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Dining in Disneyland: The Race For Hand Made Candy Canes

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!

Candy Palace Candy Cane Signs

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!

First in the Security Line

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.

Waiting at the Main Gate

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.

The Beginning 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.

Pulling and Aerating the Candy

Adding the Red Stripe

Adding the Green Stripe

Candy BBQ

Getting Ready to Cut

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.

Cutting to Perfection

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.

Sliding the cane to Matt

Weighing the Cane

Forming the Cane

Careful Placement

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…

Canes & Packaging with Mini Canes

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 First Cane

Closing them up

Trimming the Edges

Bubble Wrap Station

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.

Our Tickets

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.

Stand By Line

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.

Our Purchase Inspection

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!

Substitute Replica Candy Canes

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!

Unveiling

My Cane

Small Piece Details

Inside of Cane

Taste Test Crew

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!

Click for larger image

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!

Guy with his candy cane

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24 Comments

  1. AJ says:

    Seriously. I feel like I was there. This is the best!

  2. Dana says:

    What an awesome experience your children must have had! I am a teacher, and I am all for taking kids out of school for real-life experiences—although I know most teachers would disagree. That is something your children would have never learned in the classroom, and is something they’ll look back on for years to come. Kudos to you! Now—care to share some candy cane with the rest of us? =)

  3. Griffin says:

    I have seen these being made on TV. They do look pretty cool. Though I don’t know that I could have gone through all the waiting and the mad dash aspect of it :P

  4. Dana (aka DragynAlly) says:

    I did laugh and cry! And now I REALLY want a candy cane! Awesome story. And I bet the boys had fun. :-)

  5. Jo says:

    Heather, that was a great read! Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

  6. Josh says:

    Wow, Heather that was quite the read. I think all that was missing was a tactical map showing your route that you took.

    I have also seen the Candy Canes made from a show, I think it may have been Guy’s Disneyland Christmas special.

    As for the people waiting in line, that’s sort of sad that none of them can get any. But you could turn around and make quite the profit from reselling one you just bought. ;)

  7. Amanda says:

    I want to know what happens to the little candy canes…

  8. Heather I. says:

    That was an awesome read! I love all the details you included and have always wondered how the entire process works. My sister now works for the mouse and was at the Cast Member holiday party the other night. She said they handed out candy canes. I wonder if they happened to be the little ones…?

  9. Betsy says:

    Wow! This was so cool to read. I wish there was something like this here at WDW (or if there is, I am unaware of it). What a neat tradition that they have going out at DL. Someday I will make it there and hope to be able to experience the hand-made candy canes. Thanks Heather and AJ for sharing the great article.

  10. Keith says:

    Great, now I have a craving for a candy cane. And now that I’ve read this, something tells me that canes from Publix are going to be disappointing…

  11. Heather says:

    Thank you everyone for the kind words. We had such a great time doing this. If you ever have a chance, it’s worth the craziness! I’ve got 3 canes left, who wants to come over for a tasting!?! : )

  12. AJ says:

    Ms. Sievers sent me my very own candy cane!!! I’m in heaven!!! http://twitpic.com/3h77ps

  13. Leah says:

    Just have to say I love that you can share you left your boys behind during the run (as long as they know where they’re going), I’m not a mom yet, but I can easily see myself doing this and love to know it’s ok, by way of your example! ;o)

    Thanks for sharing your great EDUCATIONAL experience!

  14. Wayne says:

    My gosh those look delicious and never knew there was such an event! Thanks for sharing!

    Now I will have to invest in some running shoes. ;p

  15. Tammy says:

    I was really excited about this until I read the details. Again, another scam by Disney. Making people wait for HOURS and pay an exorbanant amount of money for one piece of candy. Yes, they’re beautiful, and yes, special. But why in the world can’t they jut make enough for everyone and avoid long lines and cranky people??? I have no idea who the person was that thought up such a horrible situation, but it sure as hell wasn’t Walt Disney…

  16. Tammy says:

    @ Leah…LOVE the comment!

  17. Stacy says:

    Thanks to your article my 4 year old and I got ours on Tuesday! I asked the lady at the gate where I could get the tickets, she said RUN to the Candy Palace and you will get a bracelet to come back later and pick up your canes. So I ran pushing my son in his stroller carrying our back pack and there were about 20 people in front of us. I think that was the best ride my son went on during our trip, he was laughing the whole time as I was weaving back and forth through the people in the crowd. The rest of the day he kept saying run Mama run! I am saving our for Christmas day.

  18. Bill says:

    First off, I have got to say THANK YOU! Thank you for the story and thank you for inspiring me and my family to give this a try. This past friday my family added this to our list of Disney-dones/Disney-firsts. I shared your blog with my family and they all decided we would make the candy cane dash. Keep in mind this trip was in celebration of my daughters 21st birthday, who would rather enjoy the park with family than go out drinking with her friends, and this would be the proverbial icing on her birthday cake. We arrived at the park at 7:30 (first, I’m not an early riser). Boy was I surprised to see how many folks were at the gates that early. Overheard banter from other guests about the famous candy cane dash, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Participated in the “let the magic begin” chant (first). Participated in the dash (first). My daughter’s boy friend is a sprinter so I thought we would have an edge. We had him run ahead and get the vouchers. He was told to slow down by the Disney PoPo as he was running (dang!). Everybody was on equal footing. Eventually, quickly, we all made it to the line! Now we wait in line to see if we were lucky enough to get a voucher. But there was no voucher this year, it was a wristband and only one candy cane per guest. OK, it’s still “A” candy cane. You left out the line Nazi in your story. She made sure no one cut in the line and if you left said line you were treated to an all expense paid trip …to the back of that ever increasing line. So once in line we were not able to get out of line count bodies. Oh well, we took our chances. As we inched ever closer to the cast members holding a sealed bag of wristbands we wondered if they would run out before we reached the head of the line. VICTORY! We all got wrist bands for the middle 11:30 batch (first)! We celebrated our victory by enjoying breakfast at the Carnation Café. It seemed other candy cane dashers had the same idea. We took great pride in our accomplishment. It was also fun to share the significance of the brightly colored wristbands with other guests who inquired about them throughout the day. Once received the candy canes were handled and protected like fine porcelain all the way home. Will we do this again? Maybe. But I think I’ve created the proverbial monster here at the office. I shared your blog and story along with my own story. Now two of my colleagues are figuring if they can make one of the last dates. Oh and as for the candy canes? They will be enjoyed on Christmas day.

  19. Maggie U says:

    Heather. You. Rock. Loved reading about your cane quest. I’ll be over for a bite tomorrow! ;)

  20. Maggie U says:

    (PS Yes, I know the post was 2010.)

  21. AJ says:

    Maggie U — Ha ha!! Great comments!

  22. Wild Wes Willie says:

    I think We on the East Coast should start a pelition. Candy Canes at WDW. Candy Canes for WDW. Candy Canes for WDW. Let Disney know, there are children’s Wishes for Mickey to do his Magic and make Candy Cane in WDW. Let’s hear it.

  23. Dyane says:

    Enjoyed reading all the grand adventures, specially A.J. and Bill… I will be attempting the 2013 Candy Cane Craze of Disneyland this week! Hope my adventure is as prosperus as those mentioned.

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