On our way to “it’s a small world” holiday we passed through Frontierland, so we just had to stop at Santa’s Reindeer Round-up. With Reindeer Round-up, Santa also has his own satellite office in Big Thunder Ranch, which acts as his “West Pole” during the Christmas season. It’s a long flight from the North Pole to Disneyland, but we know people who have weekly meetings in both Los Angeles and New York, and they don’t even have magic on their side to expedite the commute. Presumably the commute is much easier for Saint Nick!
Sarah was really excited about this attraction, as she really wanted to pet a reindeer. You may recall from our last trip report that she kissed a goat (she claims otherwise). Yes, my wife, the ultra-sanitary and health conscious nurse loves these dirty animals.
Upon arriving at the Reindeer Round-up, Sarah was crushed to learn that you couldn’t pet the reindeer. She subsequently told all those we encountered of this disappointment, leading me to think up a joke (well, half-joke is more accurate) that while she was disappointed that she couldn’t touch the reindeer, I was disappointed that we couldn’t ride and fly them around. Not all that funny of a joke, I know, but it’s become one of my staples the last couple of weeks. I’ve probably told it to at least 10 different people (I’m told that makes me “like a corny old man”), so I figured I’d share it with you all. Hey, when you find a joke that works, stick with it, right?
There were 9 reindeer at Reindeer Round-up. If you’re a Disneyland aficionado, you may do a double-take at that number, noticing it’s one too high. That’s because one of the reindeer was Pluto the Dog in disguise!!! Of course, given our near infatuation with characters, and since we’ve never met Pluto the Reindeer, we rushed over to see him. He had no character handler (somewhat commonplace in Disneyland) and also no line. There was just one other couple trading off holding the camera for one another so they could each get their photos. We offered to take their photo if they’d take ours. They obliged–guest teamwork at its finest!
Throughout this trip, and on past Disneyland trips, we’ve noticed characters aren’t nearly as big of a deal in California. Sure, Mickey Mouse wearing a Christmas sweater and wandering around in Town Square draws a line, but for the most part, characters rarely have lines. When they do have lines, it’s usually for families with small children. One notable exception to this is Asian tourists. If you ever get a chance to watch Asian tourists interact with a character, avail yourself of the opportunity. They love characters. They usually will take tens of photos of the character by itself to start; then follow by having the character hold some souvenir, taking more photos of the character; and then conclude by having their photo taken with the character. They really get into it and have a lot of fun. Another notable exception to the “kids” rule is us. That’s about it, though.
Reindeer Round-up was otherwise really cool, and very detailed. In typical Disneyland fashion, the place was rife with detail. I wish I would have spent some more time examining and photographing some of these details, but the reindeer kept distracting me. Most of the time, they weren’t doing anything all that exciting (in fact, they mostly just looked pissed off), but every once in a while, they’d look antlers. Since they were all female reindeer, I can only assume that they were playing as they did this, rather than fighting for mates, but I’m no reindeer expert.
Overall, I think Reindeer Round-up was a solid attraction. Obviously Sarah was disappointed about not being able to pet a reindeer, but you can’t fault Disney for not letting people pet the reindeer in this era of litigiousness. After we “met” the goats on a prior trip, I remarked to Sarah that I was shocked that Disneyland allowed guests to touch the goats. If you’re from the midwest (as we are) petting goats is nothing out of the ordinary. You can do it at all sorts of little local places–heck, I’ve even seen goats in downtown Indianapolis at farmers’ markets in the summer. However, when you’re a multi-national corporation like Disney, you have a big bullseye on you as people look for an easy target with deep pockets for lawsuits. Consequently, companies like Disney are often very conservative in their actions that even have the potential to lead to suits. It’s a sad reality, but it is a reality.
Once we were done at the Reindeer Round-up, it was time to head to the “it’s a small world” mall.
We had debated how to approach this attraction. Again, we had not seen the inside of this attraction and knew nothing about it. However, unless you live under a rock, if you’re a Disney fan, you’ve seen photos of the facade at Christmas.
