Normally, I'm quite neurotic about thoroughly planning Disneyland trips. Normally, I plan my trips in advance to fall during less-crowded times of year, I make reservations for the best Disneyland restaurants and I find hotel and airfare deals for my anticipated travel dates. However, when Disney announced on New Year's Eve that Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida would both be open for 24 consecutive hours, from 6 a.m. on Februrary 29 until 6 a.m. on March 1, for Leap Day, in what it dubbed its "One More Disney Day" promotion, I didn't have the luxury of much of my normal planning before I booked the trip.
To most average Disney guests, these 24-hour days might not have much appeal. To someone who spends weeks in the theme parks each year, the promotion had much more allure, as it was closest equivalent to stepping into one of the popular Kingdom Keepers books. The idea of spending the wee hours of the night roaming around Disneyland sounded pretty fun to me, as did seeing the sunrise over Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Spending those overnight hours in Disneyland wasn't sufficient for me, and I'm just crazy enough that I thought it would be a good idea to spend all 24 hours in the park. I thus embarked my journey at 4:15 a.m. on February 29 when I arrived outside the esplanade between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to find a line already filled with thousands of like-minded Disney fans. Some of them had been there since 10 p.m. the previous night! I'm curious as to how many of those who showed up at 10 p.m. stayed in Disneyland until 6 a.m. on March 1. Now that would be real dedication!
Although it seems like "One More Disney Day" was born out of a marketing team's desire to give Disney free media coverage and exposure that might lead to some increased bookings later in the year rather than for the business it would drive on Leap Day (after all, how many tourists would book a vacation for a one-day event with just over two months' notice?), the park was actually quite busy. So busy, in fact, that it actually reached capacity in the evening hours on February 29 and caused traffic gridlock on the roads around Disneyland.
Prior to this evening rush, the day was not much busier than a normal day at Disneyland. It did differ in a few regards, namely due to the presence of news crews covering the park and the production crew and cast for the ABC television show Modern Family, which was shooting an upcoming episode of the show that is set in Disneyland. For someone who had never seen on-location shooting like this, it was pretty fascinating to watch. The crew would quarantine off small areas of the park from regular park guests, fill it with cast and extras who looked like model park guests, shoot a scene and quickly move on to their next location and repeat the process.
While Disneyland was crowded in the evening and overnight hours, it was also a lot of fun. Most restaurants had special menu items that were returning guest favorites of old, there were special dance parties in the park, a special 1 a.m. showing of "Fantasmic!" and photo opportunities with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters in pajamas rounded out the slate of special offerings for this "extra" day in Disneyland. Beyond this slate of entertainment, there was a real energy to the park, as most guests there seemed excited to merely be a part of the unique promotion.
With the assistance of plenty of coffee and other highly caffeinated beverages, I was able to last all 24 hours of "One More Disney Day" at Disneyland on Leap Day. It was an incredibly fun experience and quite different from a normal day I'd spend in Disneyland. At the end of the day, as I stood on Main Street gazing at Sleeping Beauty Castle with the other last-standing guests, there was a real energy in the air -- almost as if we all had a real sense of achievement about making it through the night. When the announcement came on that the day was over and that Disneyland was closed, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. It seemed odd, and rare, for people to be excited that Disneyland was closing, but after the whirlwind day that I had, I was a little excited to finally head to bed!