For the past couple of New Year's Eve, the husband and I have spent the afternoon and evening at the Disneyland Resort. Usually, we don't spend much time there between Christmas and New Year's, partly because it's so busy there during that time. This year, though, because of various people I was spending time with, I was at the resort on five separate days from December 26, 2009 through January 3, 2010, sometimes going into Disneyland or DCA and sometimes only going to Downtown Disney.
On New Year's Eve, we headed down mid-afternoon, and when we arrived at close to 4pm, there was quite a bit of a line to get into the parking structure. The signs indicated that single-day tickets into Disneyland, park-hopper tickets, and AP blockout day passes were no longer being sold, but single-day tickets for DCA were still available. They even had a flyer that they handed out to guests at the parking lot toll booth.
We were sent to the Mickey level of parking, but there were no cast members (CMs) monitoring the rows or seemingly, the floor at all. Cones were just set up to send cars down a row, with no indication of how far to drive or where available spaces might be. The rows were only single-parked at that point (the rows are made to accommodate two cars per row, one parked in front of the other), so there was still plenty of parking available, if you knew how to find it. Our familiarity with the structure made it fairly easy for us to find a good space, but I'm not sure that non-regulars faired as well.
When we entered Disneyland, we got schedules to see what the evening entertainment would be. There had been some confusion about the regular midnight fireworks, but the schedule indeed indicated that the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks were at midnight, but we were surprised to see that there was a third showing of Fantasmic scheduled at 12:05am. The fireworks were only going to be 5 minutes long? That seemed shorter than we'd remembered for New Year's Eve.
As we walked through Town Square, I recognized someone and stopped to say hello and to share a laugh at something they'd shared previously.
The husband and I didn't really have anything specifically in mind to do, so we just walked the parade route from Main Street to Small World mall just to have a look, and the route was mostly full, with very congested streets. Some were undoubtedly waiting for the next parade, but some had already camped out spaces for the evening festivities.
As we walked through Fantasyland, the husband commented that he wanted to ride Dumbo at 1am. It had been years since we'd been able to do that. It was a tradition that started on the Usenet newsgroup alt.disney.disneyland that when the park was open past 1am (which happened more frequently back then), we'd get a group of people together to ride Dumbo at 1am. Dumbo has notoriously long lines all during the day, usually because of the small children who wanted to go on Dumbo, so it was an opportunity to go on the ride without the usual long wait since presumably, the kids would be gone by then. There were times when we had 20-30 people on the ride at once, taking up every single Dumbo vehicle. We even did a party-line call once so that we could call a friend who wasn't able to be there on that particular night.
We ended up walking by the Big Thunder BBQ, and the place was absolutely packed. There were a couple of empty tables and a couple others being cleared, but there were a lot of people waiting to be seated.
As we walked by the Big Thunder Ranch, where the petting zoo was closed and they were setting up for hat and horn distribution starting at 7pm, there was already a line formed, and it was only about 5:30 at that point.
We headed over to New Orleans Square and the jewelry shop to have a chat with the people who worked there. While there, I saw a gorgeous bracelet of blue sapphires and diamonds, which they graciously allowed me to try on. It was just stunning, and it was fun to wear it, but it was definitely out of my price range. I didn't win the lottery, so I had to ask them to take it off. I'm sure it will find a good home fairly quickly, if it hasn't already.
We then made our way back to Main Street and headed over to DCA. I then realized that in all the time we'd spent New Year's Eve at the resort, we'd never actually gone into DCA, so I was interested to see how that was all set up. As we exited Disneyland, though, there were signs advising people that hand stamps were required for everyone. Normally, annual passholders don't need a hand stamp for re-entry, but on very busy days, days when they think access to the park might be restricted because of capacity, they do require hand stamps as a way to monitor re-entry if necessary. The Disneyland hand stamp that day was Minnie.
We wandered around a bit, and at about 6:45pm, we heard horns being blown and saw people wearing the complimentary hats given out by Disney for New Year's Eve. They must have started distribution early at DCA. We ended up walking around, including right past the several CMs who were giving out the hats and horns, and it was *very loud* in some areas, with multitudes of people blowing horns.
