How to Have Fun

If there is one thing I need out of life, it’s to be useful. I give my time to AIGA, teach at Art Center, write books, and let people in when they are merging in traffic. All of these, however, are irrelevant in comparison to my useful tips for visiting Disneyland. I’m not interested in programs or books that help guest plan every minute of a day for maximum efficiency. If I wanted maximum efficiency I would vacation at a German auto factory. I don’t understand why anyone would want to race from one attraction to the next, watching the clock and screaming at the kids if they fall behind schedule. It’s supposed to be fun. So here are my tips:

1. Never, ever, ever, enter or leave an area when a parade ends. If you are in the middle of Main Street and the parade ends, do not move. You will be swept up into the crowd; you may lose the hand of your child or friends. This is as foolish as trying to calmly cross the street during a mass exodus from a burning theater. Find a quiet spot in a store and wait. It will only take 5-10 minutes for the masses to disperse.

2. Get a FastPass as soon as you enter the park. You don’t need to run screaming toward Space Mountain. You can return at a reasonable time and pass all the guests in line who have no patience or sense of pre-planning. FYI, the FastPass system has been on a grid not shared by all parks. So you can get a FastPass for Soarin’ Over California and one for Indiana Jones at the same time. Rumor has it that Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin is on a grid all by itself.

3. Do not eat everything because you are at Disneyland. I hear this excuse often, “Oh, it’s fine. I can have the popcorn, frozen banana, and corn dog at the same time. I’m at Disneyland.” Wrong. The location will not prevent an upset stomach from over-indulgence. And, as I learned the hard way, you will gain weight if you use this excuse, have an Annual Passport, and visit each weekend.

4. Pay attention to guest capacity on attractions. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Little Mermaid have a system that is in constant motion. The line will move quickly. Dumbo starts and stops, and can only handle the number of guests on the attraction. The line will move slowly.

5. If there is a line, relax. You probably don’t have an imminent meeting or doctor appointment. It’s okay to wait for a few minutes and catch your breath.

6. Do not beat your children. This seems obvious, but how often have you seen the frustrated parent shaking the poor child, “You better stop crying and start having fun! Do you know how expensive this is?” The good thing about children is their mood swings. They aren’t like adults who hang on to being angry or sad. They’re crying and then five minutes later, laughing. And you don’t want to be the parent people stare at as they pass.

7. Go to the empty line. If a line is open, it’s open. If a cashier is sitting with no line, they aren’t closed. Everyone just assumes the line might be closed and doesn’t want to appear to cut. If there are two cues for an attraction and one is empty, it’s not closed; people are simply easily confused. Here’s a tip, if you want a pineapple swirl at the Tiki Juice Bar, use the line inside the Enchanted Tiki Room patio. Remember, the pushy bird gets the worm.

8. Avoid Adventureland if you need to get to New Orleans Square. The layout is dense and traffic patterns are tight. Go through Frontierland. The street is wider and people aren’t standing in the path, mystified by the idea of Bengal Barbecue skewers.

9. I like to eat at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante for Mexican food, or Stage Door Café for chicken fingers. If the patio at Stage Door is too crowded, take your tray to del Zocalo. It’s okay; you can move your food from one restaurant to another. There are no alarms if you step over the boundary with your turkey leg. In fact, we’ve often all gone separate ways and brought everything back to the Plaza Inn to eat.

10. Remain calm. This isn’t a test. God is not judging you if you don’t do every attraction. The point is to enjoy yourself. Take rests, sit on a bench on Main Street and eat some popcorn. It’s okay to only ride the Disneyland Railroad and Mark Twain, eat lunch, and wander.

One last suggestion is to watch the flag retreat ceremony on Main Street. It happens at Town Square in front of the train station late afternoon. I might be corny, but it’s pretty wonderful to see the salute to the armed services, national anthem, and lowering of the flag for the day.

The Innocents Aboard

If you come to Disneyland with me, you will have a dull time. Since I can go at any time, any attraction with a line is out of the question. I avoid the parade after seeing it for the first time. I prefer a slow and easy experience. I like sitting on Main Street, riding the Disneyland Railroad, and the Mark Twain Riverboat.

It’s not that the attractions with lines aren’t worth the wait. I typically say, “Oh, too long. Let’s do that next time.” So, you can see, after walking around the park with me passing every attraction, you would not be happy.

Here’s the secret to sitting on Main Street: get some popcorn, or ice cream and sit on a bench at the Railroad Station. If you buy ice cream, never go to Gibson Girl. Use the Main Street Cone Shop, which is on the side street behind the Market House. Don’t sit on the curb, unless you're watching a parade. It’s like being homeless at Disneyland and people may step on you.

When you ride the Mark Twain, head for the Promenade Deck (the second floor for land-lubbers) and the bow of the ship. Everyone else will race up the stairs to the top Texas Deck, or scramble for the chairs on the Main Deck. Relax, and take in the scenery. There’s no need to race around the ship like a headless chicken; you can ride it as many times as you like. And go to the bathroom before boarding. You don’t want to be on the far side of Tom Sawyer Island and tugging on doors hoping to find a restroom. There isn’t one.

The Road Less Travelled

Disneyland WEDway Peoplemover, 1967

I went to the Apple store last weekend to get a new iPhone. When Alex, my helpful sales guy, was doing the transfer, he noticed my phone screen-saver. It’s geeky, but I have an image of the Peoplemover at Disneyland. Alex, who was young and groovy, said he loved the Peoplemover and wished it were still there. This is a sentiment I hear all the time. The Peoplemover was a fine piece of design, functionally and aesthetically. The cabs were just the right size, the materials were durable, and the color palette was wonderfully slightly shifted from primary colors.

The Peoplemover opened with the Tomorrowland redesign in 1967. This version of Tomorrowland was the bight future, gleaming white, a world on the move. When Tomorrowland was refurbished in 1998, Rocket Rods replaced the beloved Peoplemover. Since Rocket Rods was retired in 2000, the tracks have sat empty.

When friends back east hear that I have a Disneyland Annual Passport, they are mystified. “What do you do there? Do you go on all the attractions?” they ask. Of course I don’t. Like every other Southern California resident, I use my passport to have lunch, sit on a bench, and walk around the Park. If I go on an attraction, it’s the slow ones: Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain Riverboat, maybe Pirates. The Peoplemover was a favorite slow attraction. It was wonderful to leisurely tour Tomorrowland and yell at guests from above. Noreen always had good advice for the guests walking below us. She would yell at them, “No matching outfits!” or “No running! Slow down Sir!” or “No holding hands. No touching.” Perhaps this is the real reason for the Peoplemover’s retirement.