Last year, we walked into Disneyland and were unexpectedly greeted with a flourish of Christmas decor, embellished all over the buildings and walkways of this magical town. This year, we decided to come a little early and take a peek at what Halloween in Disneyland has to offer.
Instead of Christmas baubles and snowflakes draping the buildings and lamps posts along Main Street, the Autumnal weather and impending spooky Holiday season brought with it a wonderful dollop of orange and yellow Halloween decor scattered throughout the park.
There were pumpkins of all sorts, hung from the tops of the rafters right to the gardens below. The flowers in the garden that usually are a myriad of rainbow colours had been replaced with fall hues. And my favourite, Disney's own great pumpkin, sits in the middle of main street. It greets you with a wink and a smile as you pass through the gates.
Even Disney characters get into the Halloween spirit donning different costumes, so don't be surprised if you see a wicked witch roaming around the park that looks an awful lot like Minnie Mouse ;) (in the case of the photo below - Winnie the Pooh)
I was hoping that they would do something Halloween-y with the castle but alas, there was not. Although, when the sun set the fireworks show had an especially scary portion that certainly made up for the fact that there was no decorations on the castle.
In my haste to make it to the park in good time, I forgot to bring one of my lovely lenses for the camera but it did mean we got there (almost) in time for rope drop and the official opening of the park. The park is almost always packed to the brim, but at this early hour there was only a hundred or so people roaming the park. This is the way to see this place and if you're a morning riser like myself, try your best to come to the park as early as you can. You'll never have the place to yourself but in comparison to how busy it gets in the afternoon, you'll feel like you do in these early hours.
We walked over to get Dan a fastpass for Ghost Galaxy (the halloween transformation of Space Mountain) and found that there wasn't even a line, it was pretty much a walk on. The same applied for Star Tours. Both were rides that were too busy for him to even get a fastpass for last year so he jumped at the chance to ride them right away.
I can't go on those rides unfortunately since they are a bit intense for me but Dan loves them and I wasn't about to stand in his way. I told him I'd grab some breakfast and meet him back on the Tomorrowland benches.
While Dan was off ridings scary thrill rides, I headed back down to the end of main street and happily skipped into the Holly Jolly Bakery. This was the one spot I missed last time and wasn't about to miss it now. It is a victorian style cafe made to look like a set out of Mary Poppins. The perfect place to grab a snack for breakfast.
Little trickets and ornate details line the walls and are all inspired or plucked from by the Mary Poppins movie.
There were so many delicious options for breakfast, in scuptious Disney style. And best of all, they were all inspired by Fall and the halloween season. There were Mickey cookies in the shape of bats, cinnamon spiced mickey ear macaroons and brightly decorated pumpkin shaped cupcakes.
I decided on a pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin and cream muffin. The muffin was perfection, not too sweet with a smooth cream cheese filling. The latte was a tad too sweet for my taste but it did has a layer of cinnamon and nutmeg spice to it that filled me with warmth on this chilly morning.
I took my breakfast to go and wandered over to the Plaza Inn to snack on them. The Plaza inn is another on of those beautiful victorian inspired buildings and was a little less crowded on the terrace than Holly Jolly. It was honestly empty because most everyone was inside doing their breakfast meet and greet with Disney Characters inside. The Plaza Inn courtyard has the perfect view of the castle to look over at while you're snacking on breakfast, lunch or dinner.
After Dan finished getting him mind blown at Ghost Galaxy and Star Tours we saw the line was pretty short for Astro Blasters and since we missed out on this too last time, we jumped at the chance to ride it. I wasn't expecting too much but we ended up having the greatest time straight off the bat. It's wonderful to get to ride the attractions and just get to marvel at the marvelous designs and animations but it's a whole different experience to get to interactive with the ride!
Astro Blasters is based off the Toy Story 2 movie and where you get to shoot laser guns at different targets throughout the ride. You spin around and travel you through the story, all the competing with your partner for the best score. Although both of us did miserably, I beat Dan...so I felt accomplished. ;)
After dashing around Tomorrowland so early in the day, we headed over to Fantasyland to ride Peter Pan's Flight. This ride always has a huge line and although it's only a simple dark ride, people seem to love it.
The line up was only 25 minutes long so we headed straight there. No brainer. We jumped in a gorgeous, flying pirate ship and headed up up and away into the sky. The ride has you soaring in the air while you look down on Neverland and Peter's adventures. It was impossible to take photos inside in the dark with my camera, but I took some off Flickr so you could get a sense of the wonder that this ride provides. It was amazing. You felt like Tinkerbell. Totally worth the wait.
We stopped off on our way to Tomorrowland at Snow White's Grotto to throw a lucky penny into the wishing well. All day long Snow White's voice echoes down the wishing well, enchanting all those who walk by this secluded area of the park. The money people throw into the wishing wells is all given to charity, as is the money thrown anywhere in the park.
