A day at Disneyland

Aug 25, 2006

Today was the day to go to Disneyland, so we got up and got going earlier than we otherwise would have, considering how late things went last night. Ran across the street to the Hilton, which had a Starbucks where we could grab some breakfast, then back to the Marriott to catch the shuttle bus to take us to the park, which is only about a mile away. We were on the grounds and standing in line to get in by 8:15 or so, and around 8:30 they let people into main street, and then the rest of the way at 9:00. Once they brought down the barriers, it felt sort of like the beginning of a road race, as everyone wanted to hurry forward to whatever was first on their hit list, but there were too many people to get a running start.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a book called the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, which not only described everything in detail and rated all the rides and restaurants and everything, but gave some suggested itineraries that would help to maximize your ride time and limit your waiting in line. So the first thing on the agenda was Space Mountain, which I’d never ridden on before, bearing in mind that in spite of the fact that we went to Disneyland in ’96 and Disneyworld in ’96 and ’97, we didn’t get to ride on many rides then because Chloe was so little. There were a number of rides that fit that category. Before ’96, you’d have to go back to our trip to Disneyworld in 1973, and the place was barely finished then, and a lot of the current big rides didn’t exist.

Space Mountain is an indoor rollercoaster that is mostly ridden in the pitch dark with a star field zooming around you. It was probably Justin’s favorite ride of the day, though, and mine too because there was basically no line since we’d chosen it first. After that we went straight to the Matterhorn bobsleds, bypassing the Buzz Lightyear ride because it wasn’t working yet. After that was the Peter Pan ride, and then Thunder Mountain, another pseudo-rollercoaster. We were working our way over to the west side of the park, where we did the Haunted Mansion, then went up to Splash Mountain to get fastpass tickets for later. Fastpass is this relatively new thing Disney has to allow you to get a timed ticket for certain rides to avoid having to stand in line for an inordinately long time. Cedar Point and Six Flags have something similar but charge extra for it; at Disney it’s free, but there’s only so many to be had, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. It was good to have the guidebook to help explain it, since there are a lot of rules and it all makes sense once you get the hang of it, but it’d be a challenge to figure out at the park, which would I guess explain why so many people don’t use it.

Anyway we got the passes and then went back south to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, which has been made over quite a bit to match the movies, making it a little less cartoony than I remember. By the time we got through the ride and everything for that ride, we were due for Splash Mountain, so we went back up there and bypassed about a 45 minute wait by getting the tickets for a specific time. Splash Mountain is basically a flume ride, with a good part of it indoors. Unlike every other amusement park in the US, Disneyland obscures what most of its rides look like from those standing in line, and since most of them are at least partly if not entirely indoors, they’re able to devote a lot of attention to the visual aspect of the ride rather than just riding for its own sake. Many of the rides have so much to look at that you can’t possibly take it all in on one trip, which makes it that much more compelling to ride them again. But we didn’t, once was fine.

By this point it was 12:30 or so and time for me to take off back to the convention for the afternoon, so I left Beth and the kids on their way back to check if Buzz Lightyear was online and went back to the hotel to gather my stuff.

After the last panel it was back to Disney to meet up with the family, although it was after 7pm by the time I got there, and they were already trashed from all the other rides and shows they’d done while I was gone, including Buzz Lightyear, which they were able to do although it was still having intermittent problems. We went to the Tiki Room show, which has changed since last time, since I don’t recall it being in the round before. Found a cafeteria type restaurant in the corner of Frontierland where we stood in line for over half an hour to get our food, such that we had to finish up quick in order to get outside in time for the fireworks. We found a spot to see the show, only to have it end abruptly after 15 minutes or so due to some technical difficulties (when Jill was here a few weeks ago they didn’t have them at all because it was too windy). Afterwards we did a little shopping, Justin spent the rest of his Disney dollars, and then we headed out to the shuttle bus and were back here shortly after 11pm, making for 15 hours or so at Disney, which I think you could consider a full day. Whether it’s worth $200 to get in or not is debatable, if you think the other parks are fairly priced then Disney is worth the extra to get the whole Disney experience. The park isn’t large, the streets aren’t particularly wide and many of the rides don’t have enough space to accommodate extra long lines, all of which gives you a general sense of being crowded. In the interest of crowd control, once the fireworks are done most people start to leave (even though the park was open till midnight tonight), and they have tons of people deployed for traffic control, such that while the exodus is in progress you can’t get certain places the easy way, on top of the fact that it’s dark and it’s hard to find your way around anyway. The kids had a good time, I think they got what they expected out of it (not being familiar with the rides, they don’t have a sense of what they missed, like the Indiana Jones ride, etc.). I spent 9 hours there which is about as much as I can stand of an amusement park. Now tomorrow they’re off to Legoland, which seems ambitious although I suppose its no different than going back to Disney for another day. Since Legoland is a ways away from here, I’ll be spending the day at the con, there’s still plenty of people to see and stuff to buy.

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