If there's a better place to immerse yourself in the Holidays than Disneyland I don't know where it could be. And that's especially true if you can stay at one of Disney's resort hotels.
Once again this year, California residents can take an easy drive to Anaheim and enter a world of lights, color, music, rides and even Christmas "snow."
Familiar attractions like the Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World are re-done with Holiday themes. Downtown Disney is decorated. There's a Christmas Fantasy Parade, live reindeer, fireworks and -- weather permitting -- snow.? At Disney's California Adventure, the recent addition of the World of Color nighttime water show remains very popular. It streams 1,000 jets of water, timed to music, into a performance that includes Disney characters coming to life on the mist.
Disneyland is not just for kids, of course. My partner and I have been going there at Christmas time for many years. We always stay at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, which is an elegant lodge in the American Craftsman style. It's the kind of wood, stone and leaded-glass resort that you'd expect to find at Yosemite – only with better service and food here.
Santa is in the Grand Californian's lobby this time of year, and so are the Old English carolers. The truth is, you could have a great vacation just at the hotel, pool and spa, lounging in overstuffed fireside chairs, looking at the enormous Christmas tree, listening to holiday music and watching kids light-up with Santa.
In fact, the best places to eat at the entire Disneyland Resort may be in the hotel's first floor restaurants. Storyteller's Café features casual dining. It's comfort food in Craftsman surroundings. Next door is the elegant Napa Rose restaurant, which has received Zagat's number one food ranking in Orange County for three years. (Reservations are definitely recommended at each.) There is a third venue called White Water snacks, which may be one of the best kept secrets at Disneyland, because it's a great place to grab something quick (like a morning bagel & coffee) before entering the parks.
Staying and eating at the hotel, you could almost forget there are two world class theme parks adjacent to it, all decked out for Christmas. An added bonus: guests at the Disney hotels can enter the theme park earlier than the general public on certain "Magic Morning" days, which helps in getting to the more popular rides.
A one-day "park-hopper" pass for both parks is $105 for adults and $99 for children ages 3 to 9. There are better deals if you stay longer, and there are also special offers for Southern California residents. There are also package deals that combine hotel stays with park admissions. All of this information and more is available on Disneyland's official website.
Disneyland's Holiday theme runs through January 8th, 2012. So this Christmas if you're looking for Santa, he'll be the one saying, "I'm going to Disneyland."