The Disney Parks don’t really have an off season anymore. Summer and holidays used to be the busiest time of the year, and they still can be, but between the complexity of a Disney vacation and varying school breaks, a traditional crowd calendar is ever changing. Now that spring break season has ended, it seems that crowd levels have dropped drastically. In this post, I’ll take a closer look at how late April and early May compare to other traditionally slow times of the year at Disney Parks.
Spring breaks seem to be all over the map across America. Some begin in the first week of March while others are midway through April. Much of this is regional and can have a different affect at Walt Disney World than Disneyland Resort. For example, many of the schools in Florida and the south have their break around the second week of March making that a miserable week to travel to WDW. That’s not a terrible time to go to Disneyland though. But come the second week of April, schools in the Pacific Northwest have their spring break making it a much more enjoyable time to visit Walt Disney World than Disneyland.
To keep things simple in this post, we’ll just say that spring break season is from early March to mid April. I know that some schools get out for summer vacation in early May in the south, but Disney Parks don’t traditionally see crowd levels drastically rise until Memorial Day weekend, which is the de facto start of summer. With that in mind, the slow time we’re trying to pinpoint here is roughly from April 15th to May 20th.
From a school holiday perspective, this is one of the only times in the year that doesn’t have a built in break or even a 3 day weekend to plan around. Obviously I don’t know everyone’s situation but it stands to reason that families are more willing to wait for summer than take a vacation just a month or two before. Taking a longer weekend during this time seems more unlikely than doing it in September or October.
The wait times are bearing this out too. We were at Disneyland on April 16th (which was a Sunday), Rise of the Resistance had a 10 minute wait in the early evening. The Matterhorn, Space Mountain and Haunted Mansion were all walk-ons at different parts of the day. The crowd level change from that Friday to Sunday were noticeable.
Looking across the country at Walt Disney World, the results are similar. Hollywood Studios had lower average wait times on their marquee attractions than I remember seeing in a very long time. The other three parks followed suit. While there are always hiccups in wait times thanks to attractions going down or new things opening (Tron in Magic Kingdom and Toontown in Disneyland are still slammed) Disneyland and Walt Disney World had off season level crowds!
Like I mentioned, Disney Parks are busy just about all of the time now. I’m not suggesting that if you hop on a plane and get to the parks tomorrow that every attraction will have a 5 minute wait and you’ll have endless hours to get the perfect castle photo with no one in the background. Those days are gone and maybe never really existed. Going into the parks will likely always feel somewhat crowded at this point for reasons that we won’t get into in this post. I’m strictly talking about much lower wait times are now than other parts of the year.
On that note, I should say that this could just be a blip and it could end next week. Mother’s Day would be an obvious time for crowds to bump up even without a school holiday involved. Travel patterns take years to actually become a pattern so much of this is more hypothesis than proof. I’m not ready to crown mid-April to mid-May the off season champion of Disney Parks just yet.
There are two other contenders for that prize – September and mid-January to the week before President’s Day. September has much of the same profile as late April and early May. It’s so close to the start of the school year that families are less likely to take kids out of school. Outside of Labor Day weekend, there aren’t holidays to account for and major holidays are right around the corner. September is still very quiet at Disney Parks.
Mid-January to mid-February is also very quiet, with the holidays over and everyone getting back to their jobs and school. There are a few 3-day weekends to account for as well as schools arranging their mid-winter breaks at different times. Walt Disney World has quite a few runDisney events. That said, the there are days in that timeframe that seem quieter than any other time I’ve been in the Disney Parks.
So, which one do I prefer? At this point, I like the current time frame. The flowers blooming throughout the different parks is reason enough to visit. Mix that in with low wait times and that makes this a pristine time to visit if you’re able to. The winter months are great but will undoubtedly lead to attraction refurbishments. September can also have refurbishments as well as slightly hotter weather. With that in mind, the best option for a slow time to go to Disney Parks is mid-April through mid-May!
What are your favorite slow times to visit the Disney Parks? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a Disney trip? Check out our Travel Guides to help get you there! If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney please subscribe to the blog via email or WordPress and like our social media pages. You can find all of those things on the right side of this page. Thank you very much for reading, we appreciate it!
Categories: Vacation Tips