobile Application – Be sure to download the Disneyland App for the most up-to-the-minute tracking of attraction wait times, show times, character visits, and more! This will truly be your one-click answer to everything Disneyland. It includes a map of the parks and downtown region, which you can easily navigate through various filters for attractions, events, food, restrooms, and beyond.

Ticket Access – Use the app to buy tickets, update or purchase Annual Passports, and view any ticket purchases linked to the app account. By doing this, you can even save time and skip the ticket queues before getting to the park! Note that special deals may not be accommodated in this forum.

Mobile Food & Beverage Ordering – Using the Disneyland App, you can Mobile Order from several of fast service dining options in both parks. This will allow you to choose a timeframe (either immediately or ahead of time) in which your party will pick up its food from the establishment. Of note, you can use the food filter on the map in the app to quickly identify carts and restaurants that use Mobile Ordering.

FASTPASS – These are passes that allow you to skip a good chunk of the lines for specific rides in both parks. Some shows, like World of Color, will also have this option for select viewing areas. While you cannot acquire FASTPASS tickets through the app, unless you purchase MaxPass to acquire unique access to additional services like online “ordering” of FASTPASS, you can certainly use the app to track your passes. You can also scan your ticket barcode from the app rather than using your physical ticket or pass, making it a convenient element to keep in your pocket!

Play Disney Parks – This is a separate mobile application from the Disneyland app; however, it is a great perk of going to Disneyland with phones and tablets. Particularly when traveling with little ones, having this app will save you from the boredom of long lines. At select attractions, look for the “play” sign. Then, simply open the app, select the play option, and enjoy games that are ride-specific!

Acronyms – You will see this frequently

Disneyland Resort (DLR) – both parks and Downtown Disney

Disneyland Park (DLP) – the original park called Disneyland that is home to Main Street, USA; Sleeping Beauty Castle; Adventureland; Frontierland; Fantasyland; Mickey’s Toontown; and Tomorrowland

Disney California Adventure Park (DCA) – the first major addition to the Resort that holds Pixar Pier, Hollywood Land, and several upcoming attractions

March weather at Disneyland Resort

Though located in sunny Southern California, weather at DLR in March can vary. At extremes, the temperature range is 44°F to 88°F. However, the average day temps range in the 60s to 70s. Early March is known to be cooler with clouds and some rain. Late March is known to be warmer.

Generally speaking, you can expect mostly blue skies and sunshine at the Happiest Place on Earth. On cooler days, you can expect clouds with a chance of rain or gusty winds. On warmer days, you can plan for clear skies and a warm sun with a light breeze mid-day. Temperatures will typically change up to 5°F throughout the day and may have a slightly greater variation into the night.

Nonetheless, you can always plan accordingly for a spring trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA! Here’s a recommended packing list if you’re coming from out of town:

  • A light jacket, such as a windbreaker
  • A long-sleeve top
  • A short-sleeve tee 
  • A pair of long pants (e.g., jeans, leggings, slacks) or capris 
  • Sturdy shoes and socks
  • A hat or visor and sunglasses

The big goal it to wear light layers that you can use throughout the whole day. As a reminder, it’s always best to check local Anaheim weather online or on a mobile app to see the forecast.

Anticipated March crowds and how to handle them

Average Disneyland attendance has steadily increased over the years, and March is a month that has a high attendance average. However, the month is basically split in half with the early weeks being less packed than the latter.

As college spring breaks tend to run throughout mid- to late-March and into April, the crowds at DLR grow. Plus, if Easter falls during the month, you get the added pressure of K-12 spring breakers.

Beyond the general timeframe, consider the days you want to go. During the week, especially Tuesday through Thursday, you will encounter fewer crowds. It may still be incredibly busy, but the lines will typically be shorter overall. Avoid Mondays and Fridays as your “first choice” despite them being part of the typical workweek. Many travellers will take those days to make optional three-day weekends.

Weekends, Friday through Sunday, will be packed. By Friday afternoon and evening, the parks see increased numbers from various conferences and events. Plus, you add on the likelihood of more Annual Passholders rushing down after work to catch a couple of quick rides or a show and a meal.

If these days are your only option, consider checking into a hotel the night before to ensure you are in the park bright and early. Also, stay as late as you can to enjoy the full benefits of park admission. Don’t forget to use FASTPASSES! 

Per the official Disneyland site’s recommendations, early March is your best bet. Try to get to the park prior to St. Patty’s day for the “smallest” crowds of the month. Also, you can plan on the following park hours (always subject to change):

Weekdays (Monday-Thursday)

  • Disneyland Park
    • Opens between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
    • Closes between 8 p.m. and midnight
  • Disney California Adventure Park
    • Opens 10:00 a.m.
    • Closes between 8 p.m. and midnight

Weekends (Friday-Sunday)

  • Disneyland Park
    • Opens by 9:00 a.m.
    • Closes midnight
  • Disney California Adventure Park
    • Opens 10:00 a.m.
    • Closes 10:00 p.m.

