Holiday Magic – 7 things you can’t miss at Disneyland and California Adventure

The holiday season at Disneyland is absolutely magical and is always a special experience. From November 9th to January 6th both parks are transformed with festive décor, food, and activities. These are my favorite things to see and do during the Holidays at the Parks.

The lighting of It’s a Small World is something you must see at least once. I tear up every time I watch the show, it is just absolute magic. The best part is you don’t have to wait around for hours to reserve a spot. The lighting can be viewed every half hour from 5:15 pm till 11:30 pm. Just show up 5-10 minutes before and you should be fine.

Cars Land has some of my favorite decorations because they are so creative. Mater and the gang have decked out Radiator Springs with Garland assembled from air filters, tires and crescent wrenches. Each area has a different take on Christmas decorations to reflect the personality of the character. Mater’s snow-dusted Christmas tree is built out of a pile of retread tires with a spark plug “star” on top.  The garland on Mater’s attraction is made from oil cans, oil spouts and old license plates.   While at the Cozy Cone Hotel there is an orange cone tree decorated with orange cone ornaments and topped with an orange cone star.  It is powered by a car battery and jumper cable. There are so many great details in these decorations, really take your time and check everything out.  Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is transformed into the Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. And  while you’re exploring Radiator Springs be sure to get a photo with Mater “Santa”.

Photos with Santa can be taken over at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where the elves have been busy creating seasonal games and outdoor activities for all ages. Santa and all of his helpers are so wonderful and interactive with the kids, it is hands down my favorite place for Christmas photos. The Challange trail is also a great area to let the kids run off some of their energy. It has plenty of slides and rope bridges to bounce between and tunnels and caves to explore. Chip and Dale can often be found in this area in their Christmas attire for festive photos and there usually isn’t a bad wait to meet with them.

The Grand Californian Hotel Lobby is stunning all year long with its California Craftsman-inspired architecture, overstuffed chairs, and beautiful fireplace. It is one of my favorite spots to stop and relax during a busy day at the Park. During the holidays a magical team of 16 bakers, 6 craftsmen, and 2 electricians design and build a replica of the hotel in a stunning Gingerbread House that stands 7 feet tall by 12 feet wide.

600 pounds of gingerbread, 250 pounds of fondant, 12 gallons of egg whites, 3.5 gallons of lemon juice, and 1 pound of “pixie dust” glitter all goes into the making of this magnificent cookie creation. In the center of the lobby stands a stunning Christmas Tree lit with arts and craft style lanterns. It really is the perfect place to sit and snack on something sweet or just wander through on your way between California Adventure and Downtown Disney.

Main Street USA is stunning in all of its Christmas décor. It’s Christmas Tree stands over 60 feet tall. A Christmas Fantasy Parade features Santa and his Reindeer and Disney characters all dressed in their Holiday best. The ”Believe…in Holiday Magic” Fireworks light up the sky accompanied by music and snow at the finale. The best viewing location is on Main Street but if you have tickets for Fantasmic just stay put after the show and you will have a good spot for the fireworks as well.

The castle lighting is always special to watch. It’s beautifully decorated but there is something about the lights coming on as it gets dark that makes it even more magical.

The food! There is no shortage of delicious foods to eat between the holiday-inspired items at restaurants throughout both parks and the Festival of Holidays Marketplace booths at California Adventure it is easy to snack your way through the day. For reviews on some of the delicious eats at the Festival check out my post-Disney’s Festival of Holidays.

The festive snacks are as delicious as they are cute.

Preggers at the Park- Enjoying Disneyland while you’re Pregnant

Can you still go to Disneyland while pregnant and is there anything to do? Yes and heck yes!

Disneyland was my favorite place while I was pregnant, so much so we did our maternity shoot there and I spent a lot of time at the Parks toward the end of my pregnancy just walking and snacking. However, every pregnancy is different, so please talk to your doctor before heading to the parks to see if they have any specific instructions.

