Is it Packed?: Disneyland Crowds in May
You’ve decided to take the family to Disneyland for summer vacation! You’re pretty sure that the summer season is insanely crowded, but hopeful that an early enough vacation will avoid the worst of it. Are you looking at the Disneyland crowd calendar for May? There are a lot of things that factor into a Maycation to Disneyland.
If you’re looking for the best visual map, this is our favorite. It’s got a really clean layout. Just click through for May. You may be pleasantly surprised at the right times to go!
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best and worst times to visit, a few perks of going at different times of the year, and a few times you will definitely want to avoid the parks.
We factor in Annual Pass block out dates, special events, and extra magic. Is Disneyland packed in May?
Yes… and no.
The first couple of weeks in May are the perfect time to take that summer vacation! While Disneyland no longer has a true off season, this is pretty close to a slower season. Not as many schools have let out for their summer breaks yet, so those lucky enough to have early releases can sneak into the parks before they’re extra crazy.
Weekdays: Weekdays in early May are pretty empty. Locals are still in work and school and tourists haven’t started their vacations yet. This will make it feel like the park is your personal playground. You can expect that wait times will be much shorter than average. This will give you the chance to see and do more things in each day.
More characters will be around signing autographs and taking pictures, you’ll be able to ride that favorite again and again, and fast passes may not sell out right away! During these days, you may also be able to walk into some restaurants without a reservation. Blue Bayou will require one, but nearly everywhere else will have walk in options during the early days of May.
Weekends: This is the exception to the rule. Weekends in early May are usually pretty crowded. Locals have summer fever and senioritis, so they are heading into the parks after school and on weekends. A lot of passes are blocked out for most of the summer, so these will be the last few weekends that locals can enter the park for the summer.
Pricing: Disneyland has a sliding scale model for pricing depending on whether it is peak or off season and expected crowd levels. Because of this, early May can sometimes be significantly cheaper than even a week or two later. Look into the ticket costs and see whether adjusting your travel plans by a week can save you big bucks.
If you can avoid booking your travel for late in May, we highly recommend this. While early May is one of the best times to visit, late May is one of the most crowded. It’s not quite as bad as July, but it is pretty close. There are a lot of special events, there’s a major travel holiday, and most schools are out for the summer by this time of year.
Weekends: Avoid these. The parks are so crowded during May weekends that it can often be difficult to walk, never mind see and do everything. Lines will be very long. A lot of mid-tier Annual Passes are still allowed into the parks until June, so the locals will be filling in for their last taste of magic before being blocked out for the summer.
If you have to take your trip during late May, then try to plan a Sunday arrival and a Saturday departure. This will minimize the extra crowded park days and maximize your stay. Alternately, enjoy the parks during the weekdays and take a day trip to any of the beautiful local beaches during the busier weekend days of your trip. Long Beach has a fantastic aquarium!
Memorial Day: Whatever you do, please do not schedule your trip over Memorial Day weekend. Just don’t do it. You will be frustrated and disappointed and get to do very little during your stay. This weekend is one of the single most crowded weekends in the Disneyland year and regularly hits capacity.
When the park hits capacity, they stop allowing people in regardless of whether or not you possess a ticket. Seriously, do not under any circumstances plan your vacation for Memorial Day weekend without also planning and mapping your entire day using a service like Touring Plans to help you out and having multiple wait time apps showing you where to go and when.
You will pay much higher peak day pricing for a much less pleasant experience this weekend. If you have your heart set on the special Memorial fireworks, then book your trip to arrive or end on Memorial day and watch them from the top of the Mickey and Friends parking deck, hotel viewing rooms, the esplanade, or Downtown Disney.
Pricing: You will experience peak pricing during late May. It is one of the busy tourism seasons and Disneyland will start their summer pricing. If you’re looking for better deals, then consider moving your plans up by a week. You’ll also find lower crowds during those times.
May-be You Should Avoid These
Now that you know the traffic flow, here are some very important things that will factor into crowd levels. If you can’t avoid traveling during these dates, be prepared for longer wait times and have a few backup plans available to fill these days. A lot of people who are visiting Disneyland during extremely packed dates will plan a day to relax at the hotel pool or see the nearby beaches.
Grad Nights: It is traditional for Disneyland to host graduating seniors of local high schools for a special and exclusive after hours event. They will close one of the parks a little early for this and allow the seniors to purchase heavily discounted day tickets to enjoy the park all day. Make sure that you check which nights will be Grad Nights before booking your vacation.
