On Friday, May 22, I attended my first 24 hour Disneyland event with my husband. We planned to arrive midday after dropping our dogs with his sister, but before the local crowds got off work. The following is a timeline of how we got lucky at one of the craziest days in Disneyland history.
After being diverted to the Toy Story lot and waiting in our first line queue of the day to board the bus, we arrive on Buena Vista Street! We decide to enter Disney California Adventure first to get Fast Passes for the 3:00 am show (which were easily available at Grizzly River Run) since there was a short line to enter Disneyland. Thankful the crowds don't seem bad at all to enter either park. We admire the new diamond decorations added to Carthay Circle, then head to California Screamin' to grab some Fast Passes.
Board California Screamin' for a wild ride!
Wait in line at the Cozy Cones for the special pulled pork & coleslaw cone exclusively for the 24 hour party. While checking Twitter, discover that the Disneyland gates have closed. Panic ensues.
Exit DCA and join the thousands of people now swarming in the Esplanade. People are getting rowdy and rude real quick due to the extreme lack of communication. Find out that they are only letting people into Disneyland who have previously entered the park that morning. I walk up to a Cast Member at the Disneyland gate and ask what to do if we have a dining reservation. Thankfully, we find out that we will be able to enter the park one hour before our lunch reservation. Breath a HUGE sigh of relief.
Enter Disneyland through the Special Event gate after showing our reservation confirmation. Do a happy dance.
Ask a friendly Cast Member if there was a parade at 4:00 pm to explain the massive crowds lining Main Street, U.S.A. Find out they are all camped out for the 8:50 pm debut of Paint the Night.
Watch some young Padawans battle Darth Vader in Tomorrowland to escape the crowds while waiting for our lunch reservation.
Lunch at Carnation Cafe means fried pickles, root beer floats and a special fried chicken sandwich with a tangy honey mustard coleslaw.
Consider riding the Matterhorn. Decide otherwise after seeing the switchbacks and two hour wait signs.
Line up for the Mickey and the Magical Map show at 5:45 pm. A welcome excuse to avoid the crowds and sit down.
Exit the show and decide we should really find a spot for the nighttime parade/fireworks. Leave my husband on a little square of real estate by Small World while I set off to try and find a better spot.
Find out our little square falls within the Small World queue and get kicked out. After wandering hopelessly, find a roped off area in front of Adventureland that is empty. After confirming with the Cast Members, we are granted magical access to the area. And now the waiting begins.
We make new friends with our fellow area members, jokingly assist the Cast Members with crowd control and try to prevent the stiffness from setting in. Apparently we have stumbled upon the best spot to watch the fireworks, according to our Cast Members.
Finally time for Paint the Night! At a very far away distance. See the tops of floats but no dancers or details of costumes. Therefore, underwhelmed, but willing to avoid passing judgement until I see the parade up close.
FIREWORKS! Best firework show I have ever seen. The projection mapping technology on the castle and Matterhorn are awe-inspiring. Feel like a little kid seeing Tinkerbell fly for the first time.
Ushered into Frontierland immediately following the show but granted access to a special little roped off area to regroup with our newfound friends. They arrived at 10 pm the night before and are therefore ready to throw in the towel. I am ready to party down, but in a very slow manner as my husband's cold is rearing its ugly head.
Head towards our late night dinner reservation and discover NO LINE FOR PIRATES! Walk right on the ride.
Conveniently exit right next to Cafe Orleans. Order the bananas foster french toast available just for the 24 hour event. Slightly underwhelmed by the dry brioche bread. Dream about the chicken and waffles that I could have ordered at the Plaza Inn.
Realize the park has cleared out and get in the 30 minute line to meet the new Yeti at the Matterhorn. Remember how jerky the ride is.
Head up to Toon Town for Mickey's Pajama Party. Groan as we discover the event features karaoke. Find Lacey (who I previously met at the Springtime Roundup as an egg decorator) and get my face painted. She is the best!
Walk through the castle to the swing dance party in Fantasy Faire. Sad to see there aren't more attendees for this Disneyland Park tradition. Enjoy watching some true pros swing dance to the big band music. Think about how that would make Walt Disney happy.
Walk right on to Haunted Mansion to meet the reinstated Hatbox Ghost. Impressed by the crisp imagery and new technology.
Walk right on to Winnie the Pooh (my favorite Disneyland ride). Feel like the lights are a little too bright and the music a little too loud. Realize I am getting my husband's cold, and that it's probably time to get home to my bed.
Get in line for Space Mountain because "it's only 30 minutes" and we frequently have horrible luck getting on this ride. Get to the main room when they shut down the ride and turn the lights on.
Watch as they cycle through the ride without riders, then cheer when they let riders go back through the ride. Thankful to not be the first group of riders.
Check out our sleepy picture (which I had to spend half the ride doing to make sure I didn't miss the camera). Feel happy with our decision to head home.
See hoards of crowds headed into Disneyland, only further affirming our decision to leave. Later find out they had finally reopened the gates, very happy for all the people waiting!
Get home to my warm bed, a little sad I missed the new World of Color show, but thankful we even made it inside the gates at our first (and last?) 24 hour event.
Well it only took 48 hours to recover from my cold and the 24 hour event, but I finally am starting to feel human again. After reading all the horror stories of people stuck outside of security, I am so so thankful we were able to make it inside Disneyland at all. Luck was on our side for our first 24 hour event, and it truly was a magical experience.
But I'm not signing up to do it again anytime soon.
Did you make it to the 24 hour event at Disneyland or Disney World? How was your experience different? Did you stay home and watch the live streams? Share your stories in the comments below!
P.S. I designed our t-shirts for the Diamond Celebration and was excited how many shout-outs we got! For the people that asked how to order them, you can get yours here on RedBubble. Lots of different shirt styles as well as totes, pillows, prints and phone cases!
P.P.S. You can find even more photos from the event on my Instagram account!