Food

I don’t know about you but my pregnancy superpower was enhanced taste and let’s face it the food at Disney is already amazing but it was even better while I was pregnant. Outside food is allowed in the parks so make sure to pack extra snacks in case you find yourselves extra hungry or nothing is looking appetizing to you at the park. I would pack up a camel pack backpack with a full water bladder and some snacks for a day at the park. The backpack was perfect for me because it allowed my hands to be free and it ensured that I stayed hydrated through the hot summer days.

Attractions

At Disneyland you can enjoy the majority of the attractions in Fantasyland, slower rides like the Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters, Astro Orbiters, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Disneyland Railroad, the Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia. At California Adventure, enjoy slower rides like Monster’s, Inc., Golden Zephyr, The Little Mermaid Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, etc. I did Toy Story Midway Mania while pregnant (it does whip you around a bit but there’s no bumping or anything) as well as Soarin’ Around the World, but again consult your physician about Toy Story and Soarin’ just to be sure. Pretty much just avoid attractions that operate at high speeds, have jerks and jolts, sudden drops, and/or strong breaking systems. If you choose to ride one of these rides please remember the liability is on you so please take caution and if in doubt you can always ask a Cast Member.

Entertainment

Both parks offer a variety of shows and walk through experiences that you can enjoy. At Disneyland you have parades, Fireworks and Fantasmic in the evenings. Then there’s also the Enchanted Tiki Room, Tarzan’s Treehouse, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, the Star Wars Launch Bay, Toon Town, and endless character meet and greets/photos. At California Adventure you have the Red Car Trolley Newsboys, Disney Junior Dance Party, World of Color, Frozen Live at the Hyperion and the Animation Academy which is one of my favorites. I also would venture into the Redwood Creak Challenge area with my niece.

So again you can and should go to Disneyland and California Adventure while pregnant. Just make sure to clear it with your doctor, listen to your body, stay cool, stay hydrated and take it easy and enjoy yourself.

Courtyard Anaheim Resort/Convention Center

There are a handful of Hotels that partner with Disney called “Good Neighbors Hotels”. These hotels are close to the park but more budget conscious than staying at the Resort Hotels. There are quite a few Marriott’s in this network and I honestly believe you can’t go wrong with Marriott.

We chose to stay at the Courtyard Anaheim Resort/Convention Center. It is located 1 mile (6min drive) from Disneyland and is right next to the Anaheim convention center which is perfect if you are needing a room while attending the D23 Expo.

We stayed in one of their regular guest rooms that sleeps up to 4 people and used our Fisher Price rock and play for our 2 month old to sleep in. Pack n plays are available if you need a crib for your little one but since this was our littles first hotel stay we opted to stick with what she is used to sleeping in. If you have a larger group their Family Suite offers bunk beds, a pullout sofa and 2 bedrooms so the whole family can stay together.

Their restaurant The Bistro has delicious food and is open for breakfast and dinner. You can order breakfast sandwiches if you want something on the go in the morning to take with you to the Parks. There is also Starbucks Coffee available! We ordered dinner from the Bistro and took it back up to our room for a picnic since it was bedtime for the little one. The food was absolutely delicious. We’ve stayed at a lot of Marriott’s through our travels and the food never disappoints!

  • Bistro Burger and Green Goddess Chicken BLT

The hotel offers a few Disneyland Ticket packages that you can review Here. Their “You Got a Friend in Me” package includes breakfast and parking at the hotel. If you don’t purchase a package, parking at the hotel is $20.

There is a pool on site and a beautiful outdoor lounge area that has a fire pit to relax around. As usual, the staff was welcoming and pleasant from the moment we arrived to checking out the next morning. The rooms are spacious and nicely decorated and the beds are seriously comfortable. We had a wonderful stay and highly recommend any of the hotels in the Marriott family. We hope you look into staying at the Courtyard Anaheim Resort/Convention Center on your next Disney vacation or if you plan on attending the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center.

*Our Room*The Pool. Love the little details. *Enjoying the fire while waiting for dinner. *Lobby Decorations *You can purchase Disney Tickets in the Lobby or on their website. *Picnic in our room.

