Disneyland: 5 things you should do once and maybe never again

every person on Earth should go at least once in their lives.  It’s crowded, expensive, and exhausting.  But most of all, its the best theme park in the world.   It takes energy, patience, and sometimes a deep pocketbook to navigate the crowds and fatigue.  From the attractions, shows, to the souvenir shops, there is something for everyone.  While you should live every experience Disneyland offers, unfortunately some things are best enjoyed once.  After multiple trips to the happiest place on earth, here are 5 things you should do and maybe never again.

#1 it’s a small world after all

it’s a small world after all (November 25, 2014)

Touted as the “happiest cruise that ever sailed”, its even “happier” during the holiday season.  Brightly lit, its a beacon for the adult thinking they can relive their childhood from another age floating on a raft through the Ethereal world.  Inside however, its a psychological extravaganza that buries the same, monotonousness song into your head.  Everywhere you look are dolls singing in unison.  As you sail through the different continents, you’ll start wondering if the ride is repeating itself and you cannot escape.  You’re disoriented, confused, and wondering if you’re living through that Simpsons episode.   After a 90-minute wait in line, you’ll wish you spent that time back outdoors.  What to do instead?  Ride the Disney railroad takes you behind the attraction and see the lights from a new perspective.  You can feel the heat emitting from the lights.

#2 Standing through Fantasmic! for the entire show


Fantasmic! is an attraction showing how far Disneyland will go to entertain.   After a long day of lines, rides and miles of hiking, here comes a grand scale outdoor theater complete with lights, pyrotechnics, and acrobatic stunts.  And they do it twice a night!  Once upon a time, you could show up right as the show starts and sneak your family behind the rope and get a view over someone’s shoulder.  However, as it became more popular, visitors began camping hours before hand for a sweet location snuggled up with drinks and a blanket.  The park saw money to be made and began expanding the use of premium seats and standing locations.  It has gotten so bad, the staff are almost rude to their guests waving their flashlights like batons urging oblivious visitors to move along before a riot breaks out or someone trips over their own feet.   Don’t think about stopping for a peak or try to dodge underneath the cord unnoticed.  I’ve only seen the show during the winter months and what makes the experience less than perfect is the game you have to play to see it free, see it at a distance worth watching, and getting a glimpse over someone’s shoulder while standing in the cold.  Other than that, it’s spectacular!

The area should be avoided if you’re just trying to get from point A to point B.  Otherwise, you’ll follow a maze of ropes and flashlights.  The show itself is fantastic and you owe it to yourself to see from beginning to end at least once.  If you can’t afford a reserved place of pavement to stand on, try to go to far corners in front of The Haunted Mansion or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  There, cast members won’t shoo you away from watching.  What to do instead?  Think about hopping on the Pirates of the Caribbean.   We took three straight rides during the show with zero wait.   Having the front row each time, we had the whole raft to ourselves two of the three.  POTC is fun, and more spooky and supernatural when riding alone.

#3 Racing for the best seat for Micky and the Magical Map

Mickey and the Magical Map (November 25, 2014)

Before I watched Mickey and the Magical Map, I was only able to see it long after it started including from my seat on the train.  In 2014, I finally made the effort to get a seat from beginning to the end, I can say I was blown away!  The costumes and talent brings out the nostalgia of past films from The Little Mermaid to The Princess and the Frog.  Racing ahead to 2018, I wanted to try to get the best seat possible.  Getting to the front ropes moments after the prior show ended, my family stood behind a small group with the grand theater in front of us.  Things looked promising with two choke points, one at each end of the theater and cast members pleading guests to not run.  To my left at the turkey leg stand, curious visitors wondered if they could get a head start from their side of the ropes.  Nope.  Anxious guests with phones waved down their family and friends to sneak up past others waiting much longer than they.  Quickly, those who thought they were 6th, 7th, or 20th in line were pushed even farther back.  You can feel the frustration of others at the sight of guests in wheelchairs get a reserved place before them.  The boorish crowd began wondering why they can’t have the same privileges of the disabled.  Whatever hopes of humanity left was lost when the ropes are pulled back and the mob pursued.  I took my time down the treacherous steps and was nearly tackled from behind by a young male teen.  He couldn’t navigate my larger frame nor have the strength to push me aside.  He jumped into the seats on my right and started leapfrogging one seat after the other, struggling to regain time lost because of me and my advancing age.  We managed to secure good 7th row seats in the middle.  I was thankful for that.   It’s a great show.  Everyone should get a close seat once but I won’t wait and race for it again.  And even in Disneyland with the crowds comes crowd behaviors.  What to do instead?  Time your arrival at the latter half of the crowd.  If at the end of the show, ribbons fall on you from above, you had a good seat.

#4 Splash Mountain during winter


I’m a lover of log flume rides from my youth at Six Flags over Mid-America.  This is a most intense log ride with a 5-story fall.  What’s the best time to go with the shortest line?  Nighttime winters, of course!  Wearing my North Face rain jacket, I was bundled up from head to toe.  The final splash was like getting hit in the head with a fire extinguisher that blew off my hoodie drenching me from top to bottom.   After recovering from the exhilarating fall, my clothes were soaking wet in temperatures in the upper 40’s.  It may not have been the best choice in my life, but it was fun.

#5 Dinner at the Blue Bayou

At the Blue Bayou (January 1, 2018)

Ever wondered about that restaurant over looking the river at Pirates of the Caribbean?  It only takes a reservation.  It’s a full service restaurant where you can have an appetizer, meal, dessert, and unlimited refills.  The service is attentive and its a luxurious break from the large crowds outdoors waiting in long lines for a churro.  You can easily get a reservation online.  When you arrive, just mention your name and you’ll sit in the restaurant’s parlor waiting your name to be called.  Fans of Disneyland should visit this elusive place at least once and see what life is like on the other side of the Caribbean ride.  But be warned, don’t come here to save money.  Save your Disney rewards dollars and expect to pay around $50 a person.

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