24 Hours in Disneyland at Christmas Time
No matter what time of the year it is, I find myself dreaming of being back in California, walking in those gates, being welcomed into a winter wonderland, where dreams come true and magic seems to come alive before your eyes. A place called Disneyland.
I had never been to Disneyland before this trip. I'd not even been to many amusement parks when I was a kid. My family all get pretty sick on rollercoaster rides so we weren't big park people. But the fantasy aspect of these over the top, seemingly otherworldly places, really appealed to me. I had always peeked over the fences, and stared off into the distance at these huge fairytale kingdoms that seemed such a mystery to me.
When I would travel to Europe, the Gothic towers and medieval building that I saw took me back in time and made me feel like I was in another world. Disneyland makes you feel the same way. From the moment you walk through the doors, you enter into another universe. But more than just feeling like you're in another world, you are in another state of mind. I think as adults, especially those of us who are new to the adult mindset, there is a desire from time to time to receded back to childhood. To a time when we didn't need to worry about money and jobs and taxes and rent. But we push that aside and try to move forward, to grow up and get ahead. But as soon as you walk into Disneyland, suddenly you are allowed to act like that little kid again. And no one will say boo. You can be whoever you want to be. And that's perfectly perfect. No one will stop you. In fact, you are encouraged to don those Mickey ears, princess dresses or funny costumes and act as childish as you wish!
Main Street USA
On my first trip to Disneyland I was lucky enough to have two little ones hold my hands and lead me through this wild and wacky wonderland. They made sure I had a special pirate hat on before we entered, so I would "fit right it" and they were absolutely right! If it's your first time at Disneyland, be sure to tell one of the staff members at the gate when you arrive and they will give you a cool button that says "My First Visit!". What made my first trip to Disneyland even more incredible was that they had just opened up the park with all their Christmas decorations and rides transformed for the holidays. Main Street USA will be the first thing you come across as you make your way into the grounds. Red and green bobbles dotted the skyline and Christmas wreaths hung off the buildings like icicles. Lights sparkled in the windows and everything just seemed wonderfully cheery. It was as if the world was smiling.
I am possibly THE MOST enthusiastic person when it comes to the holidays so I was in heaven. There were Santas and snowflakes. Handmade candy canes hung in the sweet shop windows. Christmas ornaments glowed on lush green trees and even jolly carollers sung songs down Main Street. I walked along, mouth agape, as we peaked into all the amazing window displays along the street.
Main Street USA's look and overall design is inspired by Walt Disney's hometown of Marceline, Missouri at the turn of the Century. Walt remembered this time period as being "carefree" and wanted to recreate this whimsical feeling for his visitors as the first thing they experienced when they enter the park.
The first stop I had to make was at the Mad Hatters to get myself a pair of Mickey Ears Hat. There were so many beautiful and quirky pairs in the shop! They had everything, from under the sea themes to plain ol' Minnie bows! And the design of the shop was just darling too. It felt like an old-fashioned haberdashery shop, even the cast members were dressed up in Victorian-era costumes and treated all customers with the most wonderful southern charm. With the help of my crew, we decided on a steam punk/vintage bronze set of ears! You have the option of getting them personalized for only $5. How could I refuse?
We continued down the street, peeking into the different food and clothing shops along the way. We looked up at all the different windows displays along the streets. Each of the windows is painted with a different name. These are all the names of different individuals who were very instrumental in the creation of the park. Their names, like their faces, now look out over the guests who happily walk the streets of the park today. We walked by the Disneyland Emporium to see some of the there adorable motorized dioramas depicting different famous Disney characters. Fun little tid bit: all the window displays along Main Street USA were designed to be extra low so that little children could view the beautiful displays therein without getting on their tiptoes.
We stopped off at Refreshment Corner and the Candy Shoppe at the end of Main Street to get some treats to snack on. My suggestion for a savoury treat is the GIANT Mickey pretzel. It is soft, salty, comfort food perfection. Served along side some spicy jalapeno cheese sauce you just can't go wrong! Plus, it's just so darn adorable! I'm a sucker for pretzels at amusement parks! Other great grab-and-go treats from the Refreshment Corner are the wonderfully weird Mac and Cheese dog or the delicious bowl of chili in a sourdough bread bowl (the sourdough is baked on site everyday so it's extra fresh!). Another great choice is hand dipped corn dog from the Little Red Wagon or a simple grilled cheese and tomato soup.
But if you're looking for something sweet, then you simply cannot pass up a Disneyland candy apples. They are not just a treat, they are a work of art! All of these treats can be found in the all over the park but there is a great selection of them right here in the Candy Shoppe. They come in sorts of different colours, designs and different flavours. They are a bit messy so grab a fork and a bunch of napkins before you go! Other great treats that the Candy Shoppe is known for are Marshmallow Wands, Carmel Corn, and the Peanut Butter Sandwhich.
Jolly Holiday Bakery
Stop along the street at the Jolly Holiday Bakery for a cheap and cheerful breakfast pastry! The Bakery is one of the most amazing stores at the end of Main street. It is home to many little Mary Poppins trinkets and completely feels like something plucked right out of the film. The treats behind the glass are also mouthwateringly delicious and hard to pass by!
You can also find a Starbucks Cafe hidden away among these adorable little shops along the street, although the better coffee (for a better price) is actually to be had right in front of the castle! There is a small kiosk right beside the Mickey and Walt statue selling cheap drip coffee. And you can't beat the view! But if you're looking to stop and get a nice sit-down breakfast to start your Disney Day off right, grab a seat at the Carnation Cafe. Sweet retro designs and lovely brunch menu!
