THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH — Not that any of us need an excuse to visit Disneyland in Anaheim at any time of the year, but fall in the park is an especially exciting time. The air is crisp, the crowds are thinner and there may just be a bit more magic hanging from the tops of the turrets of Sleeping Beauty Castle.
During the holidays, Disneyland goes all out. The park decor and the atmosphere seems to morph into a wonderland of festive goodness. Summer brings the big crowds and the heat, but fall is really the time to visit the park for those looking for a bit more of a laid-back time. Here are four more reasons to head to the happiest place on earth during the festivities of the holiday season.
Disneyland does not disappoint when it comes to decking the halls for the holidays. Starting earlier each year — mid-September for 2013 — park decorators get to work dressing things up for Halloween.
Disneyland had been slower on Halloween decor than other parks in the area, not installing fall decor until 2006.
When they came on the scene, however, park Halloween decorators did not hold back. For Halloween, the park is decked out in pumpkins and orange and black ribbons. The most prominent pumpkin display is set up near the entrance to Main Street, USA. A 12-foot Mickey Mouse head, orange and autumnal, greets visitors to the park and sets off the Halloween atmosphere.
Christmas decorations have been a part of the park since its opening in 1955. Over the years, the decor has changed, but planners have always taken the yuletide seriously. In recent years, Christmas-time sees "snow" on the turrets of the iconic castle, as well as a bevy of garland and ornaments draped on just about every lamppost and tree.
A few Disneyland rides undergo a haunting transformation for Halloween, most notably Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain. According the “The Disneyland Encyclopedia: The Unofficial, Unauthorized and Unprecedented History of Every Land, Attraction, Restaurant, Shop and Major Event in the Original Magic Kingdom”(it’s pretty comprehensive), Haunted Mansion started its yearly homage to “The Nightmare Before Christmas” back in 2001. Since this transformation, the park has seen a 40 percent rise in attendance during September and October.
Space Mountain, the park’s indoor astronomic high-speed attraction, becomes Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy during the Halloween season. The spooky overlay started at the Hong Kong Disneyland in 2007 and opened to U.S. park-goers in Southern California on Sept. 25, 2009.
Space Mountain: Ghost Galaxy is definitely geared for older riders. A demonic-looking specter haunts riders throughout the roller-coaster’s three-minute duration and a few of the usually-lit tunnels are pitch black, giving the ride a disorienting and totally haunted feel.
At Christmas, It’s a Small World undergoes a magical transformation, with added lights and decor throughout the ride. Be aware the attraction closes for about a week near the end of October to give park decorators a chance to deck its halls.
Southern California can get quite hot in the summer and pretty chilly in the middle of the winter. Fall is a mild season, with temperatures averaging in the mid-70s. For those looking for a comfortable trip to the Happiest Place on Earth without scorching heat or gloomy fog, autumn is the perfect time to visit.
While autumn is a fantastic season to visit the park as far as weather goes, be advised it can rain on occasion. Check the forecast and plan accordingly. As soon as the precipitation breaks, most Disneyland shops vend child- and adult-size rain ponchos, as well as umbrellas. Rain can actually play to the advantage, as ride lines are shorter and crowds on thinner on wet days.
While winter is usually the quietest season as far as crowds go, autumn in the park also sees lower numbers than the peak season during the summer. According The Disneyland Linkage, a blog dedicated to all things Disneyland, line wait times drop significantly during October, November and December — but watch out for holidays, as line wait times average around 90 minutes for larger attractions on special days.
Fall wait times average around 20 minutes for larger, more popular rides, making a visit to the park easier for those with small children. Those staying at Disney-owned hotels have access to Disney Magic Hours, allowing early entrance into a chosen park — either Disneyland or California Adventure. Early admittance give visitors ample time in the morning to enjoy minimum ride wait times, especially during the fall season.
Visiting Disneyland at any time of year is magical; holiday time at the park is, perhaps, just a bit more so.