I don't know why I'm always shocked at how busy it gets the last few months of the year. Once school starts, everything is a blur -- and the next thing you know, you're ringing in another New Year.
The days seem to be flying by even faster for me this year, largely due to the fact that I've been working on assignment over at CBS Digital Los Angeles. My latest post there is a rundown of some of the region's larger Christmas Tree Lighting events. And there are more holiday posts in the works.
Including this one. On Saturday, my family and I had the privilege of attending a Disneyland-sponsored mom blogger event at the theme park, and I'm happy to report that for me, it's once again the Happiest Place on Earth (unlike how I felt the last time I visited).
That's because this time, I had the necessary paperwork to allow our dog to stay at the Disneyland Kennel Club -- which means that my husband got to stick around for the fun. Also, my 21-year-old nephew came along for the ride, so my daughter wasn't as eager to go out on her own.
Holidays at Disneyland
This weekend was the kickoff for Disneyland's holiday celebration, which has always been special to me. As a Jewish kid in Los Angeles in the 1960's, Christmas Day was kind of a lonely time. One way to combat feeling left out of all the neighbor kids' celebrations was to pack up the family and have our own good time at Disneyland.
Both of the Disney parks sparkle for the holidays, with whimsical decorations throughout. I love the oversized lights and ornaments at Bug's Land in California Adventure, the Halloween/Christmas hybrid decor at the Haunted Mansion and the vast array of wreaths, garlands and trees that festoon all the shops and rides. (Over 100 artificial trees, including the 60' beauty in Main Street and 8,000 feet of decorated garland throughout the two parks.)
We tried to pack in as much as we could on our visit: we enjoyed the Haunted Mansion's annual holiday tribute to Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas and the holiday makeover at It's a Small World (where the songs include upbeat carols like Deck the Halls and Joy to the World). We watched the 100+ live performers in the Christmas Fantasy Parade. At a mom blogger dinner that evening, we sampled the wonderful holiday gingerbread beignets served this time of year Cafe Orleans.
Fireworks and "Snow"
Most exciting was this year's fireworks show. I have to confess that for most of the years I've been visiting Disneyland (averaging once per year since 1961), I rarely stopped to watch the shows. After all, those huge audiences gathering on Main Street meant that there were fewer people waiting in the line for Space Mountain. But as a Disney guest, missing the show would be rude. (Besides, the park was kind enough to set aside a reserved spot for the mom blogging families in attendance.)
Now that I've gotten a few of these fireworks spectaculars under my belt, I have a new understanding: they change - ALL THE TIME. I guess I knew that the summer show was different from the Halloween and Christmas shows. But I did not realize that they produce a new spectacular EVERY YEAR. And I thought this year's holiday extravaganza was a lot more impressive than the one we saw last year.
For one thing, there was an effort to set the stage with extravagant winter lighting of the show's focal point, Sleeping Beauty's castle. According to Disney:
The nighttime Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle light show is divided into three “acts” over the course of the evening. Each one begins at the Castle and travels the length of Main Street, U.S.A., finishing at the Town Square Christmas tree. Each act features a magical snowfall, and the final act concludes with “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks.
Magical snowfall. If you are not a native of this climate, you have no idea of the delight that brings to our kids. The whole idea of snow is magical out here (I never saw real snow fall until I was 30). The stuff they spray at Disneyland appears to be really tiny soap bubbles - but it feels and looks like the real thing - and the effect truly does seem magical.
Off the Beaten Track
This Disneyland visit, we availed ourselves of some of the park's lesser-known services. The first was the Disneyland Kennel Club, which afforded us a place to keep our big Collie-Shepherd mix. It's not a free-range full-service kennel, so you wouldn't bring your pet there for a three-day stay. But it's perfectly adequate for a day trip.
We were able to enjoy the park with peace of mind that Mac was being fed and watered. All we had to do was take a break every few hours to visit with him and walk him (they have a fenced-off area with a couple of benches and even a prop "fire hydrant"). For a fee of $20, I think it's a great deal.
Mid-afternoon, my husband complained of a headache. We could not find any analgesics for sale in any of the shops, and I was afraid he would just have to wait for it to go away. Then, I remembered seeing a First Aid station tucked away at the far end of Main Street, behind the Kodak Photo shop.
We walked in and were greeted by a man whose nametag identified him as a registered nurse.
"Do you sell Tylenol?" I asked him.
"No. But I can give you some," he said. "I can also give you aspirin or ibuprofen, if you prefer."
He handed us a packet of ibuprofen - but only after we assured him that Gareth had eaten within the last 40 minutes. (Duh. We tend to spend the whole day eating when we go to Disneyland.)
Who says you can't get anything free any more? Twenty minutes later, the headache was gone and we were enjoying another ride.
DISCLOSURE: My family and I attended Disneyland and California Adventure as guests of the Disney Parks. I received no monetary compensation for this post, nor did I make any promises about the content of this post. I can't wait to go back.