2011 turned out to be a pretty amazing year. Nearly all of the major Southern California parks gained new rides, shows, or eateries. The Little Mermaid, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, The Green Lantern, Superman: Escape From Krypton, Roadrunner Express, Legoland's Star Wars Miniland, San Diego Zoo's expanded Panda Trek exhibit, SeaWorld's Turtle Reef and Riptide Rescue, there was more than enough to see. Today's update will focus on how to survive the Disneyland resort during New Years, the return of the Calico Mine Train at Knott's and a few other bits of news as we brace for 2012. But, before we begin, we invite all of our readers to take park in MiceChat's annual Southern California Theme Park Awards for 2011. We are asking all who have enjoyed the fun of 2011 to take part in voting for their favorites. The results will be released next week so don't waste time! Get voting and spread the word!

2011 is all but over . . . Vote here for the MiceChat Southern California Theme Park Awards for 2011. We invite all to take part in the poll and let us know what your favorites were from this past year. Winners will be announced in next week's IN THE PARKS.


Disneyland is ready for New Years Eve. Well, almost. Last week a pair of accidents at the pyrotechnics platform backstage put a sudden, but temporary, halt to the nightly fireworks. The accident happened just prior to the Christmas weekend and left Disneyland with one set of shells already loaded and ready for another show. No new shows will continue until OSHA inspects for work place safety issues and clear the platform to be loaded for future fireworks shows. OSHA came in on Tuesday morning of this week, but there is still no word on whether or not Disney has been cleared to load up the platform in time for Saturday's New Years celebration. This could have a huge effect on crowd levels and patterns if they don't get the okay by Saturday morning. We will keep you updated with any breaking information (please follow our TWITTER and/or FACEBOOK pages for breaking news). In the meantime, we will offer advice on dealing with the massive crowds anticipated for the New Years weekend. They may show up, they may not (especially if it is announced that there will be no fireworks). Regardless, this is good advice for any busy day at the park.

The Disneyland Resort is rarely busier than on New Years Eve. Thousands of people flood into the 56 year old theme park to share in the celebration of a new year and to see one of the most astounding fireworks displays in existence. As the crowd levels swell to well over 75,000 inside Disneyland alone, things can become nothing short of oppressive. But, there are ways to succeed in having a wonderful time at the park despite these conditions. It just takes a little bit of planning, a lot of patience, and some realistic expectations.

Arrive at opening:
The scheduled park hours for Disneyland are 8am-2am on December 31. There will be Magic Morning hours, a program that allows resort hotel guests early entry into the park, so there will already be a fair amount of people inside the park before official opening.

Anticipate the lines at the security tents.

Arrive early and get in line. The gates will open at about 7:30 to allow guests into the Main Street area for holding until 8am. Use this time to rent lockers if you need them, get a quick snack or coffee, or stop by City Hall for guest assistance if needed.



Check Reentry Status Before Leaving The Park:
Because of rolling ticket sales restrictions, based on attendance in either Disneyland or DCA, guests who plan on exiting the parks need to remember to get their hand stamped. If you do not have both your admission media (Yes, this includes pass holders at peak times) and a hand stamp when you reenter, you may very well not be admitted into the park until restrictions are lifted. In the highest level of entry restrictions, even guests with a hand stamp are denied reentry - so it is ALWAYS a good idea to ask what the current reentry status is BEFORE leaving the park on an extremely crowded day. If you are denied first entry or reentry, we advise asking a front gate castmember where the stand by line is for entry. As regular guests leave the park, some new or returning guests will be allowed to enter. Find the official standby line and wait. We've had to do this in the past and were able to reenter within an hour (no guarantees, but it is your best option)

Bank Your FastPasses:
Embrace the joy of FastPass. You Disneyland experts may already know this, but even though your FastPass has a window of time in which you are asked to return, you can really show up any time AFTER that reservation time begins. This means that even though your fastPass asked you to return at, say, 1pm-2pm, you could use it anytime the rest of the day AFTER 1pm. Another thing to remember is that your FastPass has very important information in the fine print on the ticket.

