Saturday, March 3, 2012

One More Disney Day: The Hangover

If there's such as thing as a Disneyland hangover, I have one. Since Thursday. The dull ache in the back of my head finally subsided, but my body is sore and I'm still tired.

Thursday afternoon, I was grateful to be staying at a hotel. I couldn't remove myself for any meaningful period of time from my bed. Room service was my friend. I couldn't imagine anyone returning to anything resembling a normal life on Thursday. If you were a survivor of February 29th's "One More Disney Day," you have my sympathies.

I made it through 22 of the 24 hours inside the park. Then, at 4:00 a.m., I hit the wall. No more. Exhaustion and impatience won.

It wasn't just that I was tired. It was that Disneyland remained insanely crowded. All. Night. I couldn't fight it anymore.

After a day that was moderately, but manageably, crowded, all hell broke loose when the sun went down. The crowds began swelling in the late afternoon when people left work and school to pull the all-nighter. When Disney California Adventure closed at 8:00, all of those guests crossed the esplanade and joined ranks at the Busiest Place on Earth.

By 10:00 p.m., Disneyland had reached capacity and the entrance gates were closed. That lasted about an hour. When the gates reopened, a cheer went up from the masses waiting to get in. The flood of humanity continued.

There was a two-hour wait for Space Mountain, an hour and a half for Star Tours--and that was at 3:00 a.m. Inexplicably, Disneyland had closed Fastpass distribution. After 8:00 p.m. all lines were standby.

Those of us who had been toughing it out at the park since 6:00 a.m. waited for the crowds to subside. "It'll thin out after midnight." "A lot of people will leave after the 1:00 Fantasmic! show." "OK, Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at 1:45 and they're done."

It never happened.

Main Street, U.S.A., around 2:00 a.m.:

I took these shots while waiting for friends to get coffee at the Market House. That was only about a 45-minute wait.

The line for the corndog cart near the first aid station off of Main Street stretched nearly to the Astro Orbitor in Tomorrowland.

All the extra bodies meant a ton of extra smartphones, which meant phone and data lines were slammed. My ambitious plan to continue blogging from the park all night was dashed with my 10:45 p.m. post. It was taking too long to post messages--and forget about uploading pictures.

If I may quote C3PO, "This is madness!" Especially since I'd been up since 4:00 a.m. the previous day. I was losing patience.

To Disneyland's credit, they tried to keep the crowds as energized and entertained as possible with late night character meet and greets at the Carnation Plaza Gardens:

...and an appearance by the Country Bears in Frontierland:

They also fired up the music on Main Street at the top of each early morning hour. Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line" was just the ticket at 2 a.m.--even if we were no longer physically capable of jumping.

And still, the people kept coming in.

To give you an idea of just how insane it was, when I finally capitulated at 4 a.m., this was the line outside the gate to BUY tickets:

Scour the message boards on any number of Disney fan websites and you'll see a lot a criticism heaped at Disneyland for how the night went. Too many people, too many teens smoking pot, too many people asleep in the Main Street Cinema.

Given the crowds, if those are the worst complaints, it wasn't a bad night.

Certainly not Disneyland and certainly not any guest I spoke to expected the park to be as busy as it was. Disney cast members were clearly overwhelmed by the numbers, but from my perspective they made the best of it. My only gripe was the early closure of Fastpasses. Otherwise, everyone made it out alive...and hopefully got some sleep...and didn't take three days to recover like I did.

When can we do it again?


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