Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration 24 Hour Kickoff Recap

Oh man.  This past Friday, I was lucky (or stupid) enough to spend my day celebrating the kickoff of Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration.  The parks were both open for 24 hours, and while I had no intention of staying the whole time, I wanted to spend as much of my day as possible at the Happiest Place on Earth.  I knew this was an event the hubs would have no interest in attending, so I grabbed my Disney bestie Brianna (she went to the preview event with me) and we headed down to Anaheim on Thursday night.  We both agreed that we had no interest in getting in line for Disneyland at 10 pm Thursday night in order to be able to witness the rope drop the following morning at 6 am, so we slept in and headed over to the parks at about 8:30.

Here we are waiting for our ART shuttle, I’m wearing my blue DIY Minnie ears.  Brianna doctored up her silver ears she already had with some blue rhinestones and a new bow.

Our main goal for the day was to find a way to see all three of the new shows: the Paint the Night parade (running at 8:50 pm and 1:00 am), the Disneyland Forever fireworks (showing at 9:30 pm), and World of Color Celebrate (showing at 9:00 pm, 10:15 pm, and 3:00 am).  We knew we would never make the 3:00 am World of Color (we’re old), so we were shooting for the 10:15.  We thought (haha) we might be able to make it in time after the fireworks if we ran from Disneyland to DCA.  Since we knew we need a WOC Fast Pass, we headed to DCA first.  We did have Carthay Circle lunch reservations for the WOC dining package, but they told us when we made the reservation that they couldn’t guarantee which show time we would get, so we thought we might stalk the Fast Pass distribution just in case.  While we were waiting, we found this awesome Wilderness Explorer…

The cast member at the Fast Pass distribution told us it would be awhile until they were handing out tickets for the 10:15 show, so we walked around and explored a bit.  They had some awesome photo ops up all around the park.  I loved this one, despite the fact that we had no intention of staying up all night.

While we were wandering around the park, we stopped in at Carthay and they told us we would have no problem getting a 10:15 WOC pass with our lunch, so with that, we headed out of DCA and into Disneyland.  We took a ton of pictures of all the new decor (check back soon for that full post!) and of course had to get the requisite castle pic…

This was probably my favorite of all the photo ops they had in the parks.  Here we are scaling the Matterhorn!

After our Matterhorn pic, we needed to head back over to DCA for our lunch reservation.  It was about 12:45 pm when we were walking down Main Street and there were already tons of people camped out for the parade (that was going to be starting EIGHT hours later!).  The majority of the spots along the front of the route were already taken or being saved.  Even though we didn’t quite accept it at that point, we began to realize that our three show plan might not be coming to fruition.  So we drowned our sorrows in some delicious food and drinks at Carthay Circle (full review to come).

After our huge and yummy lunch, we decided to head back to our hotel for a little break.  We were walking out of DCA at about 3:30 pm.  At that point, the entire esplanade was packed.  New admissions were not being allowed at Disneyland, and security bag check was at a stand still until the esplanade was cleared.   The catch 22 for us was that we needed to rest in order to be able to make it through the night, but by leaving and trying to re-enter the park at a later time, we risked not be allowed back in.  While we had really hoped to see the first Paint the Night and the fireworks, it looked like we were going to be out of luck.  So we headed back to our hotel, took a quick nap, and prepared for the cooler night weather.  And started to accept that these would be our plans for the remainder of the evening…

We knew it was going to take probably two hours to get through security and get back into DCA before World of Color, so we left our hotel at 6:30 pm and took the shuttle back to the parks.  The lines for security were the absolute longest I have ever seen (and I have been there on capacity days before, including previous 24 hour days).  We joined the end of our line, which wrapped all the way around the shuttle drop off area, and prepared ourselves for a nice, long wait (I may or may not have come prepared with wine in my travel mug…).  About an hour and half later, we had made our way almost to the security bag check area.  Unfortunately, that’s when things started to get a little crazy.  A cast member told us that the check point we were waiting for was an exit only and that the only way to get into the park was to go to the check point all the way to the left (we were currently on the far right).  This created a huge surge of people (all of whom had been waiting patiently in a nice, organized line up until that point) pushing and shoving their way across to the left.  I have no idea who decided this was the way to handle things, but I can assure you, it was a terrible decision.  And it didn’t get better from there.

So we were stuck in the middle of this huge crowd, fighting to get through the bag check tents.  No one was in line and there was a lot of pushing.  After a couple of minutes of everyone just standing there in a clump, the cast members let everyone through WITHOUT CHECKING ANY BAGS.  I know bag checks at the resort are mostly useless, but come on.  One, bag checks would have been a good way to slow down the flow of people heading into the esplanade.  Two, in crowds that large, you need to check bags.  Who knows what kind of weapons people could have been bringing in.  This decision to let everyone in caused the huge horde to push through up to the front gates of DCA…

It was absolutely one of the most terrifying crowd experiences I have ever been in.  There were no cast members directing people, no lines, no order, and zero communication.  At one point (once we had actually gotten into DCA) I heard an executive cast member say to another CM in a joking manner “I knew people liked us, I didn’t think they liked us this much!”  Um, really?  You KNEW there were going to be record-breaking crowds, there just wasn’t enough preparation.  Guests were put in a very unsafe situation and the poor cast members working the front lines were left to deal with the wrath of some very angry (and rude) people.  After a very smooth and enjoyable morning, it was extremely frustrating to be put in this situation.  I mean, we expected serious crowds.  We left ourselves TWO HOURS to get into the park.  We were not naive about the situation, but apparently some of the Disney higher ups were.

Eventually, we got in.  At that point, we were so happy to be out of the mob, we didn’t really care where we went next.  We swung by the Mad T Party, but as you would expect, it was packed and the last thing we wanted to do was be swept up in another crowd, so we found a bench and parked it until it was time to go take our spots for WOC.  We had been hoping to head over to Disneyland in time for the 1:00 am Paint the Night, but by the time WOC was over, it was clear that was not going to happen.  Despite no longer being at capacity, Disneyland’s gates remained closed to all guests.  Pictures from the live feed showed a fairly empty park, but the gates would not reopen until 3:00 am.  So we used our Radiator Springs Racers Fast Passes and decided to call it a night.  Here we are waiting for the ART at the end of the night…

All in all, I have some mixed feelings about the whole day.  I loved being able to be a part of a historic day at the parks, but I am disappointed that things were not more organized and handled better.  You cannot tell me (or anyone) that they didn’t expect a crowd as big as what showed up.  They knew it was coming, they just did not have a proper plan in place to deal with the crowds.  Or if they did have a plan, they did an absolutely terrible job communicating it to cast members and guests.  I truly enjoyed my morning at the parks, and I LOVED WOC (more on that soon), but I am really bummed that I didn’t get to see the parade or the fireworks.  Also, out of our entire day, we only spent about 45 minutes in Disneyland, the rest of the time we were in DCA.  I am really looking forward to spending some quality time in Disneyland in the next couple of weeks so I can actually experience all the 60th has to offer.  I’m just hoping there will be a slightly smaller crowd there when I do so.

Anyone else brave the crowds?  What was your experience like?  And, don’t forget to check out my current giveaway, going on now!

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