Another FASTPASS will be available when?

People normally just scan the ticket for the return time. But, if you stop to look at the print at the bottom of the ticket, it will explain the exact moment that you can obtain another FastPass ticket. This availability often starts the second your ticketed return time starts, but is sometimes earlier (especially if your return time is hours away from the current time). It pays to read the fine print.The strategy we offer is to start the day off at rope drop and head to your favorite ride that offers FastPass. Get your FastPass right away but do not ride. Instead, take note of when you will be able to get another FastPass and proceed to another ride that does not offer FastPass. When the "Another FastPass Ticket" time comes up, select another ride that offers FastPass and get another ticket. Do this throughout the day and by the end of the evening you will be able to walk on to some of the more popular attractions when wait times are at their worst.If you plan on park hopping between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, you have another advantage. You see, the two FastPass networks for each park are not interconnected. This means that even though you may not be able to get a FastPass until 2pm inside Disneyland, you can get one over in Disney California Adventure where another network of FastPass rides are on their own clock. This practice will allow you to see more of the park during the busiest day of the year.

World of Color Fast Pass:
If you plan to see World Of Color, our advice is to grab a FastPass right away. The World of Color Fast Passes are not connected to the network and are more of a reservation system for that particular show. You can also buy dining packages that will allow you a fast pass to any show you select. Last year, Disney offered a special line for those wishing to obtain FastPass for the Midnight show. If it is your goal to see the Midnight showing, ask a castmember if there is a special queue for that showing.

Did we mention the crowds? Yeah, the parks have been experiencing record crowds this week peaking at close to 100,000 combined attendance in the parks. This means that there will be teaming masses of people all looking to have fun. Many of which will have partaken in libations. Know what you are getting into and go with the flow. If you expect to be jostled around and move at a snails pace, then you won't be as upset when you find yourself in that exact situation. If you have patience it will go a long long way toward helping you have a truly happy new year.

This was the wait time board 30 minutes after Disneyland opening on Tuesday (before the park was even crowded yet).

The area in front of Big Thunder Mountain and the 45 minute wait just an hour after opening.

The high-capacity Pirates of the Caribbean was sporting almost an hour wait.

Matterhorn hovered at an hour wait all day on Tuesday.

The normal queue was not large enough at Matterhorn to handle the crowds so temporary tape line queues were set up.

Lesser Crowded Rides and Attractions:
Disneyland is pretty good about reminding guests about the crowds and where you might want to go to avoid them. But some great places to go hang out on busy days are...

The 12 minute run time of this classic show is usually just enough time to rest your feet and relax for a bit.

Ride the Mark Twain or Sailing Ship Columbia for a few moments of calm.

Now that Christmas is over, few are visiting Santa or his reindeer. . .
great time for you to stop by!

A guided tour might be a great idea for a mid-day diversion. Some other great suggestions for attractions with low crowds or wait times are the following:
  1. [*=left]Captain EO
    [*=left]Great Moments with Mr Lincoln
    [*=left]Grand Circle Tour of Disneyland aboard the Disneyland Railroad (some locations may have long lines while others do not, but the trains rarely have longer than a 20 minute wait)
    [*=left]Single Rider option on Splash Mountain
    [*=left]Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer's Island
    [*=left]Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes
    [*=left]Tarzan's Treehouse
    [*=left]Winnie the Pooh

Places to Avoid:
Stay out of Adventureland. Just don't go there unless you are headed back to Indy with a FastPass in your hand. Avoid the parade route through the center of the park during parade times (2:30pm and 5:50pm on December 31st). Unless you have camped out all day, stay away from the hub close to the two fireworks shows. That is, if the fireworks continue without a hitch. Lastly, Fantasyland during the day will be a zoo of craziness. Best avoid that until sundown when many families begin to leave the park.

