Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party Planning Tips

Dreamy Sunrise Over Cinderella CastleBefore we traveled to Walt Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's, which is notoriously the busiest week of the year, a lot of people asked us whether we were crazy. Yes, of course we are, but that had nothing to do with our decision to visit during that week. The decision to bear those brutal crowds was made easy for us thanks to the extended operating hours and impressive New Year's Eve fireworks shows. And although we're not fans of large crowds (I'm betting not many of you have


During the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disneyland & Disney California Adventure will be open for 24 consecutive hours beginning on May 23, 2014 at 6 am until 6 am on May 24, 2014. This is an extension of the “Disney Side” promotion (it’ll likely be promoting Disney’s Malificent, too) and since the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party falls on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, it’s the perfect time to take a long weekend trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland! We participated in the events of “One More Disney Day” (the 24-hour Leap Day event in 2012) and Monstrous Summer (the 24-hour Memorial Day party in 2013) and both were a ton of fun. They were also great, unique opportunities for photography. This is not a hard ticket event, so a normal, single day ticket will entitle you to visit the parks for the full 24-hour party!

Based upon our experiences at the parties, here are some tips for enjoying these special events if you’re going to be Walt Disney World or Disneyland, and also some tips for those of you watching the fun from home! While this planning guide is a great primer, if you want a better idea of what to expect during the 24 hour event, I strongly encourage you to read our trip report from 2012′s “One More Disney Day” 24 hour event. Even if you’re not going, there are some pretty photos from the event! This post was originally written for the first party, and it has been updated for each of the two parties since.

Also, check out our general Disneyland Trip Planning Guide and Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide if you’re not a “regular” at either park for more general planning tips. With that said, here are our Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party tips! (more…)

“One More Disney Day” Disneyland Trip Report Pt 5

For previous installments in this Disney trip report, visit its index

Unlike Part 4, which was heavy on text and light on photos, this installment of our “One More Disney Day” Disneyland trip report will be heavier on photos and lighter on words (I can almost hear the collective sighs of relief!).

The caffeine (or the shock from how disgusting it tasted) from the Nescafe gave me exactly the jolt I needed to make it through the rest of the day.  Our next stop was Star Tours; the wait there had finally subsided after being one of the longest waits only a few hours prior. We still had a bit of a wait, but it was well worth it when we saw Shaun White and his entourage in line for the Starspeeder next to us. He was a lot shorter than I expected, and seemed very down to earth as we creepily watched him interact with his friends. Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio, he did not have an escort (at least that we saw–maybe the Cast Member waited outside the attraction?) and was truly just goofing around with friends. Sarah, once again, was very excited to see a celebrity!

After we exited Star Tours we noticed that the end was near! At was around 4:30 am at this point, and the crowds had really started to break up. Given that, we all decided that it was time to start focusing on photos again!

We each headed our own ways at this point, and Sarah and I encountered Henry–unsurprisingly, he had made it to the park! We hadn’t seen him since the previous November, so it was nice to catch up briefly.

Henry had a shot idea for me that he just couldn’t wait to share. Sarah felt that I should ignore him, but I knew the best course of action was to humor him. Sort of like you do with your kid when they offer career or wardrobe advice. “Oh really, you think I should do that? Well, that’s a VERY good idea, thank you for your suggestion!” Here is what his idea yielded:

Not too bad, actually, but a tough shot to get. Definitely would have been better with a longer lens. I guess I can’t give Henry too much grief. Unlike his previous Pirates of the Caribbean queue shot ideas, this one was actually pretty good in concept. I failed a bit on the execution.

We made our way over to “it’s a small world,” which apparently was a meeting ground for every other photographer in Disneyland. A casual passerby probably wondered why the paparazzi were so keen on two dolphin topiaries. Little did they realize that these were celebrity dolphin topiaries!

We moved from dolphins to whale. I prefer manatees, but Disneyland is surprisingly lacking in that department!

