A Night at Disneyland - 2/21/97

Lee and I attended a private party at Disneyland on the night of Friday, February 21, courtesy of North Island Naval Air Station, who offered tickets to other DoD facilities in San Diego, as well.

We decided to stay in the Disneyland Hotel, since we'd never done that before - normally we drive up and drive home the same day, but since the party was from 8:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m., we thought we would spend the night there instead of being on the road so late.

The Short Form...

We had a marvelous time - what a great way to visit Disneyland. We did 20 rides in 5 hours. Most rides we walked right onto, the others had an average of a 10 minute wait. Only once did we wait 20 minutes (for Thunder Mtn), and when we went back later it was about 10 minutes.

Because of the short lines, we took this opportunity to do a lot of rides that we don't normally do because they just aren't worth waiting for - this includes most of the Fantasyland rides, the Jungle Cruise, Autopia, Gadget's Go Coaster, and Submarine Voyage. And yet we still had time to do most of the rides that we really like (the mountains, Indy) twice.

Between this trip and our trip to WDW last month, we've gotten very spoiled by short lines - we're never going to want to wait in a long line again!

The disadvantage to the Private Party is that not everything was open. In particular, there wasn't much available in the way of dining. I can certainly understand that - given the time it started, most people are going to eat before hand, and maximize their ride time. None of the restaurants were open - the only places offering "real" food were Tomorrowland Terrace and the French Market. There were churro and popcorn carts open, and the two coffee places (Main Street and New Orleans Square), and the Corner Cafe, but that was about it.

Some of the stores were closed, too, so we didn't have quite the shopping opportunities that are normally available...but we really didn't have a lot of time to eat or shop - we were too busy riding!

Due to the late hour, we saw more couples than families, though there were still kids and strollers - just not in the usual proportions. It was really wonderful to be able to walk and not be dodging people all the time.

Our stay in the Disneyland Hotel was pleasant, but not something that we're likely to do again. It's expensive for what is really just an average hotel room. The hotel grounds were very nice, though.

More Details...

We left our house in San Diego just a couple minutes before 5:00, and our worst traffic was getting out of San Diego - it took us half an hour to go 5 miles. There's a reason we don't live in North County...I can't imagine having to do that every day.

We made it up to the Disneyland Hotel about 7:00. Jarrod, the CM who checked us in, told us that the hotel was completely booked for the night, so he was unable to fulfill our reservation requests for a king-size bed in a non-smoking room. After a trip into the mysterious back room to consult with the oracle or the wizard or the powers-that-be, he was finally able to get us a non-smoking room in the Bonita Tower, with two queen sized beds.

The Disneyland Hotel is in good shape, but is obviously an older hotel - there certainly wasn't anything particularly special about our room. (Except maybe the lovely view of the parking lot and the Disneyland Pacific.) It was pretty cramped with the two beds in there - if there had been more than two of us I certainly wouldn't have wanted to stay very long - even with two of us there wasn't a lot of room.

By the time we got to our room and dropped our bags off, it was 7:40, and we wanted to get something to eat before heading over to the park. We didn't have time for a restaurant, so we went down to "Grandma Mazie's Picnic Basket", which is sort of a deli - they have sandwiches and salads, and also pasta and even sushi! Lee had some California rolls which he said were very good. And the wasabi mustard was hot! :-)

Then we caught the monorail over to the park, and they timed it so that we stopped at the Tomorrowland Station right at 8:30. That turned out to be a real win - we could see the crowds lining up at the front gates from the monorail, and I found out later that it took 15-20 minutes to get in! It was a very strange feeling being in a very deserted park. With no one around there was plenty of room, so we actually skipped over to the Matterhorn for our first ride. :-) It's a lot of fun at night. But the Matterhorn is a very different sort of ride, - much more jerky than any other Disney roller coaster. It feels a lot less secure, too! I wish they would get padded seats for it, though - they are very hard.

Then we did Space Mountain twice - about a 1 minute wait each time. The stereo cars are totally cool, and the music really adds something to the whole experience. The first time the music quit about 30 seconds before the end of the ride, but the second time we had it the whole way through. Lee says the music reminds him a little bit of the theme music from the Batman TV series.

We walked over and right onto a submarine at the Submarine Voyage. The "silly sea serpent" is cute. Then we got right onto the Autopia, something neither of us had done in probably 25 years...

