It happened earlier this summer. I was driving to work listening to my favorite radio station when a familiar song came on and I was instantly transported back to kindergarten in the best way possible. The song was actually a Disneyland commercial, announcing that the Main Street Electrical Parade was officially retiring at the end of August. Having not been to Disneyland since 2009 I knew I must make it back to the park to see the parade.
I’ve lived in Southern California most of my life. My family is not Disney-crazy like some are, and we never had the annual pass, but I’ve probably visited Disneyland 10-20 times throughout my life. I realize this is more than most people get the chance to do, and it’s a cherished part of my history. I went a handful of times before the age of 10 and then, once I was in middle and high school, I went annually at Christmastime with my church youth group. (By the way—Disneyland at Christmas is especially wonderful).
The Electric Light Parade
The above video in all its analog glory is from the same era when I saw the parade as a child. I have very vivid memories of the light up snails and the dragon. Seeing it last Wednesday was such an amazing experience since I was transported back 20-plus years. Yes, I cried. I turn 30 next month and I’m totally taking it in stride, but I do feel like making a trip back
to childhood to see this parade was something that’s helping me ease into it.
I don’t hate technology (okay, maybe a little) but I find these slow, old-school floats beautiful, the catchy and repetitive music endearing, and the characters charming. Youtube has some videos of other modern Disney parades, tricked out with video screens and LED lights, and it was downright overwhelming. Did you know that this parade, which debuted in 1972, has over 500,000 bulbs? It has “retired” a few times and returned, but you never know. Which is why I had to make my pilgrimage.
If you plan on going, or taking your own kids to make a lifetime memory, I have a few tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Tips for Visiting Disneyland
1: We arrived at the parking garage at about 8:45 and the park opened at 9:00. Always check the website to confirm the park opening time. Arriving at opening hours allows for good photos and the ability to get a lot of rides in back to back. We went straight to the castle and rode almost every ride in Fantasyland.
2: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are great “low” days to go to Disneyland since it rules out people who are squeezing it into a three-day-weekend. Note that in the summer every day will be full.
3: We chose the week that lots of Southern California students went back to school to thin the crowds a bit. It totally worked! Our longest line of the day was 40 minutes. Usually we waited 20 minutes or less to get on a ride. We experienced 18 rides/attractions that day and didn’t have to rely heavily on Fastpasses. Which reminds me…
4: Learn how the Fastpass system works and use it for the most popular rides such as Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, and Splash Mountain. Here’s an example. We got the Fastpass (which is a ticket that saves a spot in line) when first arriving at Tomorrowland. Then, we went on all the other Tomorrowland rides and attractions while waiting for our turn to ride (the time window is printed on your Fastpass).
5: Food: Theme park food is pricey but strategically spaced snacks can keep costs down while still enjoying all Disneyland has to offer. I have a whole separate post about this: My Disneyland Food Strategy, because when it comes to treats I can offer a lot of advice!
In the end, your Disneyland experience will be what you make of it. I hope some of these tips help you plan ahead for your first time, or remind you of some of the “insider tips” if you’re planning a return trip. Make sure to ride the original 1955 attractions dreamed up by Walt and his team. Hug a character even if you are 29-going-on-30. Try to look at the experience through a child’s eyes. Oh, and don’t forget your comfy shoes and sunscreen. 😉
Everyone’s got their own Disneyland hacks. Share yours in the comment section below!
Unless noted, pictures by Doug and Staci Jackson for The Voyageer.