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Halloween Time is Coming to Disneyland Resort!

Basics, EntertainmentKatComment

On September 7th, Disneyland Resort is changing over to Halloween time – one of our favorite times of year. If you’ve never experienced the Disneyland Resort during this special season, we HIGHLY recommend it. And just to entice you further, here’s what to expect from Halloween Time this year:

halloween time disneyland dca

1.     Decorations

Main Street USA will be lined with carved jack-o-lanterns and themed buntings. A giant Mickey lantern will sit by the flag pole for photos. Everywhere you look there will be spooky touches, especially in Cars Land (where they really go all-out), New Orleans Square (more on that later), and Buena Vista Street. Also keep an eye out for your favorite Disney characters in their Halloween costumes!

disneyland halloween time jack skellington candy apple

2.     FOOD

If you thought Disneyland had a huge array of snacks and treats before, just wait until Halloweentime. Special flavors will be offered for churros, pumpkin beignets from New Orleans Square, new ice cream offerings, and all kinds of new treats at the Jolly Holiday café and Buena Vista street. We’re especially excited about the new pumpkin shake coming to Flo’s V8 Café.

haunted mansion holiday new orleans square jack skellington nightmare before christmas

3.     Haunted Mansion Holiday

Starting in the Halloween season and running through the Holidays, the Haunted Mansion is transformed into Jack Skellington’s Halloweentown, and the difference between this new ride overlay and the original Haunted Mansion is pretty staggering. You’ll definitely have to enjoy this attraction more than once to take in the whole thing.

cars land pixar disneyland halloween time

4.     Cars Land

Cars Land decorated for Halloween for the first time last year and no expense was spared. There are themed jack-o-lanterns everywhere you turn, a giant spider tractor, and even Mater’s Tow Truck Jamboree and Luigi’s Festival of the Dance get a Halloween-themed overlay.

space mountain disneyland tomorrowland

5.      Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy

Space Mountain is an already great ride, but when Halloween Time comes around, they add in an overlay that is legitimately kindof scary that makes the ride that much more fun. Definitely don’t miss this one.

main street usa halloween time disneyland

6.     Mickey’s Halloween Party

Mickey’s Halloween Party is a separately-ticketed event that you’ll need to reserve tickets for (and good luck if you haven’t yet, because those go FAST). The up side is there are fun activities that Disneyland only has on these select nights, but the down side is that the parks close early for regular visitors, and you have to deal with the Halloween Party crowds.

If you couldn’t tell, we’re super excited for Halloween Time to get here as fast as possible, and we highly recommend everyone visiting the parks during this great time of year!

Enjoy Some Live Music at Disneyland

EntertainmentStephenComment

Planning out your trip to Disneyland involves all the craziness of hotel reservations, prioritizing rides and restaurants and the all important break time. Sometimes a break involves leaving the park and heading for a refreshing beverage outlet, but for me, I'll take live music and a shade tree any day. 

There's tons more music and entertainment to be had at the resort, but here's just a few that are always welcome to take a listen. 

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The Disneyland Band

This group of amazing musicians perform Disney movie favorites, unique favorites like the finale to Fantasmic! and the theme of the 50th Anniversary daily at the flagpole and in front of the castle. This marching band is a group of talent that goes far beyond any football field group of brass. They have incredible showmanship, brilliant sparkling instruments, are perfectly insync like all Disney performers and never miss a note or a beat. 

Due to their prime performance locations, its a hard act to miss, but sometimes if you plan your day just right, you'll never get a glance of them. So be sure to at least take a strolling look and listen. 

Pearly Band

Dressed in candy colored suits covered in stitched pearly white buttons, the Pearly Band is a unique sight. Usually a group of 7 or so, they roam a tight loop around Fantasyland and are occasionally accompanied by Bert and Mary Poppins in front of the castle. 

Royal Street Bachelors

Easiest to find next to the Mint Julep Bar bathrooms, onboard the Mark Twain or anywhere slightly secluded in New Orleans Square. The music and emotion these bachelors evoke truly sets the mood and completely overwhelms the senses to set you not in a theme park, but in the actual New Orleans. 

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Dapper Dans

They wear strips, they're comical and bubbly, and sometimes they play bells! Always around main street, The Dapper Dans are a barbershop quartet that have become so popular in their style and persona, there is now a Dapper Day which happens annually. In addition to their humorous way of performing music, they're also willing participants in the wishing those young and old happy birthday for all of Main Street to hear. 

Treat Yourself: Mandara Spa at the Grand Californian Hotel

Hotels, Entertainment, BreaksKatComment
mandala spa disneyland

We’re starting a new tradition in our frequent Disney vacations of a ‘Treat Yourself’ trip. Not that every trip isn’t a ‘Treat Yourself’ trip - let’s be real - but we’re now designating one vacation above all others as a spare-no-expense extravaganza. This includes staying at the Disneyland Hotel, lounging by the pool, and eating All The Food. 

