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Disneyland transforms for the holidays
By Lauren Brooks
Disneyland donned its best Halloween costume to celebrate the season.
Smiling jack-o-lanterns peered out of windows on Main Street while candy corn littered Disney’s California Adventure park. The ghouls of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” took over the Haunted Mansion and children dressed in colorful costumes – lots of princesses, a couple of Jedi knights and at least one dragon – roamed wild.
Some of these kids looked like they were having a blast while others were napping in their parents’ arms or in strollers. By the end of my second day in the park, I was ready for a nap myself!
On Main Street, a larger-than-life Mickey Mouse jack-o-lantern proved to be a hit for visitors. The park also featured a Halloween Tree, an oak decorated with lights and grinning, or grimacing, jack-o-lantern ornaments. The tree was a nice reminder that Christmas is just around the corner.
Most of my favorite memories center on the holidays. Spending time with family and friends, making and eating lots of good food, decorating the house and yard, and dressing up in either a costume or a cute dress are all part of the holiday fun.
So going to Disneyland for Halloween was a memory worth making.
And I wasn’t alone among the ghouls. I was there with my fiancé, Richard, to help our friend, Scott, celebrate his 24th birthday, along with a few other friends. Being born on Halloween allows for some great birthday parties!
I think the 2-year-old in our group, Megan, would agree. She laughed and screamed with excitement as she rode The Matterhorn Bobsleds with her parents. After the ride, we asked her if she liked the Matterhorn and her face lit up, framed by her wavy red hair. She grinned and nodded.
During one of our two afternoons at the park, we snacked on Dole Whip, soft-serve pineapple ice cream, near the Enchanted Tiki Room. It was so good, Richard and I might go back just to get some more.
For lunch, we feasted on creamy, cheesy potato soup at an outdoor café on Main Street. We dined at the swanky Blue Bayou restaurant, which is found inside The Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It’s the most popular restaurant in the park, and we had to make reservations two months in advance!
The Blue Bayou was pricey, but worth it. It serves delicious Cajun food (I recommend the Tesora Island chicken; Richard and Scott favored the steak), and features great service and an atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else. The chirping crickets, dim lighting and spooky river made us feel like we were outside. We sat at a table near the water and watched passengers on The Pirates of the Caribbean sail past in rickety boats. Across the water, we could see a crumbling shack with a flickering light in the window.
The Pirates ride is one of my favorites, but this year the Haunted Mansion stole the show. The ride is completely different, starting with the entrance, which featured Jack Skellington, the star of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Jack, dressed in a Santa suit, was perched on the side of the entrance gate. The characters from the movie, including Oogie Boogie, pop up throughout the ride and even take over the mansion’s dining room.
I’ve heard that The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, in California Adventure, also spooks itself up for Halloween. We planned to ride that one after it got dark, but discovered, much to our disappointment, that California Adventure closes much earlier than the rest of Disneyland. This was one of the Disneyland must-sees for Richard, so Scott and I reminded him that he can’t die happy any time soon. Besides, I’d like to keep him around for awhile.
For the holidays, California Adventure boasted an abundance of candy corn. It sprouted from gardens as pumpkins or cornstalks. Just outside California Adventure, candy corn dangled out of palm trees, like mutated coconuts. The park even had the “World’s Largest Candy Corn” on display for photos – watch for the hungry caterpillar!
The festive decorations and rides made Disneyland stand out for the holidays, and helped create some fun Halloween memories that I will hold on to for many years, but it was the people I was with who give those memories meaning.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.