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Eric Schmitz -- February 2001 -- Disneyland

I flew down as part of a Business trip and stayed at Embassy Suites, Buena Park.  Now, here's how I did Disneyland in 4 hours!

Trip report for Wednesday, February 21.

I am a veteran Disneyland fan; however, I have always lived in Northern California so my visits are nowhere near as frequent as I would like - averaging once a year to once every couple of years.

I was down in Southern California on business and hoped to have a chance to get away to the Park. It began to look as though I would have a very limited time, perhaps only two hours at Disneyland, or three hours if I chose to go to DCA. With such limited time, I decided to go with the familiar since I know most every short cut and where the lines are likely to be and likely not to be. The biggest influence on my decision was the fact that I was alone, and I figured much of the fun of a first time visit to the new park would be watching the reaction of my family - DCA would have to wait.

I was returning from my day's work on schedule so I called ahead to the motel I was staying at to find out the time of the next shuttle. I stayed at the Embassy Suites Buena Park on Beach adjacent to Knott's Berry Farm. This is an excellent motel, but I enjoyed a significant discount thanks to a corporate rate. I'm sorry I can't say how much the regular rates are, but if one is required to stay slightly nearer to Los Angeles, the rooms and service were terrific! I got to the hotel at 3:10 and had time for a quick shower and change of clothes. I caught the shuttle and away we went!

I arrived at roughly 3:50 p.m., bought a pass at full $43.00 price, and entered the Park just before 4:00pm. I found a family of four posing three-quarters of their group before the Mickey floral arrangement, and offered to take a picture of the whole lot of them with their camera if they would in turn take one of me with mine. How often do you get the whole front of the Train Station all to yourself? The next stop was for souvenirs. The pin kiosk adjacent to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln gave me the opportunity to get something for each of my family that could only be bought IN DISNEYLAND. Each got a pin of their favorite ride. I couldn't be sure what my 16 year old daughter's favorite ride was (they change their mind a lot at this age) so I called her from the kiosk on my cell phone.

"You're at Disneyland, aren't you?! AAAARRRGGHHH!!!!![SLAM]". Good thing I remembered the souvenirs first!

My conscience cleared, I proceeded down Main Street, taking the time to view the Emporium windows which featured Fantasia 2000 - a very good movie, and I'm sorry for any one who missed it on IMAX. I noted that the Park was much cleaner than when I was here 10 months ago. I suppose the fewer crowds made cleaning up easier. At the Plaza I reviewed the posting of the approximate wait times for the favorite attractions. Great! No lines today! Only Autopia and Splash Mountain each had lines supposedly nearing an hour. I took a photo of the board for bragging rights.

I headed to Autopia to get a Fast Pass. It was now about 4:15 and my return time was 6:30 to 7:30pm. I headed for my favorite corner of the Park, Adventureland and New Orleans Square. To do this I walked along the North side of the Matterhorn, along side the Submarine Lagoon. The line for the bobsleds began there. Watching people's actions, you could tell that some were re-entering the line after just getting off the ride.

"How long is the line?"

"It's nothing! Ten, maybe fifteen minutes". The Matterhorn Bobsleds would be my first ride. The wait was not quite ten minutes. I brought a camera with ASA 400 speed film. I thought I'd give taking pictures while on the fast bumpy ride a chance. I politely requested a front seat and got one without problem. I found out two days later that half of the shots I took were very good, more were clear and in focus but the subject matter was poor or half out of the frame. The shakes and bumps blurred the rest.

Next I went over to the Story Book Land Canal Boats (one of Walt's favorites). I wanted pictures of Prince Eric's Castle, near the end of the ride. Checking my camera, I was unsure of how many pictures I had left. That's when I discovered my only real blunder for the day. I bought five rolls of film for this trip and, except for what was in my camera, they were all back at the hotel. I bought one additional roll at the little chalet nearby and spent more on that roll than the five cost me. I walked right onto the canal ride, which was pleasant and slow, relieving me of the pace I'd been at so far. I tried to use up what film was in my camera to be able to change rolls before Prince Eric's Castle. Wouldn't you know it that just as we were approaching it I was finally rewinding the first roll? I muttered "Oh, CRAP! That's what I wanted to get a picture of. Our hostess (Angela, I think - It doesn't matter. I wrote it down) stopped the boat opposite the Castle while I rushed to reload my camera. Of course, rushing this meant I was all thumbs and it took at least twice as long as otherwise, but she just smiled and held the boat while adding a bit to the spiel about King Trident's Castle - Never Never Land to you and me. Pictures taken, I thanked her, cursed myself for not having gotten a pin from the WWWD site (Honest, I didn't know I was coming 'till the last minute, and wrote down her name and the time of day.

