Before I begin, in order to quell any comments about how California Adventure wasn't opened until 2001. I include it with Disneyland because, unlike the name "Walt Disney World" which encompasses 6 different parks (only one of which was developed while Walt was alive), Disneyland is the name of only one park. It is only fair to include what has now become an integral part of a "Disneyland" trip. Despite the additions to these original parks, I would still consider them to be "Walt's babies" because they came from his amazing mind.
In Part 1, I talked about determining the length of your stay and the purpose of your trip. I also discussed which Disney Park is ideal depending on the length of your stay. I explained that, if you're planning a trip to WDW, it's almost essential to include a period of break time in with your heavy park-going. In this post, I will explain why it is essential, as well as the best times of year to visit.
"What type of weather do I want?"
With the sheer excitement one experiences just planning a Disney vacation, not to mention all of the details, and the mile-long list of things to pack, it's easy to forget one key factor of any vacation: the weather. Sure, if you're a meticulous packer, climate may have crossed your mind while outfit-planning. But if you're anything like me, you pack for every contingency so the extent of the weather consideration is hot and cold, wet and dry. However, it's easy to miss the fact that you are most likely going to be immersed in this weather from the time you leave your hotel room to the time you return. I use the word "immersed" literally, as often one can feel like they're plunging into a Yellowstone hot spring or Death Valley the moment they leave the comfort of the resort's air conditioning.
Case in point, gift shops at the Orlando International Airport bombard you with picturesque post cards of scenic vistas and magical beaches, and cute little tank tops spelling "Orlando" in eye-catching rhinestones. You can't help but feel ecstatic about the grand adventures or hours of leisure ahead of you. But once you collect your luggage and head out to Disney's Magical Express, unless you live anywhere near the Equator or Southeastern Unites States, you're probably not going to be prepared for the amount of humidity that is going to hit you the moment those automatic doors whoosh open. I liken it to stepping into a steam sauna, not just with the heat, but you're moist and sticky the minute you leave the air conditioning.
Depending on the month in which you take your vacation the weather can be absolutely stifling. Ironically, June, in addition to being the month when school lets out for the summer and most families take their vacations, is also the start of hurricane season in Florida, which means not just hurricanes but also wave after wave of tropical storms. Unfortunately, ponchos only work for keeping dry from the waist up, and to be honest plastic, heat, and moisture do not make a pleasant mixture. In addition, thanks to the ample air conditioning on rides and inside stores your body is in a perpetual state of temperature flux. If you decide to take a trip to WDW during the Summer, expect to spend at least 50% of your trip dodging the rain and the other 50% trying to beat the heat/humidity. On the upside, the rain is often cool and refreshing, so if you're the type who doesn't mind walking around wet most of the day, then this is the season for you. Summer/Fall weather in Orlando is also why I emphasize the need for a day of rest after two days of hitting the Parks like Rapunzel hitting Eugene with her trusty frying pan. Hurricane season lasts till November, so if you're thinking of a Fall vacation, you might want to think again. If I had to choose an ideal time of year to go I would choose late Winter. Florida has dry Winters and often early Springs, so in late Winter you are like to encounter near-perfect temperatures.
On the other side of the country, Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California, has a very different climate outlook. Everyone associates California with sunny, temperate weather and for the most part, that is accurate. However, Disneyland is located approximately 15 miles from the ocean, so Summer months tend to be hot because of the lack of sea breezes reaching that far inland. Luckily, unlike WDW, the humidity does not match the temperature, so that is one positive. Another positive is that it cools off enough after the sun goes down to make evenings in the Park quite pleasant. If you don't mind the heat, then Summer at Disneyland is not-to-be-missed. Mid-Summer to Fall often brings the notorious California wildfires, and the brutal, hot and dry Sana Ana winds which fuel the spread of them. Evenings often don't bring a reprieve, either.
Winters, on the other hand, are generally mild and are the rainy season, but thanks to an almost constant exchange between El Nino and La Nina, rainfall is often below average. Spring is probably the most ideal time of the year to visit Disneyland (if you don't mind all of the Project Grad festivities and Spring Breakers which I will cover in the conclusion of this series of posts) thanks to mild temperatures and slim chance for rain. Second to that would be Fall and Winter in a tie, simply because of the seasonal change that happens within the park. Unlike, in the Magic Kingdom where they have a dedication to the world-at-large and only the Parks get a sprinkling of Holiday Magic, at Disneyland, Space Mountain and The Haunted Mansion both get their own seasonal overlays! In New Orleans Square, Jack Skellington turns the legendary Haunted Mansion into the Nightmare Before Christmas, complete with snow-covered Spiral Hill, Santa Jack, and gingerbread-scented ballroom! On the other side of the Park, Space Mountain takes a journey to a spooky new galaxy in, Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy. And this year, for the first time in 16 years, the Halloween atmosphere will drift over to California Adventure! Cars Land is getting a special overlay and will also include costumed characters and Luigi's Honkin' Haul-O-Ween. Even the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride is joining in the fun with Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark.
So, if you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation to Disneyland/California Adventure I would definitely recommend waiting for the Spring months. That way you get to see the attractions in their original form, as well as most likely the smallest crowds of the year. In the conclusion post I will discuss why crowd size is something worth considering, as well as how they will affect your trip.