My Dateline Disneyland: July 17, 2015
In the many years that I worked for Disneyland and in the following years that I have been a Disneyland Annual Passholder, I had never really had a chance to enjoy July 17th as simply a Guest. Since it was such a big milestone this year, I made plans with my friends to spend a memorable day at Disneyland on its birthday.
A lot has been written about Disneyland's 60th. This post is my play-by-play of my Disneyland visit on July 17, 2015.
6:30 am: Disneyland encouraged everyone to show their 1955 DisneySide. So we planned our outfits and arrived at the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure early. We experienced no traffic. We were able to breeze right into the toll booths and quickly parked. We were able to quickly board the first tram available. There was a light crowd through security and we each received a complimentary copy of a special issue of the Orange County Register (you can get your own copy, too, HERE).
6:50 am: We walked right though the turnstiles and entered Disneyland. We each received a commemorative birthday button and a special Disneyland map for the special day. When you open the map, it showed you what the 1955 Disneyland map looked like.
As we made our way under the train station tunnels, we were greeted by many Disneyland Cast Members who were stationed all along the sidewalks. They were just excited as we were. Many had on their Mickey Mitts and were offering "high-4s". The many Cast Members who came out to line the street were just as excited everyone there on this special day.
7:00 am: Official opening time was listed at 8am but as soon as 7am hit, the announcement went off to welcome Guest and the Park was open. It was a smart move on Disneyland's part. There was a big enough crowd but not too crazy (unlike the 24hr event that occurred May 22nd).
7:17 am: I think everyone made a beeline for Peter Pan's Flight. The wait quickly soared. It was overcast and everyone seemed really excited to just be at Disneyland so the wait was manageable. My friends had not been on the renovated attraction since it had only re-opened July 1st. They are big Peter Pan fans so it they were super excited to see the changes. I think it was just fun to ride an attraction that was part of the original 1955 Grand Opening.
8:36 am: After Peter Pan, we made our way to the Matterhorn. I highly recommend making use of the Single Rider line for this particular attraction. Everyone ride's by themselves anyways, there are no photo taken while on the ride, and you'll really save a lot of time. We were in and out of there in about 20 minutes.
9:16 am: We made our way to Tomorrowland and came across one of the fun 1955 themed photo locations that were available that day. It was still a bit overcast and cool so we went ahead and stood in line to get a fun group picture. They had these really great Disneyland 60th pennants that were photo props. We really wanted to buy one but they were not available for purchase. Who dropped the ball on that merchandise offering?
9:25 am: There were birthday cupcake stations located throughout the Park so we decided it was a good time to get one. It was a sweet morning snack. They were vanilla topped with a vanilla cream icing. You could take what you needed you for your group and come back as often as you wanted.
9:30 am: We were able to get a FastPass to Space Mountain for around 11am. To pass time we headed to go shopping. There was a short line to get into the Star Trader store to purchase special Disneyland 60th merchandise that was made available that day. This was a different design and offerings than what is already available for Diamond Celebration. We each picked up a dated pin to commemorate our day. By the way, you can always contact Merchandise Guest Services to purchase some Park items (1-877-560-6477).
9:50 am: We opted out of the special 10am ceremony that was taking place in front of the Castle. A lot of the morning Guest that had entered at Park opening with us, had made a bee line to get a spot. We just figured we could see it somewhere on the internet later. So, we made our way to ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. It all took us about 15 minutes. After we got off the ride, we found another photo location. The Matterhorn photo op is part of the Diamond Celebration so it will remain available until they announce the end of the 60th event. It's one of the most fun photo locations.
11:10 am: We went to Space Mountain for our Fastpass time and screamed our heads off. We decided that we wanted to see Mickey on this day so we hiked up to Toontown. We noticed another photo location so we got in line to further document our fun day. Then we headed to Mickey's House and met up with the Big Cheese at his Movie Barn. Mickey Mouse greeted us in his Bandleader costume. This is the best place to get a little one on one time and photo with the most famous Disney character.
12:10 pm: After visiting Mickey Mouse, we decided to take the train over to Frontierland. We had to wait a little while for our turn to ride the train. When we finally got onto the train, we knew that that going through the Grand Canyon Diorama was coming up soon. As we pulled into the Main Street Train Station, I could look over onto the Main Gate area and see that it was not too busy at about noon.
12:35 pm: As we pulled into the Frontierland Train station, we could here the 'tap, tap, tap' sound of a telegraph message. It was fitting to remember that what you hear is the Morse code of Walt Disney's Opening Day speech from July 17, 1955.
