March 2, 2012

24 hours at Disneyland (... almost)

I spent Leap Year day sleepily stumbling through Disneyland and California Adventures. Disneyland announced it would be open 24 hours straight for Leap Year, and the event was tagged One More Disney Day. As soon as I heard about, I knew I'd be participating if for no other reason than that I wanted to be in Disneyland at 3am to see what it was like. I took the day off work and planned to arrive at 6am. Key word being planned.

I watched my Twitter list of Disneyland news sites anxiously the night before. Folks started lining up at 10pm, presumably to get the free commemmorative Mouse ears Disney was giving to the first 2,000 people. I had visions of sitting in traffic and not being able to get into the parking garage (it didn't open until 5am). I rolled out of bed at 4:45am and saw tweets about the long lines for the security check and braced for the worst. I ended up arriving at the park shortly after 7am. I didn't have any issues parking, in fact, we ended up on just the second level, and got right onto a tram. I also didn't experience any lines for the bag check, purchasing tickets, or getting through the front gate. I ate an okay breakfast at the River Belle Terrace (so sad that Carnation Cafe was closed) and immediately started in on rides. I even rode on some Main Street vehicles for the first time (I SO love that I can still have first time experiences even though I go to Disneyland several times a year).
Knowing that I'd have hours and hours at Disneyland, I left the park around 11am to spend most of the day in California Adventures. That park is becoming more and more fun, and it was easy to burn through the afternoon there. I checked out new-to-me attractions and ate as much as possible. I literally made a list of snacks and food (I know, I'm anal) I wanted to consume because I had so many extra hours and eating is one of my favorite actitivites in the parks. There were churros and beignets and lunch at the Lucky Fortune Cookery (the spicy Korean beef was tasty). Not all at the same time, of course.

It felt like a normal day at the park, even light. Sort of like a winter weekend day. That is until everyone got off work.
I exited California Adventures around 6-6:30 for a break. I came back to the parks around 7:45pm after consuming coffee and charging my phone in the car; I needed to use a fast pass on Star Tours before heading back out for a meet-up with friends in Downtown Disney. I was shocked to see the lines for the entrance gate stretch back more than halfway across the plaza to DCA. I've never such long lines to get into the park. Given that, I decided I wouldn't be exiting the park for the meet-up after all because I was concerned I wouldn't get back in. It turned out to be a good call. The park ended up closing because it reached capacity around 10pm. Whoa.

The crowds got thick. People started holding spots for the 1am Fantasmic showing well before 11pm, and Disney didn't have traffic control in place. Getting from Frontierland to New Orleans Square was a challenge not unlike sitting on the 405 (Disney did eventually get some cast members in the area to manage traffic flow). Even with the herds, I still managed to get into the Haunted Mansion in less than 30 minutes. After a snack break with friends at Bengal BBQ (the brownie skewer was delicious, everything's better on a stick!), our group joined other friends in the Fantasmic viewing area and I curled up into a tiny ball and passed out until the 1am show. 

Not as many people left after Fantasmic as I thought would (and hoped would). We wandered over to the Storybook Land Canal boats, and I noticed along the way that lines were getting longer and longer. I think Space Mountain got to 170 minutes at one point? Crazy. My phone had long since died (despite me trying to charge it in random places like Mickey Mouse's house in Toontown) so I just listened to others telling stories of friends still in line trying to get tickets and the crazy traffic jams on the freeway and streets in the surrounding area. At some point, the park apparently  re-opened ticket sales.
Despite the late hour (around 2am by now), everyone I encountered was in high spirits. The park played a song every hour over the loud speakers to keep energy up, and whatever song they played then resulted in a dancing conga line. We were all way too happy to be at the park during hours when it would normally be closed.Though I was having fun, the sleepy started to kick in. It really took over after sitting for just a little too long to see the Enchanted Tiki Room. Around 3:30am, I called it a day. A long, FUN, 20 hour day. Though decent crowds of people were leaving, there were still people in line buying tickets. I mean, maybe they were upgrading to annual passes, at least I hope. I couldn't imagine paying full price for just 2.5 hours. We only had to wait a short amount of time for a tram and had no issues getting out of the parking garage.

As it turns out, Disneyland is the same at 3am as it is every other hour of the day but it felt different. It just felt cooler to be there after hours, even with the hoardes of people.

In the aftermath of the next day, I learned that Disneyland didn't project attendance anywhere close to accuracy. The park shattered attendance records! This post at Mice Age states 106,000 people entered the park. Yowza. They had planned for no more than 55,000. Oops. I imagine Disney offices were a bit uh, frantic Thursday morning. Cast members were probably just happy they survived. I'm not sure that I would do it again unless it was a more limited crowd thing, but I'm definitely glad I went!


  1. Sounds like so much fun! Having done 5am training in the Park when I worked there, I know how magical it is to be there after hours. Of course, I was one of like a dozen people in the park when I was there, which was kind of epic.

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