The Plaza Inn is another great choice for breakfast! A little more upscale but you can't beat the rich Victorian atmosphere and incredible architecture! Inside you can enjoy a Character breakfast, where various characters like Winnie the Pooh and Chip and Dale will come by your table while you're eating to interact with your group. Great for kids!
After we grabbed our morning treats we were lucky enough to catch the early Christmas Parade! The route is plotted out for you on the map you're given at the entrance and there's no real "best place" to see the show. It's fantastic no matter where you find yourself! Although, if you manage to snag a bench or somewhere to sit, you might find yourself a bit more comfy while you watch the incredible costumes and dancers go by :)
The Christmas Parade was so joyful! It's the perfect blend of Disney favourites and Christmas classics. Being the die-hard redhead that I am, I, of course, was the most excited to see Ariel and Prince Eric. All the princesses and characters has little Christmas details added to their costumes and floats which really added to the festive spirit of the parade.
Find Nemo Submarine
After the parade was almost finished, we decided it was time to make a break for it before the crowds dispersed and hit up some rides! We set our sites on the Little Nemo Ride Voyage! Right off the bat, I was amazed at how impressive everything looked. Bright yellow, super realistic submarines popped their heads above the water and I could make out vibrant coloured shapes swimming below.
Finally, it was our turn. The submarines are operated by the Nautical Exploration and Marine Observation Institute (N.E.M.O.) crew cruise! I was afraid I would be really claustrophobic once inside but it didn't feel as small as I thought it would. In fact, everyone got their own seat and their very own porthole to view the underwater world outside. I will say, it TRULY does feel as though you are in submarine. So take that for a pro or a con as you see it. Once everyone is inside, you take off and you begin to travel across the sea floor. As you cruise along, you see animated sea life pass by. You begin just below the surface but as the ride continue it simulates you delving deeper and deeper into the ocean. Bubbles float up above to give you illusion of sinking. This made me feel incredibly sick. I cannot emphasis how much an effect like can fool your eye into making you think you're actually sinking when the submarine isn't moving at all. Cudos to design and development of the ride but when you're a wimp like me, it sucks. But, all I needed to do was shut my eyes and then I felt fine. Unlike other rides where you would have to get off to feel better, anytime the effects would make me feel dizzy, I simply shut my eyes and boom, problem solved. It was great. Thankfully those downward sinking illusions didn't happen more than a few times and most ride you just got to sit back, relax and watch this truly other worldly underwater experience unfold in front of you.
The ride takes you and your fellow cruise members along a journey that follows Dory and Marlin on their quest to rescue Nemo! You travel through all the famous scenes from the movie. Hold on tight as you swirl through the East Australian Current, get spooked as you creep through the silent graveyard of sunken ships, get mesmerized by a school of jellyfish and even get lost inside the belly of a whale! A unique part of this ride is that depending on where you sit in the submarine, you will see Nemo appear in different locations during the journey. Some people might see him inside the whale, others swimming in between the jellyfish. Everyone will see him the same number of times but this way each one of you will have a slightly different experience. Or, if you frequent this ride again and again, it's something new to experience every time!
After the ride pulled back into the station and we all stepped back out into the fresh air, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt pretty good. I was ok! I might have had a few freaked out moments, but I survived! And if anything I was excited to try more! Although, I have to say, there are a few points in the ride when it's pretty scary and the younger kids we had with us got pretty freaked out. So, it might not be the ride for your family if you've got really small children, unless they're really brave. But, it was a really long ride and I felt like even if we had to wait longer in line it would have been worth the wait. It was so well done and details in the rides were stunning. Definitely a great way to start the day!
As the Matterhorn loomed before us in the distance and the morning was still on our side, Dan and Katie decided that they would get in the single riders line and go for a quick run. Although I had gotten pretty pumped up from the Nemo ride, I was smart enough to know my limits. Considering I usually get sick on a bumpy car journey, I thought a toboggan race through a simulated Swiss mountain might not be the best idea. But I happily waited in line with them and marvelled at the wondrous mountain above and googled a bit about the history of this notable attraction.
The Matterhorn is one of the most famous rides in Disneyland. Built in 1977, it was originally designed as a disguise to cover the mounds of dirt that had been displaced during the building or Sleeping Beauty's Palace and Tomorrowland. Walt had always loved the real Matterhorn Mountain as he had frequented it during his visits to Switzerland and thought a toboggan themed ride would suit his family theme park perfectly. Disneyland continues to amaze me in all its clever designed elements. The trees which surround the Matterhorn get smaller and smaller the higher you get. This is called "foreced persepctive" and creates the illusion of the mountain actually appearing larger than it really is. Pretty neat. Pretty neat.
Once Dan and Katie got on the ride, we bid them adieu and went to go grab some of that famous Disneyland popcorn. Even the popcorn stand was all decked out for Christmas!! The popcorn was absolutely addictive. Served in vintage red and white popcorn boxes it felt like you were back at Disneyland in the 1960's. I loved it. Pro Tip: (the single rider line for the Matterhorn is SUPER fast!) Dan and Katie were in and out in under 10 minutes! After they rejoined the group we were ready to head off to
Here is a land of imagination, hopes and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment the age of chivalry, magic and make-believe are reborn and fairy tales come true. Fantasyland is dedicated to the young and the young at heart, to those who believe that when you wish upon a star your dreams do come true.
In Disneyland there are seven main areas to visit: Adventureland, Frontierland, Main Street USA, Critter Country, New Orleans, Toon Town and Tomorrowland. Fantasyland is one of the originals. It stands right in the center of the park and is the place where you'll find all the most iconic rides. In the middle of Fantasyland is King Arthur's Carousel, complete with a sword in the stone. If you're lucky and come by at the right time of the day, you'll see Merlin come by and help a child pull the famous sword from the stone.
