Disney’s Four-Season Calendar for Groups

Thinking of a meeting at a Disney resort? Or a theme park event during your next Orlando or Anaheim conference? The obvious advantage of a Disney-inclusive meeting is the built-in entertainment. Special group activities are easily accommodated by Disney staff. Or even easier, simply supply your attendees with a fast pass and a map, and brace yourself for lots of smiles. You can go full-on Disney by staying and meeting at one of three of their hotels at Disneyland in Anaheim, or choose from a whopping 29 hotels at Orlando’s Disney World. Otherwise, you’ll find a slew of properties surrounding both theme parks.

But when to go? Every season brings something different to Disney, which offers a calendar of unique events and celebrations throughout the year, while the rush of park goers ebbs and flows depending on the month or week. As a general rule, if you want small crowds and short lines, the best time for a Disney meeting is when the kids are in school, which also tends to be when airfare and hotel rates are best. But there are other perks and considerations for going at different times of the year.

Here’s what to expect at the happiest place on earth during the different seasons of the year, and the best time for your group to go.

If you were ever entranced by Disney’s incredible landscaping, this is a great season to come. Disney World celebrates spring with the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, from March 1 through May 31, which features more than 70 topiaries, flower towers, wildlife habitats, as well as gardening seminars and how-to demonstrations. Farm-to-table group dining is also a feature of the event, as well as outdoor food and drink kiosks.

In Disneyland, the California Adventure Food & Wine Festival runs from mid-March to mid-April, and features California wines (and craft beers) paired with chef creations of the state’s unique food offerings. Attendees can enjoy cooking demos, food booths and wine tastings.

Outside of spring break for visiting students, it’s generally a quiet time for a Disney meeting. The weather at both parks is mild, from the 60s and 70s in March, and pushing up to the 80s in May. One thing to look out for are the popular grad nights sprinkled throughout May and into June, when high school seniors descend, and portions of the park are roped off for private events.

With kids are out of school and families on vacation, the park is at its most crowded during Disney’s high season. It’s also hotter, especially at Disney World, where temps can push up towards the 90s in the middle of the day and a brief afternoon shower is a common occurrence. But there’s good news here. Summer is the best time to take advantage of two amazing and massive water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, complete with a nearly half-mile inner tube ride, water slide, wave pool and snorkeling among stingrays and leopard sharks.

Another plus during summer are longer opening hours, which gives your group more playtime after a daylong meeting. The Fantasmic! laser light and fireworks extravaganza offers two shows during the height of summer, as does the night parade at the Magic Kingdom. The later show is often less crowded.

As the crowds and the temperatures recede, the Disney parks gear up for their annual Halloween celebrations, which run from mid-September through October. The parks are specially decorated for the occasion, with a pumpkin festival along Main Street, U.S.A., an after dark ghoul parade at the Magic Kingdom, a happiest haunts tour and rides made-over with haunted sections. Mickey’s (not-so-scary) Halloween Party takes place on select nights, which includes a Halloween Screams fireworks show and an appearance from the Headless Horseman.

From August 31 to November 13, Disney World is the scene of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at World Showcase, which features adult beverage and cheese seminars, cooking demos from top chefs, and 30 international food kiosks. Pair your meeting with a selection of food and wine events, or let your attendees choose their own schedules.

From Thanksgiving through the Christmas season, the crowds return and the parks are abuzz with holiday activity during possibly the most magical time of the year at Disney. Both places are just so dang sparkly, with lights and decorations added to just about every nook and cranny of the parks, which culminates in the spectacular World of Color nighttime show. Groups can take a behind-the-scenes tour of how all these crazy lights and decorations come together.

January and February are two of the quietest months to visit for a meeting, though some of the shows and attractions may be closed; it’s the time when the park does most of its renovations. Disneyland celebrates Lunar New Year over a two-week period during this time, with food, decorations and attractions all geared toward the Asian holiday.

Photo credits: iStock.com

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and blogger based in San Jose, California. He has covered the meetings and hospitality industry extensively since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @jcax01

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