Next was a pass through Fantasyland and a ride on Peter Pan. This was my longest line of the visit, about twenty minutes - but worth it. The lighting inside the ride seemed improved. The "white light" was very dim and the "black light" colors were brilliant. This could be because it was a bright day outside. Still, I felt that they might have been fine-tuning the effects. A visit to Fantasyland wouldn't be complete without stopping at Tinkerbell's Toy Shop and I added to the souvenirs. Leaving through the drawbridge, I again saw a party trying to take an incomplete picture of their group, and exchanged photo services even though no english was spoken. Sign language works just fine for times like these.

Finally I got to the whole reason for being here. My son said "Look at it this way, Dad: Even if you can only be in Disneyland for one hour, couldn't you ride Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and if any time is left, revisit one of them? Wouldn't that be worth $43.00?" Yep.

Indiana Jones was next. My son said something else: "If you do get to go to Disneyland, bring me back something! I don't care if it's just dirt!" I paused to fill a zip-lock bag with official Disneyland / Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye Dirt. I carefully peeled off the Official $10.00 Disneyland price tag from his pin and placed it on the bag. There was no line for Indy what so ever, but the CM had to hold us for ten minutes while waiting for any one with a Fast Pass to arrive so that they could go first. Two couples went by. I tried not to let this delay bother me - Heck! I was in Disneyland! What more could I want? - and I realized I just wanted to take the queue nice and slow anyway, taking it all in and not be pushed about by anxious crowds. Besides, I was probably going to meet up with those with the Fast Pass at the boarding of the ride (I was right about that). I enjoyed my time up the queue and took more than half of my last roll of film here. This is without question my son's favorite ride, and photographs make the best souvenirs. I shot a picture of each of the Mara texts for later translation, something I always hoped I would get to do without several people stepping in front of me to get by. I was past the Eeyore Sign when I realized the chance I missed to have a photo of it. (Anyone who doesn't know this story should check it out.) With what little time I was spending in line, I met the nicest people, about half were locals, and half having come some distance. I suppose the lack of crowds and good weather kept every one in a cheerful mood.

Next to my own favorite - Pirates of the Caribbean! No line at all. I teased a group of junior high school girls ahead of me who commented on how cute the operator in the control room was. I showed them where to wave to him via the remote camera locations. He acknowledged them with a "Please keep your hands and arms inside.." but since no one was leaning out of the boat, I figured he just wanted to let the girls know that he appreciated the attention. His announcement was answered with squeals of glee and valley girl "ohmygod"'s. The girls were no distraction and the ride was great as usual. I fell in love with the red head again, and wondered "what the heck were they thinking?" once again at the politically correct food scene.

To the Haunted Mansion! I went by the mint julep stand to share in another tradition (I didn't keep my own tradition of taking the train around first, there just wasn't time). The julep stand was closed - a disappointment, but this let me go to the Mansion via the new Fast Pass area built there. That was a treat. It was now dark (just past 6:00pm) and the small park around the kiosks with the new statuary was beautiful. This probably sounds dumb to say that a fast pass location is a point not to be skipped, but the Imagineer's work on this was first class - especially when seen after dark. Once again, no lines. When leaving I had the moving up ramp to myself, which allowed me to take a flash picture of Little Leotta without disturbing other guests, and now I have the nicest picture of a faceless Little Leotta. It was what I expected but not what I hoped for.

My Fast Pass was now due so off I went to Tomorrowland, making my way through Frontierland to see the new restaurant area there. Very nice.

Thanks to the Fast Pass I again had no wait, but that turned out to be a disappointment because there is much to see in the new queue and I was whisked along past it. The ride was enjoyable, much better that that it replaced, but see this one in daylight. There was a lot going on around me that I couldn't take in because of the night.

