If you are looking for a truly remarkable holiday experience this year, your best bet is heading to the Disneyland Resort. Disneyland and California Adventure are in full-on holiday mode and kids and adults will have the time of their lives exploring the decorated parks and special seasonal features!
Taking in the experience of #DisneyHolidays
My family and I had the chance to explore the parks last week and see what all the holiday fuss is about. From the minute you walk in to either park and see the decorations, you instantly want to run home, throw on a holiday sweater and decorate your own house while listening to your fave holiday music. Main Street, which has always been one of my favorite parts of Disneyland, is all decked out in its holiday finest and looks simply stunning at dusk.
*Hot tip: Disneyland has welcomed its first Starbucks into the park. While there is a sign out front, it blends in. It is close to the locker area midway down Main Street. Look for a cast member out front holding Mickey’s Starbucks cup.
Holiday decor adds to the Disney Holidays experience
The decorations don’t stop there though. They are found throughout the entire park and are so well done that they enhance the experience, not detract from it at all. I’m a lover of special details so I am in awe of the talent employed by Disneyland. Not only are the grounds transformed, but most of the characters can be found in some form of holiday attire too. And several of the rides have been updated especially for the holidays — Jingle Cruise, anyone? Continuing this year, It’s a Small World also features a holiday makeover. I adore this ride and always have. (Did I mention I grew up in Anaheim and have probably been on this ride at least 50 times?) I’m a fan of the design, the colors, the characters, the message… this ride is perfection. But OMG! The holiday version is even better. I took about a zillion photos inside the ride but they just wouldn’t do it justice. With the most magnificent holiday decorations, carols and inclusion of newer Disney characters, you simply cannot miss this ride during the holidays!
Jack Skellington puts his mark on the Mansion
On the flip side, The Haunted Mansion has never been a favorite for me. I dislike Halloween and scary (even though this is Disney scary — not Mike Meyers scary). But Haunted Mansion Holiday is SO fun! Jack Skellington takes over the Mansion with his version of the holidays. The colors are amazing, the characters are creepy but cool and let’s talk for a second about the REAL gingerbread house featured! It is gigantic, looks amazing and one of the cast members told me that they change the design of it each year.
*Hot tip: Talk to as many cast members as you can. I found out so many amazing tidbits about rides and the parks in general. They truly love working there, and are excited to share their knowledge. This info can help make your visit more enjoyable.
Disney Holiday Parade: A must-see!
Your visit to Disneyland is not complete without catching a viewing of the parade. The “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” features all your favorite Disney characters in their holiday best, entertaining you with music and shenanigans.
*Hot Tip: You will need to arrive early to get a good spot. But don’t fret if you don’t nab a spot on the curb, one row back still gives you a perfect, unobstructed view. And keep in mind that some rides shut down temporarily to accommodate the parade and reopen immediately following. Consider picking a spot away from Main Street if you want to get back to those rides before the rest of the crowd disperses. But Disneyland isn’t the only park that goes all out for the holidays. California Adventures does it well too. With the gorgeous Christmas tree on Buena Vista St. and themed decor throughout, you don’t want to miss it. Cars Land was our favorite area with their car-themed decorations. Wreaths made of wrenches and trees made of tires? Adorable! They have done such as amazing job with Cars Land… you literally feel like you are in Radiator Springs. And when we saw Lightning McQueen and Mater riding through town I was just as excited as the boys!
Updated World of Color Show
Disney unveils a few new holiday features this year. They have updated their World of Color show, called Winter Dreams and it features the characters from Disney’s new movie, Frozen. This show is utterly mind-blowing. Essentially they have created their own technology using water fountains that incorporate light, video, music, color — and it is genius. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. This was my first time seeing a World of Color show and I was in amazed. The water fountains are synced to create a “screen” on which vintage Disney movie snippets and new video, like the Toy Story characters acting out a scene from The Nutcracker, is projected. It appeals to young and old and I’m dying to see it again!
Glow with the Show ears!
We were introduced to these lighted Mickey “Glow with the Show” Mouse Ears during the World of Color Winter Dreams show. The infrared technology works in conjunction with the show and the colors sync up to what is happening out on the water. Like, whoa!
*Hot tip: We watched the show from the second tier of the viewing area directly across from the Mickey Ferris Wheel. The elevated view gave us a prime location to see the show AND the infrared ears of the viewers down below. Stunning! Also, depending on the wind, you will get wet if you stand on the first tier so plan accordingly if you’ve got frizzy hair like I do. AND! the “Glow with the Show” ears work in other areas of the park too! Try them out at the Mad Tea Party and Cars Land to see how they react!
Disney’s Viva Navidad is new
Also new this year is Disney Viva Navidad. Found in the Paradise Gardens area of California Adventure, Viva Navidad offers special activities that celebrate the spirit of Latino culture and their holiday traditions. The colors are crazy bright, and the atmosphere is joyous and familial. The food is ridiculously good and they offer activities such as dance lessons, face painting and crafts for the kids. Live music and dancing are part of the daily celebration that is Viva Navidad. This special holiday feature will run through Jan. 6, 2014 and will end with an extra special celebration for Three Kings Day, Jan. 3-6, 2014.
Characters add character to your Disneyland Holiday visit
Aside from the character photo opportunities that can be found all over the parks, there are two new ones that have recently been introduced. Anna and Elsa, of Frozen, can be found over in Fantasyland and were absolutely adorable. I loved how they interacted with each other and you felt like you knew them even though we haven’t seen the movie yet. And then there was Thor over in the Treasures of Asgard experience in the Innovations building. The boys were SO excited to meet him. He got down on their level and asked them all kinds of questions and really interacted with them. I’m pretty sure my youngest thought he was going to be able to take the hammer home with him.
*Hot tip: If your little guy is a fan of Iron Man, make sure to try out the interactive feature where they can virtually try on their own Iron Man suit and fly around the lab. Amazing! It had been a really long time since I had been to Disneyland and California adventure, and it was my youngest’s first trip to the parks. While I can’t fully remember what it felt like to visit the parks as a child, I know what it felt like the visit the parks as a parent. There is nothing better than seeing your kids completely immersed in and excited about something new.
Snow: A Disneyland must-do!
We did not get to see the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks show on our visit, but I am sure that they are just as amazing as they have always been. But absolutely DO NOT leave before experiencing THE SNOW! The kids might be tired from a long day but the magic of the snow falling over Main Street is life-affirming. I can’t think of something that I have been a part of lately that has left me feeling so overwhelmed. As the snow began to fall, people all around exchanged smiles and no one felt like strangers. It was the perfect ending to a magical visit to experience the holidays at Disneyland.