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What To Expect When Staying At Aulani A Disney Resort And Spa, Hawaii

What To Expect When Staying At Aulani A Disney Resort & Spa Oahu Hawaii

What To Expect When Staying At Aulani A Disney Resort And Spa, Hawaii

We visited Aulani back in June 2016 and have wanted to return ever since because we loved our holiday so much. You can read the full hotel review from our previous visit here. This time I thought I would do a diary-style write-up to give an idea of what life is like when staying at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

Day one: Arrival

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We fly in late in the afternoon, pick up our car rental and drive to Target at Kapolei Commons for groceries, then head to Aulani, arriving around 5pm.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

When we check in the staff tell us that there are hundreds of Menehune  – the legendary “little people” responsible for mysterious happenings on the islands – hidden all over the resort, so we start what will be a week-long search for these mischievous creatures and find them absolutely everywhere!

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

At check in I inquire about the Disney buttons that we collect from the other Disney resorts. We are in luck and are given buttons for first visit, wedding / anniversary and birthday, plus a special one for Mickey’s 90th birthday.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Our garden-view room is on the 16th floor of the Ewa tower (1671) and features an excellent view of the luau lawn and even some ocean. Inside the room we are given a queen sized bed and a pull-out sofa bed.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The bathroom features a rain shower/tub combo, and we also have a microwave and mini fridge.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We booked our room using Disney Vacation Club (DVC) rental points. Basically this meant we were able to stay at the hotel for a bit cheaper by “renting” points off someone who owned a timeshare through DVC. DVC members get a range of special benefits – however since we were only renting points and now owners of them, we were only able to benefit from the free daily parking. This saved us $37USD a day so it was an excellent benefit. You can read more about the Disney Vacation Club here and David’s Vacation Rentals (where we rented the points from) here.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Pizza Corner

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After unpacking the basics we walk across the road to grab dinner at Pizza Corner at the Ko Olina Center. At $29 the pizzas are not cheap, but they are huge, big enough for two adults and one kid with still some left over.  We also ordered a $10 pasta – penne and marinara sauce, which was also massive.

Kalepa Store

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

While Alec take Cheese to the room to get her ready for bed, I head down to the Kalepa Store to pick up a PhotoPass card and waterproof wristbands. While the photographers do also hand these out, I like to be prepared. The store stocks general grocery items plus beach supplies and a wealth of Aulani merchandise.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

I can’t resist buying Cheese one of the new Ulu plushies.

Back at the room we watch the luau from our room before heading to bed.

Day 2: Auntie’s Beach House, Meeting Moana and “Menehune Mischief” Character Dinner 

Auntie’s Beach House

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

First up today we check into Auntie’s Beach House, the Kids’ Club at Aulani. I had registered Cheese in advance online but still needed to fill in some extra info when we arrived, as well as getting our photos taken for identification purposes, choosing a secret password for child collecting and getting Cheese’s Kids’ Club wrist band fitted. The wrist band is water proof so it can stay on the entire time you’re at the resort – return it before you leave to get your security deposit back!

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

As it was open house at Auntie’s we went in to take a look around. Auntie’s features two different wings, with dress ups, a movie screening room, arts and crafts tables, a stage and video games. Outside there is a huge yard with a climbing structure and shade cloths.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Auntie’s Beach House is open 8am-9pm daily and is included in your stay – AKA it’s free! Open House is 8am-9:30am daily (no check-ins or drop-offs during this time). Auntie’s is available for drop-offs for kids aged 3 to 12 and all ages during the open house (kids must be accompanied by an adult).

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Pre-register your child at least two days before your arrival here.

Meeting Moana

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After leaving Auntie’s we chanced running into Moana and had a photo taken with her. You can call the hotel character hotline each morning to find out where the characters will be each day and at what time. Some characters come out every day but some only come out every few days.

Swimming in the pools

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Next: pools! We collect our wristband that shows we are guests of the hotel (you need to collect a new wristband daily) and head to the Waikolohe Stream. Waikolohe means “mischievous water” in the Hawaiian language, which is the perfect name for this part of the resort. We grab a donut-shaped tube and jump aboard, letting the gentle current of the lazy river carry us through the Waikolohe Valley.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We sail past Menahune, rocks, trees and water features, then head up the top of Pu’u Kilo (the volcano-shaped peak in the middle of the pools) to try the two slides. Volcanic Vertical is a single-rider enclosed slide that is extremely fast and deposits you in the Waikolohe Pool below. We prefer the Tubestone Curl, which is an open-air slide that you take while sitting on a tube and can be ridden solo or with a partner. It ends up in the Waikolohe Stream.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

A note on water temperature: Aulani Resort pools are heated year-round. The Waikolohe Stream is approximately 82 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 27 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Menehune Bridge

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Next Cheese wants to head to the 2,100 square feet, Menehune Bridge water play space for kids 48 inches in height or shorter. The Menehune Bridge features two water slides, interactive water elements, spinning gourds and a climbing play structure. There are also lots of Menehune hidden everywhere!

Keiki Cove

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

There is a cute toddler play area nearby, Keiki Cove, which is designed for kids aged 5 and under and open to all ages. It features rainbow water jets and more hidden Menehune.

Kakamora Chaos with Moana

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After swimming we drop Cheese off at Auntie’s for her special activity Kakamora Chaos with MoanaThe 90-minute drop-off activity involves playing traditional Hawaiian children’s games with Moana, who teaches her new friends a game from her home island of Motunui—the Kakamora Relay.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Kids also stamp their own take-home oar and also receive a cute little Kakamora luggage tag. Kakamora Chaos with Moana is a premium activity, available Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 12:30 – 2:00pm and costing $59USD plus tax per child. We make sure Cheese has her PhotoPass wrist band on so later we can receive the photos taken at Auntie’s when we collect the PhotoPass disc at the end of our stay.

Off The Hook

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

While Cheese is at Auntie’s, Alec and I enjoy a casual poolside lunch and cocktail at Off The Hook. It’s a basic lunch and we aren’t overly impressed by the food which is soggy and doesn’t taste amazing, but the cocktails are great, so cheers to that!

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We take a walk around the resort and check out the beautiful beach and facilities. There is a great lagoon walk that runs from the Aulani resort front down south to the Marriot resort. To the right of Aulani is the Four Seasons and where the trail ends. You can walk over the rocks to Paradise Beach next door where turtles are often see in the ocean and on the beach.

Popcorn and Shave Ice

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

I pick up Cheese from Auntie’s after her activity ends and we pick up a popcorn bucket from Ulu Cafe and a Mickey-shaped shave ice from the Papalua Shave Ice stand.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Menehune Mischief Character Dinner and Show 

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Next is dinner and we are booked into the early session of “Menehune Mischief” Character Dinner at Makahiki restaurant. The dinner is a buffet with musical entertainment from “Uncle” and a few Disney Characters. Uncle tells the story of the Menehune – magical little people of Hawaiian legend – with songs and interactive fun for kids, while Disney characters join in and roam around the tables before and afterwards for photos.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The buffet is very meat and seafood heavy with only a few vegetarian options, however the chef very kindly offered to make a few other options for us to eat, which was extremely appreciated.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The food quality was great, especially our custom food. There is a dedicated kids section of the buffet as well as a dessert section. So much food!