As you walk through Fantasyland you begin to feel as through you've stepped out of California and been transported into a Bavarian Village somewhere just south of the Swiss Alps (which fits right in, seeing as we've just come from the Matterhorn). Fantasyland originally had more of a Renaissance design to it but in 1983 it was renovated to have a slightly more modern feel while still being European and maintaining that far away, land atmosphere. The concept behind this design was that they wanted the environment to match the homelands of their princesses. And it does. From Belle to Snow White, either of these ladies could easily be seen buying bread or reading a book here behind the archways or running through the turrets hiding from an evil sorceress. I loved just walking through Fantasyland's streets. I didn't need to go on the rides or even eat the food (but that's a big plus) just being in this place made me feel like I was in my own fairytale. It was magical.
When I was growing up, Alice in Wonderland was one of my favourite Disney films so I was so excited to go on the ride. I had always imagined what it would have been like to go down the rabbit hole and now I was going to get that chance! The little girl inside of me was going crazy! The psychedelic colours and other worldly plants that seemed to grow out of the ground blended in with the real trees creating a strange intermingling of real and fake realities. We waited for our turn (only for about 5 minutes) and then jumped into a a grumpy green caterpillar car and set off on our journey into the world of Alice and her Wonderland. One of my favourite parts of the film was the singing flowers and they were brought to life for me in true to form animatronic fashion. They were absolutely exquisite, yet held that same deadly charm they did in the film.
The glowing animatronics seemed to have a life of their own. I would hate to be here at night when this place is empty and these little ones are still moving about. I have to imagine they come alive just like the toys in Toys Story. I will say, that for as much as Disneyland is geared towards kids, these rides are pretty freaky! I mean, I loved it. But I love weird freaky things. I love those spooky haunted house rides at the fair but I can't believe more kids aren't scared! Maybe when you're a kids you have a different way of seeing things. Either way, I loved this ride: trippy, silly, dreamy = wonderful!
Mad Tea Party
Our next stop was the iconic Mad Tea Party! Iconic for two reasons. One) because it is so beautiful. The colourful tea cups and vivid lanterns hung from above make this area look like a scenes plucked from a Monet painting. And Two) Because so many people are know to get motion sickness from this ride. So, once again, I decided to sit this one out. But I had I alot of fun photographing these dummies ;)
Something neat I found out is that when Disneyland celebrated its 50th anniversary it honored its original 1955 attractions with special plaques and painted different vehicles on those original attractions gold. Since the Mad Tea Party is one of these attractions, look out for the gold and raspberry painted tea cup and sit in that one for an extra special ride! It actually doesn't do anything exceptional, but it has that special meaning. Other golden painted vehicles are a golden horse on the Carousel, a Golden Dumbo, a golden Congo Queen on the Jungle Cruise and a golden pirate ship from Peter Pan's Flight. After the tea cups, We weaved our way through the crowds and took in all the sights around Fantasyland. We didn't have much more time to spend here as we wanted to head down for lunch in New Orleans. We decided to forgo lining up for more rides but as it was my first time and they didn't want to take away from my experience, we walked around all the attractions so I could see all these amazing rides up close before we headed off.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Dumbo the Flying Elephantis another one of those iconic rides that is so ingrained in my mind as being Disneyland. Just getting to look up and watch those silly elephants fly by was so much fun. Even if I didn't get to ride them, I could feel what it would be like to be a kid on the ride. To believe in that moment that you were flying, that life wasn't so serious and you can just let go for one moment can just get free and silly and just be a big flying elephant.
It's A Small World
It's A Small World was transformed for the holidays from its usual colourful facade and was painted white and gold. Super classy. At night through, it changes all sorts of colours and truly comes alive. It's a Small World was built in 1964. It's chief ride designer was Mary Blair, who was also the art director on so many well cherished animated classics such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Mary was responsible for bringing the whimsical characters to life inside the ride. It was her brush that made this ride so iconic. Those character design that we now refer to as "animator dolls" styles all starts with her. Another designer who worked on this ride was, Rolly Crumpt (who also worked on the Haunted Mansion Ride - pretty big difference!). He mainly worked on the supplemental figures inside the displays. Walt Disney made sure that each of the dolls' facial designs were complete identical in shape - hence the name "It's a Small World".
The ride itself is pretty simple and some people think it's a little boring. That said, don't let the lack of complexity fool you. It's never a short line. It's notoriety makes it a must-stop attraction for any Disney goer. A quick tip I found out after the fact: when the line splits , choose the right-hand side of line. It's the faster moving of the two lines. Unfortunately, we still had to wait in line a good 30 minutes to ride this ride. BUT it was totally worth it and a perfect way to cap off the evening.No matter the reason for your wanting to go to Disneyland, whether it's your first time or your 10th, everyone seems to want to make one more trip down that tunnel to hear that catchy tune. Every holiday season from November to New Years, It's a Small World get a little make-over both inside and out. Jingle Bells and Deck the Hells ca be heard inside the tunnel as well as the regular "It's a Small World" soundtrack. Inside the ride all the characters are wearing Christmas garb appropriated for their cultural location. Christmas lights hang from the ceiling and garland is hung from all side of the channel. It really feels like a giant celebration. It's amazingly impressive that they get all of this changed over for Christmas. The outside of the building has a special 3D projection that is used to illuminated its facade. The entire attraction is transformed at night into an enormous clockwork mechanism which entertains visitors while they're waiting to get on their boats and enter the tunnel.
Rivers of America
After a wonderful morning in Fantastyland, we headed down towards the Rivers of America, Frontierland and New Orleans Square for a bit of lunch and a trip to the Caribbean. As you come from Fantasyland, you make your way around Big Thunder Mountain and come out into Frontierland. Frontierland is home to the cowboys, pioneers, gold rushes, red rock, salons and the most importantly is the
Rivers of America. The River is an artificial body of water that was built in 1955 when the Park was opened. It surrounds Tom Sawyer Island (which you can visit by ferry from the mainland) and is home to two large boats that circle around the harbour.
