The Disneyland Fireworks show is on every night and is a must see part of your admission price. It is practically worth price of admission all on it's own so don't be caught on a ride during the show! On most evening the Disneyland fireworks show will start around 9 or 9:30pm so you'll have lots of time to grab dinner before the show. But a great time saving idea if you're only spending a day in the park is to try and grab a snack around dinner time and then while you're saving your spot for the fireworks show, grab a dinner to-go and eat in shadow of Sleeping Beauty's Castle while you're waiting for the amazing spectacle to start! Save a spot? "Aren't fireworks in the sky and seen all over the park?" you say? While this is true there are definitely better spots to see the show and the staff coordinate off areas of the park for people to sit and during the show there are area where they don't even let you stand around so there is some necessity in saving a spot if you really want to be able to comfortable see the show. We decided to head down main street to grab some snacks before the show as well as finish checking out any other shops we had missed before settling down in out spots about 45 minutes before show time (we got great seats!)
The first stop I had to make before getting food was at the Mad Hatters. I had gone all day without a Mickey Ears Hat to call my own and now it was finally time for me to choose my very own set of Mickey ears. I was so excited that we had finally made it back to this shop (since it has on of the best selections in the park). There is a reason that this shop is perfectly placed at the very front of the park. I spent a good 20 minutes trying to all sorts of different Mickey ears. There were so many beautiful and quirky pairs in the shop!
They had everything, from under the sea themes to plain ol' Minnie bows! And the design of the shop was just darling too. It felt like an old fashioned haberdashery shop, even the cast members were dressed up in Victorian era costumes and treated all customers with the most wonderful charm and excellent service. With the help of my crew, we decided on a steam punk/vintage bronze set of ears!
You have the option of getting them personalized for only $5 how could I refuse? I love little personal touches? I decided on Dan's nickname "Pysanka" for the embroidery and had it done in the cutest of the typefaces and in minutes, there it was. It was on my head immediately. I felt better already. It never came off. Almost wore it for the rest of the trip.
We continued down the street, peeking into the different food and clothing vendors along the way, looking for what caught our eyes along the way. We looked up at all the different windows that decorated the different shops along the streets. Each of the windows is painted with a different persons name.These people are all the names of different individuals who were very instrumental in the creation of the park. Their names, like their faces, now still look out over the guests who happily walk the streets of the park today.
We walked by the Disneyland Emporium to see some of there amazing motorized dioramas depicting different famous Disney characters. Fun little tid bit: all the window displays along Main Street USA were designed to be extra low so that little children could view the beautiful displays therein.
We wanted to stop in at Refreshment Corner and the Candy Shoppe at the end of Main Street to get some treats to snack on while we saved our spots for the fireworks show! My suggestion for a savory treat is the GIANT mickey pretzel. It is soft, salty, comfort food perfection. Served along side some spicy jalapeno cheese sauce you just can't go wrong! Plus, it's just so darn adorable! I'm a sucker for pretzels at amusement parks!
Other great grab-and-go treats from the Refreshment Corner are the wonderfully weird Mac and Cheese dog. Or get a delicious bowl of chili in a sourdough bread bowl (the sourdough is baked on site everyday so it's extra fresh!). Another great choice is hand dipped corn dog from the Little Red Wagon or a simple grilled cheese and tomato soup which are always a perfect choice for one of those chillier evenings.
But if you're looking for something sweet, then you simply cannot pass up a Disneyland candy apples. They are not just a treat, they are a work of art! All of these treats can be found in the all over the park but there is a great selection of them right here in the Candy Shoppe. They come in sorts of different colours, designs and different flavours. These are the ideal things to eat while sitting down and waiting for the show to start since they are not something you can eat while walking. They are a bit messy so grab a fork and a bunch of napkins to get before you go!
Other great treats that the Candy Shoppe is known for and will make for amazing snacks to eat before and during the show are Marshmallow Wands, Carmel Corn, and the Peanut Butter Sandwhich.
Once you've got all your snacks it's time to go grab a spot to camp out before the show starts. You do have to get there a bit early since it does fill up fast but with food to snack up and a chance to rest your feet we were happy for the chance to take a bit of a break and recap on all the different things we'd done all day and the few attractions we knew we needed to see before the day was done.
Getting to watch the balloons go by was one of my favourite people watching moments of the night. Those light-up balloons are absolutely gorgeous. I don't know what I would do with it for the rest of the night if I had bought it, but it took everything inside of me to stop myself from buying the balloons all night long. They looked so pretty all lit up against the dark night sky.