From there it was on to the rest of Fantasyland. Sarah did some attractions here while Henry supervised me in photographing the facades of all of the Fantasyland dark rides.  After about an hour of doing this, we joined her for our last attraction of the day, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Fitting, as “One More Disney Day” had been one (toad-filled?) wild ride!

From there it was to the hub to wait for the 6 am announcement. Every hour, on the hour, there had been a countdown announcement that had drawn cheers from the crowd. We expected some real excitement for the 6 am one, so we wanted to be on Main Street for it. This worried me as I thought I might not be able to get to New Orleans Square (where I wanted to photograph the sunrise) afterward, but I was willing to risk it to hear that 6 am closing announcement.

The crowd, unsurprisingly, went nuts at 6 am. It was really cool–and odd–to hear people get so excited when told it was time for them to leave the park. It was certainly unprecedented, as the end of the day is usually not something that guests anticipate with excitement.

As soon as that announcement ended, I darted over to New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America. Luckily, Disneyland didn’t sweep the park right at 6 am. I guess they really couldn’t, as there were still lines of people at Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and a few other popular attractions. Plus, some restaurants were still serving right up to close, and they had to cycle those people out.

This area of the park was a veritable ghost town. It was clear that no zombies had actually been here, as this part of the park was basically in pristine condition (how?!) and no longer littered with bodies. After I snapped a few shots here, I decided to head back towards the hub to see if I could do any shooting in Tomorrowland. People were still lingering there, too, so I snapped a few shots.

Then, it was back to the hub to close out my “One More Disney Day.” It was such a beautiful and peaceful morning waiting for that second sunrise.

There are two pages in this post. Check out the conclusion of “One More Disney Day” by clicking Page 2 below!

“One More Disney Day” Disneyland Trip Report Pt 4

I’ll warn you from the outset: this installment is mainly text with very few good photos. If you want good Disneyland photos, wait for installment 5.

We continued to do our best to avoid crowds. This meant spending some time in Critter Country and wandering around. Despite how packed the park was, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh only had about a 10 minute line. This was nice. We did this, then wandered back towards New Orleans Square, into the heart of the storm, to go to the French Market.

On our way to New Orleans Square, Sarah spotted three of the actors from Modern Family. This is when I realized my wife has a problem.

She is easily star-struck. I had no idea prior to this, as she doesn’t read celebrity gossip websites or watch celebrity “news” programming. However, when we saw them in person, she simply began following them without explanation. I couldn’t very well go my own way, as I might not see her again, but for a few minutes, she was walking about 5 feet behind the actor who plays Phil, not quite sure what to do. I was probably 15 more feet behind her, trying to keep her in my sight. The Selgas didn’t notice that we had begun celeb-chasing, so I think they were waiting at French Market, likely wondering where the heck we were!

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“One More Disney Day” Disneyland Trip Report Pt 3

We normally don’t make much of an effort to photograph the sunrise, but “One More Disney Day” was different. For one thing, after we had done The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Sarah had decided to go back to the room to take a nap, so I was by myself again and could do whatever I wanted.

I wanted to find a good spot for the sunset. I ran all around, from Critter Country to the hub (and everywhere in between) and back to Critter Country again trying to find a good spot. Finally, I resolved defeat. I did manage to get a couple good sunset photos over the Rivers of America, but nothing too special. It was sort of a dud as far as sunsets go.

It didn’t help that while I was doing all this running around, I was distracted by the filming of Modern Family. Ryan and Gregg had mentioned that they saw the filming earlier in the day, but Sarah and I had missed it. Being huge Modern Family fans (it’s right up there with New Girl as our favorite sitcom), we were really disappointed that we had missed the filming. Luckily, I saw them filming in Frontierland! I had never (to my recollection) seen on-location filming, so I stopped and watched for a while. Nothing extraordinary happened, but I did see…

****SPOILER ALERT****

Luke repeatedly run around Frontierland as Phil chased him, jumping into the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad queue.

/****SPOILER ALERT****

Talk about a major plotline spoiler, right?! They filmed this “scene” over and over again. Finally, I got bored with this and went back to the hub.

