Today's main character has, well, seen a lot of main characters in the past decade.
A California man recently set a Guinness World Record for most consecutive visits to the Disneyland theme park — with 2,995 straight days of visits. That breaks down to eight years, three months, and 13 days. And yes, it took some dedication. He coordinated the visits around dinner plans, work duties and travel.
Who is he? Jeff Reitz lives about 30 minutes from Disneyland, in Huntington Beach, Calif. He was at the theme park on New Year's Day 2012 when he and his friends noticed an advertisement for an "extra Disney Day." It was an event celebrating Feb. 29, the additional day coming up that leap year.
"We were joking around, 'How could it be an extra day if you didn't use the others?'" Reitz told NPR. So they set out to use all the other days too. They were unemployed at the time, so this was an opportunity to do something positive with their time instead of dwelling on their situation, he said.
"We could still do job hunting in the morning or night, and [we] got exercise," he said. "And you were always networking because you never knew who you were talking to."
Once they reached their goal of visiting the park all 366 days, he just kept going.
How did he keep it up? That first year, Reitz was able to go to the park daily with an annual pass that his family gifted him in December 2011. He later got a job at a medical center and began purchasing his own passes.
To him, the daily visits were a constant source of joy.
"It was my gym. It was my happy hour. It was entertainment all in one package," he said. "You know, instead of paying for a separate membership for doing lots of different things, it was all in one package with my annual pass."
Reitz said that, at the beginning, the annual pass would cost around $500. In the later years, it was $1,400. "So for me, going every day, even at the end, was only about $3.50 a day," Reitz said. "So about the same as someone going to buy a cup of coffee."
He also started using the hashtag #Disney366 on social media to document his journey. He said it was a casual thing at first, but it then developed into his "persona."
What happened to his streak? Reitz said his last day at the park was March 13, 2020 — the last day before the theme park closed due to the pandemic. He was five days away from reaching the 3,000 mark. And yes, it was Friday the 13th.
To Reitz, though, being forced to stop along with the rest of the country was better than the alternative. He says that ending his visits at an arbitrary round number, on a day when other people were still visiting the park, would have probably brought some FOMO.
He hasn't gone back since that day, and while he wants to return at some point, he doesn't have concrete plans yet.
He said he didn't have any bad feelings toward Disney, although he said he wasn't a fan of the new Magic Key annual pass system that began during the pandemic and requires reservations before visits. "For me, personally, I didn't like the idea that — I could go every day before whenever I wanted, whereas now you have to make reservations," he said.
In the meantime, he has replaced his Disneyland visits with catching up on shows, going to concerts or hikes, and spending time with his girlfriend.
His advice for Disneyland first-timers:
Bring the largest dose of your patience. "No matter what, you're gonna be around a lot of people. It's not gonna be just you and your friends and family that are close to you. There's a lot of different people, a lot of different attitudes, cultures, and everything, so you want to be ready for it."
Bring a battery to charge your phone. "Now you also want to have the app on your phone in order to see the wait times for the various shows and attractions, or to even order your food before you go to get it."
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.
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