Even though I have been known to make occasional attempts to pass myself off as being a mature responsible adult in recent years, to be perfectly honest I’ve never really been all that good at it. Sure I’ve managed to tick off a reasonable number of the items on the big checklist, but there’s still quite a few that I haven’t figured out yet, and a few of them I’ve never been all that inclined to really bother with. As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been reading this Blog for any length of time, one of the items in the “not going to bother growing up” category would be my little Disney habit. Since my first trip to Disneyland as an adult back in early 2006, I’ve taken seven more trips to Disneyland for 3-5 days at a time (with another trip with my friends coming up next month), one trip to Disney World, and I’ve now had an Annual Pass since 2011.
Naturally, this has led some people to ask just what it is that keeps me going back there so often. And while I’m not sure I could truly answer that question, I generally tell them that it’s a nice convenient place to get away from things for a bit. Getting there takes only about a 2-hour flight from here (and it’s reasonably easy to find cheap flights from here to LAX if you do a bit of looking and planning ahead.) If I’m traveling with my friends, generally we don’t need a hotel since their parents own a condo about 25 miles away from the parks where they generously let us stay when we take our trips down. This means that if we have annual passes to the parks (which are admittedly a fairly significant upfront cost,) we can generally do a trip to the parks for not much more than the cost of flights, a rental car and food. Not that it will be a particularly relaxing getaway (it doesn’t matter how easy you’re taking it, there’s still no such thing as a relaxing Disneyland vacation) but it will still provide plenty of opportunity to get away from things for a bit, and plenty to take your mind off of whatever it needs to be taken off of at the time. And no matter when you go, it still seems like there’s always something new to see, be it a new show, a new ride (or a change to an existing ride) or even on occasion something as big as an entirely new land. On the flip side, there’s also a good chance that for one reason or another you’re going to end up missing out on something along the way too (the trip me and my friend took in April happened to coincide with an unplanned closure of Space Mountain, and this trip saw both the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain closed for various reasons.) Naturally, this can be a disappointment, but if you know how to plan around things it generally shouldn’t end up being too big a deal.
Of course, if you happen to be making what you expect to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland, chances are your plans are going to be a lot different from they would be if you happen to be an annual passholder that makes several visits a year. Gradually you learn the little tricks and the shortcuts to get around things and out of the long lines. We happen to be firm believers in going through the gift shops to get around crowds on Main Street and along other paths; it saves time, gets you out of the sun (which turned out to be a significant issue on our most recent trip, where temperatures reached well into the Nineties with high humidity) and only occasionally results in ill-advised impulse buys. You also start to figure out where the best places to eat (and possibly save a few bucks) are, both inside and outside of the parks. And you also start to learn other tricks to make things easier (for example, if you have a tendency to bring ridiculous props into the parks to take silly ride photos, it’s a good idea to rent a locker to store stuff in.) Even though I’ve been coming to the parks for years now, this really feels like the first trip where I’ve really felt like we knew what we were doing. I think I know the freeways around Los Angeles well enough now that I can (mostly) find my way around without needing to use the GPS on my phone, we were doing a good job of staying out of crowds, long lines and the sun, we weren’t really under any pressure to do anything, and (most of) our ride photos turned out reasonably well. Unfortunately, we did have some problems with the excessive heat (who wouldn’t?) that did put as crimp on our plans for a couple of days, but that pretty much seems to come with the territory when you go down there during the Summer months. We probably should have learned our lesson last year when we went in August, but apparently this time around the temperatures were well above average for this time of year, and the heat index was close to 106 degrees when the humidity is factored in. I’m guessing things should be a little more tolerable when we go back in October, but with the way things are going these days, who knows? Anyway, regardless of the ups and downs it was still an enjoyable trip with good company, and perhaps most importantly, it provided a nice little excuse to forget about work for a bit.
Oh, and another of the little traditions I’ve developed on our Disneyland trips is one of making up random Disney facts out of thin air and posting them over on my Facebook wall. To bring this post to a close, here is a sampling of some of our Disneyland Facts that are Not True from the most recent trip:
- Anyone who has been visiting Disneyland for long enough knows that the old Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland was replaced in 1979 by the much more thrilling Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but few people know that the creation of BTMRR was prompted by an accidental discovery of a significant deposit of rare earth minerals underneath Nature’s Wonderland in 1975. As the ride was being built, a small but productive mining operation was commenced several hundred feet below the attraction, and continues to this day. For most of the past year the ride has been closed, ostensibly to facilitate a replacement of the tracks, but in addition to the work above ground, an exploratory shaft is currently being dug toward the Matterhorn in hopes of finding even larger deposits.
- Although the Haunted Mansion is advertised to have 999 Happy Haunts, in reality Disney’s internal standards allow for a variance of plus or minus two percent on any given day to account for scheduling conflicts or other issues that might arise. Although they do manage an exact count of 999 on most days, the Mansion can be considered to be operating normally with as few as 980 Happy Haunts or as many as 1,019. On March 14th 2009, a mishap in scheduling resulted in a record 1,143 Happy Haunts in the Mansion for a short time before the ride was brought down to rectify the problem.
- In July of 2009, the Captain Jack Sparrow animatronic in the final scene of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride suffered a major malfunction. Rather than risk extended downtime to the ride during the busiest part of the year to make repairs, Disney hired Johnny Depp to replace the broken animatronic in the ride for three days. He did such a good job of staying in character that the ruse was not discovered until several weeks later by Disneyphiles reviewing YouTube videos of the ride and noticing discrepancies in the motions compared to the existing figure.
- Although it is rarely seen by park guests, there is in fact an alternate path on the Indiana Jones Adventure ride that does not lead you to the Gates of Doom. Naturally, you get there by not looking into the Eye of Mara, which is nearly impossible to get 12 tourists on a ride car to cooperate on at once. If you are fortunate enough to reach this alternate path there will not be untold riches or eternal youth, but you may get free t-shirts, snacks, Disney gift cards or possibly even free admission to the park. Naturally, the ride is considerably shorter than normal along this alternate path.