Luckily, even though the sunset was a bit of a letdown, the blue hour sky was amazing. I don’t even begin to understand the science behind this (but really, who needs science?!), but for whatever reason, the camera picks up a more vibrant and deeper shade of blue than the eyes can see. I assume the reason for this is just that our eyes can’t see this spectrum of color. My alternative guess is that voodoo causes this.

Here are some of my favorite blue hour photos:

Regardless of the actual cause, a good blue hour sky is a delight for photographers. While I normally increase the vibrance in my photos to make them pop a bit, I often decrease the vibrance of a nice blue hour photo. Unfortunately, in my experience California doesn’t have a lot of nice blue hour skies like Florida. The evening of “One More Disney Day” was definitely an exception to this!

We had VIP seating for the Soundsational Parade at the Main Street USA Train Station shortly before the parade started and gave Sarah a call to make sure she was on her way back. Luckily, she was, and she made it just before the parade started. I expected a mad rush of people right around 6 pm after they left work (actually, isn’t the typical work day from 11 am until 2 pm in California?), but that didn’t seem to happen. More people showed up, but it was more a slow trickle than a mass of people. It took right until the parade started at 7 pm for the crowds really to appear. Even though the park was starting to fill with people, the crowd wasn’t really noticeable from up at the Train Station. The seating area we were in only had a few people, and there wasn’t a Cast Member checking people into it (so really, anyone could have just shown up and sat there), which lulled us into a false sense of “uncrowdedness.” As we would find out after the parade, the park was actually packed.

This was our first time seeing Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. I went in with fairly high expectations, knowing it was designed by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, both of whom are artistic geniuses (in my eyes). They didn’t disappoint. The floats in Soundsational Parade were uniquely whismical, and were very imaginative. It’s difficult to articulate exactly why they succeed so well, but it’s almost as if they take an slightly unconventional approach to a Disney parade that gives the parade an interesting flavor without feeling forced or contrived. The floats are thematically cohesive and visually engaging, rather than garish or thrown together.

Soundsational doesn’t just excel from an artistic-design perspective. The music is also catchy and fun. It feels contemporary, but not in a topical or flavor-of-the-week way that have those who listen to its soundtrack in 5 years thinking “that parade was so 2011.” Instead, the soundtrack is catchy, light, fun, and surprisingly timeless given all of the other superlatives I’ve used to describe it.

The fun doesn’t stop there. The parade continues to excel–quite possibly due to how badly other recent parades Disney has created have failed–because it aims to be a traditional Disney parade interacting with guests the time-tested way. There are no show stops or bouncing neon-clad teens in odd spandex suits. There is no Hannah Montana, no High School Musical, and no Phineas and Ferb. Instead, you have classic Disney characters (Three Caballeros!). I was wild about the drummer Mickey scene (it seems out of place compared to the rest of the parade), but everything else more than made up for it. The Mary Poppins float was easily my favorite of the entire parade.

In short, we were both blown away. As soon as it was over we turned to each other and started gushing over the parade. We’re big fans of both holiday parades at Walt Disney World, the Jammin’ Jungle Parade is pretty good, and I think Main Street Electrical Parade is okay (albeit incredibly dated), but beyond that, we’re not really fans of any Disney parades. We absolutely loved this parade, and wanted to see it again and resolved to do so on one of the following evenings.

While we were watching the parade, the world famous Mr. and Mrs. Selga joined us, and they stayed with us for our adventures that followed. Our first adventure was to navigate through the huge crowd that had formed on Main Street. We assumed this was mostly post-parade traffic, so we decided to take a spin on Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters before heading back into the chaos of the park.

Upon exiting Buzz, we were a bit surprised to find that the crowds hadn’t let up at all, but instead, had gotten worse. This wasn’t how things typically happened after a parade, so I was a bit surprised. It seemed like the lazy Californians (apologies if you’re a lazy Californian ;)) had decided to wait until around 7 or 8 pm, rather than coming right after they finished their 4 hour work-day at 2 pm, to head to Disneyland.

