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Miles Completed = 29.01
(Run/Walked = 29.01, Biked = 0.0, Elliptical = 0.0)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My 11 Hours in Disneyland (December 26, 2011) - LONG

Disneyland - what, aren't you going to Walt Disney World here really soon?  I'm so confused, what possessed you to go to Disneyland? 

Is that what you were thinking when you read this title? 

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I should go to Disneyland just for the day over my Christmas vacation from work.  I have that fabulous Premiere Pass that I paid a lot of money for and wouldn't it be great to use it for something I hadn't planned a year in advance?  I thought it would be fun.  I've never just flown somewhere for a day and flown home the same day - sounded like an adventure I just couldn't refuse.

I had some Southwest airline credits to use so I did a quick search and found airfare for a somewhat reasonable (not really) price and I booked it before I could change my mind.  The date was set - I was going to Disneyland December 26, 2011!

I had only two must do things for the day - Haunted Mansion Holiday and It's a Small World Holiday.  That's it - if I managed to do these two things the day would be successful.  I knew to expect some pretty intense crowds and I was prepared to stand in lines as long as it took to do these two attractions.

The alarm rang at 3:30am and surprisingly I got up and got ready to go.  I was super excited because I was going to Disneyland!  I fed the dogs, made sure I had my wallet and a jacket and headed outside to wait for Super Shuttle.

The shuttle van arrived right on time and I was headed out to the airport at 4:28am.  We made one other stop to pick up a family and then it was an uneventful ride to the airport.  Of course, taking the shuttle and not having any luggage certainly brings up questions - that I would have to answer several more times during the course of this day :)!

Okay, so I've never flown out and back on the same day.  When I went in to print my boarding pass, I didn't realize that it was going to print both passes at the same time - thankfully, the next person in line caught that I had only taken one of my passes...such an inexperienced jet setter...It was a quick and easy trip through security and I was at the gate waiting by 5:10am.

Boarding started at 6:10am and we took off on time at 6:30am - the great thing about going to California right now is that they are an hour behind so we landed at 6:40am.  I flew in to LAX since it was cheaper than Orange County - it also meant a little longer commute to get to Disneyland, but since the park didn't open until 8am I figured I'd have time.

Once I got off the plane I headed out to the Super Shuttle pickup area - it was rather odd because there were no coordinators to check in with.  I waited a few minutes and finally a van stopped and checked me in.  Within 10 minutes my shuttle van was there and I was on my way.  Super Shuttle was very busy and we ended up with a full van load.  There was no traffic on the way so the drive was pretty quick and easy this morning.

I had arranged to be dropped off and picked up at the Grand Californian.  I was the second drop off and it was very odd when we stopped at the Grand Californian to say that I was not there to check in, but it was no problem.

I did a pretty quick walk through the hotel to Downtown Disney and straight on to Disneyland.  I was in the park by 8:01am - not a bad way to start the day at all!

I was going to stop and take some pictures of the Christmas tree on Main Street, but I was too jazzed to go to the Haunted Mansion Holiday.  So, I walked through the park passed Pirates - oh, it was hard to walk by when I could have walked on, but I was on a mission.

When I arrived at the Haunted Mansion it hadn't been opened up yet, so I shot a couple of quick pictures. 
2011 HM 72011 HM 6
2011 HM 52011 HM 4
I walked up and right in to the lobby and straight in to the stretching room.  I had never experienced the Haunted Mansion Holidays before, so I was super excited to see what it was all about.  The first time, I just wanted to experience the ride so I didn't take any photos or video. 

I was pretty impressed.  The ride is completely transformed - it's not your normal Haunted Mansion at all.  The stretching room photos are different, the spiel is different and the vibe is different.  The changing portraits in the hall on the way to the doom buggies were all different - very cool, but different.  There were subtle Christmas decorations all around.

As you get ready to board your ride vehicle you're presented with a neon, glow in the dark scene with so many Nightmare Before Christmas characters.  So much to look at it's hard to take it all in.

Then you go through the ride.  The floating candelabra is now a floating Zero.  Zero is second to Pluto for me - I love Zero with his orange lit up nose!   There's a monster wreath, singing plants, and lots of creepiness.

The seance room is completely different - with Zodiac cards and Madame Leota in a Christmas bauble glass orb.  You head to the ball room where there is an awesome Christmas tree with skulls, pumpkins, spiders and such.  A killer gingerbread bread house and yes, they pipe in gingerbread scent as well.

On to the attic and there's more of that neon, glow in the dark spooky creepy stuff everywhere.  Again, there's a ton of things to see in here.  The monkey bride is there, snakes with children's names as their tongues, packages, toys, a miniature Mr. Oogie Boogie.

You head outside of the mansion and it's snowy and wonderful.  There's jack-o-lanterns everywhere. As you pass where the caretaker and his dog are normally positioned - there's a larger than life Jack Skellington and floating Zero.  Jack is talking away - very cool.  Then you progress through the cemetery and the singing busts are now singing Jack-O-Lanterns - a nice touch.