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Before and after the meal we met Stitch, Chip and Dale. We also met Donald Duck who was stationed at the entrance to the restaurant.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The Menehune Mischief Character Dinner and Show runs Sunday, Monday and Thursday – 2 shows each day. Show times and seatings are:
Show #1 – 5:15 PM – 6:00 PM
1st Seating – 4:30 PM, 4:45 PM, 5:00 PM – No seating from 5:15 PM to 6:15 PM

Show #2 – 7:15 PM – 8:00 PM
2nd Seating – 6:30 PM, 6:45 PM, 7:00 PM – No seating from 7:15 PM to 8:15 PM

Price for Character Show Dining: Adults: $54USD, Keiki (Ages 3 to 9): $27USD.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Day 3: Paint The Sky Spa, Fish Are Friends, North Shore Drive and KA WA‘A Lū‘au

Paint The Sky Spa

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The day began with a special “makeover” for Cheese. We took her to Painted Sky, the spa facility, to enjoy a HI Style fashion transformation. The “transformation” or “makeover” is suitable for girls and boys aged 3-12 and includes hair styling, clothes and accessories.  There are several options to choose from, with Cheese selecting the Luau Bound option as we were heading to the Luau that evening.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After choosing and changing into her outfit, Cheese selected her hairdo and was seated in the luxe chairs for a fancy new ‘do and a bit of kid-friendly “make-up”. The whole experience took about an hour, and she was thrilled with her new look.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Luau Bound!
Girls
Prices starting at $160 (plus sales and service tax)

Hairstyling
Organic Shimmer Makeup
Aulani Dress
Plumeria Color Changing Necklace
Plumeria Color Changing Bracelet
Aulani Resort Flower Clip Set

Fish Are Friends

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Once the “transformation” is complete, I drop Cheese off at Auntie’s again for the Fish Are Friends premium activity. During the activity Cheese learns about the colourful fish of Hawaii including how the animal specialists train, feed and care for the marine life at Aulani Resort. The highlight for the kids is preparing fish food and feed it to the fish. During the three-hour activity, kids are fed lunch. Since Cheese is a pescatarian I enquire about the meals and was thrilled that they not only made sure to cater for her, but that the chef also gave me a call to make sure we were happy with the food they would be serving her. Really thoughtful.

All the kids took home a “Fish Are Friends” logo cinch bag with a DVD of Disneynature Oceans and a water bottle.

Fish are Friends is available Monday and Friday and runs from 11:00am – 2:00pm. Cost: $69 plus tax per child, lunch included.

North Shore Drive

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

While Cheese was at Auntie’s, Alec and I went for a drive up the North Shore for lunch. It’s a long way to get there, about an hour to an hour and a half in each direction, so it was a long drive for a quick lunch, but also nice to spend some time together. We stopped in Haleiwa for delicious acai bowls at Hale’iwa Bowls and checked out Waimea Bay before driving back to the resort.

KA WA‘A – A Lū‘au

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After picking up Cheese from Auntie’s it was time to head to the KA WA‘A Lū‘au. We selected the VIP Package from the options as we wanted a table that was closer to the front. The whole VIP area was sold out on the night we attended and consisted of the front four rows, so I was glad that we had selected this option.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The KA WA‘A Lū‘au is a beautiful evening of storytelling and singing, with Hawaiian stories brought to life on stage. Held on the Hālāwai Lawn, the festivities begin at 5pm with seating and pre-show activities.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Tables are assigned however not the seats at the individual tables, so I advise lining up earlier to get the best seats possible at your table. We lined up at 4:40pm and were second to our table, which meant while we had a decent view, there were still heads right in front of us we had to dodge around to see.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

As VIP we receive an “upgraded lei” which was really quite fancy and we are really happy to be taking them home. We also receive unlimited alcoholic drinks as part of our package and enjoy an evening full of cocktails.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The pre-show activities include traditional arts such as kapa printing, flower arranging, temporary kakau tattoos, ukulele playing and paʻi ai taro pounding. The activities are really fun and we do some of them twice before the luau introduction and welcome begins.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The buffet opens before the show, and we enjoy a wide variety of food. It’s also very meat heavy as you would expect, but there are still plenty of things for vegetarians to eat among the tables filled with seafood, salads and the carving station, plus the chef very kindly makes me a special pasta dish incase I couldn’t find enough to eat at the buffet. There is a special table just for kids with things like mac and cheese and Moana cupcakes, and an entire dessert table with cakes and fruit.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The show is fantastic. Beautifully told stories accompanied by talented dancers and singers. Some numbers are breathtakingly beautiful and the fire dancing leaves us in awe. There are several interactive moments for the kids, including a section where they learn the hula and at the end where they are invited to play instruments up on stage with the cast. Afterwards we have the opportunity to take photos with the wonderful cast on the way out.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

VIP Seating – $169 Adults/$109 Keiki (ages 3 through 9). There is no charge for keiki under 3.*
General Admission – $129 Adults/$79 Keiki (ages 3 through 9). There is no charge for keiki under 3.**

Beginning May 1, 2019, the seating package prices are changed to the following:

VIP Seating – $179 Adults/$109 Keiki (ages 3 through 9). There is no charge for keiki under 3.
General Admission – $139 Adults/$89 Keiki (ages 3 through 9). There is no charge for keiki under 3.

VIP Guests receive early check-in, priority up-front seating, complimentary beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and an enhanced welcome lei.

Day 4: Swimming pools, Ukulele playing and the Ko Olina Center

After a morning walk, I line up at the Pau Hana Room to sign up for ukulele class.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After collecting the sleepyheads, we start the day off with swimming in the Ka Maka Grotto, which is stunning infinity pool overlooking Ko Olina Beach and an incredibly cool grotto attached, which has a whirlpool spa.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Then it’s off to Cheese’s fave, the  Waikolohe Stream, where we float around in tubes until it’s time for lunch.

Island Vintage Coffee

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Today we head across the road to the Ko Olina Center for bagels at Island Vintage Coffee. I get a vegetarian one that is overflowing with sprouts, tomato and avocado. They have great options for kids and also fantastic iced tea.

Two Scoops Ice Cream Parlour

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Since it’s hot we stop at the Two Scoops Ice Cream parlour next door before heading back to the resort.

Ho‘okani Pila – Learn the ‘Ukulele

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

In the afternoon we head to ‘ukulele class and learn the history of several Hawaiian instruments as well as the basic four chords on the ‘ukulele. By the end of the class we are able to play several popular songs, much to my amazement. We decide to buy our own ‘ukulele to take home after the class, we love it so much.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The 45 minute class is free and books up fast. I suggest lining up at 8am to book it in.

Menehune Adventure Trail

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Next we sign out a tablet for the Menehune Adventure Trail at the Pau Hana community center, a free high-tech scavenger hunt around the resort. There are two trails, one short one in the lobby and one longer one outside in the resort grounds. Using the tablet we solve riddles, discover magic and have a really great time. The Menehune Adventure Trail is only available at certain times of day – ask at the community center for the updated hours. The scavenger hunt is best suited to older kids due to the difficulty of the clues, but younger kids can also enjoy it with the help of their parents.

Monkeypod Kitchen

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

For dinner we head back across to the Ko Olina Center to our fave restaurant in the area, Monkeypod Kitchen. The food is always excellent and they have options for kids as well as vegetarians (not a lot, but at least some!). We always dine here when we come to Oahu.

Day 5: Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki, animation class

Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After signing up for animation class at the Pua Hana community center, it’s time for
Aunty’s Breakfast Celebration at the Makahiki, AKA the character breakfast. Mickey awaits outside for a photo op, while inside awaits a buffet breakfast, roaming Disney characters, singing and entertainment.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The buffet breakfast includes a custom omelette station, pancakes, waffles, French toast, fruits, Asian offerings, house-baked pastries, lots of sliced meats, plus a dedicated kids section. The excellent server brings me iced tea after iced tea, which is all included in the price.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Disney character roam around the room – Minnie and Goofy both visit our table.

“Auntie” leads the entertainment with singing and interactive fun for the kids including musical instruments and parading around the room. The breakfast is a really fun experience that we highly enjoy – it’s the third time we’ve done it!

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Price Adults: $41USD, Keiki (Ages 3 to 9): $21USD. The Mickey photos are separate from the PhotoPass and have to be purchased separately.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Waikolohe Valley pool

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

After breakfast we hit up the Waikolohe Valley pool area for a swim. It’s a beautiful lagoon pool with a graduating slope leading in, perfect for little kids.

Disney Family Fun Animation

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Next is animation class, another free class that goes for an hour and includes learning to draw a Disney character in pencil, and then painting an animation cell.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The class is really fun and all three of us really enjoy it.

Character meet and greets

Earlier in the day I called the character hotline and found out where Pluto and Daisy would be meeting guests later in the day. The characters are popular to meet so I suggest lining up a few minutes before the scheduled meeting times.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Daisy and other “minor” characters aren’t scheduled every day so get in to see her quickly if she’s a fave of yours. She is one of the most fun characters to meet (along with Stitch) and always makes us laugh.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Pluto is another favourite and will often try to “lick” or sniff guests.