It was pretty clear at this point that it was going to be a busy night, so we did the only thing that Disneyland fans in our situation could do: we got some dessert. One of our plans for the day was to gain approximately 37 pounds each in 24 hours. Well, that wasn’t the exact plan: our actual plan was to eat as many of the unique menu items that day as we could, with a presumed indirect result of gaining 37 pounds.

Although I don’t remember exactly when we headed over to Golden Horseshoe for dessert, it was definitely before 11 pm when the cherry pie was supposed to start being served. I think several of these menu items were served for longer durations than listed in the times guides. We figured relaxing with some cherry pie, caffeine, and Billy Hill and the Hillbillies would be a great way to kill some time.

Unfortunately, our we failed to read the entertainment guide, which indicated that Billy Hill and the Hillbillies wouldn’t be starting for a couple more hours. We had an awesome “private balcony” style seat to the right of the stage (which also had phone charging outlets!), and we debated just waiting there for a couple hours, but we ultimately decided that would just be too much waiting. We could always return later to watch Billy Hill.

By about 10pm, all hell had broken loose. The roads outside Disneyland were gridlocked, and the park was at capacity. Lines of guests (or random masses) trying to enter the park overflowed the Esplanade. People could barely move after the second Soundsational parade, according to some reports. We happened to be in New Orleans Square around this time, and there was already a packed house for the 1am showing of Fantasmic!, which was roughly three hours away. We didn’t hear about most of these issues until hours after the fact, as no one had cell phone service due to the crowd density. So much for meeting up with Ryan and Gregg again. We assumed they had just been consumed (literally–perhaps by Murphy the Dragon?) by the crowds (or the dragon).

This was around the time Disney California Adventure closed, so presumably, a lot of guests from there came over to Disneyland. I think Disneyland management also had the sudden realization that the popularity of this event was going to far exceed their expectations. Cast Members were called over from Disney California Adventure (this much was clear based on some of the uniforms Cast Members wore as they directed Fantasmic traffic) in an effort to bring some order to the chaos. By and large, this was too little, too late.

While it was clear from walking around New Orleans Square that Disney dramatically underestimated attendance, I can’t say I really fault them for it. I don’t think anyone expected the event to be this big. Even on popular Disneyland forums like Micechat.com, people seemed mostly indifferent to “One More Disney Day.” If so many diehard Disneyland fans felt this way, it followed (in my mind, at least) that casual guests wouldn’t really care about the event. Clearly, this was dead wrong.

As far as the traffic gridlock and people waiting for hours to enter the park, I’m not sure how effectively Disneyland could have avoided this. If the park is at capacity, it’s at capacity. About the only thing to alleviate that issue is keeping Disney California Adventure open later. As far as traffic goes, adding more parking at the last minute may have helped alleviate problems, but it still could have been just as bad. I certainly understand the frustration of those stuck on the outside who waited in lines for hours to get into the park.

It wasn’t a good situation and I don’t want to come across as defending Disneyland management for underestimating the high crowds. However, even Walt Disney World, which has a lot of experience with capacity closings, has similar issues around New Year’s and Easter. At Disneyland, this is exacerbated because the park is in the middle of a large city, rather than in its own self-contained “world.” To be sure, Disneyland could have handled things better, but I don’t think anything Disneyland management could have done would have completely negated the crowds inside and outside the park.

Despite all of the chaos and crowds, we were still having an amazing time in the park. The energy and excitement were palpable. People were literally everywhere, but no one seemed to mind. Everyone we encountered was pleasant and excited, and with the exception of the times we set foot in New Orleans Square, we didn’t really feel the crazy crowds too much.

As the clock neared midnight, the craziness was just getting started. By this point, we still had yet to wait in a 30-50 person line at the French Market, we still had yet to see Leonardo DiCaprio or Shaun White, and we still hadn’t stalked the cast of Modern Family. Things would certainly get a lot crazier for us!

