Wake up extra early? Check. First in line at the bus? Check. Through the ticket gate and in time for Rope Drop? Check. Take digital SLR camera out in preparation of Welcome Show? Check. Take 1 test picture? Check. Drop camera and have pieces fly everywhere? Check. That was how we started our 2016 Walt Disney World vacation and the reason I became familiar with Disney PhotoPass.
The purpose of this blog post is to save you having to go to the trouble of smashing your camera to find out about Disney PhotoPass. We recently traveled to Disneyland and now I’m sharing my knowledge of the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland with you!
What is Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland?
Disney has photographers located at most key photo spots (more on this below) where they will take your photo with their professional, high quality, digital cameras. The photographer will initially give you a bar code (via app, web, or a card) that links to your photos. You can continue to give this bar code to each photographer and the pictures get added to your account. A full list of photos included in the Disney PhotoPass is listed in the paragraphs that follow. After your vacation you can download your photos within 45 days. Trust me, it’s easy to use!
Why I Like the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland:
Saves you from bringing a camera.
We rely on our phones for the majority of our photos, but we still want some vacation memories we can frame. The Disney PhotoPass pictures are top quality and perfect for framing.
You can be in your vacation photos.
No more playing photographer or asking a stranger to do that. We also like that some photos don’t look like you’re at Disneyland – they look like we sweat a lot and then hired a professional photographer for family photos.
It is a good value to buy a Disney PhotoPass, especially if you want Dining Photos.
One day is $39 and one week is $78.
Disney PhotoPass Options + Pricing
You can purchase a one day Disney PhotoPass for $39 or a one week Disney PhotoPass for $78. The photos covered by both options include:
Disney PhotoPass photos (including RunDisney race photos and photos from character greetings).
Dining photos (i.e., the coveted Mickey Mouse family photo from PCH Grill).
Magic shots (i.e., photos with embellishments added by the photographer).
The price for the Disney PhotoPass at Disneyland doesn’t change based on when you purchase it. Unlike the Walt Disney World Memory Maker, the price for a Disney PhotoPass doesn’t increase if you buy it last minute. Also, when you buy it isn’t the same as when you activate it. I bought mine on a Monday, but didn’t activate it until the Thursday when we encountered Mickey Mouse out for an unexpected stroll.
One thing that surprised me was the cost of Dining Photos at the character dining restaurants. If I recall correctly, the photo package at Goofy’s Kitchen was almost $40 and if I didn’t already have the PhotoPass I’d be horrible at saying no. A person actually comes to your table with your photos printed out in a beautiful portfolio, which also includes recipes from the restaurant you’re at and they sell it as a package. Thankfully, if you have the Disney PhotoPass and can show that it is active for that time (take out the App and voila) then you get the digital pictures without having to buy the printed out package.
Stop for Photos
If you’ve spent the money on the Disney PhotoPass, make sure you stop and get your photos taken. Using the Disneyland App you can view where the photographers are located. That said, it is pretty intuitive – almost all of the must have photo spots have a Disney photographer present.
I mentioned above that you can get some photos taken that don’t look like you’re at Disneyland. This adds to the versatility of the Disney PhotoPass because now you have some great professional looking family photos that you don’t necessarily associate with a Disney vacation.
Also if you’re on an attraction that has photos, you’ll want to stop at the end and record the code associated with your photo so you can link it to your Disney PhotoPass account later. I found it easiest to snap a picture with my phone of the code rather than try to enter it on the App in the moment.
Tip: if you want a less crowded Castle picture then get it taken earlier in the day. However, we’ve never had a problem with the number of people floating through the background of our photos.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for a Magic Shot
We weren’t having any magic shots offered to us so towards the end of our trip I asked a photographer if they could take a Magic Shot. The photographer was happy to do so, but didn’t tell me what “magic” they’d be adding. The photographer only advised how to pose. I’m really happy with how the magic shot turned out and its extra special since we were in Disneyland for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.
Alternative to Disney PhotoPass
One alternative to the Disney PhotoPass is to ask the Disney PhotoPass photographer to take a photo with your camera. They are going to get a pretty good photo and while they’ll snap some with their official camera, you can simply choose not to buy them. Even during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, cast members (not official photographers) were ready to take a photo with your phone/camera for you.
Just so we’re clear..
I don’t get paid for supporting or speaking positively for any products on this blog. Anything I choose to endorse is because I truly believe in it.
