Kicking Off The Holidays At Disneyland 2018 Review

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The holidays don’t officially start for us until they are Disney official!

This year we went big and spent two nights taking in all the magic and left with so much holiday love in our hearts! Thank you to our friends at Disneyland for hosting us!!

We stayed at one of our favorite hotels, Disney’s Grand Californian!

Emmy went straight for some treats and also discovered something we haven’t seen before. Do you know what that is?

The hotel was all decked out for the holidays with the beautiful tree in the lobby, the “Grand” Gingerbread House and also Holiday Treats. 

The Gingerbread house is 7 feet tall by 12 feet wide, and is created from more than 600 pounds of gingerbread, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, 250 pounds of fondant, 1 pound of pixie dust and features 25 hidden Mickeys. Right next to it is a holiday cart where you can purchase all sorts of festive treats, like a Mickey snowflake cookie!

There are a whole collection of good neighbor hotels that are within walking distance to the parks, and we have stayed at many of them in the past, but our absolute favorite way to enjoy the season is to stay on property. One such reason is that you can maximize your vacation time because the parks are so close. Also, if you travel with teens, this is a great way for them to have some independence going to and from the parks without leaving the resort area.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the girls got all festive with the special merchandise for the season and then went on a bunch of attractions (thanks Disney MaxPass). Meanwhile, Pete and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in Disney California Adventure Park, the Lamplight Lounge! 

After dinner, we met up with the kids for a bit and just enjoyed all the holiday decorations! 

We even caught one of the occasional snowfalls at Grizzly Peak!

We were taking pictures when the fluffy white stuff started falling down from above. It lasted just moments, but was so cool!

Right by this is the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where you can have fun with special holiday-themed activities with Santa Claus and his sleigh full of mischievous elves at Santa’s Holiday Visit! Then from Dec. 25 through Jan. 8, you might find Santa Goofy in this festive location after Santa leaves.

We also sipped hot chocolate by the 50-foot Christmas tree in front of Carthay Circle along Buena Vista Street. The tree and surrounding buildings, inspired by Los Angeles as it appeared when Walt Disney arrived in the 1920s, are decorated with vintage-style ornaments. 

We always find that this tree is just as delightful as the gorgeous one in Disneyland but without the crowds, making it perfect for pictures!

The next day it was all about the food and more of the holiday happenings for Disney Festival of Holidays!

There is special entertainment, along with delicious food at the Festive Foods Marketplace, which features a mix of holiday dishes and beverages that bridge many diverse cultures and family traditions. 

There is even a food stand with all vegan food! My favorite was the Vanilla & Cranberry Trifle.

Maddie’s favorite was the pumpkin soup! When the sun started to set and it got a touch of coolness in the air, the soup was so welcome!

Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort 

After eating our way down to Cars Land, we were so excited to see it all decorated for the holidays too!

Each address along Route 66 – Flo’s V8 Café, Fillmore’s Taste-In, Cozy Cone Motel, Luigi’s Casa della Tires and more – has a holiday makeover that reflects the personality of its “Cars” character resident. Plus, two attractions put the holiday cheer into overdrive, transforming into Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. 

The eating didn’t stop though.

Emmy also had a cone full of ice cream with crushed candy canes and chocolate!

We take this picture each and every year! 

Here are more of our favorite treats available during the holidays:

The black forest yule log can be found at the A Twist on Tradition marketplace. Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort
Gingerbread Funnel Cake Fries can be found at Award Wieners in Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure park. Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort
Holiday stuffing mac n cheese can be found at the Winter Sliderland marketplace. Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort
The peppermint crunch shake can be found at Schmoozies in Hollywood. Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort

Over in Disneyland, there was even more holiday magic to be had!

Photo Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

First, let’s start with this famous tree! It was all decked out! 

There is normally a little line to be able to take a picture in front of it, so we like to grab a treat to enjoy while we wait. This year I recommend these beautiful and delicious cookies!

The Holiday Linzer Cookie at Market House on Main Street, U.S.A.Photo Credit: Disneyland Resort

Another thing you won’t want to miss in Disneyland is the “A Christmas Fantasy” parade. It might be my favorite parade yet. Plus Santa is even there!

We all went on “it’s a small world” Holiday that has been kissed with holiday spirit including dolls and toys representing children around the world enjoying the distinctive holiday traditions of their countries.

The holiday music is just so special!

The girl’s absolute favorite attraction might just be Haunted Mansion when it becomes Haunted Mansion Holiday this time of year. They love how Jack Skellington and his friends from “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” cause a collision between Christmas and Halloween!

It really is so much fun… and a little spooky too!

Of course, we couldn’t miss our annual photo and chat with the big guy himself, Santa!

There are multiple opportunities to visit with him throughout the parks, but our favorite place is right where Winnie the Pooh lets out. The lines are always shorter and it is just a beautiful spot!

Santa even shared one of his favorite cookie recipes and candy canes!

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned all the fantastic merchandise this year.

From the ears to the necklaces, it is so beyond basic! The girls were not planning to get anything this year because they have a whole supply from past years that they love, but that lasted about 1 minute and everyone bought new favorites!

Photo Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle is extra sparkly and the view up and down Main Street, U.S.A. is stunning! There is even a chance of snow each night! 

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Photo Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort)

Join the conversation:

This really was the most amazing way to really get into the holiday spirit!

It felt like Christmas time the moment we arrived with the scent of gingerbread everywhere we turned. You can experience the holidays at Disneyland Resort now through Jan. 6, 2019!

Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.