These nights run weekdays and weekends beginning as early as the second week of May and continuing through early June. A lot of these tickets will be issued for a single park, so Disneyland may be mostly unaffected by these dates, but plan on Disney California Adventure being extremely packed with large groups of excited teenagers experiencing their first taste of freedom and plan accordingly.
Annual Pass Blockout Dates: Another way to predict whether a day is busy is to check which Annual Passes are allowed into the park for the month. Disneyland lists them all here for convenience. If you see that some dates are the last available dates before or the first available dates after a lengthy block out, then avoid these.
Annual Passholders will flood the place getting one last dose of magic before they’re forced out and they’ll be counting the days before being allowed back into the parks. Likewise, if you see isolated dates that are blocked out in the middle of a lot of open days, these should be avoided. This means that Disneyland expects extremely heavy tourist crowds on these days despite it being relatively calm otherwise.
Memorial Day Weekend: I know I already covered this, but it is that critical. This weekend will be completely packed. Locals are off work and looking to party.
It is also one of the top travel dates for family vacations because parents are also off work and everyone is trying to avoid the crazy days in June and July that they know everyone is vacationing. If you can avoid coming this weekend, then plan to be anywhere else.
Weekends: If you can time your vacation to avoid weekends, you’ll be much better off in the long run. Not only is travel usually cheaper on weekdays, but crowds are down in the parks. Locals enjoy coming into the parks on the weekends when they don’t have work. Likewise, a lot of people plan their travel to arrive and leave over weekends so they can squeeze some extra days at the parks.
Because of this, numbers are elevated. Whereas on weekdays, only one set of weekly vacationers are entering the parks, on the weekend you have people who are just arriving and can’t wait to get in as well as people who have checked out of the hotel but just had to have one last day in Disneyland before going back home so you get double the tourist numbers on top of local crowds.
Conventions: Look out for these. While conventions dates aren’t always available publicly, many regularly occurring ones will be listed. Before booking hotels and making travel plans, ask front desk representatives whether there are any conventions or professional conferences happening the week of your expected travel.
They usually know about these because they offer discounted group rates and have conference rooms booked up for the events. A lot of conference goers will bring the whole family for a mini vacation and this will significantly affect projected crowd levels.
Local Ticket Discounts: During the off season, Disneyland offers extremely discounted tickets to locals. If you live in Southern California, this may be a great time to take that staycation and enjoy yourselves without having to worry about driving back and forth every day.If you aren’t local, check into when these rated end.
They occasionally include the first week of May, and because that’s the end of the deal a lot of last minute locals will grab the deal and crowd the parks.
Mother May I Have Some Extra Magic?
There are some really exciting things happening in May, though. Disneyland wants to make sure there is plenty of magic to go around regardless of when you travel. Here are some of the cool things that tend to fall during May.
Extra Magic Hours: If you have booked your stay for one of the Disneyland Resort hotels (Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier), they offer a service called Extra Magic Hours. On a rotating basis, one of the parks will be open an hour early each morning exclusively for hotel guests.
This gives you a chance to grab those fast passes before they disappear, jump in line for some of the more popular rides that have longer lines all day, and get some iconic castle photos taken before the crowds get really intense.
Private Entrance: If you are planning to visit Disney California Adventure, then you can head on over to the Grand Californian Hotel and stroll through the lobby.
They have exclusive entrances to Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney so you can avoid a long walk and longer lines at the security checkpoint and gates. The entry will drop you near to the Wilderness Challenge Trail.
Star Wars Day: If you’re an early traveler, be sure to catch Star Wars Day on May 4th and Revenge of the 5th. These dates will be a little more crowded because they are local favorites, but they may be worth braving the crowds.
They offer special photo opportunities, more character encounters, occasional ride layovers (Hyperspace Mountain and unlocked extras in Star Tours), and exclusively themed merchandise
After Dark Events: Disneyland regularly offers After Dark events. These tend to cost extra money but they are loaded with perks. The park will shut down an hour or so early (maybe more depending on the season) for an exclusive theme night.
These nights will feature drastically reduced wait times, special exclusive photo opportunities, exclusive merchandise, goodie bags, rare character encounters, and more! Past themes have included Date Night, Superheroes Assemble, Disney Afternoon Cartoons, and Star Wars nights
Hotel Activities: A lot of people are ready to spend every second in the parks, but the hotels offer a lot of great entertainment, too! If the parks end up too crowded, then consider dropping kids off with the hotel for a while. They will get the chance to play games, explore, and even meet some characters while you can head to a spa to relax.
