Grad Nites at Disneyland

Updated August 27, 2020

Disneyland Grad Nites 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 Nite Overview

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

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

  • Grad Nite 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.

2021 Grad Nites

Find grad Nite dates for 2021 at this link.

Your Best Strategy

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

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 Nite 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 Nite 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.


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, including how MaxPass works.

Avoid Big Commitments in the Parks

As much as I love dining packages, I would avoid reserving these on a Grad Nite 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 a parade or show on another evening. Many graduates will want to see parades and shows 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 Nite 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, bowling, 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 Nites 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.

*The 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.

Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation


  1. Hello! I’m leaving on a trip to DisneyLand this week and will be in the parks May 27th- May 30th. I’m trying to decide whether or not I should spend 3 days in Disneyland and 1 day in DCA, or 2 days in Disneyland and 2 days in DCA. The Grad Nites are on the 28th and 29th, so I was thinking of using my Magic Morning hours on the 30th when all the teens are tired. I also don’t have any park hopper tickets. My question is whether it’s worth spending 3 days at Disneyland and if so which days should I spend at Disneyland and which days should I spend in DCA.

  2. Hi Casey! Thank you for all your helpful tips! My family and I will be staying at Disneyland Hotel Sunday, June 9th thru Friday, June 14th. There’s a couple grad nights while we are there. I am planning for us to go over to Universal Studios for the day on Tuesday, the 11th to avoid Grad Night that day. However, regarding Wednesday the 12th, I was thinking of going to the Disneyland parks early that morning before the Grad Night crowds come then hanging out at the hotel pools in the afternoon. Any suggestions on what we should consider doing that evening (or even if we should plan something else that morning)?
    Thanks so much for your advice!!

  3. HI! great website 😉
    We are arriving May 7 at 3pm , and leaving Anahiem May 10 at 12 noon. We have a 3 day pass. Can’t decide between going to DL just for the evening of the 7th after a long day of traveling ( knowing that we need to go to bed early) or the morning of the 10th (just for 8-noon) knowing that it is grad nite? This will be our first trip to the park, 2 adults and a five year old


  4. Thanks so much for your article. We are travelling all the way from Austria, we will be in california only from the 10th of may to the 12.
    I really wanna take my son only one day to the disneyland park. Which day would be the best to avoid crowds and really enjoy everything, friday 10, saturday 11 or sunday 12 of may? What is worst? Crowded saturday? Friday grad night? Mothers day?

  5. If we go during may but are at the parks on days that Disney isn’t hosting a grad night, are the crowds a bit lower and less crazy?

  6. We are going Friday may 25-28, 2018. I was looking and saw that some people the memorial weekend is not that crowed. What is you thinking on this weekend?

  7. We will get a 3 day park hopper for 29th, 30th and 31st of May, the first two days of which are grad nites. I had no idea what this meant when I saw it listed on the Park calendar, so I’m really grateful for your helpful article. I’m not scared of rowdy teenagers, just want to do as much as we can in the time. My plan is to use early entry at Disneyland on the 29th, go on as many rides we can until the park gets too busy, then chill in the afternoon. Similarly on the 30th we will go as early as possible to DCA and go on as much as we can, again taking a break when things get too busy. On the 31st we will start a bit later and have a catch up day, doing anything we missed out on or want to do again, then since this isn’t a grad nite, plan to see the parades in the evening. My question is, is it possible or practical to see all the parades (two parks) in one night? If that sounds too ambitious, which parade should we aim to see the night before (on a grad nite)?

    We are coming from New Zealand and this really is a once in a lifetime trip for us, so I want to try to pack as much into our three days as possible (without burning-out my 9 & 11 year old hopefully).

    Thanks so much!

  8. Hi Casey,
    Really enjoyed reading your blog. Are Tuesday and Wednesday grad nights just as crowded as Friday grad nights? My family will be there Monday May 28 through Wednesday May 30. I’m seriously considering shifting our stay at DGCH to a day earlier. Thanks!

