While the rest of the country experiences an early winter this year, who says Southern California isn’t experiencing its own version of “frozen?”
Just head to Disneyland, where characters from the hit movie “Frozen” are ushering-in the 2014 holiday season. The Christmas Fantasy Parade, which is celebrating its 20th year, includes Frozen’s Olaf the Snowman and characters Anna and Elsa. And songs from the movie have been added to the “World of Color” show at Disney’s California Adventure
As always, the Anaheim icon is all decked-out for the Holidays. The iconic “Jungle Cruise” is now the “Jingle Cruise.” The popular “World of Color” show is called “Winter Dreams,” celebrating the Holiday spirit. The Christmas Fantasy Parade is underway. “It’s a Small World” has a Holiday theme. And there are even nightly snowfalls on Main Street.
There is no better place to experience the Holiday spirit, since no place does Christmas like Disney. And if you haven’t yet seen the $1 billion dollar expansion at Disney’s California Adventure — featuring Cars Land — you’re missing out.
Cars Land has been a hit, and it appears to be just the jump-start that Disney’s California Adventure needed to take its place alongside the original Disneyland. Cars Land is based on “Cars,” the Pixar (Disney) film from 2006.
It’s made up of several attractions, but the real star is the ride you won’t want to miss called Radiator Springs Racers. You’ll sit in a six-person car and race through streets, embankments, hills and valleys for a real thrill. It’s exciting, but also tame enough for those who would never ride on a roller coaster.
Elsewhere you’ll find more Cars-themed attractions and restaurants, all constructed with perfect, retro 1950’s automotive graphics. Parts of California Adventure have been re-designed in a perfect 1920’s look, evocative of Hollywood in the time that Walt Disney arrived there from Missouri.
As to where to stay: You can’t go wrong with Disney’s three hotels adjacent to the parks and Downtown Disney: the original Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Paradise Pier, and The Grand Californian Hotel.
A personal favorite is “The Grand,” as it’s known. It is an elegant lodge in the American Craftsman style. It’s the kind of wood, stone and leaded-glass resort that you’d expect to find at Yosemite – only with better service and food here.
Santa is in the Grand Californian’s lobby this time of year, and so are the Old English carolers. The truth is, you could have a great vacation just at the hotel, pool and spa, lounging in overstuffed fireside chairs, looking at the enormous Christmas tree, listening to holiday music and watching kids light-up with Santa.
In fact, the best places to eat at the entire Disneyland Resort may be in the hotel’s first floor restaurants. Storyteller’s Café features casual dining. It serves comfort food in Craftsman surroundings. Next door is the elegant Napa Rose restaurant, which has received Zagat’s number one food ranking in Orange County. (Reservations are definitely recommended at each.) There is a third venue called White Water snacks, which may be one of the best kept secrets at Disneyland, because it’s a great place to grab something quick (like a morning bagel & coffee) before entering the parks.
Staying and eating at the hotel, you could almost forget there are two world class theme parks adjacent to it, all decked out for Christmas. An added bonus: guests at the Disney hotels can enter the theme park earlier than the general public on certain “Magic Morning” days, which helps in getting to the more popular rides.
In any event, if you’re looking for the ultimate Holiday experience, the state’s most popular tourist destination has only gotten better. ###