Thank you so much for hosting us Courtyard Marriott.

2019 Disney After Dark

Super excited that Disney Parks Blog has announced the next two Disneyland After Dark events for 2019 – Sweethearts’ Nite and 90’s Nite!

Disneyland After Dark events are a series of themed events that take place at the park from 9pm to 1am. These events include: access to pretty much all attractions after hours, special entertainment, dancing and music, decorations, commemorative merchandise exclusively for the event, specialty food offerings, rare character meet and greets and photo ops, free photopass downloads, a special lanyard, credential, and map, and a button for AP holders!

Sweethearts’ Nite

• February 7, 2019 just in time for an early Valentine’s Day celebration!

• Tickets can be purchased here starting 11/27/18 for Annual Passholders and 11/28/18 for General Public. Tickets do run out, so mark your calendars.

Price is $99 per person ages 3 and up. Guests under 3 are free.

Tickets include entry to Disneyland at 6:00 pm. The event starts at 9:00 pm and goes until 1:00 am, so you can enjoy the park 3 hours before the event officially starts, for a total of seven hours in the park.

• Special entertainment includes: the new fireworks and projections show called “Mickey’s Mix Magic”, and the “Royal Ball” dancing and music. There will also be character meet and greets with some favorite Disney couples and photo locations created just for the evening like Ariel and Eric’s rowboat ride, the lantern scene from Tangled, and Aladdin and Jasmine’s magic carpet. Unlimited photopass downloads are included.

90’s Nite

• March 7, 2019 Dress in your 90’s best for this night out at the park.

• Tickets- same info as above.

• Special entertainment includes a 90’s themed fireworks show, rare character meet and greets, a re-imagined Disney Afternoon Avenue like the good ol’ days, a special souvenir fanny pack (I really hope it’s neon yellow like the one I had when I was a kid!), photo spots and unlimited PhotoPass downloads!

These events typically have fewer crowds and shorter wait times for rides and attractions. It’s a really fun and unique Disneyland experience and have a special date night. Please remember they will sell out fast so get your tickets as soon as possible. Again you can purchased here starting 11/27/18 for Annual Passholders and 11/28/18 for General Public.

2019 Disney Event Calendar

2019 is upon us and there is a lot in store at Disneyland next year.  If you’re planning a trip read on for all of the important events coming up.

January 2019

  • January 6th marks the end of the Holiday Season at Disneyland  Resort.  On the 7th,  It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion will be closed to transform back to their classic versions.  This transformation usually takes a few weeks.  You can check the Disney app to see what rides and attractions are closed for refurbishment under park hours and info.
  • The Lunar New Year Celebration-the year of the Pig will be held at Disney California Adventure January 26th through February 18th, 2019.  This celebration will include a special 6-minute long pre-show before the world of color called Hurry Home.  At Paradise Gardens Park (at the west end of DCA) you will find new decorations for the festival,   Milan’s Lunar New Year Procession can be enjoyed a few times daily in front of Paradise Gardens, as well as special entertainment, and rare Disney character meet and greets.  There will be marketplace booths with Asian food offerings, special merchandise and crafts for the kids.
  • “Get Your Ears On”, a Mickey and Minnie Mouse celebration, will start sometime in January.  Festivities include a new show “Mickey’s Mix Magic” debuting January 18th. This show will light up the sky, Sleeping Beautys Castle, Main Street USA, the Rivers of America and It’s a Small World with lasers, projections and music.  On select nights the show will also include fireworks. DJ Mickey will be spinning tunes including a new song, “Its a Good Time.”
  • Mickey’s Soundsational Parade will return on January 25th to continue the celebration.  The parade will have a brand new float for Mickey Mouse that is said to be inspired by the classic Mickey pull toys. Another new addition to the parade is Chip ‘n’  Dale on a  giant celebration cake. And of course, there will be lots of Celebration Souvenirs like new Mickey and Minnie popcorn buckets and a celebration sipper.
  • January 22nd through February 18th is the Valentine’s Celebration. Join Disney in celebrating the love of Mickey and Minnie with special Mickey and Minnie foods, beverages and merchandise, new ears, pins, and apparel.  A new scavenger hunt called Minnie’s Valentine Surprise will allow guests to hunt for Valentines that Minnie has scattered for Mickey through the parks.  To participate guests can purchase a commemorative map and stickers at select locations.  Once you’ve found all the valentines, return your map at a redemption location for a prize. (I will post the location information as soon as it is released.)

