Source: Theme Park Insider.
By Robert Niles: What can you do at Disney when the park is so crowded that you can’t do anything?
My family and I found ourselves in this all-too-familiar situation a couple of weekends ago, when holiday crowds packed what seemed like every square foot of Disneyland. Now, let’s admit that no one wants to be in this situation. Ideally, we all would visit on days with below-average crowds, when we could walk on most rides and wait no more than just a few minutes for even the most popular attractions.
But weekends during the holiday season, especially just after Disneyland opened its “Season of the Force” event, aren’t even close to “below average” crowd days. Nor are the mid-summer weeks when school schedules dictate that most of us with children have to take our family vacations.
On busy days, it’s especially important to follow our core advice for visiting theme parks:
- Have your tickets in hand before your visit.
- Make whatever reservations you can, in advance.
- Arrive at least a half hour before the park opens, so you can be in place to go to attractions as soon as they open.
- Go first to the attractions you want to visit that will have the longest lines in the middle of the day.
But even if you follow all those tips, the moment will come during a busy day when the crowds fill every queue and leave you no space on the pathways — when you will think that you have no choice but to hurry up and wait for the rest of the day.
This can be the most frustrating moment of your visit. That helpless fear that you’ll be spending the rest of the day waiting in line instead of enjoying the park leads many visitors to despair, and sometimes, anger. But even though the money you spent for your tickets is a sunk cost at this point, you are not committed to wasting time during your day in the park.
In September, Rob McCullough offered his Top 10 Ways for Annual Passholders to Get the Most from Their Theme Park Visits. Those tips also work well for anyone on busy days, too, as they offer a variety of ways you can enjoy yourself in the parks beyond the typical rides and shows.
So don’t despair when the crowds get ridiculous. Just zig when the world zags, and start looking for things to do in the park that few others are doing.
Watch for those gaps, when the park gets busy
A show schedule is your best friend here. Always pick up one at the front gate when you visit, even if you’re not planning on seeing any shows. When the attraction queues blow up, your show schedule can offer some nice alternatives that will allow you to continue to get value from your day. You’re not looking for the big shows, either. Everyone else in that huge crowd will be going to see the parade and fireworks, too. Look instead for often-neglected, smaller shows, such as the Dapper Dans, the Royal Street Bachelors, and the Flag Retreat ceremony.
Look for the names in the windows on Main Street, too, and learn about the people who built the Disney parks.
In between shows, haul out the camera or your smartphone and seek out unique decorations throughout the park. This is the time to fill your friends’ Instagram feeds with the sights of the park. (And to make them jealous that they aren’t there with you! Of course, they won’t see those awful crowds in your photos…. What they don’t know won’t hurt you.)
I always used to love visiting the fort on Tom Sawyer Island. Installations such as that reward people who take the time to look for little details that most visitors miss while rushing past to mark another attraction off their “to do” list. On our most recent visit, my kids passed the time playing checkers in the Market House on Main Street USA. Sure, you could play checkers at home. But it’s the atmosphere in the old-timey shop on Disneyland’s Main Street that makes this time playing the game special.
There’s an audaciousness to it, really. Tens of thousands of people a day run around the park, trying to cram in as many rides as possible. But who takes the time to say “eh, forget that. I’m playing a game of checkers, instead”? That’s the mark of an exceptional theme park fan. ;^)
What’s your favorite way to switch gears and enjoy the park when the lines grow unbearable long?
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