The city of your Hallmark Christmas movie dreams, Yosemite drops reservations and more

Christmas travel. Illustrated | Getty Images

Welcome to The Check-In, our weekend feature that focuses on all things travel.

Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland will reopen in March 2023

An all-new Mickey’s Toontown is coming to Disneyland — and guests will be able to view it starting March 8, 2023. Toontown, which first opened in January 1993, closed earlier this year for what Disney Parks called an “ambitious reimagining,” and the reopening is falling along with the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration, celebrating the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company.

What can visitors expect in this new and improved Toontown? Disney Parks shared some renderings of the new features last week, including CenTOONial Park, a grassy area where kids can play in a fountain with water tables or crawl around a giant tree with sculpted roots, and Goofy’s How-To-Play Yard, complete with a sound garden. There’s also an all-new ride featuring the mouse himself: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opening early January 27. For Walt Disney World fans, this ride is a familiar one – it opened there two years ago.

Mickey's Toontown at Disneyland

Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland

Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yosemite is ending park reservations for Summer 2023

Reservations will soon be a thing of the past in Yosemite National Park. To contain crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic and extensive infrastructure repairs, visitors have had to make reservations to access the park for the past three summers. On November 15, officials announced that RSVPs will no longer be required as of summer 2023. “Yosemite has struggled with congestion — even gridlock — for decades” the park tweeted, and in December, it will “seek your help to design an approach that delivers a great visitor experience while protecting Yosemite’s natural and cultural resources.”

Reaction to the news has been mixed – some people say they’re glad they don’t have to plan their trip too far in advance, while others are happy to have some extra breathing space. Mark Rose, the Sierra Nevada program manager for the National Parks Conservation Assn., said in a statement that it is “disappointing that park managers have chosen to pause a very successful reservation system … We don’t want to return to the days when visitors were stuck in traffic lines for hours before walking overcrowded paths.”



Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

How to make flying, driving and riding the rails easier during the holidays

Whether you’re flying home to your parents’ house across the country or making it a road trip, the main objectives are to be safe and comfortable as you get from point A to point B. Here are a few tips and tricks to make holiday travel a more enjoyable experience:

If you are driving: To avoid any surprises during your trip, take your car to the mechanic about a week or two before you hit the road. This way they can top up the fluid, check the brakes and spot any problems – and have time to fix any problems. Sanna Boman, editor-in-chief of Roadtrippers, said Travel + Leisure it’s a good idea to download apps like Waze for traffic conditions and directions and GasBuddy ahead of time, not forgetting to stop along the way, as “detours and unexpected stops are often the most memorable moments of a trip.” Double check that you have emergency supplies like jumper cables, extra water, batteries, phone chargers, and a first aid kit in your car, and stock up on wipes, paper towels, and other cleaning supplies — you don’t want to get stuck with a sticky steer if you spill your Frappuccino three minutes into your trip.

When you fly: For long-haul flights, get a window seat. That way, if you get sleepy, you can rest your head against the window — and you also don’t have to get up if the people next to you need to go to the bathroom, Greg Geronemus, CEO of smarTours, told me. Reader’s Digest. He also recommends putting your seatbelt over your blanket so the flight attendants don’t have to wake you up when things get bumpy and the seatbelt sign comes on. Be sure to bring an eye mask, comfortable socks, lip balm, and a sweater—all items you’ll want to use to combat the stale air and cold temperatures on the plane. Noise canceling headphones are also a good item to bring along so you can block out the chatter of your fellow passengers. If money isn’t an issue or you have tons of frequent flyer miles available, consider booking a business or first class seat.

The inside of an airplane.

The inside of an airplane.

Cooper Neill/AFP via Getty Images

If you take a train: Many of the same flying tips work for trains. If you’re taking a shorter trip, stick to the quiet car, curl up under a blanket and neck pillow, and put on your headphones so you can listen to some relaxing music or a fun podcast. If you are traveling overnight, book a room in a sleeping car. Pack light and prepare for delays – it’s a good idea to give yourself a buffer zone so your train doesn’t arrive 20 minutes before dinner time on Christmas Eve. Bring your own food and drinks and don’t forget to get up regularly to stretch your legs so you don’t feel any cramps and pain when you get off the train.

5 Star Gift Idea: DAMDAM Cleansing & Hydrating Bento Box

After a long day of travelling, there’s no better feeling than washing your face – and it’s even better if the products you use provide a zen experience. The DAMDAM Cleansing & Hydrating Bento Box offers a complete Japanese skincare ritual—two cleansers, a hydrating mist, and a moisturizer—all in one package. The clean ingredients come from regenerative farmers in Japan and the products are good for normal, dry and combination skin. This travel-friendly kit makes a great stocking stuffer for the person who is conscientious about what they put on their skin and wants to pack light.

The DAMDAM bento box.

The DAMDAM bento box.

Thanks to DamDam

Plan accordingly: Upcoming events to add to your calendar

You can make all your Hallmark Channel movie dreams come true in Christmas Town USA. That’s the nickname of McAdenville, North Carolina, but it’s apt – this place goes all out in December, with most homes and hundreds of city trees all glowing with Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Each December, about 600,000 people flock to McAdenville to see the dazzling displays, and there are two annual traditions that really draw crowds: the Tree Lighting Ceremony, held this year on December 1, and the Christmas Log Ceremony, scheduled for December 15.

Lights in Christmas Town USA

Lights in Christmas Town USA

Elizabeth W. Kearley/Moment Mobile via Getty Images

Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 18, and for all eight nights there is something going on in the largest menorah in Brooklyn. The 32-foot, 4,000-pound menorah has stood in Grand Army Plaza since 1985, and it’s so huge that reaching the top to light it requires bringing in a cherry picker. A kick-off event and concert are scheduled for December 18, but every night there will be live music, hot latkes and gifts for the kids in attendance.

The largest menorah in Brooklyn.

The largest menorah in Brooklyn.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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