Sunset on the beach

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We have a lazy afternoon and head down to the beach to watch the sunset. Every evening around sunset, Disney PhotoPass photographers can be found on the waters edge taking photos on request. We pose for some photos before heading out to dinner across the road at Monkeypod again.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Day 6: Pools, Characters, Kāpala Ki’i t-shirt stamping and sunset at ‘AMA‘AMA

I sign us up for Kāpala Ki’i  t-shirt stamping at 8am, then we all swim for the last time in the beautiful Aulani pools. After our swim we head to Island Vintage Coffee one last time for lunch.

Kāpala Ki’i t-shirt stamping

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Our next activity today is Kāpala Ki’i t-shirt stamping, where guests stamp their own designs on white T-shirts based on the art of Native Hawaiian kapa printing. The stamps are nice big blocks, easy to stamp with, so it’s an ideal activity to do with kids and take home a really unique souvenir of your stay. The price for this activity is adult $15 per shirt plus tax and kids $12 per shirt plus tax, and the class runs for around 30 minutes.

Chip and Dale

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

While leaving the community center with our wet tees we see Chip and Dale arriving for a character meet and greet.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

It’s a great photo op so we ditch the tees in our room and run back in time to get a photo with the mischievous pair.

Mickey and Minnie

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

We’ve had many Mickey and Minnie photos in our time with the characters separately, but never together, so this was a great opportunity to get a shot with both iconic characters together.

‘AMA‘AMA – Contemporary Island Cooking

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

For our last day at Aulani we book a sunset dinner at ‘AMA’AMA, the upmarket restaurant within the resort, overlooking the beach.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

The view is sensational and it’s the ideal spot to watch the sun go down. I am delighted to discover the restaurant has an entire vegetarian menu as well as kids’ options, so we are more than well catered for.

Mo‘olelo Fire Pit Storytelling

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

While we eat, we watch the Mo‘olelo Fire Pit Storytelling right outside the restaurant, with a special visit from Moana. Moana only comes to some of the storytellings, not all, and there is no way to know which one she will show up to. Lucky us!

Sunset photos

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

It becomes clear that sunset this night is going to be extraordinary, so we head back down to the beach to get some more photos with the Disney PhotoPass photographers.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

What a way to end our amazing week at Aulani!

To purchase your PhotoPass photos, head to Kālepa’s Store at the end of your stay. Once the CD is printed no more photos can be added to the disc.

Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa
92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707
disneyaulani.com

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa, Oahu, Hawaii

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Goofy’s Kitchen Disneyland Hotel

Goofy's Kitchen, Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland, California

Enjoy dining with your fave Disney pals over breakfast or dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen, inside the Disneyland Hotel.

You do not need to be a guest of the hotel or have a park ticket to attend the dining, which is open daily for breakfast from 7am-12pm and dinner 5pm-9pm.

No matter which time you dine, you will enjoy a buffet with a huge variety of food. It was the most impressive array of food we had seen at any of the character dining experiences.

Goofy's Kitchen

Start the experience with a photo at the entrance with Chef Mickey, then enjoy getting food at your leisure while characters drop by. Every half an hour or so the characters all march around the restaurant and diners twirl their napkins in the air.

Goofy's Kitchen

We found the characters to be excellent at Goofy’s, with several of them dropping by on multiple occasions and sneaking up on us to make us laugh.

Goofy's Kitchen

I also liked that you could meet Chip and Dale here at the same time.

Goofy's Kitchen

The buffet features five food stations. At breakfast the food includes choices such as made-to-order omelettes, cheese blintzes, Mickey Mouse waffles, pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, eggs Benedict, yoghurt, frittata, glazed ham, smoked salmon, pastries and fresh fruit, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and fresh vegetables.

Goofy's Kitchen

At dinner Goofy’s Kitchen serves up a carving station, pasta, salads, veggies, fruit, pizza, rice, hot dogs, Goofyroni and cheese, and more hot and cold dishes.

Goofy's Kitchen

At both breakfast and dinner the dessert station is open, featuring cookies, cakes and a soft-serve frozen yogurt sundae bar, as well as Goofy’s wacky pizza creations. Try Goofy’s special peanut butter and jelly pizza if you dare!

Cocktails can be ordered for an additional fee.

Diners at this character experience can expect to meet five or six characters. We met Mickey, Minnie, Chip, Dale, Goofy and Pluto.

Breakfast costs $39 for adults and $23 for kids. Dinner costs $43 for adults and $25 for kids.

Reservations for “Goofy’s Kitchen” are highly recommended and be may be made up to 60 days before your visit. A limited number of reservations may be available same-day, subject to availability.

Make your reservation online or call 0011 1 (714) 781-DINE or 0011 1 (714) 781-3463.

https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/au/disneyland/dining/goofys-kitchen/

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Start your Disneyland day the right way with Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

The Minnie & Friends breakfast is a favourite of ours due to the sheer number of characters that are available during the experience.

The Plaza In is located inside Disneyland, near the entrance to Tomorrowland. The restaurant opened in 1955 and was reportedly one of Walt Disney’s favourite places to dine inside the park.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Walt’s wife, designer Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, chose many of the restaurant’s authentic 19th-century interior furnishings.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Minnie always greets guests at the entrance to the Plaza Inn for a photograph. The photographers will come around to your table later with a photo package to purchase, but if you have bought the Maxpass that day you can ask to add the digital photos to your Maxpass Photopass and it won’t cost anything extra.

There is inside and outside seating at the Plaza Inn. While the inside seating has a really cute atmosphere and is closer to the food, the tables are quite close together and if you’re seated in the back seating sections it can be hard to get out to meet the characters and get good photos. We prefer the outdoor seating for this reason.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

While you’re waiting to meet characters, head to the buffet for a hearty breakfast. Our fave is the made-to-order omelette station and Mickey waffles. This time they had Banana Foster sauce to add on top, which was so delicious. The buffet also featured food such as French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, breakfast potatoes, fresh-baked pastries and breads, fresh fruit, and hot and cold cereals.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

The characters have been the same the last three times we have dined at the Plaza Inn. Minnie Mouse, Chip, Dale, Rafiki, Tigger, Pooh, Eeyore, Pluto, Captain Hook, Fairy Godmother, Max and Perla, the mouse from Cinderella. Not all characters are available during each dining session however, so we’ve never met all of these characters in the one sitting.

We spent about 90 minutes at the Plaza Inn and didn’t feel rushed to finish up and leave, which is great because some of the characters take a long time to come around.

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Reservations for “Minnie & Friends – Breakfast in the Park” are highly recommended and be may be made up to 60 days before your visit. A limited number of reservations may be available same-day at the Plaza Inn, subject to availability

Minnie & Friends Breakfast in the Park at the Plaza Inn, Disneyland

Adult buffet meals are $34 and children are $19. Breakfast opens when the park opens and is open during Magic Morning and Extra Magic Hour. I highly recommend this option if you don’t have access to the MM or EMH as it means the dining won’t take away from your park time in the morning. There is a separate entrance open for character dining, but valid tickets for Disneyland are required to enter and access the restaurant.

Make your reservation online or call 0011 1 (714) 781-DINE or 0011 1 (714) 781-3463.

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/plaza-inn/

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Oh boy, it’s just not Disneyland without a character breakfast! The new Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Buffet is an incredibly fun dining experience at Storyteller’s Cafe inside the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The character dining experience is offered as breakfast or brunch. We are early birds so breakfast suited us perfectly. You do not need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy this character experience.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

A character dining experience lasts about 90 minutes and includes a full buffet and interactions with various characters. At Mickey’s Tales of Adventure the characters are Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip and Dale. We only met Dale as Chip was “foraging food from the buffer” according to Dale.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The characters are all dressed in fantastic adventure outfits. Mickey looks like Indiana Jones, while Minnie has cute hiking boots and a butterfly on her hat.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Pluto has a compass around his neck but he told us (through gestures, of course), that he actually uses his nose to find out where to go, so I assume the compass is decorative, only!

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

After we were seated the characters rotated their way around the dining room and visited our table. I was highly impressed at the amount of time each character spent with us and how much of an effort they made to engage us and make us all laugh.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

The characters came past on multiple occasions as well, so I felt like the interactions we had made the whole experience extremely worth while.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Twice during our breakfast the whole cast of characters marched around the room, encouraging the kids to join them and handing them instruments to play. Even the older kids enjoyed being part of the march.

