Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Did It! 6 Disney Parks In One Day

Back in June, I made my first post to this new blog.  I wrote about my planned adventure on July 17, when I would visit every Disney theme park in America in one day.  I've been delayed in reporting the results since returning from my trip.  I had a family medical crisis to deal with.  However, I'm back now, and pleased to report on my adventure. 

July 17, 2015
This is a very important day in Disney theme park history.  On this day, in 1955, Walt Disney presided over the gala, invitation-only grand opening of Disneyland.  It was the first Disney theme park, and would forever have the distinction of being the only Disney park Walt, himself would ever walk in.

Sixty years later, there are Disney theme parks all over the world, with the biggest concentration of them being in the United States.  I decided that to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Disneyland, I would visit all of the Disney theme parks in this country on the actual anniversary of Walt's original park. 

To be fair, other people have visited all of these parks in one day.  But to my knowledge, nobody has attempted to do it the way I intended to, or on such a special day.  The six parks can be found at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (two theme parks), and the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando Florida (four theme parks).  I started my day in Florida, and ended in California. 

The goal was to enter each theme park, and take at least one photo inside the park.  Then I would experience one original attraction from each park's opening day.  If time permitted, I would do other things.  Here's how the day went:

I departed Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort via Walt Disney World bus to Magic Kingdom Park.  My outfit for the day included a Disneyland 60th Anniversary lanyard, with some twenty-eight collectible pins.  I also wore a Diamond Celebration t-shirt with a custom-printed message on the back (see below), and a Disneyland 60 baseball cap. 

I entered the Magic Kingdom, and stopped for photographs on Main Street U.S.A. and at the Central Plaza "hub" (in front of Cinderella Castle).  I then made my way to Be Our Guest Restaurant for my 8:15 breakfast reservation.

The Magic Kingdom officially opens to the public, and I am in the Liberty Square section of the park, awaiting the opening of The Haunted Mansion.  This attraction opened on October 1, 1971 (Walt Disney World's opening day).  I rode the attraction, and then headed to the park exit, to board a monorail for my next stop.

I arrived at Epcot, which opened on October 1, 1982.  This was the second theme park to open at Walt Disney World, and my second park of this day.  I took a photo in front of Epcot's signature icon, and opening day attraction, Spaceship Earth.
I then rode the classic attraction.

I arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios via Walt Disney World bus, just in time to catch the Frozen Royal Welcome parade on Hollywood Blvd.  For this park, I took advantage of Disney's Fast Pass Plus service, and scheduled two attractions to experience.  The first one was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  This iconic attraction is one of the most popular rides in the park.  Up next was The Great Movie Ride.  This journey through the movies opened when this park first opened as the Disney/MGM Studios on May 1, 1989.

My fourth Disney theme park of the day was the fourth park to open at Walt Disney World.  Disney's Animal Kingdom opened on April 22, 1998, which is also Earth Day.  This is the largest Disney park in the U.S., and is easily the most beautiful.  I stopped for a photo in front of the park's icon, "The Tree of Life", before heading under the roots of the tree to experience the 3-D attraction, "It's Tough To Be A Bug."  This opening day attraction features the characters from the Disney/Pixar film
"A Bug's Life". 

Shortly after It's Tough To Be A Bug, I departed Animal Kingdom, and boarded a Disney bus back to my resort.  I had completed the Walt Disney World portion of my one-day adventure, including four of the six Disney parks on my list.  Soon, I would be heading across the country, to the Disneyland Resort.

I left Walt Disney World in a rental car that I had for my entire stay at Saratoga Springs Resort, and drove myself to Orlando International Airport.  My cross-country trip would take two flights on American Airlines.  The first leg was from Orlando to Dallas.  The connecting flight went directly to Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, California.  I landed at Orange County airport at 8pm. 

After retrieving my luggage from baggage claim, I was picked-up outside the terminal and headed home to Irvine (about 15 minutes away).  There I dropped off my luggage, and drove myself to the Disneyland Resort (another 15 minutes).  I had been monitoring Disneyland social media all day, to see if there were any heavy crowds on this anniversary day that could result in park closures due to capacity.  It seemed pretty apparent that crowd-wise, this was just a normal summer day. 

I arrived at the main entrance "esplanade", which is the area between the two theme parks at the Disneyland Resort.  I headed directly to Disney California Adventure, which would be closing at 11:00.  Disneyland Park would be open until midnight.  Once inside California Adventure, I grabbed a commemorative park map for each park, and headed to the Storytellers' statue.

From there, I made my way to Soarin' Over California.  This opening day attraction debuted with a very different Disney's California Adventure on February 8, 2001.  I was fortunate to only have a ten-minute wait for this ride. While in line, I met a young woman named Kirsten, who (like many others on this day) noticed the printing on the back of my shirt, and asked me about my adventure.  She was thrilled about what I was doing. and she gave me a "I was there" commemorative button that had been given to guests earlier in the day.  We rode Soarin', and then I had some time to head over to Cars Land to squeeze in another ride. 