February and March 2019

  • February 7th is Disneyland After Dark- Sweethearts Nite.
  • March 7th is Disneyland After Dark 90’s Nite.  These are Disney hosted special events that take place in the park from 9 pm to 1 am.  For more information please check out my post-2019 Disney After Dark These events are a ton of fun and are a totally unique way of experiencing Disneyland.
  • March 8th Captain Marvel hits theaters. Sometime early in the year there will be meet and greets with Captain Marvel at California Adventure.

March and April 2019

  • Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival March 1st through April 23rd. The festival is being extended to 8 weeks this year and will host more than a dozen Marketplaces serving California inspired foods and beverages. There will be live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and family-friendly seminars. Also, new this year, there will be festival inspired menu items served at restaurants throughout Disneyland and California Adventure.
  • Mid-April expect more crowds with kids being out of school for Spring Break.
  • April 13th and 14th Dapper Day. The Dapper Day Expo is held on the 13th at the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. Tickets to the Expo will be available as the event nears and can be purchased here.  At the expo, you will find a large marketplace featuring vintage and contemporary clothing and accessories, beauty products, barbers, and much more. Most of the vendors use this Expo to launch special collections and exclusive designs.  There are also live bands each afternoon at the Expo.  Dapper Day’s spring outing to Disneyland is on the 14th.  Regular tickets to the park are required for entry.

May 2019

    Expect to continue to see an increase in crowds due to Spring Break.

  • Grad Night
  • Dates are listed below. The parks will be a little more crowded and will also close earlier on these dates: May 10, 11, 17, 18, 21, 22, 28, 29 and 31 June 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12, and 14

  • The “Get Your Ears On” celebration may continue into the summer. I will continue to keep you updated through my Instagram and blog.

June, July and August 2019

  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is set to open in June!!!
  • The official opening date has not been released yet. With summer being in full swing and the opening of the Galaxy’s Edge you can expect crowds to be high. In an effort to control this, Disneyland has adjusted blackout dates for the Annual Passes. Blackout dates will now be park specific so be sure to check your Passes blackout dates to see which park you will have access to.

  • August 23rd through the 25th is the D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center.  If you plan to attend and need a good hotel to stay at check out our review of the Courtyard Anaheim Resort/Convention Center.

September and October 2019

  • Early September Disney’s Halloween time will begin and will run through October 31st.

November and December 2019

  • The Holiday Season starts the beginning of November and will run through January 8th.  This will include The Festival of Holidays at DCA which has amazing foods, performances, and activities.  You can see our review from this year’s Festival here.

Just a few last notes:

World of color has been closed for refurbishment and there has been no information on when it will be up and running again. I will keep you posted on an actual date once it is announced.

The new Jessie’s Critter Carousel and the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind are set to open sometime in 2019. Both will be located at DCAs Pixar Pier. Fun fact, the Flicks Flyers ride from bugs land has been shipped to Italy where it is being refurbished and transformed into the new Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind ride.

I hope this is helpful in planning your trips to Disneyland.

 

Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Here’s a look at some of the delicious snacks and drinks from the Festival of Holidays at Disney’s California Adventure. Everything we tried was absolutely amazing. Disney has truly outdone themselves with their recipes this year. If you plan on sampling multiple items the Sip and Savor Pass is a great savings. It comes with 8 coupons that can be redeemed for food or non-alcoholic beverages at all of the Festival Food Marketplace locations. Annual pass holders get a discount and a special AP lanyard. The pass is $54, ($49 for annual pass holders) and is available for purchase at Festival Merchandise Carts, Seaside Souvenirs (in Paradise Gardens Park), Holidays Central (near The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure), Kingswell Camera Shop and Rushin’ River Outfitters.

