Grad Nights at Disneyland

Disneyland Grad Nights make many guests nervous. The parks fill with ALL THOSE TEENAGERS and many people aren’t quite sure what to do.

I can help you. I’ll tell you when the grad nights land on the calendar, what each night will look like and how you can utilize your time to get the best experience during these celebrations.

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Grad Night Overview

Disneyland hosts Grad Nights for students to celebrate their big achievement in a fun, safe place. Kids look forward to this for years.

Grad Nights began in the early 1960’s at Disneyland. For many years, the parties lasted overnight and into the early morning hours. Kids were required to meet dress code standards. Popular music groups played to adoring crowds.

The event was located at Disneyland up until 2013, when it was moved over to California Adventure. With a newly redesigned DCA and the opening of uber popular Cars Land, graduates got to explore a fun, new adventure.

At Grad Nights today, students receive the following with their ($92) ticket:

  • Grad Night ticket, granting access to Disneyland and California Adventure during normal operating park hours.
  • A private Disney California Adventure experience from 10:00PM to 2:00AM
  • DCA attractions, dance parties, and character meets
  • Grad Nite GOODNITE, an exclusive showing of World of Color just for Seniors

So, what this means is that grads can arrive at park opening on these days, however, the majority tend to arrive late afternoon. Grads should be chaperoned during these events, although most groups split up allowing grads to wander on their own. The parks require 1 chaperone per 10 students. Chaperones must be 25 years old or older.

At 9:00pm, grads are encouraged (but not required to) leave Disneyland for California Adventure so they can take advantage of a park open only to them. On Grad Nights, DCA will close early to accommodate these events.

When Grad Nights Take Place

Grad Nights fall into May and June each year. I’ve noted each of these nights on my planning calendar.

2017 dates include the following:

May

Friday, May 5, 2017
Saturday, May 6, 2017
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Friday, May 19, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

June

Friday, June 2, 2017
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Friday, June 9, 2017
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017
Saturday, June 17, 2017

Your Best Strategy

Follow these suggestions for the best experience when Disneyland is hosting Grad Night.

Arrive Early

As with any other park day, I recommend arriving an hour prior to official park opening. If you have access to Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour, arrive 30 minutes prior to that time. On days including a Grad Night that evening, arriving early is more important than ever. It’s in your best interest to really take advantage of the earlier hours in case the crowds that evening become too much and you want to go elsewhere.

Start in the Right Direction

If you have the option to choose – or if you have park hopper tickets – I recommend you start a Grad Night day at California Adventure. DCA will close early that night, so many guests with one-park-per-day tickets will choose Disneyland over DCA. Grads who arrive for full park day visits will likely start at Disneyland because they know they’ll have DCA to themselves that evening. Also, you can get SO MUCH DONE at DCA by early afternoon. If you choose to go elsewhere that evening – to Disneyland or out of the parks entirely – you’ll leave feeling accomplished with many or all DCA attractions complete. Review this post on how to start your day at DCA. Following this plan will make all the difference in your visit.

If you have one-park-per-day tickets and want to stay late, Disneyland may be a better place for you to start. Review this post on how to start your day at Disneyland.

Use FASTPASSES

Every successful park day includes the use of FASTPASSES. Be sure to know how to use them, which attractions include a Single Rider line (and what that means) and how to use Rider Swap (and what that means). This post shares all of that with you and more. If the new Disney MaxPass arrives prior to or during the Grad Night season, I’ll be in the parks immediately after to research and have you prepared or your visit. Find out more about MaxPass in my FASTPASS post.

Avoid Big Commitments in the Parks

As much as I love dining packages, I would avoid reserving these on a Grad Night if possible. Some guests – even with the most ambitious plans – simply get overwhelmed with the students and decide to leave early. Save dining packages for another day during your visit. Also consider watching the Main Street Electrical Parade on another evening. Many graduates will want to see this parade before heading over to DCA, adding to the already crowded show.

