Party of One
Going Solo at Disneyland
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
by Shoshana Lewin, staff writer
Party of one. It's hard enough to say when you go grab
breakfast at Denny's. Now add a few thousand people, four mountains and
a few churro carts to the mix. Truth is, it ain't easy to be solo at Disneyland.
The Happiest Place on Earth is both a family mecca and a romantic
destinationand for those who don't fall into either group it can
be intimidating. For those of you who find the idea intriguing, but aren't
sure if you can do it, this is for you.
I became a Southern California annual passholder after moving to Los
Angeles from Chicago and taking a job in Anaheim that required a three-day-a-week
I always said that when I grew up I would go to Disneyland
whenever I wantedso my wish came true. Once a week (or every other
week) after work I would head to the park (the first year I got the pass,
Disney's California Adventure was not yet open) and wait out the traffic.
It was strange to be there without my family. We would go to the park
once or twice every yearalthough in recent years it had been harder
to get my cousins to go until eventually they stopped wanting to go altogether.
The hardest part about going alone is I want to tell someone, Look
at that cute shirt, or ask, Should I grab a seat for the parade
or take advantage of the short line for 'it's a small world'? But
I can't. Going solo makes you very self-reliant.
Once I changed jobs I also changed passes and became a Premium passholder,
since going during the week was no longer feasible. It was one thing to
go on a Monday afternoon, but solo on a weekend? Why aren't you with your
friend/family/boyfriend/husband? I would end up telling guyswho
I didn't want following me aroundthat my boyfriend was in the bathroom/store/restaurant
(in actuality, he doesn't like to go nearly as much as I do so I only
have him come with once every six months or so).
But there are quite a few advantages to going solo. It means you can
sit in the patio area at the Disney Gallery for two hours reading a book.
It means going on California Screamin' seven times. It means no one chiding
you for eating an entire slice of mint fudge (not that I've ever done
that). It means when you are in line for the Matterhorn Bobsleds you can
bypass parties of threes, fours and fives when the Cast Member needs to
fill a spot.
Now that I've being going solo for almost four years, I feel like an
old pro. With a little pre-planning, making the solo leap can be easy.
Going solo means going on the Matterhorn 15 times if you want.
file photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
The First Step
Before you start to panic about going alone, think about a time when
you did somethinganythingby yourself: an airplane trip, a
movie, shopping, going to get your hair cut. Now answer these questions:
- Did you feel good about going alone?
- Would you go alone again?
If you answered no to both questions, you are not yet readybut
you will be. Go to a bookstore by yourself this weekend, get a cup of
coffee and pick out a good book to read for when you do go alone (see
If you answered yes to both questions, grab that backpack or purse and
some good walking shoesyou are definitely ready.
Drive Now or Later?
I live about 60 miles from the resort and choose to get up early and
drive rather than getting a hotel room nearby the night before. If you
are not a good driver early in the day, you might want to consider staying
overbut this will require you to be alone for a longer period of
timeand to make it down to Anaheim the night before.
Look at AAA or the Entertainment Book for deals on hotelsbut remember
that since you are a solo, you aren't going to be sharing the cost with
anyone else. Off-site can be less expensive, but on-site might be more
convenient. Either location could turn the day into a mini-vacation.
Almost all of the hotels in the Anaheim areaand even those not
in Anaheimoffer a shuttle to the park. If you choose to drive yourself,
note that parking is $9 (for more on that, see Making a Singular
Sensation). Even for those who decide to give the car ride a go,
the trip starts the night before.
I Have to Carry All of That?
You know how you walk through the park and you see a family where mom
or dad is carrying a backpack, three water bottles, four jackets, the
wallet, the camera and an ice cream bar? Congrats! That's now you. The
good news is you have less stuff as one than as four. The bad news is
the expression, Can you hold this for me? will not be uttered
once during your trip.
The night before you go to Disneyland, figure out what you need to take
and then select the best way to take it. Guys, we all know you that some
of you can be gone for months with just a toothbrush and change of underwear
and be fine this time you might need a bit more. Ladies, it's time
to leave your personal Rite-Aid at homeyou'll only be gone a day.
- Bottle of water It's cheaper than buying there. If you
want a strap and don't have one, you can buy one at any beverage cart
around the resort.
- Sunscreen Even on a cloudy day. If you burn you'll have
no one to tell.
- Jacket or sweatshirt Either stuffed in your backpack
or in a locker. The mornings and late evenings can be chilly, even in
the summer. In the winter I even grab gloves and a scarf.
- Money/credit/debit cards/AP or ticket make sure you
have this before you leave the house. You don't need to take an entire
wallet. Many places, like MouseShoppe, sell plastic wallet holders (link).
