In the beginning of this year Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort announced a special event to celebrate Leap Year 2012. The two parks (Magic Kingdom and Disneyland) were going to be open for a full 24 hours starting at 6am on Feb 29th until 6 am on March 1st. They called it "One More Disney Day" But what started out to be "One More Disney Day" for us, turned into "One Disney Day We'd Like To Forget."
From the moment we heard about it, we planned on attending this monumental event! My sister and I decided to meet in the Parking lot at about 9pm. We had been reading Twitter all day about how the crowds were less than expected. We both wanted to go as"just adults" after we put our kids to bed. We thought, people will be tired from being there all day long will probably be clearing out around then. And wouldn't it be cool to walk around Disneyland when its normally closed? Just like Grad Night all over again. I went with my husband and she took our mom with her. When we came to a grinding hault a few exits away from Disneyland Drive we knew it was crowded, but we honestly had no idea what we were in for.
All of the streets surrounding the parks were full of traffic jams. Cars were honking like crazy, people were amped, it was very chaotic. We finally got to the parking structure & signs posted said that Disneyland Park was full. The parking attendant let us know that they weren't letting any new guests in at this time, but they should be shortly. It sounded promising enough so we decided to pay the $15 and press on, after all we had come a long way. (Only like an hour and a half... but still) Plus we didn't want to miss out on this once in a lifetime chance to watch the sun come up at Disneyland. While on the shuttle, which took an incredibly long time to get to it's destination we noticed that it was filled with a lot of college-aged kids who wreaked of alcohol. Never a good sign.
When we got off the line for the security check those lines were backed up too. I've never seen it this crowded. It was overwhelming. We expected to have to wait at the front gates to get in, but luckily by this point (almost an hour later) my husband and I arrived at the perfect time when they were letting the last few people in. When my sister and my mom arrived 5 minutes later, they weren't so lucky. They waited there for over an hour in crowd of hundreds that just kept building. Some people said it reminded them of Walmart on Black Friday, and they feared a stampede at any moment. My sister and mom said that they no longer felt safe when they saw a few locked-out guests trying to climb the locked front gates. I assured her it wasn't any better on the other side of the gates, as the park was way more crowded then even I could handle. We got caught up in the 10pm presentation of Soundsational Parade. After it was over we remained gridlocked on Main Street for a good 15 minutes. It was ugly.
The thing that I really wanted to be apart of was the Mid-Night Snack meet-up hosted by Disney Parks Blog. I read that people were allowed to line-up at 10pm. We got over there around 10:45 and it was already full. And the event didn't even start until 12am. A little disappointing, but at this point it was to be expected. Each restaurant had such a variety of specialized food and menus for the night, that we were perfectly happy to eat somewhere else. But every eatery we went to was even more crowded than the next. At that point, no snack or meal was worth the line for us.
Less than 2 hours of being at Disneyland and I was over it. (A first for me) My husband said that before we left, he'd like to see the 1am presentation of Fantasmic. I reluctantly agreed, and we packed in like sardines an hour before the show. I couldn't really see the show, but it sounded awesome. My view consisted of the backs of people's heads wearing Mickey Ears. This was partially my fault. I wanted to stand as close to the edge as possible, because my crowd tolerance limit had been exceeded a long time ago. Once the show was over it we made our way back to the front and stopped off at the Enchanted Tiki Room. We decided to escape the masses and see the show. Apparently it was another great place for all of the exhausted people to take a nap.
We only got on one ride the entire night, (other than the shuttle) and that was the Disneyland Railroad. The line for it took 30 minutes, but it was worth the wait. Instead of having to fight our way through the crowd to get to the other side of the park, we just hoped on the train. There was something different about the train this night, that I've never seen before. Half of the passengers were sleeping. So many guests were completely wiped out from being there since 6am, or the ones that had been waiting in line since 10pm the night before, they decided to take a nap. We even overheard one girl say, "This is my third time around the park, I just needed a place to relax." It was weird. But then again, so were all of the adults in snuggies.
Throughout the night I saw people in strollers & wheelchairs having a horrible time trying to maneuver through the crowds. No one seemed to care or show any consideration. But considering the overall age and feel of the guests, it was no longer a good place for families at this point. A few of the areas, like Mickey's Toontown was a good place to get some air, as the crowd was fairly lighter there. Surprisingly there was no real wait in Mickey Mouse's House to see and take our photo with him. I wished he would've been in his PJs but I found out later the characters dressed in PJs were located at Carnation Plaza.
On the way out, my husband suggested that it may be less crowded in Tomorrowland, and hopefully we could get something to eat and sit down before we headed home. Little did we know the Tomorrowland Terrace was having a full-blown Rave concert. The night's music was being DJ'd by local Radio Station, KIIS FM. This was obviously the spot where people came to "Party."
By the time we left at 3am the crowds were more manageable. But we tried to get on one last ride before we left, Autopia. We figured that it couldn't be that bad. It was still a 45 minute wait... At 3am! Needless to say we passed and headed towards the gate. Once we got outside to ride the shuttle back to the Toy Story parking lot, we were met with another long line. I convinced my husband to wait the 30 minutes instead of walking back, which some of our Disney friends did.
Disneyland is all about making memories. We've made so many wonderful family memories over the years, but this was not one of them. I can actually say that this was my least favorite memory of Disneyland.. As a matter of fact the more people and Cast Members we talk to about the whole #Disney24 experience, the more similar stories we hear. Like the pot smoking on Pirates of the Caribbean, the alcohol bottles on the grounds, the people napping wherever they could throughout the park and the guy running around without a shirt being chased by security.
We did hear that the park was a lot nicer earlier in the day. It was more of the family vibe, and that was before the park was yet to reach capacity. We should have gone then, but we thought it would have been more crowded in the day time, it ended up being the evening when everyone and their drunk friends decided to visit. I'm sure if you asked any person under 25 what Leap Year at Disneyland was like they would say how much they loved it, and maybe if I was 21 again, I would say the same thing. But I'm not 21, not 25, not even 30 anymore. I'm a 34 year old mother of 4, and I was disappointed by our "One More Disney Day."