Generally the same characters are there all the time, however sometimes a character will take a break and will not be available for your dining period.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

We thought the food was excellent. Selections include made-to-order omelettes, the best scrambled eggs we have ever eaten, Mickey waffles, bagels and cream cheese, various cereals and milk, juices, bagels and lox already loaded up with cream cheese, salmon, red onions, and parsley, quiche, breakfast nachos, pastries, French toast, fresh fruit, sliced cheese, sliced meat, yoghurt parfaits and muffins.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

I thought the bags of cereal milk were adorable.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Brunch is held later in the day and includes breakfast items plus more lunch options. Breakfast is served from 7:00 AM – 11:25 AM and brunch 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM.

Make sure to collect one of the cute Mickey’s Tales of Adventure buttons on the way out.

When we dined the breakfast cost $15 per kid and $35 per adult.

Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast Buffet at Storytellers Cafe, Disneyland’s Grand Californian

Advance reservations for Storytellers Cafe are highly recommended. You may check availability and make your reservations online, or call (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 up to 60 days prior to your visit. Reservations can also be made in person on a limited basis, subject to availability.

disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/grand-californian-hotel/storytellers-cafe/

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Hotel Review: Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

This article really should be titled “How staying at the Grand Californian Hotel ruined us for all other hotels in Anaheim”, because that’s pretty much what happened when we stayed at this incredible hotel.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California is the best-positioned hotel for visiting the parks in Anaheim. An upscale, 6-story, lodge-style hotel, the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is a tribute to the  “Arts & Crafts” style that was popular in the early 1900s. If you’re interested in learning more about this era and the design of the hotel, ask concierge about the “Art of the Craft Tour” offered to guests.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A stay at the Grand Californian is not just a regular hotel stay. It means being right inside the magic of Disneyland every minute of your stay. The design and detailing of the hotel is perfection. The location is incredible. The convenience alone is worth its weight in gold!

The Grand Californian is a vacation destination, not just a hotel to stay at when you’re visiting Disneyland. Staying at a hotel with such amazing amenities as well as being so conveniently positioned meant that our whole Disney trip was a different experience to any we had had before.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

We spent less hours at the parks trying to squeeze everything in, and enjoyed relaxing at the hotel in the pools. Thanks to the Early Magic Hour we were given as guests of the hotel (more on this below) we were able to get on so many rides early in the morning that we felt finished in terms of rides we wanted to do earlier in the day than we ever had before.

It was so easy to get into the parks that we could come back to the hotel for a rest and then go back again for dinner easier than going to a restaurant outside of the parks. The parks were empty when we entered them.

We were the first guests in the parks and it was eye opening to see the parks this way – don’t even start me on how amazing the photos are as a result of there being no one around to photobomb us! (See below!)

Disneyland

Because we were able to get on all the rides we wanted to in the first two hours every morning, we were able to then spend the rest of our time enjoying things we hadn’t done before like collecting pressed coins, and didn’t feel overwhelmed at trying to squeeze everything in. We had more energy, were less tired, and enjoyed the parks more. I think we have found the perfect way for our family to do Disneyland.

Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Accommodation

Grand Californian Hotel

The 948 guest rooms at the Grand Californian include 44 suites, 71 villas, two Presidential and two Vice-Presidential suites. Standard rooms are 356-380 sq. ft. and have either two queen beds, a king bed, or one queen bed with bunk beds/ pull-out sofa. Suites have an added living area and up to 3 bedrooms. Concierge-level rooms give access to a lounge serving free breakfast and snacks.

We had a deluxe pool view room with two queen beds.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Room amenities include iron/ironing board, mini-bars, in-room safes, hairdryers, Keurig coffeemaker, bathrobes, free WIFI and flat-screen TVs.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The rooms were renovated in 2017 and have a bright, elegant feeling to them, with touches of Disney in the small details.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The orange tree behind the beds reflects the history of Disneyland and features Chip ‘n Dale hiding in the branches.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Toiletries provided by the hotel are H2O+, packaged especially for Disney, and are extremely high quality. We loved that the soap had “Disney” stamped on it! We were very happy to ditch our own toiletries and use the hotel-provided ones.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The beds were some of the most comfortable we have ever slept in and at the end of each long day at the park we were so happy to return to our comfortable room for a perfect night of sleep.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Our room was located directly over the entrance to Disney California Adventure Park, making the early morning walk to the security gates extremely fast!

We bought groceries online from the local store Vons and had them delivered to the hotel. The hotel has a cold storage area so if your groceries are delivered while you are away from your room they will be kept cold for you until you are able to collect them.

Evening turndown service is a lovely added bonus. We loved being left little Disney Parks Ghirardelli chocolates and having fresh towels and the curtains drawn when we returned in the evening, helping us prepare for bed.

Access to parks

The Grand Californian Hotel as direct access to Disney California Adventure Park and the Downtown Disney District. You will need a valid park ticket to enter Disney California Adventure Park but can enter the Downtown Disney District whenever you choose.

Having access to both locations was even more convenient than I had thought it would be.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The entrance to Disney California Adventure Park is located inside Grizzly Peak (above), while the entrance to the Downtown Disney District is located near the restaurants and shops (below), only a short stroll from the Disneyland entrance.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Extra Magic Hour

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

This was a huge perk for us. Guests of the three Disneyland Resorts are eligible for an Extra Magic Hour (EMH) at both parks. EMH is available at Disneyland Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and at Disney California Adventure on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, up to one hour prior to regular park opening.

Entering the park early made the world of difference to our stay. We were able to explore the parks and particularly jump on a lot of rides with no queues, long before the parks opened to everyone else.

Amenities

Lobby

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The lobby is a particularly beautiful space to sit and relax, with beautiful stained glass doors, inviting sitting areas and a piano where live music (Disney tunes, of course) is frequently played.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A fireplace with comfortable chairs invites those wanting a rest, while kids gather around a TV playing Disney shows all day.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The lobby is decorated seasonally – during our stay it featured an amazing Halloween display made entirely out of cake.

Grand Californian Hotel

Pools

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

There are three pools to choose from. The Redwood Pool features a a 27-metre-long waterslide that curves around the stump of a giant redwood tree and a Children’s Pool.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Our fave was the Fountain Pool as it was a good depth for our swimmer to practice all of her tricks.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The third pool, the Mariposa Pool, has a hot tub plus four private cabanas that are available for hire.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Towels are available by the pool, as is free sunscreen and water to drink.

Spa

The Mandara Spa is the spot to relax and unwind with treatments, massages and facials. State-of-the-art fitness equipment is available for hotel guests.

Dining

White Water Snacks

While White Water Snacks was closed for renovation when we were there, it offers simple, self-serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting.

Storyteller’s Cafe

The Storyteller’s Cafe is the place to enjoy Mickey’s Tales of Adventure character breakfast or brunch. At dinner time an American buffet is on offer, with selections including carved meats, salads, and filling sides, and kid-friendly selections for little ones.

We highly enjoyed the character breakfast, which featured an excellent buffet including an omelette station, Mickey waffles, fresh fruit, juices, cereals, and other hot and cold dishes.

Read more about our excellent experience dining at Mickey’s Tales of Adventure here.

Heathstone Lounge

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

A spacious lounge location inside the main building, Heathstone Lounge serves continental breakfast in the mornings and cocktails or coffee later on in the day. The lounge is lined in wood from a single redwood tree.

Napa Rose

Fine dining awaits at the award-winning Napa Rose Restaurant.

Disneyland purchases

When you buy merchandise at the parks you can have it sent back to the hotel to save you carrying it around all day! The items will appear at the concierge desk the following morning.

Guest Activities

A schedule of Guest Activities are available for guests of the Disneyland Resort hotels. All of the activities are free, unless otherwise noted on the schedule. When we stayed, the activities included:

Get Up & Go Power Walk – Walk while enjoying the sights and sounds of Disney California Adventure before opening.
Morning Stretch
Mat Pilates
Pin Trading
Movie Screenings
Art of the Craft Tour – A guided walking tour of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Final Thoughts On Staying At The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Before we this trip we had only ever stayed at Good Neighbour hotels, thinking we would save the money “because we will be in the parks all day anyway”. This trip completely changed our minds and also the way in which we “do Disney”. The hotel was a refuge from the busy day and we wanted to return early to swim in the pools and unwind. We took more breaks from the days at the parks which gave us more energy on the following days.