Everyone has a favourite Disneyland attraction and for me, it is Splash Mountain. When I was a kid on Disneyland vacations, we’d always enjoy the queue and the ride as a family. It was our “final attraction” tradition. I’m not alone on this since I can see that this very minute (July 3, 1:20 PM) there’s a 75 minute line for Splash Mountain.
My 3 Splash Mountain Tips:
FastPass or ride it during a parade when lines are shorter.
On a cooler day, ride it before you leave so you can get into warm clothes sooner.
Ride it as a family and make it a tradition.
Don’t force your family to do the shorter “single rider” line – you need the family picture!
Sing a long to the music.
Even if you aren’t alone, sing and wave those hands to the music!
My Disneyland Has Always Had Splash Mountain
Being a Canadian, child of the 80’s meant that my first trip in 1989 was after the opening of Splash Mountain. As a 5 year old, I have no memory of Splash Mountain from my first Disneyland vacation. However, I know all of the words to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, which was recorded almost 40 years before I was born. This leads me to hypothesize that the memory of riding Splash Mountain didn’t stick, but the experience stayed with me in my love of Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.
Final Attraction Tradition
Growing up, we had a family tradition of making Splash Mountain our last attraction of the day. Now that my husband and I have a couple Disney vacations under our belts as parents, we’ve started our own final attraction tradition with It’s A Small World.
In my last family Disneyland vacation as a kiddo (not a parent), I recall complaining that the ride was too much build up until the exciting drop. To this day I think Brer Rabbit heard me utter those words and made sure I’d regret them. As we rode one of the little drops that I found “too slow”, we plunged down it and I got absolutely soaked. This caused roars of laughter and I’ve never again thought or said anything bad about Splash Mountain!
Famous Splash Mountain Photos, or Not
One family trip we were in Disneyland on New Year’s Eve (20 years ago) and we decided we wanted to be the last people to ride Splash Mountain for the year. We planned to get the photographic evidence to prove we rode it at the insane time of 2AM. Everything was working fine and we got on the final log with a young couple in front of us in the log. When the ride was over my parents went to purchase our photo, but it turns out one of the people in front of us flashed their ta-tas at the camera and we weren’t allowed to get a copy. In the end we got a funny story that has lived longer than any picture souvenir would have lasted.
Splash Mountain – Not Just a 52 Foot Drop
Earlier this year, after my munchkin was put to bed, I ran back to Disneyland for just over 1 hour. In that hour, I had to use my Space Mountain FastPass and see everything else I wanted. After Space Mountain I crossed Disneyland to “single ride” Splash Mountain. There was zero wait for “single riders” and I joined a group on their ride. Exiting the ride I noticed that there was no line. I got my picture code, came back and went to walk up and around in the “single riders” line, but a Cast Member told me to just hop on since the loading area was vacant. You may be wondering how the ride, which can boast 2 hour line ups was empty. Lucky for me, the Electrical Parade had just begun and that’s where the masses were. I rode Splash Mountain twice, completely alone, in my own log.
Lonely or Amazing?
Riding Splash Mountain in my own log, by myself was amazing. They asked me to sit in spot “3” and I asked a Cast Member if that meant I would be getting soaked. The response back was, “You should be ok” and I truly was. All the thrills and fun, without getting soaked! In the moment of riding Splash Mountain all by myself I realized that I should have had that on my Bucket List and then did a celebratory dance in achieving this newly added, and newly achieved Bucket List item. I was able to ride and sing along to the music without my brother or my husband complaining about my singing voice. This also had the benefit of nobody ruining my coveted Splash Mountain picture!
January or February Vacation
If you have a January or February vacation to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, be warned that Splash Mountain is typically closed for a short while in these months for routine maintenance. When we went mid-January to Walt Disney World it was closed.
There is a 40 inch height restriction on Splash Mountain. We are hoping by the time my Munchkin is 4 1/2 years old she’ll be tall enough to experience this attraction with us!
If you are looking for a magical experience and an opportunity to get your family excited about your half marathon training then stop reading this and go sign up for a RunDisney race. I ran my first RunDisney race at the 2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Mother’s Day and it was amazing.
This post is going to focus on the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race itself – future posts will include planning a RunDisney vacation (i.e., how to enjoy the parks without wearing yourself out), the registration process, having your kiddo in a Kids Race, and the race expo. For now, I’ll focus my attention to the actual race day.
