All right, buckle in for a heck of a blog post.

We used to stay in the Anaheim area pretty often. Then came my employment changes, and we haven’t stayed down there for years. That means missing out on a lot of night time entertainment. But this season I didn’t want to miss a thing!

Normally we get up for the park around 7:00 but we slept in a little bit, knowing we had a bit more time, but also knowing we had reservations at Cafe Orleans (one of Thor’s favorite places!) at 12:00.

Once we actually got through the ridiculous security line, we got to the park in time to get a Hyperspace Mountain fastpass and head to lunch at Cafe Orleans. The special thing about it is their gumbo. There are several places to get gumbo in Disneyland, and we first fell in love with it at Blue Bayou, the nicest restaurant actually in the park. There is also a little stand where you can get it. But don’t be fooled–they’re not the same gumbo. The one at the stall who’s name I can’t remember is made with a vegetable stock. Blue Bayou is the good stuff, and once after questioning a BB cast member about it, he said they serve the same good stuff at Cafe Orleans, a little sit-down restaurant also located in New Orleans Square.

Anyway, Thor LOVES the gumbo, so we settled in for two bowls of gumbo.

gumbo

I dug into mine right away–Thor was kind enough to let me take a picture of his when I suddenly remembered. And of course the only way to follow up that meal is with beignets! Again, you ca get beignets at a little stand, but Cafe Orleans’ comes with a creme anglaise and raspberry jam.

Best beignets outside of Cafe du Monde. Pillow-y and dusted with just enough powdered sugar. Fun fact: there are two Ralph Brennan restaurants in Downtown Disney, Jazz Kitchen, and Jazz Kitchen Express. they’re both pretty great, and I know for sure you can get beignets at Express, and at least once upon a time I believe they were made with the Cafe du Monde mix. They also have a pretty delicious fried shrimp poboy.

We had a while to wait for Hyperspace Mountain, so it was off to California Adventure, where Festival of Holidays continue!

festival-of-holidays-micechat

One of my first stops when I visit DCA is Carthay Circle. Usually not to actually eat there–reservations aren’t always easy to get, and besides being really delicious (never had a bad experience), it’s a little cost-prohibitive. Anyway, one of my hobbies is reading menus. Nerdy and random, I know, but I just like to know what’s out there, what creative things people can come up with. To that end, you too can read the menu here.

We headed to one of my favorite places on earth–the Wilderness Explorer area–and ran into this guy!

disney-cat

Disneyland cats are awesome, and there’s actually a lot. I’ve read before that Disneyland feeds them, and catches them to get them spayed or neutered. If you didn’t love Disneyland before, right? Anyway, a little googling identified this cat as Francisco, at his usual post in the hills of Grizzly Peak, between Wilderness area and Soarin’ Around the World (formerly Soarin’ Over California, RIP). There’s a whole article on Francisco here. Check it out for a smile! And yes, this was the best picture I could get of this little guy.

We headed to get fastpasses for World of Color holiday edition, at 9:00, and then on to some important things: the Squirrel Scambler in the Wilderness area, to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. The Squirrel Scrambler is a series of rope bridges that were really difficult for my balance for a long time, but I go on it every visit, and now I’m pretty good! I just love the area. Copying from Disneyland’s website, highlights include:

  • Practice the art of traverse climbing on the Cliff Hanger Traverse Rock Climb.
  • Glide down a natural rock slide.
  • Play with the Boulder Bears—rock formations that “bear” a striking resemblance to grizzly bear cubs.
  • Climb up a trio of wooden lookout towers featuring authentic ranger gear, rope bridges and hidden surprises.
  • Practice your park ranger skills as you slide down a tire suspended from a cable on the Sequoia Smokejumpers Training Tower.
  • Walk through Big Sir—a towering 35-foot-tall redwood stump.
  • Inspect a cross-section from the Millennium Tree and examine growth rings dating back 1,000 years.

And, you can sometimes see Dug from Up, and it’s where Santa is taking pictures this year.

