Today is a special day at the Disneyland Resort. It's the first Saturday of December, which means it's the day of the Candlelight Processional. Since 1958, some form of this event has been going on at Disneyland.
We knew going into it that this was going to be a long day for us. I know from experience that getting to the park late just means long lines at the parking garage and long waits at security. Alarms were set in the morning to make sure we'd be out the door on time.
All the planning paid off because there was no-one in front of us at the parking garage, security was a breeze, and getting into the park was easy.
This is our usual spot to watch the show from. This year Disney has decreed that there will be no lining up over here yet. There's already people meandering nearby though. More time for us to do stuff in the morning.
So while it was still available I wanted to get some family photos in front of the Candlelight stage.
Me and Ian.
And Alli and Theresa.
The City Hall side of the stage has benches that are taken as soon as the park opens.
The last few weeks Gadget's Go Coaster has had really long lines by the time we made our way over to it. Today it's nearly a walk-on.
Our first time through.
Ian surprised me by saying he didn't want to ride a second time. Alli was up for it though. And we got the front row!
During a bathroom break Ian noticed Roger Rabbit on the sign by the Mens room. I told him Jessica Rabbit was on the Women's restroom.
Ian - She doesn't look like a rabbit.
Off to go on the Yellow Cab ride.
Being in the Christmas spirit, we joined a few other spirits in the Holiday Haunted Mansion.
Ian noticed the snake in the stretching room is different than the snake in the Mansion's attic. Ian - This one looks like a candy cane snake.
At 10:30am everyone took another trip to the front of Main Street to check if anyone was lining up yet. Cast Member Cesar was keeping the area clear, letting everyone know that people will be able to line up around 1pm. He suggested coming back around 12:45. There's still a few people hanging out waiting here so I think we'll be back a little before that.
Buzz Lightyear was calling us.
Theresa had an impressive finish. Her score doesn't even fit on the ride vehicle's display. 999999.
At the ride exit, there is the option to email a photo of yourself on the ride. Theresa got a screen indicating her score was in the Top Ten and prompted her to enter her initials.
She's #3 for the day so far!
And got her initials on the screen overhead.
Time for the kids to have a snack. T was well prepared with a large bag of cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. They love em.
Leaving Buzz and walking back towards the castle, Alice and the Mad Hatter appeared. They noticed Ian and Alli in their adorable elf outfits and just had to come over. Alice complimented them on their good eating habits. The Mad Hatter said something like "They're eating very h-ELF-y"
Ian has wanted to go down this walkway for a little while now since we returned from our big vacation. He's been thinking there's a maze at the end of it.
Instead, once we arrived, we were all shrunk down in size and walking into Pixie Hollow.
And around the next corner was Tinker Bell!
Tinker Bell spent nearly 2 minutes with them. Tinker Bell - Your hat puffs match my shoe puffs.
We had been wondering if perhaps fairies and elves were related. Tinker Bell thought about it and said. We both like green. We're all pretty small. Elves like to make things. And Tinker fairies like to make things. So maybe Elves are just Tinker Fairies who can't fly.
Alli told Tinker Bell that she liked her flowers. Tinker Bell said we have Rosetta to thank for those. The kids loved meeting Tinker Bell and I'm guessing we'll be stopping to see the characters a little more often.
At 11:15am we Fastpass'd it's a small world.
I had thought only me and Ian had our names on the nice list here. But as our boat floated by Santa's North Pole house, we can hear him checking names off his list.
Santa - Let's see. There's Taylor, Allison, and Chad...
Alli! He said your name!
And Ian found his name and mine (Joey) on this list a little further back.
Before we boarded, a cast member came up to us and the kids, saying how cute they were and asking their Elf Names. Earlier today the kids decided on Peppermint for Ian and Candy Cane for Alli. They told her their names and I thought that was the end of it.
But about 20 minutes later as we were leaving I heard, Peppermint! Candy Cane! She came over and found us again asking how we enjoyed our ride. And she even remembered their names.
It's around 11:40am. I had a fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain at 12:10, but T made a convincing case that I'd regret not getting a good spot for Candlelight much more than I would regret not riding Big Thunder today. Good point. Back towards Main Street.
For lunch today, the kids wanted to supplement their fruit and veggies with a pretzel. T and I both enjoyed the Philly Cheesesteak Hot Dog.
Back at the front of the park people are still milling about. It's a little before noon right now.
