If you visit Disneyland and its neighboring park, California Adventure, you can easily spend half a grand while sitting in giant lines with screaming kids all day. One-day park-hopper passes start at $155 per person, parking runs $18 and that’s before you get into the world of overpriced food, water, souvenirs and endless lines.
There are only a few windows during which I’ll visit Disneyland and every time I go I stick to the same strategy that works every single time. When I go to Disney, I spend as little money as possible, wait in the shortest lines and visit the best attractions the parks have to offer without dealing with any of the crowds. If you follow this plan step-by-step, you can visit Disney and California’s Adventure for free (or very cheaply) while encountering the shortest lines throughout the day.
1. Visit on a shoulder season weekday
This sounds obvious, but it makes all the difference. There are only a handful of times that I’ll go to the park and it’s when crowds are at a minimum. You can check the park’s least-crowded days online, but there are some obvious ones you want to avoid. Never go to Disney over Christmas break, any three-day weekend (MLK Day, President’s Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day), Spring Break, Easter or Veteran’s Day. If you can take a day off of work in the fall or spring, that’s even better. You never want to go to Disneyland on a weekend, over the summer or especially a summer weekend. Never. Go to the beach instead.
The best times to go to Disneyland are on Spring and Fall weekdays when rain is in the forecast. Go in early-November or early-December. Weekdays in late-January through early-March (minus three-day weekends) offer cooler weather, fewer crowds, fewer screaming kids and shorter lines. You get the exact same Disney experience, but much, much better.
2. Park for free Outside of Disneyland
All the streets surrounding the park strictly enforce permit parking or don’t allow street parking at all. That’s why most people opt to pay $18 for the Micky and Friends parking structure then take a shuttle to the park entrance. I don’t like this for a few reasons. First is I’d rather spend the $18 elsewhere, second is it’s time consuming to park, get to the shuttle, wait to the shuttle and then ride it to Downtown Disney before walking to the park entrance. If you are willing to walk a little bit (a little less than a mile) then you can drop your companions directly at the front gate and then park for free.
The entire neighborhood NORTH of Interstate-5 is free neighborhood street parking. Take the exit AFTER the main exit for Disneyland Drive, this is Exit-110A for Harbor Boulevard. If you want to drop anyone off at the park entrance before parking, turn right on S Harbor Blvd. and the main gate will be on the right (this is where Ubers and Lyfts drop off). If you want to park for free, when you get off the highway, turn left onto S Harbor Blvd. Travel north on S Harbor Blvd. Cross W Ball Rd and then as soon as you reach W Vermont Ave the entire neighborhood offers plenty of street parking. The only thing you need to be careful about is that there is street cleaning one day a week. Aside from that, parking is totally free.
Once you have parked, you have a few options to get to the park. You can walk one mile down S Harbor Blvd. crossing the overpass for I-5 and the park entrance will be on the right. You can take an Uber or Lyft which will cost less than $5. Or you can take the OCTA (Orange County Transit Authority) bus. Local line 43 picks up at Harbor and Vermont or express line 543 stops at Harbor and Ball. Both buses drop off at the park entrance, the fare is $2 each way or $4 for a day pass.
3. Get Free Disneyland Tickets from a Disney Employee
The Walt Disney Company employs hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. Many of those employees enjoy the company benefit that they can visit Disney theme parks for free, or go with friends or family. Find one of these people! I don’t care if you have a distant third cousin who has an ex that works in marketing, this can save you over $150 per person for a one-day park-hopper ticket. Sometimes these aren’t only good for Disneyland, they work at all Disney parks and resorts worldwide.
If you can’t find a friend or family member to provide a ticket, you’re out of luck. Disney rarely offers discounts. There was a time in the past where they would provide a free ticket if you performed an act of charity through a program they offered. Outside of that, your best bet is being part of a corporate function or volunteer organization so your job can get you in the park. Other than that, pick which one you want to visit (or both) and pay the hefty fee.
