Disneyland: Walt would not have wanted it this way

If you’ve ever been to Southern California, chances are you’ve visited Disneyland at least once.  My first trip to Disneyland was more than 50 years ago, not too long after it first opened.  When I was old enough, my parents would drop me off there, usually with a friend, and I’d spend the day there.  I’ve continued to watch the changes to the resort over the years.  Most years I manage to arrange at least one visit.  My last visit was a couple of days ago.  I’m considering making my last visit to be my final visit as well.

Disneyland was a part of my childhood and it was always a special place for me.  But I’ve found that I no longer enjoy my visits.  The 2 primary reasons for my displeasure are cost and crowds.  It was not very long ago that a single day, single park ticket cost about $50.  Seems like a lot for an amusement park.  Today, a single day, single park ticket for an adult is $87.  If you want to buy a ticket to allow entrance into both Disneyland and California Adventure, a ticket for one day is $125.   Even these high prices for admission might be considered acceptable for an occasional vacation.  But the bigger problem is the number of people who are visiting Disneyland at the same time.

Disneyland itself is not much larger than it was when it first opened in 1955.  There has been expansion, including the addition of California Adventure, which was built where the parking lot was when I was a kid.  The number of people who visit these 2 parks on a daily basis is mind-boggling.  Even on a day when it’s raining, it is difficult to walk around the park because of the number of people.

My wife and I have annual passes that are due to expire next week.  I decided that since Disney chose to raise the price of the annual pass by more than 18%, it was no longer cost effective to pay for the passes.  So we decided to use the passes one last time before they expired.  Knowing how crowded Disneyland can be, I chose a Sunday and Monday during a time when I thought schools would still be in session.  It was raining last Sunday when we visited Disneyland.  You would think that would limit the number of people.  Well, it didn’t seem to work out that way.

When we arrived at Disneyland shortly after 3 PM, we were met with barricades in the south part of Main Street.  There was going to be a choir performing on the steps leading to the Main Street Railroad Station.  A parade going north on Main Street was in progress.  So, Disney park employees directed us around to the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street.  It was elbow to elbow people and we were moving at the pace of a very slow shuffle.  There was a solid line of people standing on the curb watching the parade.  Every so often, people ahead of us would stop to watch the parade, thus creating a traffic jam.  We got about 1/3 the way up Main Street and came to a complete stop.  We couldn’t return the way we came and there was no escape to the right.  The only apparent open path was into one of the interconnecting shops to our left.  So we, along with some other adventurers, ducked into the shop and tried to continue north toward the center of the park.

This detour didn’t last long.  At the north end of the shop, we met another Disney employee who was directing us to go back the way we came.  Unfortunately, the spot we had vacated on the sidewalk was now completely filled with people who had been coming up from behind us.  The only thing left for us to do was to stand where we were and wait for the parade to end.  As people filled the street behind the parade, there were more Disney employees directing everyone to the center of the street in order to continue into the park.

We usually start in Adventureland and work around the park clockwise.  We made a stop at the Jungle Cruise where the wait was only about 10 minutes.  You can tell which attractions are not very popular because they’re the ones where you don’t have to stand in line for very long.   The Indiana Jones Adventure was closed for refurbishment.  Next, we walked to the Pirates of the Caribbean.  The line was long there with an estimated wait of 40 minutes, so we skipped that one.

The Haunted Mansion has a holiday makeover every year and it is one of the more popular attractions.  The wait there was 40 minutes, but we decided we had to stand in line somewhere.  Once we were inside and down the elevator, the line progressed painfully slowly.  When we were in sight of the carriages, I noticed the attraction was stopping several times, presumably because someone had trouble getting on or getting off the constantly moving attraction.  Once we got out of there, I noted the time and decided that we needed to head to the restaurant where we had dinner reservations.  We had spent almost 2 hours in the park and had time to ride only 2 attractions.  I thought we would take the railroad around to Main Street.  Nope, that wasn’t an option because it was not running, presumably because of the choir set up at the Main Street Station.  It took us nearly 1/2 hour to get back out of the park because of the crowds.

After dinner, which was not inside either park, we took the Monorail from Downtown Disney back into the park.  We walked to It’s A Small World, which had a wait of about 30 minutes.  When we exited that attraction, we decided to walk over to California Adventure because it just seemed like it was elbow to elbow people everywhere in Disneyland.  We couldn’t walk through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle because Disney employees had it blocked off, apparently getting ready for another parade or something.  So we walked around through Tomorrowland and met more Disney employees with baton-tipped flashlights directing us to the other side of Main Street on the sidewalk.  That was where southbound traffic was designated.  Once on the sidewalk, it was another slow shuffle to the park entrance.

I am amazed at the number of attractions that are closed for one reason or another.  You would think that after paying $87 or more, you should have access to all attractions.  What about a discount because attractions are closed?  That’s never going to happen.

When we got out of Disneyland, I thought that California Adventure could not be nearly as crowded.  I was wrong.  Once we were through the entrance gates of California Adventure, we found a crowd similar in size to what we had left in Disneyland.  Disney recently remodeled California Adventure, adding a new area called Cars Land with a new attraction called Radiator Springs Racers.  We looked at the sign just inside the entrance, which showed attraction wait times.  Radiator Springs Racers had a wait time of 90 minutes.  Forget that.  California Screaming was closed, so I could forget about getting a roller coaster fix there.

Now it’s about 8:30 PM and we still have an hour to wait for the fireworks show.  My wife and I looked at each other and we agree that we’d both had enough.  We headed back to our hotel, which faced Disneyland, about a mile south of the resort.  At 9:30 PM, we watched the fireworks, which were partially obscured by clouds because it was still raining.  So ended my last visit to Disneyland.

I am certainly not holding Disney responsible for the weather.  Personally, I don’t mind the rain.  It’s just water.  But apparently a lot of other people didn’t mind the rain either.  Disney continues to take in huge amounts of money each day from the thousands of people who visit their parks.  The parks are not designed to handle the number of people who visit on most days.  I have no doubt that, if there were to be some kind of emergency requiring rapid evacuation of park guests, there would be casualties caused by the overcrowding.

The enjoyment I have experienced when visiting this resort during most of my life is history.  The only way I would consider another visit there would be to visit during the first couple of hours that the parks are open.  Beyond that, the crowds make it a real challenge to enjoy a visit.  With the cost of admission being what it is, it’s not worth a 2-hour visit for the price.  I can’t imagine that Walt Disney ever imagined today’s admission prices and overcrowding.  Unless you love crowds, enjoying a visit to the Disneyland Resort is a thing of the past.

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