The Mark Twain Riverboat is not just a vehicle that circles the island but also a main attraction! Guests can embarked on a scenic 12-minute journey on this amazing Victorian Steamboat. The waiting area (pictured above) is designed to replicate the real design of loading areas from the 1890's but I'm sure with a little but of Disney flare!
Once you're on board you can freely move around all three different levels. The lower deck's bow has chairs to sit on and relax throughout your journey (although there's not a whole lot so if you plan on sitting get to the front FAST!). The upper deck has the best views of the different sights and the Super secret. PRO TIP: is if you go to the upper deck, you'll find the captains station. If you ask a crew member, you can be given permission to ride inside the wheelhouse and afterwards are given a Steamboat Pilot Certificate. Neat!
Front the upper deck you can see into Tom Sawyer's island and watch the canoe's paddle by. During a hot day, remember to bring a drink on-board and you can find it to be a nice relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the park.
The other boat that is home to this harbor is a giant pirate, theSailing Ship Columbia. It is actually a full-scale replica of the Columbia Redviva, the first American ship i go all the way around the globe! Now, anyone one of you can get one and journey around this small world.
This is pretty appropriate since you are steps from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride!!! It's so cool to come from a land full of fairies and flying elephants and then in a few feet suddenly be be in a land of pirates and southern charm. The pirate ship play's a role in the nighttime show "Fantasmic" as Captain Hook's Pirate Ship. Liam and I fit right in here. He had lent me his pirate hat for the day before I got my official Mickey ear and I loved wearing the pirate hat around here. I got a lot of attention and go to do a lot of "ARGGGGGGG"s.
We wandered along the river and originally were going to get some lunch right away but the line for Pirates of the Caribbean ride was so short that we just couldn't pass it up. Pirates of the Caribbean is such a famous ride now, more so because of the movies, but the fact that it inspired a film in itself means there was a lot substance there to begin with and I was excited to see what inspired all this hype to begin with. The rides tells the story of a band of pirates and their exploits as you follows them on their journey. You get onto a small boat with the rest of your fellow travellers and begin to slowly float down the the river. At first, when you enter, you pass by the Blue Bayou Restaurant. This place is so neat, I'm obsessed with people watching so I would get so much amusement out of eating my dinner while watching the riders pass by every few minutes. Either way I loved that even before the animatronics start you are immersed into the environment of the Bayou with the scenery and ambient New Orleans music even before the excitement of the ride begins!
Ok! Now here comes the real stuff. SCARE ALERT! There are two drops in this ride! WHAT?!! They're really minor and I totally survived but I didn't see it coming. I was fine and in fact I kinda liked them. I think for the first time I actually understood why people like roller coasters, that scary thrilling feeling. But since I didn't know it was coming there was a moment there when I did feel like I was going to die or maybe just jump out of the boat. Luckily, I did neither and enjoyed the ride immensely! I was really hoping I could ride it again but we just didn't have time. All the animatronics in Disneyland are amazing but the ones on the Pirates rides I feel like have an especially close attention to detail and are super realistic. I can see why this one inspired such a deep storyline for a movie. They've definitely gone back in and added some extra feature to some characters so they more closely resemble their movie counter parts. The rides doesn't really mirror the movie very closely (which I'm fine with since I'm not the biggest fan) but the story it tells is just as compelling for a quick. It's dark and stormy, and sultry and scandalous! The perfect Pirate tale. And all the characters and pirates look just like the real thing! You can't believe it's all animatronics! You really think for awhile there it must be real actors but it's only when you get close that you can tell it's not real.
New Orleans Square
After the ride is over and you disembark your boat, you step out into the streets of New Orleans. Since we had pretty much come straight down from Frontierland, we hadn't had much of a chance to see the sights of New Orleans until this moment. And while on a regular day this would a sight to see, with all the garlands, ornament hung from the balcony and jewels draped across the lane ways, it felt like stepping out into a decadent ballroom or glittery dreamland! Everything was sparking in vivid colours and it was rich with opulent extravagance!
New Orleans Square is one of the next themed land areas to be found in Disneyland. It's based off the 19th century image of New Orleans and unlike many other feature areas of the park, this part cannot be found replicated in any other park around the world. It unique to Disneyland California. The land was opened to the public in 1966 and Walt got to see it's opening just before he passed away in late December so its significance as one of the last pieces of the park that Walt had his mark on is very important to Disneyland's history.
There are definitely some parts of Disneyland that feel more modern and updated for the newer attraction goers. They seem to need faster rides and more 3D experiences. But in New Orleans, there was especially that feeling (as in Fanataslyand) that the idea wasn't about gadgets and gizmos, it was about creating a world around you to build an atmosphere to be whiskered away inside. To be immersed into. You didn't need to ride a roller coaster here to get a kick, or blast a gun to feel energized. Just the feeling of being transported to another world was enough to make me feel like I was walking on air. I could have strolled around this area and felt like I got more than moneys worth.
