For the fourth straight year, Disneyland stayed open 24 hours this weekend when park guests could enjoy the park from 6am Friday morning through 6am Saturday morning. The first time they did it at Disneyland this was in 2012 on Leap Year Day. They called it “One More Disney Day” and I blogged about my experience being there during the last six hours of it. The next year, they did it again, this time holding it on Memorial Day weekend and adding sister park Disney California Adventure to the festivities. Cross-marketing it with that year’s Disney-Pixar sequel “Monsters University”, it was promoted as a kick off to a "Monstrous Summer" (my blog). Since then, they’ve continued to schedule it every year on Memorial Day weekend, with “Rock Your Disney Side” in 2014 and yesterday’s “Diamond Celebration.”.
I've been to Disneyland every time they held it. The first time three times, I’d wake up whenever I did and arrive later in the day or evening, just so I could honestly say “I was there”. But yesterday I was there for the entire 24 hours, from before the start through to the very end. I posted to Instagram and Twitter throughout the day. Here’s a lengthy recap, expanding on what I shared in those earlier posts.
HOW IT BEGAN
First off, I’d never been to any of the previous 24-hour events when they started right at 6am. That would mean having to wake up in the dark to join a line of fans who’d started the line the day before. That didn't really sound appealing. I like sleeping in too much. But this year, I decided I’d make the effort to be at the start, just to experience something different about going to one more Disneyland 24-hour event.
I’d gotten three and a half hours of sleep when my alarm went off at 2:30am. From following the Disney Parks Blog, I knew the Pumbaa Lot was open at that time and that the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure would open at 4am. By the time I was finally out the door, I realized I'd just park as I normally do, in the parking structure, and head to the park my regular way rather than figure out navigating some new way to learn how to get there from Pumbaa. Less stress and drama I figured.
When I got to Disneyland Drive from the southbound I-5, it was 3:50am, and I was surprised to find the ramp to take you directly into the parking structure was still closed. I continued to the stop light at Ball Road and found the entrance ahead from Disneyland Drive to the parking structure was also still closed and now, cars were lined up there waiting for it to open. As a matter of fact, when the light turned green for me to cross Ball, I couldn’t. The line of cars waiting to enter the parking structure had reached Ball, so unless I wanted to block the intersection like one of those annoyingly self-centered, arrogant drivers, I was stuck. Fortunately, Disney opened the ramp by 3:55am and the line started to move. I crossed the intersection, got through the pay booths, and parked in the Pinocchio lot within ten minutes.
I got a text earlier in the morning from a friend to let me know she was already in line near Harbor Boulevard and that I could join her when I got there. I texted her updates from the time I parked to when I was on the tram to passing through security and arriving in the Esplanade plaza between Disneyland and DCA, thinking I was grateful to have a much shorter wait in that god awful long line that had started since the day before.
Crossing the esplanade, I saw to my right folks waiting and lined up in front of the DCA main entrance. To my left I noticed a plain courtyard with no lines but cast members stationed at most of the turnstiles of the Disneyland Main Entrance. I then noticed a trickle of guests entering the esplanade from the Harbor Blvd. side towards the closest turnstile to them. It was then that I noticed that there were people milling around inside the main entrance who weren’t cast members. It was around 4:15am so my brain wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders yet and didn’t immediately figure out what all I was seeing, because I knew my friend had been in line since midnight waiting to enter the park at 6am with thousands of others in the line. And I was supposed to join her. But I also realized there were people already inside the park. And that those cast members at the turnstiles seemed really, really lonely.
In my rush to loyally join my friend in line, I decided to hold up and turn left towards the Disneyland entrance. Approaching the nearest turnstile, I pulled out my wallet and decided I’d hand my cast member my annual pass when I got there to see what would happen. What happened was at 4:20am, I entered Disneyland. And I didn’t have to get there any earlier than I had to and lose any more sleep to wait in a long line overnight in order to simply walk in when I arrived.
