Let me make this easy for you. TLDR, right here at the top. This one, I’m writing for me. Feel free to read or not read as you see fit, but you have been warned.
My office of 25 has a lot of July babies. The other week, in fact, there were three of us. The guy on Thursday let us know in advance that he was taking off. The guy on Wednesday didn’t let us know in advance and took off anyway. And my birthday was on the weekend, which I suppose meant everyone was off? Dammit, I wanted to have an extra day off too! So I checked in with my boss, made the necessary arrangements, and Honey and I both took Friday off for appropriate celebrations.
Since we had the time and no plans for what to do with it, Honey asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, and with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I said I wanted to go to Disneyland. Without batting an eyelash, he said, “Okay,” and all of a sudden, I found myself planning a trip to the Mouse House. Now, if you have an annual pass, you can just pop over for a few hours, hang out, go on that one ride you love, and call it a day, but if you don’t have a pass (or know someone who is happy to sign you in), you need to Plan Your Day to get maximum effect, because otherwise you get overwhelmed.
I have gone through many different types of plans over the years. When I was little, I wanted to go on the rides with the characters I knew: Snow White! Peter Pan! Dumbo! Alice’s teacups! HORSES ON THE CARROUSEL! And a lollipop as big as my head.
As a teen, I wanted to go on the rides that make you throw up: Space Mountain! Space Mountain! Space Mountain! …and you have to do Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, because they’re required. And a lollipop would be fine, too, as long as I can hide it in my purse so nobody knows I like that kid stuff.
In my 20s, I wanted all the rides. I was bound and determined to get them all in. But none of that kid stuff. Who needs tea cups anyway? Don’t need lollipops, either, but a piece of the fudge would fine. Okay, three pieces.
As I’m closing out my 30s, I find I no longer need all of the rides, but there are certainly ones more dear to the heart than others. Honey said as long as we hit Star Tours, he was a happy man. And my two goals were to not stand on line forever in the direct sun and to have fun. That was it. I would have liked Peter Pan, because FLYING, but I also didn’t want to wait for it forever.
We downloaded an app called Mouse Wait, which gives you all sorts of up-to-the-minute information about the park – temperature, how close to capacity they are, and (best of all) fan-based updates on wait times at all of the rides, and even some concessions. That’s right: no matter where in the park you are, you can look at your phone and know that Winnie the Pooh has a 5 minute line, and Peter Pan’s is 2 hours long. Of course, with those two, you could probably guess that anyway.
One of the other nifty bits on the app is it will tell you on any particular date whether any or all of the annual passes are blacked-out. It’s a good way to judge how many people they are expecting. The more people the park expects to see, the more likely one or more of the passes will be blacked-out. Oddly enough, the day we had chosen to go, simply because it was a workday near my birthday, all of the passes were blacked-out. The park was expecting a ridiculous amount of people. I think the term Mouse Wait used was “Fuhgetabouttit.” We couldn’t figure out why. I mean, it was just a Friday. Thursday and Saturday were expecting to be regular summer crowds, which was no surprise, but Friday they were making noise about having to turn people away by the afternoon.
Eventually I researched my way to the announcement that their big Diamond Anniversary Celebration would culminate on Friday, because it will have been 60 years to the day since the park first opened its doors.
Visions started forming in my head: waves and waves of crowds pushing their way through the gates, every head covered with mouse-eared beanies. Every line for every ride would be at least 3 hours long. And the heat! It was supposed to get up to 90 degrees– with crowds of Disney fanatics, whose eyes have hidden mickeys in their irises. So not only was I going to faint dead away from heat exhaustion, but when I swooned, I’d be trampled to death!
When I found out what date we were planning to go, I wanted to switch it to my actual birthday, but we had already made plans to see a movie with some friends. We had already bought the movie tickets, so were kind of stuck with our original plan. Screw it, I thought. It’s a big day for me and the Park. Let’s have fun! (But we’re going to get there early, because that’s when all of the rides are emptiest, and I will do everything in my power so help me gawd to keep out of the worst of the heat.)
Because of my dietary issues, I wanted to have a reservation at a sit-down restaurant rather than grabbing something on the go. I tried to make reservations at the Blue Bayou for lunch. Cool, dark, air-conditioned, that restaurant is a perfect hideaway during the worst of the heat, and you can even talk with the chef directly about your allergy issues, to make sure you get what you need. But it was booked solid, which with hindsight is not so surprising, given the circumstances. The only place it would be harder to get into would be Club 33.
We ended up booking our lunch reservation at the Storyteller’s Cafe. It’s outside of the park, over at the Grand Hotel, but as long as you get your hand stamped on your way out, you can just walk right back into the park when you’re done. Unless, of course, the park is at capacity, due to a special celebration. Yeah, this’ll be interesting…
Dinner reservations were made at the Carthay Circle restaurant in California Adventure. (Did I mention Honey The Awesome agreed to get us park hopper tickets so we could go on California Screamin’?) And the nifty thing about these reservations was that they came with fast passes to World of Color, which neither of us had ever seen. WAHOO! Carthay Circle is also a swanky sit-down restaurant, on par with Blue Bayou, with a chef that will talk with you about special needs, and all that good stuff.
We got to Disneyland at 7:30 am and spent a half an hour standing at the ticket booth– not on line at the booth, just at the booth. Something to do with the system Honey bought the tickets from being squirrelly, but he had a receipt and it was from a legitimate company, so eventually it all worked out.
Did they do anything special for the big day?