We walked to Toontown next...there was *nobody* there. We walked right onto Gadget's Go-Coaster, which is a really fun little ride, but not worth the 20-30 minute line that it usually has. We got sprayed by Mr. Frog. :-) When did they remove the slide from Chip & Dale's treehouse? We tried to go on that, but the stairs go up into the house... and then they go back down. No slide. Bummer.

Fantasyland was next...we walked right on to Snow White's Scary Adventure, and Pinnochio's Daring Journey, and had <5 minute waits for Peter Pan and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It had been a long time since I'd been on any of those rides (except Mr. Toad), because normally the lines are too long to make it worthwhile. Peter Pan is surprisingly good - being suspended is really a much different sensation than riding in a car on a track.

Next stop was our longest line of the night - Big Thunder Mtn. As with all of the other rides, they were only running one side of it, so what is normally about a 10 minute line was 20 minutes. It's a much better ride at night, when it's totally dark in the tunnels. (Our one consolation was that the line was a lot longer when we got off than when we got on...)

Then one of my favorites - Splash Mtn. 10-15 minute wait. We sat in front, and we both got our right legs drenched on the two small drops. (Why is it that people only get wet on the right side, and then only on the small drops and not the big one?) We love the final drop, and it's definitely steeper here than at WDW...since we were just at WDW three weeks ago, it was easier to compare.

The line was much shorter when we came out, but we decided against riding again - we were already wet enough. Fortunately it was a fairly pleasant evening - not shorts and t-shirt weather, but not chilly and breezy, either.

Walked over to the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. That's quite a structure. The steps are a bit hard to see in the dark - I'm surprised there isn't more light. The top of the tree house is just about the highest point in Disneyland - the top of the Matterhorn is higher, but the Matterhorn cars don't go all the way to the top.

Indiana Jones was next - it almost took more time to walk to the end of the line than it did to wait in line - the wait was about 10 minutes. We got the left hand door. We noticed an effect we had not noticed before - before you enter the second cave (the rat cave), they have a projection that looks like cobwebs with rats climbing down it that you appear to just go through. Neat effect.

This is definitely the ultimate in current ride technology - it has such a different feel from anything else - it really does seem like you are in a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Next was the Jungle Cruise - no wait. The CM we got wasn't particularly entertaining.

We walked back over to Tomorrowland - I wanted to see if they were showing America the Beautiful at CircleVision so that I could see it one last time (it's due to close in March), but it wasn't running (none of the shows were). So we went over to Matterhorn again - the line was a LOT longer than the first time we did it, but still 15 minutes or less. Then we went back into Fantasyland to do one ride we had missed - Alice in Wonderland, which I don't think either of us had *ever* been on. That was cute. And there was NO one there - the CM was looking lonely.

We walked over to Big Thunder again - much shorter line, 5-10 minutes. We got in the next to last row, the back few rows are definitely the best places to be because you get that "crack the whip" effect. It was a little after 1:00, so we headed to Indy one last time - 5 minute wait. We got the center door. (I *still* haven't been through the right door yet...) Then we did a little shopping on Main Street, but didn't buy anything, and then got pretzels from one of the few places that was still open...and finished those as the park closed and everyone started to leave.

We decided to just walk back to the hotel, which didn't take very long. Went to bed about 2:15 - WAAAAY past our normal bedtime. :-)

Slept late on Saturday (I wonder why? :-) ), and took a nice walk on the grounds in search of breakfast. The hotel grounds, though not as extensively themed as the WDW resorts, are still very lovely. It's kind of a hodge-podge, though - the Oriental Gardens area has screens and bamboo and oriental landscaping, and then there's the wharf area with paddleboats and remote-controlled model boats, and in another area there's even a sandy beach. Our favorite, though was the Koi Pond and waterfalls just outside the Bonita Tower. Lots of falling water and paths where you could walk behind the waterfalls.

We had a quick breakfast at The Coffee House. Good pastries, and Lee said his cafe mocha was quite good - not the best he's had, but far from the worst.

And then we hit all the shops... :-) I'm a Tigger fan, and found a turtleneck with an embroidered Tigger on skis.

We finally left about 11:00 and drove home.

It was really a nice little getaway, and we had a great time.

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Copyright © 1997, by Laura Gilbreath. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath, email: lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 2/24/97