Party of One Reduxby Shoshana Lewin, staff writer
Since there have been quite a few changes in the last few years at the park, here's an updated guide to venturing solo into "The Happiest Place on Earth."
"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. Whatever your reasonwhether you're attending a convention at the nearby Anaheim Convention Center and you want to take a day off to enjoy the parks or your friends don't enjoy the parks enough to purchase an annual passif you find the idea intriguing but aren't sure whether 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 commute.
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 (he wishes he could go as often as I do, but he is sans AP at the moment).
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 six years, I feel like an old pro. With a little pre-planning, making the solo leap can be easy.
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 comfortable 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 below).
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 get 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 MousePlanet travel; sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline; AAA or the Entertainment Book for deals on hotelsbut remember that since you are a solo, you cannot share 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 $10 (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 not 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 also 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. Try to avoid placing the backs of credit cards together in case that causes demagnetization I usually grab a business card or other thin piece of paper.
- Cosmetics 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. The one time my charge went out, I walked over to lost and found and they actually had a charger. I hung around for about 20 minutes while my phone charged up. They might not have the make for your phone, so be prepared.
- Pen You might meet someone, you never knowalso good for marking up your map and getting character autographs.
- 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.
- Paperback/puzzle 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 park does.
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). Tip: If you get there on an Early Entry Day, hang out near whatever gate they are using to allow the guests to enter. When EE guests are no longer allowed in, the gate will switchover to a general entry (check the sign on top). You'll be first in line.
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).
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, make-a-reservation-to-eat-here restaurants?
Nothing says you need to have children with you to enjoy a character breakfast. The same holds 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 or Café Orleans in New Orleans Square or the Wine Country Trattoria in the Golden State section of Disney's California Adventure park. 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. 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 cast member at the cart outside City Hall for available tours and tour times. They tour guides are very nice and when it is time to ride an attraction the guide will occasionally ride with whomever is solo (or you might get to ride on your own).
Since there is a lot of talk about saving seats for the various parades, Fantasmic!, and the fireworks, there is some good news as some bad news for solo travelers. Bad news: Saving a seat is darn near impossible unless you become good friends with a group of strangers who don't mind saving a spot for you. Good news: As one person, you can fairly easily maneuver yourself into a good spot (except sometimes for Fantasmic because is it so hard to see). Tip for fireworks: if you haven't seen them from the castle, do so before the end of the 50th celebration (if you want a new spot, I recommend the area near "it's a small world" because you can sit down). Once the 50th ends you'll probably have a great vantage point anywhere on Main Street.
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 [Single Rider] and which offer a Fastpass [Fastpass] 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 tushie this 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 Fastpass] 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 [Fastpass | Single Rider, not offered all the time] Ride; you will be getting wet with total strangers. If it is hot, go for Single Rider first, then Fastpass if Single Rider 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 [Fastpass | Single Rider] One of the only rides where the Single Rider line doesn't always helpif you have the chance, take the Fastpass. Some cast members 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 Single Rider from cast member at the Fastpass entrance.
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
- Disney Animation Sorcerer's Workshop: Self-guided tour, movie and live-action presentation; they don't ask how many. In the Beast's Library 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. Turtle Talk with Crush is an interactive show where you can sit wherever you want and won't get picked on unless you raise your hand. Animation Academy is another interactive demonstration where you can sit where you want.
- Hyperion Theater [Fastpass] Show; they don't ask how many.
- Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D [Unnecessary Fastpass] Movie; they don't ask how many
- Monster's Inc., Mike & Sully to the Rescue Typical dark ride attraction. The cars are built for parties of six so you probably won't have your own car, but because you'll be in a seat by yourself, sit al te way in so you can see the TV screens better.
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror [Fastpass] You will be riding with strangers. As long as you don't grab someone by mistake you'll be OK. There is no Single Rider yet, but keep your ears open in line as the cast members will often ask for parties of one or two because of seat configuration.
- California Screamin' [Fastpass | Single Rider] You can get an Single Rider from the cast member at the front of the attraction, then had back up the bridge and look for a small gate on the right side. There's a small line (if any) to wait and as they need to fill they will have you take the elevator up and over the track.
- 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 [Single Rider] Single Rider is quick and although you will be riding next to others, the seats are individual. No pass needed for Single Rider.
- Mullholland Madness [Fastpass | Single Rider] Single Rider 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 Single Rider.
- Orange Stinger Ride; individual swings.
- S.S. Rustworthy Play area; you might feel silly, but play anyway.
- 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. This area became an exhibit and film (featuring Donald Duck and Steve Martin) for the 50th anniversary. No word at the moment if Mr. Lincoln is coming back, though.
- Aladdin and Jasmine at Aladdin's Oasis Storytelling show; If you don't mind being surrounded by children and families go for it.
- 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 [Fastpass | Single Rider until Summer 2004] Single Rider 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 Fastpass. 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 explore.
- Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes You'll be rowing next to a stranger, but maybe they'll be cute (for those unattached).
- Splash Mountain [Fastpass | Single Rider] This ride is an Single Rider heaven. Ever since the recent log redesign (which made the amount per log go from eight to five) Single Riders have been needed to fill with parties of four and two parties of two. Check with the cast member at the entrance to see if you need a pass otherwise just head to the exit and follow the signs.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh [Unnecessary Fastpass] They will ask how many. But if you get there early enough or late in the evening, 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" [Fastpass 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 unless it is really uncrowded.
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant The cast member 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 cast member 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 cast member 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 cast member at the front might ask for parties of one or twojust make sure to get his or her attention.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad [Fastpass] 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 [Fastpass] They will ask how many but you will be the one to determine how much you spin.
New Orleans Square
- Haunted Mansion [Fastpass at the holidays] They don't ask how many, just grab a Doom Buggy and enjoy.
- Pirates of the Caribbean [Fastpass 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.
- Astro Orbiter Like Dumbo you will get to fly by yourself
- Autopia [Fastpass] Keep your ears peeled once you get to the stairs leading to the cars. The cast member at the bottom will ask for parties of one or twojust make sure to get his or her attention.
- Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters One of the best solo attractions ever! You get to maneuver the joystick and you get a clear shot at any target by sitting in the middle of the car. The best part? Because of the omnimover loading procedure, they seldom ask how many.
- Honey I Shrunk the Audience Movie; they don't ask how many.
- 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 want.
- Space Mountain [Fastpass] They will ask how many and you will have a row to yourself.
- Star Tours [Unnecessary Fastpass] They'll ask how many to determine which row you'll sit in and you will be seated next to others.
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.