Have a Plan or a Backup Plan

If you’re sure you will want to leave the park early that night, consider making reservations in Downtown Disney. There are so many fun places to eat. The Disneyland Resort Hotels have many options, too, including dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel. Take a look at my post encompassing all dining at the Disneyland Resort to see what works for your crew.

Only make dining reservations if you’re confident you will show up to your meal. If you fail to cancel within 24 hours of your reservation, Disney charges you $10 per person.

If you don’t feel comfortable making a reservation prior to this day, and you find yourself the evening of a Grad Night wanting to dine in Downtown Disney or at one of the DLR Hotels, use the free Disneyland app to look for last minute reservations. I’ve often secured a time an hour prior to dining just by searching on my mobile device. I much prefer this over waiting for a table. And, Downtown Disney restaurants can get busy quickly.

Consider more of Downtown Disney – beyond dining – for entertainment outside of the park. Shopping, Build-a-Bear, the Lego Store and more will keep everyone busy. If you don’t feel comfortable with making a solid plan including a reservation, have a backup plan with a few ideas of what you could do if the crowds exceed your patience.

Other Tips

*I’m a fan of Grad Nights and love that Disney honors students in this way. Most people who don’t care for these events have two concerns – park crowding and students’ behavior. While there isn’t a lot we can do about the capacity of the park, if you have issues with guests, alert a cast member. Disney asks chaperones to work with them in keeping grads in line. A cast member can narrow down the responsible party if kids are misbehaving.

*These months leading up to summer will bring in crowds, with or without Grad Nights. Know what to do at Disneyland and DCA on super crowded days.

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15 COMMENTS

    • Hi, there.

      Just checked my post for 2017 grad nights and it was published 3.14.2017. So, the dates arrived just shortly before that. I’ll update this post as soon as I get the info.

  1. Wed May 24th is Grad night but also EMH day at DCA. Originally we were going to start at the park that doesn’t have the extra hour in the morning but that would put us at DL on a grad night day. What is the better option: DL on a Grad Night day or DCA on the day they have EMH without those privileges. We just have 2 days and want to experience both DCA and DL. We do plan on getting to the park an hour early either way.

  2. Hi! Are there any patterns of some Grad Nights being busier than others? For example, a Thursday vs a Friday? Or, early May vs mid-June? Thank you!

  3. Hello! I see there will be a special showing of world of color for seniors that night. Can general public attend this? Will there be other showings of world of color that night for public? Or would it be best to see world of color on Monday or Tuesday night? (Does world of color run on Monday or Tuesday nights in early May?) Thanks so much Casey!

    • Hi, there! General public cannot attend the WOC screening for grads. If there is a show listed on the schedule, it is for the general public. Private party shows (grad nights are considered private) are not listed.

      It runs each night you’re there. So, you can choose which day works best for your crew.

  4. Thanks for this information! We arrive around lunch time on a Grad Night Saturday. I was trying to decide whether or not to get a ticket for that day (it would be the difference between a 2 day with no EMH or a 3 day with an EMH). It sounds like it wouldn’t really be worth it to try to enter the parks that afternoon, would it? (I also will be traveling with just my 15yo daughter who might be mortified to be in the parks with her mom with all of those teens around.) Now to figure out what to do with ourselves that afternoon!

  5. It’s our last night in the park so we are planning on doing MSEP and fireworks. I booked a dining package at Blue Bayou at 4:50. I’m hopeful that if we arrive early and do all of the major rides (We will have done all of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland the day prior) in the morning that we should be fine. Currently, I have Indiana Jones, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain as part of our morning touring.I’m thinking lunch, head back to DLH for naps and then back to the parks for Mickey and the Magical Map and Toontown during the afternoon before our reservation. I am hopeful that having a reserved spot to sit for the parade will make it seem less chaotic. We plan on watching the fireworks from the back of main street so we can make a quick exit. Do you think this sounds like a good plan to avoid the larger crowds? I don’t really mind teenagers, I just don’t want to feel too crowded!

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