  • From Merry MashupsTurkey and Stuffing Tamale. This Tamale is packed with all the savory favorites of the holiday season. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, and veggies topped with a sweet-tart cranberry sauce. It was delicious!
  • From Blissfully Braised Cornbread Cakes with Braised Collard Greens and Smoked Bacon Gravy. These have a perfect balance of sweet and savory and the bacon gravy is to die for. We also had to try the Blood Orange Ginger Mule. I had been craving a Mule my whole pregnancy so imagine how excited I was to try this and I will say it did not disappoint. It was so refreshing and the rosemary sprig gave it just that touch of holiday flavor making it perfect.Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Garlic Fried Rice. This was so flavorful and tender. If you are a pork belly fan you definitely don’t want to miss this.
  • From Grandmas RecipesBeef Pot Roast on a Potato Roll with Horseradish Cream. The flavors complemented each other perfectly and the pot roast was so tender, and flavorful.The Tart and Fruity Brews were just that. Our favorite was Smog City’s Snugglebug Sour Blond Ale. The Pear Cider was very much like a sparkling wine and the Gose Fresca was an interesting blend of flavors that I would have never thought to combine. If you enjoy sours this is a great flight to try out some local seasonals.
  • From Winter SliderlandFrosty Frosé, made with Fleurs de Praire Rosé, Blue Curaçao, and White Cranberry Juice. An adult slushy, this was also refreshing and delicious and not too sweet. The Holiday Stuffing Mac and Cheese was the best Mac and Cheese we’ve tried at the Disney Food Festivals so far. It was a savory mac and cheese stuffed with traditional Thanksgiving stuffing tastes. Each bite was better than the last. The Roasted Turkey Slider with Cranberry Sauce is back from last years festival and is always a holiday favorite of mine. All of the best of Thanksgiving dinner on a roll.
  • From Visions of Sugarplums
  • The Eggnog Wreath Eclair was delicious. The filling had just a hint of Eggnog Flavor so it wasn’t too overwhelming. And the white chocolate icing was the perfect addition of sweet.
  • The Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce is my festival favorite! Everything about this dessert is just perfect. It’s a rich, moist cake permeated with a thick caramel-like sauce then extra sauces is drizzled over the top. Yum.
  • The Warm Bourbon Cider is the perfect holiday drink. Nothing says fall like hot apple cider and this one is spiked with bourbon!
  • From Winter WondersThe Pumpkin Soup with Maple Cashew Cream is thick and savory with just a hint of sweetness from the maple cashew cream. It wasn’t my favorite honestly, I felt it needed more flavor and was a little too thick in texture.
  • From Brews and Bites,We tried Legends Brewery, Cookies Galore, Chocolate Cookie Milk Stout (pictured on the left) and Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Isomerizer, IPA (pictured on the right). The stout was just a little sweet with chocolate undertones and a thick smooth finish. The IPA was 7% ABV, with good flavor but not too hoppy. The Robust flight was delicious. The golden Stout was crisp and light for a stout. The Cherry Ale was a little tart but not a true sour. All in all, we loved this flight. The Chorizo Queso Fundido is served with House-Made Tortilla Chips and it was delicious. The Queso was a perfect blend of cheeses and tasted amazing.
  • Spicy CelebrationsWe tried the Nashville Hot Fried Turkey with Dill Pickles (shown without the pickles in the photo because the husband cannot stand pickles) and it was perfect. The turkey was nice and tender and the spice was just hot enough.
  • The Festival runs through January 8th so we will definitely be back to sample some more of the offerings.
  • The Gear

    Since we decided to do so much traveling within our vacation we decided that it would be best to carry backpacks instead of regular luggage.  We went to our local REI and the gentleman that helped us was so amazing and knowledgeable.  He helped us pick out the REI Grand Tour backpacks that are made for city travel vs. normal backpacking in the outdoors.  The different features on these are that they zip open like luggage so you can get to your clothes more easily.  They have lockable zippers so you don’t have to worry about pick pockets and the torso adjusts for the perfect fit.  He helped us try them on and even put some weight in them so we could see how they would feel when they were filled with our clothes. These backpacks are $189 each.  I’m going to tell you now how we got both for $110.

