I was recently asked the question, “If you could do anything you wanted in the U.S. Disney Parks for 48 hours, what would you do?” I answered, “I’d tell you but then I’d be robbing my loyal readers of a fantastic blog post.”
Well, maybe that’s not how that conversation went down. But I was given this idea for a fun blog post and I’m going to run with it. We need some basic ground rules for this dream 48 hours in a Disney Park, so let’s start with that…
- First of all, let’s start with the obvious: I have a teleportation machine. It should go without saying but I’ll include this ‘rule’ for those who aren’t up to speed. While I do have a teleportation machine, I will try to stay somewhat within reason and won’t take much advantage of it outside of hopping from coast to coast between the two U.S. Disney Resorts. Which leads me to my second rule…
- Only U.S. Disney theme park resorts are included here. If I went worldwide Disney Parks I’d probably spend all 48 hours at the Tokyo Disney Resort just to get that out-of-the-way now. Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced any of the foreign parks so my ‘expertise’ (this is my dream so I can call it expertise) would go to waste in the foreign parks. While we’re at it, let’s stay away from the Disney resorts without theme parks connected. The Aulani Resort in Hawaii sounds wonderful but isn’t quite what we’re going for here.
- Budget isn’t an issue. These 48 hours are fully comped by someone. So, I can eat anywhere I want and stay anywhere I want. Speaking of, I’m always open to donations to make dreams come true!
- While budget isn’t an issue, no tours are allowed. I’m very intrigued by some tours but let’s save that for another blog post.
- Basic Park Rules apply. Let’s go with park hours from 9 AM to 11 PM for all of the parks in the U.S. While this is somewhat generous to Hollywood Studios and California Adventure, I don’t plan to take advantage of those late hours there. Animal Kingdom will be open until 11 PM starting in 2 weeks so I don’t feel like I’m cheating there. Epcot usually closes between 9 and 10 so I’m not stretching it too far there. Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are usually open until around 11 at this time of year, and sometimes even later. I am going to give myself extra magic hours one night at Magic Kingdom but that happens once a week. I would plan my ‘dream 48 hours’ around that schedule so I’ll do the same for this blog post. Also, let’s just assume all the nighttime spectaculars are at their usual times.
- I’m going to assume a normal wait time for any attraction and follow the FastPass (or FastPass+) rules.
- Lastly, let’s just pretend time zones aren’t really a thing here. I was finding way too many ways to use the teleportation machine with time zones so to simplify this let’s just ignore them for your sanity and mine.
I think that’s it for the rules. I’m going to be pretty detailed with times here. This is an unbelievable opportunity (in my dreams) so I’ll sleep once this trip is over and I will overeat. That overeating part won’t surprise loyal readers.
A Busy E-Ticket Morning
When I arrive at the Disneyland gates at approximately 8:45 AM I can’t help but think to myself, “This is what dreams are made of.” After I have a nice laugh about that joke, I head into the original Magic Kingdom in sunny Anaheim. I join the crowd heading for Tomorrowland and immediately grab a FastPass for HyperSpace Mountain. Why not go on it, I was one of the first few people in line and it surely would have saved time to go on this attraction now rather than come back to use my FastPass later. The answer is simple: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. That’s right, a strange attraction but if you go really early in the morning (or late at night) then there’s no line and you can have a ride vehicle all to yourself. As opposed to Disney World’s version of this attraction, the guns detach here making it easier to operate two guns at once. Still not convinced this is the way to go? Well, with no line they let guests just go around again sometimes. Multiple chances to take down Zurg with two guns and your own vehicle! I’m taking that opportunity every time, baby! I’ll give myself 20 minutes here and finally exit after setting a record high score. After doing my best Buzz impression, I head over to use my HyperSpace Mountain FastPass. While the reviews are somewhat mixed, this might be the attraction I’m most curious about right now at Disneyland. That’s why it received the honor of my first FastPass. By the time I’m off the attraction, it’s close to 10 AM.
Exiting Tomorrowland, I cross through the Hub and head to the other side of the park. Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye has a FastPass return time between 11 AM and noon so I grab that and keep moving. Haunted Mansion and Pirates are quick-moving lines and are instant classics. While I prefer the WDW version of Haunted Mansion, the DL version was closed last time I was there so I’m eager to try it out with the Hatbox Ghost. All together these 2 attractions take an hour to complete as the crowds are starting to fill in. I grab a FastPass for Splash Mountain (return time between 2:00-3:00 PM) at 11 AM and head over to use my current FastPass on Indy. Good work, huh? Wait, what’s the sound? Oh, just my stomach as I haven’t eaten anything yet. Time for lunch.
Lunch and Beating the Heat
Lunch is a tough choice, as it’s a question of speed or quality. Ultimately I land farther on the side of quality and indulge in those amazing Pommes Frites at Cafe Orleans. While looking out over Rivers of America, I’m served the Monte Cristo sandwich as my entrée. I regret not getting that the last time I was there so it has to be done. I should have said this in the rules, but Club 33 is off-limits or else that would have been my lunch choice. Satisfied, I head out of the restaurant at about 12:30 PM. That might be fairly generous but I think I could have completed all of that in 3 and a half hours.