Add in the entrance to Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney, combined with the Early Magic Hour and we are sold, sold, sold and plan to never stay in another hotel other than the Grand Californian when we visit Disneyland in the future.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
1600 S. Disneyland Drive
Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: 714-635-2300
Online: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/au/disneyland/hotels/grand-californian-hotel/

A huge thank you to Disney for hosting our stay. All opinions are my own.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland California

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

The spookiest time of year at the happiest place on Earth is the period between September 7 and October 31, when the Disneyland Parks receive a haunting makeover (check dates as they change annually). Celebrating Halloween at Disneyland is a must-do experience for young and old.

Visiting Disneyland at Halloween can be an incredible experience but also takes some planning and preparation. The tips in this guide will help you create a magical trip for your whole family.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Plan your dates wisely


By very careful planning, we were able to avoid the bulk of the crowds who head to Disneyland to celebrate the holiday season.

Check the following before booking your trip:

*US school holiday dates
*Australian school holiday dates (there are a lot of Australians who make the trek each year!)
*Annual Pass Blockout Dates (obviously it’s good to go when annual pass holders can’t!). Check them here.
*The busiest days according to the previous year on a calendar such as this. Weekends are always the busiest so I suggest avoiding them

Book a hotel near the park

Grand Californian Hotel

We always book a very budget hotel that is extremely close to the park. Our previous trips we stayed at the Grand Legacy At The Park, which is across the road from Disneyland and is extremely convenient, and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa (pictured), which has an entrance inside the Disneyland California Adventure Park. If you can afford the splurge, the Grand Californian is our number 1 pick.

A full review of the Grand Legacy At The Park can be found here.

Pack wisely

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

My daughter is too big for a stroller, so I took a large shoulder bag to put in water, food and small purchases and keep my hands free. I have also used a backpack in the past. Clothes-wise, mornings and evenings can be cool at this time of year while the middle can be super warm.

We were comfortable in shorts and tees during the day and added a light jumper/sweater for the mornings/evenings. Shoes are so important at Disneyland when you’re walking 22K steps a day: go for comfort! My daughter and I wore extremely comfortable sneakers ever day.

If your kid fits into a stroller then by all means take one or hire one from the parks. I saw kids who were aged seven in them being pushed around, so there’s no shame in it if it’s what you need to do to get the kids through the long days without tears.

Download the Disneyland App

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

It’s invaluable for planning your day – character meet-and-greet times and locations, show times, ride wait times, view and make dining reservations, see your Disney PhotoPass pics, and even buy your park tickets app. Plus it’s a must-have if you’re planning on upgrading your ticket to include a Maxpass (more on the Maxpass below).

Get more info on the Disneyland App and download it here.

Purchase Maxpass

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California
Upgrading our passes with a Maxpass (they cost $10 per person, per day) was the best decision we made. Maxpass does two things:

1. Provides digital FASTPASS to rides (A FASTPASS lets you take a ticket with a specific time printed on it so you can return to the ride at a later time and skip the queue.)
2. Provides access to download all PhotoPass images taken by Disneyland photographers each day.

If you like to get lots of photos taken then the Maxpass is fantastic value for the photos alone. While you can still get FASTPASS without a Maxpass, it does require walking a lot more all over the park to get the paper ticket from the machine and then return again later. A Maxpass lets you book your FASTPASS selections on your phone from anywhere in the park. It was a game changer for us.

Only one member of your party needs to purchase the Maxpass if photos are your goal rather than digital FASTPASSES.

Plan your Disney days

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

I’m a big believer in schedules, particularly at Disneyland where timing is important. I created a spreadsheet in advance and researched the events that would be taking place each day, such as parades, fireworks, shows, character meet-and-greets, tree lightings and so forth, to slot them into the time we had at the parks.

I also booked in dining, especially character dining, 60 days in advance when the bookings opened. Spots are limited so I suggest setting a calendar alert 60 days out and booking in everything. You can always cancel it later if you change your mind.

Go early!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Not a morning person? Your experience at Disneyland will be vastly improved if you are! Mornings are the best for rides as it’s when the parks are quietest, so check the daily park opening hours (they cary day-to-day) and arrive each morning at least half an hour beforehand to be one of the first few people inside the park when it officially opens.

Being early means you will have a good few hours with basically no queues for rides as a result, and can then use the Maxpass to schedule the top rides for throughout the day to get them in several times.

Take a break for lunch in the middle of the day to early afternoon, and then enjoy the special Halloween entertainment.

Check out the Halloween decorations

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Disneyland features hundreds of hand-carved pumpkins, plus a gigantic Mickey head pumpkin that’s a popular backdrop for photos. There is also a traditional Dia de los Muertos skeleton display near the Golden Horseshoe Saloon in Frontierland.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Disney California Adventure Park is haunted by Oogie Boogie’s oversized shadow looming over the Main Entrance, and the Headless Horseman Statue on Buena Vista Street.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Bats swarm the Carthay Circle Bell Tower, Disney Junior star Vampirina make her debut appearance and Coco fans can visit Plaza de la Familia at Paradise Gardens Park for free crafts, mask colouring, taking photos with the special angel wing photo walls and recording family memories. Learn about Dia de los Muertos and catch the free show “A Musical Celebration of Coco”.

Take a spooky ride

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Disneyland, stroll through New Orleans Square, where you can meet Jack Skellington and Sally, on your way to the Haunted Mansion Holiday, a ride overlay that runs from Halloween till the end of the Holiday period. The Haunted Mansion is taken over by the cast Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, including Jack Skellington.

Space Mountain has been given a terrifying makeover during this period to become Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, where phantoms haunt the riders brave enough to take flight.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Disney California Adventure Park, Cars Land has been given a fun facelift, including the characters in “car-tumes” and a Halloween-spin on Luigi’s Honkin’ Haul-O-Ween and Mater’s Graveyard JamBOOree.

Guardians of the Galaxy has been transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Monsters After Dark especially for the season, too.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

If you get time, check out the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel, which is decorated spookily for the holidays with a pumpkin patch built out of cereal treats, 200 pounds of icing, 100 pounds of chocolate and 300 pounds of fondant. In the centre of the delicious display sits an Oogie Boogie pumpkin that is over four feet tall.

Meet the characters

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We love meeting the characters anyway, but they’re that little bit extra special when dressed in Halloween garb! We brought an autograph book with us (it’s a great ice breaker) and hunted down our faves throughout the day.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We especially loved Mickey and Minnie in their festive clothes (Minnie as a Candy Corn was our fave) and meeting Jack Skellington and Sally from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. You can locate the characters using the Disneyland app on your phone.

Eat all the food!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California
The Disney Parks employ a wide variety of exceptional pastry chefs and confectioners, so I highly recommend trying some of their seasonal treats.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Both Disneyland parks features pumpkin spice Mickey Mouse beignets, festive candy apples, cookies, cake pops and more. Pick up a guide to the Halloween food available and where to find it when entering the park.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

The popcorn is a fave of ours (for some reason, it tastes really amazing!) and we love to pick up a holiday-themed or limited-edition popcorn bucket to take home as a souvenir.

Attend Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

This special event requires a seperate ticket and only runs on certain days throughout the Halloween period. Mickey’s Halloween Party is a popular event and I suggest booking tickets fairly soon after they go on sale, as it does book out.

At the party guests can meet rare characters, wear costumes that they are not usually allowed to wear, enjoy special entertainment and follow trick-or-treating trails.

On the evenings of the party, the park closes early to all guests who have not purchased a ticket to the party. Party-goes may enter the park up to three hours before the party begins, which is at either 6pm or 7pm. Our party started at 6pm and we were surprised that we were able to enter even earlier than 3pm, so it’s worth trying to enter as early as possible to make the most of the ticket.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Guests can now enter either park for the duration of the party period, but we chose to stay at Disneyland as there are no special festivities at Disney California Adventure during this time period.

Included in the party ticket is all Disney PhotoPass photos taken during the event and unlimited PhotoPass downloads for party photos for up to 45 days. Ask photographers to take Halloween Magic Shots for a bit of extra fun. Once the regular park guests leave the park, ride lines tend to be shorter than usual, and if you download the Disneyland app you will be able to take advantage of Disney MaxPass in either park in the three hours before the party starts – note however that during the actual party, the FASTPASS system does not run.

Mickey’s Halloween Party 2018 Dates And Times

September 19, 21, 24, 26, 28

October 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26, 29, 31

For Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday dates, the party hours are 6pm to 11pm. Friday hours are 7pm to midnight.