In planning our latest trip, we decided that in the spirit of treating ourselves, we should finally try out the Mandara Spa at the Grand Californian Hotel. 

I’ll start out by saying that I had never in my life gotten a massage, and Kelsey had only had bad experiences with them, so we went into it with low expectations but open minds.

mandala spa

The Mandara Spa has an extensive list of services, ranging from massages to facials to mani pedis and waxing. Not wanting to get too wild on our first experience at the spa, we went with the standard Mandara Customized Massage for 50 minutes, which comes with a scalp massage (which we both skipped) and a wax paraffin treatment to hydrate the feet. When we got into our rooms we were informed that the spa was out of the wax paraffin, so we received a foot scrub instead (which honestly was amazing so we weren’t that disappointed).

The spa offers customers the use of their sauna and steam room prior to their services, so obviously we showed up early to get our money's worth. The locker room is small - only two shower stalls, about 12 lockers, and you could probably fit maybe 4 people in the sauna or steam room before it started feeling really crowded.

However, in our hour before our massage, we only ran into about three people in the locker room and sauna and steam room, so we didn't experience any crowd trouble.

My massage room was small but cozy, and I wasn’t that concerned about the size of the room anyway, seeing as I was about to have my eyes closed for the entire hour. It was a great massage for me (again, as it was my first one, I have nothing to compare it to), and my masseuse spent a lot of time working out knots I wasn’t aware of, but nothing was too painful. She was very professional, funny, and I felt extremely comfortable the entire time.

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We came out of the massage total converts. I thought I would never be a massage person, and I walked out of the spa ready to plan our next trip.

For maximum effectiveness, we recommend booking a massage on your third or fourth day in Disneyland (if you’re taking a long trip) like we did, giving your body plenty of time to get super achey and tired before going into the spa. 

And, okay, this is probably a weird point to add, but don't forget to try the complimentary iced tea. We made the mistake of waiting until we were ready to leave to finally try some and then had to stand there and guzzle a few glasses because dang it that tea is GOOD, and we are all about getting our money's worth, even if we have to look like total weirdos doing it. 

Also, pro tip: don’t forget to ask about an AP discount if you’re a passholder! We got 10% off the massage price, and the discount varies depending on whether it’s a weekday or weekend.

Disneyland Resort Entertainment 101

Basics, Beginners, EntertainmentStephenComment

From the moment you enter Disneyland, there's entertainment around every corner. Even after visiting the parks dozens of times, I always start by picking up a time guide at the turnstile. This guide lists most of the live entertainment throughout the park and each printed guide usually covers 3-7 days. The schedules for some shows change day-to-day and others are totally consistent, so that guide is key to getting around on time. 

I tend to break up Disneyland entertainment into a few categories: Seasonal, Casual, Ambience, Characters and Shows.

A Christmas Fantasy

Seasonal Entertainment

Seasonal Entertainment encompasses, of course, Christmas and Halloween fireworks and parades, but Disneyland also takes advantage of other times of year like summer, holidays like Veterans Day and movie blockbusters as an opportunity for a new pre-parade, fireworks show, street party, or musical tribute. 

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Casual Entertainment

You may very well pass by some Casual Entertainment without even realizing it was a scheduled event. The best example is the Dapper Dans - a barbershop quartet in snazzy striped suits with matching hats that sing up and down Main Street, as well as occasionally riding the Horse Drawn Carriage or Firetruck. Just like the Dans, the Disneyland Band, Army Men and Pearly Band tend to march around and can be unpredictable in their start and end location. 

Ambience Entertainment

Throughout the lands of both parks, Ambience Entertainment happens all around you, adding to the Disney Magic. Custodians that paint character's faces on the sidewalk with brooms and water, Citizens of Buena Vista and their pets will carry on with you in-character, and The Laughing Stock (in front of the Golden Horseshoe) all can be found through the time guide, but don't worry too much about scheduling your time around them - part of the fun is that they seem to appear out of nowhere.

Disney Characters

Disney Characters have their own section in the time guide although the times listed are vague at best. Most characters are available for photos and autographs for about 30-45 minutes and then take a break for about 10-20. If you're looking for a specific character, Cast Members can point you to the area that character hangs out (Peter Pan, for example, is usually found around the Mad Tea Party teacups in Fantasyland) but sometimes, it's just a waiting game. 

Be sure to always keep your eyes open for unscheduled character appearances - you never know who might show up.

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Shows

Shows are the most scheduled entertainment and require the most pre-planning.

Some shows are nearly always easy to get in to and are worth the short wait. Mickey and the Magical Map just requires showing up about 30 minutes early to ensure you get a seat. Some shows have smaller seating areas, so you need to keep an eye out for a quickly growing line, like Disney Jr in DCA and Fantasy Faire at the Royal Theatre. Frozen - Live at the Hyperion, however, isn't worth the wait, there are tons of stairs to climb, and because of the lack of enthusiasm for the show, they're limiting the number of shows per day, so every show is packed. If you feel the burning desire to see Frozen, make sure you get in line about an hour before showtime.