You can even visit the parasol lady and get your name personalized on your very own parasol. So, while you're walking around this hot, New Orleans square, you can look just the part too. This is the perfect, unique Disney souvenir that's not cheesy or traditional and one I would highly recommend getting. Now not everyone is looking for this kind of disney experience and I know that. Some people want to be exhilarated. So I'm also glad there's also the Astro Blasters and Space Mountain for everyone else too. Best of both worlds :)
After walking around for a bit we were STARVING so we decided to grab some food at the FRENCH MARKET. There are so many options for food in this area. It is for sure the best place for food in the park. But the French Market is my pick for the best selection, the best price and the best self service. The other options are the
<b><a href="http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/river-belle-terrace/">River Belle Terrace</a></b>
which serves Breakfast and Lunch but I've read the reviews aren't as high as for other places along this strip so if the lines are too long and this is your only bet it's a fair shake. The
<b><a href="http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/royal-street-veranda/">Royal Street Veranda</a></b>
serves all sorts of delicious Gumbos!! Vegetarians gumbo, Steak Gumbo, Creamy Clam Chowder (all three are served in a sourdough bread bowl)! They are scrumptious and definitely worth a try but if there are people in your group who don't love gumbo this place doesn't have much else.
The Blue Bayou serves lunch and dinner and is the fancy sit down restaurant I mentioned that you can see inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It's a beautiful place where soft twinkling lights and candlelit tables greet you upon you entrance and you can watch under a canopy of mossy laden trees the Pirates of the Caribbean riders go by. At the Blue Bayou you can get the famous Monte Bistro Sandwich (served only at lunch time) and equally amazing Royal Street Seafood Jambalaya! BUT both these options are also available at the French Market for a cheaper price since you're not paying for the atmosphere. So, if you're just with your sweetheart and want to have a romantic evening, choose the Blue Bayou but if you've got the kids, opt for the French Market like we did for a yummy yet budget friendly option. We choose for our lunch time treat the infamous Monte Cristo Sandwich. A Ham and Swiss sandwich which is then fried and lightly covered in powered sugar. Sounds weird but it's absolutely delicious.
I also found myself at the very retro and mouth watering Mint Julep bar. There, I got myself a neon-green mint julep which almost defies explanation! As well, I grabbed few of those famous Mickey beignets for the kids which are so tasty but the powered sugars got all over me! Next time I think I'll have to eat them while standing over a sink or something.
Another one of the lands in Disneyland, was themed to show off the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the bears hidden therein. It was therefore, no surprise that Winnie the Pooh started to pop up as one of the main attractions inside this part of the park. Various types of trees have been planted throughout Critter Country to create a forestry atmosphere and it does feel as you move from New Orleans to Critter Country that the environment changes from an urban, city scape to an rural wilderness.
The different attractions that can be found in this area are: Splash Mountain (which is the huge draw to come down here), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoe Rides, The Haunted Mansion (which is also sort of consider part of New Orleans) and then two additional food areas are the Hungry Bear Restaurant (which is amazing!) and Pooh's Corner (which has some of the best treats in the Park! We all went on <b>The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as it was the perfect ride for all ages. We bordered an adorable little beehive vehicle (probably one of my favourite vehicles) and went on a journey throughout Pooh's little world. Once more, the animatronics were amazing and it was such a joyful ride. It's based on the film and includes an incredibly vivid dream scene, rain scene, and some unexpected special effects.
After the Winnie ride, Dan and Micheal ran over to Splash Mountain to brave the waves. Not being someone who can ride any of these attractions with big drops, I just think of them as just being thrills with nothing much more but there IS so much more to them! There is an entire plot to Splash Mountain. Each scenes from the mountain represents a segment of the "Song of the South" which tells the tale of a Br're Rabbit who leaves home in search of adventure. But of course there are troubles along the way for the poor rabbit as you will see as you follow him along his adventure. Amazing animatronics mirror his follies and near death experiences and eventually his joyful return home. The set design here is much more in line with the natural landscape but has that cartoon-esque treatment that fits into the Disney oeuvre. Next time I come, I think if there's not too long of a line, I might just try and be brave enough for this one since it seems like there's one two big drops and no big dizzying loops! With all the stories woven in there how can I keep missing out?!
If you're not going to spend your time on the Mountain though, while waiting for your loved ones, spend it in Pooh's Corner! Pooh's Corner is a snack and souvenir shop in the corner of the Critter Country that's full of delectable Disney chocolates handmade to perfection. The chocolate apples are the most amazing treats I've ever seen. They are made to looks like different Disney characters and are as delicious as they are enchanting. Yes, they're expressive, I know. And if you’re a season pass holder don't get them ever time. But if you're like me and come once a year - TREAT-YO-SELF! They're so beautiful and it feels like a work of art in addition to a dessert. But my favourite thing to grab here other than the apple, is the honey rice krispie treat. It's way cheaper than the apple and much cuter.
Toontown is just a hop skip and jump from the railroad station or just on the other side of Fantasyland. You enter the total cartoony wonderland from a giant tunnel that connects Toontown to Fatansyland. As you walk through the tunnel, you are beginning your journey into the world of the memorable cartoon characters that you fondly cherish from all those incredibly bright and cheerful childhood films. The concept behind Toontown was a fanciful representation of the world in which all those different cartoon characters live in Disneyland. The Princesses have Fantasyland, the Pirates have Frontierland and the Cartoons now have Toontown. It is based off the world of Roger Rabbit, where humans are able to enter into the cartoon world and interact with all the cartoons therein.
Inside, you find a myriad of miniature buildings all with huge exaggerated features and overly saturated coloured making them seem much more in style with that cartoon landscape. They have big rounded edges and dark outlines to make them seem consistent with that cartoon style, like pictures come to life! In Toonwtown you'll find Mickey and Minnie's house and you're even able to visit both inside and out to see how these character's live, what kind of decor they like and what treasures they keep hidden inside. You'll also be able to crawl through Goofy's Playhouse, Donald's Boat, Chip and Dale's Treehouse, take a Ride on the Gadget's Go Coaster and twirl around on Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.