Generally Disneyland is the better park for younger kids and offers the classic Disney “magic” experience, but because it is older and more popular, it can get more cramped. Space Mountain and Indiana Jones are fantastic rides. California Adventure is more spacious and newer but lacks some of the charm that makes Disneyland famous. It’s a better park for teenagers. Radiator Springs Racers, Grizzly Falls and California Screaming are excellent attractions and it’s the only of the two parks where you can purchase alcohol (they also have a winery within the park).
4. Be at the park gate 30 Minutes Before Opening
Have your tickets ready, be in line and be set to go at least 30 minutes before the park gates open. If you are only doing one park, you don’t have to choose where to start. If you’re doing both, see if one of them opens an hour earlier than the other and go there. I find this best when Disneyland opens at 8:00 A.M. and California Adventure opens an hour later at 9:00 A.M. Wear comfortable walking (or running) shoes and be prepared to clock a lot of distance. On my last visit, I logged 26,000 steps and 12 miles of walking between both parks.
5. Do the Most Popular Rides First Thing in the Morning and Utilize Fast Pass and Single Rider
Beat the crowds. I don’t care if it’s early or your coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. As soon as the gates open, head straight to Space Mountain, pick up a fast pass and then knock it off your list immediately. Get your fast pass, ride Space Mountain and then you’ll have your second ride ready to go either for right now or later in the morning.
As soon as you finish that, start making your way back across the park. Since it’s still early, ride Star Tours and Astro Blasters along the way before the lines start to grow. After that, cross the park and head straight for Indiana Jones. If there’s already a line then hop into single rider to avoid the crowds. In a best-case scenario, when you finish Indiana Jones, you will be eligible to receive a second fast pass.
The way fast pass works is you are assigned a time when you can return and skip the line. If you get a Space Mountain Fast Pass first thing in the morning, it might say, “Return between 8:15 A.M. and 9:15 A.M.” As soon as 8:15 A.M. rolls around, you are allowed to get your next fast pass (regardless of whether or not you’ve ridden Space Mountain). When you finish riding Indiana Jones, pick up your second fast pass for later in the day. Or go to the other end of the park and get a Splash Mountain fast pass for the afternoon when it’ll be a bit warmer.
Now it’s time to use the Space Mountain fast pass to get a second ride on the park’s most popular attraction without waiting in line. Go back to Tomorrowland, hit your second ride on that and then it will probably be around 8:45 A.M. (assuming the park opened at 8). You have a few options at this point.
If you are doing both parks, you can leave Disneyland and go to California Adventure. Follow the same strategy with the second park. As soon as the park opens (assuming it’s an hour later than Disneyland), head straight for the Fast Pass for Radiator Springs Racers (located just outside It’s a Bug’s Life). The fast passes for the two parks are completely independent of each other, so you can have passes at the same time for both parks. Go to the rear of the park and visit the Toy Story Midway and California Screamin’. If you have time, squeeze in Tower of Terror before you can redeem your Radiator Springs fast pass. Use your fast pass to skip the line at Radiator Springs Racers and congrats, you’ve done both parks’s busiest attractions before 11:00 A.M.
If you are only doing Disneyland, then keep attacking the most popular rides early in the day and retrieve fast passes when they become available. Get a fast pass for Splash Mountain so that you can return when it’s warmer in the day. Visit Matterhorn and Thunder Mountain before the lines grow. You can usually save rides like Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean for later in the day when you want to recover in lines that move fairly briskly.
6. Pack Your Own Lunch and Water
You can bring a small backpack with you onto all the rides at Disneyland and California Adventure. Load up the backpack with sandwiches, water, juice, snacks, trail mix and a small ice pack (if necessary). All the rides have little pockets where you can stow the backpack. If you have a small salad in some tupperware then the ride will mix it for you. When you enter, you’ll have your bag checked. Selfie sticks are confiscated.
At around noon when the park starts to get slammed, this is when you take your lunch break. Time it before everyone else hits the expensive cantinas and before your afternoon fast passes on gentler rides. Haunted Mansion, Ariel’s Grotto, Pirates of the Caribbean, Astro Blasters, Monster’s Inc. and any ride in Fantasyland is safe for after a meal while the rest of the park deals with lines for food and meltdowns. Pack your own refillable water bottle so that you can top it off as needed throughout the day and avoid paying several dollars every time you need water. Plus you need to stay hydrated for all the walking you’re doing.
