Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Contemplating A Disneyland Christmas...In June

Winter Castle

I'm sitting here working on this blog in my favorite living room chair, shorts, t-shirt and barefoot. Over in the corner of the room is a standing oscillating fan gently humming, assisting the forced air conditioning with keeping the room at a comfortable temperature. And I'm here contemplating Christmas at Disneyland. A few weeks ago, I posted that if I were to pick a time to go back to Disneyland this year it would either be the week before Thanksgiving or the first two weeks of December. Disneyland would be decked out in its Christmas best. Disneyland doesn't own a hideous Christmas sweater. During Christmas, Disneyland shines!

What brought this all on was an email from my former boss to some of the more Disneyland savvy veterans around the office looking for some advice about a large family trip she is planning just after Christmas. Rather than replying to her email, I'll just lay a few things out here.

it's a small world holiday

First of all - Go! There is no better place to be during the Christmas holidays than Disneyland, especially with family around. Magic. I've said this before...here is my one caveat. Go to Disneyland to enhance your holiday experience. Don't go with hopes that it will lift you out of your holiday blues if things aren't quite going your way during the holidays. The mouse has more ways to get you to open your wallet and whip out a charge card than you can shake a stick at. Sometimes it grows tiresome because it permeates the place. If you begin to look - "spend $60 on any purchase and get this beautiful Mickey and Minnie embroidered Christmas throw for just an additional $18" - you'll see things like that in every store. The over-commercialization can be a downer, if you let it. 

A hotel? Well, if this is a once in a lifetime chance, do consider The Disneyland Hotel or The Grand Californian. One year we had 4 families split the cost of a 3-bedroom suite at The Disneyland Hotel. Expensive? - you bet, but the overall cost was split 4 ways so it was doable. We also stayed at The Grand Californian with 3 adjoining rooms plus a 4th room across the hall. Not as nice of a set-up as the suite, but still not a bad way to go. And yes, very expensive - especially during the holidays. The difference between The Grand Californian and The Disneyland Hotel? The GC is more convenient, more stately, more lavish, and more upscale. The rooms are some of the quietest you will ever stay in. The Disneyland Hotel, now completely remodeled from head to toe, is just more Disney fun. It almost feels like an extension of the park. You never actually leave the Disney experience while staying at The Disneyland Hotel.

But with trips to Disneyland, choices need to be made. The Disneyland Traveler would much rather spend his Disney budget inside the park than on a hotel room. For the last several trips, Mrs. DisneylandTraveler and I have stayed at The Candy Cane Inn on Harbor Blvd. CCI isn't the cheapest hotel in the resort area, it isn't the closest to the front gates, but what it is.... a very nice place to stay with immaculate grounds, a first rate staff, very clean rooms, and they have their own private shuttle (even though it's only about a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the front gates of the park). Check out the reviews of the Candy Cane Inn on tripadvisor.com. It usually ranks in the top 5 and often beats out the Disney owned resorts. We have never had an unpleasant stay and it's about a third of the cost of a Disney owned hotel.

The front desk of the Candy Cane Inn
Customer Service is usually outstanding

Admission and tickets. Prices to enter Disneyland and Disney California Adventure went up on May 20th. Fortunately for the occasional park visitor or vacationer, the annual pass holders took the biggest blow in the pocketbook. A premium annual pass to Disneyland is now $649 for anyone over the age of 3. With the relaunch of Disney California Adventure coming June 15th and the opening of the Buena Vista Street entrance and Cars Land, Disney expects large crowds for the next year so don't look for too many discount opportunities. If things do slow down, they can always offer discounts to park hopper tickets or add a free day on to multi-day park hoppers. Wouldn't count on it though. One way you can save a little money is to commit to visiting 1 park per day instead of traditional park hopping. The single park multi-day admission packages are cheaper than the park hoppers.

Cars Land at Nite - A Disney Parks Blog Photo

Buena Vista Street - DCA

Carthay Circle Restaurant - Buena Vista Street
Disney California Adventure

Carthay Circle Restaurant & Lounge
Disney California Adventure

Red Car Trolley - Buena Vista Street
to the Tower of Terror

What not to miss during the holidays?  Start with A Christmas Fantasy Parade - still Disneyland's best parade though it can only be seen about 7 weeks a year.

It should be noted that the longest parade route of any Disney park in the world is now in Disney California Adventure. Rumor has it that Buena Vista St. will put up full holiday decorations much the same as Main St. Disneyland. No word on a holiday parade but it is possible to bring the Electrical Parade for a holiday visit I suppose.

What else is not to be missed? Lighting of the Winter Castle, fireworks, and yes, they do make it snow on Main Street (well, it's more like tiny soap bubbles, but you can pretend).

Of course, check out the holiday overlays for it's a small world and The Haunted Mansion...

it's a small world - holiday overlay

Also be sure to go over to the Big Thunder Ranch to see the Reindeer Round-up. That's where Santa sets up shop and yes, there are real reindeer wandering about. 

Crowds - Christmas week is one of the busiest weeks of the year. In general, on Christmas Eve Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve Day, Disney will have to close off park admission sometime in the afternoon because park capacity has been reached. This is more true for Disneyland rather than DCA but this year, all bets are off. Last year, the official end of the Christmas season at Disneyland ended January 8.

The one thing about December is the unpredictability of the weather, even in Southern California where it isn't supposed to rain. Last year's Candlelight Processional weekend was completely rained out. Below there is a video of a nice December day we had back in 2008. It was so bad the park closed down 2 hours early probably because there were more staff working than actual paid guests. Disneyland doesn't work very well in a hard rain and things seem to systematically shut down. A little rain at Disneyland isn't a bad thing because it keeps the locals out. A lot of rain can make things miserable. Also, while the days in Southern California can be quite nice in the winter months, the temperature really drops once the sun starts to go down. A word from personal experience, a ride on Splash Mountain or Grizzly River Run at 5 in the afternoon isn't a good idea. There's a reason why the lines for these rides suddenly gets much shorter that time of day.

To be continued....

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