She gave you the dates of the 2010 Disneyland candy canes, and now she’s back…with the real thing!! Heather Sievers, our Dining in Disneyland guru, reports on the mad rush for canes at Disneyland’s Candy Palace!
After hearing about Disneyland’s hand made candy canes, I put it on my bucket list. Something I’d have to do at least once in my lifetime. So, why not take care of it now and share it here on the Disney Food Blog?
Let me start by saying that I am a former teacher, I hold a current elementary education credential and believe that it is important for children to go to school. I will follow that by saying that I also believe that ditch days are OK if your children are being exposed to unique experiences that are also educational.
“Guys, we’re ditching school to go to Disneyland and watch them make candy canes!”
On The Way to Disneyland
The beginning of our day was actually more labor intensive than going to school. I had to wake up at 5:30, get myself ready, get the kids up, fed and ready to leave by 6:30. Door to door, it takes us about 25 minutes to get to Disneyland. We were on the tram by about 7:10. It used to be that you could line right up at the main gate, but with the security check points that are now in place, you have to wait there until 7:30. At 7:30 they check your bags and then you can go wait at the gates until opening, which was at 8:00 the day we went. Luckily it wasn’t a magical morning day so hotel guests could not get into the park early to steal our place in line.
Prepping For The Race
When we walked up to the security check there were 4 lines already, and each were probably about 20-30 people long. However, I noticed that they were prepping the other side (4 more lines just to the right of where we were standing) to be opened. So, as soon as I saw them arrange the tables I grabbed my boys’ hands and ran over. Guess who was now first in line to make the mad dash to the main gates? Us!
I told the boys that as soon as we were through that line, we had to run as fast as we could to the main gate, and that if we got separated to just meet up there. The run was short and they knew right where to go. I had my purse unzipped and ready for inspection, the minute it turned 7:30 I got it checked and we booked it straight to the main gate.
We weren’t the only ones in the race, but I am happy to report that we made it to one of the gates with only one person in front of us; pretty impressive, huh? Now, it was wait time again. Twenty eight minutes until the second leg of our race. Again, I prepped the boys. To get the “tickets” to get your candy canes you have to go straight to the Candy Palace on Main Street and get in another line (lots of lines this morning). Luckily they know right where that is, so again, if we got separated, we’d meet up there.
“Candy Cane Competition”
Just so you know, we had a great strategy while in line. We didn’t want anyone to know we were “candy cane competition.” So, we just acted like we were there to go on rides. We chatted with a few people and over heard people talking about getting candy canes. There were actually people with running shoes on ready to sprint. Not us. we were the silent force to be reckoned with.
For those of you that have never been to Disneyland at opening, they do this whole little countdown thing where they pick a few guests to go inside and line up while everyone counts down from 10 and screams “Let the Magic Begin!” We got lucky; the cast member in our line scanned our annual passes in advance. So right after the little ceremony, we hauled!
The Race Begins!
I was a few feet in front of my boys, but I knew they were right behind me. I could hear “Mom, wait!” HA! Nope, you guys know where to go. Mission Candy Cane was almost complete. We made it into line and were about the 10th people back. “Mommy, are we done running now?” Yep! We did it! We got our tickets for the first batch of the day. Each ticket is good for 2 candy canes, so 6 of them (technically 5, we ate one there) were coming home with us!
Cooling Down While the Canes Heat Up
The cool thing? Veteran candy cane maker, Chris, had already started on our batch. The syrup mixture was cooked and he had it on the metal table aerating and cooling it down with a metal spatula. We stood and watched him and his young apprentices, another Chris, and Matt, make the entire batch of candy canes.
After flipping the yellowish blob around on the metal table, the 15 pound block of candy was taken to the candy hook mounted on the wall where it turns white as it cools and aerates more. Next, the candy is formed into a giant rectangular block and the stripes of red and green are added. All this is done in front of what looks like a BBQ keeping the candy pliable the entire time.
Rolling and Cutting the Canes
After the stripes are added, it is rolled out to perfection. With 35 years experience in the candy cane making business, Chris knows exactly where to cut the candy for the perfect sized cane. There were no marks on the table, nothing; he eyed each one, and out of the entire batch, there was not one mistake.
After the piece is cut, he rolls it out, smooths out the tips, and slides it down the table to be weighed. Each cane must weigh between 5 and 5.5 ounces. After they are weighed, they are formed; Matt was in charge of that. Matt then carried each cane, as carefully as you’d carry a newborn baby, over to the cooling table. When the first cane was set down, everyone cheered! I timed it and each cane takes just 30 seconds to make.
We stood there and watched the whole batch come to life. All in all there were 45 full sized candy canes in the batch. The tiny bit of left over candy was used to make 4 mini canes. A man in the crowd asked if they’d be for sale. The answer, a simple “no” with a smile. We weren’t told what would happen to them…
Packaging the Canes
By the time the last cane had cooled, the first ones were ready for packaging. Each cane gets its own plastic wrap, sealed by what looked to be an antique packaging tool — a fancy metal tape dispenser type deal that taped the ends of the plastic closed. Just like the creation process, the packaging process was a well oiled machine. Younger Chris brought the canes to veteran Chris to be packaged. Veteran Chris lovingly put them in plastic sleeves, taped them with his fancy machine, and then trimmed the edges. Matt then came over and carried a few at a time to his station where they were each wrapped in bubble wrap. The bubble wrap was their final stop before bringing them out of the temperature controlled room for sale. Candy cane making is serious business.
The Ticket Thing
Now, here’s how this ticket thing works: each person that “makes the cut” in line gets one ticket that is good for two candy canes at $9.95 each (annual passholders can use their park discount). There are 3 batches made on the candy cane making days. The tickets have little pictures on them that tell you which batch you may purchase from.
Since we were at the front of the line, our little “stocking” tickets meant we could purchase from the first batch which was ready at about 9:30. The cast member that passes out the tickets tells you your batch time. You must come back by 3:30 to purchase your candy canes or they will be sold to the people in the stand by line, ouch! I overheard someone saying that people start lining up in the standby line around 2:00.
As soon as our batch was ready, we got in another line (this one was short) to buy our canes. The whole buying process was pretty entertaining. The cast member shows you each cane before putting them in a bag — this way people can’t come back and say they got a broken cane. Once out the door, your canes are your responsibility! They put only two canes in each bag, so we left with 3 bags.
I felt really bad for the people who mistakenly got in line thinking they were going to get hand made candy canes. They’d be all excited and then a cast member would come up and say, “Do you have your tickets?” “What tickets?” And then the whole situation would be explained to them. They were then directed to the similar “substitute” candy canes that were available from their manufacturer. Supposedly they are the same recipe. They are the same size and cost the same. However, the coloring is different, and I’m sure the satisfaction is not the same!
After purchasing our candy canes we went directly out to the tables at the Coca Cola Refreshment Corner (which was not yet open) and sat down. My mom and little nephew had joined us at that point. We opened one of our candy canes and ate it warm, fresh out of the batch we had just watched them make. The candy cane was pepperminty in taste, and light and airy in texture. A really special treat!
All in all, I have to say that this was a wonderfully fun experience. If you have the chance, it makes for a great morning. I am so glad we got to experience this fun and EDUCATIONAL process. I highly recommend that you share it with your family too! There are still a few candy cane dates left this season (12/17, 12/21, 12/24 & 12/29), so put your running shoes on and get ready for the great candy cane race!
PS: A quick shout out to this guy, who happens to be named Guy, and recently celebrated his 1000th visit to Disneyland. He arrived at the park at 4:00 am to take part in the candy cane madness. Congrats on a successful trip, Guy!