So, you’ve made a brave decision to flock to the Mouse’s house during the Christmas break. First, I commend you for your brave efforts.
Second, are you nuts!?!
Well, if you are nuts, you are in good company. Why? Because we have been TWICE from the freezing cold northern half of the country to venture down to the warm SoCal sun during the Christmas break – that week between Christmas and the New Year.
I wish I had fantastic news for you…but it is going to be packed and wildly packed. In fact, so packed, the gates will probably close by 10 or 11 am as they will have met capacity.
Yes, you read that right. The parks will meet capacity before lunch and the gates will be closed to new visitors.
Do you know how many people it takes to meet capacity?
Well, no one knows the exact number because Disneyland is not forthcoming with the information, but they generally close the gates to Disneyland at just over 80,000 (plus the 10,000 cast members) and California Adventure’s capacity is just over 30,000.
That is A LOT of people. In fact, the time period between Christmas and the New Year is the busiest week, surpassing the peak summer months with December 31st and January 1st being the days most likely to close the gates before lunch.
And yes, I and my family were 7 of those nearly 100,000 people.
It’s awful. Once we entered the park, we filled main street and the crowds were so impressive, that once the rope dropped at the edge of main street, there were so many people that I could not move an inch with my stroller. The only people moving were ones not connected to wheels.
We still had fun, but it was much, MUCH different experience than visiting at any other time of the year.
Here are my tips for maximizing your stay during this CRAZY time.
- Go early – The biggest tip is to plan to go early. And by early, I mean get in line for security check and gates about 30 minutes before they open (and even better if you have magic morning and go an hour earlier altogether. Getting their early is going to give you the most freedom before the real crowds hit an hour or two later. . .
- Stay on top of the fast pass with ride priorities in place- FastPass at Disneyland is a great tool, but only if you know how to maximize it. The FastPass at Disneyland is also currently different than DisneyWorld in that they still use tickets. This means that you can have one person run and grab FastPasses using everyone’s tickets and not have to run the whole family to all of the different spots. We call this our “runner” which is generally my husband. He runs to grab FastPasses for any ride in the park once we are “open” to get more FastPasses. Also, you can claim a FastPass every two-hours or if your next FastPass time is before two-hours, you can get another one once the time slot has started. Your FastPass ticket will tell you the time you can get another one. Pay attention and send the runner to get them as often as possible. It never hurts to have them. Also, they do run out of FastPasses for each ride. They will run out during this busiest time period. Another reason to immediately get FastPasses right when the park opens and stay on top of the rides.
- Hit the big rides in the first 2 hours – This is especially important if you are wanting to ride rides and especially if you want to ride the big rides. When you first arrive, immediately go to the busiest rides first. You may be able to get two, possibly three in before it’s really, really, busy and lines exceed 1-hour – with the popular ones reaching 2 or more hour wait. For Disneyland, the rides* (*means they do have a FastPass, so you can plan accordingly) that will fill up the fastest in order (so hit these first): *HyperSpace Mountain, *Indiana Jones, *Star Tours, *Haunted Mansion, *Splash Mountain, Matterhorn, *Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, (oh, and don’t forget It’s A Small World – EXTRA long lines at Christmastime!). Pirates of the Carribean, Jingle Cruise, and Autopia have very long lines. Pirates of the Carribean moves quickly along with Jingle Cruise, but Autopia is pretty slow. Finding Nemo, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are some of the longest kids rides (besides It’s a Small World). For Disney’s California Adventure, the busiest rides are *Radiator Springs Racers (the FastPass Distribution is by It’s Tough To Be A Bug in Bug’s Land area), *Hollywood Tower of Terror (and it will be VERY, VERY, VERY busy during this time because it is closing for good January 2nd, 2017 – so it will probably be busier than Radiator Springs for the first time), Soaring Around the World, Toy Story Midway Mania, *Goofy’s Sky School, *California Screamin’, *World of Color and of course….Frozen.
- If you are with little kids– hit the rides early as possible in Fantasyland before it reaches its peak around 11 am. The lines will become so ghastly long that you can barely breathe. In California Adventure, plan to hit Frozen characters first, with a Disney Junior show and Frozen at the top of your list early in the day before you miss your chance to see this beloved young kid spots!
- Enjoy the little-known spots – This goes hand-in-hand with #6, but we loved the canoes, Pirates Liar on Tom Sawyer Island, The Mark Twain Riverboat, The Sailing Ship Columbia, and the barnyard (petting zoo) behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Disneyland Railroad. BUT…these are all closed right now (you can visit the Riverboat, but it doesn’t move) as they are all under construction for Star Wars Land. And friends, since I won’t be there during the construction for that week between Christmas and the New Year…all I can tell you is to find some find secrets around the park like Tarzan’s Treehouse, Enchanted Tiki Room, the Star Wars Launch Bay, Star Wars Path of the Jedi, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White – all of these will be busy, but not too busy. For California Adventure, enjoy the attractions inside Animation Academy. Yes, this is where the Anna and Elsa meet and greet are located, but also Turtle Talk with Crush, Animation Academy, Sorcerer’s Workshop – it’s a nice place to get away from the crowds, be inside and explore all of the fun sites. Also, our kids love Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and perfect for busy days!
- Take it easy and soak it all in – At Disneyland, once the crowds hit a peak after it has been open for 3-4 hours, it’s a great time to settle down, enjoy eats early (by early, right after the peak of the crowds hits), enjoy Main Street – there are some AWESOME shops, windows, and fun to explore. Toon town has a fun play place. It’s busy, but not as busy as Fantasyland. Watch the street performers, get in a spot for the parade and shows early. Grab some food and sit and soak it in while you watch all of the happenings around you! If you have extra people in your party that are willing to sit, they can hold your parade spots, fireworks spots, and other fun.
- Find a show spot by 6 pm – Find a spot for the night shows starting at 6 pm. We have done this by having one person in our party (who is done riding and running around) get a nice spot at one of the restaurants with a good show view). At Disney’s California Adventure, you can get a FastPass for the World of Color. But you will want to arrive even early within your time for the best spot. In addition, watching the backside of World of Color from Paradise Pier. It wasn’t as good for viewing of the actual show, but it was a completely different and fun experience. We would recommend this only if you have seen World of Color before as you have to see the show first, but it is a cool experience and hardly any people or crowds to fight with!
What tips do you have to fight the crowds!