*My family and I were invited to preview the new holiday features at The Disneyland Resort on behalf of Savvy Sassy Moms. All opinions are mine. Be prepared, this post is long and features lots of reminiscing.
I grew up in Anaheim. Which means I got to go to Disneyland a lot. We had annual passes for many years and one of those years was the 30th year anniversary celebration in 1985. Every time you went through the gate you got something. It was usually a collectible pin, but you could also win tickets to Disneyland. My mom would take us every day after school to see what we would win (I mean, there were also cars, etc. that were up for grabs). I remember even going in the rain. Clearly, that is not ideal. You could say that Disneyland had lost its sparkle for me. And getting to go so often, on off-peak times, makes you a little bit reluctant to deal with the crowds. And then I had children. You know that you will end up at Disneyland at some point (and oh yeah, now there is also California Adventure which is super new to me since that was not around during my kid years). We waited until my oldest son was 4 before taking him the first time. I wanted to make sure he could really experience all of it. And, well, he wasn’t very expressive with his emotions and I felt like if I was going to spend the money, I need some high-pitched screaming or jazz hands at the very least.
So my almost five-year old had never been. When I was asked to cover the holiday preview at both parks for Savvy Sassy Moms (go read the full post over there where I give all the details on the holiday features) I started to get really excited. He would give me the child-like wonder I wanted to see. So I kept the trip a surprise and told them the morning of. We would have two-day park hopper passes and get to stay a night at the Disneyland Hotel. The only HUGE bummer was that my husband was in Australia on business so he couldn’t experience it with us! I texted him pictures constantly though. And my mom came with me which was huge. Not only is she a HUGE help to me, it was also fun going back to a place I had been so many times with her.
The boys couldn’t have been more excited! We stopped by the hotel to drop off our bags before heading to the parks. I know that I have been to the hotel before (back in college I think?) but what I found was a really nicely done hotel. While it had hidden Mickeys and character features, it didn’t feel child-like. The colors were great, the materials were nice and I really liked it. And we hadn’t even seen the room yet! We decided to hit the parks and sneak back later to change in to pants for the evening.
We headed straight to Cars Land and started riding the rides. The boys were in heaven. And since it was a Thursday, the crowds were not that bad. We rode three rides and then made our way to Radiator Springs Racers.
Where the line was quite long. The boys were really good for about 20 minutes but then I started hearing, “Mommy, I want to go home.” What? No. But they persevered and when we finally got to ride it. O loved it. M said he really liked it but finally changed his mind to say it was scary. But that was their first fast ride and it made me remember how much fun the rides at Disneyland are. Evey where you look, whether you are waiting in line to actually on the ride, the details are just amazing. And the staff is incredible. They are so friendly, full of amazing information and really do make your time in the parks enjoyable.
Oh yeah and we might have gotten THE RADDEST THING EVER along with my “media” pass. When we checked in for the blogger event we were given coupons for a few of the rides. With these, we could walk in the exit and walk RIGHT ON THE RIDE! Boom.
I was super excited to find out that one such pass could be used on It’s a Small World, my favorite ride. You guys! I just really love that ride! From the way the building looks to the all the colors and happiness on the inside, I just really freaking love it. I was excited to share it with the kids too.
The coolest part is that they have given it a holiday make-over. In almost every area, there are holiday decorations that go along with the country represented. There are carols playing and everything seem even more joyous than usual. It was so rad to watch the kid’s faces. I suddenly realized that I had a smile on my face for the entire ride. What a nerd.
We hit some old favorites around the park. My oldest was POSITIVE that he could get the sword out of the stone. He would have tried for hours if I let him. I remember playing right here with my sister as kids trying to get the sword out and watching the show they do throughout the day.
But we also go to check out some of the new attractions as well. I haven’t seen the new movie “Frozen” yet but I am enamored with the snowman, Olaf. He’s the cutest. We found him atop a roof top chatting away. Below him is an area where the kids can meet and get a photo with Anna and Elsa from the movie too. The building looks amazing all covered in Disney snow. This attraction is set up around the corner from the Village Haus restaurant where we would go often on our visits. They used to serve the best chili sizes ever!
And oh hey, there is a Starbucks. There are two things that I love about this. First, Disneyland knows how to make their patrons happy. Give them what they want. But I also love the way that they made it blend in. You could barely tell it was there. Very well done.
We watched the holiday parade – which was so much fun (but what Disney parade isn’t? – I remember one year, I got my own camera for Christmas as a kid. We went to Disneyland later on Christmas Day and the first pictures I took with that camera were of the parade. I still run across them once in a while and it is such a nice memory). Then it was time to run back to the hotel and actually head up to the room to change our clothes. The boys were in love. How cool is that headboard?! It played music and the lights positively sparkled.