PLUG: since the whole purpose of taking the trip was to create the Disneyland: Sunrise to Sunrise eBook, the majority of the “best” photos I took on “One More Disney Day” are not presented here. If you like Disney photos, I strongly encourage you to check out the eBook, Disneyland: Sunrise to Sunrise, by clicking here. If eBooks don’t interest you, fret not, as there are still a lot of good photos here, but they’re generally the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Did you enjoy this Disneyland trip report installment? If so, please share the post on Facebook with a “Like” or “Share” through the buttons at the top of the post or on Twitter by clicking the “Tweet” button! You can also use the “Pin It” button to share your favorite photos from the trip report on Pinterest. As always, please leave your thoughts about this post in the comments!

“One More Disney Day” Disneyland Trip Report Pt 2

With the morning photography rush of “One More Disney Day” at Disneyland over, it was time to enjoy the middle portion of Leap Day 2012. This portion of the day was actually much like an ordinary day in Disneyland. It wasn’t too crowded, and most of the special offerings hadn’t yet started. In fact, about the only things that were disproportionately busy were the places serving breakfast and coffee. It seemed like the first wave of people was just starting to get hungry, and all of them decided to head to Jolly Holiday Bakery. Unfortunately, that’s where we wanted to head, too.

Even though we had just grabbed drinks at Tomorrowland Terrace–where we met a fan of Sarah’s Instagram photos–we were still hungry and ready to make attraction number two of the day our second restaurant “attraction.” It seemed silly to wait in a line that could have used a FastPass queue so decided to pass. We weren’t sure what to do instead, but we thought it might be a good idea to head over to Market House, where we were going to host a TouringPlans.com meet later that morning to talk to the manager.

Most Disneyland TouringPlans meets have around 15-20 attendees on weekends. This is a perfectly manageable number for Sarah and me, so I thought it would be fun to have the meet be an “Unlimited Caffeine” meet. For those unfamiliar with it, Market House offers free refills on coffee all day if you present a receipt. So my plan was, quite simply, to individually purchase cups of coffee for the 15 or so attendees that showed up. The individually purchase element was essential so that each attendee would have their own receipt to present later in the day, thus fulfilling the “unlimited” promise of the title.

Well, something crazy happened (I still have no clue what), and a couple days before the meet, our registered attendees list on Plancast swelled from about 10 people to over 80. Len warned me that usually about 1.5 people showed up for every one person registered. I was not prepared for this, and I was no longer sure how it would work from a logistics standpoint. We couldn’t bottleneck the Market House line by individually ordering that many cups of coffee at the time of the meet, and Sarah and I couldn’t manage 80-125 people!

Luckily, two researchers for TouringPlans (Robbie and Dan) offered to assist us with the meet. That solved that problem. The second problem, supplying the coffee, we figured would be much more difficult. To our surprise, it wasn’t. When we went into the Market House prior to the meet, we spoke with someone who said that we could simply order at their second cash register at the time of the meet. Sarah asked if she could just order right then and receive a bunch of receipts, and they were happy to accommodate this request. So she ordered 100 cups of coffee, all on separate transactions. If we needed more, we could always order the rest later.

While she did this, I wandered around Main Street taking a bunch of random photos for the eBook (isn’t Sarah awesome for letting me play while she ordered cups of coffee?!). I had spent the morning focusing on beautiful sunrise photos, but now was the time to think like a coffee table book, and focus on details and other “filler” photos that on their own aren’t all that awe-inspiring, but are the bread and butter of a good coffee table book. Or in this case, coffee table eBook.

I stopped back by the Market House when Sarah was just about done ordering the cups of coffee. She still had 20 more to go, so I told her I’d head over to Jolly Holiday Bakery to stand in line. It was the least I could do given that Sarah let me go play!

The line for Jolly Holiday Bakery was much shorter, but was still pretty long. I was excited to eat there for the first time. I’ll share more of my thoughts on this controversial location in a later installment, but for now, I’ll just say this: I think it’s a great and well-themed addition to Disneyland.

