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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Christmastime at Disney (Part 1)

The week before Christmas, we took a short trip to Southern California to immerse ourselves in Disney and check out the new Wizarding World at Universal Studios. We really just wanted to indulge in some Disney magic, but we were surprised by the Festival of Holidays happening at the same time. We love the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, and this was like a mini one of those at California Adventure. (And I learned that they have their own F&W Festival in April.)

Festival of Holidays

The parks are dressed up for the holidays, with garlands and lights and trees everywhere you look. It's one of the best things about Disney at Christmas and definitely puts you in a festive mood. In fact, I was really not that excited about the holidays before we got there, but got so into the decorations and music before even the first day was over.

Festival of Holidays doesn't just celebrate Christmas. It's all-inclusive and celebrates Kwanzaa, Chanukkah, Three Kings Day (or Epiphany), Diwali and Navidad. They serve up traditional foods at themed kiosks and have a large list of performers that work different parts of the park each day. We made a point to see (and eat) as much as we could. 

The kiosks each had a different small menu, many with some sort of drink (alcoholic and otherwise) to pair with it.

The Pacific Promenade was home to almost all of the kiosks, and they were nicely spaced out, so one could flit from one to another while still enjoying the park in between stops.

If you're like me, then you enjoy a meal made up of mini bites. If I had my way, all meals would be served tapas style. Each day we made a point of either kiosk-grazing for either lunch or dinner. Above shows an order of falafel "doughnuts". 

I'm a lover of lamb, so I wasn't going to pass up a chance to try this from the Moroccan kiosk. I don't really enjoy raisins in anything but cookies, but these golden raisins were perfect in this flavorful dish. The lamb was a bit chewy, but it didn't stop me from scarfing it down. 

I believe this sweet potato gnocchi and brisket were from the German kiosk. They served up quite a few beers as well, but I skipped those for the time being. Mostly, I wanted to save room for more bites.

I waited two days to try this cheese tart. Sadly, it wasn't as exciting as I hoped it would be. It could have used more salt, but then again, nothing lived up to the sticky toffee pudding with bourbon ice cream I'd had at a different kiosk. I could have survived on that. These other things are chickpea fritters (pretty good) and chicken curry (amazing).

Cars Land was dressed for the holidays in a very car-like fashion. Tires were used as wreaths and Christmas trees, while different colored tail lights were used to brighten things up and bundles of wrenches were turned into snowflakes. It was so creative and I loved it.

One of my favorite shows in the park was ¡Viva Navidad!, featuring the Three Caballeros, mariachis, traditional dancers and giant "floats". Mickey and Minnie also arrived, wearing their Mexican garb.

Look how colorful! If you want to see more, I have videos up in an earlier post

Not all the entertainment was cultural. In fact, there was this great Toy Drummer Band that we saw several times. They were fun and pretty amazing, and they drummed to all different sorts of holiday music. You can see a video I took here. If you don't have Instagram, you can see it on the other link up there.

I adore Klezmer music. I'm not Jewish, but I appreciate all types of music. The Klezmer band Mostly Kosher has a huge group of musicians that they rotated through during this festival, but my favorite was this mix above. I enjoyed the singer very much. He truly seemed to love people, his music and his band. It didn't hurt that was was fairly good looking either (ha!). For those of you with Insta, you can see a quick clip of them here. For those of you without, or that want to see more, there's a longer one on this post.

For celebrating Diwali, which I didn't know much about, and could probably stand to learn more, they had a wonderful Bollywood dance troupe, Blue13, who danced, gave a little history lesson and also taught the crowd to do some simple moves to create a dance with.

The rest of the park's entertainment got into the spirit of the holidays, like the mobile jazz band Five & Dime. They mixed old school jazz with some holiday favorites. 

And no holiday trip would be complete (for me) without a visit to see Santa. Grizzley Peak has a National Park area with tons of things to help kids burn off extra energy, like rope bridges, climbing structures, a playground and more. Well, we had to test out some of their equipment and, at the end, we waited to visit with Santa. His elf was the cutest lady with the greatest stories about how she was almost on the naughty list. I wish I had taken a photo with her as well. After your picture, you got a candy cane treat and could then go write your name in the Nice List book. Obviously, we did that, because it can't hurt to have a little extra good mojo for avoiding coal in your stocking.

I have lots of other pics of my visit, including foods, that I will share in the next post, or you can see on my Instagram feed. I hope to head back to Disney for the holidays more often in the future. It's worth it, considering all the extra entertainment and food choices you have. 

What did you get up to during the holidays?

Disclaimer: Part of my Disney visit was comped by Disney for the purposes of this post, but all opinions are 100% my own and this trip would have taken place regardless.

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