Spend the hours from 1:00 to 3:00 taking advantage of earlier fast passes you picked up. This is when lines will be at their worst. If you want to do rides that are popular, try their single rider lines, some of which are not advertised. For example, you have to ask the attendant at Grizzly Falls for a little pass that says you’d like to be a single rider. Once you’ve crossed off a few more attractions, you can either leave by 4:00 or gear up for the evening.
7. If You’re Staying Late, Take an Afternoon Break at the Grand Californian Hotel or in Downtown Disney
Find some air conditioning, a soft couch, take a nap, check your phone, rest and relax for a little bit. If it’s around 3 or 4 P.M. this is the perfect time to bounce if you’re good on rides or get recharged for another round. Maybe you have more fast passes for later or you want to watch fireworks or a parade. The version of yourself a few hours in the future will be very thankful if you take a break earlier in the day.
There is a separate entrance and exit gate to and from the park near Grizzly Falls in California Adventure. Make sure you hand is stamped and your ticket allows for reentry. Leave the park, make your way to the hotel lobby (or sneak into the pool area) and just relax for an hour. It’ll make all the difference if you’re staying in the parks later that night.
Don’t do Disneyland and California Adventure the same way that everyone hits those two parks. Do the opposite of what everyone else does and you’ll have a much better experience. Park north of I-5 for free, get tickets from a friend or family member who works for Disney, do the most popular rides as soon as they open, pack your own lunch and rest while everyone else is being insane. Then kick back for some fireworks knowing you did Disney better than everyone else.
Telling people about our road trip across West Texas and New Mexico earned the most, “Why are you going there?” responses of all our adventures. This isn’t the kind of place you go by choice. You’re usually stuck traveling through West Texas on your way to someplace better. Or you’re stationed in the military. Or you got on the mob’s bad side. No one really chooses to spend a long weekend in the Chihuahuan Desert. But that just meant we’d have more space to ourselves!
Sure enough, there was really nothing there except for three very dry national parks, a bunch of suicidal rabbits and a Prada (I’ll get to all that later). I also might have insisted we do this trip instead of spending four days at a condo on Lake Tahoe. On top of that, the first day was the kind of disaster that made me rethink this whole see every national park life plan in the first place.
El Paso is closer to the California border than it is to Austin, Texas, but that didn’t stop me from having that be the jumping off point for a romantic vacation that started with a supply run to Walmart. They didn’t have the gas canister our camping stove required, so we found the city’s largest outdoors store, which was also out of stock on the fuel we needed. Our nature adventure took us into an El Paso Target to buy a new camping stove with fuel included before we peeled out into the desert three hours behind schedule where we got pulled over by our first border patrol officer. So far we were off to a roaring start.
The drug-sniffing dog cleared the rear tires of the rental and the officer was satisfied with our answer when he asked, “Are you American citizens?” This didn’t seem the time to discuss Jen’s Canadian heritage, so we continued east into Texas backcountry. A few hours later and with the sun starting to set, we got to our first national park, Guadalupe Mountains, which would be great if you’re assembling a fossil record of West Texas, and a major disappointment if you could’ve been at Tahoe. It’s home to the largest peak in Texas and a post office from the 1800s that is now a pile of rocks. The first-come camp site was full, so we drove another hour to an RV park in Carlsbad, New Mexico, a town that made El Paso look like Vail.
I can’t think of a lot of scenic places with “Bad” in the name. Islamabad isn’t near the top of my list, and Carlsbad was populated with a highway of chain hotels serving the Caverns (to the South) and alien-seeking conspiracy theorists in Roswell (to the North). We expected the worst from the RV park, but it turned out to be a great find and the trip took a turn for the better. Like every camping trip, Jen soon picked up the gossip of every female camper drama from the ladies’ room, and then we downed a pan-fried Walmart steak deep in the heart of a Roswell, New Mexico K.O.A.
