Why May Is the Best Month to Visit Disneyland in 2024

Don't miss the fireworks show, which has a different soundtrack depending where in Disneyland you view it.
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Written by Sally French
Lead Writer/Spokesperson
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
Assistant Assigning Editor
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For a brief period this month, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, is bringing together a trifecta of entertainment across both of its theme parks.

Disneyland regularly hosts special festivals at the park for Halloween and other holidays, but this is one of the rare times of the year when visitors can experience two festivals at once.

This year’s Pixar Fest and Seasons of the Force feature two beloved franchises — Pixar and Star Wars — through over-the-top food and meet-and-greets with characters never seen before in the parks. Unique entertainment options include a fireworks show that depending on where you view it is either Pixar- or Star Wars-themed with two separate soundtracks.

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And that’s not all. One of Disney’s most iconic nighttime shows, “Fantasmic!,” returns in May.

Plus, there’s a ticket offer for Southern California residents that could make experiencing this somewhat affordable — at least by Disney standards.

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What to expect when visiting Disneyland in May

Pixar Fest kicks off

A sculpture sitting on the esplanade between Disney's two California theme parks pays homage to all things Pixar. (Photo by Sally French)

From now through Aug. 4, Disneyland Resort is sporting a new makeover for Pixar Fest, a festival devoted to films made by the company’s computer-animation subsidiary, Pixar Animation Studios. NerdWallet got an inside look during a press event for the festival's kickoff.

As part of Pixar Fest, there’s an abundance of Pixar-themed entertainment, including a dance party and a new daytime parade. Character meet-and-greets will include Pixar characters such as Wade and Ember from “Elemental" for the first time at the Disneyland Resort.

You’ll also see decorations throughout both theme parks, including a 25-foot tall sculpture of the iconic Pixar Ball outside Disneyland’s main gate.

An assortment of desserts is on sale for a limited time during Pixar Fest. (Photo by Sally French)

One of the big draws of Disney festivals is the food. For example, you might see Mr. Potato Head-inspired churros, which top the iconic snack with, yes, potato chips.

On May 10, a series of marketplace stands will open at Disney California Adventure Park with even more limited-time food offerings based on some of Pixar’s newer films, including Hanger Management inspired by “Inside Out.”

One of the most popular pieces of merchandise for sale is a Pizza Planet truck, seen in the film "Toy Story." (Photo by Sally French)

Then, there are the fireworks. Tinker Bell is the usual star of Disney fireworks shows, but during Pixar Fest, Buzz takes the torch and flies across the sky between Matterhorn Bobsleds and Sleeping Beauty Castle. Later, Carl and Ellie’s house featured in “Up” floats above the castle.

Season of the Force continues

For fans who prefer Chewbacca over Sulley as their hairy creature of choice, May also features a Star Wars-themed festival called Season of the Force. Season of the Force runs through June 2, providing about a month where both festivals overlap.

“The two festivals aren’t actually intended to interact with each other,” says Tracy Halas, creative director at Disney Live Entertainment. “It’s really just an opportunity to share everything and have something for everybody at the parks.”

And there are plenty of Star Wars fans, indeed. After all, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” still holds the title of highest-grossing film of all time in the domestic market, according to Box Office Mojo.

Among the festival's star attractions is a temporary retheming of the Space Mountain ride to Hyperspace Mountain, where the soundtrack now includes the films’ iconic theme song. There’s also Star Wars-themed food, including a bantha burger based on the furry, horned mammals that roam the fictional planet of Tatooine.

While those Disneyland special events spotlight two of Disney’s biggest franchises, that’s still not the only reason why May could be the best month for Disneyland fans.

Fantasmic! returns

“Fantasmic!”, a nighttime show at Disneyland involving costumed characters, stunts and pyrotechnics, went dark after a massive, fire-breathing dragon prop fell victim to its own flames during a live performance in April 2023. That performance was cut short, marking the last show for more than a year. That changes on May 24, when the show returns.

Ways to save money at Disneyland

Southern California resident tickets

Disney uses variable pricing on its theme park tickets, where higher-demand days command higher prices. Disneyland prices its one-day admission tickets across seven tiers, ranging from Tier 0 (least expensive) to Tier 6 (most expensive).

The average single-day ticket price in May is $162, about 7.4% cheaper than July’s average of $175, according to a NerdWallet analysis of Disney ticket prices.

For locals, a limited-time ticket option offers even lower prices. Southern California residents can purchase a three-day ticket package that costs $225 for weekday tickets ($75 per day) or $275 ($92 per day) for the version that offers weekend access, too.

The last day to use tickets sold through that promotion is June 2.

Hotel discounts

Then, there's another offer available to anyone — not just local residents — that could make trips more affordable. Hotel stays on Sunday through Thursday nights are as much as 15% off for trips booked via Disney's website through June 3 and completed by June 7.

Hotel prices can be the biggest cost in a Disneyland trip — more so than other expenses like food and theme park tickets. The weeknight hotel deal could make them more affordable. Plus, weekday theme park tickets tend to be cheaper than weekends, adding to the savings.

Beware of crowds

But for all the goodness set for May, you might have to contend with crowds. The ticket prices of Fantasmic!'s reopening weekend falls into the highest pricing tier, suggesting Disney is bracing for big crowds on that weekend.

High school students also descend upon Disney California Adventure on certain nights in May and June for Grad Nite. There may be bigger daytime crowds if students arrive early, and the park will close earlier than usual. This year’s Grad Nites are set for May 10, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 23, 28 and 31, as well as June 2, 5, 7, 9, 12 and 14.

Plus, with Southern California resident tickets expiring on June 2 and the summer blackout dates starting May 31 for certain annual pass holders, many people might squeeze in a visit in May.

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