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The most popular shows like Fantasmic! and World of Color require a FastPass to determine your entry location and standing area. If you're planning on catching one of these shows (especially if you'd prefer the first show of the night) be sure to get those FastPasses within the first couple hours of your day. 

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The Fireworks are the ultimate cap to a Disneyland Vacation. Even though the show may change from summer to winter and from year to year, they all are the best fireworks you will ever see. Everyone wants to watch the fireworks from Main Street, so space starts filling up hours ahead of showtime. Disneyland recommends Small World and the Rivers of America as alternate viewing locations, but in reality, you can enjoy the fireworks from almost everywhere in the park (and even the esplanade between parks) and most locations - besides Main Street - have a more manageable crowd. 

 

Holidays at the Disneyland Resort 2017

Basics, EntertainmentKatComment

The time we’ve been waiting for is finally upon us: the holidays at the Disneyland Resort. The second those glittering icicles top Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Disneyland transforms into a place of even more magic than usual (plus the cooler weather and new sweet treats everywhere you look don’t hurt either).

If you were considering visiting the Disneyland Resort this Holiday season, here’s a quick roundup of all the things you can look forward to:

mainstreet usa christmas parade

Main Street, USA

The Holidays transform Main Street into a winter wonderland, complete with festive garlands above every door, Christmas carols piped through the loudspeakers, and, of course, the colossal Christmas tree at the end of Main Street. This update also comes with a parade - A Christmas Fantasy Parade - which we found skippable, unless you’re really into not-quite-cute, more-like-nightmarish snowmen and one (bad) Christmas song repeated over and over and over (and hey, Small World is one of our favorite rides, so we have a high tolerance for repetitive songs).

small world holiday

"it's a small world" Holiday

Every time Small World gets its’ holiday overlay, we find ourselves asking why the ride doesn’t look as nice year-round. The additions to the ride are over the top, changing what is usually a pretty hokey ride (we love you, small world) into a truly magical one. Plus, the nighttime lighting is particularly loud and unsubtle, in true Disney fashion.

haunted mansion holiday madame leota

Haunted Mansion Holiday

If you didn’t make it for Halloween, have no fear - Jack Skellington and the rest of the citizens Halloweentown stick around through Christmas, so enjoy the Tim Burton-ed Mansion while you can. We recommend either getting to the ride first thing in the morning or investing in a Fast Pass, because that line gets long FAST.

luigis joy to the whirl cars land holiday

Cars Land

This year for the first time, both Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree (now Mater’s Jingle Jamboree) and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters (now Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl) have gotten Christmas overlays, including new songs and decorations. While you’re there, be sure to check out the holiday decorations all over Cars Land, especially the various Christmas trees of Radiator Springs residents and the themed Radiator Springs entryway billboard.

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Buena Vista Street

DCA’s main thoroughfare gets the holiday treatment with the Christmas tree next to the famous ‘Storytellers’ statue of Walt and Mickey, decorations in the shop windows, and general holiday magic. Mickey and friends can be found down Buena Vista sporting new Christmas outfits, and even the various street performers get into the holiday spirit.

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Festival of Holidays

Paradise Pier is now home to the Festival of Holidays, a street fair celebrating food, music and dance throughout the world. Sample treats from or inspired by faraway countries, watch some dancing or a live performance as you munch, or head down to Paradise Garden Grill to say hello to Elena of Avalor.

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Redwood Creek Challenge Trail

Pick up a treasure hunt map and go explore the holiday version of the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. There are holiday decorations at every turn, a surprise stand with warm bourbon cider (oh heck yes), and even Santa makes an appearance!

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Holiday Castle

Have we mentioned the holiday decorations on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle? Because they’re amazing. Nothing says the holidays like seeing lit garlands, glittering icicles, and white snow covering the castle turrets. Pose for a picture in front if you can - if not, try taking one from one of the smaller paths around the castle - it’s almost as good of a view, with nearly no crowd.

paradise pier holiday christmas

World of Color: Season of Light

For a limited time, Paradise Pier hosts World of Color: Season of Light. Honestly, we’ve never been able to sit through this show (we left halfway through the one time we tried it because we found it particularly grating) but if you’re into holiday cartoons, Christmas carols, and the general feel of the World of Color show, give this a try!

sleeping beauty castle holiday christmas night

Fireworks

Be sure to set some time aside to view the holiday “Believe...In Holiday Magic” fireworks show on Main Street, complete with projections over Sleeping Beauty Castle (and Small World, if you don’t feel like fighting with the Main Street crowds for a castle view) and the magic of snow.

 

mainstreet usa horse carriage christmas

Don’t forget to look for Holiday magic everywhere you are: part of the beauty of Disneyland is in the more subtle details, and almost nowhere is left undecorated. Check out the decorations in every shop window, most rides and attractions, and always be prepared for some holiday cheer to pop out of nowhere!