Last year on Leap Day, California's Disneyland and Florida's Magic Kingdom opened their gates to the general public for 24 consecutive hours. The stunt squeezed an extra day of park going into 2012 – and prompted a sugar rush among Disneyphiles. Thousands of fans lined up before dawn. Crowds overwhelmed the park. Lines for rides grew past two hours long. Gridlock gripped the streets surrounding Disneyland.
Eventually Disneyland had to close its gates for a spell.
So this year, what did Disney do? Friday it opened three of its parks for 24 consecutive hours -- Disney California Adventure as well as Disneyland and Magic Kingdom – to help kick off the summer travel season.
Disney used the synchronized openings to promote the soon-to-be-released "Monsters University" movie, while showcasing new attractions in Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Disney also learned its lesson, bringing in extra police and asking annual pass holders to carpool to help avoid some of the congestion problems it faced last year.
Like last year, people jumped at the rare opportunity for an extended stay in a Disney park. There were a few reports of gridlocked traffic and long lines, but things this weekend seemed to go smoother than in 2012. Anthony Aragon and his family of five traveled from New Mexico to Disneyland, where they stayed up late and were decked out in "Monsters"-themed "24 Hours: It's Eye Mazing" T-shirts and tons of Disney pins. "We had planned this vacation way back in January, and we did not know that the 24-hour thing was going to be [happening]," Aragon said. "We are big fans of Disney, we come here once a year, then we found out this was gonna be going on tonight. We like the pins, the shirts, everything about Disney, and we're happy to be here." In Florida, many were so enthusiastic they dressed as "Monsters" characters, despite Florida humidity and temperatures that reached past 90 degrees.
Among those on the scene was AOL Travel's Jake Thiewes. He made the rare bi-coastal park appearance in one day. He joined the Disneyphiles before dawn on Friday in Orlando, flew across country and made it Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, where he almost stayed up long enough to catch the California sunrise. His slideshow diary of spending almost 24 consecutive hours in the world of Disney is below.
24 Hours of Disney: On Location
Ever think the regular park hours at Disney World or Disneyland just aren't long enough? This weekend, Disney agrees. For the second time in the company's history, parks in Florida and California alike will be open for 24 hours to kick off what Disney has dubbed "Monstrous Summer."
The parks opened at 6 a.m. local time on Friday and will remain open until 6 a.m. Saturday. Thousands of Disney fans are attending, and Disney is hosting us there with them on both coasts. Check back right here over the weekend for coverage of what it's like to spend 24 hours straight immersed in Disney, or follow along with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Cars started rolling into the Magic Kingdom's parking lot at 4 a.m.
Crowds of people are lined up outside Orlando's Magic Kingdom, waiting for the 6 a.m. opening of the park.
A shot from earlier today: It's a hot spot for photo ops, and . . . it's the restrooms.
Elsewhere, several people I've spoken to are at the Magic Kingdom to celebrate birthdays. You get a special button if it's your day and Disney cast members make a big deal wherever you go.
The buttons were given out at the entry gate to everyone. Shirts are for sale, today only.
Time to catch a plane. My journey moves to Anaheim as I cover the 2nd half of the 24-hour #MonstrousSummer kickoff in #Disneyland.
We're in Anaheim, checking in at the Grand Californian! Noisy here. Little kids with tons of energy! #monstroussummer
The "Monsters University" promos were all over the place, including on the end of pens.
Anthony Aragon and his family of five traveled from New Mexico to Disneyland, where they stayed up late and were decked out in "Monsters"-themed "24 Hours: It's Eye Mazing" T-shirts and tons of Disney pins.
It's 1 a.m. in Anaheim. We're having a parade.
After starting my morning at 4:30 a.m. in Orlando, I lasted until 1:30 a.m. Anaheim time. I made it 24 hours. At that point I headed to bed, leaving the park to Cinderella and the rest of the all-nighters.
My first visit to Disney World at age 3.
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