Sunday, March 18, 2012

Disneyland (Pt. II): Hidden gems

The happiest place to use a restroom.
Let me warn you now that the title of this post is absolutely misleading. My dad and I were talking earlier today about what I would write about were I to have a whole column devoted to Disneyland and as a joke his response was "You could write about your favorite bathrooms."

Of course, I brushed off the suggestion, aware that he was lampooning my desire to write about the Happiest Place on Earth whenever I could. But just to show him that I can turn any random topic into a worthwhile blog entry, I'm going to tell you all about one of my favorite hidden gems of the Disney parks: the restrooms.

When I first started going to Disneyland with my high school friends several years ago, I remember holding arguments with my friend Kristin about whether or not either of us had been to every single bathroom at the Disney parks. "Well what about that one in front of California Adventure?" Kristin asked. "There isn't one there," I responded. These fights would go on for much longer than they should have, with little development and even less purpose.

Once we started going to the parks regularly together, we really did try out all the facilities. And we figured out which ones were our favorites, which ones we needn't frequent quite so much and which ones we could hoard to ourselves while other park guests waited in lines outside the smaller, more visible restrooms.

At Disneyland, there are three types of bathroom to which you may choose to go.

The first type is the highly visible, very cramped type.

A good example of this is the restroom you encounter when you arrive in Adventureland, right past the Enchanted Tiki Room. Straddling Frontierland and Adventureland, there is literally no way you can miss this place.

It has become such a staple of bathroom-going at Disneyland that you will be hard-pressed to find a time from opening until closing during which people are not sitting outside waiting for their loved ones to hurry up and go on having a merry day at the parks. It's practically an institution of restrooming and in being such, draws a huge line despite its fairly large size.

I hate waiting in lines for something that is not a luxury. I'm fine queuing for rides or artery-clogging popcorn and soft pretzels, but why should I have to wait to use a toilet? The answer is simply that I shouldn't. Which is why I avoid the first type of bathroom - the ones that push people together like sardines just to use the facilities.

Other locations with this problem include: The Pinocchio restroom between Fantasyland and Frontierland, The New Orleans Square restroom between Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion and the Space Mountain restroom that greets you as you exit the ride.

The second type is the themed restroom, a step-up from the disgusting overcrowded rooms mentioned above.

My favorite bathroom in all of the Disneyland Resort falls under this category.

The Alice in Wonderland restroom features rooms for "Kings" and "Queens" with stall doors that are decorated like playing cards. Once you walk outside you meet some adorable lantern lights with glass cut-outs shaped like hearts. It's one of the best bathroom ambiances I have ever experienced and still my favorite restroom in Disneyland despite it not being the most accessible.

The value of a themed restroom is truly the joy of being at Disneyland overall. Half the fun of going to the parks is getting to experience fantasy life wherever you turn, and even the most mundane thing like going to the bathroom can be turned into an event if the stall doors are decorated like cards in a deck.

I don't always appreciate what a great thing I have available to me in Disneyland - it's a safe, happy place where I can go fairly regularly (like my peers might go to a park or a mall), and enjoy the presence of friends or family through wholesome entertainment. But sometimes the best moments to recall that wholesomeness are when you are pretending to be a queen entering her royal wastechamber, with lovely thematic elements that make life feel just a bit more cartoony and infinitely more fun.

Other thematic bathrooms include: The Bugs Land restroom in California Adventure which is made to look like a tissue box and the Princess Fantasy Faire bathroom near It's a Small World and Toontown which is dedicated exclusively to Princes and Princesses.

But the best type of restroom I have saved for last and it is (drumroll, please) the secret hideaway bathroom!

Be aware that in this next section I will be giving you insider information that only the most seasoned Disney attendees know. You should be thanking me. Please note that I do accept gifts.

When you go to Disneyland as often as I do, you're bound to figure out the secrets of the park. Or at least your own secrets of the park.

I have little stories about going to Disneyland from as young as toddlerhood (when I would sing showtunes in front of my dad at a little stage near Thunder Mountain) to teenagehood (when one of my best friends supposedly lost her phone in the Rivers of America when we were paddling a canoe). And I also have a compendium of knowledge about the most special secret of Disneyland: the hideaway bathrooms.

As I mentioned before, it is very frustrating to have to wait in line for a bathroom (at least for me it is). After spending so much of the day queuing for rides and attractions and food, being denied access to a necessity like a toilet is not something I appreciate.

So over the years I've developed my go-to bathrooms that are just so out of the way that they are never quite as populated as their cousins.

One of the best of this kind is the Hungry Bear restroom. The Hungry Bear is situated next to the Winnie the Pooh dark ride and across the way from Splash Mountain. It is an outdoor dining facility with two levels of seating and one of the most strategically hidden bathrooms I have ever seen.

Nestled underneath the main level of the Hungry Bear is this restroom which few know about. Perhaps it's because the Hungry Bear was closed for many moons only to reopen a few years ago. Or perhaps it's because people relieve themselves on Splash Mountain and feel no need to find a restroom after going on the ride (you're welcome for that mental image).

Either way, I have always prided myself in knowing the location of this hidden gem.

Other hidden bathrooms include: The handicapped toilet at the California Golden Vine Winery and the restroom between Autopia and Innoventions in Tomorrowland.

I know a lot of things about Disneyland. Through going to the park for nearly two decades, I have absorbed a ton of random knowledge on the resort that, in my opinion, gives me license to call myself a junior tour guide.

But one of the greatest assets to my Disneyland expertise is my awareness of the most fundamental offerings of the park: the facilities. Back when I was in high school, I thought I knew where all the bathrooms were. I thought I'd used them all.

A few years later - I realized I was right. While it may not take a rocket scientist to figure out where all the bathrooms are at a theme park, it does take a pretty well-versed visitor to be able to compartmentalize them into preferred categories.

So while my dad may mock, I pride myself in this ridiculous piece of knowledge that I hold over anyone else who goes to the Disney parks with me - I know the bathrooms.

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