I spent last Friday at the Disneyland 24-Hour 60th Anniversary kickoff party.
Some important notes to make up front:
1- I was on a mission. I wanted to be there for as much of the celebration as possible so I went in with the mindset that crowds wouldn’t bother me anyway.
2- I was rolling solo. No kids to worry about on this trip. If you plan a 24-hour commando day, I highly recommend leaving the kids behind and hitting the parks with a spouse, bestie, or totally alone.
3- I made a conscious decision to only leave the park when necessary and planned accordingly. I was NOT going to risk getting locked out of Disneyland!
4- I had a few goals early on in the day I wanted to meet. If they were met, then my day was a success. Goals: get into the park by 6am, be on Main Street, U.S.A. for the celebration, grab a locker on Main Street, ride Matterhorn and Haunted Mansion to see the updates, and if possible do some shopping.
Let’s do this!
Every good story starts with characters. I ran into quite a few during my 20-hour adventure.
Spoiler: I did not make 24 hours in the parks. I punked out. Want to know why? Read on!
I arrived at John Wayne airport on Thursday night, picked up a rental car and fellow late night flier Jindy and headed to the hotel. By the time we got there, we were toast and questioned our sanity in this endeavor.
We read Facebook reports about people lining up already (10pm!) and began to panic a little. But cooler heads prevailed and we knew it was necessary to get a little sleep before the big day.
I crashed at the Desert Inn Anaheim Suites which is located directly across the street from the bus stops and entrance to Disneyland.
Quick review: I’ve stayed her before and have no issues to report! It’s clean, it’s surprisingly quiet, and the beds are comfortable. For the price (under $100 a night) and the location: it’s a winner.
I woke up around 3:45am- already late. The plan was to wake around 3am but somewhere somehow my alarm didn’t go off. Thankfully Jindy’s text showed her to be in the same boat! We got dressed and planned to meet at the Harbor side entrance by 4:30am.
When I got there, I saw this.
Hiiiiiiii, bazillion friends!
Disneyland stated they would start letting people through to the Esplanade at 2am. If this was the crowd outside of the Esplanade 2.5 hours later? Eeesh.
My concern at this point was actually making it into the park before opening. Forget that locker on Main Street. This line to get through security did not look promising.
Jindy was running a bit behind and happened to catch a report from a friend on Facebook. Crystal’s status said she parked at Mickey and Friends, walked through Downtown Disney side and was in the park within 10 minutes.
Um. Yeah… sign me up for that!
Thanks to all my runDisney experience, I knew the route around Disney’s Califonia Adventure via the streets. I started walking that way.
Jindy found me on the street (she grabbed a cab) and we rode the rest of the way to the Grand Californian Hotel where we cut through to Downtown Disney.
The crazy thing about this plan? I predicted it the night before. I had a feeling based on what parking lots were open early that the Downtown Disney side would be empty in comparison to the Harbor side.
I was right. I love it when that happens!
We went through security, through the turnstiles, and entered Disneyland by 5am.
Goal 1 met. Now about that Main Street locker situation…
At this point, Disneyland was doing a great job with crowd control. Main Street was quite full, but Town Square had plenty room to maneuver. I started working my way up the sidewalk toward the lockers to scope out the situation and found myself in the longest line (that never ever seemed to go down): Starbucks.
I get it.
Apparently I’m not alone in this feeling! The weird thing was the line wasn’t open yet, but the Cast Members were allowing people to work their way up the sidewalk to “get in line for coffee”.
Errr… okay- I’ll follow them.
When I got to the corner where you enter the locker area, a CM stated they were all sold out.
Well, who knows? Doesn’t hurt to check, right?
Goal 2: met!
I worked my way out of the locker area and straight onto Main Street, U.S.A.
With ALL of YOU GUYS!
I legit cried at this moment. My Disney-fied heart was as full of Walt as it has ever been.
The crowd was wonderful and happy. The gorgeous 60th Anniversary ears were in abundance. All were there to celebrate the Happiest Place on Earth.
It was a beautiful moment- and one I have to thank my husband for helping me to achieve. He doesn’t quite have the same love for Disney Parks that I do, but he doesn’t question mine. He’s pretty great, that Mr. Shenanigans of mine!
Goal 3: met.
We had entertainment in the form of photographers, videographers, live feed cameras, and a banging DJ & MC.
Finally, 6am hit and we headed into Disneyland!
My first stop: the castle, of course!
I love the #TinyDiamondCastle with all my heart. She may not be as grand as the Walt Disney World icon, but there’s no questioning her beauty.
