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Monday, July 21, 2014

to all who come to this happy place; welcome

birthdays are a big deal at disneyland.  like, i'd say that 1 out of every - oh, maybe 5 or so people that you encounter as you walk through the parks is likely celebrating a birthday.  cast members are trained to chirp out a cheerful "happy birthday" to everyone they come across with one of those things on.  and they encourage the celebrations here with complimentary birthday buttons, which you can get from city hall on the disneyland side, or the chamber of commerce at california adventure.

next year, disneyland itself will celebrate their 60th birthday.  and to kick off the big milestone, the disney parks blog hosted one of those fabulous meet-ups - announced via social media with limited RSVPs on their website.  i was incredibly lucky to get in on this particular one, because it was full to capacity in under five minutes.  crazy.  but at least i was allowed to bring a guest.  i'm sure you can guess who i took with me.

for some reason, the entrance to the giant parking structure is constantly blocked off by anaheim p.d.  i don't get it.  i mean, the thing holds something crazy like 10,000 freaking cars.  and the times are random - we've arrived at 9am, noon, 2pm - and for no good reason often find ourselves rerouted to another of disney's parking areas.  and so over the last couple of months, whenever we visit we don't even bother checking anymore.  instead, we drive straight over to the toy story parking lot, which seems to be an easier option anyway.

check-in for the meet-up was supposed to conclude at 9:45 that morning, and i was starting to sweat a little (and not just because it was humid as hell that day).  we stepped off of the bus at 9:30 and found ourselves standing in line for the security check with all these other people:

predictably, the cast members had their shit together and whipped through all of those people in no time at all.  and with about 10 minutes to spare, we were here:

this granted us access to all the fun stuff the meetup organizers had planned for us.

and then we were escorted through a side gate and underneath the famous archway to the happiest place on earth.

a special birthday ceremony was scheduled for 10am that morning, and as meetup attendees we got to sashay right through the crowds into a reserved area for us and other VIPs.

because we were at the tail end of check-in, we ended up off to one side.  but we were in the front row, so we still had a great view.

i snagged this from the official disneyland twitter account, just to share it with you.  i'm nice like that.  the roped-off area is where walt disney himself stood 59 years ago on disneyland's opening day and welcomed everyone to the land he'd built to share joy and inspiration with the world.

right on time, the dapper dans (disneyland's beloved barbershop quartet) arrived to serenade the crowd with a few of the park's most famous tunes (the tiki room song, it's a small world, etc.).

the crowd was abuzz with excitement when the cavalcade of 59 characters came parading out to join the party.

it was really fun to watch them all, and as they danced and sang we got the crap startled out of us several times with confetti cannons, streamers, and fireworks.  the birthday banner gave way to the special 60th diamond anniversary disneyland logo, revealed to the public for the first time at that very moment.

the characters rotated during the show so that everyone got a chance to see them all.

and then it was over.  bye for now!

we got a closer look at the new logo and walt's microphone.  it's super lame of me, i know, but i totally got goosebumps looking at that thing.  that's a big ass piece of disneyland history, right there.

our special guest reception took place in the opera house, where the lincoln show normally plays to about five people at a time (the bean is usually one of them, which means i'm also there...very begrudgingly).  but today, the place was packed.

inside, there were fancy cupcakes and hidden mickey-adorned water dispensers.

the decor on the tables reflected the fancy-schmancy diamond theme we'll be seeing for the next year and a half.  reminded us of "frozen."

 as we munched on those cupcakes, we wandered into the next room and found a friend.

and another, who seemed to be waiting for her turn to pose with - wait for it - frozen's anna and elsa.

the line was long for the photo ops, but nowhere near the typical 2+ hour wait to meet arendelle royalty out in the park.  of course, right as we were approaching the front of the line, a cast member came over to announce that anna and elsa were going to take a quick break and be back in 15 minutes.  i asked if we could leave and return later for another shot to meet the princesses, and instead, he motioned to them that we'd be their last visitors before break time.  so nice!  i suppose the smiles and the lash-batting i may have done could have worked in our favor there.  i dunno.  in any case...

she kind of hated me for making her do this one.

but mickey made up for it.  big time.  i love this picture so much.

here's the details on the newest photo contest for the anniversary.  they're looking for awesome shots from the last six decades, with some pretty sweet prizes at stake.