We met up with the friend with whom we were having dinner, and then we accidentally ran into another friend who had already had dinner but agreed to join us just for the company, and we headed for Catal. Yeah, big surprise, huh?
I was surprised, however, to discover that a sweet wine that I like called Magicale was on Catal's menu. We knew that it was an exclusive import by Disney from Italy, but we didn't know that restaurants on property that weren't actually owned by Disney had the wine as well. Magicale had already had a part in my life the previous two days, and as it turned out as the evening unfolded, it was to be three consecutive days of Magicale for me. Not that I'm objecting, mind you.
There was a prix fixe menu for the night, and for my entree, I had venison, which I love and don't get often because very few restaurants serve it. It was delicious.
We had a lovely dinner as usual and had a good time with our server and the other staff that we knew at the restaurant. As it got later, we finished up so that we could go back into Disneyland before the fireworks.
As we walked towards the bagcheck area, we noticed that the walkway had been roped off on both sides, and they had created areas where people could stand and watch the fireworks. None of us remembered this happening before. There were areas inside the esplanade between the two parks that were roped off for fireworks viewing as well.
One of our friends decided to go back to her hotel instead, so we bid her farewell and headed into Disneyland with our other friend. At about 11:30pm, there wasn't any problem with getting back into the park, and as an annual passholder, they never checked for my hand stamp, so there must not have been a capacity issue. Main Street was packed, and we headed to our usual spot of Small World mall, though we had to detour our way there because of crowd control measures. The area right in front of Small World was roped off, which is what they normally do when it's a bit windy, and they don't want shell fragments from the fireworks to fall on guests, but we didn't feel any wind, so we were surprised at the closure. We went to the raised upper section and were just about behind the stage that had been set up with a DJ and emcee and Disney characters entertaining the people amassed on the street, waiting for midnight.
Our friend who was with us that night took a picture of the crowd from where we were standing. Yes, the street area was packed. It was a little less packed where we stood, though it continued to fill as midnight approached.
There were about 15 minutes until midnight, so we enjoyed the music that the DJ was playing. At midnight, the fireworks went off, and they were fun to watch. And yes indeed, the fireworks lasted 5 minutes - but the last minute or two probably had the same amount of shells as you'd see in about 5 or 10 minutes of a regular show. They were spectacular. And deafening at the finale.
There were seemingly too many people using their celphones to call or text greetings at midnight because we all experienced difficulty with our cel service at midnight and for some time afterward.
We stayed around Fantasyland and finally got in line for Dumbo just before 1am. All three of us sat separately. I picked a pink Dumbo, and the husband sat in the Dumbo in front of me, and our friend sat in the Dumbo behind me. I got my phone ready to call a friend once we'd taken flight. He was the one that we used to call from Dumbo back in the day, the one who we had tried to call with the party line, and I had texted him earlier in the day that we were going to be riding Dumbo, and he had said that I should call him like I used to. We chatted for a few minutes, and as I hung up with him, my ride was over. That was a lot shorter ride than I recalled, but it was still fun.
We walked around to go on other rides, but even at that hour, many of the lines were still quite busy. We skipped both Big Thunder Railroad and the Indy ride because their wait times were still over 30 minutes long. Haunted Mansion Holiday had a fairly short line, so we went on that instead. We had thought we might meet up with another friend who had come down late in the evening, but we seemed to miss each other on the phone, and we got tired, so at about 1:50am, we decided to head home.
A lot of people shudder at the thought of spending New Year's Eve at Disneyland. Yes, it's crowded, and yes, there are lines for everything. But if you know what to expect and know how to navigate it, it's a lot of fun. The energy of the crowd at Small World mall was great, and everyone was having a good time, even though they were packed in together, and the fireworks are unrivaled.
Whatever you were doing, I hope you had an enjoyable evening, and may 2010 bring lots of good things for you.
I leave you with Google's logo for the new year.