My favorite time to visit Disneyland is on weekdays during the low season. I love how relaxed the resort feels when we aren’t competing with a million other families. When my kids were really little we’d always visit in the fall when most kids were back in school.
My kids are older now though, so the only weekdays we have off in the fall is during fall break. Unfortunately a lot of school districts out West offer a fall break now, meaning our low season October visits aren’t really low season anymore. I blame Utah. 😉
Rodeo Break at Disneyland
Luckily, we have a school break that is unique to Tucson. We celebrate Rodeo Break in February, a school holiday that no one else celebrates, not even Phoenix! So if you have school-age kids and can’t miss school, consider spending Rodeo Break at Disneyland!
Rodeo Break is one of the best time for Tucson families to visit Disneyland during the school year. Naturally, Rodeo Break coincides with La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the Tucson Rodeo. This year Rodeo Break is February 18-19, 2020. Next year, Rodeo Break will be February 25-26, 2021.
Flights from Tucson to Disneyland
I always prefer flying to driving because it is so much quicker, unfortunately, it’s not worth it for Tucson to Disneyland trips, especially for families with multiple kids. Plane tickets add up fast and are much more expensive than a tank of gas and possible parking fees at your hotel. By the way, one of our favorite hotels across the street from Disneyland, the Howard Johnson Anaheim does not charge a parking fee!
Plus, flying from Tucson doesn’t save much travel time. Currently, there are no direct flights to the John Wayne Airport (SNA) which is the closest airport to Disneyland. The only direct flights to the Los Angeles area from Tucson is via LAX. I hate flying into LAX because the traffic to and from the airport is never great and can be really terrible.
The best case scenario when flying from Tucson to Disneyland is 5+ hours of travel time. That time estimate includes traveling to the Tucson airport from your home, arriving 60-90 minutes before your flight, flight time, and travel time to Anaheim from LAX. If you don’t check bags, don’t have any flight delays and there are no traffic delays in LA, you could do it in about 5 hours.
Tucson to Disneyland Roadtrip
Delays are likely though, so I’d count on closer to 6 hours of travel time when flying from Tucson to Disneyland. It only takes about 7 hours to drive from Tucson to Disneyland. Tack on another hour for quick bathroom/food stops and it will only take you an extra 2 hours to get there when driving vs flying. Plus most families will save a lot of money, money you will need because Disneyland is not cheap. 😉
Rodeo Break is ideal for a road trip to Disneyland because you can drive out on Thursday and head home on Sunday, giving you two full days in the parks for a fun weekend trip. Plus driving allows you to avoid baggage constraints and fees.
Tucson to Disneyland Roadtrip Stops
From Tucson, you can take the 1-10 all the way to LA, this takes you through Phoenix. We don’t like that route very much. There just doesn’t seem to be as many decent bathroom/food stops as there is when taking the alternate route.
We opt to take I-8 towards San Diego, then head north up the I-5 to Anaheim. This route gives us decent stops in Yuma and the San Diego area. It just breaks up the road trip from Tucson to Disneyland better.
Cowboy Adventures at Disneyland
Just because you are skipping the Rodeo Parade in Tucson doesn’t mean you have to forgo all cowboy adventures. Even with the closing of Big Thunder Ranch, there is plenty of cowboy fun to be found at the Disneyland Resort.
Start by hopping on the Disneyland Railroad, a steam-powered train that will take you on a full circle tour around Disneyland. You can hop on and off these authentic trains at four places around the Disneyland Park: Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, and Tomorrowland.
Find cowboy fun in Frontierland
Get off at the first stop, New Orleans Square and make your way over to Frontierland. Frontierland offers the most authentic cowboy experiences at the Disneyland Resort. There’s a faster train to ride, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which speeds through a gold mine set in the Old West. It features the miniature ghost town of Big Thunder at the very end of the ride.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the best first rollercoaster to let your kids ride once they hit 40″. My kids always called it the ‘very fast train ride’. 😉
Take a tour of the Rivers of America aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. This 19th-century paddle boat is powered by steam and takes guests on a 15-minute ride around Tom Sawyer Island. Keep your eyes peeled and you can catch some fun frontier and old west scenes along the shores.
Ready to test your aim? Head over to the Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition which features a bit of Arizona love, a replica of Boot Hill in Tombstone. There are almost 100 interactive targets to hit using a replica buffalo rifle. This attraction does cost extra, $1 will get you approximately 25 shots on the range.
Eat the Golden Horseshoe
By this time you’ve likely worked up an appetite, head over to the Golden Horseshoe for some yummy food and a fun old-timey show. The show features the antics of Mayor Sam J. McGillicuddy, his daughter Sally Mae and Sheriff Clem Clodhopper. Plus this building is one of the originals from the 1955 opening and used to feature a private box for Walt Disney. The saloon’s interior was modeled after a set design from the 1953 Doris Day film Calamity Jane and features 1850s-style period chandeliers.
When you are done exploring Frontierland, hop back on the train and head over to Mickey’s Toontown depot. Get off and ride It’s a Small World for a little extra cowboy fun. You will find some Old West scenes in the ride with a lassoing cowboy, and even Woody, Jessie and Bullseye dolls in the North American section of the ride.
Head back to the train and finish the grand circle tour around Disneyland. Between the Tomorrow Land and Main Street depots you will ride past a large diorama of the Grand Canyon which feels very cowboyish to me.
Cowboy Adventures Disney California Adventure
If you are looking for a Woody and Jessie encounter head over to the new Pixar Pier in Disney California Adventure. There are two attractions featuring Jessie and/or Woody at the Toy Story Boardwalk, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Jessie’s Critter Carousel.
You are also likely to find Woody and possibly Jessie wandering around the Toy Story Boardwalk signing autographs and taking pictures. There’s even a cowboy or rather cow horse inspired game on the boardwalk. Try your hand at Bullseye Stallion Stampede and you might win a Woody or Bullseye stuffed animal!
Disneybound during Rodeo Break at Disneyland
Don’t forget you can also Disneybound as a cowboy at Disneyland too. We did a Toy Story Disneybound at Walt Disney World last summer and Woody (or Jessie) are super fun Disneybound ideas for Rodeo Break. I always loved the Woody inspired Mickey Ears too.
Is Disneyland crowded during rodeo break?
If you visit Disneyland on Thursday and Friday of Rodeo Break, you should find very low crowds unless there is a special event going on. Even on the Saturday and Sunday of Rodeo Break, the crowds should be lighter than a regular school holiday weekend. The exception to this is when a big even like Dapper Days falls during Rodeo Break. Thankfully this year Dapper Days are not until April, so there will be no huge crowd of well-dressed folks in the parks this time.
Is it better to go to Disneyland for rodeo break?
I think it’s always better to plan a trip to Disneyland over Rodeo Break. There’s a very good chance that the crowds will be low. It falls after President’s Day weekend which can bring in some extra visitors and allows for families to visit on two days during the week. Weekdays are always better times to visit vs. weekends, any time of the year!
Is Disneyland busy in February?
February tends to be low season in general for Disneyland. It’s after the Halloween to Christmas holiday madness and before spring break crowds hit in March and April. And of course, it’s nowhere near the madness of summer vacation.
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