Interviews

He Visited Disneyland Every Day for Eight Years—Then Coronavirus Happened

Jeff Reitz started going to the Happiest Place on Earth every day in 2012, until the pandemic stopped his streak at nearly 3,000 consecutive visits.
07 April 2020, 1:47am
- Jeff Reitz at Disneyland in 2016

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

It's hard to fully understand how many things have been ruined by COVID-19. Vacations. Weddings. Sports. Lives. Careers. Literally any and all things that involve leaving the house. It's all been thrown into disarray by the pandemic.

The World After This

One thing that's been derailed by the virus is a record-breaking streak of daily Disneyland visits by 47-year-old Huntington Beach, California, resident Jeff Reitz. When the park was forced to close last month, Reitz had been visiting it for almost 3,000 consecutive days.

Reitz and a friend had originally planned to go every day of the year 2012, as they were both unemployed at the time, and they wanted a project to get them out of the house. But after they made it through the year, they decided to keep going. The friend eventually stopped their streak in 2014, but Reitz stuck at it until Friday, March 13—the last day before the park's closure.

To give you an idea of how long that is, Reitz would have been inside Disneyland on the day Mitt Romney failed to become president, and the day Blue Ivy was born, and for the releases of the final Twilight and first Hunger Games movies.

I spoke to Jeff about his streak, and what he plans to do now.

VICE: Why did you go to the park so many times?
Jeff Reitz: It started out [as] just something fun to do to keep things positive, because at the time we started this, we were both unemployed, but we had annual passes that had been given to us as gifts. So it was a form of free entertainment. I was having a good time with it and it was getting me out. It worked out to be my gymnasium, my therapy, along with just the overall Disney fun.

What do you mean it was your therapy?
Because if you had a rough day at work you can like, get over there where there's a happy environment and lose yourself. To relax and feel better before going home to bed. You could get rid of that stress and start over fresh the next day.

Did it still have that effect after 2900 days? Were there days where you dreaded it?
No. I've always enjoyed being in the park. I've always felt comfortable and good.

Did it present logistical difficulties? Have you been able to go on vacation or out of the state?
I found it pretty easy. During the workweek I would get off work around 3:30, go to Disneyland, I'd get parked around 4:30 or so, then walk over to the park, so I'd get into the gates right around 5. On average I would stay three to five hours.

I have gone on overnight trips at various times throughout the years. But I haven't gone on any extended trips because I was doing that. In the very first year [I had a buddy] that had gotten married back in Virginia, so I missed out on that. But we've been in communication and he knows that I'm done and he's looking forward to me still coming back to meet his family and new house and everything back there. [But] most everything happens right here. Because of the location I was able to do stuff down in San Diego, SeaWorld, Palm Springs, Big Bear, or up to Six Flags Magic Mountain, or Universal Studios, while also going to Disneyland that same day. I've even been out to Catalina Island and the Channel Islands and made it to Disneyland.

Were there ever periods where you got sick?
Last year at the beginning of the year I got sick for a couple of days but what I did was I would keep a mask on and make shorter visits and not do a lot of extraneous rides

What did your friends and family think of your Disney project?
Most of them thought it was pretty fun, some of them thought that it went a little long. Like, “Hey it's already way past where anybody will ever take the goal, you wanna wrap it up?”

Your streak is the longest?
I haven't been able to find anyone else who has been longer than mine. And now that I've finally finished it I'm going to work on getting things together to file with Guinness World Records.

How would you say your life has changed during the time that you've been doing this?
Well, I've been employed now for over seven years at the VA hospital. Instead of just living on PB&J, I can afford to grab a meal whenever I want to. I've also gotten to know a number of people from around the world, so that's something new. I think my health is doing well. Doing all of my steps I've been doing, I think, is helping to get me back in shape. One of the things I've told people since this finished up is: I'm sad that I didn't get to choose the date that it ended, but I'm also happy that I didn't have to choose the date that it ended. Because there's always that next magic number. First, it was going to be one year, then we went to two years, then 1000 days, then 2000 days. I was five days short of hitting 3000 days. I had started to think, do I want to wrap it up at this point? But then I was also thinking maybe I'll keep going.

Right now, I think I've been doing very well right now because of it being closed to everybody. It's not like I'm feeling like I'm missing out on something right now. I'm in that detox period with everyone else in the world because nobody can go.

So was a part of you a little bit relieved?
I think in a sense there is a possible sigh of relief.

What was the last day like in the park?
It was busy, it was fun. I met up with various friends throughout the day, I shared time in the park with others. They had a number of the characters and cast members come out to the train steps for the final hour. Myself and one other person were the last ones to walk out of the gate and they closed the gate behind us.

Was it emotional?
It was a little emotional. I did pretty well with it, but there were other people that were crying. I tend to be pretty tough. I can be emotional at times. Like on Thursday, when I first got word of the closure, it was a total shock to me. The tough side of that was that I had a lot of people reaching out to me [saying] that when they heard about this happening, I was the first person they thought of. And a lot of people were sending me almost like, condolences. It almost felt like a member of the family had passed. Because of how I had so many people reaching out.

And you're not continuing this streak, right, after this?
No I've had a lot of people say, “Hey this wasn't your fault, you can keep going, you're not missing any time.” But to me, it's always been a matter of consecutive days.

Is there anything that you're looking forward to doing now that you're not tethered to Anaheim?
Yeah, I'd like to do a little more touring around, maybe make my way up to Yosemite. It's been a while since I've been to some of those places. And then I'll go from there.