Disneyland is always a magical place. It’s a place that can turn adults into children. And that’s especially true during the Christmas season.
It’s even more true when the weenies in SoCal (sorry to anyone who lives there, but this is true) go into a fallout shelter at the first sight of rain. This is the most dead I’ve ever seen Disneyland.
Don’t get me wrong, there were still people there. But we were able to grab front row seats to the parade shortly before it started and never waited more than 20 minutes for any ride.
While I’m talking about it, I’ll begin with the Christmas Fantasy Parade. I don’t think I’ve ever had front row seats to a parade (except maybe my town’s 4th of July Parade), so it was extra nice.
There were a lot of cool floats, but the highlight was when Chip ‘n’ Dale saw my chipmunk hat and excitedly pointed over. That definitely wouldn’t have happened if I were in the back of the crowd!
Speaking of those beloved chipmunks, we also had a blast seeing them at the character brunch at Storytellers Cafe. And I cannot recommend this place enough.
Yes it’s a bit pricey, but I thought the food quality was excellent for a buffet. Keep in mind, we had just been to the revered buffets in Vegas. Being able to load my plate with Mickey waffles and prime rib was a dream come true.
As for the characters, they were all extremely interactive. Most of them joined us at our table. So we got into a habit of pulling out our chair for them. But when Mickey came around, he slammed the chair into the table with that static grin on his face. He wanted none of that.
Moving onto the rides, Emily’s favorite was Space Mountain, or should I say Hyperspace Mountain. She loved the sense of speed as we rocketed through the star field.
As for me, I sort of wish they were running the original version since I love Michael Giacchino’s musical score, but the Star Wars overlay has better visuals. Regardless, this ride feels fast and has some serious laterals. 8.5 out of 10
One difference I noted from past visits was that cast members were being careful not to fully load a train. Even with the single rider line, cast members would dispatch trains with seats or rows empty. That was a bit of a bummer since this thing absolutely hauls when fully loaded.
One other interesting tidbit is that on one of our rides, we got stuck on the brake run. After a few seconds, the dome’s lights came on.
Another one of Emily’s favorite was Buzz Lightyear. She was determined to beat me. While her score improved each time; mine did as well. She was chasing a moving target.
Buzz Lightyear feels a bit on the short side, but it looks great and I love how this one doesn’t have the mounted guns of Florida. 9 out of 10
Continuing our way through Tomorrowland, we then hit Star Tours. Emily is pretty ambivalent towards Star Wars (except for Baby Yoda, she loves that thing) and found Star Wars pretty bumpy.
I much prefer the rides with physical sets, but Star Tours is easily one of the best simulators. The visuals are fantastic and I love all the interchangeable scenes. 7 out of 10
The last ride we experienced in Tomorrowland was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Emily was the perfect height to see everything while I had to hunch downwards.
But we both thought the same. It was just ok. The ride is very long and tasteful mixes in Finding Nemo, but it’s not the most exciting ride. 5 out of 10
In general, Disneyland is an amazing park for a rainy day. However, there are a few rides in Fantasyland that are problematic on a rainy day. The one I cared most about was Alice in Wonderland.
Of the Fantasyland dark rides, this is easily my favorite. The ride still maintains its classic feel, but it also seamlessly integrates some modern effects. Emily felt the same. 8 out of 10
The Storybook Land Canal Boats were also tricky to ride. I actually hadn’t ridden these since my first visit to Disneyland. And I quickly remembered why.
This is a cute ride. The miniature displays all look nice. But like the Nemo Submarine Voyage, we both found the ride a bit dull. 5 out of 10
The rain and smart use of MaxPass allowed us to avoid most lines, but there was one that required a bit more effort- Peter Pan’s Flight. Few things are constant in life. But a long line at Peter Pan is.
Our original plan was to hit this ride at rope drop. I figured most people would speedwalk for Galaxy’s Edge. Much to our surprise, people sprinted to Peter Pan. And I don’t blame them.
So instead, we got in line right before closing and waited 15-20 minutes. That’s really what Peter Pan is worth. It’s a cute ride, but it’s way too short. I don’t think it’s even 2 minutes long. 7 out of 10
Compare that to Mr. Toad, Pinocchio, and Snow White. These rides may only be a bit longer, but they never seem to have more than a 15 minute wait.