There are some really cool things to see - one of my favorite things is the skeleton reindeer.  They are cool and creepy at the same time.  The hitchhiking ghosts have been replaced by a large Mr. Oogie Boogie and his spinning wheel of trick or treats.

The hitchhiking ghosts are replaced by a few special little characters that pop up.  No Little Leota telling you to hurry back, instead you have Sally beckoning you to return and bring your Sandy Claws Sack.

I was really impressed by the changes and I decided to get right back on the ride a second time since there was no wait.  This time I took some video and I grabbed a few stills from the video to share with you.
2011 HMH 11
Jack is up in the ceiling looking down in the stretching room
2011 HMH 10
At the boarding area
2011 HMH 9
Evil gingerbread house
2011 HMH 8
Snake with children's names list for a tongue
2011 HMH 7
Snowy hill full of jack-o-lanterns
2011 HMH 6
Jack and Zero
2011 HMH 5
Singing bust jack-o-lanterns
2011 HMH 4
Angels
2011 HMH 3
Mr. Oogie Boogie
2011 HMH 2
Boo!
2011 HMH 1
Zero pulled the sleigh

I headed over to French Quarter and shot a quick picture of Christmas decorations on one of the balconies.
2011 FQ
Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean which was a walk on.  Of course, it was as good as always.
2011 PoC 1
We wants the redhead!

I headed in to Adventureland and since I was walking past Indiana Jones, I decided I might as well get in line since the wait was only about 25 minutes and I knew it would be much longer later.  The wait was really only about 10 minutes so it was a great choice.  This is a pretty great ride - it can certainly be rough though so be warned you're going to get jerked around quite a bit.

I had already done all of this and it was only 9:30am.  As I made my way over to Fantasyland, I decide to stop by and do the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk through.  I haven't done this since the original incarnation when I was just a kid and I have to say I really enjoyed each of the vignettes and seeing the story come to life.

Goal number two was to see It's a Small World Holidays, so that's where I was off to next.  Now, I haven't been on It's a Small World at Disneyland for a very long time - it's usually closed to get ready for the holidays when I'm here - so I still hadn't seen the addition of the Disney characters that was done a few years ago.  I was really looking forward to seeing the characters and the special holiday decor and music.
2011 IASW 2
I did the same thing with this ride - the first time through I just wanted to enjoy and soak it all in.  So, that's what I did.  The ride is the same layout as normal, with the same scenes from around the world, but the scenes are all decked out for the holidays and so festive.  They also play the It's a Small World music, but there are also Christmas songs mixed in - I loved this.  It was truly a well done change and I was super glad I got the chance to see it.  I was also really impressed with the addition of the Disney characters - they are stylized and really cute and well done.
2011 IASW 1
I enjoyed it so much that I got off the ride and right back in line to ride again.  The second time through I took some video and grabbed some stills from it to share here.  I'll share a good number of the Disney characters that are throughout the ride.
2011 IASWH 13
Mulan and Mushu
2011 IASWH 11
Love the giraffes
2011 IASWH 10
Three Caballeros
2011 IASWH 9
Ariel and Flounder
2011 IASWH 8
Dory and Marlin
2011 IASWH 7
Lilo and Stitch
2011 IASWH 6
Woody and Bullseye
2011 IASWH 5
The final white scene decorations
2011 IASWH 4
Can Can Dancers
2011 IASWH 3
More decorations
2011 IASWH 2
Farewell!
2011 IASWH 1
Postcards at the end of the ride - very cute!

It was almost 11am and I was getting hungry since I hadn't had anything to eat yet.  I headed over to the Village Haus and got a burger, fries, a cookie and some water - a 15% discount with my pass and it still cost $13.52.  What can I say, food in Disneyland is rather pricey!

After a satisfying lunch I headed out towards Frontierland and on the way, I had to stop and see the reindeer.  They are really cool!
2011 Reindeer2011 Reindeer 2
Big Thunder Mountain was next on my list of things to do.  I hopped in line and the wait was only about 10 minutes or so.  I do love Big Thunder - such a great coaster!

It was just after noon and the crowds were now super thick - I mean walking was becoming more and more difficult.  These were the crowds I was expecting and to be honest, I was just super glad that I managed to get so much done in the first part of the day.

I headed back over to Haunted Mansion Holiday and the wait was now listed as an hour with no fast passes.  I decided to brave the line and do it one last time.  I am glad I did.  There was a cast member there that was so good as scaring people - he would just walk up by someone and say something in a very loud voice and every time the person he addressed would jump so high.  Seriously fun to watch.  The wait was about 45 minutes or so and was worth it as it gave me a chance to slow down a bit as I hadn't really stopped since I got up in the morning.

Next I was walking around deciding what to do next and again, the crowds were crazy.  To make matters worse - Indiana Jones was down and it was a madhouse trying to maneuver through Adventureland.  I made my way towards Tomorrowland, along the way, I took a couple of castle pictures.
2011 Castle 2
Isn't the castle pretty with the snow?

