Adventureland, amusement parks, archaeology, Autopia, avoid waiting in line, Big Thunder Mountain, Captain Eo, Comic-Con, Davy Crockett Canoes, Disney, Disneyland, Dumbo, Fantasyland, Fast Pass, FastPass, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones, Innoventions, lines, Mad Tea Party, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Michael Jackson, Mr. Toad, People Mover, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pizza Planet, rides, Space Mountain, Star Tours, tea cups, teacups, waiting, waiting in line
While standing in the long, endless line at the recent San Diego Comic-Con convention, I heard people say several times, “This is just like Disneyland!” It is certainly not like the Disneyland I know because we rarely encounter lines while trying to get on rides. It is just a matter of planning and knowing how the park works. To prove the anti-Disneyland people wrong, we rode every available ride and attraction at Disneyland in one day, in fourteen and a half hours, with almost no line more than 20 minutes and at least a third of them no wait at all! Here’s how we did it. We kept a running account on Facebook at the time and will recreate the day from those accounts and from memory. We kept track of our finished rides on the park map.
We started with early admission which gets you into the park one hour before the regular opening.You need to be staying at one of the Disneyland hotels to get this but it is worth it. Only a few rides are available but you can get those out of the way without wait. We were at the gate at 6:30 munching on bagels and at 7am walked (ran?) over to “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.” We were the first on and off. Very cute ride but not worth the 1-2 hour wait you would have mid-day. Then we headed to the “Matterhorn Bobsleds” (5 minute wait) and then onto “Dumbo the Flying Elephant” (5 minute wait). Dumbo was a tough choice because one of the longest lines all day long is for “Peter Pan’s Flight” but that line was already in the 20 minute range so instead we headed over to the entrance to Adventureland which already had a crowd forming, all headed to “Indiana Jones Adventure” as were many of the people about to be let in at the main gate for the regular opening.
While we waited about 10 minutes for Adventureland to open it was time to repeat to my son and co-conspirator on this impossible task, Drew, the family story about Indiana Jones. Dad is an archaeologist who was consulted by Disney Imagineering on the look of the archaeological gear and camps in the waiting area. Mom forced her way into the Imagineering meeting (“If you think you are going over to Disney without me…!”) and had a few suggestions of her own, which can be seen in the preponderance of eye and snake symbols and the absence of the cows they wanted to use (“No Cows!).
The line opens, people rush to Indiana Jones and find…it is closed, broken, or at least not ready yet. “Go on over to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and tell them Dave sent you!” quipped the line guard and so we did, although it was not logical to waste this early morning opportunity on a ride that these days had a wait that was often only 10 minutes. But we went because it was a waste of time to just stand there and we could talk about our new strategy which now had to incorporate FastPasses. We rode Pirates (no wait) and when we got off we headed back to Indiana Jones to see if we could get a FastPass for later. It turns out the line had just opened and we walked right in. Wait: 5 minutes, no time at all to see Dad’s archaeological contributions.
We picked up a FastPass for “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” which would let us walk on with a 5 minute wait in half an hour. Somewhere in here we did the “Haunted Mansion,” no wait. So to fill the time until our FastPass, we headed back to Main Street and rode all four vehicles up and down the street: “MainStreet Vehicles” are “Fire Engine,” “Horse-Drawn Streetcars,” Horseless Carriage,” and “Omnibus.” These are closed down at 2:30pm for the parade so we had to get them in early.
Back over to Big Thunder and our FastPass ride. We knew we had to be in line for the “Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes” at 11am to get on the first canoes so we headed over to “Splash Mountain” which had only a 5 minute wait because no one wants to get wet this early (we didn’t get wet at all). Then on to “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (no wait), and then over to the canoes. Got wetter on the canoes than on “Splash Mountain” because most people don’t know how to paddle. Sad. Do the canoes every chance you get.
Now with all this rushing around you may have three questions. First, did you ever eat? Answer: often; we had a sit down lunch and early evening minimeal, and ate healthy snacks including fruit from one of the many fruit stands, popcorn, etc). Second, did you stop for the bathroom? Answer: often, very often! Third, was this fun or did you just whiz through the rides? Answer: we actually talked about this and we found the rides just as enjoyable, some even more so. We liked Indiana Jones better this time than ever before. We loved Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain more than ever and hated that “small world” thing as usual. We took pictures and texted along the way so we weren’t just focused on our quest.
Our next FastPass was for “Autopia,” a ride in the past that we have gone on over and over with a series of FastPasses. We used only one this time, 5-10 minute wait (even with a ride breakdown), then picked up a FastPass for “Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.” “Star Tours” had closed the night before and we rode it then so it was not on this list but lines were long that previous day for the last memorial ride. We had a 12:45 FastPass for “Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters” so we had lunch at “Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port” (we call it “Pizza Planet,” doesn’t everyone?) and at 12:45 when our FastPass was activated for Buzz, we first walked over to the FastPass station for “Space Mountain” and got tickets for 6:45. That basically ended our use of FastPasses for the day since we couldn’t pick up our next one until after 6:45.
