The Amateur Parker Ö
Park Disneyland Park
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
I went to Disneyland almost every year of my childhood, and during the past three years since my address and the age of my children qualified me for an annual pass, Iíve been to the park just about once a month.
You could say I am a Disneyland junkie, but you would be wrong. I donít have Disney bumper stickers or Disney Christmas tree ornaments. No mouse ears with my name embroidered across the brim, no souvenir T-shirts, earrings, lockets or costumes. My kids donít even watch Disney videos, although thatís mostly because they are all absolutely terrifying Ė dragons, dead mothers, evil octopi, witches, wicked stepmothers and heroines with 10-inch waists.
I enjoy Disneyland for all the reasons other Americans do, but I donít worship the Disney brand. So, you canít call me a junkie, but you can call me a minor expert at negotiating the highways and byways around the Magic Kingdom. Inside the park, I can get you anywhere you want to go from Frontierland to Fantasyland, including all restrooms, water fountains, vendors selling sweet things, and more recent discoveries, the motherís room and the corndog stand. Iím not too sloppy at California Adventure, either.
But youíre never going to get into the park if you donít park. And parking at the Disneyland parking structure is an adventure all its own. Itís not as if Disney needs any more publicity, so Iíd never waste this much ink on it if the subject werenít so undeniably fascinating. The fact that it took 140,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the structure is staggering all by itself.
When I was a child, you simply pulled into the lot, hopped on the tram and headed into the best day of your life. But I wasnít driving or paying attention back then, so the details I remember are limited. It has been ďreportedĒ that if you lost your car, you could tell an attendant what time you entered the lot and he or she could deliver you to within 20 feet of your vehicle. My ďresearch,Ē conducted over the Internet, tells me the original Disneyland parking lot served up 15,167 spaces on 100 acres Ė all organized alphabetically by names of Disney characters. But that was a long time ago.
Driving into Disneyland nowadays is like participating in a military maneuver. One of the two carpool lanes on the 5 Freeway dumps directly into the entrance to Disneyís parking structure. This means spoiled Southern Californians like me can sail into the park without even changing lanes. From the entrance, 10 lanes (equipped with motion sensors) open up ahead, and each leads to a payment booth (where you are greeted with smiles and felicitations). Then the dance begins.
Parking guides point, wave, gesture and grin each car toward the path of least resistance. Strategically placed pylons help shepherd vehicles into the bowels of the 3.8 million-square-foot structure and onto a series of ramps to the designated level (there are six in all), and then to the designated aisle and then to the designated space (there are 10,225 of them).
If the park is crowded, this synchronized caravan can drag along for 15 minutes. On a slow day, youíre out of your car and strolling toward the tram in 10 minutes. If you end up parking on the roof, which is said to be the size of 14 NFL football fields, you know the place is going to be mobbed.
Hereís where it gets a little tricky. The place is so big that parking your car doesnít mean you know where you are supposed to go next. But the parking spaces all point toward the pedestrian trail, which leads to the elevators and three of the longest escalators you will ever see.
Get yourselves and your followers to the tram level, and the parking part is over. You also can note that the tram is my 5-year-old daughterís favorite ride at Disneyland, a detail that causes me some irritation.
The tram will take you directly to an unnamed part of the park, where your bags will be inspected, you will wait in line to buy tickets, and then you will stand in another line to enter the Magic Kingdom. Once inside, you might stand in several other lines for most of the rest of the day. If you leave the park having experienced more than three rides and the parade, you can call that an excellent day at Disneyland.
In 2007, more than 14.8 million people visited Disneyland. I was one of them. And the road to happy Mickey memories is a long one with many stops and bumps. Maybe my description was too complicated to seem positive, but I donít see how they could do it any other way. And every time I visit the park, I am impressed with the way the parking structure works.
They say Walt Disney was a fastidious and imaginative man. He was dead a long time before his parkís concrete moon was put in place, but I think heíd be proud of it. What I canít figure out is how a corporation that can produce and maintain a parking facility of such magnitude and operate an entertaiment venue that is always perfectly clean, well-staffed and entirely unique, canít manage to serve a decent bean burrito.
Youíll figure out the parking with or without my input, so if I tell you anything about Disneyland, itís donít eat the beans.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is PTís amateur parker and proofreader. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.
Article Abstract from March, 2009