If it were possible, I would spend every free moment at the Happiest Place on Earth.
As it is, I am a Disneyland annual pass holder, and I visit the park at least once a month — you know, to get my money’s worth.
Disneyland is more than just an amusement park — it has a special, inexplicable quality that reliably draws thousands of visitors from all across the globe every single day, rain or shine.
Now, we all know that there is no better way to spend a hot Southern California summer afternoon than by standing in lines for hours and eating overpriced Mickey-shaped ice cream bars, but a trip to Anaheim’s greatest attraction can be made even more enjoyable if you know a few insider tips about workings of the park.
I may not be a certified Disneyland Cast Member (the clever name given to the park workers), but I have been to Club 33, a members-only restaurant, and trust me, that guarantees I know the park inside and out.
The first point of information that needs to be stressed to any Disneyland visitor is the importance of arriving at the park as soon as the gates open in the morning. A ticket to the park is not cheap, and you want to be sure to get the most bang for your buck.
For the first hour or so of the park’s operation you can expect to encounter little to no lines, which means you should hit up the most popular rides first — this includes the Matterhorn, one of the few rides that does not offer Fast Passes, which should be utilized as much as possible.
Another trick to extend the length of your visit is to stay in the park an hour after it officially closes. If you are waiting in line for a ride at the closing hour, you are allowed to stay until you have gone through, so make a mad dash for Space Mountain before closing time.
Also, Main Street, the opening stretch of shops and brick road that marks the entrance to the park, stays open one hour after the posted time. Take this extra hour to get late-night sundaes at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Shoppe or pick up souvenirs. Just be careful not to get sucked into buying too much — the clothing stores at Disneyland actually maintain a consistently colder temperature than normal in order to sway customers into purchasing sweatshirts.
The other half of the Disneyland experience is that oft-overlooked park called California Adventure, which is currently undergoing a major construction overhaul. The entire park is getting a new facelift, and over the course of the next couple of years, a variety of new attractions will be making their grand debut, including a new water-lights show.
California Adventure also offers a quick and cost-efficient means to soothe any unruly stomach rumblings that may hit you during your stay. Just stop by the Mission Tortilla Factory or the Boudin Bakery for some complimentary fresh tortillas and sourdough bread.
If you want to get the most out of the rides at Disneyland, search for the Hidden Mickeys scattered throughout each one. The three-circle heads of Mickey Mouse are waiting to be discovered by anyone who looks for them. Here’s a hint for one of them: look at the wagon wheels lying on the ground on Big Thunder Mountain.
If you choose to go on Soarin’ Over California, ask a Cast Member to put you on the top row — it makes the ride much more phenomenal. And be sure to take a ferry to Tom Sawyer’s Island, located in the middle of Disneyland. This largely forgotten playground is usually pretty empty and, unexpectedly, really fun.
On the other hand, I would forgo most of the rides in Storybook Land — they always have huge lines and, truthfully, are rather boring.
As an added bonus, in 2009 Disneyland is offering park-goers free admission to the park on their birthdays. All you have to do is register online in advance at www.disneyland.disney.go.com. This is an incredible deal for anyone who cannot otherwise afford to go.
If on your birthday you find yourself too bogged down with exams or hungover from your celebratory power hour the night before, the USC Ticket Office also offers outstanding discounts on admission — there, you can buy an adult Park Hopper ticket for only $73, instead of the usual cost of $94.
Visiting Disneyland is one of the greatest experiences available to USC students: You get to build memories, make your summer instantly enjoyable and fill your Facebook profile with pictures of you posing with Goofy. Grab a water bottle, a jacket for the chilly nighttime breezes and your friends, and get ready to take a trip back to magic of childhood.