We sure were there. The week prior we set our alarm clock to wake up an hour earlier each morning so we could practice going to bed early. On July 16th we went to bed at 7 pm and woke up at 11 pm to stand in line. Once in DCA we slept from 3 am to 6 am. Soon after the line started moving.
We decided to get to the park before opening so we left the house just after 6 a.m. and arrived at the parking structure around 7 a.m. All lanes were open and there were hardly any vehicles entering at this time. We were parked on the second level, which was probably only 1/4 full. It didn't seem to be that busy.
We decided to take our usual walk from the structure through Downtown Disney. As we were approached the ESPN Zone, a guy on a bicycle passed us by and told us that it was crazy ahead and that there was a five-hour wait. We weren't sure whether to believe him but were more convinced when we saw the line extending to the valet parking section of the Downtown Disney lot.
Kathy got in line while I walked ahead to see exactly what was going on. I could not believe how many people were there. The line Kathy was waiting in was for the monorail. But there was another line that, I assumed, began at the security checkpoint and went all the way to the Lego store, stretched across the bridge to the other side and went towards the tram loading. I didn't even make it to the end of the line before heading back.
The monorail line moved a bit but it was probably because people left our line to get into the other. I have no idea whether our decision to stay in the monorail line was the right one or not. The other line had to accommodate the thousands of people who had camped out in Disney's California Adventure overnight.
Disneyland opened at 8 a.m. and we assumed that monorail service would begin at this time but the first one didn't depart the station until almost 20 minutes after the hour. That departure and each subsequent arriving train were hailed with applause. Only Monorail Red and Monorail Purple were operating but they seemed to make it back to the station fairly quickly. We'd be on the fifth train to the park.
Bag check went smoothly and we gave our tickets to the cast member who ran them through the turnstile and stamped our hand for readmission and probably to mark us as having received our special gifts. Another cast member gave us each special gold Mickey Mouse ears and commemorative guidemaps for both Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. I thought it was cool when he said thanks for coming and visiting today.
It didn't seem that busy in Tomorrowland when we got off the monorail. The Matterhorn wasn't in operation yet but they had an extra large queue set up with a sign indicating a 90-minute wait from the end point. The walkways around the castle were blocked off so we made our way to the entrance of Tomorrowland near Triton's Gardens. There we got a peek at the hordes of people on in the Hub and down Main Street.
We went back into Tomorrowland and went to the train station to see the Ward Kimball in service for the first time. I wasn't able to get very good pictures, which bummed me out. Space Mountain's FastPasses were already taken upto 4:30 p.m. and the line was probably about two-hours long. There were ropes all throughout the area separating walkways from viewing areas of a giant monitor that was set up on the Space Mountain terrace. The screen was playing historic clips of Disneyland and would later show the morning's ceremony taking place in the castle courtyard.
I got a place in one of the viewing areas and Kathy checked out the day-of merchandise at the Star Trader. She bought me a T-shirt and got a magnet and keychain. We got into the area about 40 minutes before the 10 a.m. start time. Eventually, all of the viewing areas in Tomorrowland had filled and the cast members working crowd control told people wishing to view the ceremony on the monitor that they'd have to do so at the one set up near it's a small world.
Just after 10, the ceremony started. Among the speakers were Art Linkletter, Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Diane Disney Miller. It really was a great, touching ceremony and made me glad that we decided to brave the crowds and celebrate this special day.
After singing Happy Birthday and shooting off fireworks, the ceremony was done and all of the people on Main Street pushed forward into the farther corners of Disneyland. Many people headed to Tomorrowland to hit up the newly opened Space Mountain. We tried to wait it out for a little while but it was so busy we decided to head down Main Street towards the exit.
It was almost noon when we finished our business and exited the park. There werenít that many people coming in to Disneyland. Many of the turnstiles had only a few guests coming through. Hardly anyone was buying admission passes. Hardly anyone was entering through the security tents. And few people were walking through Downtown Disney. It was quite a different sight than a few hours before.
We had lunch at Whitewater Snacks at the Grand Californian before walking back through Downtown Disney and back to the Mickey and Friends parking structure. It definitely didnít seem as busy as most Saturdays that we visit. The Pinocchio parking lot wasnít being used, though the structure itself seemed to have more cars remaining than we often find when we leave in the early afternoon.
It was great to visit Disneyland on its 50th anniversary. Iím glad that we made the trip down there. Even though we waited two hours to get into the park, the time went quickly and we felt like we had achieved our ďwe were thereĒ moment. I got choked up a couple of times through the ceremony. I was happy to finally see the Ward Kimball in action. The gifts were very nice, especially the Disneyland souvenir map with the original reproduction on the backside. Iím glad to have had the chance to attend.
I was there. A truly magical day. 23 hrs at Disneyland seemed to fly by. I was with the blue wristbanders at Paradise Pier. Almost everything about that day was perfect for us. I love days like that. Hope I get to be at the 100th.