After my friend cursed at me by text when I told her what had just happened, I took a selfie with the clock on the Main Street Train Station behind me, posted it to Instagram as a way to tell my unsuspecting friends and followers “Good morning from Disneyland”, and then headed onto Main Street, USA where I found hundreds of guests already there. There was a long line for the Emporium where folks told me it was so they’d have first dibs to buy collectible 60th anniversary merchandise, and the rest of the people had bottlenecked themselves on the Main Street, USA straightaway, the hub area naturally stopped because the rest of the park wasn’t open yet. An emcee somewhere at the hub area could be heard over the area speakers deejaying music (Toni Basil’s “Mickey” was among the songs played) to keep the crowd pumped and excited while waiting for the official opening at 6am into the rest of the park.
My friend and her friends joined me in that crowd only about twenty minutes later, and together we strategized what we’d do as soon as the park opened. My only significant goal of the day was to snag myself one of the limited edition Disneyland 60th Anniversary commemorative Star Wars figures, R2-D60, from the Star Trader store in Tomorrowland. My friends? They wanted to find a restroom without a long line. So our plan was made. We’d go together to Tomorrowland, but I'd split off to get in the anticipated long line at the store while they continuing on to the restrooms back by Autopia. Then, we’d meet up whenever I’d (hopefully) get my hands on my action figure.
After a countdown to 5:55am (yeah, five minutes early), the park was officially open. By the time I got my R2-D60 figure, I was waiting for them at one of the tables at Tomorrowland Terrace when they got out of the restrooms. Ha! There was no line at the Star Trader; it definitely paid for me to get there early. Thus the rest of my day was cake! A great start to a pretty fun and rather drama-free day at the 2015 Disneyland Diamond Celebration event.
OBSERVATIONS FROM MY FIRST 12 HOURS AT DISNEYLAND
From where we were at Tomorrowland Terrace, we thought the line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds was short and moving pretty fast. It was the attraction’s first day of public operation since closing for a few months to receive some enhancements. So we decided that would be the first ride we’d do there. We went in search of the end of the line. We discovered it was at it’s a small world. Nope, Matterhorn Bobsleds would not be our first ride of the day.
I’d stopped by Carl’s Jr. on the way to Disneyland that morning where I was disappointed to learn that breakfast menu items weren’t served until 6am. So it was a Famous Star combo for breakfast for me earlier, while I just kept my friends company as they enjoyed their breakfast at Tomorrowland Terrace. It was a good decision on their part to have breakfast now. When they ordered breakfast, the lines were short. Over the next few hours walking throughout the park, we noticed uncommonly long lines were commonplace today for any place that sold new merchandise and food.
Popcorn stands had long lines because debuting this week were new popcorn buckets shaped as Mickey Mouse head-shaped balloons, gold-filled mine train chests, and Han Solo in carbonite. New plastic Disneyland steins also debuted, at Edelweiss Snacks and Village Haus that we'd heard. Never mind that these were not limited edition items and would continue to be sold after today. Fans and collectors wanted them today, including pathetically me as I joined my fellow Disneyland annual passholder friends in line to have our own new Disneyland stein.
And besides being a place to have breakfast, restaurants also offered new food items just for the day. The most surprising line was found at the Jolly Holiday Bakery which extended all the way to the entrance of the Enchanted Tiki Room! We’re guessing part of the reason for that were the new Disneyland 60th commemorative cupcakes only available during the 24-hour event, while supplies lasted.
For the next several hours traveling throughout most of the park, we never really encountered major crowding. We did notice the crowds grow as the day progressed, but even by 3pm, it was bustling but not as bad as we regular park visitors had seen it on other days where it could be shoulder-to-shoulder over the summer or the holidays. It was around that time that a friend I’d planned to meet later that day texted me to let me know she was on the road and on her way. She was taking her son and his friends to DCA for the day but hadn’t gotten their tickets yet. Coincidentally I’d also learned then from inside the park that Disneyland had already closed their entrance because it had reached capacity. This was expected, as it had happened every other time they’d held a 24-hour event. But this year's closing happened earlier than ever that I could recall.
