No friends, no family? No problem! It’s a small world after all. (Photo: Erica Bray)
I took myself to Disneyland, as a party of one. No family, no friends, no children, no significant other — just me.
For some people, this might sound depressing. Isn’t Disneyland meant for families, friends, and couples? How can The Happiest Place on Earth be a truly happy experience without people to share it with?
I’m here to tell you: It was one of the best days of my life. And I would do it again.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (Photo: Getty Images)
Although I attempted to find others to join me for the day and had some hesitation about visiting solo (fear of lonely loser-dom), I decided that the bigger regret would have been not going simply because of these concerns. I was in southern California for only a few days and had just one open day in my schedule to go. And didn’t I read somewhere that 72% of women are planning to travel solo this year?
Plus, hadn’t I learned anything about courage from Disney characters like Ariel? If she could battle an evil octopus witch to experience a life beyond the sea, I could spend a day at Disneyland alone. The evil octopus witch in my case was simply my own insecurity and self-pity.
Ariel — my idol (Photo: Jennie Park Photography/Flickr)
So with the melody of “Let It Go” on repeat in my head, I placed a pair of sparkly pink Minnie Mouse ears atop it to explore Disneyland — solo.
I experienced a number of perks that just may inspire you to consider doing the same.
No need for compromise: I got to do all of the things that I wanted without question or debate. This included spending a significant amount of time exploring technological innovations at Tomorrowland, which would have annoyed some of my friends and family. I also strategically leveraged the free Disney FASTPASS system to make reservations on the rides I wanted to ride, when I wanted to ride them.
Use Disney’s FASTPASS when you want to skip the lines. (Photo: Sam Kim/Flickr)
The single rider line: Some major rides include a line specifically for solo riders. Among them: Indiana Jones Adventure, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Splash Mountain. When not using the FASTPASS system, these lines significantly cut down on wait times.
Crowds at Disneyland (Photo: Sam Kim/Flickr)
Weave through crowds with ease: I was like a stealthy ninja navigating my way through the park. Families pushing strollers and clutching kids and diaper bags could only dream of performing some of the maneuvers that got me zipping around Disneyland so quickly.
Impress the Disney characters: I got a high-five from Mickey when I told him I was visiting solo. Goofy gave me a hug. And Cinderella called me “brave.”
Goofy gives good hugs. (Photo: Erica Bray)
Front row seat for parades: I was able to secure a prime seat for Disney extravaganzas, no problem. It’s much easier for other visitors to make room for one person as opposed to two or five.
When you’re flying solo, this could be your view. (Photo: Erica Bray)
High-fives in the lines: One of my friends suggested bringing an iPod and listening to music while waiting in the lines. I didn’t want to tune out the 360-degree Disney experience, so I instead used that time to engage with kids in the lines. The waiting time became less awkward, and I received a few more (pint-sized) high-fives in the process.
Special treatment? All guests receive a “warm welcome,” according to Disneyland. However, I rode Space Mountain not once, but twice — in the front seat. Coincidence? Or did the ride attendants make me feel extra special because I was a party of one?
Double your pleasure, double your fun — while flying solo. (Photo: Erica Bray)
Group rides: On the rides with larger vehicles, I didn’t have an obvious empty seat beside me, and that made me feel like part of a group. Those rides include: Mark Twain Riverboat, the Jungle Cruise, Star Tours, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Mark Twain Riverboat (Photo: Andy Castro/Flickr)
Real-time bragging rights: Friends and family were in the palm of my hand — literally. I sent continual photo updates through texting and Facebook on my smartphone, allowing loved ones to share in my experience as most of them were toiling away at work.
On-the-go dining: Disneyland has plenty of grab-and-go food options to avoid the solitary sit-down meal. I indulged my inner 8-year-old with cookies, corn dogs, and ice cream.
Cookies for lunch: No diets were harmed in the making of this on-the-go snack. (Photo: Erica Bray)
No judgment: Despite being at Disneyland by myself, I felt a special camaraderie with everyone enjoying the temporary fantasy fostered. After all, it’s hard for others to pass judgment if they, too, are donning mouse ears.
Erica Bray is a travel marketing consultant, yoga teacher, and writer based in Chicago. She had a hard time parting with her sparkly pink Minnie Mouse ears, gifting them to her 3-year-old niece, Audrey.