Given the beauty of the facade, it seemed appropriate to avoid the attraction until nighttime, so we would be blown away when we saw it for the first time. Of course, this assumed the exterior was the best part of the attraction, which we did assume. Ultimately, we ended up disregarding this “wait until night” strategy, and I’m not really sure why, because we were pretty convinced that the main difference and coolest aspect of the attraction was the facade. In fact, as we queued up, I even recall saying to Sarah (something like), “don’t get as excited for this one, it’s only down for refurbishment for a couple weeks, so I think it’s just new music, some small props, and Christmas lights inside.”
Again, I am so happy that we did not look at photos, video, etc., of the attraction before visiting, because what we saw left us in awe. Spoilers ahead–if you have never experienced “it’s a small world” holiday, I recommend closing this window and opening Disneyland.com so you can start booking your trip…
we found ourselves mumbling “uhhh” and “wow” about every five seconds. Suffice to say, I was surprised, elated, and absolutely blown away by the quality and scope of this overlay. It easily catapulted its way onto my short list of favorite attractions, and even now I find myself listening to its audio at home.
Again, we were totally blown away by the level of detail in the attraction and how dramatically different it was as compared to the rest of the year. Here, most of the show scenes were still quite recognizable, but they had still been substantially transformed with a lot of new set pieces.
Since “it’s a small world” is an attraction featuring customs of the world, it is thus unsurprising that “it’s a small world” holiday focused on the holiday traditions (mostly Christmas, but some other holidays in those countries not celebrating Christmas) of the world. It was such a logical overlay that I’m a little surprised it took until 1997 to start running.
As far as execution of the overlay goes, it was flawless. While I am normally somewhat of a fan of the original soundtrack (as divisive of a song as it is, I neither love or hate it), I am a huge fan of the holiday soundtrack. It was excellent. The crescendo is amazing, and it’s really a soundtrack I could listen to over and over again. Since returning home, I have done just that!
My next favorite aspect of the attraction, after the music, would probably be the scents. I don’t know why, but floating past the European tree is forever embedded in my memory because of the holidays scents of pine and peppermint in that room.
The set pieces are really impressive, and the white finale room is especially gorgeous. New for this year, I’m told, is the centerpiece of this room, a 14-foot tall snowman holding an illuminated icicle “Happy Holidays” sign. This was easily the most impressive and beautiful room. I think the European room with the Christmas tree adorned with candles was my personal favorite, though. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself–I didn’t take any photos my first couple of rides through “it’s a small world” holiday, so this text likely won’t have much in the way of accompanying photos. Don’t worry, I took hundreds of photos of “it’s a small world” holiday over the course of our trip.
After we rode the attraction twice, consecutively, we noticed that we were able to get another FastPass, so we headed back to Toontown to grab some for Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin. Of course, after getting these FastPasses, it was right back to the happiest cruise that ever sailed for another voyage.
On this ride-through, we let loose with the cameras. I took over 100 photos, and Sarah took nearly 50. I could go on gushing about the attraction and describing it for paragraphs, but I believe this is one of those times when photos speak louder than words:
As we exited “it’s a small world” holiday for the third time, we realized that it was already 1 pm, and we had only done two attractions (three if you count Santa’s Reindeer Round-up). Now, in all fairness, we had experienced those two attractions a total of five times, but we figured maybe we should start to mix things up a little. After all, we did have five days in Disneyland. At this rate, we’d probably end up riding the two holiday attractions fifty times each, and all other attractions a grand total of zero times. The more I pondered it, the more this didn’t seem like such a bad idea!
We were again eligible for another FastPass, so we decided to get one for Space Mountain. Sarah did this while I took photos of the submarine lagoon. I’ve said it before, but there are few things more beautiful in all of Disneyland than that submarine lagoon. I really hope the Fantasyland Expansion at Walt Disney World brings a new beautiful body of water like this one. Oddly, I think I’m more excited about the landscaping and structures than the actual attractions!
