The Happiest Place on Earth for Christmas

Jackson and I weren’t able to fly home for Christmas this year, so we decided to do something extra special to make up for it—Disneyland!

This was our first December living in California and Jackson’s first year working with a winter sport as an athletic trainer. I absolutely love watching the men’s basketball games and sneaking peeks at my suited-up husband on the bench, but the closer it got to December 25 the less it felt like Christmas.

We knew this season would be difficult. Missing our nephew’s first Christmas. Family jokes. Homemade cookies. Digging through the rice pudding to find the almond and win the prize. Opening stockings together. Christmas Eve candlelight service. SNOW. All of it.

This Christmas was definitely different, but special in its own way. On Christmas Eve we went to church and sang Christmas songs about Jesus and celebrated his birth. We focused on the lyrics and saw these songs in a whole new light. Afterward we visited with friends while sipping on iced peppermint mocha coffees. (Yes, iced. It’s almost always 70 some degrees in California.)

That night we headed to LA because Jackson’s boss invited us to join them for a Japanese Christmas Eve. We ate so much meat—prime rib, salmon, blue fin, sea urchin! We sang Christmas carols in Christmas hats, listened to the 17 year old piano and violin prodigy, and slept in their Japanese tea room. It was far from our classic Christmas celebrations, but we loved it all the same.

The next morning I was wide-awake at the crack of dawn. Christmas! Jackson and I got ready as quick as we could—daylight was burning. And on that day I couldn’t have been more thankful for FaceTime. Before heading out the door we were able to video chat with our families and exchange gifts with each other. I was so excited to see my family open the gifts we’d specifically picked out for each person. Their faces didn’t disappoint. Even though we were itching to get to Disneyland early, I wouldn’t trade that time with family for anything.

When we finally got on the road—coffee and muffins in hand—we were only moments away from the happiest place on earth. I couldn’t stop squealing as we pulled up.

First stop: Space Mountain. We knew this ride would get crazy busy later in the day so we hopped in line right away. After an hour-long wait we strapped in and plunged through the galactic ride. To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite ride as I have little interest in aliens and space, but it was a fun coaster nonetheless.

After that we continued our day with the Haunted Mansion which had a HUGE  gingerbread house in it made by Disneyland bakers and it smelled incredible. We set sail on a Pirates of the Caribbean voyage before grabbing a cream cheese-filled pretzel and corn dogs to tide us over. Seriously, nothing beats a cream cheese-filled pretzel.

We walked over to Fantasyland and that’s when I saw the teacups. My sister and I watched Uptown Girls with Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning all the time as kids. Ever since I saw the scene where Dakota Fanning runs off to ride the teacups, I’ve been itching to try it myself, even though spinny rides make me sick to my stomach. The line was short and there was an adorable elderly couple in front of us headed toward the yellow teacup. We followed them and hopped in the green one, of course. I wasn’t too worried because I figured we’d just sit in the cups and spin it as little as possible to prevent sickness. But once the ride started we couldn’t resist spinning it a little, and when we did it was a blast! Faster and faster and faster we went. The trick is to stare at the person across from you and you won’t get dizzy! Needless to say, it was one of my favorite rides that day.

When it got dark, the whole park lit up! Christmas lights were all over the place and it was truly magical.

We went on a couple more rides and when our stomachs started to rumble we set out for the jumbo turkey leg. All day we passed person after person gnawing on their meaty treats. We’d been in and out of lines waiting for that turkey leg, but the line was either too long or after awhile the merchant would yell, “We’re all out of turkey!” But finally, tucked into the depths of Fantasyland we found a jumbo turkey leg stand with about 8 people in it. I’m pretty sure I saw a drop of drool exit Jackson’s mouth when the clerk passed the leg through the window. Finally, the turkey leg was ours.

We had about enough time for one more ride before the fireworks so we hopped in the longest line of all—It’s a Small World. The line weaved back and forth and then back and forth some more. Thankfully we had that turkey leg to keep us occupied for the first stretch and as we got closer the Christmas light shows kept us entertained. I had no idea what this ride was going to be like, but it did not disappoint! It was the most Christmasy thing I’d seen all day! Room after room was filled with holiday cheer from all over the world. Mele Kalikimaka. God Jul. Feliz Navidad. Fröhliche Weihnachten. My face hurt from smiling so much after we exited the boat.

Even though we were terribly tired we decided to wait out the fireworks. Five minutes before they were scheduled to start an announcement came over the park speakers and said the fireworks were cancelled due to wind conditions. Instead, they played White Christmas over the speakers and showered the place in fake snow. It wasn’t fireworks, but it still gave that Christmas spark.

We crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillow that night. Disneyland is exhausting, but well worth it.