Next stop, and one of the most important, is a visit to Ghirardelli, where we sampled the amazing concoction that is their salted caramel hot chocolate. I have no words for this. I’m not always a salted caramel fan, even though it’s everywhere, but there is nothing like the richness of this hot chocolate. Here’s Thor enjoying it:

thor-ghirardelli

Seriously. So. Good. It’s a park go-to now.

My morning mission was a Mickey Mouse Santa hat. I’d lost mine and it’s not the holidays without it. We picked one up outside of Cars Land, and it looked pretty good if I do say so myself.

selfie-disneyland

Me and my new hat!

It was back to Disneyland for Hyperspace Mountain, which is a rollercoaster in the dark, with projections to make you feel like you are in a battle in Star Wars. It’s really cool and always has a long line, so fastpasses are the only way we go. Got a few pictures of the park then. You’ve seen Small World at night, and it’s just as great during daylight hours.

small-world-daytime

On my list was a peppermint ice cream from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, the only place in both parks you can get it. I read that it was a must-do on a blog, and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.

ice-cream

And, you can get it in a chocolate-dipped cone crusted with peppermint bits. Usually my favorite cold treat in the parks is the soft serve swirl you can find in California Adventure, but this blew that out of the water. It was so good.

Then we planned to visit the Grand Californian Hotel on our way out to briefly check into our hotel. They had their tree and gingerbread house up, and it was spectacular.

californian-treegingerbread-housegingerbread-recipethor-with-tree

There you’ve got a picture of Thor admiring the tree.

My pictures have gotten a little mixed up so I may have posted this before, but we hit up World of Disney right outside the parks, and I took a picture as we were leaving.

world-of-disney

And you can see some garlands in the window.

We left for the hotel, and when we got back, it was dark. Yessssss.

We were hungry so we stopped at the Festival of Holidays stalls for some small plates. I got the mac and cheese again because it’s just that good. We went on a rollercoaster, Goofy’s Flight School, that’s all quick drops and super-sharp turns, and I’m terrified of it, so I try and go on as much as I can. We also went on the Golden Zephyr, a more low-key ride which is actually silver.

We went back to Cars Land, which I’ve already mentioned is my favorite. I’m just in love. Also, apparently they’re making a third movie. I’ve only seen the first. But here, have some pictures.

Can’t get enough. I suddenly started feeling a little unwell (probably too much junk food), so we found a bench to park on and played a two-player game on his cell phone. On our way out, I took this picture of the tree on the DCA main street:

ca-adven-main-street

Just love DCA at the holidays.

As you can tell, we park hop a lot. So it was back to Disneyland for Small World and fireworks. Took some pictures in Small World this time:

There’s a little store in Critter Country, at the very end, on the other side of the Winnie the Pooh ride, that I like to go to, and on our way Thor snapped this picture of Haunted Mansion Holiday.

haunted-mansion

Pretty good one. Here are some more we took on our way back to Main Street.

back-of-castle-at-night The back of the castle.

christmas-castle Probably a repost, and I think from the actual Disneyland website. Just beautiful.

We stayed at Disneyland til about midnight. Did a lot of walking around, looking at the sights. Got a Lyft back to the hotel. Staying nearby is great. For 5-7 dollars you don’t have to worry about parking at the actual resort.

We were really feeling the long day before on Sunday so we slept in til noon, which was awesome, stopped at the Target to pick me up Pokemon Sun, which was awesome, and made our way back to the park.

It was a beautiful day–cold and rainy and just perfect. The busy streets cleared out a lot as everyone rushed into the shops to get out of the rain. Got some pretty good pictures in as we took a lazy trip around the parks.

cars-circleca-adven-instaus-on-bridgeHere we are on our bridge, where Thor proposed just about two years ago.store What I would call the main shop in Disneyland is all decked out. Busy, but a great place to be and buy!

If I remember more details from the trip, I’ll post them here! This was an amazing trip. It really is the happiest–and now the merriest–place on earth!

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