After cruising around in the clouds, we met up with Katie, Michael, Jill and the kids over in Autotopia. They were well in their speedy laps around the course by the time we got there so we happily watched them spin around the tarmac. Afterwards, they joined us and we all head back to Fantasyland for more dreamy rides.
Liam and Jill rode the tea cups while Tori and I went on the Storybook Boats! It was my first time venturing into Storybook Land and I think I was more excited than Victoria.
Just as we were about to get on the ride, the boats broke down. I was getting so antsy and annoyed but Victoria was so patient and didn't seemed bothered at all. It's at these moment when you really feel like these kids are teaching you something more than you're teaching them. Within a few minutes they had towed the broken boat away threw some cleverly installed moving rocks and we were on out way.
As we got in our little boat and headed out into the small lagoon, we passed through the mouth of Pinocchio's giant whale and then through an archway of trees. It was all part of the magic that made you feel like you were now leaving the world of earth behind and entering into Disney's world of fantasy.
We saw, The pigs' homes from The Three Little Pigs, An English village, with a church and the entrance to the White Rabbit's hole, from Alice in Wonderland, The Sultan's palace from Aladdin, The Cave of Wonders from Aladdin, The dwarfs' cottage and mine from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The village from Cinderella, featuring a gold-spired castle, Toad Hall from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Cobblestone village with Geppetto's wood shop from Pinocchio and my favourite, Prince Eric's seaside castle from The Little Mermaid as well as King Triton's underwater castle, partially hidden behind a waterfall, from The Little Mermaid.
Next, it was time for a snack. One of my favourite things to seek out when wandering through Disneyland. We passed by the Edelweiss Snacks and the wonderfully decorated Village Haus Cafe.
But I settled on a Halloween Treats of Popcorn and Cotton Candy. I always have one big regret when I go to Disneyland and this time it was not opting to get the little Mickey Mouse Halloween Popcorn Bucket. It was so so sweet and I couldn't believe I passed it up.
After fueling up a bit, it was time to hit the road and head on over to the Big Thunder Ranch. Big Thunder Ranch is the hub of Halloween activities during the month of October. You have the chance to paint pumpkins, dance with all sorts of Disney characters in Halloween costumes and even Conjure A Villain".
The Summon a Villain booth is always so busy and for good reason. There, you enter a gypsy tent and after looking into a crystal ball, a different Disney villain is summon for your from behind a curtain. It's rare you ever get to meet these characters around the park on any other day, making this character-meet very very special.
Amidst the ranch are cute little goats in halloween hats and ties as well as professionally carved pumpkins that will get anyone excited to go home and get carving!
Big Thunder Mountain was the next ride to hit as we wound our way down to the Rivers of America. Big Thunder Mountain being one of those rides that turns me quite the shade of green, I opted to wander around New Orleans. New Orleans is one of the most opulent of all the different "lands" in Disney.
It is decorated year round with Mardi Gras garlands filled with ornaments, beads and Venetian masks. The New Orleans quarter is built to feel like the real place and instead of all the buildings simply being front facing all along the waters edge, there are alleyways, twists and turns and hidden gems to be found if you take the time to explore its maze like area.
Princess Tiana can often be found wandering the streets of her hometown. But my favourite part of New Orleans is all the different shops and restaurants. All of these shop exteriors are inspired by the real New Orleans and inside, their mementos and trinkets are all specially themed for the name of the shop. La Mascarade D'Orleans sells housewares and some clothing inspired by the French heritage of New Orleans. Port Royal sells NEw Orleans curiosities. Le Bat en Rouge, a shop that endulges the dark side of Orleans featured Nightmare Before Christmas do-das. Mlle. Antoinette’s Parfumerie is my favourite of all the shops. There you can find all sorts of popular perfumes by big brands as well as exclusive ones that are only available inside Disneyland. On the weekends, there is even a bottle painter who comes who will decorate your bottle with some custom designs and even a crystal or two if you really wanna splurge.
After the gang finished up on their ride, we all met at the French Market to chow down on some yummy lunch. I had my heart set on the Corn Chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. The bread bowls are baked just next door at California Adventure and the freshness of the bread can be smelled as soon as you walk in the doors.
The French Market is the perfect blend of privacy (behind the ivy laden fencing) and people watching. At the River Belle Terrance you can see all the goings on along the waters but you also feel like you're on display. Here at the Market, a smaller little walk in restaurant, you have a little more privacy but still get to enjoy watching people load of the train and wait in line for the Haunted Mansion.
After refueling it was time to go over to our Princess Meet and Greets. Any little girl wants to meet one of those beautiful princesses from the Disney movies they love growing up and at Disneyland you finally get your chance. Whether you're still a little girl or only just one at heart they give you an experience of a lifetime.
Getting to meet Ariel (even though, just like Shopping Mall Santas, you know they're fake) was still like meeting a long lost friend. The girl playing Cinderella, although not my favourite princess, was right out of the movie. Her voice, her hair, he mannerisms, all just like the film.
Snow White was our favourite though. The way she played with Tori and the time she took to interact with us was such a treat. One of my favourite all time memories from Disney.