"If your not havin' a good time, it's your own fault": A guide to what you can (and can not) get for free at Disneyland (and how).
Ah Disneyland... Being called the "Happiest Place on Earth" can automatically set it up for failure.
Guests expect the "GREATEST DAY EVER" with extra magic they couldn't even imagine sprinkled on top, and sometimes that just doesn't happen.
As a frequent guest to the resort, I get it. I have those days too. So I decided to do an experiment...
How much Disney Magic can I achieve during one of the busiest days of the year?
The night before I did plenty of research on where and what to ask for. My youngest brother was in town to visit, so he and I headed to the park around 7am with a list of things to accomplish and test, and we made a pact to be positive.
The results were... well... Magical!
Read more to see what we did to make it the most out of our Disneyland experience!
1. Always ask Guest Services for help! ALWAYS
A quick "Disneyland" search on Pintrest lead me to believe that there were "Diamond Anniversary" buttons.
When I asked Guest Services for one I quickly learned that those buttons were made by Disney fans and sold on etsy. Disneyland DID give out buttons on the 17th (their actual anniversary), but ONLY on the 17th. The wonderful Guest Services Cast member helping us wouldn't let us leave disappointed however. She went all the way back to City Hall to see if there were any left over buttons from the 17th! On top of that, she asked M what his favorite ride was (Indy) and gave us a front of the line pass!
Why? So we had something to do while she went to City Hall to get buttons for us!
*Fainting from human kindness*
Hint: The Guest Services counter at the very end of Main Street is always less crowded than City Hall.
2. Asking to drive the "Mark Twain" riverboat
(This is where things get technical...)
I've read that you can just ask to steer the Mark Twain and *TA DA* they waltz you upstairs. This is exactly what I did and it worked BUT the Cast Member helping us also explained that they've been instructed NOT to do this during the 60th Anniversary celebrations.
Why? It's not very magical to give people something they demand.
Instead the Cast Members have been instructed to say no to anyone who asks and to randomly select people who weren't expecting it.
So why did it work out for my brother and I? "You seemed really happy and easy going," was our Cast Members answer. We weren't demanding to steer it, we asked if it was actually possible, and we showed up to the ride in a good mood.
Before taking off, you'll be asked to sign the guest log book. When it's time to go, a cast member will present you with a certificate you can take home as a souvenir!
3. Asking to ride in the Lilly Belle
This did not work because they were not using the Lilly Belle. If you want to attempt to ride in the Lilly Belle make sure to get to the park early and ask the conductor before doing anything else. I'm told you'll be put on a waitlist and instructed to come back at a specific time.
4. Asking to ride at the front of the train.
This too did not work. First off, it was apparently "too hot" all day for it to be safe to ride up front. Secondly, when it was finally cool enough for someone to OK me, they realized I was wearing open toed shoes.
The key is to ask when it's not hot out and to wear closed toe shoes.
5. Getting a map at the Jungle Cruise.
This worked but not in the way that I was told it would. Contrary to what google and pintrest claim, you can not ask ANY jungle cruise member. Especially the poor souls trying to get everyone in and out of the boats. Go to the "shipping" desk AFTER you ride the ride and ask for one.
Or two. Or heck even three.
It felt like they were trying to give them all away when we asked the right person.
6. A Copy of The Buena Vista Bugle
This too worked but again, not the way I was told (Curse you Buzzfeed).
Every article I read told me the Buena Vista Bugle was available at the Starbucks in Disney's California Adventure. I went in, got the biggest iced coffee I could, and then asked for "the newspaper I read about". Not only were the servers extremely busy, they also had no idea what I was talking about. The server I asked asked her manager who just kinda shrugged her shoulders and walked away. Determined to find it, I went to ask the Guest Services cast members just across the street.
What did I learn? The Buena Vista Bugle is always stocked at the Guest Services help desk. Again, you can take as many as you want.
7. Getting Front row seats to rides
This is the easiest thing to achieve because all you have to do is ask! When you come to the cast member who instructs everyone which row to go to, quickly ask to sit in the front (or back if you prefer). They will instruct you to stand to the side until the next train/cart/rocket/etc. comes along.
Hint: If your in a group of two keep your ears open at all times! If another party ALMOST fills up the seats but not quite, they will ask for parties of two. Raise up a peace sign and be invited to the front!
8. Guaranteeing you win a stuffed prize at the boardwalk games
At the boardwalk section of Disney's California Adventure there are a handful of carnival games to play. Each game costs $2.50 per person to play. The way to ensure you (or someone in your party) walks away with a souvenir is simple: only play the game with your group! If two of you play you can win a smaller stuffed animal (like Timothy below) or if you have a group of four people you can win the larger stuffed animals. Never play with strangers!
9. Observe the daily Flag Retrieval ceremony
Disneyland offers plenty of free shows, but often the crowds ruin the experience. Parades and firework shows can quickly become a nightmare of pushy parents, restricted walkways and sweaty strangers. One ceremony I highly recommend is the daily Flag Retrieval ceremony on Main Street. The ceremony starts at 5:15pm and is extremely moving... but never crowded! I enjoy watching it from the benches at the train station (hint: the train takes about 22 min to go around the entire park. Catch it at 4:50 and come back right in time!)
10. Stop to smell the roses
Disneyland cast members do their best to keep the park clean and visually appealing. So instead of getting stressed out with the crowds... take a detour and enjoy your surroundings. I personally love searching for unique details in New Orleans Square and spending time drooling over all the fresh food in Tomorrowland (everything in Tomorrowland is edible!!).
At the end of the day, I found that there were two things that made our day extra magical.
1. Don't go with the crowd.
2. Keep a positive mindset.
As a cast member once said...
"If your not having a good time, it's your own fault!"