Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop

The Holiday season is a great time to visit a Disney theme park. Not only are guests introduced to seasonal food and entertainment offerings, but the Holiday decor ranges from blindingly apparent (a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree) to charmingly subtle (Holiday-themed paper cups), and rewards curious visitors who scout around.

It's easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.
It’s easy to underestimate how much a person can enjoy quasi-European splendor combined with American commercialism.

Although all the domestic parks and resorts get makeovers,* the biggest concentration is in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. The element that binds it all together and moves you from land to land is the atmospheric Holiday music; and the loop on Main Street, U.S.A. is a particular pleasure. The songs are a chime-y mix of Christmas standards, and sound like they came straight out of a December cocktail party at Walt and Lillian’s house.

[*One of the under-appreciated wonders of modern management is the decoration of six theme parks and thirty resort hotels by Disney cast members in Florida and California. Not only is the level of detail astounding, but most of the work is completed without the guests seeing it happen.]

The authoritative breakdown of the Main Street, U.S.A. loop was compiled by the great Al Lutz, and his post is the starting point for these notes. I highly recommend clicking over, it’s great. In fact, go ahead and do that right now. This will still be here when you get back. Although, I mean, make sure and come back, too! Haha, don’t just… you know; click away and stay away. You know what? I am overthinking it. Just… do whatever you want.

Assuming you have come back from Al’s post, and with the background out of the way, let’s dive into the Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday music loop notes. The songs in each category are listed in no particular order.

Continue reading “Disney Music Notes: Main Street, U.S.A. Holiday Loop”

Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part Two: The Six Practices

If you didn’t read Part One, please find it here. If you are already exhausted by clicking internet links all day, then do whatever you want. I’m not your dad.

In Part One we revealed the three principles for enjoying a Disney park vacation:

  • Willingness to try
  • A small measure of imagination
  • Resolved budget concerns
This one photo captures at least three of the six practices.
This one photo captures at least three of the six practices…

But that was just the preparation round of this (needlessly complicated?) strategy guide. To really visit a Disney park like a pro, we also need to address what to do when there.

In Part One we also referenced conversations with friends about surviving a Disney trip. Like the three principles, the following six practices are developed from those discussions over the course of many years. The practices are flexible and should be adapted to each individual’s requirements and interests.

Although we recommend trying everything, it’s better not to focus on all six practices the entire time. Decide which ones you enjoy the most*. It’s still a vacation, after all; no need to bring a checklist.

Continue reading “Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part Two: The Six Practices”

Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part One: The Three Principles

As a Disney Parks and Resorts fan, I recognize that some people will never understand the appeal. A percentage of the population is just not wired for entering a world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy, and I am fine with that. Everyone has something they like, and it’s okay if it’s not Disney-related. Besides, the parks are crowded enough as it is.

Yep, nothing cool to see here. At ALL. Everyone should just stay home...
Yep, nothing cool to see here. At ALL. You’re not missing anything, just stay at home…

But visiting a Disney park has also become a rite of passage. Kids reach a certain age, and adults feel compelled to take them to Walt Disney World/Disneyland, whether they want to spend the time and money or not. This is an easy path to miserable experiences for all. Nobody has fun on a trip when the people paying for it are irritated the entire time.

I always feel bad when I spot one of those unhappy groups, because it is certainly possible for a non-fan to enjoy their vacation to a Disney park. I mean, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Every year, millions of guests visit thousands of acres of design and technology dedicated to just that proposition.

Continue reading “Disney Parks Like a Pro, Part One: The Three Principles”

Seven Observations from the Disneyland Resort

We took a quick vacation to Disneyland this summer. It was “quick” in two ways: first, we conceived, planned, and executed the trip in just three weeks, which is fast for a couple of plodders like us. Second, we only spent three and a half days on the property*, which felt way too brief.

[*If you just spit out your beverage at the mere concept of spending three and a half days in Disneyland, then, my friend, there is a chance this post may not be for you. Feel free to click somewhere else (maybe try Yellowstone!).]

Although the attractions were part of our trip, we were really there to relax. Most of our time was spent soaking in the atmosphere, poking around the shops, and eating good food. It was everything we had hoped. It was fantastic.

One of our favorite attractions in Disney California Adventure. The ride in the background is pretty good, too.
One of our favorite attractions in Disney California Adventure. The ride in the background is pretty good, too.

In the midst of all that relaxing, soaking, poking, and eating, we made seven observations from our time at the resort. Please enjoy, and add your own comments and observations below. Continue reading “Seven Observations from the Disneyland Resort”

Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself in exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.”

– Steve Prefontaine

We are Disneyland Marathoners, to put a label for our park strategy. For anyone counting, this post describes our seventh and eighth days of vacation, and subtracting the travel time, our sixth and seventh straight days visiting the parks. Plus, when we are in the parks, our efforts are equally marathon-esque. We spend long hours on the go, always engaged, observing our environment, rarely sprinting, but with practiced motion.

Don't bother looking for me in this photo.  I promise, I am not there.
Don’t bother looking for me in this photo. I am not there.

When I speak with friends and colleagues about our Disney vacations, most express amazement at how we could spend so much time in one place. This is something I suspect is heard by many of our compatriots in the Obsessive Disney Fan Community (in which, frankly, we are relative lightweights): Don’t we wish for other adventures?

Well, of course. We don’t take every bit of our yearly vacation time to a Disney park, after all. We love travel, period. But when we are here, we are focused on Disneyland. We circle it on our calendars, we develop an approach, we reserve our time, and we plan everything we can in anticipation. Just like any good marathoner.