Here we are outside Mickey's House. The attention to detail inside the house is amazing. There are many references to his character that are brought to life inside the house. Everything that is mentioned or made mentioned of in the movies is suddenly explored here and given more life. Nothing is behind glass or velvet ropes. Children can climb, play or jump on everything and explore to their heart's content here. You can even get the chance to meet Mickey and Minnie here which is a great opportunity for kids to meet this heroes. But be warned the wait time can be pretty long but for long lasting memories it can definitely be worth it if you can catch it on a good day.
There is definitely some imaginative charm to Toontown that everyone can enjoy but Toontown, more than any other land in the park, is meant for younger children more so than anyone else. There's only two real "rides" and the rest is simply a play area. This is a great place for parents with small children who don't want to line up all day and want to give their kids a fun little break but for me it became a little mundane in terms of things to do after a little while. That being said, I cannot gush enough about the styling and design of this place! So even just getting the chance to explore it was a great time!
One of the best parts of Toontown is the food area. It might not be the most diverse or have the best selection but you can't beat the design of these stands and the look of the overall dining area. Plus, they have great food for kids. Pluto's Dog House serves delicious hot dogs and Clarabelle's has some healthy options along with cool and creamy ice creams that are sure to hit the spot on a hot day. You'll also find Daisey's Diner and the new Frozen Drink Stand which is set up in the most adorable little aluminum camper. It sells different frosty frozen beverage in all sorts of different flavours perfect for kids and adults alike and you cannot beat that amazing little camper! I think Toontown is also a great place to come if you have a picnic. They have some beautiful little table with lovely blue and white umbrella's tucked away in the cornered off dining area that's very quiet since it's so far away from all the other attractions. If you're looking for somewhere to get awake from the noise and inanity but also looking for somewhere beautiful and quirky to get a bite to eat than this the place to sit for an hour or so and enjoy yourself.
A funny thing about this area is that each of the buildings have a funny little story to tell, or even a gag to pull each visitor. There's a Fireworks Factory that sets off explosions at unexacting guests intermitently throughout the day. There are piles of crates that you can pry opens that will emit noises consistent with their labeled contents. The boxes labelled "train parts" will broadcasts the sound of a racing locomotive when you lift off the top. It's these little gags that pop up all over Toontown that make this part of the park a little more fun and light compared to the heavier and more thrilling rides in the other lands. It's a short little stop over if you don't have litte kids and after only about 30 minutes or so (even after we rode Roger Rabbit's ride) we bid adieu to Toontown and headed out for Tomorrowland's Futuristic Funtimes!
After wandering down from Toontown, we made our way into Futuristic Retro Rewind that is Tomorrowland! We had fast passes for Autopia later on in the afternoon and wanted to catch the Jedi Training Sessions before taking a ride through Californian freeways. Tomorrowland, in 1955, was built to give guests a glimpse of what the imagined future would be like through different rides and experiences. The design of Tomorrowland was inspired by the dreamers and visionary scientists of the 20's and 30's and their different futuristic innovations and ideas. Disney refers to Tomorrowland as Future That Never Was and Newsweek has dubbed it the "retro-future"</i>
since we all know the real "future" that came to be didn't end up looking a lot like the various contraptions that these historic creators thought up.
Ever since Disney acquired the Marvel and Star Wars properties they have started intorducing these amazing stories and characters into this part of the park since they fit right in into the sci-fi theme of Tomorrowland. The Jedi Training Session was pretty silly but if you have little kids that are a fan of the franchise or if you a big Star Wars nerd like me, it's worth the 20 minutes of your time for an entertaining bit of fun! Plus, it's a nice little break for you to take in the afternoon sun when you're getting tired and need a little time off your feet.
The show is staged in the Tomorrowland Terrance and gives little kids the chance to take part in the show as well. About 30 recruits train with their Jedi Masters to fight with light sabers to battle against Darth Vader and the forces of evil. Most of the show is a little dull but there are some funny moment watching the kids try to follow along with the Jedi Masters light saber fencing "moves". The end of the show is the best part when Darth Vader along with a bunch of storm Trooper and even Darth Maul all arrive to preform a short fight routine which is very entertaining and even exciting to watch. The kids who participate get a diploma after they've completed their training so it's a real treat for kids who are lucky enough to get to take part in the show.
Autopia, for the those of us who get a little motion sickness, is the big draw for Tomorrowland. But let's be honest, it's more meant for the younger audiences. That being said, it's a perfectly relaxing ride across an elaborate miniature freeway in a gasoline powered car that travels at speeds up to SEVEN miles an hour! You pass by lovely retro road signs and get to ride in sleek, brightly coloured cars that weave along manicured roads. Little kids love this ride but if they're too small to reach the peddle, you'll need an adult in the car to ride in the seat that powers the peddle and the child will have the sit in the driver's seat to steer. That can make for a pretty hilarious ride but we had a great time with it! Although there's not much for the driver to control, they might need a little help around the corners. Either way, I find this ride really zen and a wonderful journey through California's forests.
After Autopia, we headed into the Innoventions building. Innoventions is one of the newest buildings in Disneyland, opened in July, 1998. It focuses on different futuristic technologies set up throughoutt various exhibitions in a large carousel theatre. One of the most exciting things that happened for the Innoventions building that was dwindling in popularity, was the arrival of the Marvel franchise to Disney. Now, various Marvel themed exhibits have revitalised this buildings attractions. One of the most interesting exhibits here was the Iron Man "Suit Up" Exhibition were you can see all the different iterations of the Iron Man suits as well as virtually step into a set of Tony Stark's suit of armor. There is a also a meet and greet room with Thor where you can introduce yourself to the man from Asgard himself. There, you can also view different props from the film which really lets you see an insider's view of the film as well as behind the scenes sneak peaks of stuff to come. Now with the new Captain America movie you can even get some face to face time with the Captain himself as well. It's great to see these characters interact with each other and the other characters in the park as well. They might be from different worlds but seeing them talk about each other is really funny. Be sure to ask Thor about his opinions on the Princesses!