I put my AP in there along with my driver's license, debit card, AAA
card (in case something happens) and some cash. Although uncommon, try
to avoid placing the backs of credit cards together in case that causes
- Make-up (lipstick, lipliner, mascara, perfume) ladies,
stick them in a pocket where they won't get lost. There is a Sephora
at Downtown Disney (a five-minute walk from the main gate) if you forget,
break or melt anything.
- Cell phone (fully charged) So you can tell all your
friends of your adventure.
- Pen You might meet someone, you never knowalso
good for marking up your map.
- Keys You'd be surprised how easy they are to forget.
- Camera Find a friendly guest or cast member to help
you document your trip. What fun is a picture of the Matterhorn without
your head in it?
- Coffee, tea, or other morning drink this is my morning
salvation. I can enjoy my frappuccino in the car and it has a cap so
I don't have to worry about it spilling in my bag.
- Gum or mints you can't buy gum in the park, but the
Altoid-like mints that are sold in the candy stores are pretty cute.
- Book and (optional) small booklight I'm a big reader
and sometimes not a big talker. If you're someone who makes friends
everywhere you might not need or want to bring one. I like a good easy
paperback (don't bring War and Peace or Gone With the Wind)
for long lines, meals and those midday breaks when my body needs a rest.
The booklight comes in handy in the darker queues (like Indiana Jones)
and also at night in the outside ones (like Alice in Wonderland or Matterhorn
Bobsleds). I am able to get all of the above (except for the jacket)
into a purse-size backpack. Remember, if you leave any of it in the
car you're the one who has to go back and get it.
Even though you are at Disneyland you should still be safe. If any guest
makes you feel uncomfortable, be sure to tell security. Keep your eyes
peeled in the parking garage and hang on to your purse or wallet at any
time you are in a crowded area like at a parade or during the fireworks.
Make a singular sensation
It's really early in the morning (around 7:30 a.m. if the park opens
at 8). You've parked the car at Mickey and Friends, reached the tram (or
walked across the street and through Downtown Disney based on how much
energy you have) and are ready to embark on your day. If you need to purchase
tickets, the booths open anywhere from one hour to 30 minutes before the
If you plan to buy something that you don't feel like schlepping around
all day (or want to store a jacket or sweatshirt), take this time to get
a locker. They are located to the left of the Disneyland Main Gate and
come in different sizes. Once you get one, it is yours for the entire
day and you can open and close it as often as you wish.
Once you get to the main gate, picking the right line is a combination
of roulette and Murphy's law. Now that security is done before you reach
the Esplanade, the lines move much fastertheoretically. However,
whichever line you select will inevitably be the slowest oneand
you can't do the let's split up and see which one moves faster
trick. So pick one toward the middle of the pack and if it really looks
to have problems, switch lines (only do this once as you might never get
into the park if you keep switching).
While you are waiting, don't be afraid to smile at peopleor even
talk to them. If I overhear a family wondering about something park related,
I'll answer their question (some call it eavesdropping, I call it helping).
I recently stopped a family from starting their day at Space Mountain
by letting them know it is closed until 2005.
This works throughout the day as well: I flashed a Fastpass at Indiana
Jones last time I was at the park, but the cast member at the front told
me I didn't need it (too early). The family behind me commented that it
must be a Special Assistance Pass. I told them what it was, how it worked
and how to get one as we quickly moved through the nonexistent line. They
were very grateful and when I passed them at the exit, they were heading
to grab a Fastpass for another attraction.
If You Can't Join 'EmEat Anyway
Few people notice someone eating alone at any of the counter service
restaurants around the resort, but what about the big, elaborate, sit-down,
Nothing says you need to have children with you to enjoy a character
breakfast. The same hold true for a family. If you've been dying to enjoy
a breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel, Storyteller's
Cafe at the Grand Californian or the Plaza Inn on Main Street don't let
going solo stop you. Make a reservation on the Disney Dine Line at (714)
781-DINE (714-781-3463) and make those character dreams come true.
Or maybe you go for atmosphere over character. There's no reason to forgo
lunch or dinner at the Blue Bayou in New Orleans Square or the Wine Country
Trattoria in the Golden State section of DCA. Read a book, people watch
or grab a napkin and brush up on your origami. Just don't miss out on
a wonderful experience because you're worried about what people think.
Walk on the Holiday Red Carpet
If you are interested in taking a tour (The Red Carpet Experience, A
Walk in Walt's Footsteps, Holiday Time at Disneyland), go, go, go. Currently
the only one that requires you to make two reservations is the new family
tour. If you order in advance you get your tickets at the windows to the
left of Disneyland Park. If you aren't sure until you get there, you can
see the CM at the cart outside City Hall for available tours and tour
How Many Did You Say?
