The Holidays are back at Disneyland!

The holiday season at Disneyland officially began Friday, November 21, and my friend Kristin(e) and I spent the day there seeing what was new and different – and what was missing. Of course the major “new” thing was the reopening of “it’s a small world” after a very lengthy rehab that started in late January. The holiday season at Disneyland usually starts a week to 10 days earlier than it did this year – my theory is that the opening of “small world” delayed it this year.

I took tons of photos, and could write in a lot more detail but I’m only going to hit the highlights here – hopefully I’ll have time to do some more in-depth reviews later.

There’s new snowflake designs over the entrance turnstiles – they look even better at night.

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First thing we did at park opening, of course, was hot foot it back to “it’s a small world”. There was a short line, but we didn’t wait long. It really does look shiny and new!

Here’s one of the new boats – I think they are narrower than the old ones. The rows seat 2-3 maximum – the older boats could get 4 in the middle rows.

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From what I could tell the attraction, at least in its holiday configuration, hasn’t changed very much. The Disney characters have not yet been added – I think that is supposed to take place after the holidays. There are a number of small changes throughout, but maybe I’ll get to that in a later blog.

I only noticed two big changes:

The first was in the Hawaii/Polynesia/Australia room, where the rainforest scene has been added to the end. This link will take you to a larger picture.

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The second was in the final room, where there’s a huge sun at the end of the room.

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When we exited, the line was still fairly short, so we went again – we knew it would just get longer as the day went on! The clock went off while we were waiting in line the second time – wow. The figures look brand new – so bright and shiny!

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They seemed to be having a slight problem with the water flow – at the same point in both of our rides (going into the last room, I think?) we really slowed down to a crawl – and neither of our boats was overloaded at all.

And then we continued on our holiday tour around the rest of the park…Toontown is once again decorated for the holidays.

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And Santa’s Reindeer Roundup is back at Big Thunder Ranch. The reindeer (all 8 of them!) were looking groomed and beautiful. We arrived during a performance of a magic show in the stage and watched the rest of that – lots of sleight of hand and prestidigitation. A number of audience members, both kids and adults, were called on stage to participate. It was a lot of fun.

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The decorations are up in New Orleans Square also – that’s always one of my favorites. And of course Haunted Mansion Holiday is still running – we took a ride on that.

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Critter Country is also looking its usual festive self – I’m always a little surprised they do as much decorating there as they do, since it’s not as popular as most other areas of the park. We stopped into Pooh Corner to see what kind of holiday treats they might have there – really not too much, actually. A candy apple snowman and chocolate-covered snowman marshmallow on a stick was about it.

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The castle has its icicles and dusting of snow – never mind that it was almost 80 degrees. 🙂

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We headed over to DCA for a while. The candy-cane striped “California” letters are back in front of the entrance, and the wreaths and garland adorn the Golden Gate Bridge. But what happened to Santa’s Beach Blast??? Sunshine Plaza looks strangely bereft and unadorned. That wasn’t the only thing missing – the garlands that normally adorns P.T. Flea and the Farmer’s Market was also gone, as was any kind of decoration on the buildings in the San Francisco area, though the building-formerly-known-as-Golden-Dreams was decorated.

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The tree is in its usual spot near the entrance to Paradise Pier.

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The city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, were dressed in holiday style in the Hollywood Studios area.

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And Flik’s Fun Fair had the normal oversized ornaments and lights, though the Santa “pencil eraser” was gone.

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We went back over to Disneyland to see the first showing of the Christmas Fantasy parade – got a nice spot on the curb in Town Square, where we were almost at the end of the parade route. It’s pretty much the same, though there’s a new Toy Factory float this year, replacing the previous one. It goes along with the building block theme they have for Buzz and Woody’s floats.

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The Times Guide, which covers Friday through next Thursday, actually has NO times listed for the castle lighting, tree lighting, or “it’s a small world” lighting. We asked a Cast Member, who had times in his guide for the “small world” lighting (4:57 p.m.) and the tree lighting (5:00), but nothing for the castle. Hmmm. We went back to “small world” for its lighting ceremony – there was an annoucement on the street and a short countdown, and all of the lights went on. Ooooh…ahhhhhh. 🙂

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I think the colored lights on the topiary animals are new – or at least I’d never notice them before.

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We waited there another 20 minutes to see the holiday projection sequence – the first one of those was about 5:20 – they take place about 5 minutes after the clock chimes each quarter hour.

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We went back to Main Street to see if the castle was lighted yet – nope. Asked another CM, who thought it might not be until after the fireworks (which started at 9:25), but then we heard a passing guest say 5:30. So we waited a few more minutes, and sure enough – the lights started twinkling and coming on at 5:30. There was a very short soundtrack that went with it – a conversation between a mother and child about snow. It’s still really beautiful this year! I think there are some additional effects on the buildings on Main Street, but we didn’t see those – did see the trees behind us in the hub light up, though.

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That was the end of our day and we headed home. It was another great day!

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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