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Greetings, Tokyo-ites, or those of you preparing to venture out here for one reason or another. Here are some of my personal Disney hacks and recommendations for viewing Tokyo Disney Sea. Now, there is a lot of information to cover but I can only speak from experience and what I have learned over the years as a bargain shopper sans children. Well, bargain shopper that is until I came to Tokyo Disney and realized that the merchandise is so unique, you have to buy everything that you look back at more than once. So I’ll start with merchandise and summarize: buy everything, either you or a friend will find a use for it. You will find many of the things are in and out of circulation, for example, the clip on ears that look like hair clips. These ears are sometimes everywhere and sometimes nowhere; my advice, buy buy buy! yet again. Also, do not be fooled. In many of the casual restaurants, desserts will come on a souvenir plate, cup, or tote. In the States most often this is a rip-off. You can buy the item on Amazon for half the cost, but that is not the case here at either Tokyo Disney park. These often limited edition items are a great buy, and they have already thought ahead by providing you with bubble wrap for your item if it is fragile.
How to Maneuver Disney Sea
Okay. So it’s a weekend or a holiday, do you really need to go to Disney that bad? If you can avoid it, avoid it. Most weekends are way busier than during the week. You can always check the crowd calendar, but sometimes that is a little off. I love to shoot for the weekdays before 4PM. When you’re there into the evening you will notice it often starts to get a bit more bustling when the annual pass holders begin to enter the park after school and work. If you are wanting to see the latest attraction, Soaring!, you will want to get to the park a half hour before opening so you can queue, head into the park and bear right around the lagoon and get into the standby line for Soaring! that begins just up the stairs. If you are staying at the park and can enter before actual opening (there’s usually a half hour rule implemented) you will be able to grab Soaring! as a fast pass… if you aren’t at the hotel, don’t bother, just run for the line!
Disney Sea is full of panoramic views, but try to stay focused at least for the first hour. When entering the park, decide what you want your first fast pass to be. Toy Story and Journey to the Center of the Earth are quick to sell out. My advice would be to get one of these first and then go straight to a show. Oh, almost forgot. On the busier days Big Band Beat (the Parks’ biggest stage show: think New York Broadway Theatre), Song of Mirage, and the lagoon show will offer lottery tickets to guarantee admittance to the show.
After picking up your fast pass to either attraction, head back to where the gondola rides are, and when you go down the stairs you see a building with a green awning. This building says “Biglietteria” or something similar outside of it.
You and your guests all scan your park pass on the same machine and maybe you win tickets to the show.
If you aren’t lucky, be sure to line up in front of the theater no later than 45 minutes prior to most likely score a mezzanine seat. On very busy days, you may see people waiting up to two hours prior so don’t get disappointed if things don’t go your way. There is plenty to do. There are atmosphere shows happening around the park almost the entire day long and they are not to be missed. Oftentimes, the lagoon show is my favorite all day, even above the stage shows (which I once performed in). This past Halloween they featured jet skis and a water powered hover board that snaked its way out of the water several times. Ah-mazing.
If you’re looking for a bite that’s a bit fancier than your typical park food, you can head into the S.S. Columbia cruise ship and get into the line around the promenade deck with the small windows. My friend Caitlin turned me onto this amazing place: The Teddy Roosevelt Bar… a great place for a martini and Caesar salad or small bite. They have vegeterian friendly options and it is truly a charming way to refresh your weary bones. When I don’t make it in here, I usually just grab a Reuben sandwich from the N.Y. Deli on my way over to Tower Of Terror.
Make sure to enjoy the perimeter of the park, it’s a great way to capture some beautiful sea views. Once you are over by Tower of Terror, eyes peeled, there’s a great outdoor stage show and you’re sure to pass the little green men mochi (again, don’t wait for these because once the cart goes away for the night… it’s gone… you can still find the leftovers over at Mama Biscotti, something along those lines, the bakery near the entrance to Hotel Miracosta). If you are ready for a beer behind the mochi cart is a small log cabin type structure: sausage and pink beer. Yep, go for it! If you want a safe bet and aren’t feeling adventurous yet, the cheeseburger set-o over in the American Waterfront isn’t bad at all, so carry on your merry way over the bridge. The line that forms outside the restaurant is deceiving. It is for the show that I have yet to see, I’m always too hungry, so just head on in to the left side of the entrance and burgers you shall receive!
Sick of me yet? Hope not. I have some more information. Song Of Mirage is tucked away at the back of the park right before crossing the bridge to Indiana Jones. Now I am partial having worked at this theater. It’s an amazing and truly unique show.
Now I have more good news. Indiana Jones and Raging Spirits are at the back of the park… and both have single rider options. Please make your way to the fast pass entrance and say “single rider please”… be prepared to have your English guide map handy in case you have to point.
If you aren’t sick of the shows yet, head over to the Mermaid Grotto, which you will know when you see. Tucked in the back of that place is another show that is totally worth the wait if you’re an Ariel fan. It seems to bother some people that it’s in Japanese, but I think that is part of the charm. Ariel is not Japanese and she seems to love it just fine! I love to position myself around Agrabah, which is what you approach as you leave the Grotto, around sunset. The skyline of the buildings and the orange glow if you’re lucky enough to get it is just really awesome and makes for a great pic (see below). There are also two carnival style games over here. If you are facing the back of the park, the game on the left is the one I usually see with the most “hits.” The best part is, even if you lose, you get a cute little pin so your 500 yen did not go to waste. Please don’t leave Agrabah without stopping at the Sinbad ride in the back right corner of the park. It’s the Disney Sea equivalent to It’s A Small World.
Along the way you might have seen the Steam Liner and the Electric Train. Both are great options for transport if your legs need a breather. I don’t often take them because I don’t like to miss things on the way, but they’re relaxing and fun. If you are craving a turkey leg make sure you venture inside the volcano area toward the front of the park viewpoint. This is also a good place to position yourself around 5:15PM. Look for a lady standing outside of a small restaurant and put your name onto the waiting list (restaurant is not so small once you’re inside). The bar is rarely crowded and there are plenty of tables to sit at, as well. Great wine, great cheese plate, and it’s a little fun that they make you queue up outside as if it were NYC’s hottest club in the Meatpacking District.
I’ve thoroughly exhausted myself and I think I have set you up with some useful information when it comes to navigating my favorite of all the Disney parks… not just because I worked there, or got engaged there 5 years later… it’s just the way the Japanese do Disney. They do it up, they do it right, and it’s pure magic from start to finish. Enjoy a gondola ride before you leave after viewing Fantasmic, which only runs until March 2020.
That line reopens at 9PM and it’s a charming way to end your day. Have a magical one 🙂