After grabbing a quick cup of joe from the friendliest member of the Disney family (you can grab coffee just outside the castle from a cart and you'd be surprised how good it is!), the fireworks show was about the begin! The music which had been playing through the park all began to turn off and the the lights throughout the park slowly started to dim. You knew the show was about to BEGIN!
The fireworks show that runs during the holidays is called Believe... There's Magic in the Stars. The whole show is thirteen-minutes long! Can you imagine how much 13 minutes of fireworks costs! This is why you can't miss this show! The program combines fireworks set to various classic Christmas songs. The entire thing culminates in a magical moment when "snow" begins to fall from various areas of the park. The snow is might be fake but the effect it gives visitors is truly magical. At first when you look up at the sky you think for a moment that it really might be snowing. When the fireworks end and the music dies down, the snow continues to fall in the moonlight for a few minutes before the lights come back on, leaving you in a peaceful moment of lovely, Christmas memories.
After the fireworks show ended, we headed over to the Fantasyland, just on the other side of the Castle, to ride King Arthur Carousel! I had waited all day to ride the carousel. I wanted to ride it at night since when all the lights were all lit up and sparkling! And it didn't dissapoint!
The carousel is another one of those iconic amusement park rides. Walt Disney was insistent on having in his park, despite the fact that many people told him they were outdated and not the kind of thrilling ride that would draw people to the park. Nonetheless, Disney wanted that kinda of ride to exist in his park, and I'm happy he did. The King Arthur carousel was one of the original rides that opened with the park in 1955 but has under gone many different refurbishment overs other years.
Over those years, the horses have undergone different paint jobs. The most significant paint job that many remember was the change from a single white horse to all the horses becoming white horses. In 1975 they decided to repaint all the horses white to satisfy customer demand since their single white horse was over and above the most popular of all the other brown and black horses on the carousel. In 2005, for the 50th anniversary, in tribute to Julie Andews and her iconic role of Mary Poppies, a horse was added named "Jingles" with golden bells that covered her saddle. I was lucky enough to get to ride on Jingles!! She was ever so marvelous!!! But you'd be surprised to learn that every single one of the horses on the carousel has a name so no matter the horse you ride, it's a special horse with a special name.
After we finished riding on the carousel, we wandered through the mostly empty streets of Fantasyland. It was so interesting to see this place transformed at night. What was a jam packed placed with children screaming in the day time, became an almost upscale and romantic wonder-world at nighttime with popcorn lights twinkling all around us and mostly couples arm and arm walking through mainly open grounds.
We wandered through the Bibbidi Bobbidi Botuqiue which is usually a zoo during the day but at night it was relatively quiet. The shop was named after the fairy godmother in Cinderella and walking through the door to felt like you were truly walking into her closet, or perhaps her little cottage. It was covered wall to wall with princess dresses and knights costumes. Towards the back they even had really real looking replica swords and shields and even a suit of armor on display. During the day this place is very popular since guests can come and get their hair and makeup done by the same people who cut the princesses hair. Which doesn't really make sense to me since clearly they all wear wings but still, it's a nice little touch and the shop it soooo adorable. It really made me wish they carried some of these dresses in my size...
After we finished up there we walked under the beautiful snow soaked castle, all light up with beautiful Christmas lights and headed on over to the Haunted Mansion for the Nightmare Before Christmas themed ride! Since it was so late at night and a weeknight we got right in the door without waiting more than a few minutes! This was great since this lineup had been huge when we past by earlier on in the day! I couldn't wait since I'm both a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan as well as I big fan of old timey horror rides.
The Haunted Mansion is one of the most popular dark rides in all the park. But you might be surprised to know that when it was opened in 1969, it was met with a mediocre response. Many guests thought that the rides wasn't scary enough. Walt Disney had originally thought up the concept with some of his imagineers and although wanted the inside of the house to appear old and run down didn't want the outside of the house to look decrepit or ugly, thus taking away from the overall look of the rest of Disney. He famously said, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside."
One of Walt's favourite designers, Rolly Crump, was put in charge of this project. His vision for this ride revolved around bizarre curiosities like coffin clocks, candle men, talking chairs, man eating plants, tiki-like busts and a mirror with a face. Walt nick named the house the "Museum of the Weird" but past away before the ride was completed.
Although it's called the "Haunted Mansion" the ride is more funny and entertaining than a gory and scary worthy attraction. When you enter the mansion you step into a "doom buggy" and ride through the mansion's parlous, dining room, library, halls, attics and finally descend into the graveyard. Disney's animators and imagineers worked tirelessly and employed all sorts of different tricks and special effects in this dark ride to make the ghosts come alive. Although the scares are not the bloody and violent ones we're used to see now adays, they are wonderful, Victorian-spooks from another era that bring us back to another time and place when scares didn't need to be so over the top and bloody.