    First, we signed up for the REI membership. It is a one time fee of $20 for the lifetime membership.  This membership gets you into the REI garage sales.  They hold these sales a couple of times a year and it is serious discounts on returned, lightly used and discontinued merchandise.

    Second go to the Garage sale.  Show up early.  When I went it was raining and there was a huge line around the back of the building where the product for sale was all set up under easy ups and tents. They let us choose a wrist band color and then they drew at random the order that those colors would be allowed to shop.  Each group gets 15 minutes to shop the sale and then they are cleared out and the next group is let in.  (Each location does this differently so ask before the sale if they do a lottery like the one I went to or if it is first come first serve.)  Tricks and Tips: go with a group of friends and each of you get different color bands so that way you will have more of a chance of having someone in the first or second group.  Also if you know what you’re there for go for it first.  I lucked out and was in the second group in.  There in the rain was the woman’s grand tour bag.  It was lightly used but it had its day pack and its rain cover.  And it was only $69.

    Third once you’re a member you have the opportunity to sign up for the REI MasterCard.  I know, who needs another credit card!  But with this card there was a promotion we couldn’t pass up.  After your first purchase of anything…(Starbucks, a sandwich, ANYTHING) you will receive a $100 REI gift card.  This was no joke.  We both signed up and we both got the $100 gift cards and that paid for the men’s grand tour bag. So with the price of our memberships and my bag we got both for $110.

    Now if I haven’t sold you on REI yet with their amazing customer service, knowledge and sales let me add this last incentive.  They have a 1 year return policy!  If you buy a backpack, go on your trip and decide it was awful and you never want to do it again you can return it.  I doubt that you’ll hate it since they take such time and care with each customer to ensure that you are getting the proper gear but just in case that safety net is there.

     

    The Plan

    We had a few different options when planning our travels.  Cruise, tour group, or go on our own.  Cruises are awesome but it didn’t get us far enough inland to see all we wanted to see,  plus you have limited time before you have to be back on the ship. Tour groups are wonderful because you just pay for it and go, someone else does all the planning and organizing and you don’t have to think or worry about anything. However, we’d be stuck with a group and didn’t really want to do that for our honeymoon.  So we decided to book and plan the trip on our own.  We could have used some of those sites that allow you to register for a honeymoon and your guests pick what parts or adventures they want to donate towards, but those sites charge a lot more for the excursions and events than if you book on your own and they take a percentage.  I didn’t want part of our gift from our loved ones going towards fees so we chose a simple poem on or invites asking for donations toward the honeymoon.

    Now comes the fun part.  We chose Rome as our hub, with day trips to Florence, Pisa and Naples.  That covers the first week.  For the second week we are spending 2 days in a different city, starting with flying from Rome to Prague.  The flight was only $50 per person and it is 1 hour vs. traveling all day on a train.  Then we’ll take a 4 hour charter bus ride (the quickest way believe it or not) from Prague to Munich.  A quick flight from Munich to Venice. A train from Venice to Milan and then Milan back down to Rome to fly home.  It’s a lot to fit into 16 days but since it’s just the 2 of us and we plan on organizing the tops sites we want to see in each place we feel it will be a successful and exciting adventure.

    The Beginning

    It started with phone call in 2004 from my cousin asking if I wanted to go on a trip to Europe with her.  I was 19 and had no way of knowing that saying yes to that first adventure would change my life in the most amazing way.

    One bite from the travel bug and I was hooked.  I’ve been on quite a few amazing trips since and have been blessed to be able to share my wanderlust with the love of my life.  I’m starting this blog because I’m now planning our honeymoon to Italy and wanted to document our preparation and all that we experience on this new adventure together.

    “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”-Susan Sontag

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