The merriest place on earth

Thinking of taking the family to Disneyland? Now is definitely the time. They're at the tail end of their slow season, the weather is nice and cool, and they're already celebrating the holidays. It's hard not to get into the spirit of the season after visiting the Disneyland Resort anytime in November or December. The good people of Disney certainly throw their heart and soul into dressing up the place for the holidays. From the moment you enter the park, there's no doubt as to the time of year.

Disney's California Adventure

Even the giant letters in Disney's California Adventure have been candy-cane striped for the holidays -- so actually, even before you enter the park you'll see signs of Christmas. (Yes, I'm being un-PC but then again, all I saw were traditional red-and-green Christmas decor. No blue and white Hannukah themes, no Kwanza, not even Festivus. So Christmas it is).

It's a Small World Holiday

Inside the parks, the decor is just as grand. The attention to detail (think specially printed Christmas napkins, plastic drinking cups and popcorn buckets) is astounding. My favorites:

* Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas takes over the Haunted Mansion.

* The French Cancan dancers inside the It's A Small World ride have jingle bells tied to their ankles and skirts (like the Haunted Mansion, this ride was closed down to decorate the whole thing especially for the holidays).

* The gigantic Christmas tree decor scattered all around Flik's Fun Fair at California Adventure.

Reindeer Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch

They've got a special Christmas section over at the Big Thunder Ranch featuring Santa (there's a line to see him; apparently he's just as big a celebrity as Mickey and Minnie) and his reindeer in a cute, if smelly, little paddock.

Goofy's Gingerbread House

Their "Christmas Fantasy" parade features float after float of holiday themes like gingerbread houses, snowflakes, Santa's Toyshop and Santa himself. We planted ourselves on the Main Street sidewalk an hour before the parade started in order to get a prime viewing spot -- in the shade, the sun behind us, with a great view of Sleeping Beauty's castle (also decorated, of course) to our left and the giant Main Street Station Christmas tree to our right. It was totally worth it -- we sat and had lunch while waiting, and we were close enough to shake the performers' hands (I was a bit surprised to see that they don't go around shaking people's hands anymore like they did when I watched the parades as a kid -- how long has it been like that?).

Disney Holiday treats

At the Disney blogger event we attended over the weekend, we got to see a presentation of all the yummy holiday treats available at the Disneyland resort, like gingerbread men, individually sized cranberry-lemon tea loaves, rice krispie stars (these were delicious -- here's a tip, people, they use unsalted butter), decorate-your-own cookies and a Jack Skellington cheesecake.

When you visit the Disneyland Resort over the holidays, definitely plan on leaving your diet -- and your cynicism --at home.

To view the slideshow (and more photos of holiday magic at Disneyland), click on this link or on the photo above. Also check out my friend Techmama's liveblogging notes on the event.

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