Carlsbad Caverns elbowed its way into the top ten places I’ve ever seen. It was a huge relief that the trip was justified the minute we descended the thousand-foot-deep cave (roughly the height of the Empire State Building, or 12,000 Empire State Building souvenirs). The first thing you hear is a soundtrack of a few thousand bats reminding us that the elevator was out of service, along with an additional thousand children shouting, “Stalagmites,” and “Stalactites.” We get it. You know which one is which. Our exhaustion scurrying to the bottom of the cave, taking a tour and hiking out was relieved by judging whether other people would be able to make it out.
There isn’t much to check out between Carlsbad and Big Bend – McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, and a lot more nothing – but we stopped in Marfa, Texas, which is sort of like a Texas Ojai. It’s an artist outpost in the middle of nowhere part of the middle of nowhere where Matthew McConnonaughey and a few other celebs call their second home. It has 20+ art galleries and the kind of stores where you can drop a few hundred bucks on astrologically-embroidered denim jackets while you pregame for Burning Man and get your photo taken at the Marfa Prada (not a real Prada – art is tough to explain). It was a perfectly fine place to eat a falafel for lunch.
We didn’t know what to expect in Big Bend National Park. We knew it’s where the Rio Grande curves to the north and there’s a border crossing where you can take a boat and ride a donkey to a Mexican village. We drove out of the desert up into some mountains where we saw trees for the first time in four days. We dropped into a grove where our campsite was surrounded by a forest and mountains being hit by the sunset. We were also instantly befriended by the camp host, who raised her glass of wine and said things have been great with her since she had gallbladder surgery.
An astronomy professor from U.T. hosted a stargazing session that night with two high-powered telescopes. We got a good look at Jupiter’s moons and the Milky Way ripped across the Texas sky. But the best part was his love for astronomy was only matched by his disdain for astrology. He’d show some green neutron gas around a cluster of young star formations, but when someone asked him to point out Gemini, he shrugged them off with a, “That’s not really my thing,” to which another person asked, “What about Sagittarius?”
The next day we hiked three trails and around nine miles, the best was Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. It’s a 1,500-foot rock face dropping straight into the water. If anyone descends that cliff from the Mexican border and crosses the river, they deserve to stay. Immigration debate over. Although it was nice to visit a national park that wasn’t overrun by Germans for once. This was the first national park trip that didn’t have a slew of Berliners telling me they haven’t met any Americans in the national parks yet.
Our final morning we woke up at 3am Central Time. All the road kill we saw during the day was explained by hundreds, maybe thousands of jackrabbits lining the highway in the middle of the night. These bastards did everything possible to try and get hit. They darted into the road, jumped back in, darted in front again, and hopped away. If I were Elmer Fudd, I’d drop the gun and just do 80 through Big Bend. I’m proud to say that no rabbits were harmed in the making of this trip, but any time I saw road kill after that, I was like, “They were asking for it.”
Big Bend and Carlsbad Caverns were two of the best parks we’ve seen so far. You can skip Guadalupe and just eat rabbit stew instead. As much as we were warned of gun-totin’ Jew haters who want to make America great again, everyone we met couldn’t have been nicer. It seemed like an annual pilgrimage for people from Austin and we could’ve spent a week in the park with ease. Sure, one family’s picnic basket was emblazoned in red, white and blue with, “Faith, family, freedom,” which are three things I’m not big on (too much anxiety with freedom), but they wished us a great day when we saw them later on a hike, and thanked us when part of their picnic blew away (the dishes were gunning for freedom).
My biggest moment of being a total idiot was walking into a donut shop in Van Horn, Texas at 7am after dodging rabbits. Jen and I combined were less than a third shorter and smaller than the next person in there. I was going on zero sleep and video game driving when I asked for four donut holes. “Four?” She yelled at me. “It’s a dozen for a dollar.” My palm-to-forehead morning only continued when I asked if they had soy milk for my coffee. “No,” she stared at me.
