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Theme Park in Anaheim, CA

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How to enjoy Disneyland on a Crowded Day

  • Oct 28, 2009
  • by
My favorite time to go to Disneyland is on an overcast day in January or February when the only limitation on the number of attractions you can ride is your ability to walk briskly from one to another.  Sometimes, though, you have no choice but to go on a crowded day (e.g. you have relatives in from out of town or it is your wife's birthday).  How can anyone have a good time at Disneyland when the line for Space Mountain is 2 hours?

Well, there are two main options:
  1. You can seek to maximize your number of rides and minimize your wait times by gaming the FASTPASS system.  There are a number of sites that will give you techniques and algorithms for doing this (e.g. this one).  Since this topic has been pretty well covered, I am going to focus on option #2 for this review.
  2. You can skip the lines (and the rides) and enjoy the other forms of unique entertainment that Disneyland has to offer.

Unlike most other theme parks, Disneyland still features a host of musicians, artisans, and entertainers in addition to the well-known thrill rides, costumed characters, and parades.  When you enter the gate, you are given a one page handout included within the park map entitled Disneyland Entertainment Times Guide.  Carefully reviewing this guide is the key to enjoying Disneyland on a busy day.

Disneyland Entertainment Times Guide

This entertainment guide will give you all you need to know to enjoy yourself at Disneyland without waiting in lines.  The times and locations of the stage shows and live entertainment are provided in this guide.  Here is a sampling of the live shows you will find at Disneyland:

  • Dapper Dans
The Dapper Dans are a traditional barbershop quartet that performs about 7 times a day in and around Main Street U.S.A., so you can easily catch one or more of their performances.  As you might expect, their vocals are top-notch, but they also have a great report with the audience and include a number of humorous surprises in their shows.
Dapper Dans

  • Billy Hill & The Hillbillies
This show used to be known as the Golden Horseshoe Review.  It is held in an indoor theater in Frontierland.  This is a good choice in the afternoon on a hot day.  If you get there a little early, you can get your choice of the seats.  These "fiddle" players are excellent musicians with a little slapstick humor thrown in for good measure.
  • Laughing Stock, Co.
This comedy troupe performs in front of the Golden Horseshoe Stage 7 times a day.  Each performance is a standalone vignette that forms part of a serial story.  So you can enjoy just one or perhaps you will be enticed to come back for more.  I certainly have been.  There is more slapstick here, as well as audience participation, so be careful.  :-)
  • Tomorrowland Terrace Bands
On weekend evenings, you can find a band playing at the Tomorrowland Terrace.  They will usually play four or five 20-30 minute sets.  These bands are usually tribute bands or cover bands, so you will be familiar with the music. 

  • Jump, Jive, Boogie Swing Party
On Saturday evenings, you can join the Jump, Jive, Boogie Swing Party at the Plaza Garden Stage.  If you like to swing dance, this is a must-see attraction for you.  But even if you don't, you will have fun watching the excellent dancers who make it a habit to come out on Saturday nights.  The live music is vintage 40's and 50's.  Where else can you find this kind of live entertainment?
  • Jedi Training
You'll find Jedi Training six times a day at the Tomorrowland Terrace.  It is mainly oriented toward pre-school children, but I think the adults have as much fun watching as the kids do training.  The instructors are quite humorous with that unique blend of something for both the kids and the adults.  Darth Vader never fails to make an appearance as well.  The training class is always the same, but it never gets old because of the continuous stream of fresh recruits.
  • Ragtime Piano
You can find ragtime piano each day at the refreshment corner area of Main Street U.S.A.  These guys are professionals, but humble enough to interact with the crowd and even take a request now and then.  They also like to encourage budding young pianists in the audience by inviting them up to take a turn at tickling the ivories.  I love to hear live piano played up close, especially this energetic, uniquely American style.

  • Pastels and Caricatures
In the back alleys of New Orleans Square, you can find both pastel artists and caricature artists.  Caricatures are fun to watch, but I especially enjoy watching the pastels.  When I was 7, my Dad and I had a pastel done of the two of us.  It has now become somewhat of a family heirloom.  Watching these artists is a relaxing time that affords you the rare opportunity of seeing an artist practicing their craft.  You can schedule a stop here after riding Pirates of the Caribbean.

