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.

You'll Never Walk Alone

“How many photos of the same ochre door in Liberty Square at Walt Disney World do I need?” Obviously, the answer is “never too many.” Organizing my iPhoto library this weekend, I found the same image photographed almost in the exact same location over the course of ten years. Clearly, each time I see this door, I think, “oh, that would make a nice photograph.” But clearly, my mind is a sieve.

The other surprising discovery was the large amount of Walt Disney World photos sans people. I’m not talking here about the lack of photos of family members. I mean no people, as in Life After People. This tells me something about my psychological makeup, but I can’t focus long enough to know what. I don’t know how I manage to take so many images at a place with millions of people that are devoid of human activity. And there are quite a few images that may have a couple of guests, but are of empty areas of concrete or sand.

I have a secret dream of retiring and creating a job at Disneyland helping people with their photos, and offering guidance to the guests looking lost. “Excuse me,” I would say, “Are you looking for Space Mountain?” Or, “May I help you with a photo tip? Bring your child forward, and let the castle be in the background.” I could wear a white shirt and black bow tie, and be the “Answer Man.” The trick would be to not direct people to shoot scenes without any human presence. “Now wait, ask your child to get out of the shot. Okay, there are no people in the frame, shoot it now.”