And I only share that super-embarrassing story because I hope I could fulfill their stereotype of pompous city boys walking into their Texas donut shop and ordering four donut holes and asking about soy milk. And I hope I made their day because it’s the least I could offer in return after such a great trip to Texas.
This post might be a little tricky to pull off due to only a nascent understanding of puns in the native Somali language, but I wonder if Somalia has some version of their own pirate jokes to regale their future raiders and crusaders like we have here.
The first question has to be whether the jokes are full-on puns, like the ones that are loved and cherished by four-year-olds and Midwesterners, or if the Somali pirate “jokes” are instead deathly warnings about the perils of being a pirate. This adds a whole new level to the comedy if they have a whole language full of pirate anti-jokes that warn would-be pirates of the trappings of the trade that can lead to instant death.
I guess what I’m wondering is whether pirate jokes amongst the Somali pirate population are full-on puns, or whether they’re tragic stories of death and violence in a military state, but with an added dose of humor. Or preferably both.
These might include catchy little one-liners like:
“What’s a pirate’s favorite mode of transportation?”
“A motorboat with four fully-loaded semi-automatic rifles hitched to the sides allowing for quick boarding of the vessel to take hostages and bribe foreign shipping lines for millions of dollars or threatening to behead crewmen on the new Sony camera that was found in one of the containers on level D. Arrrgh.”
“What’s a pirate’s favorite letter in the alphabet?”
“Sometimes a letter is not the most effective way to illicit bribe money from the desperate families of a stranded crew with machettes placed above the jugular. You can resort to news feeds through CNN and Reuters which will at the very least lead to movie rights to your story as a child soldier.”
The obvious problem with these examples is that there aren’t any puns involved, and that’s really what we love about pirate jokes when it’s all said and done. Where things get a little muddled is how we can get some puns involved. I don’t know if Somali pirates say Arrrgh a lot, and how the letter R is pronounced in the native tongue. Maybe there can be some connection to our beloved pirate jokes with a neat Somali twist:
“How much did the pirate pay to get his ears pierced?”
“A buck-an-ear! But he also sliced the neck of his disobediant prison-arrrgh.”
“What’s a pirate’s backup job?”
“An arrrrrchitect of terrorist plots to kill the infidels once my Yemeni passport application goes through.”
The difficult part is to find the delicate balance between proper use of a pun and not offending the true pirate nature that has been exhumed in Somalia. I mean these are real, violent dudes that just happen to be doing the kinds of robbery that has been mocked by Disney cartoons. It’s sort of like Wiccan people who take themselves too seriously and decide to use it as their platform for Delaware Senator. Oh, wait… Crap, now we can’t do witch jokes any longer.
The hearrrrrt of this post is that even Somali pirates can have senses of humor. So whether their plans are off the “hook,” of they need an extra little “patch,” the violence, death, murder and abuse should all be filtered through a little bit of humaarrrgghh.
Where are all the Coco supporters today in news that the unloved and slighted V train is going to be eliminated under the new budget cuts? The V was hardly given a chance to shine and it showed moments of brilliance before having the axe handed down because the MTA panicked over expenditures.
The V train was the masturbating bear of subway lines, mostly because there would frequently be someone masturbating on the train. This also stretches to Vomitting Kermit since it would travel to the 2nd Avenue stop where NYU freshman would get wasted thanks to their crappy fake IDs only working in bars on Avenue B.
Imagine if it had time to grow, it easily could have competed with the old-school late night stalwarts of subway lines in the 6 and B trains, but replacing it with the M of all lines is a huge slap in the face.
The M train isn’t the Jay Leno of trains, it’s not even the Dan Rather or the Craig Ferguson. It’s somewhere between the old disheveled patchwork Joan Rivers of trains and the desperate, pleading, fallen-preppy “Can I have my job back” Craig Kilborn of trains. It’s bad enough to cancel the V line, but to replace it with a train that goes to Middle Village and Fresh Pond Road seems drastic.
