About the Column

For years, Jeff Heimbuch has been writing about Disney. Many of his articles have appeared in Celebrations Magazine. But Jeff has always had a little '626' inside him anxious to come out. Unlike his column's namesake, Stitch, he might not paint the Castle blue, but he will paint the park red with entertaining stories, fascinating insights, and daring ... experiments.

Disney Swag: The T-Shirt

Get yours now!

Subscribe to Disney Dispatch Digest

And receive a daily email summary of new stuff on the site.

FROM: The 626 Published Fridays

Alone at Disneyland

One is the loneliest number (that you'll ever do), even at Disneyland, but Jeff Heimbuch finds the lie in those lyrics as he pilots his way solo through the park and discovers that it isn't so bad. In fact, it's pretty darn good!

As you probably know, I came back recently from a trip to Disneyland. While it was my first time back in over 20 years, it also marked another milestone for me: it was my first time visiting the Parks all by myself.

That's right - I was "that guy", the one you see wandering the park solo, standing in lines by himself.

Creepy Single Guy?

I'm sure some of you have seen other folks all by their lonesome in the Parks before. Sometimes you see them in line, eyes averted, trying to keep themselves occupied by talking on the phone or just staring into space. I know I've seen that person before. Many times, in fact. And truth be told, I've always felt a little bad for them. I mean, how can you go to a Disney Park alone and still have a good time?

I took about 10 photos of Sleeping Beauty Castle in a 4 second span to create this HDR.

I followed the Columbia around the Rivers.

Another shot of the Columbia.

No one in your family can judge you when you're by yourself taking photos of garbage cans.

I was able to take every single photo I wanted of the Haunted Mansion.

I took individual photos of every tombstone in the Pet Cemetery.

You find great stuff when you're exploring alone - like this little Jungle Cruise joke that often goes unseen!

Mr. Incredible looks a little sassy.

I was able to sit and enjoy their music for the full set.

A photo of the Tower of Terror that I made from about 7 others.

Needless to say, I was a little worried about my trip. I didn't want people to feel pity for me as I wandered solo. Those fears came to fruition the first few hours I was there, but it was all my own doing. It seemed like all eyes were on me as I walked down the pathways and rode the rides. The question of "Just one?" from Cast Members working the attractions seemed to take on a mocking tone the first few times I heard it. Could I possibly take this pressure the entire trip? Could I sustain myself and occupy my time? Could I stand the fact that I had no one else with me, telling me what they wanted to do, pulling me in two different directions at once...?

Free at Last!

Wait a second... that last thought got stuck in my head around the same time I was waiting for The Jungle Cruise. No one else there telling me what to do? NO ONE else telling ME what to do?! That was pure genius! It eased me into calmness. Yes, I was alone in the Happiest Place on Earth. Yes, I didn't have anyone there with me to chat with at all times. But that meant I was free... free to go where I wanted, do what I wanted, when I wanted, no matter what!

About an hour into my little trip, it was if a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. I looked at the Parks in a brand new light. I was going to do this trip my way, just how I wanted. Now, those "Just one?" questions from Cast Members weren't mocking... they were liberating! "You get to get to do whatever you want? Lucky you!" those Cast Members thought. The staring eyes of other Guests became glares of envy. Anytime I would pass someone else who was alone, we would nod to each other, as if we were members of a secret club that only we knew about. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but I was reinvigorated. Time to hit the Park, the right way!

The Single Rider Line

There are plenty of advantages to visiting the Disney Parks alone. For starters, I probably got on more attractions this time around than any other visit I've ever had. Most of the major attractions have this wonderful little thing called "The Single Rider Line." Now, some of you may marvel at the wonder that is FastPass, but let me assure you that Single Rider is far superior in every way. I cannot tell you how many times I walked up to an attraction and saw that it had a long wait (and long is subjective here, considering the Park wasn't all that crowded to begin with).

For example, my first night there, I wanted to go on Indiana Jones & the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. It was one of my "must do" rides for the night. But the line was 45 minutes long, and I just didn't have those 45 minutes before going to see a show. But, through the magic of being by myself, I was able to board the ride within 5 minutes via the Single Rider line. It was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I rode it again right after that.

The Single Rider line became my best friend that weekend, and I don't think I would have survived without it!

Taking Photos, Making Friends

Another great thing about being in the Parks alone is photography. You may have remembered from my earlier columns that I took over 2000 photos in my brief time in the park. That's a LOT of pictures. For those of you out there dating, married to, know, or have a photographer in your family, you know how annoying it can be to visit Disney with them. We want to take pictures of EVERYTHING. And I literally mean everything: from the most minute detail all the way to vast skylines, we want it all.

In the past, I've often annoyed significant others and family members by taking photos when they wanted to get somewhere. Not this time around - I was able to stop, and stand, and take as many photographs as I wanted. I was able to stand on a line, and let other people go in front of me until I got the shot I wanted juuuuuust right. In fact, most people were elated by the fact I wasn't holding the line up, and letting them go in front of me. I got more photos during my 2-1/2 days in Disneyland than I did on any other Disney trip. That's pretty amazing!

Despite the fact that I was there alone, that didn't actually mean that I was there alone. I made friends. With everyone. Quite literally! From Cast Members to other Guests, I talked to everyone around me to make the time go faster. Stuck in the line for Space Mountain for an hour (because it has no Single Rider line)? No problem! Make friends with the family of four in front of you! Riding the Fire Engine down Main Street, U.S.A? Strike up a conversation with the mother and daughter sharing your ride! I made more friends this trip than on any other - a few of which I am still in contact with (hey, I have to get more Cast Members to interview for From the Mouth of the Mouse from somewhere, right?).

Every time I go to Disney, I have a tradition: I wear my Blue Barracudas t-shirt from the old Nickelodeon show Legends of the Hidden Temple. And every time, without fail, people say something to me about it. Everytime. It's become sort of a running joke between me and my family, because it always happens.

To me, this was the best way to make new friends. I have no problem starting conversations with other people, but it was an instant conversation starter for them to help break the ice when folks approached me.

Running around before Rope Drop even happens was a constant for me, so by 1:00 P.M., I was ready for a nap every day. Being by myself made it much easier to just go back to the room and relax for a few hours to recharge before heading back to the parks at night. This was another huge perk for me.

Happy Endings

Now, that's not to say it wasn't all fantastic. I'm a social butterfly by nature, and I absolutely love exploring the Parks with family and loved ones. During some meals, when things quieted down, I would get a little melancholy that I didn't have anyone there to enjoy it with. I missed them. But that's to be expected, of course. I just told myself that the next time I was there, I would be with my friends and family, so to enjoy the experience I had now while I could.

Overall, once I got over the initial shock of being alone, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have a new outlook on other folks when I see them wandering the Park alone. Now more than ever, if they're standing next to me in line, I'll be sure to chat with them.

And be sure that you do too - because who knows, you may be the next one to experience Disney by yourself!

Follow me on Twitter for updates!

More: The 626

Stuff Not to Skip