Incidentally, I am making broad assumptions as to the nature of running a marathon. I am not in any kind of physical shape to do more than watch a marathon on television, provided I take frequent pauses to catch my breath. I often remind myself – with substantial self-loathing – that if I did a better job of resembling an actual marathoner, I would not need to take occasional stops on a bench or second laps around the park on the Disneyland Railroad to rest aching feet. I plan a lot of exercise programs in the Toy Story Mania queue. Continue reading “Down the Stretch We Come – Disneyland October 2012 Days Seven and Eight”

Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

— Pat Conroy

Amy and I have travel rituals. Rituals for road trips, rituals for camping trips, rituals for airplane rides, and rituals for almost every other aspect of our vacations. Of course, it goes without saying, we have rituals for Disneyland. For example, every time we go, we do something we have never done before at the Disneyland Resort.

This is sometimes hard for me to imagine, considering how many times we have been there, but there are things Amy and I have never done at the Disneyland Resort. There are three reasons this is possible:

Sacred Cow
It’s sometimes surprising where you find the Sacred Cows in Disneyland

First, the Disneyland Resort is much bigger than it seems. At a bit over 500 acres, the current, developed property can feel claustrophobic for two theme parks and a shopping district, especially when compared to Walt Disney World’s 25,000 acres. But there is a lot packed into that space.

Second, the Disneyland Resort is always changing. Walt Disney originally bought 160 acres for Disneyland, to address the first point, but it is not just expansion. There are very few sacred cows at Disneyland and change is the only constant, as management develops new experiences and opportunities for guests just like us. This is not always met with widespread public enthusiasm, but they do it anyway.

Third, our definition of “never done before” is pretty flexible. Like, really flexible. Continue reading “Rituals, Quests and a Quick Trip to Hell – Disneyland October 2012 Day Six”

Citizens of the Resort – Disneyland October 2012 Day Five

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Like many others, my job has become 24-hour-a-day presence in my life. Even in a full-immersion place like Disneyland I am often on my phone, checking work email or voice messages, and answering text messages. It’s not that I am irreplaceable to the company; if anything, the opposite is true. I keep in touch with the office so I can maintain whatever shred of standing I have achieved. Amy understands my dallying with work during our time together, but wants me to keep it brief, where possible.

This version had a better ending, but wasn’t quite as funny.

An extended break from the daily grind was once considered essential to a healthy constitution, but that line of thought has disappeared like poodle skirts and leaded gasoline. The structure of a vacation had become a fluid concept. Grand tours and summers abroad sound self-indulgent, and things our parents did to unwind are out of vogue. The road trip, once a quintessential American experience, is as dated as the Griswold’s pilgrimage to Wally World.

I have a theory that vacations can be restorative even if they are not relaxing. More important than lounging in a chair or lolling in a swimming pool is separating from the daily routine, which is the real key to getting away. The most remarkable vacations have included more than just a change of scenery. They may not be the easiest, but they are the ones where I returned the most fulfilled. I think of it as becoming a short-term “citizen” of the vacation.

Continue reading “Citizens of the Resort – Disneyland October 2012 Day Five”

Byways, Distractions, and Introductions – Disneyland October 2012 Day Four

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

— Paul Theroux

If everything went according to plan, our fourth day, Monday, October 15, had the potential to be the most unique and exciting of the entire trip. For one thing, we were attending the special-ticket “Mickey’s Halloween Party” at Disneyland with everyone that evening. But more than that – and this was the really big news for us – our already-sizable company would swell by another eight people. The Duffins were coming.

Disneyland is expensive, but the sun and smog are free.
Disneyland may be expensive, but there is no extra charge for the heat and the smog.

The Duffins had never visited Disneyland as a family. Joel, the dad, was last there in 1992, which was the year before Mickey’s Toontown opened, for Disney history/trivia fans. Julianne, the mom (and Amy’s sister), had not been since 1988, which was the summer before Splash Mountain debuted. They had met, married, finished school, had kids, worked, played, went to piano lessons and soccer games, served their communities, and lived full lives, but neither had since set foot in The Happiest Place on Earth.

Even as big fans of Disney parks, we understood why. Amy and I often discussed how much we would enjoy visiting the Disneyland Resort with either of her sisters and their families, but we knew it was a demanding prospect. All desire to visit aside, unless a person has buckets of money, taking a group of any size on that particular vacation falls somewhere between impractical and impossible. Related: again, the Duffins are eight people. Continue reading “Byways, Distractions, and Introductions – Disneyland October 2012 Day Four”

The Long, Hot, Crowded Day – Disneyland October 2012 Day Three

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

— Benjamin Franklin

At least once per vacation Amy and I snooze our alarms too often and have to rush to make a morning deadline. On day three of the trip, October 14th, my parents had made reservations for the entire group to enjoy “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” at the Plaza Inn in Disneyland. True to form, we erupted out of bed like flushed grouse about forty-five minutes after the alarm started going off and started the day with manic action.

Sometimes it's a challenge just getting to the gates...
Sometimes it’s a challenge just getting to the gates…

So far, we had enjoyed an unhurried, high-calorie, high-carbohydrate breakfast at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. Today, we had another leisurely, gluttonous meal with Minnie Mouse and her friends at the Plaza Inn. Our phones were bleeping with text messages from my Mom as we flew out the door with minutes to the reservation deadline. She was making sure we were well on our way, and, fair to say, we were not.

The line we joined at the security checkpoint was at least 50 yards long, although it went faster than I expected. The line for the front gates was about the same, and it sped right along, as well. We only had the length of Main Street, USA between us and the Plaza Inn. Continue reading “The Long, Hot, Crowded Day – Disneyland October 2012 Day Three”