It was heaven to me.
I never felt like I was going to “work” because it was Disneyland.
And when the team at Disney asked if I would like to bring my family into the park for a day to review their holiday celebrations for Power of Moms, my kids were almost as giddy as I was. (Eric, on the other hand, came because I asked him to…)
While I want to be totally clear that taking your children to the Disney parks is not a requirement for deliberate motherhood, I get asked about my best tips and recommendations all the time. So if you are planning a trip this holiday season or sometime in the future, here are five things you’ll want to know.
(1) Be clear on your expectations. If you’re coming because you want to go on a whole lot of rides, keep reading…
The Disney parks are really crowded during the holidays. Lines are long. Really long. You can still get on a lot of rides if you get to the park an hour before opening, utilize Fast Passes, and stay super late, but you’ll be a lot happier if you accept the fact that crowds will be plentiful.
(2) Build your schedule so you have a lot of flexibility.
My favorite part about Christmas as Disneyland is seeing the decorations, listening to the musical performers, and enjoying the incredible details that Disney has prepared for you.
Window displays, carolers, marching bands, character meet-ups, parades, shows…every time you turn around, there’s something new to see, and if you have the option to “stop and smell the roses,” you’ll be glad you did.
(For example, the Candlelight Ceremony and Processional is amazing. They have choirs singing Christmas hymns, someone notable, like Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke, reading the Christmas story, and beautiful lights all around the Main Street Train Station. We happened upon it, and I was so glad we did!)
(3) Enjoy one area at a time.
If you go to the Disney parks on a slow day (like in mid-January or soon after Labor Day), you can jump from Fantasyland to Adventureland, then over to California Adventure for a few hours, and then back to Tomorrowland. Park hoppers are a great option during those times.
But if you try to move around a lot when you’re there during the holidays (in the middle of all those crowds I was talking about), you will likely spend most of your day walking in a pack of people.
Instead, I would suggest you focus on one area at a time, do what you can (adjusting your itinerary based on line lengths/occasional ride break downs), and only move to the next place when you’re ready to say goodbye to the previous one. Even though your intentions might be good to return, you probably won’t get back.
(4) Pack plenty of food.
The Disney restaurants have lots of yummy things to eat (healthy options are available at most places, though sugary foods are pretty much everywhere), and we usually do dinner in the park, but stopping to eat–when you consider the food lines–can be quite time-consuming.
We love that Disney lets us bring a backpack full of chopped veggies, oranges, protein bars, and healthy snacks. That way, if we’re on our way to dinner, but we see a ride with a short line or an amazing musical performance we’re dying to hear, we can delay our meal a bit without getting grumpy.
(5) Ask each family member what the one thing is that they really want to do. Then consider everything else to be “extra.”
We have four children who have different “favorites” in the park, and while you want to say, “We’re here at Disneyland. Just be happy,” you also need to consider that what’s fun for one child (upside-down roller coasters) might give another a headache. And what’s fun for mom (watching parades and shows) might not be what the kids would pick (Can we please go on rides now?).
I just ask the kids, “If you could do one thing today, what would that be?” and then we can usually make that happen.
Okay, those are my top five tips. I’ve also included a few photos below to give you a little glimpse of our day:
Tomorrowland had a great Star Wars exhibit in the former Innoventions area. Our kids were really excited:
The Disneyland holiday parade is one of our favorites:
Enjoying the classic Autopia ride:
The rest of the family was behind us (loved seeing Alia–who just got her permit–teaching 8-year-old Spencer how to drive):
They decorate the Haunted Mansion with a Halloween/Christmas holiday theme (very creative, but it’s really loud in there, if you have little ones…):
My FAVORITE ride at Christmas is Small World, which they completely transform during November and December:
I can’t help but feel happy in there. 🙂
And the biggest surprise of the day for us was how incredible the “World of Color, Winter Dreams” presentation was. That’s the water show in California Adventure, and while I’d seen the original show and thought it was great, this holiday one was spectacular.
At the end of the show, large snowflakes (about 12 inches in diameter) started floating into the sky from little “snowflake cannons” they’d placed throughout the audience. (Maybe they were made of soap? We’re not sure, but those Imagineers are fantastic…)
Spending time with my family in a place where I get to play, as well, is really fun for me. That’s why I love Disneyland so much. We happened to be there in the park on Walt Disney’s birthday, and I kept thinking about his vision to create a magical place where families can have fun together.
If you are planning a holiday Disney trip, I hope this review will be helpful. If you have any extra ideas to share, please do so in the comments!
We’ve put together a full (FREE) eBook and video series to help you plan your time at the Disney parks and make your trip wonderful for the whole family. Click the link above or the image below to sign up!
Photos of the Haunted Mansion, Small World, and Toy Soldiers are courtesy of Disney Parks.