Three Key Points for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
If you only take away three things from this post about the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, make sure they are:
Smile every step of the way and buy the Disney PhotoPass for your vacation.
Throw away your time goals.
Have someone at the finish or along the route to cheer you on so that you’ve got another reason to smile.
Getting to the Starting Corrals of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
On Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 4:10 AM, my alarm clock woke me from the sofa bed in my hotel suite. My toddler was fast asleep in her crib in the bedroom, as was my husband. To not wake them, I slept on the sofa bed in the living room. By the light of my cell phone, I got dressed, opened my mother’s day gift (a Mickey Mouse backpack!), and exited the room. As I walked the dark streets, other runners were exiting hotels and joining in on the pilgrimage to the start line.
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon final instructions brochure indicated that I should plan to be in my corral one hour before race start, which meant 4:30 AM, but I felt that was too early. The corrals and starting areas were very clearly marked, but getting to my corral involved a lot more walking than I had anticipated in order to get to the security check points. Even without line-ups at security, it still took 35 to 40 minutes to get from hotel to corral, which would have been a 12-minute walk most days.
I wasn’t cold waiting in my corral, but I’d have been more comfortable had I worn a long sleeve top. I typically wear a top on race day that I throw off at the start and a charity group picks them up, but I didn’t see any of that at this race.
Tinker Bell Half Marathon Pre-Show and Race Start
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon pre-show was energetic and achieved its purpose of getting thousands of runners pumped up about the miles ahead. I was actually feeling nervous and dreadful standing in my corral. All of my training was complete, but in the days leading up to the race my knee had started to ache and I hadn’t been eating as healthy as I normally do. I tried to stay positive by repeating the mantra, “no expectation, no limitations.”
For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I was in corral B and we started about 1 or 2 minutes after corral A. When Tinker Bell fluttered across the big screen above the start line and we broke into a run, I realized that it was going to be hard to pace myself as I was instantly overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline.
Entering Disneyland at Start of Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race
Entering the back lot of Disneyland at about 1 mile was very emotional. I’d dreamed of running through the park and it was finally going to happen. When we turned left in the back lot, I could see that our entrance into Toontown was only a few strides away. It was finally happening – I was running through Disneyland! I’d been in Disneyland twice in the days before but we hadn’t visited ToonTown so it had been almost 20 years since I’d seen it.
First Encounter with a Disney PhotoPass Photographer
Exiting Toontown I saw my first Disney PhotoPass Photographer of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race and I was sure to smile my widest smile to them. Just outside of Toontown was the first character stop. I’m not up to date on all of my fairies even though the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is all about Tinker Bell and her squad. Since I did not actually know who these fairies were I decided to keep going.
In the first miles, I was still wrestling with how I was going to run the race. Only two weeks prior, I had run a half marathon and had been just over two hours so I knew I could break that today. I ultimately decided to embrace the magic of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race and not worry about my time. I was going so smile, wave, and get lots of pictures. To anyone thinking about running a fast race you ought to reconsider.
Fantasyland in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course hugged right at Storybook Canal entrance and continued into Fantasyland. The attractions were running and I could see Dumbo in flight. Time for a selfie! Then I ran between King Arthur’s Carousel and Pinocchio and followed the path to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I was warned that while there were photographers capturing us running through the Castle, you could not actually stop running for them to take your picture. To try to guarantee myself an awesome Tinker Bell Half Marathon race souvenir, I slowed down and ran through the Castle with the biggest smile. I felt like a kid again, and as for the souvenir pic, I have 13 from that moment to choose from (two different angles included below)!
I went to the right of the roundabout and I saw a Cast Member holding a picture frame cut-out. Nobody was stopping so I jumped over and got a picture of myself in this memorable spot.
First Stop for my Character Photo in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
Next I was on Main Street and I almost ran right past Chip and Dale! My first characters of the race! The line was short, maybe one minute. Each character spot had multiple Cast Members that paired with people at the front of the line so they could take your phone and snap pictures while the Photopass photographers also snapped your pics.
The Disney firetrucks were even on display and as we passed by City Hall, we could see Peter Pan and Wendy waving at us. I had a mental checklist of who I should be on the lookout for during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon since it was themed for Tinker Bell. I was too scatter-brained to notice during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race that all of the non-Tinker Bell related characters were actually dressed with pirate accessories.