Now I had met all my goals, and had some time to spare. It wasn't quite 7:00pm and I had just over an hour left - for certain I would ride Pirates again! I decided not to head back for New Orleans Square just now because I thought about the smile I couldn't take off my face every time I rode Space Mountain and Star Tours. So I did. While in line for Space Mountain, I met my first unhappy guests of the day, who had spent the first part of the day at DCA. They said they were very disappointed, and left to come to Disneyland with just two hours left in Disneyland's day. They tried, but weren't comp'ed for the trip to Disneyland. These were two of the nicest women so while they were unhappy about DCA they were still having a good time at the real park. They had Fast Passes for Space Mountain, but were errently directed right in front of me into the standby line. Again, I was held for more than five minutes for absolutely no one this time. I understood that I'd meet up with everyone at the loading dock, so I spent my time joking with the CM. The ladies realized they had Fast Passes and could proceed, but when they saw that they had been placed into the standby line and forced to wait a whole minute, their whole day was now ruined and vented it all out in the general direction (but not personally) of the CM. He handled it well and asked if they wanted to speak to a lead. They did. I couldn't figure out why, because as they were first waiting for the arrival of the lead, then speaking to her (calmly, thank goodness) I was well on my way down the ramp for the ride they were complaining about not getting onto sooner - go figure.

Space Mountain was great. Star Tours was as good as ever, and that is very good. It was an immediate walk on. Grinning like an idiot, like I expected I would be, I headed for my favorite quarter of the Park and ran into my first crowd. The evening parade was breaking up. I didn't have much time left and I wanted to repeat Indy and Pirates. I walked right onto Indy, and finished my roll of film. I did this mostly on the exit queue taking pictures of the Jungle Cruise area. I probably had time to ride Indy again before heading to Pirates - especially if I gave into temptation to step over the rail at the exit to the loading area - but what if some Doofus closed Pirates ten minutes early?

I hoped to see the Disney Gallery, but it was now closed. Pirates was still open and the CM at the door said they would stay open until 8:00 (in twelve minutes). I took in a little more rushed shopping in my favorite stores in New Orleans Square. At four minutes before 8:00 I had my own Bateau for the ride. When I exited, I had my own land to myself. I had just seen more of Disneyland in four hours than most visitors ever see in a day. I was beaming! I stopped for a drink of water near the Train Station and just sat and listened to some Creole music by Dr. John, and to the spiels coming from the windows upstairs. After a little while the feral cats came out. I really took my time leaving New Orleans Square. It was after 8:30 when I let go. Main Street was open for another half hour and I spent the time checking out the Disneyana store and the Emporium, being sure everyone had a couple of souvenirs and teasing every CM I could. I stopped at City Hall and told them the wonderful experience I had on the Story Book ride and asked for "Angela" to receive special kudos'. They said she would. I also mentioned that the maintenance was much improved since my last visit in May, and to keep it up.

Finally I took a last look down a nearly empty Main Street, toward the Castle, let out a long sigh and turned to leave.


What went well (What I learned):

  • Much of the Park can be seen in an incredibly short time on an off season mid weekday. Do take time for the important souvenirs and the little treats like the Main Street windows.
  • It is OK when a CM holds you in a line while no one with fast passes goes by. You'll catch up with the others - don't worry.
  • Know exactly what you want to do ahead of time if you only have a few hours. Any indecision will cost you a ride or two.
  • Shop all you want on Main Street AFTER the Park closes. Stop to shop at those stores that will shut at the normal closing time only if you have a god idea of what you want. And don't forget Downtown Disney is open for hours after the Park closes. Skip the shopping while the rides are open.
  • Joke with all the CM's you can. Mention the good ones to the City Hall.

What didn't go so well:

  • Don't forget your film!
  • Take sunscreen and use it - I was a lobster for a few days (my work was out of doors as well).
  • Drink lots of fluids. I didn't suffer too much, but I was uncomfortably thirsty when it was all over, and my legs ached more than they would have if I had paid attention to this.
  • If I had it all to do again, I think I would have traded my second ride on Indy for one on Big Thunder. I wasn't dressed to risk a soaking on Splash Mountain (this is February 21, remember?) so I skipped a ride I otherwise would not have missed.
  • If it is your first trip on the new Autopia, try to make it during daylight. Just like all other rides, they all have their own magic after dark.

Eric Schmitz


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