Welcome to a special holiday photo update from the Disneyland Resort. Today we’re taking a quick tour to see the holiday offerings in both parks. There’s magic and wonder ahead, but there’s a bit of disappointment as well. Let’s take a look at the jingle and jangle of it all . . .

Festival of Holidays

DCA’s Festival of Holidays returns this year, but with a completely revamped menu. Almost every menu item was either retooled or replaced entirely, but at almost $8 an item is it worth the cost?

The AP Corner was moved from Paradise Gardens to the Sonoma Terrace this year. While there, I purchased a Sip and Savor Pass. I was happy that Disney included the tasting card as an option.

It works just like the one from Food and Wine. You get eight individual one item per tear-off coupons, and the pass cost $45. The coupons are worth around $6 each, so you could potentially save over $10 if you use all them for the most expensive items, and they’re good until the holidays are over in January. They’re still only available for Annual Passholders.

You can also grab a holiday photo, button, and charge your phone at the terrace.

I tried eight items with my friend, here’s what I thought:

Beef Brisket

 

A sweet dish, the beef brisket, is chewy and wet. Surprisingly, the portion isn’t too small, and the crunchy carrots give a nice contrast in texture to the meat.

Holiday Ham and Roasted Turkey Sliders

The ham slider is probably the most disappointing thing I had at the festival. It’s very bland, as it’s just ham…on a buttered roll. However, the ham itself was nice and savory sweet.

The roasted turkey slider, on the other hand, was delicious. This might even be my favorite dish; I noticed that it’s also a returning dish this year. It’s pretty much Thanksgiving dinner on a roll, which makes for a great complex flavor composition that I appreciated. The turkey was flavorful and savory, the vegetables were sweet and the tangy gravy mixed with the sweet cranberry sauce made me tempted to order another one.

Braised Pork Belly Adobo and Braised Lamb Cheeks

Having both of these at the same time was an interesting experience, as they’re on the complete opposite spectrum of taste.

The braised lamb cheeks had an incredibly strong and lasting flavor. The slight burn stayed with me for a while. It’s very heavy on the curry sauce – somewhat fatty, but very tender. The vegetables and the rice were a nice touch and were unique compared to other offerings.

On the other hand, the pork belly had a very understated flavor for adobo. It has an instant garlic and vinegar flavor that goes away just after the first taste. They include rice with this dish as well, which was nice, but the unexpected extra was the pork rinds on top for garnishing. Small sides like rice in these dishes made them more filling and should be extended to more dishes.

Nashville Hot Turkey

Nashville hot is well known for having a spicy punch, and the Nashville hot turkey doesn’t disappoint. While the turkey itself doesn’t have a strong flavor in and of itself, the crunchy exterior and lingering heat in your mouth will remind you of the dish for a while. The serving size seemed small to me, but the turkey inside is dense, and the fried exterior isn’t extremely thick. This one’s unique, I’d recommend it.

Beef Short Rib

This dish was an immediate favorite for my friend. The flavor is interesting in that it uses a very tart cranberry sauce on top of a solid piece of tender beef. That outside flavor doesn’t penetrate the short rib so you get that moist fatty flavor separate from the cranberry sauce. The mashed potatoes were just okay, but with the gravy and leftover sauce, they really made this dish filling. It’s probably the only thing worth close to what the asking price is in terms of how filling it is.

Macaroni and Cheese

I actually had this dish later in the evening. After that short rib, neither I nor my friend could eat any more. I guess that’s actually a good thing because I usually leave these festivals hungry due to traditionally small portion sizes and high prices. But if I hadn’t already been full, this Mac and Cheese would’ve done the trick. It’s very creamy. The cornbread crumbles were something unique as well, as they were really crunchy in contrast to the soft texture of the mac and cheese. This one had the longest line out of any of the booths I saw; it’s likely to be a very popular dish this year.

Viva Navidad

There’s a lot going on at Viva Navidad this year at the Paradise Gardens. Not only do we get the lovely street show with the Three Caballeros, but Elena of Avalor makes an appearance once again for her Royal Welcome show.

The Viva Navidad show takes place on the parade route just in front of Paradise Gardens in Paradise Pier. It’s truly MAGICAL!

Elena’s show is quite a bit simpler, but the kids should love it. There’s song and dance and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Disneyland

 

Main Street celebrates the holidays with red poinsettia and the classic Christmas tree. Many of the usual decorations are up – garland, lights, wreaths, all working to spread Christmas cheer.

It’s a little disappointing once you get past the tree. We were really hoping that Disney would take the effort to put up the garland that stretches across the street. Unfortunately, it seems that either Disney has forgotten about it or they hoped that everyone else had. With Paint the Night moving to DCA, it would’ve been the perfect opportunity to bring back an old favorite.

