Monday, March 17, 2014

Los Angeles ~ Disneyland

As a traveler I travel within the United States as well. This past November we spent a week in Los Angeles which is about 300 miles South of where we live in California. I'll be honest and say that, usually, when we travel to Southern California it is to go to Disneyland. You see, we are a "Disney" family and it's almost unheard of for us to pass through LA and not least at Downtown Disney...for the day. But this time we decided, since we were celebrating my husband's 50th, that we would really explore LA for a change. Of course, we started with Disneyland! I came very close to not covering that part of the trip for all of you when I realized that there are millions who have never been to Disneyland and many who have never been there during the time of year when they have the park decorated up for Christmas. So we'll start of our tour of Los Angeles with a 3 part trip to the Disneyland Resort!
 The entrance gates are one of the very first places you see "Christmas" in the park. With Frozen in the theaters there were several places where they used decorations themed to the movie, including over the front gates.
After you step through the gates you come face to face with the most popular spot, other than the castle, to take family photos...the floral Mickey in front of the Main Street Train Station!
 The gardens of Disneyland are truly beautiful. This year they were filled with poinsettias and a small rain shower made them look like they were encrusted with jewels! 
And, of course, we met Mickey (all dressed up for Christmas) outside of City Hall!
 In the center of the square on Main Street is a HUGE Christmas Tree. I'll show you how it looks all lit up at night but I wanted to share the close up of the tree and ornaments first. This nutcracker is not a mini ornament! It's a full sized nutcracker that is about 2 feet tall! 
 Each building on Main Street is decorated for the Holidays as well. Even those buildings, like the Penny Arcade, which are normally colorful and bright get the extra boost from the decorations.
 But it is the castle, located in the center of the park, that is really the Christmas focal point. Decorated with boughs and bows and millions of lights, the castle is a thing of beauty.
 Even on a cloudy Southern California morning, the castle was just gorgeous. The television show, The View, was taping shows that week so the path into the castle, which leads to Fantasyland and is usually very crowded with visitors, was totally empty and that allowed me to take this photo of the castle, the bridge and it's reflection in the "moat" around the front of it.
This is what you normally would see walking into the center of the park. Lots and lots of people and the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in front of the castle. 
 To the left of that statue is one of the nicest places to get breakfast, The Jolly Holiday Bakery & Cafe, and one of the most beautiful. It overlooks the Main Street/Castle square and it the perfect place to people watch! 
 If you go in the middle of the week, especially if it's a little rainy, you will see something not everyone gets to see...EMPTY lines! We usually go the week before or after Thanksgiving to beat the crowds.
 There is a new little section of the park called Pixie Hollow where your kids can meet the faeries of Peter Pan. There is always a line so they decorated that line up for you so you have lots of pretty things to look at while you wait.
 A beautiful peek-a-boo look at the castle can be seen from this line as well since Pixie Hollow is located to the right of the castle entrance from Main Street.
 Inside the Hollow are some really beautiful decorations. If you get to go then take the time to stand in the line and enjoy the little touches that the Disney team added to this attraction.
 Fun and beautiful details can be found all through the park. These beautiful light fixtures are at the Plaza Cafe which is located off the Main Street/Castle square on your way to Tomorrowland. This is one of the places where you can enjoy "Character Dining" which means that the dressed up characters walk from table to table and greet the guests and happily pose for photos with them!
 Framing the Cafe are these fun lions. Yup, I even find lions here in the US!
 It's A Small World is an iconic ride at Disneyland and it's one of two rides that completely changes during the Holiday Season. 
 You get on little boats and float through the ride, usually, to the song of It's A Small World After All. During the Holidays they change the music to Christmas Carols but they are sung in all the different languages of those countries that celebrate.
They try to represent the entire world in the display and those countries that do not celebrate are still represented but those who do celebrate are decorated for the Holidays.

From It's A Small World you can hop on the train that encircles the park and take it back here, the Main Street Station. It stops at Tomorrowland and New Orlean's Square as well as Main Street and Toontown.
We decided to head for Fantasyland instead and ride the Teacups! This iconic ride has been here for as long as I can remember and I've been going for about 50 years now! (my first visit was when I was about 6 months old!) There is a center wheel inside the teacup and if you turn it you can get the cups spinning around very quickly!
 It's a short stroll from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland where you find The Matterhorn Bobsleds, a sled-based rollercoaster ride, which has been part of the Park since the beginning.
You will also find the newest addition, which is actually a renovated ride from back in the 60's, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. This ride use to be a Mermaid submarine ride and for many years it was shut down while they decided what to do with it. Now it's Finding Nemo and a wonderful ride for the entire family!
 Head on over to Frontierland and you will find yourself at The River's Of America and see the gorgeous Mark Twain paddlewheel ship. You can board this ship for a short tour around Tom Sawyer's Island. There is also The Columbia Sailing Ship and the Davy Crocket canoe's that are available to take for a spin around the island!
 And you can take a run all over the island. This is a great way to get a bit of energy out of the kids but it's also a little beautiful bit of nature as well for you!
This area was beautifully planted to look like a real river so as you stand at the dock or from the deck of a ship, you get this gorgeous view.
 From there you take a short walk to The Haunted Mansion and the second ride that is completely changed for the Holidays. While, normally, a really fun ride with ghosts and goblins, starting with Halloween, The Haunted Mansion is transformed into The Nightmare Before Christmas with Jack Skellington and all of his pals.
Walk past The Haunted Mansion and you will find Splash Mountain and Pooh's Corner. The Winnie the Pooh ride is perfect for the under 5 set but, even as adults, we love it too!
Walk the other way from The Haunted Mansion and you will find yourself in New Orlean's Square which is home to The Pirates of the Caribbean as well as lots of shops and some really good food at restaurants such as The Blue Bayou. Set inside The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, it feels like night time on the Bayou at any hour of the day. 

Walk back towards Main Street and you will pass the Indiana Jones ride and then The Jungle Cruise...or "Jingle" Cruise during the Holidays. They don't decorate it up as much as we hoped but we love this silly little ride.  
You board a "Safari" boat and gently cruise past hippos and lions and even piranha. But it's the witty script that makes the Jungle Cruise a fun thing to go do with your family.
Lines like "And here stands Sam. This headshrinker is running a deal today...two of his heads for just one of yours!" or "If you had a great time today on your cruise my name is Joe, if you had a bad time today, my name is Mike." will keep you chuckling throughout your entire tour of this little river.

I barely touched upon all of what there is to see on the Disneyland side of The Disneyland Resort. A ride or two in each land doesn't come close to summing up this huge park. While you can do it in one day we have found that, to see both Disneyland and California Adventure sides of the Resort, you really need to have at least 4 days. 

Today I featured parts of Disneyland during the daytime at The Disneyland Resort. Next week I'll feature the California Adventure part of the Resort and then we'll finish up our tour of the Resort with Disney at Night from both sides of the park as well as Downtown Disney. Hope you can join us back here next Monday!


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