Get more info on tickets here.

Kicking off Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

When lining up for park entry guests are given a coloured wristband with the date and number of the party and a treat bag. Trick-or-treating doesn’t begin until the party starts, so stash the bag for later. You may bring your own bag if you prefer.

Guests without wristbands are ushered out of the park once the regular park hours come to a close, and wristbands are checked frequently throughout the event.

Mickey’s ToonTown Pre-Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Mickey’s Halloween Party kicks off at 5pm in ToonTown with three trick-or-treat stations and characters in costumes. I suggest lining up from 4:30pm to enter, hitting up one trick-or-treat trail if you absolutely must, then riding the rides with no lines and getting photos with the characters in special costumes.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

This is where we found Minnie in her Candy Corn costume. A big mistake most people seemed to make was spending the whole pre-party lining up at the trick-or-treat stations for candy that can be bought at a supermarket. I think the value in the party is the rides with no queues, special entertainment and characters in costumes, so we didn’t worry much about the candy. Also – if you trick-or-treat too soon, you’ll have very heavy bags to carry for the rest of the night

Wearing Costumes to Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Guest are allowed to wear costumes to the party that conform to their guidelines. We chose not to dress up and didn’t feel like we were in the minority, but it would have been fun to have a costume for the novelty of the occasion. Cheese decided to dress as Mulan for the party.

You can get the full list of guidelines here for wearing costumes at Disneyland.

Trick-Or-Treating

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We only did one trick-or-treating trail while in Toon Town because we were so busy doing everything else, but that one trail gave us more candy than we could eat. There is a mix of healthy treats like carrots, pretzels, apples and dried fruit as well as lots and lots of sugary candy. If you really want a lot of loot, trick-or-treat last thing at night when the lines are shortest.

Characters at Mickey’s Halloween Party

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Special characters come out for the Halloween party, including villains, who can be found at the Town Square. We spotted the Queen of Hearts, Cruella de Ville, Maleficent, Hades and Gaston.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Around other parts of Town Square, Adventureland, Fantasy Faire, Critter Country, Pirate Wharf and Rancho del Zocalo you’ll also find characters such as Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy, Chip and Dale, Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and rare Disney princesses. Rare jungle characters come out in Adventureland and you might find pirates like Captain Jack Sparrow on the Frontierland dock.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

In Tomorrowland, Pixar characters can be found at the dance party in Tomorrowland Terrace, and Star Wars characters are located in near a trick-or-treat trail.

What about the rides?

Wait times for rides are much shorter during the party and we jumped on several favourite rides a few times in a row with no queue at all. FASTPASS does not operate during the party however MaxPass works in the three hours before the party begins.

Entertainment at Mickey’s Halloween Party

The entertainment is a big part of what makes the party so special. Each party, the entertainment includes the Headless Horseman Rides Again Pre-Parade (10 mins before the parade starts), the Frightfully Fun Parade at 9pm and 10:35pm and Halloween Screams – A Villainous Surprise in the Skies Fireworks at 9:35pm. Each of these is only shown during the special Mickey’s Halloween Party event.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We also loved the Cadaver Dans who sing Halloween-themed songs while floating on the ghostly river on party nights, and there is a Pixar Pals Halloween Dance Party on during the party, too.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We watched the first parade from near the Partner Statue. In order to get a decent spot to see the parade we had to secure a spot and stay there from about 7:30pm. The first parade runs from It’s a Small World to the park entrance, then reverses the route for the second parade.

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

Those who were planning to see the second parade set themselves up directly in front of the castle for the best fireworks views and projections on the castle – however from this position it’s difficult to see the parade.

Since we had a little one with us, seeing the second parade wasn’t an option so we had to find a spot where we could see both parade and fireworks. We chose a prime spot for the parade and then moved a few steps down to in front of the partner statue on the street, directly in front of the castle.

Both the parade and fireworks are incredible and well worth staying up late for!

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

A guide to celebrating Halloween at Disneyland California

We received Disneyland Park tickets courtesy of Disney. All opinions our own. We are life-long lovers of Disney.

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Our Favourite Disney Souvenirs (That Won’t Break The Bank)

Our Favourite Disney Souvenirs

We love to bring home a little bit of Disney magic when we travel, so we can enjoy the memories of our Disney trips long after we are back into the daily grind. Here are a few of our faves take-homes.

Disney Souvenirs

Mugs
I love both the mugs from the Disney stores well as the special “You Are Here” Starbucks mugs that can only be bought at Disneyland. There are Starbucks stores on Main Street in both parks where you can buy these mugs.

Disney Souvenirs

Husband loves the Star Wars mug and I love the Ariel and Aulani ones. We picked them up at random little stores around the parks (the Aulani one is from Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii). The mugs cost around $20 each.

Disney Souvenirs

Pressed Pennies
We are new to these and they are so fun. You’ll need a selection of quarters and pennies and be on the look out for the machines around the park to convert them into little collectables. They’re a cheap souvenir to take home and are run to make as kids can put in the coins, select the design and turn the wheel to press the penny themselves. Serious penny collectors can use a map to locate all of the machines in the park. A pressed penny costs either two quarters or two quarters and a penny.

Disneyland California

Popcorn Buckets
My daughter is a popcorn monster so we eat a lot of popcorn when we are in the parks. The buckets are an additional cost to the standard popcorn in a disposable container – between $10 and $25 depending on which design and size that you choose. The buckets have seasonal and limited edition designs so we love to collect them – and yes we re-use them at home!

Disneyland California

Bubble Wands
One of our best souvenirs ever, as this bubble wand really goes the distance. We have refilled it over and over again and it continues to work flawlessly. At around $20 it’s an expensive toy but it’s lasted so well that we were happy with the purchase. Wands are available all over the parks.

Disney SouvenirsFridge Magnets
A really cheap and easy souvenir that we like to look at every day on the fridge. Our fridge is covered in magnets from around the world and they’re a nice reminder of our travels each time we open the door. You can buy these magnets at little stores all over the park and they cost around $10 each.

Pins
Pins are an easy souvenir to collect. There are stores all over both parks that sell the pins alongside other merchandise so they’re easy to find. If you get super into it, you can wear them on a lanyard to the park and swap them with the Disney cast members. Some pins are limited edition so make for particularly good collectables. Pins cost between around $11 and $20 each.

Disney Souvenirs

Christmas Ornaments
We collect Christmas ornaments from all over the world and get a great deal of joy every year unwrapping the ornaments and putting them on the tree, while reminiscing about our travels. Disney ornaments are available in several locations in each park all throughout the year, and cost around $20-$40 each depending on the size.

Disney Souviners

Silhouette
We discovered the silhouettes in Disneyland on our recent trip. It costs $10 to get two (identical) silhouettes cut and $20 for a frame. They only take about 10 minutes to get made and make a great gift for grandparents.

Disney Souvenirs

Stuffed Characters
The small stuffed characters are fun to collect. We love to find the seasonal and location-specific ones when we travel. These three are from Disneyland at Christmas and our Disney Alaska cruise. They cost around $20 each.

Disney Souvenirs

Mickey Sink
This delicious treat is available at Clara’s hand-scooped Ice Cream in Disney California Adventure Park. It costs $13.50 plus tax and you can take home the sink.

Disney Ears

Disney Ears
These are fun to wear at the park and make for great photos. Mickey and Minnie ears like this can be purchased all over both parks and cost about $20.

Disney Souviners

Hats
A useful souvenir to take home! Hats can be found in both parks in lots of stores and cost about $20-ish.

Disney Souviners
Keyrings

I use these as zipper-pulls on my bags and my daughter puts them on her school bag. They cost about $10 and can be found in lots of places in the parks.

There you have it! I’ll add to this post in time as we find more fun little Disney souvenirs to take a little of the magic with us.

 

 

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Guide To Using MaxPass At Disneyland

A Guide To Using MaxPass At Disneyland

In 2017 Disneyland California introduced a new ticketing addition called MaxPass. You can read about it here on the official Disney site.

Basically, a MaxPass is an addition to your Disneyland park tickets that gives you added benefits. For an extra $10 per person, per day, a MaxPass will let you:

*Save time at popular attractions by making Disney FASTPASS selections on your mobile device using the Disneyland app while you’re in the parks. Guests with Park Hopper Tickets can even make selections for attractions in our other theme park.

