I heard the best time to go to Disneyland is Super Bowl Sunday.
That’s because no one goes on the unofficial national holiday, when even churches are closed.
According to the Nielsen Company (a global information, data and measurement group), over 111 million people watched the Super Bowl last year. Compare that to the Oscars with fewer than 33 million viewers, or game 1 of the 2017 World Series with almost 15 million viewers.
Back in June, my brother called to tell me he was planning a trip to Disneyland for his 40th birthday. He suggested we celebrate the milestone on the day of all Disneyland days: Super Bowl Sunday!
My 14-year-old son, who loves Disneyland, asked why, if the park is so empty on that day, we’d never gone before. Sounding more like the teenager, I said, “I dunno.”
I have a serious question for all those who dropped 100 bills on a Tom Brady football jersey only to go to Disneyland on the day his Patriots were going after their sixth Super Bowl ring: Why would you do that?
It’s not that I don’t like people. I just don’t like standing behind thousands of them in lines that make the 405 Freeway look like a brief wait, especially after giving Disney all that money we thought we saved by not going on the European vacation we really wanted to take over the summer.
I sprinted through the huge, ambling crowds that weren’t supposed to be in the park that day to get on as many rides as possible and make the visit worth the cost, my brother and son right on my tail.
“Dad, can you wait up?” my kid called out.
“Yeah,” I said. “Oh, that wasn’t hypothetical?”
Two lands away were my wife of over 17 years and sister-in-law, who were both done with the breakneck pace at which we were moving to see as many audio-animatronic ghosts, pirates and hippos as inhumanely possible. Humans we were not.
“Dad, you have to think of others,” my son said. “Like, what if we bump into someone I know? And they see me running? What would they think?”
My wife and sister-in-law had equally annoying comments: “Disneyland isn’t about rides,” they said. “It’s about family.”
“Of course it’s about family,” I replied. “But if we don’t hurry through these crowds, we won’t, as a family, be able to get our ride count off one hand.”
It was in line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride that I recalled a family tradition I created that I could mention to my wife and put me back in good standing.
I got on my phone and pulled up the photos of my son and me posing next to Mr. Toad’s statue located in the ride queue. The first time we took the picture, my son was 2 years old and on my shoulders.
We warned the people behind us that we’d be trying to recapture the same pose from 12 years earlier, with my son on my shoulders again.
The kid gained some weight since last time. There was also some wobbling this time, and we almost fell over the stanchions in an effort to get the shot off quickly so we wouldn’t annoy anyone more than eager to fill in the gaps of the line.
It was the most fun we had all day. But it was sad. The little guy wasn’t little anymore. As he paired the first picture and latest picture together using a photo-editing app on his phone, I realized he was also no longer in need of my assistance anymore—he had to show me how to “airdrop” the old photo from my phone to his.
Yes, Disneyland is about much more than simply getting on rides you’ve been on a 100 times before.
Although I just heard the new best time to go is in March. So we can make up for the rides we didn’t get on by going to the park again this month.
This story appeared in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in February of 2018. You can find other stories like it from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at MichaelPicarellaColumn.com.