It’s getting hot and I still have about an hour and a half until my FastPass for Splash Mountain is up. Time for some attractions that are inside. Most people don’t go to Hell to cool off but that’s exactly where I head with Mr. Toad. When planning this, Mr. Toad was one of the five attractions that I absolutely had to do at DL and couldn’t save for WDW (Hyperspace Mountain and Pirates were two others I’ve already done, Radiator Springs Racers and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are still to come.) I’m off of Mr. Toad by 1 PM or so. You may have noticed that I skipped dessert and though the pull of Dole Whip is ever so alluring I hold off, knowing that I have a gauntlet of food choices ahead of me.
I hit up Snow White’s Scary Adventure to, you know, be impressed by how scary they made that attraction. Then I head over to Tarzan’s Treehouse because in my dreams I don’t get so tired climbing up all of those darn stairs. Since I’m not huffing and puffing, I’m smart enough to pull my camera out and snap some photos from up there. It’s nice and something I wish I did every trip but somehow I forget. I wander the back alleys of New Orleans, explore the river boat and peak through some fences to see the work they’re doing on Star Wars Land. 2 PM arrives and I take a wonderfully, wet ride on Splash Mountain. If I ever have another dream 48 hours I’m going to ride Splash Mountain and Kilimanjaro Safaris over and over again with Dole Whip, chimichangas, and Boardwalk Bakery’s Lobster Rolls waiting for me when I got off the ride every now and then. That post would have been a lot more boring (albeit shorter) than this one. I went off on that tangent just to say how much I love Splash Mountain. It’s my second favorite U.S. Disney Park attraction behind Kilimanjaro Safaris.
After Splash Mountain is completed, I teleport over to DCA to get a FastPass for Grizzly River Run. Usually that FastPass isn’t too far out so we’ll say it’s between 4 and 5 PM. I’m trying to stay away from single rider lines unless they are ones that I’d utilize with a group just for the sake of this post being just slightly helpful and not a complete waste of your time (and instead just mostly wasting your time.) I don’t think teleporting over here is cheating and it saves me 15 minutes. Teleporting between parks seems fair game. I’m not teleporting inside of parks though, that’s right out. After getting my FastPass, I use the single rider line at Radiator Springs Racers which is a great use even if you are with people. Often times you’ll end up in the same car or racing a car with someone from your group in it even if you go in the single rider line. This line usually takes about 20 minutes plus a 10 minute ride puts me at around 2:45. I do a relaxing walk through the back of Cars Land into the Pacific Wharf and then around Paradise Pier. I’m skipping California Screamin’ because I don’t like roller coasters. With that being said, this is a good roller coaster. Taking photos has become a big part of my Disney trips and Paradise Pier is a pretty fun place to shoot. I do think this area has some problems but there’s a lot of kinetic energy going around that makes photos interesting. Finally, I settle at the Cove Bar overlooking the pier.
I’m here for the view and those Lobster Nachos that always seem to allude me on trips. While this is a heavy after-lunch snack, I’ve had a busy day! Please don’t judge me, as the eating here is about to go off the rails. I have the aforementioned nachos and the Habanero Lime Margarita (just kind of a random pull off the generic Disney bar menu) and head on my way to Grizzly River Run. This is another area where I love to take photos and I do that before arriving for my FastPass at 4:30. This is the best river rapids ride around. I’m always blown away by how much fun it is. Notice how I’ve strategically placed these water rides during the hottest part of the day. You only get this expertise here at Wandering in Disney (I can not confirm that this is true.)
Soaring Over to Dinner
These titles are going to be really bad by the time we get to the end. Let’s just assume that Soarin’ Over the World has premiered at this point (June 18th, if you’re curious about when it opens.) If it hasn’t, I’m not riding this but in my dreams it has so that’s why I’m riding it. The wind helps dry off my wet shorts (just got off the rapids ride) and, while the 12-year-old girl next to me isn’t pleased that I’m dripping water on her, I’m enjoying the updated attraction. After the attraction ends, I take the Grand Californian exit out of DCA and head over to dinner at Napa Rose. I’ve raved about this restaurant to anyone who will listen and I’m honored to say that I listened. I’ll take my own advice and go there, except I’ll do one better and sit at the Chef’s Counter tonight.