And by 12:10, the area around the Opera House is getting crowded. Might as well make some new friends. I spoke to 5-6 different groups, hearing about what motivated them to come today. A couple of them flew in from San Jose or San Francisco just for this. One couple drove from Sacramento bright and early and after the show were heading right back. Some were locals who happened to be in the park previous years and saw the craziness in the area, learned what it was, and have been coming back ever since. And at one couple were first-timers, reading about it on Instagram and wanting to be a part of it this year.
And everyone had a different part of the show that was their favorite. For some it was the procession down Main Street with the candles. Others liked the trumpeters on top of the Main Street Railroad. Another loved hearing Drew Tablak singing Silent Night, and then along with Nancy Sulahian, leading the entire crowd in the singing of Silent Night. One person liked the Handbell Choir. Personally I enjoy the Hallelujah chorus where everyone stands up together.
At 12:35, Cast Member Doug comes over those of us waiting by the Opera House. He started with something like "You're all going to be next to each other for a long time, so in a very friendly manner, please walk over to the curb. You need to be on the curb because we need to keep the walkway clear."
According to the timestamp on my photos, this is the scene 30 seconds later. Look to the left.
Look to the right. Candlelight starts in 5 hours.
T was quick to the curb for us with a blanket. I was right behind her with the kids.
Some of our neighbors told us a short time later, they overheard the cast members discussing amongst themselves what to do about the scooter and the double stroller that weren't on the curb. In the end, they taped off a little wider section than originally planned. Our neighbors said all those people not on the curb should be thankful that we were there with the stroller because it expanded the waiting area.
T quipped that it would be the first time anyone in Disneyland ever thanked someone for bringing a double-wide stroller to the park.
So, here we are. Waiting it out.
Thankfully everyone was very friendly. We spent the time chatting and trading Disney stories. People watched each others things when people needed to run to the bathroom or grab something out of a locker. When one person went to Starbucks to grab a couple drinks, they filled up 2 drink trays with ice water and offered it to everyone nearby. Really a pleasant group.
I made this graphic a few years ago and it still holds true.
The Paid Seats are for Club 33 members, obvious by their Club 33 earmuffs (must have been a gift this year), and other Disney high-ups.
The Fuchsia Bench seats are taken as soon as the park opens. The past few years, I prefer the general seating (standing) area on the right.
The area in front of us is roped off to others but wide open for us. T and Alli dancing a little while the music for the parade started up.
And Theresa and Alli walked over to watch the 1pm parade while Ian and I kept our spots.
Everyone is impressed with the kids eating habits. They love fruit and veggies and are quick to offer it to others.
After the parade passed, giant piles of chairs were wheeled out.
As a reward for not biting her nails, Alli is getting a treat. T using her new favorite nail polish replacement to do them while we wait.
As cast member came by around 2:20pm with a rope. He also informed us the area in front that they would have chairs going all the way up to the curb.
Goodbye free space.
Around 3:15pm it was time for the Christmas Fantasy parade to do a 180 and go back the other direction.
I love seeing the Tin Soldier marching band.
Is Disney becoming more PC? This might have been changed in previous years, but it's the first time I'm noticing it. Elves holding the rope indicating the end of the parade this year.
They're not elves.
The Disney custodial staff was hard at work making sure the chairs would be clean for the people sitting in them shortly.
They posted these signs at the entrances to the seating areas. The other side said "Private Event".
Now that the parade has passed, all the wheelchairs and scooters that have been waiting all day in front of the Disney Showcase can finally move into position. It's ~3:45pm.
10 minutes later, the Orange and Green Disabled Seating sections in my map above were filled up.
So how do the kids do with long waits? They endure them happily. At home, iPad use is very limited. Whenever we're out in a social setting they are learning to behave without being entertained. For times like this though when they've already been on good behavior for hours and socializing with adults, I'm willing to give them some leeway and let them have some screen time.
Both of them turned them off though while we watched the flag retreat ceremony. I love when everyone in the crowd sings along with the National Anthem.
There were rumors about who would be the narrator this year, but Disney kept it tight under wraps. Around 4:30pm, it was time to do a mike check and everyone's question was answered. From where we were standing it was a little hard to tell, but I took a photo, zoomed in, and... Hey! It's Chris Pratt!
The mike check consisted of "Hello Disneyland" and that was it.
Less than a minute later he was back off-stage.
This year our friends Armand and Robbin couldn't make it. We're keeping one of their traditional alive though by bringing out snacks for people nearby. T started by offering Dove Peppermint Bark. And continued with Popcornopolis Zebra popcorn (mmm).
At 4:50pm, some of the first people were led into the seated section.
It's 5pm and the area in the immediate vicinity is packed.
We're all in good spirits.
Looking at the crowd behind us around 5pm. It's a full house.
Bring on Candlelight!