These were all the rides we had time for in Tomorrowland but I wanted to talk quickly about the ones we missed since there are some great rides here not be to be missed both for entertainment and aesthetic reasons! The Astro Orbitor might not be the most exciting ride (it's pretty much just an amped up Dumbo ride) but it one of the most beautiful ones to look at and to me, represents the best of that
"futurist retro" design.
The most famous, and probably the most popular ride in the park, is SPACE MOUNTAIN! I knew that there was no chance I was going on this ride (since I'm much to susceptible to motion sickness) but I was so curious about what all the hype was about surrounding this ever so historic ride! Space Mountain is an indoor steel roller coaster that opened in 1977. The ride is essentially a slightly more upscale version of a Wild Mouse roller coaster. There are no huge drops are giant swooping hills as it's all enclosed in a building but there are fast, unexpected turns and small, quick drops. What does make this ride so popular with guests and keeps it so memorable in people's minds is the experience you get while riding it. Disney knew that it couldn't make huge rides but it did know that it could focus on the experience you got while inside the rides they could build. And that's what they did. You beginning in a spaceport and then board the rocket that takes you off into space where you'll see stretches of the galaxy swirl out all around you as you journey through space. The music combined with the projected visuals is an intoxicating and amazingly realistic experience. There is a real artistry to the whole experience in what might be thought of as just a thrill ride.
The one ride I'm really disappointed I missed is Astro Blasters. This is mainly because I didn't really understand what this ride was. I guess from the name I should have gotten it but I didn't and it's too bad. The Buzz Lightyears Astro Blaster's ride is actually more of a video game inspired attraction than just a normal ride. For some reason I thought it was one of those motion simulators, maybe I was thinking of Star Tours, so I gave it an immediate pass. But no, it's not like that at all! The ride is a combination between carnival shooting gallery and dark ride. The ride is based loosely on the storyline from the movie "Toy Story 2" and you and your ride partner have to attempt to stop the Evil Emperor Zurg from stealing batteries to power the space vehicles of the "Little Green Men". You use laser guns to shoot various markers in the ride to gain points, all of which are tallied up and provided to you at the end of the ride which is such a great treat to get to see at the end of the ride!
Depending on score you received you will get a different ranking. Level 1 = Star Cadet, Level 2 = Space Ace, Level 3 = Planetary Pilot etc... You are even photographed during play and at the end of the game you can send an e-card with your score and your picture to someone or even just to yourself. It's a nice, and a free, souvenir to keep from Disneyland! This will for sure be on my list for next time!
The Disneyland Fireworks show is on every night and is a must see part of your admission price. It is practically worth price of admission all on it's own so don't be caught on a ride during the show! On most evening the Disneyland fireworks show will start around 9 or 9:30pm so you'll have lots of time to grab dinner before the show. But a great time saving idea if you're only spending a day in the park is to try and grab a snack around dinner time and then while you're saving your spot for the fireworks show, grab a dinner to-go and eat in shadow of Sleeping Beauty's Castle while you're waiting for the amazing spectacle to start! Save a spot? "Aren't fireworks in the sky and seen all over the park?" you say? While this is true there are definitely better spots to see the show and the staff coordinate off areas of the park for people to sit and during the show there are area where they don't even let you stand around so there is some necessity in saving a spot if you really want to be able to comfortable see the show. We decided to head down main street to grab some snacks before the show as well as finish checking out any other shops we had missed before settling down in out spots about 45 minutes before show time (we got great seats!)
Once you've got all your snacks it's time to go grab a spot to camp out before the show starts. You do have to get there a bit early since it does fill up fast but with food to snack up and a chance to rest your feet we were happy for the chance to take a bit of a break and recap on all the different things we'd done all day and the few attractions we knew we needed to see before the day was done. Getting to watch the balloons go by was one of my favourite people watching moments of the night. Those light-up balloons are absolutely gorgeous. I don't know what I would do with it for the rest of the night if I had bought it, but it took everything inside of me to stop myself from buying the balloons all night long. They looked so pretty all lit up against the dark night sky.
After grabbing a quick cup of joe from the friendliest member of the Disney family (you can grab coffee just outside the castle from a cart and you'd be surprised how good it is!), the fireworks show was about the begin! The music which had been playing through the park all began to turn off and the the lights throughout the park slowly started to dim. You knew the show was about to BEGIN!
The fireworks show that runs during the holidays is called Believe... There's Magic in the Stars. The whole show is thirteen-minutes long! Can you imagine how much 13 minutes of fireworks costs! This is why you can't miss this show! The program combines fireworks set to various classic Christmas songs. The entire thing culminates in a magical moment when "snow" begins to fall from various areas of the park. The snow is might be fake but the effect it gives visitors is truly magical. At first when you look up at the sky you think for a moment that it really might be snowing. When the fireworks end and the music dies down, the snow continues to fall in the moonlight for a few minutes before the lights come back on, leaving you in a peaceful moment of lovely, Christmas memories.
King Arthur Carousel
After the fireworks show ended, we headed over to the Fantasyland, just on the other side of the Castle, to ride King Arthur Carousel! I had waited all day to ride the carousel. I wanted to ride it at night since when all the lights were all lit up and sparkling! And it didn't dissapoint! The carousel is another one of those iconic amusement park rides. Walt Disney was insistent on having in his park, despite the fact that many people told him they were outdated and not the kind of thrilling ride that would draw people to the park. Nonetheless, Disney wanted that kinda of ride to exist in his park, and I'm happy he did. The King Arthur carousel was one of the original rides that opened with the park in 1955 but has under gone many different refurbishment overs other years.