Note that you should always check ahead of time or on the app or by calling Guest Services. Additionally, DLR hotel guests may have additional perks such as Magic Hour. Other special events may also be subject to change based on park hours.

Expected Wait Times for a spring trip

As you can imagine, a big part of navigating Disneyland crowds is knowing how long you’ll have to wait for your favorite attractions. While there’s not necessarily a guarantee that expected wait times are accurate, you can anticipate longer wait times for the most popular rides at Disneyland. 

Realistically, there are many potential wait times for every ride depending on several factors:

Open attractions/Closed attractions – If popular rides are closed, like Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run, the big-ticket rides will fill up even more than usual. You’ll also see a push into less popular rides. However, if all attractions are open, the wait times may reflect more evenly across the board. 

Crowd Index – More people means more lines and vis versa. However, if the crowd is particularly kid-oriented (e.g., families or schools), you’ll see a shift of interest to rides without height restrictions.

Special Events – If you see a lot of people walking around with passes or identifiable clothing for organizations, you likely are encountering a high crowd index due to a special event. Avoid following these groups as they tend to have larger parties that will extend your wait times on any given ride.

Popularity – Any ride with the word “mountain” is guaranteed to be a long wait. Other popular attractions will also feature lines that are an hour-plus. For these rides, you will want to use a FASTPASS to cut your wait in half.

In short, you will always have to wait a little bit. Even with a low crowd index in the pouring rain on a low-interest ride, you are likely to see the wait time sign flashing 5 minutes. Take this with a grain of salt and focus on the bigger picture.

Wait times that are “average” range from 5-30 minutes depending on ride popularity. For example, waiting 5-10 minutes to ride King Arthur Carrousel is pretty typical and would be anticipated for a lower-interest ride.

However, if you happen upon Space Mountain and the wait time is 30 minutes, that’s basically “nothing” for one of the most popular attractions in the park because it indicates that most of the cars are in operation and that there are fewer people in line than one would expect during high-traffic days.

Use the app to check times frequently, and be prepared to make a mad dash from one end of the park to the other if a wait time seems shockingly short!

On the other hand, prepare for wait times that reflect “peak season.” You can expect popular rides’ lines to exceed 90 minutes and less popular ride waits to sit around 30 minutes and go as high as 60 minutes.

If you are seeing wait times in excess of 30 minutes on just about every attraction, you are looking at a large crowd index, and you will want to plan on using your FASTPASS, consider buying a Disney MaxPass, and plan to hit your top attractions during typical lulls.

Lulls you may find when planning your day include meal times and show hours. Be sure to check when parades and shows are scheduled as that will give you up to an hour of reduced wait times at less popular rides. In particular, you will want to head to “kids’ rides” as families head to viewing areas. 

However, if you like the parades and shows, don’t forget to block that time into your day! Plan to arrive to viewing areas with at least five minutes to spare to ensure you are within ropes that block off viewing areas. Note that if you want “premier,” free viewing areas, you may have to arrive as early as an hour beforehand.

This is not highly recommended as it cuts into your day and Cast Members may ask you to remove “spot savers” like blankets, sweaters, and bags for safety reasons.

Picking the Best Rides

Picking your favorite Disney attraction will, of course, be the most important factor in deciding what to do during your visit. However, it’s good to know which of those favorites overlaps with everybody else’s favorite. Here’s an easy breakdown of features and popularity to judge which attractions’ lines will likely be longest.

Classic Rides

This group of attractions has been around since Disneyland opened in 1955. Some, however, are also considered “classics” because they are featured in commercials and contain favorite characters and stories. They often pique the interest of first-time guests and annual passholders alike. Here are rides that have made the top of the list (10/10) — check out the full blog for a flushed out explanation of features for these attractions. Note that these are featured in Disneyland Park.

  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • “It’s a small world”
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of The Caribbean
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain

Others that may make the list on busy days include Mad Tea Party, Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and Storybook Land Canal Boats.

Roller Coasters

There are a select few rides that are high-speed roller coaster-type rides. And all of them make the list for must-ride attractions. Note that many of these have height requirements, so they may not be available to young children. Nonetheless, these will also be among the longest wait times in the parks. Try to get to them early in the morning or late at night or even during typical meal times! Also add them to your FASTPASS collection.

Disneyland Park

  • Big Thunder Railroad
  • Indiana Jones™ Adventure
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds
  • Space Mountain

Disney’s California Adventure

  • Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: BREAKOUT!
  • Incredicoaster
  • Radiator Springs Racers

“Just For Kids” Attractions

Designed for children of all ages, these magical rides features classic characters, stories, and fewer height requirements! For families, these rides are the hub of their trip, so be prepared for longer waits. Here are some of the most popular kids’ attractions throughout both parks.