  • Silhouettes
On Main Street U.S.A., you can find the forgotten craft of silhouette making.  I am continually amazed that someone can create a realistic representation of a profile using just a pair of scissors and paper.  You don't learn this by taking a weekend course.  This is true craftsmanship and I recommend you stop in to watch at least one being created.
  • Old "E-Ticket" rides
In the olden days at Disneyland, you used to need a separate ticket to ride each attraction.  The best rides required an "E" ticket, the most coveted and valuable ticket.  Since those days, the rides have gotten much fancier and more thrilling.  However, most of the old "E" ticket rides are still around.  And nowadays, the lines for these rides are much shorter.  So on a crowded day, take a step back in time and ride the popular rides of old and appreciate the technology and imagination of that day long ago (even if you were not around to enjoy it back then).

Like I said at the beginning, it is far better to enjoy Disneyland on an uncrowded day.  However, if reality dictates that you must spend your $72 on a busy day, you are not forced to endure endless hours of waiting in line to ride a handful of momentary rides.  You can combine wise and efficient use of the FASTPASS system with a special focus on the more human side of being entertained.  There is nothing better than observing and appreciating someone who is an expert at what they do, whether it be singing, dancing, playing music, drawing, cutting, or joking.  All this and more is available to you at Disneyland, while others are spending 2+ hours waiting in line to ride Space Mountain for less than 3 minutes.  Yay, Mickey!!!
Disneyland Tomorrowland Terrace - Scot Bruce Dapper Dans at Disneyland

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August 07, 2011
I agree that January or February is the best time to go to Disney !
March 29, 2011
Awesome review! You did a great job of highlighting all the good parts and yes, much better to visit on a day that there's not much people because those lines can get obnoxious!
June 11, 2010
Outstanding review! Hope that one day I have the opportunity to get out there for a visit. Love the photos and the detailed descriptions about various attractions in the park. Reminds me a bit of Opryland in Nashville which I had a chance to visit in 1990.
June 11, 2010
Thanks for the compliment! It means a lot coming from you. I think you would really enjoy Disneyland. Just be careful on a crowded day! :-)
October 28, 2009
Love this review, Dave!  I didn't realize that there was so much more to do at Disneyland beside ride rides.  I especially like the sound of those old school rides that require the E-ticket!  Another thing that could go on the list is Club 33, though it's pretty hard to get in apparently...
October 28, 2009
Love. this. review!! I need to get some old school tickets next time I go. So up my alley!!
October 28, 2009
This is an Awesome Review Dave! What a great take on enjoying Disneyland...I have not been there in awhile, but we are planning a trip and I am going to make sure to hit some of these attractions. Thanks.
October 28, 2009
Great Review!!! I must agree that the best time to go is when it's not hot and there's no one there! As a SoCal resident I have invested in the Annual Pass for the last 3 years. They have a great system set up now where you can actually finance payments on your annual pass. After $99 down I pay $7.50 per month to go to Disneyland. Sure does beat paying $72 for one day and I can get discount at restaurants too! The Pass is great because you can drive out to Disneyland, grab dinner ride 2 or 3 rides then go home without feeling that you didn't get your money's worth. Great Friday night activity!
More Disneyland reviews
review by . July 14, 2009
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review by . October 23, 2009
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review by . February 27, 2009
I always think of fond memories when I think of Disneyland.  I'm a born and bred Orange County kid at heart and can't count the number of times I've been there.      Now living in Texas, I definitely miss having it right up the freeway from me.  Going on a nice warm summer day was the greatest!  Sure, you have to beat the crowds just about all day, but that's part of the fun... and their "Fast Pass" system makes things a lot easier.    My …
review by . May 23, 2008
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review by . December 07, 2006
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review by . November 07, 2005
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About the reviewer
David P. Nesbitt ()
Ranked #58
Soul: The first thing to know about me is that my worldview is decidedly Christian. Therefore, my chief end in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. My content on this site and my life in general … more
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Disneyland is an American theme park in Anaheim, California, owned and operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts division of The Walt Disney Company. It was dedicated with a press preview on July 17, 1955, in ceremonies led by Walt Disney and opened to the general public the following day. Disneyland holds the distinction of being the only theme park to be designed, built, opened, and operated by Walt Disney.

Currently the park has been visited by more than 515 million guests since it opened, including presidents, royalty and other heads of state. In 1998, the theme park was re-branded Disneyland Park to distinguish it from the larger Disneyland Resort complex. In 2007, over 14,800,000 people visited the park making it the second most visited park in the world, behind the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

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