Over those years, the horses have undergone different paint jobs. The most significant paint job that many remember was the change from a single white horse to all the horses becoming white horses. In 1975 they decided to repaint all the horses white to satisfy customer demand since their single white horse was over and above the most popular of all the other brown and black horses on the carousel. In 2005, for the 50th anniversary, in tribute to Julie Andews and her iconic role of Mary Poppies, a horse was added named "Jingles" with golden bells that covered her saddle. I was lucky enough to get to ride on Jingles!! She was ever so marvelous!!! But you'd be surprised to learn that every single one of the horses on the carousel has a name so no matter the horse you ride, it's a special horse with a special name.
After we finished riding on the carousel, we wandered through the mostly empty streets of Fantasyland. It was so interesting to see this place transformed at night. What was a jam packed placed with children screaming in the day time, became an almost upscale and romantic wonder-world at nighttime with popcorn lights twinkling all around us and mostly couples arm and arm walking through mainly open grounds. We wandered through the Bibbidi Bobbidi Botuqiue which is usually a zoo during the day but at night it was relatively quiet. The shop was named after the fairy godmother in Cinderella and walking through the door to felt like you were truly walking into her closet, or perhaps her little cottage. It was covered wall to wall with princess dresses and knights costumes. Towards the back they even had really real looking replica swords and shields and even a suit of armor on display. During the day this place is very popular since guests can come and get their hair and makeup done by the same people who cut the princesses hair. Which doesn't really make sense to me since clearly they all wear wings but still, it's a nice little touch and the shop it soooo adorable. It really made me wish they carried some of these dresses in my size...
After we finished up there we walked under the beautiful snow soaked castle, all light up with beautiful Christmas lights and headed on over to the Haunted Mansion for the Nightmare Before Christmas themed ride! Since it was so late at night and a weeknight we got right in the door without waiting more than a few minutes! This was great since this lineup had been huge when we past by earlier on in the day! I couldn't wait since I'm both a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan as well as I big fan of old timey horror rides.
The Haunted Mansion is one of the most popular dark rides in all the park. But you might be surprised to know that when it was opened in 1969, it was met with a mediocre response. Many guests thought that the rides wasn't scary enough. Walt Disney had originally thought up the concept with some of his imagineers and although wanted the inside of the house to appear old and run down didn't want the outside of the house to look decrepit or ugly, thus taking away from the overall look of the rest of Disney. He famously said, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside." One of Walt's favourite designers, Rolly Crump, was put in charge of this project. His vision for this ride revolved around bizarre curiosities like coffin clocks, candle men, talking chairs, man eating plants, tiki-like busts and a mirror with a face. Walt nick named the house the "Museum of the Weird" but past away before the ride was completed.
Although it's called the "Haunted Mansion" the ride is more funny and entertaining than a gory and scary worthy attraction. When you enter the mansion you step into a "doom buggy" and ride through the mansion's parlous, dining room, library, halls, attics and finally descend into the graveyard. Disney's animators and imagineers worked tirelessly and employed all sorts of different tricks and special effects in this dark ride to make the ghosts come alive. Although the scares are not the bloody and violent ones we're used to see now adays, they are wonderful, Victorian-spooks from another era that bring us back to another time and place when scares didn't need to be so over the top and bloody.
BUT we got an even more special treat and that was to see the Nightmare Before Christmas version of this ride. The ride feels like an entirely different attraction but so some guests will come back just to see these holidays swaps! The regular characters are changed out for Nightmare Before Christmas stars. Jack Skllingtons and the Oogie Boogie man steal the show and you'll see Sally and the the rest of the cast from Halloween land dancing around the house. Danny Elfman's classic score from the movie also accompanies you throughout your journey adding an extra little bit of wonder throughout the trip. My favourite part was the graveyard that was all decorated with glowing pumpkins stacked up high in the shape of the Christmas trees.
We were approaching the Midnight mark and it was time to start heading out of the park. We walked down Main Street one last time, taking in that beautiful view of the castle as we walked down the street. I will note, all the shops in Disneyland stay open 1 hour later than the park so most of the shops would have been open till 1am. But we didn't know this at the time and just as well since we were exhausted from all the amazing times we had had all day.
Late Night Shopping
I did managed to sneak in a few last shopping excursions on our way out. The Disneyland Emporium is a great place to shop as your leaving the park. It has just about every souvenir that you've seen all over the park right here in one shop. Most of the souvenir shops all over the park are themed to the certain area of the park you're in. So the shop near Pirates of the Caribbean will have lots of pirate items and Winnie the Pooh's Corner will have tons of Winnie the Pooh items, but here in Disneyland Emporium's, there is a selections of items from all of those shops. There might not be everything you've seen in all of those unique shops but there will be a choice few items from each of them for sure. So if something caught your eye but you past it by, chances are you'll find it here again.
My favourite shop though was the Disney showcase were I found all sorts of different Disney Christmas trinkets and decorations. I must have spent half an hour trying to pick out the perfect pair of Mickey Mouse ear ornaments for my christmas tree. Christmas tree ornaments are some of my favourite souvenirs. I mark them with the date and the location of where they came from so when I'm setting up my tree they always make me think of the wonderful memories of where they came from. I can't wait to come back next year to get another one to match!
Before we knew it, it was time to go. We took one last picture before we left, the smiles on our faces as big as the smiles in our hearts. Our feet were begging for rest but I didn't want to say goodbye. Alas, the lights were beginning to turn off in the park and I knew it was time to go. When we got to the car, my little Mickey Ears still on my head bumped on the edge of the car as we got in. I giggled and then it dawned on me. It was really time to go. Dan looked over at me, "Are you crying?", he said, almost laughing at how silly I was being. I was. I knew I was being ridiculous. When he asked why, the only answer I could think of was, "It...It was all just so magical...."