Has anyone ever really ridden the M? I don’t just mean the three readers of this blog, but has the M train actually ever been ridden in all of history? Its stops sound like rejected names for Hari Krishna retreats. Fresh Pond Road, Seneca Avenue, Forest Avenue. The M train must have a three-to-one train to passenger ratio.
Considering that the V did the thankful job of separating the rich fake Lower East Side poseurs who got off at 2nd Avenue from the genuine poor fake Brooklyn poseurs who had to take the F, the V doesn’t deserve this kind of ending. At least the W goes out by being replaced by a classic like the N (similar how the 9 was swallowed up by the 1), but the MTA and NBC should both be embarrassed by this ending.
I went to an L.A. Kings game last week, which is always fun because it’s way more preferable to watch an NHL game alone in a quiet arena. It’s good to have a ten-to-one player to fan ratio at sports, so glad the NHL’s investment of hockey in the Southland is finally paying off.
The most striking thing to me about the game though was how much Toyota was featured as a major sponsor. Doesn’t sliding on ice with difficulty in stopping and crashing into the boards seem like a bad association for Toyota right now?
In fact, there was actually a questionable hit where a player was driven face-first into the glass/windshield directly above the Toyota logo. He limped off the ice with blood pouring down his face while sporting his new pair of permanent glasses.
To make matters worse, the intermission show between the periods was not only sponsored by Toyota, but featured the logo prominently in the competition. Two players, both sliding and falling and hurting themselves because they had to walk on ice without traction – thanks Toyota – had to take shots from various distances.
But each distance was marked by the word Toyota spelled out across the ice. So one shot was from the T, then the O and so on. Whichever one missed first, lost, and would be branded the Toyota loser of the night.
The thing was though, each letter was highlighted and fans were uged to yell out the letter as the players moved along. Maybe a decent idea on paper, but it resulted in thousands of people screaming a trailed-off letter in Toyota’s logo. So instead of a brainwashed arena of new car drivers, you had the “O” highlighted in Toyota, with a bunch of people yelling, “Whoa! Whoa!” You might as well have each letter stand for something, like, “O! As in, Oh shit, we’re gonna die!” “A! As in Aaaaahhhhhh!”
Thanks Toyota, and thanks NHL. I want my money back.
I just saw the preview for The Spy Next Door, which finally combines the movies Spy Kids and Rear Window, and it just seems a little surprising that Jackie Chan still speaks English as well as the hostess at my local Wok Don’t Run.
Avatar invented an entire race, with its own language, culture and traditions that came with a dictionary to make Klingon look like Pig Latin, yet we don’t have CGI down to the point where we can get Jackie Chan pronouncing the letters R and L?
I know that English is a tough language for far Easterners, just as it would be tricky for Sylvester Stallone to star in the Japanese blockbuster “My American Samurai,” and it was cool up through Shanghai Noon, but this is a good decade and a half in America and he still needs some Rumble In The Bronx dubbing.
It’s not cool anymore, especially when Jackie Chan tries to show some heart at the end of the movie. He always has to get the heartwarming speech or pep talk to the kid/culturally-different-partner/Chris Tucker at the end of the movie, and it’s hilarious because the music and lighting is there and he’s going to enlighten us all, then he says something, and you have no idea what it was. Every movie of his concludes with you having the same awkwardness as when your waitress at The Tiger Bowl tells you the day’s specials and you have no clue what just happened.
There are two theories for why the proper English is taking a little while: either he is convinced that we still watch him for the martial arts, which is ridiculous since The Matrix killed pure martial arts movies; or he is staying in character for Rush Hour 4.
Either way it’s a sham, since all his martial arts now are cartoonishly CGI generated to the point where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon looks more realistic from a physics perspective. I have an easier time believing that people can sword fight while running on top of tree tops rather than Jackie Chan having to put a child to bed by throwing him in the air and catching him in his pajamas. But maybe if the kid could understand what Jackie Chan was saying, he would have put on his own nightwear in the first place.
Thanks for watching everyone. Follow Kate Sargeant on Facebook and Twitter for info on her amazing new web series in January and check out ABC’s hit show Castle, which she’ll be writing on.
Next week’s movie: Invictus