In my last post, I told you all about The Festival of Holidays at Disney's California Adventure. We spent quite a bit more time there than we did at Disneyland this trip and wasn't sorry a bit. I think the additions to the park have really made it more of a Disney experience. I remember when it first opened and after half a day, you'd already done everything...twice. Well, Disneyland doesn't skimp on the holiday magic either. You'll find decorations everywhere and fun twists on classic rides.
Disney knows how to do Christmastime. They just do. Everything is decked out and the fancy parade is amazing. I even didn't want to kill myself over the short, repetitive Christmas Fantasy song that played for 45 minutes straight. Look at those adorable snowmen! More on that in a bit.
No trip to Disney is complete without a few treats. Even if we don't get any, I still love to press my nose up against the glass cases in the shops to admire things like these candy apples. They're all wintery and beautiful. Now, I find it incredibly difficult to eat one of those at the best of times, so I passed and we went with more traditional picks of a chocolate covered strawberry and a chocolate-dipped pineapple wedge. I mean, yum! Of course, there was also the obligatory Mickey ice cream bar and churro in there during the week too.
I know people have mixed feelings about It's a Small World, but not me. I love it. I love the song. I love the little dancing people. I love the cheese factor. I love the boats. At Christmas, they make it even more amazing. You get a new song and incredible Christmas decorations in every room.
The end where they turn everything one color to signify that we are all one people is claims Peace on Earth and Happy New Year. It's fantastic. Even if you aren't a fan, you should really waste 15 minutes of your day on the journey inside during the holidays.
Obviously, the castle is the main focal point of the park. It's the hub where everything offshoots from and it's dripping in white lights and garlands. Don't forget to take a trip inside either. The story of Sleeping Beauty if wonderfully done, if not a bit dark in the middle.
A little girl got scared and hid behind me and I felt a little bad for her, because you've got to be pretty scared to grab a stranger for protection. It's possible that she mistook me for her mom, as we had a similar coat on and were the same height. Either way, if you have littles that are easily scared, maybe save that for when they are older.
There's plenty of other great things to see outside the castle. New Orleans Square has balconies overflowing with garlands and ornaments and beads. There are some great performers as well.
We ate lunch there and were able to indulge in a plate of special Mickey beignets dusted in peppermint powdered sugar after our meal. They were a lot, but definitely yummy.
Even Critter Country gets in on the holiday feel. There was a Santa meet and greet in Pooh Corner that we decided was something we must do. We actually did this Santa photo op before the one at California Adventure, and actually waited much longer, but the wait was worth it, because check out this rustic tree decorated by Pooh and all his friends. The star on top is made of carrots!
Pooh and Piglet even made their own snowmen (snowbear? snowpig?). So cute, right? The critters all left presents for Santa and the garlands and swags all had the cutest ornaments covered in honey. Ah, the details.
This Santa was adorable and even stood up to get us a better pic.
One of the things I've been upset about over the years is that I have never gotten to ride the Jingle Cruise. That's the Jungle Cruise, but holidayed up. This, apparently, was not happening the last time we visited for Christmas, but now it's back and it's so fun.
This is another ride that's a must on my list, whether it's Jingle or Jungle. I love the bad jokes and enjoy the differences each "captain" puts into it. During the holidays, they claim that their Christmas decorations were lost and fell out of the plane before it reached the dock. Turns out, it was scattered all over the jungle, giving the animals a bit of Christmas fun.
The hippos all have pineapple upside down cakes floating in their water. Garlands and bows and more have made it to all the animals, including these snowmen and reindeer. The jokes happen to go along with the decor and are just as bad, but just as hilarious (in our opinion).
The Haunted Mansion has been taken over by Jack Skellington for quite some time, but if you haven't visited, you definitely need to. It changes over during Halloween and the outside and the inside are extensively changed, so much that I wonder how many people it takes to accomplish it. It's almost like a whole new ride. This year, Sally was added to the Mansion, which was a fun little find.
Because Jack has takenover as Sandy Claws, there are 0 days until Christmas, even though there were still a few days to go until actual Christmas. The decor on the outside is amazing and I took way too many pictures. My favorite is probably the giant garlands, but the Christmas equation that Jack writes to become Sandy Claws and pull off the holiday is quite a lot of fun.
Inside, the banquet scene has been changed to include Zero helping to decorate the enormous Christmas tree and gingerbread smells permeate the passage to bring your attention to the lovely gingerbread house on the table. You have to go through several times to catch it all. You meet Boogie Oogie on the way out and Lock, Shock and barrel give everyone a "gift" before you leave. There's even a different song to be sung, which is seriously fun, even if you adore Grim, Grinning Ghosts.
Here are a few more pics from the decor at California Adventure. This is a nautical wreath at Pacific Wharf.
Here we are with the Little Mermaid tree at Ariel's Grotto before dinner. I'm not sure the fixed price menu for reserved "seating" at World of Color was quite worth it, but it was pretty good, the service was excellent, and it probably would have been better had we asked to be sat inside where it was much warmer than outside on the dock under a heater when the cold wind was blowing.
Okay, so let's take a look at more of the fun of the Christmas Fantasy Parade. Anything Christmassy you can imagine was in this parade, including at least three giant Christmas tree floats. The people next to us must have really loved the parade, because they had seen it at least once before.
Between floats and dancers and "skiers" and all the Disney classic characteers and royalty, there was not much left to be desired. I did wish they had thought to add Moana to it, but perhaps there wasn't enough time for that. I also missed Aladdin and Jasmine, but what are you gonna do?
Aladdin and Jasmine were also absent from the nighttime parade, Paint the Night. The rest was fantastic and it was very colorful. I was happy to see a lot more of the lesser known princesses though, like Tiana (above) and Pocahontas in another live show.
There is normally a fabulous fireworks and castle show, but it was too windy the whole time we were there, so we didn't get any the whole week. Bummer, but there were so many other things to engage you, that it was hard to be too disappointed. The only thing that really bothered me this trip was that the lines for Disney seemed to be really disorganized.
With the addition of FASTPASS lines (both to get your pass and to get on the rides), it was often confusing where you needed to enter if you had one or didn't. There didn't appear to be enough cast members to direct you, especially when the FP line was in a totally different place than the normal line. The system itself was pretty flawless, assuming you could get one before they ran out for the day. This only seemed to be a problem with Radiator Springs Racers, Tower of Terror (because it was in the last days) and Haunted Mansion.
All in all, our holiday visit was much better and more fun than our last visit in 2008. I hope we'll make more of an effort to get back during the holidays in the future. Make sure you hit the parks before the first day of the Christmas break for school kids.
What's your favorite place to visit during the holidays?
Disclaimer: Part of my visit was comped for the purposes of this post, but all opinions are 100% my own and this trip would have happened regardless.