Sigh… she’s perfect.
My next goal was quickly met. I found Jindy and we jumped on the Matterhorn (holla single rider!) and headed to Haunted Mansion for some Hatbox Ghost.
I know people fear change, but some change is REALLY good. And Harold 2.0, as well as the re-imagineering of Hatbox, are two changes I fully support.
By 7am, my last goal was met: I shopped.
I picked up a Pandora charm for a friend, found myself some commemorative ears, and purchased a brand new sparkly diamondy (yes, it’s a word) headband.
My friend Betsy showed up with my first Alex and Ani bracelets as well! Yay! I’m finally part of the jingly (yes, it’s a word) Disney club.
Note about merchandise: there was TONS of it. This was NOT a runDisney expo situation.
Guys: ALL of this happened before 9am. That’s crazy!
At 9am I had to bolt out of the park and move my car. I was staying at the Grand Californian and needed to check out of the Desert Inn. I made a mad dash out and accomplished this (with an outfit change for lunch) in 45 minutes.
And we found Emelia!
She flew in early Friday morning and came straight to the party. By the time she arrived (10am) there were only lockers left in DCA but she was still able to enter either park without issue.
Crowds inside were finally building. Up until this point, it had been relatively short lines for everything- except Matterhorn, Haunted Mansion (see why I did those first?) and coffee at Starbucks! People were taking this opportunity to stake out spots on Main Street for the parade and fireworks viewing.
That’s right: lining up at 10am for 8:30pm shows.
So the obvious question here: why on earth did you change into a cute dress and heels?
Pixie dust is REAL, y’all!
I’ll make a separate post about lunch but for now I’d like to thank Beth, Body, and Mark for being wonderful hosts. It was such a special day to celebrate Beth’s 18th birthday (again) at Club 33 with one of my favorite Disney loving families.
After lunch, I met up with Bobby and Stephanie, who finally made it to the parks after a long airport delay. Our friend Jane was on her way out of the park for a nap- which proved to be fatal to the night.
Jane left around 3pm and wasn’t able to get back in. The. Rest. Of. The. Night.
Side note: in the “It’s a Small World” category, I was tagged in this picture on Instagram the next day.
Stephanie and Jane (who I met through runDisney) made room for two random runners at Trader Sam’s- who just happened to be Jindy and Emelia! I love it when this happens!
Back to the 24-Hour day: I was running out of steam and worried about Jane getting back in.
That meant it was time for this:
Starbucks makes all the difference. I got a second wind and was good to tackle the 2nd 12-hour stretch.
Bobby, Stephanie and I took the easy way around the park via the Disneyland Railroad. It saved some walking, saved some time on our feet, and gave us a great perspective of the park.
It really was NOT that crowded. Apparently a decision had been made to hold people out of the gates until after fireworks.
I saw a ton of Twitter pictures and read quite a few stories online about this issue. I am SURE people on the outside were furious. We had one of our own trapped in that mess, so I totally get the frustration.
Jane tried to get back in (we did have dinner reservations) but was denied and held at the monorail for a couple of HOURS trying to join us. At midnight, she gave up and headed back to the hotel.
An insider to the workings of Disneyland explained the situation this way: Main Street, U.S.A., reached capacity early on and didn’t clear until after the 2nd parade. When any part of Disneyland reaches capacity, the park must close the gates to new guests. So despite our observation that the park was “dead” in some areas, legally Disneyland could NOT open to new guests until Main Street cleared out.Remember that I said people were sitting on Main Street at 10am? Yep- they were part of the problem.
Due to the popularity of the new parade and new fireworks shows on the same night, this was bound to happen. It’s also why I was determined to get in early, get a locker, and only leave to move my car. I suspected long closures to Disneyland as the day went on.
I should touch on the weather. As you can see in my pictures, it was a Grey-May day at Disneyland for most of the 24-Hour event.
It was a bit on the chilly side most of the day but got downright cold for this Arizona girl after the sun went down. If I had braved the coffee line one more time, I think I could have pulled off the full 24-Hour event.
But I didn’t. And our Jane was stuck outside. And I was cold.
So we finally decided to head to the exit sometime after 1am.
Wow- imagine how long this post would be if I HAD stayed the full 24-hours? HA!
In 2014, I went to rope drop at Walt Disney World. It was a whole lot less complicated than Disneyland. Maybe that’s the first time that statement has been made- ever– about the two parks! But despite all the madness just to get into (and stay in) Disneyland, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Would I do it again? Heck yeah!
How about you? Did you attend one of the 24-Hour parties this year? Tell me all about it!
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)