Yes. A 50 minute wait for a spinner attraction.

Small World almost always has a huge wait on NYE but . . . the queue is cut off before the parade starts and you will often be able to waltz directly into Small World after the parade (another reason to watch the parade from the viewing platform next to Small World)!

The wild card to fireworks this year is whether or not OSHA has cleared Disneyland to offer the show. Assuming that they are, it is good advice to stake your spot in front of the castle the moment that the park opens. If you really don't mind where you see the fireworks, then you are free to roam about (Small World Mall and New Orleans Square offer good alternative viewing). Be advised that even though you may want to plop down right in the center of the street, there is still an operating theme park around you. You won't be able to reserve a spot in the street until some time after the last parade of the day.

Food Service:
One of the most frustrating things to do on NYE is find food and drink. Waits can be well over an hour, just to order at counter serve restaurants like Hungry Bear and Village Haus. A few tips. First, eat well before going to the park if you can. Avoid eating inside the park during peak times. Try dining before or after the lunch and dinner rush. If you can, pack some sandwiches and bottled water and bring them with you. If you've got kids, bring snacks or you'll be waiting in long lines for food instead of long lines for rides. Long lines either way, but at least you can be snacking while waiting to ride! The ice cream window on center street will likely be open on NYE (next to the lockers on Main Street), they line will be half of what you'd wait at the Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street. The Candy Palace will be swamped, but you might find shorter lines at Pooh Corner in Critter Country. Some ODV carts in near Matterhorn and in Frontierland will have shorter lines than at the restaurants. You can get a meal inside the Golden Horseshoe (most people don't know that, so you'll wait less inside than by going to the Stage Door Cafe next door. The quick service location with the most windows is Tomorrowland Terrace. The sandwich windows on the side closest to Buzz Lightyear are usually a fraction of the length of the windows that serve burgers. Keep that in mind.

Consider making reservations (or priority seating in Disney Speak) if you plan to dine inside the park or resort area. Here is the number to Disney Dining: (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 At least one sit down meal during the day is a good idea for no other reason than to get away, sit and have a break from the chaos.

This is our best advice for enjoying the parks in spite of the large crowds. The keys are preparation, knowledge and patience. We do hope that these pointers were helpful. We invite you to post your own personal suggestions for attending on New Years Eve in the comments below.

Traditionally, California Adventure has had a small crowd on New Years Eve compared to Disneyland. However, if Disneyland cancels fireworks, you can expect many folks to flock to DCA instead to see World of Color. Keep tabs on the fireworks before deciding which park to attend on NYE. Now, let's take stock of the recent progress on the projects inside Disney California Adventure.

The heart of the 1.2 Billion dollar redo of Disney California Adventure is the 1920's Los Angeles inspired Buena Vista Street. Building shapes and scale are coming into perspective as the framing for the highest points of the skyline are really starting to come together. We also see the curbsides forming in Buena Vista Circle.

The framework for the buildings just beyond the entrance to DCA have appeared.

Inside the entrance, and behind the construction walls, a garden of steel girders awaits further detail.

Inside the stores, work continues as well.

In this shot of the Buena Vista Circle, you can notice the curbs for the street being built at bottom right. The curved double wooden form is where the curbs will be.

A variety of facades forming.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Carthay Circle in all her glory!

Neon lighting will be a key element in the atmosphere of Cars Land at night. The signs have begun installation and they promise to be truly beautiful.

Somewhere we are sure that Eric Lynxwiler's jaw is hitting the floor (Eric is a curator of the Museum of Neon Art in Los Angeles and a MiceChatter as well).

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree finally gets its sign

A look at the rides musical centerpiece.

The Courthouse

The Cozy Cones

The entrance into Cars Land from Pacific Wharf

Knott's Berry Farm braces for the New Year Crowds by welcoming back two beloved attractions and offering a full night of frivolities.

