So, as you can tell by my Spring Break journal, we LOVE Disneyland. However, on this trip over Spring Break, the lines and crowds got to us. We felt we spent more times in lines than on rides - the fact is, we did! When a wait in the line is 90 minutes and the ride is only 5 minutes, you have to question your sanity!!
This year, the kids had off on a Monday in May. It was a day when most schools in the area did not have off, and I felt maybe we would try visiting the park on an off-day. So we loaded up the van and headed to Orange County.
I quickly learned we were not the only ones who hated going to Disney and fighting the lines. There are entire web pages dedicated to fighting the lines and planning your day at Disney to avoid the lines. There is one called RideMax
that will actually map out your day a Disneyland to hit the fewest wait times!
We arrived at the park about a half-hour prior to opening (8:30am). Disneyland opens at different times on different days, so check the Disneyland webpage for the times on the day you plan to go. When we arrived, parking was a breeze. We zipped in and got a prime spot near the escalator on the second level! I bought a day-hopper ticket at the booth--again, NO LINES! The lady selling the tickets was delightful. She gave us a discount, as were Southern California residents, and then gave us an insiders' tip to do California Adventure first, as the lines will be much shorter here in the morning. She then gave us a big smile and a cryptic message, "You are in for a real treat later today, Welcome Home!" I wasn't sure what she meant by this, so I smiled and moved on.
We had breakfast and waited for the gates to open. We took our ticket seller's advice and did California Adventure first. The gates opened, and we were one of the first families to enter. The kids were picked to march with the rope and right behind Mickey, as the opening is very organized and you are not allowed to run ahead of any group.
The kids were dying to try the new Tower of Terror ride, and we headed right to the tower. Surprise - we were the first ones there and got right on the first elevator. The elevator drops 13 stories and is well-named - The Tower of Terror! The kids loved it and wanted to do it again. Normally the line would go around the block, but there was NO line, and the kids got a second go at it by walking right in.
We found the same thing at California Screaming and Soaring over California. We went to the rapids ride and again - no line. We had so much fun, we got off and got in another raft and went again. They were sending out empty rafts, as nobody was in line for this popular ride. There was a short line at the small roller coaster called Mullholland Drive. It was a pleasure not having to wait in line and going up to the ride you pick and just go on. We felt spoiled and did what usually takes us a full day to cover in just one morning!
We had no reservations for lunch but walked right into Ariel's Grotto. We got a beautiful table on the patio and had a fun-filled lunch with Goofy, Max, Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, and Chip and Dale. This was unheard of to walk right in and get a table without reservations; they even had empty tables all during lunch!
After a fine lunch, we headed over to Disneyland. Again, the lines at the gate did not exist, and we marched right in. I went to Customer Relations to pick up a map and again got the cryptic message. "Boy, are you in for a treat tonight!"
The lines were a little longer at Disneyland, but again, our wait times were less than five minutes. We walked right onto both Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion. It was a pleasure being able to pick your rides and get right on!
The one thing I did notice was that some rides were closed. The Aladdin show was canceled today, The Jungle Cruise was being worked on, and Space Mountain was still not open.
The two rides that did have very long lines were Autopia and Matterhorn Mountain. Both lines were almost a half-hour. We left Matterhorn to come back later in hopes the line would be less, but the kids insisted on the wait at Autopia. We soon found out only half the lanes were open, and cast members were complaining openly to guests that the rides was grossly understaffed today and could not move any quicker. It seemed very UN-Disney that the staff was complaining about work rules to the guests, but it explained the long waits here.
Soon we learned tonight's surprise. It was an unannounced dress rehearsal for the 50th birthday party, and cameras would be filming for commercials. There would be the birthday parade and special deluxe fireworks tonight. We were thrilled! We felt like we had hit the jackpot - no lines, and we would get to see the 50th birthday celebration with no crowds! The bad news was that at that time, several rides closed down for the night unannounced, such as Matterhorn Mountain.
The parade and fireworks are not to be missed. I wish I had the words to tell you how magical these birthday party events are, trust me when I say they have to be seen to be believed! The park closed at 8pm, and we headed home, happy. The only way to see and really enjoy Disney is without the crowds, and we made the promise never to go over Spring Break again!
The only disadvantages we found were that some shows and rides were closed or canceled. These are the less busy times they use to make repairs. The park was somewhat understaffed. The park closed early, at 8pm on off-peak days, and some rides close even earlier. However, the advantages far outweighed the disadvantages, even though the workforce was happier and more cheerful.
Busiest Times (in order):
President's Day Week
Mid-March to Late April (spring break)
Memorial Day Weekend
Mid-June to Labor Day
Least Busy Times (in order):
The month of January (after New Years)
Labor Day to Thanksgiving
Week after Thanksgiving
Week before Christmas