When we left the train station, we immediately got a FastPass for Haunted Mansion. We were ready for lunch and thought we would eat at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. You can usually find seating in a shaded area, it's a great environment, and they have fried green tomato sandwiches on their menu.
2:00 pm: We had a wonderful leisurely lunch so that by time we were done, not only was it time to use up our Haunted Mansion Fastpass, but we could also get another one. One of our friends in our group had never experienced Splash Mountain so we had to get a Fastpass for that ride. We totally lucked out on our timing. You could see that the Park was really manageable in terms of crowd size since Fastpasses were still available for popular rides. It was a pretty warm day, too, and there were still decent times (vs. late evening times) available for something like Splash Mountain.
2:40 pm: While we were on the Haunted Mansion, we experienced a brief stop. My friends happened to stop right in front of the famous Hatbox Ghost so they were able to get some good pictures.
When we exited the ride, there was another photo op. This one happened to be a new Diamond 60th location so this photo op will continue to be available throughout the Diamond Celebration. It's a pretty fun one. It was a pretty popular photo location so we waited in line (maybe 15 minutes) but it was worth it. I can see people using this as their Christmas card. It would be fun to send it out a a family Halloween card, too.
3:10 pm: It was time for a little snack so we decided to walk over to Adventureland on the hunt for a Pineapple Dole Whip. It was a very warm afternoon and everyone had the same idea. We waited about 20 minutes to get our refreshing treat. We also decided to head into the Tiki Room to cool off and enjoy the show.
4:00 pm: We knew there was a special pre-parade that would include Cast Members from Opening Day 1955. We were able to get a decent view by the Castle in the short amount of time. It was a treat to see people I remember when I had worked at Disneyland (1989-2001) like Ron Dominguez, Jack Lindquist and Dick Nunis. These are the guys who were behind the everyday Disneyland operation. My Disneyland bosses had worked with them and learned the Disney Way from these veterans.
4:30 pm: We started to head towards Critter Country as our Splash Mountain Fastpass time was close. We came upon another 1955 themed photo spot. We concluded that it was the most interesting of the attractions featured. We had our Diamond Photopass so we had to include this in our photo adventure.
4:50 pm: We were excited to take our "first-time-Splash Mountain-rider" on the adventure. It was pretty warm, we were close to ending our day, so a little "splash" would be welcome. Our "first-time" friend loved the ride. She also happens to be a huge fan of rabbits in general so it was all good. One of my favorite parts of the ride is towards the end, you come upon a very festive room with characters aboard a steamboat singing "Zip-a-dee-do-dah". It's like they welcome you back and sing in glee that you survived the plunge.
5:30 pm: There was one more 1955 themed photo spot that was on the list. Over on the Big Thunder Trail there was "Mud Wagon" Stage Coach. It was cool that it actually was the vehicle but you could only pose with it in the background (as opposed to actually getting inside the stage coach). There was actually another Diamond Celebration photo spot around the corner so we opted to get into that shorter line instead.
They had Photopass Photographers everywhere with some fun props that you could hold. The Photopass Cast Members were really working it, too. They would encourage you to pose and take some fun shots. Somewhere along the day we posed with this fun Disneyland ticket prop. We had to get one in front of the Castle. Before we left Disneyland, we took a photo in front of Floral Mickey.
6:00 pm: We knew there was also a commemorative map at Disney California Adventure plus a couple photo locations. We were approaching 12 hours so also needed a Starbucks to get a second wind. Most of us only go to the Park for 4 or 5 hours since we all have Annual Passes so the day had been long but "oh-so-much-fun!"
We found the Diamond Celebration photo spot for Grizzly River Run. This one is available throughout the Diamond Celebration period. I think the Parking Lot - 1955 Themed photo spot was my favorited. It was in the in perfect location as that is exactly what Disney California Adventure sits on, the former Disneyland Parking Lot. So it made sense that this particular photo location was in this Park and not Disneyland. The photo backdrop was cute. The Photopass Cast Member who was taking pictures at this location was really good at posing Guests and capturing the day as shown in this photo.
7:00 pm: Whew! What a day. We headed out with happy hearts and lots of pixie dust. We made plans to do it all again for the Disneyland's 70th Celebration.
Thank you for letting me share my Disneyland Day. It's pretty amazing to see something continue to grow and excite so many people at 60 years old.