Arriving at 5:45, I would probably just have prix-fixe menu that comes with ordering at the Chef’s Table. But, if that wasn’t an option I would get the Roasted Rabbit and Mushroom Stew as an appetizer (you know, because those nachos were simply a snack.) For my main dish I’d choose between the lamb and filet mignon, ultimately siding with the steak. Maybe I’d throw in a side of mac n’ cheese because that looks incredible. For dessert I would order the nectarine and blueberry crisp because I prefer fruit to chocolate (see, I’m healthy!) It’s too much food but I can speak to how incredible the food and service here is. When here before, I had the best dining experience of my life and thoroughly enjoyed each moment. Andrew Sutton, the chef here, has done great work on several of Disney’s restaurants and this is his crown achievement in that field. (Ed. note: The menu does change here often, so some of these choices may not be here for long)
Stuffed, I head for the exit and back into DCA just in time to see them lighting up Cars Land as the sun sets (lets just assume the sun set around 7:15 or 7:30 that night.) Needing some caffeine, I grab a Prickly Pear Soda from the Cozy Cone Motel.
Here Comes the Night Time
As night falls, I take a slow walk from Cars Land to Disneyland’s Main Street. I could teleport over but I love looking and photographing the Tower of Terror and Carthay Circle at night. Reaching Main Street at about 8:15, I head into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln to admire the models inside of the queue. I’m a little short on time, so I decide to skip the actual show for the time being. I have about 15 minutes before the Paint the Night begins so I settle on a spot fairly close to the Matterhorn and enjoy the show. If this was a normal trip to Disneyland I would go to the second showing of Paint the Night, knowing that I’d probably have another day to experience everything else. As you’re aware, this isn’t a normal trip to Disneyland. Paint the Night must-see on this list, as it’s my favorite parade I’ve ever seen.
After Paint the Night is over I shout, “The Night is Young!” and am herded back onto Main Street with thousands of others. Disneyland Forever starts in about 15 minutes and I enjoy the environment even though it’s crowded. Wandering through the people, I settle on a spot even with the Plaza Inn and Jolly Holiday Bakery to enjoy the show. I like this spot because the castle doesn’t block off any of the fireworks and it’s still easy to turn and see all of the projections in the show. If Fantasmic! wasn’t under refurbishment for the next year then I’d probably go see that but Disneyland Forever isn’t exactly a bad alternative.
Once the show is over (at around 10) I end my night in the park the same way that it began, trying to ride as many E-ticket attractions as possible. Big Thunder Mountain is first on the list, as Disneyland’s version is far superior to WDW’s in my opinion. The crowds tend to thin out after the fireworks and first showing of the parade, so I’m going to say I get done with Big Thunder at about 10:25. I zoom over to Peter Pan’s Flight and ride that. It takes another half an hour to get through. As I get off, I have 5 minutes. Run like the wind, Bullseye! I get in line for the Matterhorn at 10:59, although there isn’t much of a line, and enjoy a trip up and down the alps. I’ve done these 3 attractions late at night many times and I prefer this time when it comes to lines. Also, this is a quick reminder that you can get in line a minute before the park closes no matter how long the line is. It’s a good way to stretch your park day out, if you have limited time.
Once I survive the yeti, I slowly make my way out of Disneyland while shooting some photos. I meander back through Fantasyland and in to Frontierland, taking photos along the water. Security shows up and I’m slowly pushed on to Main Street. I take a few more photos and exit the park. Another quick reminder, the park generally stays open an hour after closing. The attractions all shut down but the shops stay open and security usually isn’t in much of a hurry to push you out the door unless there’s a party or event going on late at night. Take your time going out of the park, if your schedule allows.
A Late Night Drink and Skip Across the Country
I exit Disneyland around midnight and teleport over to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel. I don’t think much of DL’s Downtown Disney or else I would have walked. Trader Sam’s is one of my favorite places in all of Disneyland and I’m happy to spend some time there even if I should be getting some sleep. I love their Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans so I order that and an Uh Oa! to drink. Soaking in the atmosphere, I recall a simpler time when I wasn’t able to teleport across the country. After about 45 minutes, I decide now is the time and push the magic button. Adding to the mystique of Trader Sam’s, I vanish into the night. Bar inhabitants are astonished while the bar keepers just keep chanting, “Uh Oa! Uh Oa! Uh Oa!” I land in the lobby of the Beach Club at Walt Disney World to check in for the night. Why this hotel? I’ll explain that in the morning (part 2 of this post, coming soon…) I collapse on to the bed and fall asleep without any trouble.
Here’s what I completed on day one of my dream 48 hours at Disney Parks:
Parks I went to: Disneyland, Disney California Adventure
Nighttime Spectaculars I saw: Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever
Places I ate and drank: Cafe Orleans, Cove Bar, Napa Rose, Prickly Pear Soda from the Cozy Cone, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar
Attractions I rode: Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, HyperSpace Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Eye, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Splash Mountain, Radiator Springs Racers, Grizzly River Run, Soarin’ Over the World, Cars Land Lighting (not really a ride), Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Matterhorn.
Not counting the Cars Land lighting, I rode 14 attractions which is absolutely doable for a full day in the parks.
I hadn’t planned on making this post a 2-parter but 6,000 words is too many for a blog post, so I’ll end this one and be back with part 2 in the next few days. Any questions or comments on my first 24 hours? What would you change? Thank you for reading!