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Old 01-02-2013, 10:28 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Please give me the lowdown of Disneyland at Christmas

We are looking into going next year December 23-27. We are looking at staying at the Grand Californian. As much as I have prepped myself on Disney World, I seem lost when it comes to Disneyland. I know the crowds will be bad, but how do I Mae it manageable at is staying at the Grand Californian the best choice? I know the dining plan is not the way to go there, but what restaurants should I try to get and when can I call to make those reservations? What are the events I do not want to miss during that time of year?

I went to Magic Kingdom part for one day many years ago early in December. I had no idea what I was doing then, but I loved the holiday overlays and such. This time I want to plan and do it right.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 01-02-2013, 11:34 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Let me see what I can do to help, having just stayed there from 22-28 December.

Ok, first off, the crowds are mad, but didn't seem to be as insane as Disney World. As far as I know, the parks didn't close at any point, but I know that the Magic Kingdom did over the same period.

What I would say is if you're going to stay at the Grand Californian (our favourite by the way ) make full use of Early Entry. We knocked off six attractions in the Disneyland Park on Christmas Day between 7:00am - 8:40am, when the park opened to resort guests at 7:00am and to everyone at 8:00am. As you probably already know, make full use of Fastpasses as well.

At the moment, Radiator Springs Racers is the huge draw - be prepared to head there as soon as you get into the park, if you're using Early Entry, and get in line if you can for a Fastpass when the park opens - they're usually gone within the first hour or so, and the lowest wait we saw for it during our stay was 50 minutes...

As for holiday events, I can thoroughly recommend the Holiday Tour, especially as you get reserved seating for the Christmas parade at a superb spot and get to ride It's A Small World and the Haunted Mansion with no wait. It was worth every penny and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

As to restaurants, do not miss the Carthay Circle - it was wonderful. We did the World of Color package and the viewing area you get with the meal is superb. Even a meal downstairs in their lounge is good. We also really enjoyed Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland Hotel.

Anything else you want help with, just shout!
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:35 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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I agree with chezp. The crowds will be insane, but it is a fun time to go. If you mentally prepare yourself for the throngs you will be ok. We love, love, love the grand Californian. Especially at Christmas! Stunning truly. Do take advantage of early entry for sure. As far as restaurants, the breakfast buffet at the GC is fantastic!!! Make early ressies for that one for sure. Ralph Brennan's in DTD is good too. There is also a very good CS place at the Disneyland hotel, right next to the new jungle themed bar, that btw is awesome!!!! It is usually pretty quiet and a great place to escape for bit! Have fun planning.
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you so much. You answered every question beautifully. I will be checking into the tour and the World of Color package. Storytellers caught my eye. I'm so excited about this!
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Old 01-04-2013, 03:31 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I have been visiting DL/DCA the week between Christmas and New Year's for about 7 years. I'm an AP holder so don't have early hours access, or, if I do, have never used it. If you are on a limited budget (unlikely if you're staying at the Grand Californian, the most expensive crowned jewel in the Anaheim Disney Complex), you could stay at one of hundreds of hotels within 2 miles of the parks. All have shuttle service directly to the park so you can park your rental car and fuggetaboutit. We use Priceline or some other discount accommodation site and get great, and I mean GREAT deals on 3+ star facilities. Something to think about.

With regard to dining, there are a number of restaurants worth trying (some of them very new, as of this past summer in DCA and I'm not referring to the Carthay Circle). You can also call the Disney Dining number (714 781 3463) to get priority seatings (reservations) at several restaurants in Downtown Disney. Here are some of the places we like:
Note: All full service restaurants can be reserved through Disney Dining
Disneyland
Blue Bayou (I'm sure you've heard of it)
Plaza Inn (character brunch and also serves lunch and dinner w/o characters)
Cafe Orleans (in Orleans Square, sit-down table service, good food)
French Market (also in Orleans Sq, counter service, good food with live jazz entertainment)
Jolly Holiday Bakery (counter service, located in the Hub of DL. Veer left after you come down Main St. and enter the Hub. They have pastries and other baked goods for breakfast and a tasty lunch menu)

DCA
Ariel's Grotto (full service, with a full bar. This is a character dining experience at lunch only with a 3 course menu, fixed price, if I recall correctly, and decent food. If you have kids or just love princesses I'd do this one for lunch)
Carthay Circle (full service, with a full bar. I have eaten there once and thought the food was excellent, but severely over-priced. We eat almost exclusively in the parks during our visits and I'm not afraid to spend $$, but $25 for a hamburger?).
Storytellers (Buffet located inside the Grand Californian. Character brunch with Pocahontas characters. Very good food).
Wine Country Trattoria (full service w/bar. The food is decent. Great wine selection with a wine tasting bar outside).
Paradise Garden Grill (counter service. This has become one of our favorite places to eat in the parks. It is located at the end of Paradise Pier next to Goofy's Sky Skool. They serve Mediterranean skewers that are just delicious. There is an Italian place adjacent to it that serves pizza and several pastas, all delicious. Our daughter, who hates tomatoes, LOVES the 4 cheese pasta with chicken (and the chicken is tender and tasty).