*Download all photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers.

(A FASTPASS is a ticket that lets you come back to popular attractions at a designated time and skip waiting up. The FREE PAPER FASTPASSES can still be collected from near the attractions).

What do I need to use Disney MaxPass?
You will need to download the official Disneyland app onto a mobile device. I highly suggest doing this the day before your park visit.

You can download the app here.

Disneyland parks do have WiFi but I found it a bit inconsistent, so it’s preferable if you have data on your mobile device.

You will also need to buy regular park passes, either single day or park-hoppers. If you buy your tickets from the website or app your tickets will automatically be linked and should appear when you log into the Disneyland app on your device.

Do kids need a MaxPass?
If they want to use the digital FASTPASS feature, then yes, they do.

Is MaxPass worth the money?
If you’re going at a busy time of year or for a short time, then a MaxPass can be a game changer. When we visited at Christmas, thanks to the MaxPass we were able to secure FASTPASS tickets constantly all day to rides in both parks, and hence didn’t line up for any major attraction. If I could see that I was going to miss the FASTPASS window for one ride, I would cancel it and then make another ride selection with zero effort.

I love getting lots of photos taken as well, so being able to download over a hundred images from a three-day visit for an extra $10 per day is an absolute bargain to me.

Should I buy MaxPass tickets in advance?
While you can buy the MaxPass at the same time as your Disney park tickets, you can also buy it through the app on the day.

I found it very easy to purchase the MaxPass each morning on my phone as I entered the park, so if you choose to wait until seeing how busy the park is each day and deciding then if you need it, then that option is available.

It is however much easier to already have bought the MaxPass and it also enables you to start booking in your FASTPASSES quicker.

How soon can make a FASTPASS selection using MaxPass?
As soon as your ticket is scanned at either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure park each morning, you are able to book a digital FASTPASS using your phone. This means if you are early to the gates and have your ticket scanned and then wait half an hour for rope drop and official opening, that you ARE able to make your first FASTPASS selection during this time.

What if the time I want isn’t shown?
You can refresh the app and, as people cancel their FASTPASSES, new slots sometimes open up for other times.

How many FASTPASSES can I have at once using MaxPass?
You can have two FASTPASSES booked in at the same time. As soon as you enter the return window for a FASTPASS (each window is usually an hour long) then you are able to book another FASTPASS. If you take a look in the app it will tell you what time you can make your next FASTPASS booking.

What if I just want photos?
Only one person in your party needs to buy the MaxPass each day if all you want are photos. Disney PhotoPass photographers will either scan the app on your phone or a physical PhotoPass card to give you access to the images. You can scan the physical card with your phone to link the photos to your Disney park tickets. While it’s easier to keep track of the one PhotoPass card, you can collect and scan as many as you please, meaning if you have a large party who splits up and gets their own photos taken in different locations, all of the cards can be consolidated into the one account at the end of the day for the single cost of $10.

I chose to use a physical card during our stay to save battery power on my phone.

How do I stop my phone battery from running out?
One of the biggest things to be aware of is how using the Disneyland app all day will run down your battery super fast.

A few tips to make your phone last the whole day:
*If each member of your party has their own mobile device: take a screenshot of your ticket and set it as your screensaver on your phone and have each member of your party do the same.
*If you’re a family with little kids: Take a screenshot and keep the images handy for scanning.
*Use a physical PhotoPass card for scanning with the Disneyland photographers instead of opening the app to let them scan your phone. Ask the photographers for the physical card. You can get one card and re-use it for your entire stay, or collect several and link all of the cards by scanning them with the Disneyland app.
*Take a portable phone charger if your battery is not the best. This will mean you can charge on the go.
*Set your phone to airplane mode when you’re not using the internet.
*If your battery runs out, either purchase a portable charging device or rent a charging station locker.

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Have Tickets
Taken from the Disney website

Download the Disneyland app.
Enter the park you wish to visit using your tickets.
Open the Disneyland app.
Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
Sign in with your Disney account.
Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Don’t Yet Have Tickets
Taken from the Disney website

Purchase tickets on disneyland.com with the Disney MaxPass feature for your party.
Download the Disneyland app.
Enter the park you wish to visit using the tickets.
Open the Disneyland app.
Sign in with the same Disney account you used to purchase tickets.
Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

How to Link Disney PhotoPass Photos
Taken from the Disney website

Ask Disney PhotoPass Photographers to either scan your Disney PhotoPass card or the code on your phone. Be sure to also link your Disney PhotoPass card to your Disney account.
Enter the ID code for attraction photos in the Disneyland app. You’ll find the 8-character code on the photo monitor near where you exit the attraction. Ask a Cast Member for help if you cannot locate your photo.

Disney MaxPass for Annual Passholders
Taken from the Disney website

Guests who have a valid Disneyland Annual Passport may purchase the Disney MaxPass feature as an annual add-on for $75 at a Disneyland Resort Ticket Booth or as a daily add-on for $10 through the Disneyland app. The Disney MaxPass feature is an included benefit with the Disney Signature Plus Passport and the Disney Premier Passport.
The cost of the annual Disney MaxPass feature cannot be prorated for Annual Passports expiring in less than a year, and the feature expires when your Annual Passport expires.

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The most magical time of year at the happiest place on Earth is the period between November and January (check dates as they change annually), when the Disneyland Parks receive an enchanting makeover. Celebrating Christmas at Disneyland is a must-do experience for young and old.

Visiting Disneyland at Christmas can be an incredible experience but also takes some planning and preparation. The tips in this guide will help you create a magical trip for your whole family.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Plan your dates wisely
By very careful planning, we were able to avoid the bulk of the crowds who head to Disneyland to celebrate the holiday season.

Check the following before booking your trip:

*US school holiday dates
*Australian school holiday dates (there are a lot of Australians who make the trek each year!)
*Annual Pass Blockout Dates (obviously it’s good to go when annual pass holders can’t!). Check them here.
*The busiest days according to the previous year on a calendar such as this. Weekends are always the busiest so I suggest avoiding them.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Book a hotel near the park
We always book a very budget hotel that is extremely close to the park. Our last trip we stayed at the Grand Legacy At The Park and found it to be extremely convenient.

A full review of the Grand Legacy At The Park can be found here.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Pack wisely
My daughter is too big for a stroller this year, so I took a backpack to put in water, food and small purchases and keep my hands free. Clothes-wise, mornings and evenings can be cool at this time of year while the middle can be super warm.

We were comfortable in jeans and tees during the day and added a light jumper/sweater for the mornings/evenings. Shoes are so important at Disneyland when you’re walking 22K steps a day: go for comfort! My daughter and I wore extremely comfortable sneakers ever day.

If your kid fits into a stroller then by all means take one or hire one from the parks. I saw kids who were aged seven in them being pushed around, so there’s no shame in it if it’s what you need to do to get the kids through the long days without tears.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Download the Disneyland App
It’s invaluable for planning your day – character meet-and-greet times and locations, show times, ride wait times, view and make dining reservations, see your Disney PhotoPass pics, and even buy your park tickets app. Plus it’s a must-have if you’re planning on upgrading your ticket to include a Maxpass (the below).

Get more info on the Disneyland App and download it here.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Purchase Maxpass
Upgrading our passes with a Maxpass (they cost $10 per person, per day) was the best decision we made. Maxpass does two things:

1. Provides digital FASTPASS to rides (A FASTPASS lets you take a ticket with a specific time printed on it so you can return to the ride at a later time and skip the queue.)
2. Provides access to download all PhotoPass images taken by Disneyland photographers each day.

If you like to get lots of photos taken then the Maxpass is fantastic value for the photos alone. While you can still get FASTPASS without a Maxpass, it does require walking a lot more all over the park to get the paper ticket from the machine and then return again later. A Maxpass lets you book your FASTPASS selections on your phone from anywhere in the park. It was a game changer for us.

Only one member of your party needs to purchase the Maxpass if photos are your goal rather than digital Fastpasses.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Plan your Disney days
I’m a big believer in schedules, particularly at Disneyland where timing is important. I created a spreadsheet in advance and researched the events that would be taking place each day, such as parades, fireworks, shows, character meet-and-greets, tree lightings and so forth, to slot them into the time we had at the parks.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Go early!
Not a morning person? Your experience at Disneyland will be vastly improved if you are! Mornings are the best for rides as it’s when the parks are quietest, so we would arrive each morning between 7 and 7:30am and be one of the first few people inside the park when it officially opened.

