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GAY DAYS at the Disneyland Resort

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

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Gay Days is one of the most popular “unofficial” events at Disneyland. It draws crowds annually about the first Saturday in October. Then, more people come again in March for "Mini Gay Days," for those who need a little red shirt boost in the spring. The Gay Day events are not presented by Disney and does not endorse any group that meets during regular park hours, and as such, does not offer information about the festivities. However, the resort is supportive of the events and the many guests it brings to their parks, hotels and restaurants. You'll see special merchandise for sale and photo ops. Since this is an unofficial event, the parks are still open to the public and you don’t need a special ticket to visit the parks for Gay Days. There is a schedule of events for each day of Gay Days, with one park playing "host" each day during normal operating hours. There are family-friendly events, in-park meet-ups, informal chats, cocktails, a concert and other events. Whether you are planning to attend Disneyland Gay Days or just visit the parks this same weekend, here are some important details to get you ready!

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Thirteen years before the first official Gay Days event was launched in 1991, a group of LGBTQ+ business owners decided to rent out Disneyland for the day. They knew the company wouldn’t look favorably on a group of non-heterosexual guests taking over the park, even for a few hours, so they dubbed themselves the “Greater Los Angeles Restaurant and Bar Association” in order to make the reservation. The plan went off without a hitch—that is, until a week prior to the event, when Disney inevitably discovered the purpose behind the event (or, rather, the people behind the event, as there was no ulterior motive other than having fun) and started to panic. While the park couldn’t shut down the gathering, they did everything in their power to contain it: increasing security within the gates, canceling scheduled entertainment, and monitoring Disneyland’s dance floors for the slightest interaction between same-sex couples.

For a while, that was the last company-sanctioned LGBTQ+ event Disney permitted on its property. The event we know today as “Gay Days” did not start on the West Coast, however, but in Orlando, Fla., during the summer of 1991. Local resident Doug Swallow was organizing get-togethers with his friends when he first came up with the idea of a day at Disney. “I was just wanting to see something done for fun,” he said. With the assistance of local media and press, Swallow’s informal gathering soon began to snowball into a massive event. He selected a weekend in June and encouraged attendees to wear red to identify each other—as it was easy to pick out in a crowd and safe for those who weren’t yet comfortable or willing to sport rainbow colors. According to various reports, somewhere between 500 and 3,000 participants congregated at the Magic Kingdom for the first official Gay Day on June 1, 1991, a number that would only continue to expand with each subsequent anniversary.

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Crowds and Hours

Disneyland Gay Days do bring in quite a few people, and the impact it has on crowds is growing — along with the general higher crowds the parks see on weekends. The crowd levels can vary each year. When Gay Days aligned with Columbus Day weekend in 2018, there were massive crowds — we saw 300-minute waits for Haunted Mansion Holiday! But other years, such as 2019 when it did not collide with a holiday weekend, it is not as busy. Based on park hours, Disneyland usually plans for a busy weekend with long park hours. If you're really concerned about the crowds and have a trip planned on these days, make sure to avoid the park that is hosting Gay Days. So, if Gay Days is at Disneyland on Saturday, then go to Disney California Adventure that day (although with popular Park Hopper tickets, those red shirts may hop between both parks). If Gay Days is held at Disney California Adventure on Sunday, avoid the crowds by visiting Disneyland Park. Even with more crowds, Gay Days create a fun, festive atmosphere.

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Wearing Red and Purchasing Merchandise

There is an official Gay Days red T-shirt that you can purchase. But if you don’t have or want the shirt, the organizers suggest you stick to red shirts. The red shirts help Gay Days participants to identify each other and show their numbers. You’ll see a lot of rainbow colors! You can even purchase rainbow Mickey ear hats in the parks if you need the perfect Disney accessory for the event. We've seen a lot of Disney rainbow souvenirs sold in the parks, especially around Gay Days. It goes without saying, but you don't have to officially be part of the event to show your support! You can get your red and rainbow on with exclusive Disneyland Gay Day merchandise. From Oct. 4-6, 2019, you can get Mickey ear hats embroidered with rainbow-colored thread! You can choose from T-shirts, tank tops, cinch bags, patches and a water bottle. There are youth and adult products. Special items are sold at these stores: Emporium at Disneyland Park, Elias & Co. at Disney California Adventure Park and at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. There's also a rainbow tumbler with a specialty or fountain beverage and a rainbow glow cube at various food locations. The line includes a new adult t-shirt and tank top, as well as a youth shirt, a patch, a cinch backpack and a water bottle. The Rainbow Disney Collection is inspired by the incredible diversity of Disney fans around the world. You’ll find these products at the Emporium at Disneyland park, Elias & Co. at Disney California Adventure park, and at World of Disney at the Downtown Disney District.

Gay Days Menu Items

Over the years, we have seen (and enjoyed!) special Gay Days dessert menu items, and even some meal packages at several quick-service restaurants in each park all weekend. You’ll also find a fun Rainbow Tumbler (available with either a specialty beverage or fountain beverage) as well as a Rainbow Glow Cube available at various locations throughout Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park.

For more information on all of these treats and where to find them, visit the Disneyland Resort website or the Disneyland App, where you can also mobile order your treats in advance and skip the line at select locations. All of the items listed below are available only while supplies last. You can find these items at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure

This unofficial day at Disneyland offer a unique way to experience the parks and meet other people. They can also affect crowds. Knowing about them can help you join the fun or plan the best time for your family to visit. You can find all of the fabulous details on the Gay Days Anaheim website. In 2019, Disneyland Gay Days were on October 4th through 6th and in 2020, Gay Days at Disneyland will be on October 2nd through the 4th.

Edited By: Ryder Lazo

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