speaking of prizes, here's the swag we got at check-in:  park hopper passes for the day, a fastpass for that night's showing of "world of color" at california adventure, and a voucher for a meetup attendee gift.  that's always the best part, and we were really excited to see what we were going to receive.

as we crossed through the lobby of the building, we exchanged those vouchers for a giant decorated logo cookie offered up on a silver platter by tuxedoed dudes. and then in the next room, we were greeted by another sharp-dressed man with our special gifts (sorry, guy, didn't mean to startle you with my scary camera):

more swag.  that right there is a limited-edition 60th diamond anniversary paperweight in a keepsake box, along with a booklet of what appeared to be the OG tickets they used to sell for the rides.  back in the day, you paid a nominal admission fee and then had to buy tickets for the attractions.  there were several categories (lettered A, B, C, D, and E) of tickets at different prices, and they ranged from sucky stuff for A tickets like the carousel up to the awesome stuff like the matterhorn and pirates of the caribbean for E tickets.

but these were SO WAY BETTER than those ride tickets.  these were FASTPASSES for all the best rides in both parks, divided up based on the decade they debuted in.  typically, you can only get one fastpass at a time.  this was major VIP status shit right here, you guys.  it was phenomenal.  we flipped through them all, carved out a plan of attack, and set off to make the most of the few hours we had to play with.  we had to leave by 3 to be able to pick up the bean from her summer school field trip, and we had our work cut out for us.

each fastpass offered a choice of several attractions from that particular decade.  like, the 50s ticket listed the jungle cruise, alice in wonderland, and autopia.  we opted for the alice ride, since it was newly reopened after a lengthy (but much-needed) refurbishment.

from there, we skipped a decade into the 70s.  having ridden big thunder the last time we were there, we decided to head over to space mountain - also recently reopened after a sprucing-up.

oh - i forgot to mention that each booklet contained a tear-out copy of each ticket, so that the pretty, colorful tickets could remain intact and serve as yet another cool souvenir.  i love how thoughtful disneyland is with stuff like that.

in the 90s we got two rides in toontown - gadget's go coaster and roger rabbit''s car toon spin, plus the winner - indiana jones adventure.  love that ride.

the 80s ticket offered up pinocchio's daring adventure (no), star tours, and splash mountain, which happened to be celebrating its 25th birthday that very day.  plus, there was a commemorative poster for annual passholders, so we snapped one up after the ride.

our ride photo from splash mountain is probably one of my all-time favorites.  people are always doing silly poses for that shot, and when the teen said she was planning on doing the captain america salute, i figured i might as well cheese it up too.  why not, right?

the 60s ticket was kind of a snoozer - the tiki room, small world, and the haunted mansion.  we decided to skip it altogether and headed over to california adventure to grab some lunch and finish off the rest of our fastpasses.  since we'd never been before, we grabbed a table at the cove bar overlooking the water at paradise pier and ordered some delicious grub.  the teen chose some sort of lemonade concoction topped with a lemon-lime foam.

we shared some spinach and artichoke dip.

the flatbread pizza of the day was right up her alley - bbq chicken.

and i finally got to try their famous lobster nachos.  you need these in your life.

we had a pretty fabulous view from our table.

one of our remaining two tickets offered up something highly sought-after.  fastpasses for the radiator springs racers ride in cars land are extremely hard to come by, and are typically all gone within about half an hour of rope drop when the park first opens for the day.  it's crazy.  and so when we saw this:

well, it was a foregone conclusion.  there wasn't even a question about it.  we got onto the ride in less time than even the folks waiting in the single rider lines did.

the 00's ticket was for either california screamin', soaring over california, or the tower of terror.  and now this ride photo is my all-time favorite.  i seriously cackle every time i look at it.

hell, i'm laughing right now.  i'm just so easily amused.

hey, look - a selfie with mr. incredible!  sorta.

the celebration for disneyland's 60th anniversary officially kicks off next spring.  rumors are a-flyin' about what to expect - the return of the nostalgic main street electrical parade, diamond decorations all over the resort, another day of 24 hours straight in the parks, more ride refurbishments.  i just hope we can sweet-talk the hub into renewing our passes again for 2015 so that we can fully enjoy whatever they throw our way.

and here's a couple more photos i lifted from twitter and facebook - as much as i adore disneyland in its current form, i really love seeing vintage photos of how things used to be.

happy birthday, disneyland!  you don't look a day over...uh, 57.

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