Christmas in One of the Happiest Places on Earth
“Have a holly jolly Christmas
It’s the best time of the year
Well, I don’t know if there’ll be snow.
But have a cup of cheer!
Have a holly jolly Christmas
And in case you didn’t hear
Oh, by golly have a holly jolly Christmas this year!”
Day 4. That Christmas carol welcomed us as we entered the gates of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. The park was dressed for the most wonderful time of the year – towering Christmas trees, glittering decorations, Christmas lights and smiles on everyone’s faces! (Check out our home video of Disneyland at the end of this blog)
Our family adores Disneyland. Like many other families, we feel that Disneyland is truly one of the happiest places on Earth, and we were grateful that we got to be there during Christmas Season.
We were in Tokyo Disneyland for their 20th anniversary in 2008 and in Disneyland Paris for their 25th anniversary in 2013, and so it was really cool that Disneyland California was celebrating its 60th anniversary during our visit.
Everything seemed sparkling and glittering – from decorations to shows and parades and even their souvenirs.
We arrived in Anaheim the night before because we wanted to start early today and spend 3 full days between the Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. The two parks are collectively known as Disneyland Resort. The plan is to spend day 1 at Disneyland Park, day 2 at Disney California Adventure and back to Disneyland Park on day 3.
Our first day was spent at Disneyland Park and our first destination was breakfast! It was already crowded when we arrived around 9am and the queues at restaurants were really long. We were just lucky that our planned restaurant, River Belle Terrace, at Frontierland had a shorter queue. The restaurant had all sorts of pancakes but it was the Mickey-shaped pancake that made us put this restaurant on our itinerary.
Tips: Yup I said ‘itinerary’. Based on our previous experiences, it’s vital to make a plan if you have limited time at Disney. Pick the attractions and shows to prioritise, don’t miss the seasonal ones, and identify those which have FastFass. Fastpass is important especially for the really popular attractions that you wouldn’t want to miss. But then again, don’t stress if you don’t get to do everything on your list. We never get to stick to our itinerary, ever, and it’s okay.
After breakfast, we immediately got FastPass tickets for the Haunted Mansion. The queues to this one can get crazy and it’s for a reason. It has the right mix of suspense and fun, without the big drops hence everyone can go!
We were quite lucky that the queue at Pirates of the Caribbean was still not that long (30mins) at about 10am. It’s a water-based ride which inspired the film series of the same name. The face of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow was incorporated in the attraction. This ride was one of our favourites.
Ah, next was our visit to Mickey Mouse at Mickey’s Toon Town. This was on our priority list too, Joaquin had to see Mickey.
Joaquin first met Mickey in Paris and it was truly a magical moment for him. It was unforgettable for me – seeing the excitement in Joaquin’s eyes as he hugged Mickey. We knew how much he loves Mickey and he was excited to see him again.
It was nice and colourful in Toon Town, even I and Euben felt like kids again. Benjamin was a bit reluctant though saying he’s already a teenager but I bet he also felt happy to be there.
As we made our way to New Orleans for the Haunted Mansion, we took this shot of the Big Thunder Mountain. We didn’t dare try this attraction though because of the big drops.
I promise not to upload videos of the rides here but I am posting more and more pictures so please be warned.
To continue with my story, while many were queuing for an hour or so for the Haunted Mansion, our FastPass tickets brought us to our ride in about 15 minutes.
We’ve tried this before in Paris, but this one in California seemed longer and better.
The theme was a combination of Halloween and Christmas. The result – spooktacular!
Less thrilling but equally anticipated by Joaquin and me was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It’s a ride in an over-sized beehive where we slowly traveled through Hundred Acre Wood.
Inside where familiar scenes from the books which Joaquin and Benjamin could relate to. I remember decorating their room with Classic Pooh stickers when they were still babies. I think this is a must for kids who grew up with Winnie the Pooh because the entire ride was like a storybook that came to life.
At about 2pm the crowd gathered along the streets waiting for the Christmas Fantasy Parade. They announced that the parade was extra special this year because Disneyland was celebrating its diamond anniversary.
Disney was also celebrating the 90th birthday of Dick van Dyke, one of its legendary stars, who also joined in the parade that day. It was a real treat for fans of Mary Poppins, where van Dyke starred as Bert.
Along with van Dyke, the parade was opened by dozens of dancers dressed in different Christmas-themed costumes.
I guess no matter how many times we watch the Disney parade; we will never get tired of it. Magic lives on in Disney and everyone – young and old, are whisked into a fantasy world that only Disney could.
That’s Joaquin towering above everyone else. He happily climbed onto a lamp post and at this point he kept saying “Mickey’s coming! Mickey’s coming! Look!”
Some floats brought us back to the days of good old classic tales….
And this to Toyland…
Finally, here comes Santa and his reindeer…
After the parade, we meet with my high school classmates, Marife and Heinrich and their families who are now based in California. I haven’t seen them in more than 20 years and I really appreciate that they made time to join us for the rest of the day.
We watched the Jedi Training show at the Galactic Grill Stage where a number of lucky kids were selected to train as Jedi to fight the evil Darth Vader. It’s a 15-20 minute show which was inspired by the then soon-to-be-released movie, Star Wars The Force Awakens. There were other Star Wars attractions and we plan to visit them on our 3rd day in Disney.
As we made our way to a few more attractions, we caught a glimpse of the Christmas Fantasy Parade again (encore at 4pm).
Our group of nine headed to ‘it’s a small world’. It’s a slow boat ride attraction which magically takes people across the globe.
I liked this ride even before; it’s enchanting and relaxing at the same time.
Similar to Paris, it showcased familiar cultures, but this one in California has a Christmas motif added to its grand collection. Truly mystifying as we sailed along.
We all went to Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage for our last ride before we called it a night. It’s a submarine ride which showcases the adventures of Nemo and his friends in the Great Barrier Reef.
We will see our LA friends again on the days that followed. For now, our family was on our own again, and we tried to look for a restaurant for dinner but everything was full and really crowded and then we realised that it’s true what they recommend, that we should have booked the day before. But the thing about being in Disney is that you’ll never really know when you’ll have time for lunch or dinner. And although you make a list of things to do for the day, chances are you’ll never be able to stick to it. We couldn’t, we didn’t. But it’s okay, that’s part of the fun and excitement. Like I said earlier, planning is good but embracing spontaneity is one key to a more enjoyable holiday.
There were still more attractions at Disneyland Park and we intend to visit them on our 3rd day at Disney. The following day, we will first cross to the other park, Disney California Adventure Park to see Lightning McQueen and Mater.
Here’s the home video of our visit to Disneyland (Day 1 and 3). Hope this inspires you!