Downtown Disney
La Brea Bakery (full service breakfast and lunch. The food here is GREAT, and so is the coffee! I love their french toast and the coffee)
Naples (full service Italian restaurant with full bar. This place has really good Italian food and full bar)

There are many other restaurants to choose from and I understand Disney has upgraded the food at all of its' restaurants so I'm sure I will eventually discover more yummy food during future visits. You can get a comprehensive list of Disney Dining options by downloading Mousewait for your iPhone or Android. It is primarily a wait time app for the rides but has grown and been enhanced a lot and now has a food section with each restaurant listed for each park that links directly to the menu for that restaurant.

We visited the parks from 12/27-1/1. IMO, this year saw record crowds. As others have said, Cars Land is the big draw in DCA and if you want to ride the Radiator Springs Racers ride you will need to get in line when the park opens to get a fast pass. Lines every time we stopped by there were 3 hours! That said, using the FP system you should be able to get everything you want done, done. The RR fast passes do evaporate in an hour or so (which makes me wonder just how many are being issued because there are virtually zero fastpass people in that queue later in the day. Hmm...). The only other attraction I have ever seen run out (unless it's just really late in the evening) is Space Mountain.

Hope this helps. Happy planning, and Happy New Year!
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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First of all, yes, make it happen that you can stay at Grand Californian. It's totally worth it for the location and it is just a beautiful resort/hotel. DANAinSACTOWN already listed a few of my favorite places to eat. In particular, Breakfast with Minnie at the Plaza Inn was a HUGE hit with my family. There was a good spread of food and our character interaction was one of the best we've ever had. We also really like Paradise Garden Grill in CA. Those Mediterranean inspired platters are quite delicious.

Other suggestions include skewers at Bengal Barbecue in DL. You could definitely enjoy some as either a hearty snack or a light meal. Don't hesitate the bacon wrapped asparagus skewer. Mmmm. If you have a sweet tooth, you must wait in the sometimes long line for a Tigger Tail at Pooh's Corner. Beignets are available both in DL at the Mint Julep Bar or in DD at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:11 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you! I'm taking notes on all of this. Yet, budget can be an issue, but we are budgeting for a one in a lifetime trip. My husband wants to stay at the Grand Californian and though I've stayed at a Good Neighbor hotel, he is not swaying on this one...and frankly I'm not fighting him. It looks and sounds lovely. Blue Bayou was at the top of my list, The Plaza Second, Carthay Circle third, and now I've got many options to fill the other spots. I said four days would enough, my husband wants to stay seven. I have a feeling it will be somewhere in the middle, lol.
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Old 01-04-2013, 09:56 PM   #8 (permalink)
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How could I forget to mention Pacific Wharf Cafe at CA?? This is a favorite lunch spot! Bread bowls with yummy soups and also yummy entree salads. This is outdoor seating, so hopefully you are planning on going during the warmer months! And you'll definitely want to do that to take advantage of the fabulous pool at Grand Californian. The slides may not be as fun as the monorail themed slides at Disneyland Hotel, but there were no complaints from my family with the GC pools. I honestly could have stayed another day just to have a "chill out and veg by the pool" kind of day.

Sorry, my posts may be a little all over the place, but these are just how the thoughts come to my head
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by LizCatMom View Post
How could I forget to mention Pacific Wharf Cafe at CA?? This is a favorite lunch spot! Bread bowls with yummy soups and also yummy entree salads. This is outdoor seating, so hopefully you are planning on going during the warmer months! And you'll definitely want to do that to take advantage of the fabulous pool at Grand Californian. The slides may not be as fun as the monorail themed slides at Disneyland Hotel, but there were no complaints from my family with the GC pools. I honestly could have stayed another day just to have a "chill out and veg by the pool" kind of day.

Sorry, my posts may be a little all over the place, but these are just how the thoughts come to my head
No problem. I'm random like that too. Since we've going at Christmas I'm not sure it will be warm enough for the pools. The last time I was there it was in the low seventies in December. Not exactly pool weather. I keep hearing about the Pacific Wharf. That sounds very yummy!
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