When I got to Cars Land, I headed straight for Radiator Springs Racers.  I entered the single rider line, and was riding in about fifteen minutes.  Throughout the day, I was posting reports about my trip on Twitter and Facebook.  I heard that there were thousands of people following my journey, as my fellow Disney Travel Specialists from Magical Vacation Planner were sharing my posts.  By now, it was past 1am on the east coast, and people were still following along.  I had completed five Disney parks, with one more to go.

I entered the gates to Disneyland with one hour and twenty minutes until closing.  I stopped in front of the Mickey Mouse planter below the Main Street Train Station to take a photo before walking through the tunnel to Main Street U.S.A.  I was expecting huge crowds on Main Street for the 11pm "Paint The Night" parade.  But the parade was moved to midnight on this evening.  This was great news to me. I headed straight to Fantasyland, where I had my choice of opening day attractions. 

I had wanted to ride Peter Pan's Flight.  This is by far the most popular attraction in Fantasyland.  And after a recent refurbishment, the ride seemed even more popular.  Fortunately I had already ridden this ride a few weeks earlier.  So I opted to go right next door.  Because so many Walt Disney World fans were following me on this day, I decided on a ride that would allow them to share in the nostalgia of this day. 

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride opened exactly sixty years ago on this day, making it one of the original opening day attractions at Disneyland.  My Walt Disney World friends enjoyed this attraction at the Magic Kingdom there, until it was closed in 1998, to make way for The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh.  I waited in line for less than ten minutes before boarding my car for my journey "to nowhere in particular". 

When my trip on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was finished, I had completed my goal of visiting every Disney theme park in the United States in one day.  And I still had one hour left before Disneyland closed.  I boarded the Disneyland Railroad (another opening day attraction), for a ride to Main Street U.S.A.  The train traveled past Tomorrowland before passing through the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas (which were added in 1958 and 1966, respectively). 

Once back on Main Street, I made my way down the street to Jolly Holiday Bakery, where I purchased some Diamond Celebration sweets to take home.  I then headed back to Town Square, where I shopped for commemorative t-shirts at The Emporium, before grabbing a spot along the square for the midnight showing of the "Paint The Night" parade. 

All in all, my big day was a huge success, and very special to this lifelong fan of Disney theme parks.  I'd like to thank everybody who followed this amazing journey on social media, and cheered me on. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Disney Bucket List

So about three years ago I was planning my sixth Walt Disney World vacation.  Just like for most other vacationers, I had to book flights to and from Orlando.  In my case, that required coast-to-coast travel from San Francisco.  Unable to find non-stop flights from the Bay Area, I had to choose flights that would have connections, requiring aircraft changes in other cities.

My connection options were Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.  I thought for a moment how cool it would be to turn my connecting flight into an overnight stay, and visit Disneyland either on the way to, or on the way home from Walt Disney World.  I thought experiencing Disney's theme parks on both coasts, during the same vacation would be a "bucket list" item for sure. 

Rather than take the side trip to Disneyland during that vacation, I decided to extend my Walt Disney World trip by a couple of days.  In hindsight, I believe I made the right choice.  But the thought of visiting both resorts on the same trip stayed with me.  I had to find the right time to pull something like this off, and to do it in a unique way. 

Earlier this year a San Diego couple celebrated Valentine's Day by completing a bucket list item of their own, when they visited Disney parks in three time zones, all in the same day.  They started the day in Japan, where they visited Tokyo Disneyland.  From there, they hopped a plane, and flew to Los Angeles, where they made a mad dash to Disneyland in Anaheim.  They were in and out of the park, and headed to Orange County airport, where they caught a flight to Orlando, and made it to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World twenty minutes before midnight. 

This is a great accomplishment, and it fulfilled a magical dream for this couple.  But to be fair, it took them twenty-eight hours to do this.  If this was a baseball record, it would forever have an asterisk by it.  The other thing that bothers me is that they were only in each park long enough to take a photo in front of the park's iconic castle.  They didn't go on any rides.  My understanding is the Tokyo and Florida portions were extended vacations.  And they live in San Diego, which means they didn't need to spend any extended time at Disneyland because they can go there any time they want to.

I started thinking about attempting my own multi-park Disney Bucket list late in 2014.  While my plan doesn't involve two continents, I believe it is a little more ambitious than the couple who lives a couple hours south of me.  July 17, 2015 is the 60th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  I was in the park on that day in 1995, 2005, and last year. 

This year I will visit all six U.S. Disney theme parks on July 17.  I will start the day at Walt Disney World, where I will visit Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.  From there, I will fly back to California, where I will visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in the evening. 

While in each park, I will take photos and/or video, documenting my journey.  I will also experience at least one iconic attraction in all six theme parks.  And I will accomplish all of this in about eighteen hours on July 17.  By doing this on such an important day in Disney history, I will celebrate Disneyland's 60th anniversary by visiting one park for each decade that Walt Disney's original park has been open. 

I hope you will follow my updates prior to this event, and throughout my day of Disney, this July.  I will begin reporting from Walt Disney World via twitter (@jvptravels) and Facebook (Magical Vacation Planner - Jerry Vargas) beginning July 7, and through July 17, when I will document my cross-country Disney journey throughout the day.