This meant we had from 8am-11am each day with basically no queues for rides as a result, and used the Maxpass to schedule the top rides for throughout the day to get them in several times.

Take a break for lunch in the middle of the day to early afternoon, and then enjoy the special Christmas entertainment.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Check out the holiday decorations
Both parks feature a stunning 50-foot-tall Christmas tree, wreaths, baubles, and more, festooning the lampposts, rooftops and window displays.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Two of the Disneyland’s rides get a holiday makeover as well: The “It’s a Small World” ride is lit by over 50,000 lights and video projections, while the Haunted Mansion is taken over by the cast Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, including Jack Skellington.

The town of Radiator Springs (AKA “Cars Land) in Disney California Adventure Park was given a makeover on our recent visit, including the actual cars themselves, plus the ride Mater’s Jingle Jamboree.

If you get time, check out the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel, which is decorated beautifully for the holidays.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Catch the holiday entertainment
Disneyland has a twice-daily Christmas Fantasy Parade (check the Disneyland website closer to your visit to check parade times) featuring traditional Disney characters plus Santa, dancing gingerbread men, prancing reindeer and twirling snowmen.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We also highly enjoyed the Disney Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park, which featured seasonal celebrations from around the world. Our particular favourites were the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party, where mariachi and samba musicians and 12-foot-tall mojiganga puppets took to the streets, as well as Princess Elena of Avalor’s Grand Arrival, where Elena arrived on a float several times a day and sang her famous songs live. This was my daughter’s favourite live show of our trip.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Watch out for fun roaming entertainment in both parks, such as the drummers in California Adventure Park and carol singers in Disneyland. The festive fun is literally around every corner.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Meet the characters
We love meeting the characters anyway, but they’re that little bit extra special when dressed in holiday garb! We brought an autograph book with us (it’s a great ice breaker) and hunted down our faves throughout the day.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We especially loved Mickey and Minnie in their festive clothes, meeting Jack Skellington and Sally from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and watching the Disney characters dance in their ¡Viva Navidad! attire. You can locate the characters using the Disneyland app on your phone.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Eat all the food!
The Disney Parks employ a wide variety of exceptional pastry chefs and confectioners, so I highly recommend trying some of their seasonal treats.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Disneyland Park features peppermint Mickey Mouse beignets, festive candy apples, gingerbread men, snowman-shaped cookies, snowflake and Jack Skellington cake pops, and handmade candy canes that take three hours to make each batch. Watch them being made on Main Street; it’s mesmerising!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Disney California Adventure Park has a large Festive Foods Marketplace where you can try holiday favourites from around the world.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The popcorn is a fave of ours (for some reason, it tastes really amazing!) and we love to pick up a holiday-themed or limited-edition popcorn bucket to take home as a souvenir.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Watch the park light up when the sun goes down
Since we are such early birds at the park, we rarely make it to evening and always miss the nighttime lights. The benefit of visiting at this time of year is that sundown is earlier so the lights come on earlier, and we get to see the magic before bedtime!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The earliest display to watch is Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle which, at 6pm each evening, transforms into a shimmering display of 80,000 lights. Dazzling to watch!

Two special evening shows are presented if you can stay up late enough to watch them (we never made one, our eyes just wouldn’t stay open!):

The “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular in Disneyland Park and World of Color – Season of Light in Disney California Adventure Park, which is a a show featuring videos projected onto screens formed by fountains.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Last thoughts on Disneyland during the holidays
Our time at Disneyland was magical. I would go every year if I could. The crowds weren’t as bad as when I have visited previously in summer (note: this might be because I planned the days we visited so carefully), and we found the temperature perfect for long days at the parks. I highly recommend this experience to families of all ages.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We received Disneyland Park tickets courtesy of Disney. All opinions our own. We are life-long lovers of Disney.

 

 

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Eight Ways To Meet Characters On A Disney Cruise

8 Ways To Meet Characters On A Disney Cruise

Meeting the Disney characters is such a highlight of any Disney trip – for adults and kids alike! When cruising with Disney there are plenty of opportunities to meet characters around the ship.

We found the characters to be very generous with their time on the cruise – much more so than in the parks.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

At the port before boarding
Before even boarding the ship you can meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their cruise attire. Once you’ve officially checked in at the terminal, have all your Key To The World card and are in the pre-boarding room, keep an eye out for the characters having their photo taken.

Disney Cruise

Roaming the ship
Each evening on the chip you’ll receive a “Navigator” which tells you what’s on the following day, including where the characters will be and when. Arrive about 15 minute before the character is due incase there is a bit of a line. The characters stay in each spot for their designated time and then swap with a new character if there is another scheduled after them. If the line is long ask the cast member if you will make to the front before the character is due to leave to save any disappointment.

Characters also walk around the ship but usually won’t stop for a photo as they’re en route to their new timed appointment. You might get lucky though – sometimes they will let kids tag along with them as they walk at top speed to wherever it is they’re going!

It’s worth returning to meet the same core characters (Mickey Mouse etc) on different occasions as they will have lots of outfit changes.

Dance parties
Check the Navigator for any character dance parties that are usually held in the lobby. This is such a fun way to get up close to characters as they really let loose and bust a move or two that honestly looks really difficult in those massive suits.

Major props to the cast members inside who come out with some moves worthy of a role in the next Step Up dance movie. Characters at the dance parties will often really engage with the kids too. On one of our cruises Peter Pan let the little kids in a circle dance holding their hands while Stitch bore up well to kids throwing themselves all over him in enthusiastic hugs.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

Ticketed meet and greet events
These events are best booked in advance as soon as your cruise’s activity window opens. They are free but require tickets booked into designated 15 minute time slots. At the time of writing, a Princess Gathering and Frozen meeting are offered on select Disney cruises.

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

The bonus of ticketed events is that there is no lining up! Just turn up at your allotted time and  that’s it. At the Princess Gathering there are four princesses to meet. On both of our cruises we had Tiana, Cinderella, Ariel and Belle. We’ve yet to see Rapunzel or Snow White! At the Frozen meeting, on one cruise we had Anna and Elsa, but on the Alaska cruise Olaf was there too.

Disney Cruise

Evening entertainment
Dining at the restaurants can also lead to character encounters! On the Disney Wonder, Tiana makes her way around the diners in the new restaurant based on her, Tiana’s Place.

Disney Cruise

Special events – Royal Court Royal Tea
There are also additional events such as Royal Court Royal Tea which are also ticketed and cost a fee to attend, where you can meet characters. At the Royal Court Royal Tea Cinderella, Tiana and Ariel attended and spent a lot of time with each child. The Royal Court Royal Tea sells out so needs to be booked well in advance.

Read about our Royal Court Royal Tea experience here.

Character Breakfasts
A free ticketed event that needs to be booked in advance, at the character breakfasts guests enjoy a full table service meal while characters come around to each table. On the Fantasy we had a Disney Junior Breakfast with Sophia the First, Jake and Mickey Mouse, while on the Wonder we we had a Disney Character Breakfast with Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Pluto.

Kids Club
The characters also make the rounds at kids club! Spider-Man and the cast of Frozen dropped in while Cheese was at kids club on the Wonder. Check the Navigator to see what sessions are likely to have characters visiting and then double check with the kids club staff.

Photography Tips:

If your kids are a bit more reserved or like to collected things, bring an autograph book for the characters to sign. It gives shyer kids something to do that takes the attention off them.

Bring a camera with a flash for a decent photo (not an iPhone!). The inside of the ship is not lit well for phones or photos without a flash in general.

Buy an all-inclusive photo package before sailing to get a 15% discount and receive all the images that are taken while aboard the boat, then hand over your Key to the World card each time you meet a character to their accompanying staff member and let them take care of the photos for you. If you don’t like the images you can cancel the package while on board the ship and receive a refund, or downgrade to a smaller package.

First time cruiser? Get our tips and tricks for Disney Cruising here. 

Wondering if a Disney Cruise is worth the money? Read about it here

Considering a Disney Cruise to Alaska? Check out our cruise diary here

Disney Cruise Planning: Tips & Tricks via christineknight.me

Christine Knight

Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!