It pained us to have to do “Innoventions,” a waste of space (and glorified game/advertising arcade) if ever there was one at Disneyland. I could think of a dozen better uses for that space and I hope the Imagineers are working on something. Bring back the “People Mover” while you are at it. On to “Captain Eo,” the Michael Jackson 3D movie from the 1990s. Boy, was MJ beautiful then. But the story and puppetry is goofy and even the music is boring. The seats shake, I had forgotten that. It was cool and dark and a good place to rest. Keep that in mind if you ever attempt a day like this. No wait to get in the line but there is a 10 minute delay as you wait for the theatre to empty from the previous show.
Most of the rest of the rides/attractions, apart from those in Fantasyland which I will describe in a minute, were just walk-ons and are line-free or short-lined most of the day: “Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island,” “The Golden Horseshoe” (went in for a snack and a drink, stayed for some of the corny but fun show), “Mark Twain Riverboat,” “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” (not as good as the original, another sit-and-rest time), “Main Street Cinema” (cool, and cool new movies of the opening day of Disneyland but I miss Steamboat Willie), “Jungle Cruise” (go at night), “Frontierland Shooting Exposition” (simply a shooting gallery but we always do it), “The Enchanted Tiki Room” (another cool respite except for the noisy birds!), “it’s a small world” (stay right when the line splits; it looks longer but the left line stops to load wheelchairs). Actually, in a wheelchair, all this can be done too because many of the rides have separate wheelchair entrances that make getting on and off easier.
Hop on the “Disneyland Railroad” in Tomorrowland because the line is always shorter compared to Main Street or New Orleans Square or Toontown. Use the “Monorail” to get back to the hotel (we got on before the post-fireworks rush).
Now to Fantasyland, which we dreaded because we left it for the late afternoon and all those little kids who inhabited it all day were still in full swing. We had done the “Casey Jr. Circus Train” earlier, on our way to Frontierland (the back way) when we noticed there were two trains running and the line was moving (if you go when there is one train it’s a long wait). We waited 5-10 minutes. We got on the “Mad Tea Party” (tea cups) in about 10 minutes and spun around despite our insistence that we wouldn’t! We waited in line for “Pinocchio’s Daring Journey” and “Snow White’s Scary Adventure,” about 10-15 minutes each. We resentfully stood in line for “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” at least 20-25 minutes and grumbled all the time about this stupid ride (which on a normal day we would just avoid) and what it should be replaced with (anything else!; or Beauty and the Beast, or some pixie/fairy adventure). We looked at the line for “Peter Pan’s Flight” and our hearts dropped: it was 40 minutes at least. Every time we walked by it was at least 40 minutes. We tried to get on the “Storybook Land Canal Boats” later but were told they had just closed in preparation for the parade at 3:30. This is when we headed to “it’s a small world.”
A ride you always have to wait for (and the only one that makes me dizzy!) is “Astro Orbitor” which took 15-20 minutes to get on, even with the parade going. When we came around the front of Sleeping Beauty Castle to tackle Peter Pan we were stopped because the parade was just moving out of Fantasyland and we couldn’t go in. When we finally were released into Fantasyland, the line to enter Peter Pan was just reforming! It must have been closed during the parade; we waited 15 minutes to get in but that was better than 40. The Storybook Boats now took only 10 minutes to get on.
We did “Space “Mountain” with our late FastPass (we only used the FastPass 4 times that day) and somewhere in day did the “Starcade” (arcade), and the “Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.”
You can nit-pick our results. We didn’t do anything in Mickey’s Toontown because it isn’t part of the original Disneyland and anyway, we find it boring; add an hour for Toontown if you insist. We didn’t do the girly stuff of standing in line for an autograph and photo with the princesses or getting your hair and nails done (though I would have liked that….). We did do a few character photographs and used the new “Photopass” which has Disney-taken photos of you posted online (for purchase, of course). They took the “Sailing Ship Columbia” out of service before we could get on (add 20 minutes for that ride) and the “King Arthur Carrousel” broke down just as we were getting on it (5 minute wait). We didn’t watch the parades but like many multi-time visitors used parade time (and if we had stayed later, fireworks time) to ride more rides with shorter lines. “Alice in Wonderland” was closed for renovations (sob!). We didn’t do “Jedi Training Academy” (we’ve seen it at least 10 times and were in it once) but you can just walk up and watch that. If you have a little kid who wants to be in it, arrive 30 minutes earlier.
Also, we never used the ride board at the end of Main Street that tells you how long the waits are (I don’t believe it is accurate) and we never used the new apps you can get for your cell phone that supposedly tell you the same thing. In fact, even the times posted at the rides themselves are not very accurate and you need to actually look at the flow of the lines to figure out if they are moving or packed tightly, etc.
Our point was not to do every possible thing you can at Disneyland but to show that you do not have to wait in long lines to do the things you want. We had very little waiting in a full day of rides and attractions and aside from very sore feet had a great time with few disappointments.