To make sure my friend’s drive there wouldn't turn out to be a mistake, I checked with several cast members on how busy DCA was and if tickets were still sold for that park. At that time, I really couldn’t get a confident answer, so I went to Disneyland’s entrance to look through the gates and see what was happening in the esplanade plaza. Ropes were set up around the entrance to Disneyland, with cast members and security (with dogs) stationed around them to keep park guests away from approaching the turnstiles. Disneyland was closed and no one appeared to be allowed to come in. Meanwhile, the lines into DCA were pretty long. Obviously folks coming in at that time had no other choice of park to enter but that one when they got there. It was between 4:00 and 4:30 when I heard a cast member tell another cast member I was questioning that “DCA never reaches level 1”, which from the tone suggested I shouldn’t worry about DCA ever closing today because of crowds or reaching capacity.
Boy, was that guy wrong.
OBSERVATIONS FROM MY LAST 12 HOURS AT DISNEYLAND. ACTUALLY AT DCA
A consequence I always encounter when I’m at the park and it’s reached capacity is that the cellphone signal sucks. So getting texts and phone calls from my friend who was on her way were intermittent or static-y. When I finally got texts and was able to figure out she’d actually gotten to park and was on her way to getting in line to buy their tickets, the lines into DCA were much shorter while Disneyland was finally letting guests who’d already been in the park re-enter, with a long line of first-timers to the resort waiting outside the esplanade for their chance whenever it came. (I think I'd learned later on that Disneyland didn't open for those folks until some time around midnight.)
I met my new arrival friends near the Tower of Terror around 4:30p which coincidentally meant I’d been on Disneyland property for over 12 hours by then. We watched the Pixar Play Parade before heading to get bread bowls for dinner at Pacific Wharf.
My original plan for the day was to leave the parks that evening to join another friend for drinks in Culver City. And I hadn’t seriously considered the option available to me of returning to the parks afterward and be back inside the parks before they closed at 6am Saturday morning. I’d already experienced being in the parks - well, in Disneyland - on past 24-hour events when it ended. So today’s unique experience to be there at opening had been accomplished. There was nothing else on my checklist for the day to check off.
But long story short, I promised my friend at DCA that I would return later to the parks from Culver City to keep her company. They also hadn't planned to stay through to 6am, so their driver (it wasn't my friend) wasn't able to commit to staying that long either. So my promise to return was also a guarantee to be their ride too just in case. I subsequently received texts from my other friend and her plans weren’t working out as she had planned either. And our plans to get together consequently diminished.
Little did I realize that starting my day at Disneyland would lead to spending my entire day there – all 24 hours of it, and then some - after all.
After dinner, my friend and I exited the park to the Grand Californian Hotel while her son and his friends enjoyed DCA on their own. My friend wanted to hang out at the hotel to discretely “rest up” there for an hour or two in preparation for potentially staying through to 6am. So I left her there and returned to DCA to do some exploring on my own. I’d never been to DCA at all on my previous 24-hour visits, so this was the perfect opportunity to see what it was like at this park.
It was around 7:30pm and I texted to see if my other friends were still inside Disneyland. They were and Disneyland was still closed to new guests. Shortly after texting them, they texted back saying they’d heard that now DCA was closed. I had just re-entered DCA so I was originally skeptical when I heard that. I decide to walk to DCA’s main entrance and check it out for myself. At 8pm, DCA was still letting guests in. But at 9:30pm, I got a text from my friend at the Grand Cal saying she wasn’t allowed re-entry into the park.
DCA had reached capacity. For the first time that I had ever heard of. Wow. And now, both parks were closed off during operating hours for the first time too.
My midnight, she was finally allowed to re-enter. It was at that time that I realized how crowded the park had suddenly gotten. I went back to the main entrance and saw they were finally letting people in. Pour in actually! So I texted my friend at the Grand Cal about it, and she was allowed back into DCA shortly thereafter.
I was in line at Award Wieners when I found out she was back inside. Just as it was at Disneyland earlier, the lines for food in DCA were long all evening too, and it took me twenty minutes in my line to reach the counter and order “The Insomniac”, a bacon, egg and sausage dog crafted just for tonight. I took it and a cup of black coffee (one of four cups I used that morning to help me stay awake) with me to Corn Dog Castle where I found my friend in an even longer line to buy herself a corn dog.