BUT we got an even more special treat and that was to see the Nightmare Before Christmas version of this ride. The ride feels like an entirely different attraction but so some guests will come back just to see these holidays swaps! The regular characters are changed out for Nightmare Before Christmas stars. Jack Skllingtons and the Oogie Boogie man steal the show and you'll see Sally and the the rest of the cast from Halloween land dancing around the house. Danny Elfman's classic score from the movie also accompanies you throughout your journey adding an extra little bit of wonder throughout the trip. My favourite part was the graveyard that was all decorated with glowing pumpkins stacked up high in the shape of the Christmas trees.
After an amazing ride thru the Haunted Mansion, we headed back off in the direction of It's a Small World for a journey thru this infamous tunnel which has also been turned over to to Santa Claus with a Christmas twist!
It's a Small World was built in 1964. It's chief ride designer was Mary Blair, who was also the art director on so many well cherished animated classics such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Mary was responsible for bringing the whimsical characters to life inside the ride. It was her brush that made this ride so iconic. Those character design that we now refer to as "animator dolls" styles all starts with her. Another designer who worked on this ride was, Rolly Crumpt (who also worked on the Haunted Mansion Ride - pretty big difference!). He mainly worked on the supplemental figures inside the displays. Walt Disney made sure that each of the dolls' facial designs were complete identical in shape - hence the name "It's a Small World".
The ride itself is pretty simple and some people think it's a little boring. That said, don't let the lack of complexity fool you. It's never a short line. It's notoriety makes it a must-stop attraction for any Disney goer. No matter the reason for your wanting to go to Disneyland, whether it's your first time or your 10th, everyone seems to want to make one more trip down that tunnel to hear that catchy tune.
Every holiday season from November to New Years, It's a Small World get a little make-over both inside and out. Jingle Bells and Deck the Hells ca be heard inside the tunnel as well as the regular "It's a Small World" soundtrack. Inside the ride all the characters are wearing Christmas garb appropriated for their cultural location. Christmas lights hang from the ceiling and garland is hung from all side of the channel. It really feels like a giant celebration. It's amazingly impressive that they get all of this changed over for Christmas. The outside of the building has a special 3D projection that is used to illuminated its facade. The entire attraction is transformed at night into an enormous clockwork mechanism which entertains visitors while they're waiting to get on their boats and enter the tunnel.
A quick tip I found out after the fact: when the line splits , choose the right-hand side of line. It's the faster moving of the two lines. Unfortunately, we still had to wait in line a good 30 minutes to ride this ride. BUT it was totally worth it and a perfect way to cap off the evening.
After riding It's a Small World, we were approaching the Midnight mark and it was time to start heading out of the park. We walked down Main Street one last time, taking in that beautiful view of the castle as we walked down the street. I will note, all the shops in Disneyland stay open 1 hour later than the park so most of the shops would have been open till 1am. But we didn't know this at the time and just as well since we were exhausted from all the amazing times we had had all day.
I did managed to sneak in a few last shopping excursions on our way out. The Disneyland Emporium is a great place to shop as your leaving the park. It has just about every souvenir that you've seen all over the park right here in one shop. Most of the souvenir shops all over the park are themed to the certain area of the park you're in. So the shop near Pirates of the Caribbean will have lots of pirate items and Winnie the Pooh's Corner will have tons of Winnie the Pooh items, but here in Disneyland Emporium's, there is a selections of items from all of those shops. There might not be everything you've seen in all of those unique shops but there will be a choice few items from each of them for sure. So if something caught your eye but you past it by, chances are you'll find it here again.
My favourite shop though was the Disney showcase were I found all sorts of different Disney Christmas trinkets and decorations. I must have spent half an hour trying to pick out the perfect pair of Mickey Mouse ear ornaments for my christmas tree.
Christmas tree ornaments are some of my favourite souvenirs. I mark them with the date and the location of where they came from so when I'm setting up my tree they always make me think of the wonderful memories of where they came from. I can't wait to come back next year to get another one to match!
Before we knew it, it was time to go. We took one last picture before we left, the smiles on our faces as big as the smiles in our hearts. Our feet were begging for rest but I didn't want to say goodbye. Alas, the lights were beginning to turn off in the park and I knew it was time to go. When we got to the car, my little Mickey Ears still on my head bumped on the edge of the car as we got in. I giggled and then it dawned on me. It was really time to go. Dan looked over at me, "Are you crying?", he said, almost laughing at how silly I was being. I was. I knew I was being ridiculous. When he asked why, the only answer I could think of was, "It...It was all just so magical...."