At 8 a.m. telling someone you are a party of one may seem awkward; by
10 p.m., it is old hat. The following is a breakdown of the attractions
at both theme parks and what to expect as a single. I've marked rides
that offer a special separate single-rider line (SR) and which offer a
Fast Pass (FP) and when one might help more than the other.
Tram to the Park I am including this because there always seems
to be room in a row for one more tushiethis is especially helpful
at the end of the day.
Disney's California Adventure
A Bug's Land
- Flik's Flyers/Heimlich's Chew Chew Train/Tuck n' Roll's Drive Em
Buggies/Princess Dot Puddle Park I grouped these together
because they are aimed more at kids than adults. If you are looked at
funny for riding these it won't be because you are soloit will
be because you aren't 7.
- It's Tough to be a Bug (unnecessary FP) Movie; they
don't ask how many.
- Boudin Bakery Tour; they don't ask how many.
- Golden Dreams Movie; they don't ask how many.
- Grizzly River Run (FP) (SR not offered all the time)
Ride; you will be getting wet with total strangers. If it is
hot, go for SR first, then FP if SR is not offered. On colder days the
wait is not a problem.
- Mission Tortilla Factory Tour; they don't ask how many.
- Redwood Creek Challenge Trail Explore on your own; they
don't ask how many.
- Seasons of the Vine Movie; they don't ask how many.
- Soarin' Over California (FP) (SR)One of the only rides
where the SR line doesn't always helpif you have the chance, take
the FP. Some CMs seem to go out of their way not to use it by asking
for parties of two from the regular line. Since everyone boards at the
same time no one can tell if you are solo. Get SR from CM at FP entrance.
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
- Disney Animation Self-guided tour, movie and live-action
presentation; they don't ask how many. In the Beast's Library of the
Sorcerer's Workshop you won't be able to lessen your wait by splitting
the party. One the other hand you don't have to wait for others in your
group to finish. At Ursula's Grotto (where she steals your
voice) there are no scenes for only one personbut have fun using
different voices for the different characters.
- Hyperion Theater (FP) Show; they don't ask how many.
- Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D (unnecessary FP) Movie;
they don't ask how many
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (FP) (no SR yet but there have
been rumors due to the configuration of the elevators)You will
be riding with strangers. As long as you don't grab someone by mistake
you'll be OK.
- Who Wants to be a Millionaire Play It! (FP) Game;
everyone comes in at the same time. The only down side to going solo
is that if you get into the hot seat you have no friend
in the audience to cheer you on. However, that could make you a more
sympathetic character and elicit a stronger reaction from the crowd.
- California Screamin' (FP) Based on the crowds you might
end up riding next to another single.
- Golden Zephyr Ride; you won't have to share a seat.
- Jumpin' Jellyfish Ride; individual swings
- King Triton's Carrousel Ride; you can still wave at total strangers
and see who waves back.
- Maliboomer (SR) SR is quick and although you will be
riding next to others, the seats are individual. No pass needed for
- Mullholland Madness (FP) (SR) SR is the best way to
go. You will be sitting next to someone else (and possibly banging into
them, as well). No pass needed for SR.
- Orange Stinger ride; individual swings.
- S.S. Rustworthy Play area; you might feel silly, but
- Sun Wheel Based on the crowds you might be seated with
others. Some might find this awkward, but seeing your life flash before
you as you teeter over water somehow brings strangers together.
Main Street U.S.A.
- Disneyland Railroad Like the tram, there is always room
to squeeze in one more, but space is usually not a problem. You can
almost always find a corner for yourself.
- Fire Engine/Horsedrawn Streetcars/Horseless Carriage/Omnibus
All but the omnibus are restricted by space (so there is usually
room for one more). You'll be squeezed in with total strangers, but
the trip is not too long. I've had the chance to be the sole rider on
the Omnibus as it went from the train station to the castle (grab the
top front spot if you can, it provides for some great views).
- Main Street Cinema Standing-room only movie; enjoy this
during the day as a break from the heat. They don't ask how many.
- The Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln
Movie; they don't ask how many.
- Aladdin and Jasmine at Aladdin's Oasis Storytelling
show; If you don't mind being surrounded by children and families go
- Enchanted Tiki Room Show; they don't ask how many. For
the most room, grab one of the benches around the perimeter.
- Indiana Jones Adventure (FP) (SR until Summer 2004) - SR was
removed from this attraction because you bypassed the safety movie.
Until they work this kink out, your best bet is walk-on early or get
an FP. They might ask for one or two guests to fill seats from the main
line, which will cut your time a bit. You will sit with strangers, just
don't grab anyone in the dark.
