If you ever want to visit Disneyland and not have to worry about waiting in long lines for rides, food or using the restroom, go during February. However, do not go on Leap Day when the park is open for 24 hours straight.
Crowds don’t scare me. Mob mentality kind of does. Apparently loud music at 2 a.m. annoys the heck out of me when all I can hear is the booming sound of the bass. But, folks, I am not a quitter. (That’s probably the reason I am still stuck working at a job I am not a huge fan of). Because, I spent 24 hours straight at Disneyland. Yes, that is 1,440 minutes of non-stop fun at the Anaheim theme park. It was the first time in Disney history that the park was kept open for an entire full 24 hours, and I wanted to be part of it, of course.
Just as the days and even weeks before a marathon, I get nervous, so it was with my Disneyland adventure.
But there was nothing to be nervous about.
Being at Disneyland is like being back home. It’s like visiting an old friend. There’s no awkward small talk. You go straight to the chase. So, Phyllis and I started out the morning with my favorite rides. It was her first ever visit, so I showed her the ropes. We hit Indiana Jones, Thunder Mountain and Star Tours all at the beginning. I couldn’t stop being excited. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Phyllis' first stroll down Main Street
Excitement at the entrance
Rollin' down on Thunder Mountain Railroad
And, it just continued to get better. Modern Family, one of my favorite TV shows just happened to be filming a scene of an upcoming episode at the park. While they had the area just outside of Pirates of the Caribbean roped off and we were asked to not stand atop a nearby wall, I still managed to get a few good stalker photos of the cast. “OMG, it’s Manny! In Mickey ears!” I kept repeating. This was better than seeing Mickey Mouse on Main Street, even if I couldn’t talk to any of the actors or accidentally bump shoulders with them. I was at Disneyland of all places at the same time as them. That would be enough.
Look at him!
During the day-time, there was hardly any lines for the rides. People walked around pleasantly in their T-shirts or Disney-inspired outfits as the sun beamed down on all of us. Annie, who goes to school at UCLA, met up with Phyllis and I at 1:30 p.m. The three of us hit more of our favorite rides and took some fantastic photos in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
Annie insisting on jumping photos
Not ready, "good" version posted in older post
Then, there was the mishap at one of the rides — at the Mad Tea Party. We made the tea cup ride stop for everyone because of doing something stupid. Besides the “greatest hits” of rides at the park like Space Mountain and the Matterhorn (the latter which was sadly closed that day for refurbishing,) the tea cup ride is one of my favorites. Maybe it’s the challenge of trying to get your tea cup to spin as fast as possible without throwing up. Maybe it’s because it’s one of my first Disneyland memories as I rode it with my mom when I was little at Tokyo Disneyland and there’s a video my dad took of her hanging with her head down as my little self had the time of my life. But now, it will be one of my favorites because of what happened in the mid-afternoon Feb. 29.
The three of us were spinning our tea cup pretty fast. Then suddenly, the ride started to slow down. I thought that they were really cutting the ride time short but a cast member said over the intercom, “Your ride is not over, please remain seated. Your ride is not over, please remain seated.” We wondered what the problem was, unknowing that the problem was us. The ride operator walked onto the tea cup platform in our direction but I figured she was going to talk to the elementary school-aged boy who was riding alone in a cup next to us. He looks suspect, I thought. But then she walked past him and was coming toward us. “Are we getting in trouble?? Why is she coming to us?” I frantically thought. She came to our tea cup, closed the door of it, and walked back to her booth.
We forgot to close the door to the tea cup!
The ride proceeded and we couldn’t stop laughing. It was a pretty embarrassing mistake for seasoned park-goers on a “kiddie-ride.”
This is before the ride started the first time
During the ride after we made it stop
As afternoon turned into evening, we started to discuss which rides we would do over and over again once the park would be dead from midnight on. We were true believers that hardly anyone would be around during the late hours and we would have the park to ourselves.
Nope, think again. Thousands of annual passholders descended to the park and it became a night-time party. The song that repeats “shots! shots! shots! shots! shots! shots!” blasted in Tommorrowland. It was about 3 a.m. and I muttered something like, “Let’s get out of here! This song is inappropriate for Disneyland!” We had just waited in an hour and 40 minute-line to ride Star Tours for a second time. I was hoping the atmosphere would be different in another part of the theme park.
It wasn’t, really.
When darkness falls, things can turn ugly — even at Disneyland. (I mean, look at that guy's face!)
Phyllis and I said farewell to Annie around 3:30 a.m., she went to take a nap at the hotel since she had class later that day. The park remained in its chaotic state.
I bought that sweatshirt because it got so cold out!
I somehow still have hops this late in the day/early in the morning
People carelessly smoked cigarettes wherever they pleased. (Disneyland has a designated, marked smoking area). The college boys in line in front of us for Indiana Jones admitted to bringing in Jager mixed in with their energy drinks. “Excuse my friends, they’re drunk,” said one of the boys.
I felt like I didn’t belong at the place that was supposed to be my place. Phyllis and I ditched waiting for Indiana Jones after we were told the wait would be more than two hours. No, it wasn’t because of the drunk hooligans, they were actually kind of entertaining.
We ended our magical adventure with the carousel ride a second time — a very Disney ride because it plays Disney songs throughout the ride. Lights twinkled and people were still having fun. Afterward, we stepped into the little theater on Main Street that plays old Disney clips like “Steamboat Willie.” Phyllis immediately laid down to take a 15-min power nap. I sat nearby on the floor, watching the movies. Soon restlessness hit and I went back outside.
I found Goofy and Pluto, dressed in pajamas, in a corner spot getting photos with tired-eyed park visitors. The line wasn’t long so I decided to get my picture taken too. I couldn’t spend 24 hours at Disneyland and not get at least one character picture, even if I am 24 years old!
I tried to think of some funny pose I could do with the two characters, perhaps yawning? Perhaps something else? In the end though, I opted for the “normal,” smile-and-say-cheese photo. Nothing can beat a classic, put-your-arms-around-strangers-in-costumes-and-be-happy photo!
I'm really ready for sleep at this point, but still happy!
The sky started to turn into a light shade of blue from its pitch black state. A new day was beginning and the Disney adventure would be over in mere minutes. The atmosphere on Main Street began to liven up again. Cast members were out with their “Mickey hands” giving high-fives to people as they made their way to exit the park. “Congratulations!” and “Yeah, you did it!” could be heard being exchanged between strangers. Finally, 6 a.m. arrived and Phyllis and I exited the park. I was tired, but I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop thinking about the next time I’d be able to visit again.
We did it!
In the days and weeks after this accomplishment — one person has called me her “hero” — I have been asked numerous times if I would ever do 24 hours of Disneyland again. My response is this: After every full marathon I have done, I always say I’m never doing it again, but then I register for another. I’m signed up to do my third full marathon in May.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Disney decides to do its “One More Leap Day” celebration in four years — after all, it did get overcrowded and the local Anaheim/Los Angeles news sources stated that the park stopped selling entry tickets between around 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. I have never been to Disney World, though … I’m sure you’d need an entire week there!
Well, we took the leap and didn’t sleep. We pulled an all-nighter at Disneyland in celebration of Leap Day. With an extra day in the year, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. But, best of all, I had the best of friends with me on the adventure.