Disneyland Park

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Astro Orbitor
  • Autopia
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Casey Jr. Circus Train
  • Disneyland Railroad
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • “It’s a small world”
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mickey and Minnie houses
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Splash Mountain (40-inch minimum height)
  • Star Tours  — The Adventures Continue (40-inch minimum height)
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats

Disney’s California Adventure

  • Grizzly River Run (42-inch minimum height)
  • Frozen at Disneyland Resort (show)
  • The LIttle Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (32-inch minimum height)
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (32-inch minimum height)
  • Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round — Non-Swinging
  • Pixar Pal-A-Round — Swinging
  • Radiator Springs Racers (40-inch minimum height)
  • Toy Story Midway Mania!

Other rides that make the list of long wait times include the Disneyland Railroad and Soarin’ Around the World in DCA because of their appeal to just about everyone!

New and Updated Attractions

Disneyland Resort is always growing and improving. With these changes come piques in interest and wait times to see the latest addition. Even old rides that have been refurbished get special attention! Before your March visit, be sure to check grand openings and special events for attractions so you can prepare your priorities based on park updates.

Rides with Shorter Wait Times

Now that you are sufficiently nervous to spend a few hundred dollars to spend the trip in line after line, here are some interactive, engaging, fun attractions with shorter queues to check out! 

Disneyland Park

  • Disneyland Monorail
  • Donald’s Boat
  • Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition
  • Gadget’s Go Coaster
  • Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and feature exhibit
  • Goofy’s Playhouse
  • King Arthur Carrousel
  • Main Street Cinema
  • Main Street Vehicles
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Mark Twain Riverboat
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey
  • Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough 
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Tarzan’s Treehouse
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

Disney’s California Adventure

  • Animation Academy
  • The Bakery Tour
  • Games of Pixar Pier
  • Golden Zephyr
  • Jumpin’ Jellyfish
  • Red Car Trolley
  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
  • Silly Symphony Swings
  • Sorcerer’s Workshop
  • Turtle Talk with Crush

Note that these lists are subject to change as DLR grows and morphs. For the latest list of attractions as well as list of those that are closed for refurbishment or not currently scheduled to run, visit the official Disneyland site.

Annual happenings in March at DLR

Let’s begin this section talking about SoCal resident tickets.

SoCal Resident Tickets

For Southern Californians (only ZIP codes 90000-93599 or 21000-22999 qualify), get a 3-Day park pass at a reduced cost. Choose between 1-park per day tickets (e.g., each visit would allow admittance to either Disneyland Park or DCA) or Park Hopper tickets (e.g., each visit would allow admittance to both Disneyland Park and DCA) with a 3-day pass. Ticket options start around $180 for this deal. 

The biggest advantage to using SoCal Resident tickets is the large discount. With tickets around $60 a day (compared to $100+ per day), it’s get a great deal. Plus, it’s like having a temporary, mini-AP with access to the park/s on any three days of your choice that are not blocked out. This deal usually runs for the first half of the year and may be available through additional vendors. Learn more about this deal here.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

From March to April, join culinary experts from around the world for demonstrations and family-friendly seminars; enjoy Festival Marketplace Kiosks exploring the flavors of California (including adult beverages!); teach your little one’s how to cook in Jr. Chef events; splurge on a gourmet 4-course dinner and meet Disney chefs and sommeliers; sip fine wines and do so much more in just a day during the annual Food & Wine Festival!

Whether you go with friends, your significant other, or your kids, there are activities for the whole family to enjoy in addition to the attractions of DCA. This special event features the best flavors of California as well as the tastes of Disney. For foodie shoppers, there is unique merchandise to commemorate the festival, including cookbooks and kitchenware! Check out the annual line-up online and make reservations accordingly.

Egg-stravaganza (when Easter falls in March)

The Easter Egg Hunt of Disneyland, Egg-stravaganza usually returns for three or four weeks prior to the holiday. Somewhat unfortunately, this aligns with the spring break season. Nonetheless, it’s a great “extra” when visiting the Resort in spring.

Regardless of crowd size, participants in Egg-stravaganza can add a fun activity to their day as they move between Disneyland Park, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney collecting special-edition “hidden” Disney- and Pixar-themed eggs.

The event: Use the map and pick up stickers to note which eggs you find; when you redeem it at the end of day, you get a special surprise!

Join the hunt through select merchandisers in the parks and Downtown Disney. A map and stickers can be purchased for about $6 and redeemed at one of three locations in the Resort — Elias & Co. (Buena Vista Street, DCA), Disney Showcase (Disneyland Park, Main Street, USA), and World of Disney Store (Downtown Disney, across from the tram pick-up). Note that all details here are subject to change based. 

Egg-stravaganza is a limited-time event and will only be around as long as supplies last. Discounts, such as for Annual Passes, may not apply. The event may change without notice, so be sure to ask a Cast Member whether it’s happening during your visit. For details from past Egg-stravaganza events, click here.

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