Running through Disney California Adventure
As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon exited Disneyland and dashed across to Disney California Adventure, I was actually able to connect to wifi so I sent my husband a text letting him know that my knee pain had vanished! As a Canadian, without wifi my phone is as good as a paperweight in the USA. Knowing my body wasn’t breaking down was a positive sign for the rest of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race.
Running between park entrances resembled a finish line area, as there were dozens of people lining the way, screaming and cheering with every step I took. I entered Disney California Adventure through an unofficial entrance, which was beside Soarin’ Around the World. There were pirates lining the way up towards Grizzly River Run shouting their best “Yarrr!” at us. I enjoy running on trails around Vancouver, BC, so it was nice to run through all the trees in Grizzly Peak – it felt like we were really in nature.
Take Me to Paradise… Pier
Soon I was running past the entrance to The Little Mermaid, which happens to be one of my favourite attractions because I can sing all of the songs. Combining memories and nostalgia makes running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race seem not as daunting. I was constantly smiling and trying to soak in the whole experience.
With my two year old along on this trip I didn’t have the opportunity to stay for World of Color (bedtime was much earlier than start time), but fear not, as we entered Paradise Pier, the fountains of World of Color were dancing for all to see. There was not an official photographer here so I stopped for a selfie instead.
As I ran down towards California Screamin’ I was starting to realize that in-between selfie stops, I was running at a pace that would be difficult to maintain. It was also difficult to talk myself into slowing down when I was overflowing with excitement [see picture below as evidence].
The Lost Boys Need a Mom
King Triton’s Carousel was nearby and I wanted to get a picture of it for my daughter. The closer I got I realized that it was the Lost Boys from Neverland riding it round and round. One of the Lost Boys asked me if I’d be his mother and since it was Mother’s Day I told him yes.
This got loud cheers from all of the Lost Boys and as I ran away [bad new mom] they were shouting for me to read them a story. What a hoot! Having the attractions all operating and characters peppered around kept me looking forward to each mile. Pluto was posing for pictures before I exited Paradise Pier and entered a back lot.
The Remaining Lands of Disney California Adventure
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course ran through another back lot and then it popped us to the start of Cars Land by Radiator Springs. More smiles for photo ops!
I was pleased to stop in for a photo with Mater and McQueen – probably the only characters in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon not offended by my sweaty odour.
After a quick run through “a bug’s land”, we were into Hollywood. Running down the main drag here I almost missed a photo with Captain Hook. My Munchkin ran into Captain Hook a few days earlier and he scared the beejeezes out of her – later I learned any character would have that same effect. If my Munchkin saw me posing cordially with her arch nemesis it could upset her even more, which is why I struck a “mean momma” pose.
The Last Park Hop of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
I crossed between the parks again and entered Disneyland for the last time – it is a blur to me where we were in Disneyland at this point, but I know I hit the 5km marker in a back lot near Tomorrowland. We ran from the depths of Tomorrowland towards the Castle and then veered away from the Castle and towards the Matterhorn. I assumed this is where Tinker Bell would be since it was right by Pixie Hollow and after all, it was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon! The line to meet Tinker Bell was the longest, but still only about four minutes for me (corral B).
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon and the Streets of Anaheim (9k to 18.5k)
After meeting Tinker Bell the course curved into more of the back lot and it never returns to the accessible areas of Disneyland after that point. In a sense, you are off to never, neverland… on the streets of Anaheim. While you are in the restricted areas, you catch a glimpse of Cast Members moving about as they start their day.
For me, I knew nothing about Anaheim and at this point of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I realized I had 14 more kilometres to run and for the first time my body was starting to not match my all-smiles appearance. This was my dilemma part of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon – I wanted to walk because I felt out of steam, but that meant it would take me longer to get to the finish line and get to brunch! I did not find Anaheim to be the most exciting place to run, but there were porta-potties, bands, and spectators along the way to keep me going.
The Finish of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon (2.5km)
The last kilometres of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon dragged, but it was nice to be in a restricted area of Disneyland – it felt like I was an insider. This was the only part of the course that I had been on before and as I looped around the Disneyland Hotel I finally felt like I’d really accomplished something huge: running a half marathon after three days of walking and eating my way through Disneyland! As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon course entered the home stretch, I could see my husband and my Munchkin. With 100 metres to go, I kissed my loves and finished strong to the finish!
Thank you for reading my Tinker Bell Half Marathon race report. I started strong, smiled a lot, and then reflected on the joy of the first part of the race to get me to the finish line. I would most certainly run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon again. I’ll gladly answer your questions in the comments below.