It was almost 2am when we both finished our midnight snacks. We planned to hit some rides before viewing the 3am World of Color – Celebrate! water show, another attraction making its public debut today. The new fireworks show Disneyland Forever was the third new show, and it was debuting in Disneyland. But on our way to Cars Land, I checked with a cast member about line up for World of Color and he informed me that Fastpasses were needed. When I checked earlier, the World of Color Fastpass machines were down for the evening, so I assumed the first and final show of the night would just be completely standby. But he told me Fastpasses were all dispensed that morning. Wow!
He pointed out where the non-Fastpass holder sections were, and we decided to skip Radiator Springs Racers (which closed at 3am that night, so seeing World of Color meant sacrificing doing that ride) and instead squated for an hour in front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure to see the new show.
The show is wonderful!!! I’ve seen past versions of World of Color, which seemed to me like a lot of individual vignettes showcasing a Disney movie or Disney theme and stringing them one right after another. This time it seems they took what they’ve learned technically to produce the magic here, added some more technical magic, and crafted a story and experience that flowed organically from one to the next using the effects available to them. The show was also more nuanced and restrained from past shows, not always having each part of the story ending with a dramatic, earth-shattering crescendo. My friend and I both loved it!
It was around 3:30am by now and I’d like to make one comment about the weather for the day. In my haste to join my friend in line the morning before, I forgot to grab my light jacket from my car. As it turned out, I didn’t need it (much). The weather the entire time was in the mid 50’s to mid 60s, often cloudy, briefly sunny at times, but for the most part never cold enough that I “needed” to buy a sweatshirt or jacket from the park in order to survive the overnight comfortably. (Sorry, Disney.)
Sitting on concrete before the World of Color – Celebrate! show for twenty minutes and deciding to stand for another forty took its toll on our aging bodies, so after the show we rested for a while at Paradise Gardens. We didn’t leave there until 4:30a, deciding all that remained on our checklist for the night was a ride on Soarin’, a visit to Ghirardelli, and a stop in a shop on Buena Vista Street for some final shopping.
Ah, the best laid plans. The wait time for Soarin’ was one hour. Pass. And walking to Soarin’ meant we’d walked ourselves way too far to enjoy the walk all the way back to where Ghirardelli was at the Pacific Wharf area. Pass number two. Instead with just another hour left in our day (and thoughts of going to bed becoming a prized idea), we spent the rest of our time at Buena Vista Street, where we’d be close to the exit when it was time to leave.
THE HAPPY ENDING
Sitting at a table outside the Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Café, where it wasn’t very crowded at all, we watched the morning sky behind the Carthay Circle Restaurant slowly then dramatically change from a dark grey to a beautiful morning blue obscured by white clouds.
At nearly 6am, Chip ‘n’ Dale arrived on the scene, dressed in their PJs, at the water fountain escorted by a cast member. In previous years, I’d witnessed how Disneyland ended their 24-hour day by bringing out Mickey and his friends at Main Street Train Station wearing their pajamas too to wave us all goodbye as we left the park. So this pair’s arrival in the same fashion was no less thrilling, to me and the crowds in the area. Them waving goodbye at us from a short distance (a low planter and the cast member escort kept us from walking right up to them) dramatically signaled the end of the event.
Not only that, but after a brief, recorded announcement played right at 6am congratulating us for making it to that point, whoops and hollers and cheers erupted from the guests all there! Then, we discovered a line of DCA’s cast members, most wearing various versions of Mickey gloves, standing near the exit waiting to high five us on our way out. My friend and I immediately joined the line of other guests that formed, and we each high fived every cast member there as we passed them, a really fun and for this smaller park with less employees there, more intimate conclusion to reaching the end of my full day at the resort.
I had a really good time! And I benefited greatly by having two sets of friends to share the time with, over two different "shifts", to keep it fun and always interesting. Thanks to Jessica, Kathy, Wayne, Scott, Celia, Kyle, Alex, Melissa and Helena.
I think I may actually try to do all 24 hours again if Disneyland tries this again next year!
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!