Yes. We got a map of the park– unfold it once to see the 2015 map and unfold it further for the original 1955 map– with the exact date printed on it. We also got a “only one per person, sorry ma’am” button printed with the date to prove that we were there on the day of. There were some “today only” items for sale around the park– tee shirts and whatnot– and free, yes FREE, cupcakes (but none that were gluten-free). There were also plenty of photo stations with the date on them, so that again, you can prove you were there (or that you have mad Photoshop skillz).
Ugh! How long were the lines?
Some of them were awful. As I said above, Peter Pan got up to 2 hours, standing in full sun the whole time. We skipped that entirely (no flying over London), and used Mouse Wait to find rides with decent times. And if we passed a ride that had a very short wait (15 minutes or less), we shrugged and said, “Why not?” and rode it. For the entire day, the longest we waited on any line was 35 minutes. We managed to hit Pirates and Haunted Mansion twice each, and waited less than 20 minutes for all four rides combined. (If you’re not familiar with the park, this is VERY impressive, especially on a Busy Day.)
Was it really hot?
YES. It was REALLY hot. That’s why we got there early– well, that and since The Masses don’t get there early, the lines were WAY short first thing when the park opened. Pirates of the Caribbean, (immediate) Haunted Mansion (10 min), Star Tours* (20 min), Space Mountain (15 minutes), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (10 min)… See? But yes, very hot. We hit as many rides as we could before the sun got awful, sat indoors at the nice (air-conditioned!!!) restaurant outside of the park– and got BACK IN, because the park was only at 89% capacity (thank you Mouse Wait!)– during the hottest part of the day, and did our best to stay out of the direct sun.
I tried keeping us in the air-conditioned, shaded shops, but that only lasted for so long, and then we noticed that Alice’s Teacups were only a 10 minute wait, so for nostaliga, Honey spun me around in a purple teacup until I couldn’t sit upright anymore. We only did so well with staying out of direct sun, though, because Honey really, really wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for his nostalgia, since it had been closed the last time we went (and he thought they were getting rid of it). That was the longest line, and the one in the worst sun (35 minutes).
After that, I felt woozy, so we went to our golden “out of the sun” secret place, The Golden Horseshoe, and got root beer floats. Okay, I sat at a table and tried not to pass out cold, and Honey waited on a 30 minute line for root beer and Coke floats. Properly sugared and caffeinated, we headed to Fantasyland and stood for less than 10 minutes on the line for King Arthur’s Carrousel– and got to listen to Mary Poppins’ Fox Hunting Band play live music for the carrousel riders right before us!!! (That was SO COOL! 😀 And a little meta.) And of course, afterwards, we were right in front of one of the “prove you were here ” photo spots, so now we can prove we were there, too.
By that point, it was closing in on our dinner reservation at the other park, so we hopped to CA Adventure– with a little shopping on the way as we meandered. And it was still hot. It was so hot…
How hot was it?
It was so hot that even though we had dinner in the park that sells booze, we both only drank water… and some caffeine to keep the energy levels boosted. Anything stronger would have dehydrated us even more. But the food was fantastic, and so was the service. Very Golden Age Hollywood Glam. It was a lot of fun for us movie buffs. 🙂
After dinner, it was still hot, so it was nice that the line we ended up on, Soarin’ Over California, was only 20 minutes long and mostly either in the shade or indoors. That one, we almost didn’t get on, because of technical difficulties, but they got things working and shooed us in before anything else could break down. And I got to fly twice in one day, once on Star Tours and once soaring over one of my favorite states.
We hit CA Screamin’– which was even more fun than I remembered (a rollercoaster that starts from a dead stop at the bottom of the track and ZOOMS! the whole rest of the time) and a Toy Story arcade shoot-’em game/ride thing, and then it was time for our fast passes to World of Color.
It was nice. I think both Honey and I liked Fantasmic more, because a) dragon and b) plot, but it was still impressive to see movies projected on water like that. Technically, it was astounding, I just didn’t care about the subject matter as much– or the Frozen music video right in the middle of what little “plot” they had.
After World of Color, I needed a rest, while everyone else in the park marched over to Carsland. Once I was rested, we tried to get into the Cars Racing ride thing, because Ms. Piggy Henson had recommended it to us, but because of how slow I was moving by then, we just couldn’t get there before the line was 90 minutes, which was too long for me. (I should mention that I did this whole day operating on a week of bad sleep and only five hours of sleep the night before. I was tired.)
So of course we hopped back to Disneyland, rode Jungle Cruise (10 minutes) and Pirates and Haunted Mansion again while everyone else was watching Fantasmic– absolutely NO WAIT for either ride– and then called it a night at about 11:30. On the way out, Honey picked up some mice dice (regular dice with mickey ears for pips), and I got a couple of trading pins, which are somehow an addiction of mine when I go, even though I have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN TRADING SO DON’T ASK.
The worst line we dealt with for the entire day was getting stuck on the 5 North for over an hour, which more than doubled our “middle of the night instant commute home with no traffic.” We got home around 2 am.
The next day, we met up with some friends WAY too early in the morning, watched Ant Man at the Cineramadome, had awesome (gluten-free) sushi and gluten-free baked goods, and then I collapsed for the rest of the Saturday and Sunday.
It was pretty freaking awesome. Like, wow.
*That was probably the best Star Tours trip I’ve ever been on. It was just the right combination of dodging AT-ATs on Hoth, kibbitzing with Admiral Ackbar, and zipping between the flying cars of Coruscant. I didn’t need to go on Peter Pan after that, because we flew with old friends.
Castle photo by Honey. The “portraits” were taken by DLand cast members on Honey’s camera (not his phone).