Leap Day at Disneyland

What a strange trip to Disneyland this has been.  Our first day at the park was for their "One More Disney Day" promotion, where they opened the park at 6am on Wednesday, February 29th and proceeded to stay open for twenty-four straight hours.  It's something they've never done before and we wanted to check it out.  Even though they might have argued otherwise, we weren't about to subject our sons Ty (5) and Ethan (3) to a sleepless night at Disneyland, so after we were done as a family, Jennifer went for a bit while I stayed with the boys, and then she tagged me in so I could finish the "night."  Here's the official welcome banner.

First off, it was PACKED.  I don't mean, "Man, there's a lot of people here, considering it's 2am on a Thursday morning" packed.  I mean it was just plain packed.  Like Disneyland on New Year's Eve packed.  I figured I would be able to walk around the park with the few hundred or so who dared to brave the late/early hour.  Not so.  There were tens of thousands of us demented night-dwellers.  We were all defacto extras in a Vampire Diaries episode.

Don't believe me?  Here was the line TO GET IN!

The people in this picture were going to wait forty-five minutes to get into Disneyland - to wait another forty-five minutes for practically anything else?  You still doubt me?  Okay...

You see, I didn't mean that they'd spend forty-five minutes waiting for the Indiana Jones ride (which, by the way, had an eighty-five minute plus wait time).  These people are waiting in line at the Jolly Holiday bakery to get a scone, cupcake or cafe mocha!  And it wasn't just in Main Street.  In Frontierland, the line at the Stage Coach Cafe, which sells chicken tenders and funnel cakes was twenty five people deep at every line.

Don't get me wrong.  Those funnel cakes are pretty tasty, but come on.  The weirdest thing, however, in this bizarro Disneyland night, was that there wasn't a tremendous wait at the table service restaurant in New Orleans Square, Cafe Orleans.  So if you wanted to get something "fast," you had to wait in line for forty-five minutes.  If you wanted the "slow" food you get at a table service restaurant, the wait was only fifteen minutes.  AND you get to order from the cool "one night only" menu they had for the restaurant.

After I got it out of my head that I would get anything productive done, though, the night became more enjoyable for me.  All told, I went on a total of ZERO rides.  I stood in ZERO lines because it just wasn't worth it for me.  I was going to come again the next day with my family and wait in lines a tenth as long.  So what I did do, and did enjoy, was taking cool night pictures of the happiest place on earth, and people watch.  Here are some of the cool pics I got:

                                                  King Arthur's Carousel (extended exposure)
                                                   Sleeping Beauty's Castle (and reflection)
This cool shot of the Matterhorn and the little pond by Pixie Hollow looks just too cool.  It looks almost like a more abstract oil painting, but I swear this is what came out of the camera.  I haven't retouched it at all.

At about three, I headed over to Tomorrowland and heard the thumping bass of the Tomorrowland Terrace from a few hundred yards away.  The crowd was really into it and I have to admit that I stayed and danced for a song (thankfully, there are no pictures of this - trust me on that).  It reminded me of my old high school days and the nights I spent dancing the night away at Videopolis.

In fact, the whole night gave me a very "Grad Night" kind of vibe.  For those of you who've never been, Grad Night is a series of nights in late spring / early summer where Disneyland closes a little early and lets busloads of graduating high school seniors descend on the park from around 10pm till around 6am.  This Leap Day promotion was a first, because Disneyland had never been opened to the entire general public for twenty-four straight hours before.  FYI, they also had this same promotion at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  Anyway, people were handling the overcrowded thing pretty well.  I saw lots of groups just hanging out and having fun talking and people watch the people who were people watching them.  I didn't see anyone get out of hand or see any security people laying down the Disney hammer.  Even at 4am, things were still packed.

I saw a few funny things, like a bunch of guys who actually brought their breakfast with them, complete with bowls of Sugar Corn Pops and Toaster Strudels, which they toasted themselves with a nice white toaster they had brought with them to the park.  They would serenade passersby with a pretty good rendition of "It's a Beautiful Morning."  But probably the funniest thing was a guy who was giving high fives to everyone he could.  I'd seen him earlier in the night, smacking one hand -"421!"  Then another "422!"  I didn't quite know what he was doing until almost six.  I heard him coming from behind me.  Slap "996!"  A few more.  Then, slap!  "999!  Dude, go over there, you're going to be 1,000."  His friend ran about twenty feet away and then they both ran towards each other.  While leaping in midair, they slapped hands with an almost thunderous roar.  "1,000!"  One of his other friends turned to all of us watching, "Dude!  This guy has just high fived 1,000 people!  1,000 DIFFERENT people!"  As far as they knew, he slapped no hand twice on his quest.  And they weren't even drunk!  It just goes to show you what lack of sleep can do to make anything seem fun.

Okay, I lied.  I did wait in one line.  It wasn't for a ride, though.  It was for a picture of me with Chip and Dale.  My brother, Todd and I used to call ourselves Chip & Dale, so I've got a soft spot in my heart for those dorky chipmunks.  And to give myself some credit, the line was only three minutes long.  It was cool, though, that they had characters available for pictures all over the park.  And they were all wearing their PJs.  Pretty cool.

So as 6am approached, the sky began to get lighter.  People were still getting along well, especially considering how tight things were.  As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a cast member named Jon with a lanyard full of pins that you could trade for if you had a pin of your own to exchange.  If you don't know what Disney pin trading is, you can google it.  Anyway, Jon had a cool Mickey Mouse pin that I liked and I'd brought a few pins to trade, so as we made the trade, he asked me if I was a serious pin trader.  "Nope.  Not really," I said.  "I just like the ones I like and don't worry about much more than that."  "Well, you're in luck, then," Jon said.  "That pin there is what's called an Artist's Proof.  That's why it has AP stamped on it.  This pin is a limited edition pin, and it's an artist's proof of that limited edition.  So it's very valuable.  Congratulations."  I thanked him for the pin and for the explanation.  Turns out that Jon was Jon Storbeck, who is the VP of the entire Disneyland Park.  So it was pretty cool to spend a little bit of time with the guy who's in charge of this happiest place on earth.  Good job, Jon.  We all had a great time.

                           That's Jon to the right of the guy waving with the Mickey hand (in the khakis)

It was very surreal watching the sun COME UP while at Disneyland.

I have been at Disneyland many times as the sun set, but never when the sun came up.  At Grad Nights, the sun doesn't come up until later in the morning, so I didn't get to see it when I was in high school.  When 6am hit, the PAs across main street started playing the end theme to the Mickey Mouse Club:  "Now it's time to say goodbye to all our company.  MIC - see you real soon.  KEY - Why?  Because we like you.  MOUSE."  It was a very fitting tribute to the end of the day.  Or the beginning of the day.  Or whatever this was.  Boy, was I tired.

Anyway, as I left the park, I turned around for one last picture.  6am on the railroad station clock.  My time here is done.

See you guys in a few hours.
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