Sarah soon joined me, and waited in line for a few more minutes. While in line, we saw the famed Chef Oscar of Carnation Cafe, who is the longest-serving Cast Member at Disneyland, having worked there for some 56 years. Sarah got a photo with him right before it was time for us to order. The great selection at Jolly Holiday Bakery made ordering difficult. So many things looked great! (And they were!) For those keeping score at home, this was the third restaurant we visited that morning, all before experiencing any attractions. Not too shabby!

After finishing our breakfast at Jolly Holiday Bakery, we got ahold of Gregg and Ryan, who were out wandering around. Sarah and I had our TouringPlans meet coming up fairly soon, so we agreed to catch up with them after our meet. There were only about 10 minutes until the start of the meet, so we decided to head over to Market House to see if anyone had arrived early. As the clock ticked closer and closer to the start time, we were surprised that no one was there. Finally a few people showed up. This continued for about the next hour, as small groups came and went, briefly chatting with us along the way. All told, we ended up only having with far fewer attendees than the Plancast guest list showed. We had more than past Disneyland events, but fewer than the massive number on the list, and fewer than normally show up to a Walt Disney World meet (the meets there are much more popular). The meet was fun and it was nice saying hello to people. I gave Ryan a call when we were done and we met up with them.

When we met up with Gregg and Ryan, we noticed how beautiful the sky was looking. A blue sky and puffy white clouds are relatively rare in Disneyland (supposedly–we often experience very nice weather when we’re there!) so Ryan and Gregg were pretty excited about this. We decided to spend some more time taking photos. It was almost noon and Sarah and I still hadn’t done any attractions!

Finally, we headed over to Tomorrowland where we focused on some attractions, doing Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, Star Tours, and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage all consecutively before stopping to take more photos.

After finishing up our fun in Tomorrowland, we decided to venture out to the rest of the park. We mostly wandered around taking more photos in New Orleans Square and Frontierland.

We finally stopped at the French Market, which was one of the few locations that had a special menu out during the daytime hours. The food was okay, but overpriced for what it was (even for Disneyland). I think there was a premium for the “limited edition” nature of the product. Hey, sort of reminds me of “limited edition” Disney merchandise!

Towards the end of eating, several other local Disneyland photographers showed up, and we wandered around New Orleans Square and did Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion with them.

After these attractions, the group started moving a little slowly for our liking. It was simply too large, and decisions by committee took too long. I’ve mentioned my impatience and desire to move swiftly here in the past (if you haven’t read those trip reports, basically: I’m impatient and hate wandering around aimlessly in a state of indecision), so there’s really no reason to fixate on that here. This may seem like odd sentiment from me given that I spent the first several hours of the day not doing any attractions, but to me, there’s a difference between running around focusing on taking photos and wandering around not really doing anything because no one can make up their mind. I could spend an entire day in Disneyland without doing a single attraction, as long as there is a sense of purpose. Even if that “purpose” is as simple as sitting around, enjoying the sights and sounds of Main Street, USA. However, it’s different when you’re just wandering around.

Of course, this was no fault of anyone in the group, it’s just the inherent nature of larger groups and really is my “problem.” But in any case, we decided to break off from the group, visiting The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Haunted Mansion again before the sun began to set…

PLUG: since the whole purpose of taking the trip was to create the Disneyland: Sunrise to Sunrise eBook, the majority of the “best” photos I took on “One More Disney Day” are not presented here. If you like Disney photos, I strongly encourage you to check out the eBook, Disneyland: Sunrise to Sunrise, by clicking here. If eBooks don’t interest you, fret not, as there are still a lot of good photos here, but they’re generally the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Did you enjoy this Disneyland trip report installment? If so, please share the post on Facebook with a “Like” or “Share” through the buttons at the top of the post or on Twitter by clicking the “Tweet” button! You can also use the “Pin It” button to share your favorite photos from the trip report on Pinterest. As always, please leave your thoughts about this post in the comments!