As I entered Tomorrowland, I decided to hop in line for Star Tours - yes, the wait was listed as 65 minutes and yes, it was about 50 minutes.  I didn't mind, it was a perfect day, I was prepared for waits and I felt like a little outer space adventure. 
2011 Star Tours
It was a little disturbing when a Wookie got thrown on to our Starspeeder - yikes!

I walked around a bit more, soaking up the atmosphere and deciding what to do next.  I ended up back in New Orleans Square and got in line for Pirates again.  It was listed as a 50 minute wait, but as I was waiting a Cast Member came to inform everyone there were technical difficulties and it would be 10 minutes or so before it would be going again.  Wow - technical difficulties at Pirates - can't remember the last time that happened.  Even with that, it was still only about 40 minutes of wait time.

It was about 3:50pm and I was starting to wear out a bit.  I headed over to the Jungle Cruise which had a 20 minute wait listed, but it was only about 10 minutes - although the queue had everyone going up stairs and downstairs and all over the place.  Just gotta love the Jungle Cruise!

Now it was time to do a little shopping.  I headed up Main Street towards the Emporium.  Spent a little bit of money on an ornament, Vinylmation key chain and Mickey Poncho Antenna Topper.  Then I was on a mission to find a couple of pins - but I didn't find any that I really wanted - so sad.

I had to take a few more pictures of the Haunted Mansion at night - very cool with all the lights at night!
2011 HM 3  2011 HM 2
2011 HM 1
At about 5:40pm, I found a spot just off Main Street to lean against a fence and rest for a bit.  The 5:30pm parade was going and I watched that from a distance.  What I was really hoping for was to see the Castle Lights come one.  Just about 6:10pm, I was running out of time and started to head out of the park and took a few pictures of Main Street.
2011 Castle 1
The castle with just garland lights on
2011 Main St 2
A blurry picture of Main Street
2011 Main St 1
Looking down Main Street

At 6:20pm as I was almost to the end of Main Street getting ready to head out, an announcement came on that the castle lights were going to be lit.  I was so excited.  I thought I was just going to miss these tonight and I have to say it was a really magical moment to be able to head back up Main Street to watch the lights come on and the snow come down on Main Street.  It truly was the best way to end this perfect day that I could think of!

The lights on the castle are truly magnificent and the snow was pretty magical too!
2011 XMas Castle 3
The castle from a distance - isn't it cute how small it is :)?
2011 XMas Castle 2
So much snow and pretty lights!
2011 XMas Castle 1
The perfect way to end my 11 hours at Disneyland - seeing the beautiful lights on the castle!

I headed out of the park at 6:45pm and walked to the Grand Californian through Downtown Disney.  I did a quick walk through the store in the hotel and then I headed outside to wait for the Super Shuttle.  I had a bit of a wait - about 30 minutes and I have to say that it got a bit chilly as I waited.

The ride back to the airport was quick and uneventful, made it through security quick and easy and had about 50 minutes to wait for the flight to take off.  The flight left on time and I was back in Phoenix at 11:30pm.  Headed out to catch the Super Shuttle home and finally made it back home at 12:45am.

It was a super long day, but it was so worth it.  I have never done anything like this before, but I have to say it was a great experience and one that I hope I can do again!

Some thoughts on this day:
I planned my timing well.  Making to the park right at opening and then hitting my goals and favorites first was a wise choice.

Even though it was super crowded later in the day, there were never any lines listed longer than 70 minutes and most were shorter than listed.

I really did enjoy the Haunted Mansion Holiday, but I'm glad that it's not always that way.  The original is still the best in my opinion.

It's a Small World Holiday was a super overlay - I really enjoyed all the decorations and the addition of Christmas music.  I also really loved the addition of the Disney characters - they are stylized well to fit in to the ride and it just works for me.

Know that you're going to have to deal with major crowds during a holiday time.  Take a deep breath and just go with the flow, no matter how slow it is.

If you get a chance - make sure you see the castle lights and snow.  It was gorgeous and I'm so glad I didn't end up missing this!

I was blessed with beautiful weather.  I wore a light jacket most of the day, but just tied it around my waist when it was too warm.  I wore jeans and a t-shirt and it was just right for the temperatures.

9 comments:

-J.Darling said...

You were there 3 days after me! :)
Here's a piece of Disneyland trivia for you - they don't have to pipe in the smell of gingerbread in the Haunted Mansion's ballroom. It's actually a different REAL gingerbread creation every year!

Jenn said...

Sounds like an awesome day! I'm jealous! :) I might have to try this one day in Florida!

Leanne T said...

How fun was that! The parks are so different in California and Florida and I love them both.

Chris said...

Didn't realize you had this planned, very cool.

Thanks for sharing the experience and pictures. Helps that you're not too far from DL. :-)

Karen said...

What an awesome trip! I didn't realize they changed up some of the rides for the holiday, makes it even more special :)

J. Wazowski said...

How fun! Thanks for sharing.

Rae! said...

So cool looking!! One of these days...

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