The Disneyland Resort also offers several amazing pools for swimming in the Southern California sun, and May is always sunny. Most nights, hotels will also host Movie Nights with popular Disney animated features the whole family can enjoy together for free. You don’t even need to be a hotel guest to enjoy the movies.
Some of the best dining options are also available in the hotels. You can meet Stitch at the Paradise Pier’s character breakfast, have an amazing steak at Steakhouse 55 inside the Disneyland Hotel, and Trader Sam’s is a must see for anyone who loves tiki themed bars. They offer collectible mugs, deliciously strong drinks, and some drinks even come with a show!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
We have tried to give the best complete picture of May calendars, but there are always some questions that don’t get covered. We have included some of these here.
What Will the Hours Look Like?
Make sure to check park hours. In the earliest days of May, the parks are still running on Off Season scheduling. While they won’t be as short as February days, the parks may close earlier than the usual midnight summer hours or open later than 8am.
If you like to sleep in on your vacations, you may actually be better off going later in May because while you’re experiencing higher volumes of crowds during the daytime, parks will be open much later and once the parade and fireworks finish, the parks empty out significantly.
The last hour the parks are open you can usually fit in 3 rides if you’re fast. More and more of them will let you walk right on the closer to midnight you get.
Conversely, if you are morning people who find it difficult to stay awake until midnight may enjoy the earlier weeks, where they can take advantage of Extra Magic hours starting around 7am and experience lighter crowds throughout the day rather than staying late into the night to make sure there’s time for everything.
How’s the Weather?
The weather in May will be perfect. It is the weather that everyone thinks of w hen they dream about California. May is sunny with blue skies and warm temperatures, but it hasn’t yet heated up to unbearable like September and October.
The humidity is manageable and you don’t have to worry about bringing anything except some great sunscreen and maybe a light jacket or cardigan to tie around for longer nights.
What if I Can’t Avoid Peak Days?
If your travel plans aren’t flexible and you have to be there for the busiest days, then have a plan. Make sure to list out all of the things that you must see and do so that you can prioritize. Take advantage of the free Fast Pass system that Disneyland offers. In fact, take advantage of MaxPass! This is a service that Disney offers for a nominal fee that we think is completely worth the extra.
This system allows your family to book their fast passes from the Disneyland mobile app instead of having to walk all the way to the attraction’s kiosk for them.
This saves a huge amount of time in the parks and cuts down on walking so you can maximize your day. On top of that, it also allows you to download all the digital versions of Photopass and ride pictures taken during your vacation.
How Will Crowds Affect Waits?
Obviously, during more crowded days the waits will be longer. In early May, the more popular rides will average 45 to 65 minute waits. As the month goes on, those times will increase to upwards of 120 minutes!
Fast Passes will help reduce these wait times, but definitely plan accordingly. The flip side is that during the more busy days in late May, Disneyland extends their hours of operation.
Unless you come on a Grad Night, you should have an emptier park from 10pm through midnight. If there’s a ride you absolutely love but the line is interminably long and you didn’t manage to snag a Fast Pass, my recommendation is to get there 5 minutes before the park closes.
While you will still have to wait to ride it, you aren’t missing out on other things to do it. As long as you are in the line before Disneyland closes officially, they will let you ride.
What About The Entertainment?
In early May, there is still tons to see and do. Disneyland offers tons of shows and characters. They tend to wrap up earlier, though. Make sure that if you have a favorite character or a must see show you check their schedule because with reduced hours and off peak entertainment, you will not have as much time to see the entertainment, which wraps several hours before the park closes.
In later May, the hours are extended so there are more opportunities to catch shows and characters. The summer peak season also has more characters to meet and see and occasionally offers special shows and parades for the season.
Each family needs to decide what is most important to you and plan according to that. Either way, you’re trading some benefits for some drawbacks.
We know this is a lot of information to consider at once. We hunted around and found a very concise visual representation that offers the answers to the three biggest questions people often ask. What will the crowds look like? What will the weather be like? What will park hours be?
Mickey Visit created a small graphic that answers all of these questions for the entire Disneyland calendar year here. Feel free to print it out for reference when packing and planning.
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