Disneyland in Fall
Enjoy the changing of seasons by paying a visit to Mickey and the gang.
ANAHEIM’S PARKS AND HOTELS BRING A WHOLE NEW MEANING TO MAGIC AS THE LEAVES START TO TURN. BY CARLY MILNE
It probably goes without saying that Disneyland—just 35 miles east of Los Angeles—has been a popular vacation destination ever since it opened in 1955, and the additions of Disney’s California Adventure and Downtown Disney shopping district have only solidified its popularity. But those who limit their visits to Mickey and the gang to the busy summer season are missing out on the park’s unique fall offerings. With ride makeovers, parades and fireworks extravaganzas, special seasonal food options throughout the parks, and incredible buffets at the on-site hotels, the resort truly transforms itself with a new kind of magic.
The late fall season begins with Thanksgiving, when both the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel offer fantastic Thanksgiving dinners to give guests that home-away-from-home feel. Hook’s Pointe and Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel serve the likes of slow-roasted turkey breast, garlic mashed potatoes, baby garnet yams and cranberry sauce—and the buffet at Paradise Pier Hotel’s PCH Grill is second to none. Featuring turkey, prime rib, chive-encrusted salmon, wood-fired pizzas and more sugary desserts than you’ll know what to do with, it’s a safe bet you won’t feel much like going on a rollercoaster after dinner.
But then there are those with stronger constitutions… and an intense dedication to all things Disney. Not only do they want to go on rides on Thanksgiving, they actually want to have their turkey in the park. Luckily, Disney’s California Adventure has three options: Ariel’s Grotto, featuring a traditional Thanksgiving feast; Wine Country Trattoria, with a three-course menu boasting butternut squash soup and foccacia stuffing; and the Vineyard Room’s three-course meal with butternut squash ravioli and pan-roasted pheasant designed to make foodies swoon.
Of course, Disneyland itself isn’t too shabby on the Thanksgiving offerings, either.
Café Orleans, French Market, Carnation Café and Plaza Inn all offer a traditional roasted turkey dinner, and Blue Ribbon Bakery bakes up Mickey Mouse pumpkin muffins. But the real treat lies in Blue Bayou Restaurant. Located inside Pirates of the Caribbean, guests can dine on turkey with bourbon gravy, sweet potato praline tart and cranberry confit, with pumpkin crème brulée for dessert, all while watching boatfuls of people heading down the waterfall to come face to face with Captain Jack Sparrow.
What better way to follow up dinner than with a ride through that perennial favorite, the Haunted Mansion? Through January, this salute to ghosts and ghouls gets an overlay themed to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The essence of the attraction isn’t lost; in fact, it’s magnified with the addition of Jack Skellington and his cohorts finding themselves caught in limbo between Halloween and Christmas. The little ones will love Jack’s wacky interpretation of the holidays.
As of November 16, the resort’s holiday celebrations officially take center stage. As you enter Disneyland, you’re greeted with the incredible sight of a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree decorated with more than 10,000 ornaments and lights on Main Street USA. Wander through any of the shops and you’ll find an array of seasonal goodies, but it’s the bake shop and candy store that hold the truly special holiday treats, like peppermint hot chocolate and homemade peppermint sticks. Plus, every land is decked out in lights and decorations, all perfectly themed to each area.
In addition to the Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney’s tribute to the children of the world, It’s A Small World, also gets the holiday treatment. The ride still features dancing children singing a happy tune, but with a twist—every land is decked out in their native seasonal decorations. Be prepared; the wait is often long, but it’s worth it to see the ride’s transformation and bask in more than 300,000 lights decorating the ride’s exterior.
The grand finale comes in the form of Disneyland’s incredible fireworks display at the end of each night. Perfectly choreographed to music, “Believe… In Holiday Magic” is nothing short of spectacular, with bursts of light and fantastic surprises throughout the half-hour display. The show concludes with a rendition of “White Christmas,” which ushers in Disneyland’s most beloved holiday tradition: the magical snowfall that flutters down Main Street USA, Small World Mall and New Orleans Square.
Regardless of your favorite fall flavor, Disneyland has something for everyone. Just make sure you have a hollow leg ready for all that food!
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DISNEY SECRETS DIVULGED
• As you make your way through Disneyland, keep your eyes peeled for hidden Mickeys, little outlines of Mickey Mouse’s head that pop up all over the parks. Some are obvious, like Mickey-shaped hedges, while others are more obscure, like on the golf balls that whizz past you in Soarin’ Over California.
• Every once in a while the Fastpass terminals aren’t linked up, meaning you can carry a Fastpass for more than one ride at a time. Test your ticket at a few terminals to double check.
• Rumors of a secret club inside Disneyland are true. In New Orleans Square next to Blue Bayou Restaurant’s entrance is a door next to a sign that reads “33.” That’s Club 33, the exclusive members-only getaway for a select few that pay the exorbitant annual fee. To get in, you either have to pony up or be friends with someone who’s already a member (a much cheaper option).
• Take a look at all the names on the windows in Main Street; they’re actually the names of people who worked on the construction of the park. Also keep an eye out for the room over the fire truck at City Hall. That’s Walt’s apartment, where he lived while Disneyland was being built. The light stays on 24/7 in his honor.