Our Wacky Family Traditions for Visiting Disney Parks

Living so close to the Disneyland and California Adventure we are a little spoilt. We’ve been Disneyland Resort Parks pass holders on and off for the better part of a decade and last year we traveled to Disney World as well. Friends and family ask us for advice when they come to visit the parks near our Southern California home and I almost feel sorry for them. We have opinions. So many opinions!

 People sometimes ask us if we are sick of going to the parks as often as we do. It’s like asking a kid if he/she is sick of Christmas.

Although our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, every year we do celebrate the season at the Disneyland Parks. For us, visiting the parks, watching the seasonal fireworks and parades, and riding the transformed rides is a winter tradition unto itself. No holiday season would be complete without a visit! This year is extra special with the addition of Cars Land in the newly imagineered California Adventure Park. We’re not sure what to check out first over there.

Newness is a challenge because, of course we have our own way of “doing” the parks. You know how it goes… you visit a place often enough and you develop routines and rituals. Our family has its own special agenda when we visit Disney, both during the holidays and year round.

We don’t call these “must do” items quirks. We call these traditions.

Click through to see whether your family has some of the same traditions as ours!

The Disneyland parks site has a list of all the amazing things you can do at Disneyland during the holidays. Many of these parades, attractions and ride transformations are only there for a brief time — you won’t want to miss them. We’ve embraced many of these special holiday happenings as our own family traditions, but we’ve included some twists, courtesy of my children. That’s part of the magic of Disney. There’s something for everyone and a chance to make your family’s experiences uniquely your own, just like a family recipe for fruitcake, including some nuts!

Here are some of the things that our family feels we must do every year during the holidays.

  • Watch the fireworks, then catch gingerbread scented snow in in the plaza by Small World

  • Warm up with hot cocoa and beignet/fritters in New Orleans Square

  • Ride the Rapids in California Adventure in the rain, cold and/or dark, when there is no line, right before heading home in a warm toasty car

  • Look for the Menorah over the Jeweler’s shop

  • Identify the areas where scents are piped in, and identify the scents (hint.. Small World is one of them)

This is just for starters. Check out the slide show (photographic evidence!) for more of our Disney Park Family traditions and then leave a comment to share your family traditions. We can’t be the only nuts out there who have to do Disney “their way”.

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  • Finding Hidden Mickeys 1 of 21
    Finding Hidden Mickeys
    You never know where you'll spy a Hidden Mickey! Searching for them is fun all year round and just a little tastier during the holidays.
  • Toss a Penny in the Pirate’s Chest! 2 of 21
    Toss a Penny in the Pirate's Chest!
    We can't resist making a wish upon a pirate. As long as we've been doing Disney we've been adding to the treasure!
  • Pick a Princess 3 of 21
    Pick a Princess
    When my girls were little they each picked the princess they'd most like to "be" and collected the costumes and accessories. I'm still required to take photos of Belle for my now 16 yr old daughter.
  • Holiday Reflections 4 of 21
    Holiday Reflections
    We love to shoot silly family photos in the reflections of the ornaments on the tree in Disneyland and around the park. It's like our version of a holiday funhouse mirror.
  • Fireworks and SNOW! 5 of 21
    Fireworks and SNOW!
    If the fireworks show, followed by magical snow in Southern California do not bring a tear to your eye, you're too old for this. We'll never be too old!
  • International Cast 6 of 21
    International Cast
    We love to check out where the cast members hail from. It's the real life version of Small World
  • The Hattiest, Pinniest, Place on Earth 7 of 21
    The Hattiest, Pinniest, Place on Earth
    Although we don't collect either hats or pins, we love to see, meet, and photograph the uber fans who do. We usually double dog dare each other to approach strangers and ask for a picture. There's something about a tattoo-ed trucker/biker in a Goofy cap or a granny with a tiara that wins every time!
  • That Rosebush! 8 of 21
    That Rosebush!
    My daughter takes photos of this rose bush every time we visit the park. She's not sure why. She just feels compelled!
  • Riding the Monorail 9 of 21
    Riding the Monorail
    For short visits of 4 hours or less we will park in Downtown Disney so that we can ride the monorail into the park. Riding the monorail sets the schedule for what rides we'll go on, the order of the day. It's part of our routine!
  • Fancy meals at Blue Bayou 10 of 21
    Fancy meals at Blue Bayou
    For birthdays and special occasions we always make reservations and schedule a meal at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside of Pirates of the Caribbean. It's always evening in there and the lanterns twinkle. My daughter actually begged to have her Bat Mitzvah reception there. I told her to throw another penny in the pirate's chest and keep wishing! You never know!
  • Vinylmations 11 of 21
    Vinylmations
    My sons collect these adorable figures and look forward to visits to the park to swap them. It's an affordable souvenir with a bonus -- you can always trade the toys if you are not satisfied with the one you got. We buy the mystery packs for extra fun!
  • Bunny Ears 12 of 21
    Bunny Ears
    Yes, no family photo at Disney is safe from the bunny fingers. Par for the course.
  • Relax and Roller Coaster 13 of 21
    Relax and Roller Coaster
    We discovered the key to the best ride on Thunder Mountain is to completely relax your whole body. So if you see a family practicing meditation on the Mountain? It might be us. We're weird like that.
  • Not Fickle about Pickles 14 of 21
    Not Fickle about Pickles
    It doesn't matter if it is cold or hot outside. We must buy pickles every time we visit. Again, it's one of those quirky family things that defies explanation. We buy our pickles in Fantasyland.
  • Soup in a Breadbowl 15 of 21
    Soup in a Breadbowl
    The other thing we have to eat almost every visit is clam chowder in a breadbowl. We get this in New Orleans Square.
  • Seeking the Small World Touches 16 of 21
    Seeking the Small World Touches
    We love the transformation of Small World for the holidays but it's the little touches like this Elvis bobblehead that really make us smile. Finding them is like finding a Hidden Mickey.
  • Checking Out The Mansion 17 of 21
    Checking Out The Mansion
    Every year the Haunted Mansion is transformed for the holidays as Jack Skellington takes up residence. We love to see the details. Things are not always what they seem and it's different every year.
  • Holiday Treats 18 of 21
    Holiday Treats
    The candy canes that are hand made during the holiday season on Main Street in Disneyland are legendary. You must eat them! We also love to see (and obsessively phototgraph) all the holiday treats!
  • Ha Ha Ha! Humor spotting. 19 of 21
    Ha Ha Ha! Humor spotting.
    Look! Ariel left fish for Santa! Spotting the humorous touches here there and everywhere are what makes Disney fun for all ages, I think. That and the dudes in silly hats.
  • Birthdays at Disney 20 of 21
    Birthdays at Disney
    When possible we all like to spend our birthdays at the park. It's an ongoing family tradition!
  • Mickey Mouse Sweatshirts 21 of 21
    Mickey Mouse Sweatshirts
    Every single one of my kids has had a special Mickey or Minnie sweatshirt when they were little. Not a bunch, just one. I expect they will save them. They may want to hand them down some day.

More from me:

Cinderella Themed Disney Princess Menorah

Best Video Games for Families

How to Take Great Holiday Card Photos
More Casa de Chaos adventures:

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