- Jungle Cruise The boat fills from both lines. If there
is room for one more they might ask someone in line to fill it, but
not always. As a single I tend to get a spot in the middle of the boat.
- Tarzan's Treehouse One big line. Fun because you can
take as long as you want to read the stores, look at the scenes and
- Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes You'll be rowing next
to a stranger, but maybe they'll be cute (for those unattached).
- Splash Mountain (FP) (SR) This ride is an SR heaven.
Ever since the recent log redesign (which made the amount per log go
from eight to five) SRs have been needed to fill with parties of four
and two parties of two. Check with the CM at the entrance to see if
you need a passotherwise just head to the exit and follow the
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (FP) They will
ask how many. If you get there early enough you won't need an FP. You
also might get your own car. Even if it is crowded you won't have to
sit next to anyone.
- it's a small world (FP at holidays) They'll
ask how many but you'll get your own row. If you'll want to sing along,
it is up to you.
- Alice in Wonderland You say one. They say
one? You'll get your own car, but you will need to sit in
back because of the way the caterpillar is weighted (I worked there
and it didn't make sense to me, either).
- Casey Jr. Circus Train If you sit in one of the outside
benches you can sit alone. If you opt for the cage you'll be roaring
with a family or two.
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant The CM will come through the
line asking how many are in the elephant. Just say one and you won't
have to share. Sixteen feathers are given out (one for each elephant)
- King Arthur Carrousel Any horse you want and you don't
have to worry about the people you are with getting the horse they want.
If the CM has time, ask him or her to take a picture of you (or ask
friendly looking grownup on an adjoining horse).
- Mad Tea Party Tea cup for one. You won't have to share.
- Matterhorn Bobsleds Keep your ears peeled once you get
into the switchback under the roof. The CM at the front will ask for
parties of one or twojust make sure to get his or her attention.
- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride They won't ask how many; you get
your own car.
- Peter Pan's Flight They won't ask how many; you get
your own boat.
- Pinocchio's Daring Journey They might ask how many.
There is no need to share a car. When you get in, push down the bar
on the back seat to make sure the family behind you understands you
want to ride alone.
- Snow White's Scary Adventures (see Pinocchio)
- Storybook Land Canal Boats Keep your ears peeled once
you get to the row adjacent to the water. The CM at the front might
ask for parties of one or twojust make sure to get his or her
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (FP) You will be asked
how many, but you won't have to ride next to anyone else. I always ask
to sit as far back as possible. It is worth it to wait a little longer
(especially at night).
- Mark Twain Riverboat/Sailing Ship Columbia You'll load
with everyone and then just grab a spot. One morning I had the Mark
Twain all to myself (it was really early), I got one of the chairs on
the first deck and waved at people who were walking along the river.
- Tom Sawyer Island Take a raft and explore on your own;
they don't ask how many.
- Chip n' Dale's Treehouse/Donald's Boat/Goofy's Bounce House
Height will keep you out of these, but you might be able to walk
around Donald's Boatif you scrunch down.
- Mickey's House/Minnie's House Explore on your own; they
don't ask how many. If you want to skip the picture with Mickey, just
turn back around when you reach the movie barn.
- Gadget's Go Coaster They don't ask how many. Just pick
a row and sit down.
- Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin (FP) They will ask how many
but you will be the one to determine how much you spin.
New Orleans Square
- Haunted Mansion (FP needed at the holidays, not usually
during the year) They don't ask how many, just grab a Doom Buggy
- Pirates of the Caribbean (FP for the moment) They'll
ask how many but you'll get your own row. If you'll want to sing along,
it is up to you.
- The Disney Gallery Nice way to pass time when it gets
hot and crowded. Enjoy the exhibits and do some window shopping around
what would have been Walt's apartment.
- Honey I Shrunk the Audience Movie; they don't ask how
- Astro Orbiter Like Dumbo you will get to fly by yourself
- Autopia (FP) Keep your ears peeled once you get to the
stairs leading to the cars. The CM at the bottom will ask for parties
of one or twojust make sure to get his or her attention.
- Monorail You can enjoy a one-way ride. Occasionally,
they let guests sit in the front.
- Innoventions Explore on your own. Stay as long as you
- Space Mountain (FP when it opens in November 2005)
They will ask how many and you will have a row to yourselfunless
the reconfigure the cars.
- Star Tours (unnecessary FP) They'll ask how many to
determine which row you'll sit in and you will be seated next to others.
The author readies for a solo day at the park. Photo courtesy Shoshana
No matter what you end up doing, have a great time and know that one
is not the loneliest numberif done right, it can be the most fun.
Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.
A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.
When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.
In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alexour MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinatorattend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).