I see by the little date thing in corner of my computer that the calendar has rolled over and it is now July. Which gets me to thinking - if you ask the man (or woman) on the street, not the Disneyland veteran but just an everyday person who plans a summer vacation, how about spending your summer vacation in Disneyland - you are many times going to get an answer like this - "Too crowded, too hot....". I'm here to say "not so fast partner".
Now I'm not here to give a money back guarantee but Disneyland in July, the peak of summer, doesn't necessarily mean a hot, miserable, crowded trip because quite the opposite can be true. Granted, Mrs DisneylandTraveler and I tend to stay away from Disneyland in the summer but it has more to do with probably being able to get a better deal, especially with hotel rooms, during a different part of year. Our summer avoidance of the place has nothing to do with crowds and maybe only a little bit about the weather.
The pictures in this post were shot near the end of July 2005, Disneyland's 50th Anniversary year. A whole group of us went down and split the cost of a 3 bedroom suite at the Disneyland Hotel (plus another room). I think the count was 16 people including about a half dozen or so kids. It was awhile ago now. Maybe there were more.
We really had a great trip, a fun time for all. It lasted 6 days with one day going to Universal Studios (why?). And one of the things I remember most about that trip was that the crowd level was quite comfortable and manageable. Yes, don't get me wrong, it was busy but a Disneyland veteran knows the ins and outs of dealing with crowds. With an early start and some good planning, a lot can be accomplished on the busiest of Disneyland days. One thing the summer months do for the average vacationer is block out a huge population of Southern California annual pass holders. Generally, this group is blocked from the park from about mid-June until mid-August. If you don't think it makes a big difference, guess again. We were there for a June trip a few years ago that crossed over the days when the SoCal pass holder block out went into effect. The day we arrived, we were greeted with a 60 minute wait for Pirates of the Caribbean. The next day, after the block out went into effect, the wait was down to about 15 minutes. Night and day. The only pass holders that the month of July is completely open to is the premium pass holders (who are now paying $649 a year for that privilege). The Deluxe pass holders can get into the park mostly during the week days after the 4th of July holiday. Socal pass holders - see you at the end of August. Note: I repeat, it is still busy in July so if you want that special dinner at the Blue Bayou - make a reservation. Also note that the Fourth of July holiday is extremely busy at Disneyland due to special patriotic firework shows that Disney puts on. It's not uncommon for Disneyland to be filled to the max on the Fourth of July.
Which brings us to the weather. "It's hot in Southern California in the summertime." Yes, it can be quite warm with weather sometimes approaching close to 90 degrees. But trust me on this, that is more the exception rather than the rule. Since Disneyland is near the coast, coastal breezes generally provide some much needed air conditioning. It works generally like this - at night as the sun begins to set, the gentle winds (hardly noticeable) cool things down significantly. It is not uncommon to need a sweat shirt in Disneyland once darkness arrives even in July. It will remain cool overnight and into the next morning when the park day begins. Get there early. Once it gets to about 11 a.m., things will begin to heat up until nightfall once again. Knowledgeable Disney veterans often use this time to go back to their hotels and use the pool or take a nap. Me? I find a nice place in the shade to sit and people watch or use the heat of the day to head to the rides and attractions that feature man-made air conditioning for long periods of time. Long rides like Pirates, Haunted Mansion, or small world are excellent choices to beat the heat a bit. A ride on the Mark Twain steamship can also provide relief. Shows like the Tiki Room and Lincoln are also excellent choices. (But I'd rather burn to a crisp in the mid-day sun than see Captain EO again). If you want to get something to eat, think about the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland - supposedly the best air conditioning of any Disneyland dining facility (though I haven't made a scientific study of this).
It should be noted that the heat index kind of builds in Anaheim through the summer. August will tend to be hotter than July and the beginning of September can be hotter than both of them as this is the time of year of the infamous Santa Ana winds that blow in from the desert. Now you are talking some heat because the coastal breeze stops and it just stays hot, night and day.
So, while it wouldn't be my first month of choice to go to Disneyland, if the circumstances and opportunities presented themselves, I wouldn't hesitate about going to Disneyland in July. Wouldn't mind it a bit.