  9. My husband I will be there May 15/18. We are are both in our 70s. How should we navigate the park ? only one night is not grad night ..May 17th ..Help ! I’m going there to play..what should we do ? lol

  10. Casey magical lady, I am trying help some friends plan an adventure for June 8th at DCA and June 9th for Disneyland… They have two little ones and will be up early and at the park, but they were hoping to come back after an afternoon break for a dining package for paint the night parade and fantasmic…(earlier shows for each) would you recommend this during grad nights? Or do you have an alternative idea for evening fun? They only have one day at each park…

    Thanks for all your pixie dust delight.


  11. Hi Casey,

    I have a few questions for you- I didn’t realise when I booked that Grad Nite existed. I have a 4 day pass- 1 day per park- to use between 3-8 May 2018.
    1. Is it extra crowded around Grad Nite time?
    2. I was planning on doing Disneyland on Thurs 3 May, DCL on Fri 4 May, and then again Mon/Tues to avoid the weekend crowds- is it better to give 4 May a miss and go on Sunday though?
    3. Should I plan for a short day on either 4 or 6 May and do my full days on Mon/Tues?
    Thanks for your help!

  12. Casey,
    I think we are going to tackle a grad nite this year we are going to do a quick weekend trip with a 2 day 1 park pass and add max pass (first time for that too). Saw May 5th and 6th are Bat Days that should bring an extra element of fun. We are thinking May 13th and 14th should be fun!
    Thanks for the great info as always!

  13. Hi Casey- Wondering if Disneyland plans to add anymore grad nights? I am scheduled to be there May 8th & 9th 2018, right in between two weekends of grad nights. According to crowd calendar it looks like it won’t be packed. But if I look at May 2017, there were grad events in middle of week.
    Do you think those days are good to go and not worry about it being crazy packed?

    Thanks !

    • Hi, Ellen. I’ve seen it both ways. One year, they added additional nights. Most years, the schedule stays as it is. The Grad Night organization sent me those dates directly for 2018. I would assume that if there are any added, I would be notified again. I feel like you’ll be ok with what you have.

  14. Casey, do they offer nighttime entertainment at CA on Grad Nights? Our last two nights are Tuesday, May 29 and Wednesday, May 30 which are both grad nights. I was planning to “stay up late” those nights and take in Paint the Night one night and World of Color the other. If no nighttime entertainment at CA, maybe we should plan to do Fantasmic one of those nights instead? Thanks!

  15. Hi Casey! We are planning to drive route 66 next summer and end at Disneyland (see Cars Land after seeing what inspired it!). This year Grad Nights end on June 9, last year they ended much later. Do you have predictions for next year? When are dates announced? We will lock in on dates by October. I hate pushing it back too much because the later we go, the hotter the Grand Canyon will be when we stop there. 🙂 But I hate crowds. I am a Labor Day at WDW kind of girl so heat vs. crowds, I’ll take heat.

    • The dates are announced in the fall. Usually late fall. The grad night people email me the info and then I update this post. So, I should have it as soon as possible for you.

      No way to predict what grad nights will look like next year – especially with Star Wars Land opening. I’ll do my best to keep you updated!

  16. Hi There. We are taking our family of 4 (with little kids) on the 23rd&24th of May, but the 23rd is a grad night. Do you think the new ticket structure will limit the crowds at DL, especially early in the day? Or would we better going the 24th&25th, even though the 25th is a Friday? Unfortunately we are only able to get away this week and for 2 days, so want to make the most of it. Thanks!

  17. Hi there, I am looking at going either Memorial day weekend, the following week days (2 grad nights) or the 10th of June through the 14th (no grad nights). Of those options which do you think would be best? Thanks

  18. Casey, we are a family of 5 from ND and are trying to decide what dates to spend at DL this summer. June 7-13 ( 2 grad nights) or July 2-8 (4th of July weekend)? Which in your opinion would be less crowded? I’ve researched crowd calendars and have been getting mixed results. Thanks!

  19. Hi can you help me, id like to go on the day of a grad nite but it shows majority of days won’t allow 1 day ticket passes, can I buy a ticket at the park the day of grad nite to get in or how do I get a ticket to attend the day (not to stay until 2am with the seniors but to be there at the park as the same day they’re there) so if you could please answer as of how to get a ticket to get in the park, please and thanks!

  20. Hi, so my family and i are going on a grad night and i am a senior in high school however i will not be attending Grad Nite. I know that DCA closes at 9 for the general public but what time does Disneyland close? does it also close at 9 like DCA??

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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!