There was one character that my youngest said he wanted to take a picture with. And we found Pluto over in California Adventure. I pointed him out and he immediately got in line and waited patiently for his turn. This hug was the cutest thing ever!
Both parks are completely decked out for the holidays. I really think that this is the best time to visit. For real. The decorations are perfectly suited to each location in the park. Cars Land, for instance, had the most adorable wreaths made out of wrenches and trees made out of tires. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was decked out in gorgeous icicles. It is done in such a way, though, that makes it seem like it has been there all along. It doesn’t stand out but only enhances your visit.
After a media reception where we got to check out the Viva Navidad fiesta and show we called it quits and headed back to the hotel. The coolest part was the park was closed. The boys got a second wind and danced, skipped, jumped, ran. And really just acted like goofballs. I love that blogging has allowed them to also have some amazing experiences. These are memories they will remember. While we were really just walking towards the exit, they got to run around as if they owned the place. So cool.
When I found out about our chance to go to Disneyland, I started looking at all the things we could do. I decided that a character breakfast would be really great. While my kids weren’t super in to seeing any specific characters, I knew they would be excited if they came up to the table.
I was totally right. It was so nice to be able to sit down and enjoy a good meal. We went to the Minnie and Friends breakfast at the Plaza Inn. You guys, the waffles…yum! M has never eaten as much food. And I have to say that every single place we went in the parks, were all about making sure that O had something safe to eat with his food allergies. The chef came out and talked to us and then went and prepared his own plate for him in the kitchen to make sure that, since this is a buffet, there was no cross contamination.
First order of business after breakfast was the Storybook Ride. M had seen the giant whale and was dying to go on a boat. So we headed there first. As we were on the ride, listening to the funny ride operator, it dawned on me. My boys have seen hardly any of the Disney movies. So they had no idea who they were talking about! I’ve failed as a mother. In my defense, my boys don’t really like to sit through whole movies and I, myself, have never seen The Little Mermaid or Aladdin. But I decided that we are going to have Friday night family movie nights and get caught up. There are too many great life lessons in the movies and pop cultural references that my kid’s need to be aware of. I can think of worse ways to spend Friday nights, can’t you?
While my kids are always instructed to keep their hands to themselves when we are out, in Toon Town they got to get crazy. We rode some rides, they touched everything they could possibly touch, and had a marvelous time.
AND. THEN. I headed over to Paradise Pier at California Adventure to find out more about how they produce the World of Color Winter Dreams show. If you haven’t seen their World of Color show, you need to put it on your bucket list. I feel ridiculous saying this but it brought tears to my eyes. Essentially they shoot water fountains in to the air and create a “screen” that they project video on. The show is full of color and lights and music with the standard Disney perfection. We had seen the show the night before and I was in absolute awe of it. It featured new and old characters, holiday songs as well as a new song they created just for the show. DO NOT MISS IT! My head just about exploded when, after hearing about how it works, they let us try out the fountains via an iPad! What?! My kids even got a chance to try it.
We checked out some of the other holiday sites at the park and I absolutely adored the Haunted Mansion Holiday. I mentioned my love of the colors and patterns here, but this ride has been completely transformed for the holidays. It is whimsical, kind of creepy, fun and totally unique. My kids are drawn to Jack Skellington even though they haven’t seen the movie.
Especially during the holidays. Main street simply glows and there is a buzz from the crowd. The tree is gorgeous and you are transported to another place. It dawned on me late in the day on our second day. This trip wasn’t even about the kids. While I am so glad that they had an enjoyable trip and got to experience The Disneyland Resort, I was super excited to find my #DisneySide again. I instantly started to calculate the cost of Disneyland Annual Passes in my head to see if we could afford them. The memories that I have, the memories that were made in these two days, and the memories that will be made there, are heart warming. I was not expecting that. I was touched by small gestures found everywhere around the park. From the ticket takers at the front gates to the sweet gal picking up trash that I got directions from. Disney is pure magic. For everyone.
And as we headed out of the park on our last night, we were all tired and sore from all the walking. But when the snow (yes, snow!) began to fall I felt like I had when we had first gotten there. All around you, people were smiling. Perfect strangers were exchanging smiles and eye contact with each other and it felt like you knew everyone. It is what I imagine living on Main Street would really feel like. Well played, Disneyland. I had never understood the adults who seem to be Disney fanatics. But now I get it. For the time you are in the parks, you are in a whole new world. One of pure magic. Oh crap. I think my #DisneySide is showing.
In case you were wondering, my family ended up with 12 Disneyland tickets during the anniversary celebration. We were able to use those for the next 10 years when we wanted to go to Disneyland or had out-of-town guests. While I may have gotten burnt out of going to Disneyland, I cherish the fact that we were fortunate enough to be there so often. Even in the rain.
We were there for almost two whole days and there is still so much more that we didn’t get to see! Dear Santa, I’ve been very good this year…