The Clueless Remixcelebration a great place to ring in 2012.There will be two dance floors at Knott's this year, including salsa instruction line dancing Beatles tribute band Abbey Road will be performing as well as and The Clueless Remix featuring DJ Reeso!There will also be a special performance of Snoopy on Ice and family- friendly comedian Dick Hardwick. Camp Snoopy will be open with rides and shows for the young and the young at heart including
The Calico Mine Train returned this week with a brand new lift hill chain inside and a reworked entrance on the outside. The ride hasn't looked this good in years and is ready for the holiday crowds.

The new mine themed entrance archway.

ELF MOUNTAIN:If you haven't ridden it yet, get on Elf Mountain by the end of the week. Great fun.

The Sky Cabin has finally returned to operation to the delight of many Knott's enthusiasts, including us.

A view from on high.

On the way back to the parking lot we spotted some interesting work going on backstage. A foundation has been prepared for something. We're sure that one of you knows what this is for. . . we are awaiting your responses below (or send us a message).

The park was still decked out for Christmas and actually had Christmas music playing throughout.

Buccaneer is back from it's refurb and looks great!

The Queen Mary in Long Beach hosts its annual New Year's Eve on and around the ship. This year there are 7 entertainment venues with dancing and live music including big band, jazz, dueling pianos, a DJ and more. The price may seem a little steep, but consider that this is a package of entertainment on the historic ship with 7 different clubs and a big fireworks show at midnight.
Tickets are $99.99, combo party and dinner tickets are available If you want to eat aboard the ship there are also combo packages available. We hear that Sir Winston's is amazing. The event starts at 7 pm and goes until 1:30 am.

NEW YEARS AT CITYWALK: Universal CityWalk has a huge outdoor New Year's Eve Countdown Bash that's free! There will be live music and DJs beginning at 9 pm, and fireworks from 2 ends of the street at midnight. Get there before 6pm though as parking rates have doubled since last year. The event begins at 9pm and runs until 12:30am.

NEW YEARS EVE BLOCK PARTY:If you are in the OC area, the OC Fairgrounds Block Party iOS probably going to be the best bang for your buck. Starting at $40 (Parking is an additional $10) there are multiple live music stages gripped by 70's, 80's, 90's music, a huge dance floor with live DJ's, games, dueling pianos, a comedy stage, food, games and fireworks at midnight. What's more, if you are willing to pay a few bucks more ($55), you can have a season pass to the entire run of the OC Fair when it returns in the summer. Not bad.Click here for more info and tickets

DEAL ALERT - We've Arranged Some Special Hotel Deals For You With Our Newest Sponsor...
  • MiceChatters enjoy exclusive rates: Standard Rooms starting at $89/night and Concierge level rooms starting at just $109 - this is up to 60% off the going rate! FANTASTIC DEAL.
  • The Carousel offers FREE continental breakfast and FREE valet parking for MiceChatters ONLY (be sure to ask for the MiceChat offer).
Staying at the Carousel has its benefits too.
  • Less than a 5 minute walk to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the Downtown Disney District.
Contact the Carousel today, and for the lowest rates, be sure to tell them MiceChat sent you.
Call: 1(800)854-6767 to book your stay today!

Today's update was edited by Fishbulb and Dustysage and brought to you by members of our fantastic and talented crew of photographers and news contributors. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact Dusty today.)

Are you following us?

Show us you appreciate this column share this page with your friends and family!

Would you like to be part of this crew?
Do you have a park, zoo or botanical garden that you'd like to share with our readers?
We are looking for Southern California theme park reporters. We'd love to hear from you! Please contact dustysage@micechat.com.

Thank you for reading today's special end of the year update. We are eternally thankful for you, our fantastic and supportive readers. We'd like to wish each of you a safe and happy New Years Eve and hope that 2012 is your best year ever!