Pinocchio feels longer than most of the Fantasyland dark rides. It’s effects and scenes are pretty low-tech, but there are no dead spots. 7 out of 10
Snow White is probably my least favorite of the three. Like Peter Pan, it’s way too short. I’m interested to see if the rehab elevates this ride like Alice in Wonderland. 6 out of 10
Mr. Toad is the polar opposite of Disney, so that’s why I come off this ride smiling. This ride has reckless driving, beer, and Hell. 7 out of 10
One of the true miracles of Christmas is the fact It’s a Small World turns into a very enjoyable ride. I love the Christmas overlay! And I always have fun trying to spot the Disney characters integrated with the dolls. 9 out of 10
Speaking of that facade, that is actually where we watched the Believe fireworks. While it’s not the prototypical spot on Main Street in front of the castle, I’d argue it’s better. It’s less crowded and you’re actually closer to the fireworks. Plus, the Small World facade has some great mapping effects.
The one ride Emily hated at Disneyland was the Matterhorn Bobsled. She simply found the ride way too rough and jostly. And that’s a fair point. No one will ever call this ride butter smooth.
Maybe this is the amusement park historian in me, but I do enjoy the Matterhorn. The aggressive turns give the ride character and it’s just pure fun weaving through that mountain. 7 out of 10
Emily didn’t feel the need to get the Gadget’s Go Coaster credit, so our time in Toontown was brief. It consisted of a lone ride on Roger Rabbit.
When Emily saw the cars spun, she quickly took the wheel. She didn’t want me spinning it like a lunatic. I guess she knows better having ridden the tea cups with me.
While Emily struggled to steer our cab, I admired the sights. I love Who Framed Roger Rabbit and this ride captures the feel of the film well except for one small thing. Where’s Judge Doom? 8 out of 10
Moving onto Adventureland, Emily was in disbelief at the corniness of the Jungle Cruise. She was extra disturbed when I knew some of the jokes by heart. And that narration is exactly why I love the Jungle Cruise. 9 out of 10
Next door is one of the crowing achievements of Disney Imagineering, Indiana Jones Adventure. It’s one of my favorite rides in the world. I love the ambitious physical sets combined with the aggressive movements.
Our first ride was terrible. About midway through the ride, our vehicle came to a stop. The narration cut out and none of the scenes activated. There was no rat screen, no air blasts, no boulder. There was nothing. It was even emptier than Dinosaur. Emily came off as confused as me.
Fortunately, she saw the light. When we returned to Indiana Jones, we got the full experience as intended. Well as full of an experience as Disney can offer (I’m still intrigued by that dry ice effect). 10 out of 10
New Orleans Square is home to two of the park’s best dark rides. That’s especially true during Christmas when the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay is active.
Having been on the Haunted Mansion as many times as I have, I love the freshness of this overlay. The ride feels way different. It’s impressive how extensive this overlay is. 10 out of 10
Emily rode Pirates in Florida, so she thought this would be identical. Needless to say, she was caught off-guard by the longer length and bigger drops. 9 out of 10
We also stayed in New Orleans Square for dinner. We finally tried the famous Monte Cristo sandwich from Cafe Orleans. And it was absolutely scrumptious.
One of the biggest benefits of the rain was the line for Splash Mountain. Or should I say lack of a line. That was probably the best Christmas gift a Splash Mountain fanatic such as myself could’ve received.
California’s has the best drop and gets you absolutely drenched. It still is my least favorite of the Splash Mountains since the show scenes aren’t quite as strong, but it’s still a near perfect ride. 10 out of 10
One ride that isn’t near perfect is Winnie the Pooh. I actually can’t remember the last time I rode the one at Disneyland. It’s an ok ride. It’s very short, but it tells the familiar story of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt without that amazing ride system. 5 out of 10
I felt bad when I took Emily on Big Thunder Mountain since I hyped up the explosion effect on the final lift. I got excited when the dynamite lit, but the blast never happened. At first, I was optimistic we just got a bad ride like Indiana Jones. But after multiple rerides, it was clear the effect wasn’t happening.
As for the rest of the ride, Big Thunder is always fun. It’s arguably the best mine train out there with that setting, some deceptively powerful laterals, and some quick pops of airtime. 7.5 out of 10
Our final land was one that I’m still not used to having at Disneyland, Galaxy’s Edge. Emily and I visited the land in Florida, and this one felt identical. And in no way is that a bad thing since Batuu is beautiful.
We missed Rise of the Resistance by a month, but we were able to try out some new positions on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. And we both agree, pilot is definitely the best position. It’s the most involved. 8 out of 10
We also made sure to see Fantasmic. We had grabbed FastPasses and were escorted into the seated dining area. I’m guessing that was because of the low crowds, but we certainly weren’t complaining.
I absolutely love Fantasmic. The music, fireworks, and characters are perfect. While the dragon was in B-mode for us, the projection mapping effects during its demise were neat to see for a change. 10 out of 10
Disneyland is my second favorite park in the world. Only Tokyo’s park can top it. I love everything about this park (well except maybe the crowds on most days).