Main Street continues to feel empty without its signature garland strung over the street…

Winter Sleeping Beauty Castle dazzles guests day, evening, or night. Make sure you see the lights on both the castle and the Christmas tree during the evening and then at night after the “snow” lighting comes on.

The delightful but very old Christmas Fantasy Parade has returned. It has been a holiday staple since 1994, while I still love it, it’s starting to show signs of old age. Is it time for a new holiday parade, or should we keep the classic for a little while longer?

Believe…in Holiday Magic also makes a return this year. The addition of projection mapping on the castle adds a new element which makes this holiday tradition more magical than ever.

While Small World and the Rivers of America will be great viewing locations, in front of the castle on Main Street is definitely the way to see this show.

Below, a live stream of the first showing of Believe… in Holiday Magic.

It’s a Small World Holiday lights up the night with awe-inspiring light shows and projections. A voyage through Small World Holiday is sure to bring holiday joy to young and old alike. I actually like the holiday version better than the classic, the variety of songs makes it less repetitious.

Looks like they got a new holiday sign

FASTPASS was introduced this year, and stand-by times have skyrocketed. The area was packed with people all day long. Disney management never seems to learn that high capacity attractions don’t need ride reservation systems, even when demand is higher than normal. All that they’ve succeeded in doing by adding Fastpass here is create gridlock and angry customers. This is a high capacity attraction with a traditionally fast-moving line. Now it’s a super fast moving line for some and a slow, painful line in a packed switchback queue for everyone else. Stop the madness Disney, this just isn’t necessary. You are destroying the magic!

If you can’t read that, it’s a 60-minute standby wait with FastPass returns starting at 5:50. This was early in the day.

The exterior display here is always impressive and exudes the whimsy and wonder of the season.

Elsewhere around the park you’ll find wonderful decorations as always, but less this year as some seem to be missing. You’ll first find that the Jingle Cruise has not returned this year. While it has had mixed reactions, it’s still a shame to lose it due to the huge crowds in the park looking for holiday activities. The departure of the Jingle Cruise leaves Adventureland lacking in decorations. The only sign of Christmas is a small tree on top of the queue made out of nick-knacks and a few lights.

The usual Mardi Gras decorations grace the streets of New Orleans Square. While we’ve had Haunted Mansion Holiday since the start of the Halloween season, it still commands high wait times.

The other lands have their usual decorations, which in some cases isn’t much more than garland.

Does it seem to you that the holiday decorations have been toned down in Disneyland?

Disney California Adventure

 

As you enter California Adventure, you’ll find a similar setup to Disneyland. Garlands, trees, and holiday cheer help to get the holidays off to a great start.

The Christmas tree is as wonderful as ever, and I do really love the lively steam engine that billows smoke underneath.

World of Color: Season of Light also returns this year. This was a great replacement for  Winter Dreams, and it brings classic holiday music with dazzling water fountains. Some may think this is the best use yet of the World of Color show system.

Cars Land’s whimsical auto-themed Christmas decorations make a return this year, but I almost feel underwhelmed after the real treat they put on during Halloween. Still, Cars Land continues to be the place to be for the most unique holiday decorations.

New this year are two overlays for the flat rides in Cars Land. As with Halloween, they’ve added holiday songs and a few decorations. A minor change, but one that really does enhance the area.

Mater’s having a Jingle Jamboree this time.

Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters is now Joy to the Whirl.

Now comes the disappointing part, the rest of the park is sparsely decorated. There are no decorations in Grizzly Peak Airfield that I could find. This area did have decorations last year, but that seems to have been cut this time around.

When you enter the classic Grizzly Peak area just past Soarin’, the lights mason jars are back. The lights don’t glisten the way they did last year, though.

A Bug’s Land never had many decorations, but right now the lighting isn’t even set up. Flick is dark and missing his hat, and the ornaments are dark as well. The light strings are up and working, but that’s only half of the decorations.

Now the real kicker for me was the sheer lack of effort in Hollywood Land. I could probably count the decorations that were out on one hand.

Now it may just be me, but I don’t really see any Christmas cheer. Usually this area has tons of garland and holiday decorations, but it was few and far between on opening weekend.

Luckily I did find something in the form of the pumpkin pie shake. It’s exactly as you’d think. It’s pumpkin pie mixed with vanilla ice cream, but the flavor was a bit more understated than I’m used to. Still, it’s new and it acknowledges Thanksgiving exists.

See Ya Real Soon
We’ll be back Monday with more updates from Disneyland and detail shots of the holiday offerings as well as whats new in the park. Please be sure to comment on holiday hits and misses.

All of us on the Disneyland Photo Update crew would like to thank you for joining us today. Today’s MiceChat Disneyland Update was shot and assembled by Scott Attula with additional contributions from Dusty Sage, Brian Pinksy, Dsny Debbie, and Suzanne Lee.

 

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