Thursday, August 4, 2016

My 4th of July at Disneyland

Admittedly, I am somewhat guilty of being one of those people who have sworn-off visiting Disneyland on major holidays.  Back in the 1990's I went to Disneyland twice on Christmas Day, and the park seemed like a nightmare.  I said both times that I'd never do it again.  Fast forward to 2016, when I posted the question to members of my Facebook group asking if it was a crazy idea to visit Disneyland on the 4th of July.

My members wished me luck and echoed many of my previous sentiments. Some of them commented on how "amazing" the 4th of July fireworks were.  Others said they enjoyed seeing the U.S. Marine Band perform during the flag retreat.  But the overwhelming opinion was that Disneyland would be packed, if not filled entirely to capacity.

So I decided to brave the crowds and the heat, and visit Disneyland on Summer's biggest holiday. In doing so, I broke one of my own rules for visiting Disneyland on a busy day.  I showed up in the middle of the afternoon.  Uhg!  I arrived at the parking structure at 3:00 in the afternoon, and there was no back-up of cars.  I quickly found a parking space, and made my way to the tram loading area, where I expected to have a bit of a wait.  A half-empty tram was waiting to whisk us to the main entrance.

"Ok, so I guess the security lines are going to be long", I said to myself.  I had heard that they were making everybody go through the metal detectors because of recent security concerns.  I made it to the back check area, and was through it, and the metal detector in less than a minute.  From there, I could see the main gates to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure were empty.  I was heading to Disneyland to catch the flag retreat ceremony and watch the afternoon parade.

I entered the park just before 3:30pm, and popped into a few shops.  Main Street was surprisingly calm.  People were scattered along the sidewalk, waiting for the parade, or just taking a break.  I reached the Central Plaza, and made a U-turn to return to Town Square for the flag retreat.  There was a small crowd of people milling around the flagpole, so I made my way upstairs to the moderately empty train station to view the festivities from there.

The 4:pm Flag Retreat ceremony featured the U.S. Marine
Aircraft Wing Band (seen at the bottom of the photo).
I watched the Marine Band perform, and the flag ceremony.  I've seen this ceremony several times before, but on our nation's birthday, it seemed more special.  Immediately after the ceremony, Mickey's Soundsational Parade kicked-off from Town Square.  I've seen many parades from the front of the train station. If you have the right spot, it's one of the best views.

After the parade was over, I made my way to the different lands.  By this time, I knew what everybody had warned be about would not be true on this day.  The park was, dare I say "empty". I mean, the lines were practically non-existent.  Jungle Cruise, Pirates and Haunted Mansion were all "walk-on".  Splash Mountain had a bit of a wait, but I used the Single Rider Line, and rode it twice without any wait at all.  The wait for the Indiana Jones Adventure was listed as 25-minutes.  Over in Fantasyland, most of the attractions had a 10-15 minute wait.  Peter Pan's Flight was listed at 35-minutes.

I made my way to the Fantasyland Theater a bit early for the Marine Band concert.  This is where I found what would be the longest line of the entire day.  This line wrapped around the front side of the theater, and snaked to the right, all the way up and past the Toon Town Train Station, and made it's way down towards the tunnel into Toon Town.  I entered the line in front of the train station.  After the theater opened, the line quickly moved inside, where I found a good seat near the front of the middle section.

The "Marine Band" plays an hour-long concert inside the open air Fantasyland Theater

The Marine Band performed an excellent set of patriotic tunes, and songs by famous American composers.  The crowd enjoyed every number, and showed their appreciation with stirring applause and standing ovations.  The only negative thing I would report is that after what appeared to be a very long line to get it, the theater was only about two-thirds full.  I guess this was another sign of a "slow day" at Disneyland.

After the concert ended, I headed to Frontierland to have dinner at Rancho Del Zocalo.  I knew this area would be deserted, and it was.  I skipped the first Paint The Night parade, because that's what you do if you don't want to wait hours for a good viewing spot.  After I ate, the parade was making it's way from Fantasyland to Main Street.  I took the Adventureland route to Main Street, and ducked into the Candy Parlor, noticing that the alternate walkway out of the park was not open.

As the final float passed by, I exited the candy shop,and made my way out to the middle of the street. This was the easiest attempt at getting a prime viewing spot for the fireworks that I've ever had.  I waited about fifteen minutes in a moderate crowd for the Disneyland Forever show to begin.  As usual, the show did not disappoint.  And the three-minute "Patriotic Finale" at the end was a very nice touch.

After the fireworks ended, I made my way back into Fantasyland to catch a couple more rides, and grab a spot for the second Paint The Night parade.  By the time the parade started, the walkway to it's a small world was practically empty.  I grabbed a seat on the ground with nobody in front of me. The parade was amazing, as it always is.  After Paint The Night was finished, I rode a few more rides, and then made my way to Main Street, for some shopping to complete my day.

Overall, the 4th of July at Disneyland was a fantastic day.  The crowds were incredibly light, and the weather was perfect.  I'm not sure what contributed to the lower than normal crowds on this day.  It could have been one of many factors.  The temporary closures in Frontierland to make way for Star Wars Land, the reduction in Annual Passholders, combined with the number of blocked passes, and the new tiered pricing, making this day the highest priced day to visit, probably all combined to make the 4th of July a great day to visit.  I don't know how long this trend will last, or if it was a one-time occurrence, but I'd gladly take it again in the future.