On Tuesday, my friend Kristin and I survived what could have been the worst possible day to visit Disneyland this year. And we actually had a blast!
Several months ago, we decided to risk buying tickets to Disneyland in June, thinking that probably the pandemic would be more under control and that the Disney folks would have figured out how to manage park attendance in a safe and organized way. Somewhat randomly, we chose the date June 15.
Little did we know that a few weeks later, California Governor Newsome would announce that the entire state would be “open for business” on June 15. That meant no restrictions on public gatherings, no mask requirements, no social distancing, and no limits on out-of-state visitors.
Not only that, the National Weather Service announced a heatwave arriving on June 15, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.
So yeah, the perfect conditions for being suck with 10,000 people in a theme park.
Luckily, I chose a travel partner wisely. Kristin shares my exuberant enthusiasm for the Disney parks, but also has a “go with the flow” attitude that made decision-making so easy. She’s also stylish as all get out.
That said, when we arrived at the park entrance at 7:30am, the crowds were pretty intimidating.
But pretty soon we were through security and the green wrought iron gates and were happily promenading down Main Street!
Our first stops were the official Disney photographers at the gate and in front of the castle. There were hardly any lines for these photos, and it felt smart to get this out of the way while we were looking fresh. We were so excited with how these pics came out!
Of course, we had to do some dance-y ones.
Then we headed over the Galaxy’s Edge to check out the Star Wars action. The land was almost empty when we got there! So time for more pics!
We did this fun pic dueling with our parasols.
Which my friend Nick Williams nicely “enhanced” to be more appropriate for the land.
For sure it was hot as hell and the crowds were pretty intense. But we still had the time of our lives and made great use of our one day in the park. Some of my favorite moments:
- Promenading down the Main Street of Disneyland!
- Riding “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” for the first time! Such great storytelling, so many surprises and wonderful moments, incredible effects and some of the best animatronics I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait to ride again and again!
- Riding “Millennium Falcon” with just Kristin as the two pilots! Not as fun as having a full crew, but still entertaining.
- Spotting Rey and chatting with her for a minute in Batuu.
- Eating my favorite foods in Galaxy’s Edge, including a delicious Ronto Wrap and Felucian Kefta and Hummus Garden Spread (Impossible Meat Meatballs, Herb Hummus, Tomato-Cucumber Relish, Pita).
- Riding “Splash Mountain” one last time. Other than the really unfortunate racial messaging of the associated film, the ride is totally an E Ticket Disney experience — great storytelling, animatronics, theming, music, and thrills.
- “Peter Pan’s Magical Flight” is still pretty damn magical.
- The “Haunted Mansion” and “Pirates” are still so great. It was like visiting old friends.
- “It’s a Small World” was very charming this time around.
- Eating a Mickey rice crispy treat with Reeses Pieces: honestly very pleasurable to eat.
That said, a lot of features of Disneyland weren’t available that day, like live entertainment and bands, character “meet and greets,” parades, or fireworks. There were no Fast Passes or single rider lines, which in the past were life savers for me.
Nevertheless, the magic was still there!
- An “up and back” car trip to Disneyland is doable but not ideal. Probably not worth it, unless there are other “must do” things on the way. Fly next time!
- “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” is the E Ticket experience Disney has been needing to release for years and years. The last one in my opinion, was “Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.”
- Bring a parasol!
- Always ask a cast member politely and respectfully if something does not go well during your trip. Kristin talked to a cast member at Splash Mountain after we stood in line for 40 minutes to get on and then the ride broke down if we could come back later and not have to stand in line. The cast member said that because she has asked nicely, she was giving us a voucher to get right back on if the ride was working again. And that is exactly what we did, and it was fantastic!
- La Quinta Suites is a bit of a schlepp from the Disney campus, but still worth it if you can get a good deal. We loved our room. That afternoon nap was amazingly rejuvenating.
- If you are only there for a few hours, parking at the GardenWalk mall parking structure might be worth it. Only $3 an hour, first hour free.
- The $20 photopass was steep, but was totally worth it for this trip. We did very little waiting for all the photographers, who all did a great job.