(CNN) There are Disney Park regulars, and then there is Jeff Reitz. The 50-year-old California native visited Disneyland every day for 2,995 days between 2012 and March 2020, giving him a shiny new Guinness World Record for most consecutive trips to the theme park.
The Reitz adventure began a decade ago when he found himself with a Disneyland annual pass and, due to his recent unemployment, a bunch of unanticipated free time. One visit led to another, and pretty soon he was documenting his daily stays 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 limited 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 and become something of a celebrity.) Researchers at Guinness found out about Reitz’s feat and recently approached him about creating a new record.
Reitz spoke to CNN about his favorite moments in the park and what made the experience worth coming back for, day after day.
Why he started his record streak
Reitz has a history with Disneyland. The park already felt like an old friend when he started his series in 2012. “I grew up in Huntington Beach, and my family used to come several times a year,” he tells CNN.
“It’s a nice place to walk around and talk to people. The park is really alive. I got to see so many things change.”
Plus, the cost was pretty low, especially by Disney standards.
“One criticism I get is people who say, ‘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 $1,400. It’s a lot, but it’s not what people think.”
Even when Reitz returned to work, he made a daily trip from work to Disneyland, then back home.
“Part of what made it fun was that I tried to mix things up and do things differently every time,” he says. “The only consistent thing was that I would post a check-in on social media, and try to post one picture of the park per day.”
Back in 2012, Instagram wasn’t quite the cultural giant it is now, and smartphones weren’t nearly as smart. Instead, Reitz captured the early years of his visit on a BlackBerry Bold 9700.
His favorite things to do and eat
Reitz’s favorite Disneyland destination is the Matterhorn Bobsleds, a pair of steel roller coasters that wind through an alpine landscape designed to resemble the famous precipice.
“It’s been my favorite attraction since I was a kid,” he says.
However, the opening in 2019 of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a complex in the park 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 can sit all day without cycling and still enjoy the atmosphere.
“There’s an area by the marina across from the Matterhorn where I like to relax when I visit,” says Reitz. “Sometimes I’ll go into Galaxy’s Edge and listen to the background sounds and music. Or I’ll climb the Adventureland Treehouse for a nice view.”
When it comes to sustenance, Disney Park food isn’t cheap or easy. Reitz found a reliable go-to: pasta from the Pizza Port restaurant in the park’s Tomorrowland section.
The reason he kept coming back
While thrill rides and carbs can certainly be great incentives, they weren’t the reason Reitz returned to the park day after day.
“It’s always been the cast that makes the magic, not the location itself,” he says. As the years passed and he became a Disneyland regular, he collected stories and secrets from Disney Parks employees, who are referred to as cast members.
A cast member who used to be park set painters told Reitz about little Easter eggs the artists had fun with, like a trash can in the park’s “ghost town” Frontierland that he would occasionally repaint with different population numbers.
In 2013, when Reitz noticed that a large tree near the park’s exit was missing, a cast member told him she could tell one of two stories about it.
“She said the realistic thing was that the tree, which was very old, had gotten sick and had to be taken down. The feel-good story, she said, was that there were some trees that were planted when Walt [Disney] first the park opened and they were simply moved to another location.”
Some time later, while passing a corner of the Soarin’ attraction at Disney’s California Adventure (the neighboring park to Disneyland, which Reitz also sometimes visited), he spied a tree he had not seen before. It looked suspiciously familiar.
“Was it the same tree? Who knows if that’s true. But that’s the kind of magic they can spin.”
What he will do next
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 an entrance reservation system that effectively limits when guests can enter the park. While that makes frequent visits difficult, it also ensures that Reitz’s record won’t be challenged — at least not for a while.
Until then, there are plenty of new attractions for Reitz to discover, like the park’s new Avengers campus.
“After being out of the park for three years, going back is a chance for me to have an eye-opening experience,” says Reitz. “It’s almost like starting over, and it’s exciting. (Walt) Disney himself once said, “Disneyland will never be finished. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”