After reading a few other posts about this year's crowded holiday season I decided to make a last minute trip decision yesterday to Disneyland and discovered a really good holiday attractions strategy in the process.
My family and I arrived at the park at 5pm from San Diego. Traffic was light all around the resort except for some backup going to the entrance to the Mickey & Friends structure on Disneyland Dr. Since I didn't plan on staying for more than 5 hrs I went to the DTD lot instead where there was plenty of self parking. Took the monorail instead of going through the front gate, there was a small crowd of people in line for the monorail, a little more than usual but not too bad. When we got off the monorail it was evident that the park was at a pretty high capacity. At 5:30 spots were running out quick for the 6:30 parade so I camped a spot in the walkway between the Matterhorn and the hub.
The parade was great! It was longer than I remember it being in past years but we all loved it. As the parade was wrapping up we jumped into the herd of guests trailing the parade and followed it all the way up to IASW. Since we were right behind the parade the line for IASW was less than 10 min when we got in and as an added bonus we got to see the full projection mini-show while in line.
IASW's holiday overlay is great as always. To me the polished luminescence of the holiday sets made the Disney character additions almost disappear into the background. The combination of LED lighting with the Christmas overlays made the attraction interior almost larger than life. I don't think that my daughter blinked at all in that ride. After IASW we decided to push our luck and head to HMH even though we already had our fill of the ride on Halloween. We took the back walkway to Frontierland and stopped for a picture at the photo spot at the entrance to BTR.
HMH was only about a 15 minute wait due to many of the guests in the area getting ready for Fantasmic. This was the first time in a long time where the ride didn't have a special assistance stall. We were able to ride with completely no stops which was nice.
After HMH we went down to main street to get some tree ornaments. The hub and main street were crowded already at 8:30 with fireworks campers. The shops were packed! The lines for the registers at the ornament store were at least 10 minutes for both. I noticed that many purchasers were annual passholders who were pleased to discover that they got a 10% discount with their non-premium passes. The last place we went to was the tree where there were no lines for the photo pass photographer at all! We walked up, got our family pictures snapped and walked out. We also were able to do the same at the Mickey floral display.
We made it to the car right when the fireworks started. I never realized how great of a view you could get from the self parking lot at DTD so we sat in the car, turned the heater up and watched just about the whole thing. The most pleasant surprise of all was leaving the lot. I gave the attendant my ticket, he said "bye" and raised the gate basically letting us go without needing to pay for the extra hours.
All in all this was the best holiday trip to the parks that I have had in a long time. I would highly recommend riding the parade wave to IASW and then going to HMH after to get really short evening wait times for the holiday attractions. I'm still trying to figure out how perfect things went despite the crowds.