There are Disney park regulars, and then there’s Jeff Reitz. The 50-year-old California native visited Disneyland daily for 2,995 days between 2012 and March 2020, earning him a shiny new Guinness World Record for most consecutive trips to the theme park.
The Reitz adventure began ten years ago when he found himself with a Disneyland annual pass and, due to recent unemployment, a whole lot of unplanned free time. One visit turned into another, and soon he was documenting his daily sojourns to thousands of followers under the social media handle Disney366 – a nod to the number of days in 2012, a leap year.
His visits were cut short by the pandemic in early 2020, but history was already written. (After all, you don’t just haunt the same place every day for eight years without becoming some kind of celebrity.) Guinness researchers discovered Reitz’s feat and recently contacted him about creating of a new disc.
Reitz spoke to CNN about his favorite moments in the park and what made the experience worthwhile, day in and day out.
Reitz has a history with Disneyland. Park already felt like an old friend by the time he began his streak in 2012. “I grew up in Huntington Beach and my family came several times a year,” he told CNN.
“It’s a nice place to walk around and chat with people. The park is really alive. I have to see so many things change.
Also, the cost was quite low, especially by Disney standards.
“One of the criticisms I get is people saying, ‘Oh, it must have cost so much money. I live about 20 minutes away and with an annual pass that also covers parking, a year of daily visits costs about $1400. It’s a lot, but it’s not what people think.
Even when Reitz returned to work, he took a daily trip from work to Disneyland and then back home.
“Part of what made it fun was that I tried to mix things up and do things differently each time,” he says. “The only consistent thing was posting a recording on social media and trying to post one image from the park a day.”
In 2012, Instagram wasn’t quite the cultural giant it is today, and smartphones weren’t quite as smart. Instead, Reitz captured the early years of his visit on a BlackBerry Bold 9700.
Reitz’s favorite Disneyland destination is the Matterhorn Bobsleds, a pair of steel roller coasters winding through an alpine landscape designed to resemble the famously rugged peak.
“It’s been my favorite attraction since I was little,” he says.
However, the 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, an in-park complex with several different rides and attractions, introduced a close second.
Any Disney fan will know that an attraction is not just an attraction – it’s an experience. You could reasonably sit all day without making a single trip while enjoying the atmosphere.
“There is an area near the quays in front of the Matterhorn where I like to relax during my visits,” says Reitz. “Sometimes I’ll go to Galaxy’s Edge and listen to the background sounds and music. Or I’ll climb the Adventureland Treehouse for a great view.
As for food, Disney parks food is neither cheap nor easy. Reitz has found a reliable address: the pasta at the Pizza Port restaurant in the Tomorrowland section of the park.
While thrill rides and carbs could certainly be great incentives, they weren’t the reason Reitz returned to the park day after day.
“It’s always the actors that do the magic, not the place itself,” he says. Over the years he became a regular at Disneyland, collecting stories and secrets from Disney parks employees, known as cast members.
A cast member, who was once a park set painter, told Reitz about the little Easter eggs the artists played with, like a trash can in the park’s ‘ghost town’, Frontierland, which he painted sometimes with different population figures.
In 2013, when Reitz noticed a large tree missing near the park exit, a cast member told her she could tell one of two stories about it.
“She said the most realistic was that the tree, which was very old, had become diseased and had to be cut down. The feel-good story, she said, was that there were trees that were planted when Walt (Disney) first opened the park, and they just moved to another location.
Some time later, as he passed a corner of the Soarin’ attraction at Disney’s California Adventure (the nearby park of Disneyland, which Reitz also sometimes visited), he spotted a tree he had never seen before. He looked oddly familiar.
“Was it the same tree? Who knows if it’s true. But it’s that kind of magic that they can spin.
Times have changed and getting in and out of Disneyland isn’t as easy as it used to be. As a result of the pandemic, Disneyland now operates on an admission reservation system that effectively limits when guests can come to the park. While this makes frequent visits difficult, it also ensures that Reitz’s record will not be challenged – at least not for some time.
Until then, Reitz is full of new attractions to check out, like the park’s new Avengers Campus.
“After being out of the park for three years, going back there is a chance for me to have an eye-opening experience,” says Reitz. “It will almost be like starting over, and that’s exciting. (Walt) Disney himself once said, “Disneyland will never be complete.” It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.