Cast Members and Guests
In most places, the people who work at a business are called Employees - or maybe Associates or Team Members. The folks they're serving are called customers. But not at Disneyland, where they have their own particular words to describe them.
At Disneyland, the hard-working people who keep the place running are called Cast Members. That's because they're putting on a show. In fact, the public areas of the park are called On Stage, and the behind-the-scenes bits are Backstage.
That’s you. You’re not a customer - or a visitor - or a patron - or even the audience. Instead, you’re their guest. They have been using that word since the park first opened in 1955. Think about it: Doesn't an unhappy guest sound like a bigger problem than an unhappy customer?
The short definition of the rope drop: One of the most fun things you can do at Disneyland. It's so much fun that this Baby Boomer nearly cried from excitement when I did it for the first time.
On selected days - which they don’t announce in advance - Disneyland opens its gates about 30 minutes before the official opening time.
You can get into Main Street USA and make your way to the hub near the “Partners” statue. Look for Cast Members holding ropes across the path. Stand in the line that forms in front of the Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Friends statue and leads straight to the castle.
Exactly at opening time, you’ll hear a welcome announcement and they will drop the rope. Everyone there is super-excited to be in that first rush of people who can’t wait to get into the Disney magic.
Park Hopper Ticket
The hopper I'm talking about isn't Roger Rabbit or J. Thaddeus Toad.
Instead, it’s a ticketing option that can be confusing, judging from how often I see Guests discussing it with Cast Members.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure require separate entry tickets. You can buy a one day one park ticket that allows you to get inside just one of them, which is a money-saver.
If you want to “hop” between the parks, visiting both of them on the same day, that’s a Park Hopper. Which costs more.
You'll find a more in-depth discussion of ticket types and prices here. No matter which ticket type you choose, you can pay a little less for it if you use these tips for getting Disneyland discounts.
Single Rider Line
I'm not talking about the marital status of someone who’s going on a Disneyland ride here.
Instead, Single Rider is one of the best ways to get through long lines at some of the busier rides faster. When the Cast Member seating Guests ends up with just one empty seat, they fill it from the Single Rider line.
If you are alone - or if you and your pals are willing to split up for a short time, getting into that line can save you a lot of time. Not all rides offer the option. Just look for a Single Rider sign at the entrance. They’re also marked on the park map.
When I took this photo, I got onto Soarin' in just a few minutes as a Single Rider. I could have come back an hour later with a FASTPASS or stood in the Stand By line for about 45 minutes, but why?
Child Swap, Rider Switch, Baby Switch, Stroller Pass
You'll see it called Child Swap, Rider Switch, Baby Switch or Stroller Pass, but some parents might call it a lifesaver.
It's a simple solution to a common problem, custom-made for two or more adults who want to enjoy an attraction and are with kids who can't or don't want to go.
Instead of standing in line twice, everyone gets in line.
To use Rider Switch, go to the attraction and find the Cast Member who is greeting new arrivals. If you have a FASTPASS for the ride, go to the FASTPASS return entrance.
You will divide into two groups: first riders and supervisor(s) who stay with the non-riding kids. Your party can have up to three supervisors, who must be at least 14 years old. First riders will get in line right away.
Cast Members will scan the supervisors’ tickets and they get a return time to use after the first party is done riding. When the supervising adults arrive during their time window, Cast Members will scan their tickets and they can enter the line and board without waiting in the regular queue.
Extra Magic Hours, Magic Morning
The generic term is "early entry." It's a benefit for guests in Disney hotels and their Good Neighbors. You may also get early entry with multi-day tickets.
The concept is simple: You can get into one of the parks before the general public. You may think that's a big plus - but it's not as great as it sounds. Only part of the park will be open; everyone will rush to the same rides and lines are still long.
The character host takes care of the character and the Guests who want to meet them. They keep everything running smoothly, but without becoming obvious - most of the time. When I snapped this photo, chipmunk Dale was playing with his host, making him ring the Fire Station bell.
Character hosts follow strict rules about how long the character can be out. They also help manage Guests standing in line, so no one is left behind when the character leaves.
If you want to have the best possible character experience, make the Character Host your friend. Be nice to them. Former hosts say that super-nice Guests sometimes get little extras for themselves and their little ones by making the Host’s day nicer, not nastier.
Disney divides their characters into types. The way you encounter each one is different.
Characters in full costume with their faces covered - like Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse or Chip and Dale - are called “fuzzies.” Even though Goofy's face is smooth, he's still a fuzzy because the Cast Member's face is covered.
Some small children find fuzzies intimidating, while others just want to hug the stuffings out of them.
Because their costumes are hot and cumbersome, fuzzies spend less time in the park per visit than face characters. That means you have to hustle to get in line in time to greet them.
Fuzzy characters have challenges signing autographs. Their costumes' big, clumsy hands make holding a tiny ink pen difficult. Bring a sharpie or a chunky pen they can hold onto.
Fuzzies look out through the costume's eyes or through the mouth. If it seems like they're nearsighted and have to get the book up close to sign it - or if they look like they're about to eat your autograph book - now you know why.
Face characters wear their own faces, like Cinderella, Mary Poppins, Ariel or Aladdin.
Face characters may feel more inviting to smaller children who are scared of the fuzzies. They also stay out longer per session.
I found Mary Poppins and Bert (who is called Herbert Alfred on Sundays) outside the Jolly Holiday Bakery - where else would they be?
You don’t get to eat the characters at a Disneyland character meal. That is unless you devour a Mickey Mouse waffle. You don’t sit down and have a meal with a character, either.
At a super-fun character meal in the parks or in the On Property hotels, you’ll get to meet and greet a lot of characters while you dine. Find out all about meeting the characters and character meals in this guide.
These rides are darker than a Disney villain dressed in black, but the definition is simple.
A “dark” ride is an indoor ride that uses black lights. Among them are Snow White's Scary Adventure, Pinocchio's Daring Journey, Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and Alice in Wonderland.
You’re more likely to hear Guests say “E-Ticket” than Cast Members. It's a term that describes the most exciting rides in the park.
It goes back to a ticketing system that ended in 1982. Before that, Guests purchased an entrance ticket and bought coupons for individual rides. The coupons carried the letters A, B, C and D. “A” attractions were the least popular (and cheapest).
In 1959, Disney added an “E” ticket for the attractions people wanted to enjoy the most. You can see the list of those from 1968 in the photo. The system was phased out in 1982, but some people still say “E-Ticket” ride.
Today, that E-ticket list would probably include these most popular Disneyland attractions.
Good Neighbor Hotel
I hope that all the hotels around Disneyland are good neighbors, but that’s not what this means.
Some privately-owned hotels in the area are affiliated with Disney and called Good Neighbor Hotels, You can reserve them as part of a Disney package, possibly get early entry privileges and you might get a small gift as part of your package. That's all somewhat useful, but other factors may be more important to you.
Instead of choosing where you stay because of affiliation with Disney, use this guide to finding the best Disneyland hotel for you.