There’s nothing Yahoo Travel loves more than to pit rival destinations against each other to determine once and for all which place is the best. This week, we’re having a Disney winter standoff: Florida’s Walt Disney World vs. California’s Disneyland. Which park do you need to visit right now? We’ve got the scoop.
Disneyland turned 60 in 2015, and the Diamond Celebration has been going on all year long. This winter, guests will enjoy the sparkling lights and holiday decor — but that’s not all. Brand-new Star Wars attractions will transform the park into a Jedi training ground filled with more magic and excitement than ever before.
Main Attraction — It’s a Small World
It’s a small, and very bright, world. (Photo: Anna Fox/Flickr)
It might be a small world, but the Christmas celebration is mighty big at Disneyland. Starting on Nov. 6, this classic attraction lights up with special Christmas decorations. The ride plays an “It’s a Small World”/“Jingle Bells” musical mix, as riders glide through scenes decorated with snowmen, candy canes, and toy soldiers. It’s a thrilling (yet slowly paced) ride through an animatronic winter wonderland.
A party ain’t a party without a parade. Luckily Disneyland never disappoints. While there is no organized Christmas party like the one at Walt Disney World, the Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland features your favorite princesses along with Santa and his reindeer! It’s almost too much awesomeness in one place.
The 60-foot tree at Disneyland. (Photo: Adam Crownoble/Flickr)
Attending a tree lighting is a universal holiday experience, so it’s only fitting that the good folks at Disneyland light a Christmas tree — every night! From Nov. 13 through Dec. 24, a 60-foot tree lights up at 5 p.m. on Buena Vista Street. As you look at the tree, enjoy a festive serenade from the Buena Vista Street Community Bell Ringers.
The famous Yule Log cake at Disneyland. (Photo: Loren Javier/Flickr)
There are no new restaurants at Disneyland, but there is still plenty of good food to discover.
Winter is the only time of year when you can buy the Yule Log dessert cake at the Plaza Inn. This sweet treat is usually made with chocolate and features frosting that will definitely give you a sugar rush. The cake costs about $5, but don’t worry: It’s big enough to share!
What You Can Only See Here
Get ready to board the Starspeeder 1000! (Photo: Disney)
The force is about to get even stronger at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “Season of the Force” begins on Nov. 16 when the parks will begin to unveil some new Star Wars inspired features sure to knock your socks off.
Starting Dec.1, “Star Wars Launch Bay” will introduce guests to the upcoming film Star Wars: The Force Awakens with special exhibits and opportunities to meet iconic characters like Chewbacca and Darth Vader.
The already popular “Star Tours — The Adventure Continues” will introduce a brand-new adventure inspired by the film.
Additionally, “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi” will feature scenes from the saga, and “Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple” will take guests through a reimagined Jedi training experience.
See pricing chart for info on park tickets.
Walt Disney World
Every winter, Walt Disney World transforms into a Christmas wonderland. Main Street U.S.A. is decked out in wreaths, Christmas lights adorn every building, and all of the characters are dressed in their best holiday duds. This winter, guests will enjoy the traditional holiday celebrations and some new restaurants that are definitely worth traveling for.
Main Attraction — Cinderella Castle
This castle belongs to Cinderella, but during the holidays, Elsa takes over every night. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
We’ve got one word for you: Frozen. Every night during the holiday season, Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom is turned into an ice palace during a spectacular show filled with music and magic. The “Frozen Holiday Wish Show” includes Elsa, who uses her magic (and some lighting effects and snowflake projections) to transform the castle into a twinkling thing of beauty. Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are also there to join in on the fun.
On select nights from now until Dec. 18, “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” will rock the streets of the Magic Kingdom from 7 p.m. to midnight. Not only can you watch Elsa transform Cinderella Castle into an ice palace, but you can also watch a parade of your favorite characters down Main Street U.S.A. while sipping on hot cocoa. Oh, and did we mention that Santa Claus will be there, too?
This street is so bright, you might need to wear your sunglasses at night. (Photo: Disney/Facebook)
From Christmas trees at different parks, to candy canes and wreaths, there are little festive touches everywhere you look at Walt Disney World. With that said, the showstopper has to be the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the show is made up of more than 10 miles of lights and uses about 800,000 watts of electricity. Even more impressive, the lights are synchronized to music! This light show has been a tradition in the park for 20 years, but in September, Disney announced that this will be the spectacle’s last season — so see it now or miss out on it forever.
Inside the Pan-Asian paradise of Morimoto Asia. (Photo: Walt Disney World)
With two new restaurants in the recently named Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), there is even more good food to eat at Walt Disney World this season.
Morimoto Asia opened in September and features Pan-Asian cuisine from the famous chef Masaharu Morimoto. Sip on Morimoto’s signature sake while you dine on sushi, pork bao, and edamame.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar also opened in September, and is named after Indiana Jones’s sidekick and pilot. The restaurant serves up tasty American favorites like bratwurst, spiced meatballs, and burgers.
The epic gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. (Photo: Jared/Flickr)
During the holiday season, the Walt Disney luxe resorts all display large gingerbread creations in their lobby. The Contemporary always puts on an impressive show, the Beach Club usually features a large gingerbread carousel, and Disney’s Grand Floridian stuns with a 16-foot-high Victorian gingerbread house.
What You Can Only See Here
Celebrate Christmas around the world at Epcot. (Photo: Disney)
Epcot is unlike any other place in the world. Where else can you experience a dozen different countries and cultures in just one day? Christmas is celebrated differently around the world, and Epcot takes the time to share the traditions that makes every country unique. At American Adventure, introduce your little one to the celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Then, head over to China, where you can watch the Lion Dance and celebrate the Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival. Oh, and you can’t forget a visit to Norway, where you learn about Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome.
While you’re at Epcot, take a few moments to listen to the inspiring showcase “Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season.” And if you really want to get in the holiday mood, hear the story of Christmas narrated by a celebrity (think Neil Patrick Harris), with the help of a 50-piece orchestra and choir.
A one-day ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starts at $74 for children 10 and older. The cost is $69 for children ages 3 to 9.
See pricing chart for info on park tickets.
And the winner is…
It was a close call, but we think Disneyland is the winner of this smackdown. All of the cool new Star Wars attractions are just way too enticing. Honestly, who among us doesn’t want to take a selfie with Chewbacca to put on their Christmas card?
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