Sarah returned from her FastPass mission, dejected. She was informed that the attraction was done. I was a little puzzled by this, wondering why she didn’t proceed to get the FastPasses. So we returned to the queue ramp, and right as we headed towards the FastPass area, the Cast Member at the entrance said, “we’re back up!”
We passed on the FastPasses and immediately got in the line. In line, I joked to Sarah that we should make a Touring Plan (for my employer, TouringPlans.com) predicated on a bunch of conditional variables that are difficult for the average guest to satisfy.
For instance, on the Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World) plan, step one would be to use a FastPass from the day before at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, step two would be to get in line for Space Mountain right as it came up from being down, step three would be to use a FastPass acquired at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion on a previous trip at WDW’s Haunted Mansion, step four would be to use ride swap to experience WDW’s Storybook Land Canal Boats, and so on, with steps that defied the bounds of logic what’s possible. Feel free to add your nonsensical steps to the plan. We had fun doing this while waiting for Space, and got a few laughs out of it. When we met up with Henry Work later in the day (I apologize in advance for him making appearances in this trip report), he didn’t seem to find this nonsensical Touring Plan too humorous, so don’t feel bad if you don’t, either.
Space Mountain at Disneyland continues to grow on me, even though I still prefer Walt Disney World’s. Yeah, the track may be a bit rough (isn’t that part of the thrill?!), but the attraction just has more character!
After Space Mountain, we grabbed FastPasses for Star Tours and headed for lunch. It was clearly going to be one of “those days” when we stockpiled so many FastPasses for the evening that there would be no way we’d use them all.
We started by checking out the Plaza Inn. I was really excited about the Yule Log served there, so this seemed like the perfect place to eat. For whatever reason, we opted against eating there, though.
Instead, we headed over to Carnation Café, and briefly debated eating there. It seemed like a delicious choice, and I had seen a new review on DisneyFoodBlog.com the day before we left that showed a mouth-watering steak sandwich. However, it was a table service restaurant, and this was the day that the parks would be the slowest during our trip. Did we really want to waste time at a table service restaurant? That question was answered fairly easily for us, when I saw the steak sandwich being served to someone in the open-air Carnation Café while we were waiting outside. It looked miraculous!
And so it was. The Café Steak Melt was quite possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had at Disney. At only $11.99, it was only a couple dollars more than a counter service option, and was so much more delicious. I think the Steak Melt has dethroned the excellent sandwiches at Sunshine Seasons as my favorite Disney sandwich. It was really that good.
Sarah was not quite as impressed, saying it was too greasy (it wasn’t!). Since making this statement, Sarah has been shunned by her family, and had her Disney-fanboy card revoked. How can you not like the Café Steak Melt? I can see not liking the Monte Cristo, as that thing is just plain gross. But the Café Steak Melt?! That sandwich is the stuff of legends!
Sarah had some healthy (well, healthier, at least) deli sandwich, which was okay, but not nearly as good as the fabled Café Steak Melt. Someday, I predict school children will read tales of that heroic sandwich saving Disneyland. It was seriously that good.
For dessert, we noticed ordered the Mickey Mouse Demitasse. Despite this being on a display stand at the front of the restaurant, our server and another server had no idea that it was being sold at Carnation Café (to be fair, it wasn’t on the menu) so we had to point it out on the check-in kiosk. Since this was served in a nice-looking souvenir mug, we felt the need to ask its price before ordering it (fearing it might be $15.99) and were quite shocked to learn that it was only $6.99!
It was delicious, albeit somewhat small. The mug alone looked like it would cost more than $6.99 in the Emporium, so we were quite pleased with the purchase. (Shameless plug ahead…) For more information about the Demitasse and countless other holiday desserts sold at Disneyland, check out my eBook, A Disneyland Christmas!
…and that’s how we end installment two of the trip report. Quite the breakneck pace–three different attractions experienced in two installments–right? The pace will start to pick up with tomorrow’s installment!
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