Quick! What's the most amazing incredible experience you could ever do at Disneyland? Club 33? While that would be nice, hundreds of people dine there regularly. Seeing Walt's apartment above Main Street? Getting closer, but there are a few Disney sponsored tours that can get you up there.
You've read the title, so you already know my answer. Experiencing the Disneyland Dream Suite! This ultra rare and exclusive prize was given out during the Year of a Million Dreams in 2008.
Theresa and I have been annual pass holders ever since we moved out here, and the Year of a Million Dreams promotion by Disney was one of our favorites. Just to be inside Disneyland thinking that maybe, just possibly, your Disney dream could come true and you might be the lucky person that day to win a big prize. Every time we went to Disneyland that year, we had a little excitement in our hearts that we could possibly be the winners of something incredible.
My how we've changed over the years...
Alas, though, it was not to be. Even after visiting 15-20 times that year, we didn't win a single thing. Not an Ear hat, no pin lanyard, not even a certificate for some random experience. The Year of a Million Dreams ended and Disneyland moved on to the next promotion. But still, every other trip to Disneyland, and definitely every time we were in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue, our minds would always ponder "What if...."
Flash forward to April 2012. Theresa and I wake up to an email from Ruston.
Subject: Conference Call
Can we all get on a conference call at some point today? I have some news I’d like to be the first to share with you, before you read it or hear it elsewhere. (It’s good news)
Interesting... Jacob was training people all day so we'd have to wait until 5pm to figure out what's going on. During that time, Theresa and I tried to guess what the good news was. Maybe Ruston will be on a CD cover due to his singing in the Disney Choir and MeloD23. Perhaps he met someone really cool, like Richard Sherman again. Our minds were all over the place, but I don't think we could have ever guessed what was coming. At 5pm, we joined a conference call with Ruston and Jacob. In Ruston's own words.
I was at the Administrative Assistants Day celebration for Disney employees and they give out door prizes. I've been going for 9 years and I've never won anything. All through the night, they give out hundreds of prizes and I've never won a thing. My co-workers every year usually win something. A beach towel, Disney cooking lessons, tickets to a new movie, etc. That night, there was an early screening going on for Avengers. They were still calling out names for prizes, but I figured, I never won anything before, so I'm going to go early and get a good seat for the movie. I'm watching the movie and I see off to the side, one of my co-workers come in and just start looking all around the theater. I figured he was only trying to find a seat, so I just continued watching the movie. After the Avengers, I didn't even check my phone; I just drove home for the night.
I'm at home and just happened to check my phone and I see I have 10 missed messages from my co-workers saying "You Won! You Won! You won a night in the Dream Suite!" I called them back and asked "Is this a joke? Is this for real?" I didn't believe them. Both Bruce and Paula (you'll meet them later) had still been there while prizes were being announced. They got to the Grand Prize for the entire evening and said "Ruston Harker". "What was that? Did they just say Ruston Harker? Where's Ruston?!?" On the main stage, Minnie Mouse was waiting for me to come up and join her with the prize and to get a photo op. I totally missed out on that, but thankfully I didn't have to be present to win.
In the couple months that followed, we met in person to discuss it and traded emails a few times. Here's one of my favorites from Ruston.
Subject: Ready to start Dreaming...?
I just got off the phone with our Disney Dream Suite concierge… WE ARE GOING TO HAVE AN AMAZING TIME!!!
I am so excited. I was pretty excited before, but after talking with this guy… now I can’t wait.
Some highlights from our conversation:
I am allowed to host an open-house, and invite friends to come lounge around our dream suite, but they have to leave when the park closes.
Something that almost made me pee my pants: once the park closes our concierge will take us on a TWO HOUR tour of the park. He said we can walk around in our pajamas and take crazy pictures ALONE IN THE PARK!!! Can you believe it?!!
The first thing we need to do is choose a date.
We decided we'd make July 14th our amazing night. As it got closer, Ruston sent this to all his friends who would be coming.
Subject: Dream with me...
This is an official invite for you and a guest to my open house at The Dream Suite (above Pirates of the Caribbean) in Disneyland on Saturday, July 14 at 7pm until just before Midnight.
If you’d like to join my friends and I in the premiere suite within the Disneyland Resort to kick back, relax, and watch Fantasmic (show times 9 & 10:30) from the best location in the park… well, then come!
Excitement levels kept building and building. Each trip to Disneyland we'd look up towards the Dream Suite and just imagine, we'll be there soon!
Two days before the event, we get one more email from Ruston.
I am looking forward to seeing you (and your guest) this Saturday, July 14, 2012 in the premier, most super-exclusive suite in the entire Disney empire… The Dream Suite at Disneyland Park.
Here are the TOP SECRET details you’ll need for Saturday evening.
°o° I have your mobile phone number. On Saturday morning I will text you the number and combination of a locker located just outside of the Disneyland main entrance.
°o° Inside the locker you will find a small stack of envelopes.
°o° Locate the envelope with your name on it. You are welcome to pick up your envelope at anytime during the day.
°o° Inside the envelope you will find a clue which will lead you to a top secret password for the Disney Dream Suite.
°o° Once you have the password and the clock has struck 7pm, climb the stairs you see in the picture below (the rounded stairs above the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean).
°o° There is be a doorbell/buzzer beside the door, push that and wait for the password prompt. For example:
°o° Voice from box: “What color is the Raven in the Haunted Mansion?”
°o° Your reply: “Black”
°o° The door will buzz open, and your evening of Disney Dreaming will begin.
You and your guest can arrive at the suite anytime after 7pm, but you will have to arrange your entrance into Disneyland. Stay for 20 minutes, lounge for a few hours… it’s up to you. Light snacks will be served. Be aware you’ll need to be on your way out of the Park before midnight or there might be pumpkin repercussions. Also, while I wish I could invite everyone I’ve ever known to join me, I’ve had to adhere to a strict guest count so if Mickey and Minnie beg you to bring them along… sorry, they’re not on the guest list.
Fantasmic is at 9 and 10:30.
Oh Ruston. You're so clever. Pumpkin Repercussions and Mickey and Minnie aren't on the guest list...
And then, July 14th was finally here.....
Click here to go to Part 2 - Breakfast - 9am to 2:30pm
Part 1 - Two Months of Anticipation
Part 2 - Breakfast - 9am to 2:30pm
Part 3 - Welcome to the Disneyland Dream Suite 2:30pm to 4:30pm
Part 4 - Dinner 4:30pm to 7pm
Part 5 - Friends Arrive 7pm to 9pm
Part 6 - Fantasmic 9pm to 11:45pm
Part 7 - Our After Dark Disneyland Tour 11:45pm to 2:30am
Part 8 - Back at the Dream Suite 2:30am to 11:30am
Part 9 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Parlor
Part 10 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Frontierland Bedroom
Part 11 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Adventureland Bedroom
Part 12 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Master Bathroom
Part 13 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Balcony and Patio
Part 14 - Exploring the rooms of the Dream Suite - Hallways and Hostess Area