What to expect and plan for a wet/rainy day at Disneyland
A well known song is titled, “It Never Rains in Southern California”. That might be the case on most occasions from May to September, but not true during the winter months. For those who would rather avoid the extreme heat of summer, just don’t want to deal with summer crowds, or want to enjoy the holiday specific decorations, then the rainier winter/spring months are the preferred time to visit Disneyland in Anaheim. The weather in Southern California can be varied from October to June. It can be 85° F (30°C) one day and the next only have a high of 55° F (13° C) with rain and wind. If you happen to hit Disneyland on one of the latter days, it can be wonderful. Many of the local Annual Passholders (AP's), that make up a significant number of guests on most days, will often avoid the parks on a wet day. The crowds can thin dramatically, but there will also be some ride closures. The key is to be prepared and have a plan.
Feet: It’s said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” What constitutes “good clothing” during those rainy days? Let’s start from the bottom up and recommend rain boots. There’s something really awful about wet feet inside wet socks inside wet shoes. Some people bring an extra pair of socks and shoes, but a good pair of rain boots makes the day so much more enjoyable. Those puddles are no problem. Dry feet makes everything good. If you’re unwilling or don’t have room in your suitcase to bring a big pair of rain boots for everyone, please do yourself a favor and invest in waterproof shoe covers. Many options can be found on the internet (Amazon).
Body: There’s a big debate about whether ponchos are best or umbrellas. For me it depends on the wind. If there’s a lot of wind, an umbrella will keep your head and shoulders dry, but that sideways rain can soak you from your waste down. A good and proper length poncho can protect you from your head to mid/low-thigh. You can also get pretty good rain coats, many of which are long enough to cover your legs, which I think are the best. What I do is wear a rain coat for the light rain days, add a poncho for really heavy rain (it seems only the raincoats with plastic, that are horribly hot, completely block out the moisture) and bring an umbrella in my bag, just in case. One thing nice about a poncho, is can be put under you if loading on a ride with a wet seat. All you need is to stay dry walking around to only sit in a puddle of water—no fun.
Head: Obviously an umbrella will really help to keep your head dry, but for a poncho or rain jacket to adequately do the job, you need to bring a hat with a visor, like a baseball cap. With a poncho or most rain jackets with a hood, the hood will either cover your face, making it impossible to see, or you’ll have to keep pushing it back to see, thus defeating the purpose of the hood as your head and face get wet. By having a hat with a visor, the hood can sit on the visor part of the hat eliminating it from getting in your face without you getting wet.
During rain many rides will close for safety reasons. This is a list of rides that will close for different rainy conditions.
Light Rain: Alice in Wonderland, Teacups in Disneyland (DL), and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters in California Adventure (DCA) will close even if it’s just sprinkling or if the ground is wet. The slightest amount of moisture will close these rides.
Heavy Rain: as the rain gets heavier more rides will close, including Autopia, Storybook Boats, Casey Junior, Carousel in DL and Racers in DCA. If the rain gets really bad Disney will also close Silly Symphony Swings and Golden Zephyr in DCA.
Lightning: As soon as lightening starts, then Big Thunder, Submarines, and Gadget Coaster in DL will close. In DCA, Incredicoaster*, Pal Around, and Goofy’s will close.
*As a note, Incredicoaster in the rain can be very painful, as the rain feels like needles being stuck into your face, especially on the front row. Do NOT ride in the front row during the rain, unless you have something to protect your face. The other rows can be bad, but the even rows will provide more protection from the rain.
Characters who either wander (Gaston, Jack Sparrow, Peter Pan...) or who meet without a covering (Spiderman, Captain America...) will be unavailable. Those who meet inside, including Anna & Elsa, Princess Faire princesses, and Star Wars characters, will continue to have meet and greets in the rain.
Parades will not proceed during rainy conditions or if the parade route is wet and slick. This is for the safety of the cast members.
Street Perfomers that can not be protected from the weather or who do any kind of dancing, like News Boys, will not proceed, but those that can work in a protected area, like Dapper Dans, will continue to perform.
Fireworks do not get cancelled for rain, but will be cancelled for wind at higher elevations, and since often wind accompanies rain, they may get cancelled. Disneyland generally does not announce a cancellation until within 30 minutes of the scheduled start.
These weather conditions can be further complicated with the scheduled ride closures and already limited entertainment offerings that often occur during the off-season, winter months. On a recent day in Disneyland, with heavy rain and lightning, only 6 rides in DCA and 13 rides in DL were open. Also most characters were unavailable and the parade and most street performances were cancelled. Several rides, including Grizzly Rapids and Small World were down for maintenance, and Space had a 2 day closure for a misshap, and Indy was closing for hours on end, whether it was rain related or not is not clear. It was a good thing that the crowds were low because with that many attractions closed or otherwise unavailable, it would have been terrible. Even as it was Toy Story, Soarin’ and Guardians, which all remain open during poor weather, had unusually long lines.
What should your strategy be? If the rides that will close for any moisture are a priority to you, and you only have 1 day, try to do these rides before the rain comes, but keep in mind, everyone else will be doing this too. On this recent wet day (rain was not expected until 11 am), Alice had a 40 minute wait 20 minutes after park opening, which is VERY unusual, even on a heavy crowd day, as everyone tried to get that done before the rain came. Luigi’s also had a 25 minute wait within the first hour of park opening. If you have more than one day, or it’s not a priority, then skip it for a better weather day. The other things to do is watch more of the shows. Frozen allows for an hour of a warm and dry attraction. Spend time in Animation Academy or Star Wars Launch Bay. Do the Tiki Room or Lincoln. Watch a show in the Royal Theater or Golden Horseshoe or Magical Map. Eating a leisurely meal can also be pleasant. Of course go on the rides that are still open. Also keep in mind, that as the rain gets heavy guests will leave, but it’s rare that it rains ALL day (watch a weather app to see what to expect), so often if you can just survive the few hours of rain, you can then be left with an empty park, all be it a wet park, but with most rides coming back online. That is when it’s magical. Just bring a washcloth or hand towel in a zip lock bag to wipe down the seats.
If you have small children, check out my follow-up post on how to manage the rain with children.
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