This holiday season, the Happiest Place on Earth has transformed into the Merriest Place on Earth! Holidays at the Disneyland Resort brings an exciting new festival along with magical holiday decorations, food, attractions, and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. If you’re heading to Disneyland for the holidays, we’ve got the scoop on all the best, can’t-miss experiences throughout the resort.
Taste the Magic
New this year, the Festival of Holidays celebrates holidays around the globe with 14 different food stations offering sweet and savory dishes inspired by cultures around the world. Sample the flavors of India, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, the American South, Eastern Europe and more. These bite-sized treats are on the pricey side, but oh-so-delectable and well worth the indulgence. Our favorites: Adobo Pork Bao at Good Fortune’s Feast, Brisket Potato Croquettes at Nosh & Nibbles, Mango Lassi at Spicy Salutations, and Sweet Potato Pie at Southern Home Holidays. The festival also features street performances with stilt walkers, Bollywood dancers, a drum line, and more. Free craft tables for the kiddos and music complete the merriment.
If you belong to the legions of fans of Disney’s limited edition, hand made, holiday candy canes, you’ll have to fall in line 30 minutes before park opening to get one. If you miss your chance, don’t worry: there are plenty of holiday sweets throughout the park. Snowman caramel apples, pumpkin spice lattes, gingerbread men, and candy cane Mickey-shaped beignets are just some of the seasonal treats available to enjoy.
Join the Parade
¡Viva Navidad! is Disney California Adventure’s best kept holiday secret. Part Mexican fiesta, part Brazilian samba, and all fun, this parade is guaranteed to get everyone’s toes tapping! Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles, and Jose Carioca (aka The Three Amigos) wave from a colorful float, accompanied by a mariachi band, folklorico dancers, and samba drummers. Giant mojiganga puppets of Santa and Mrs. Claus roll through the streets while Mickey and Minnie arrive just in time for the final dance. Tip: Grab a spot next to the Jumping Jellyfish ride for the best views.
Celebrate the season with your favorite characters at A Christmas Fantasy Parade. This daily procession starts at It’s A Small World, marches down Main Street, and ends in front of the Main Street Disneyland Railroad Station. It’s worth grabbing a sidewalk spot early to get unobstructed views of the floats, marching tin soldiers, Mickey, Minnie, and Santa Claus.
Party After Dark
World of Color’s new nighttime holiday show combines classic animation and holiday tunes in a production like no other. World of Color – Season of Light features winter and holiday scenes from classic Disney films projected onto a gigantic watery screen. The scenes are accentuated by lights, flames, and 200-foot fountains, and everything is synchronized to a holiday soundtrack. The holiday spirit is infectious: don’t be surprised to find yourself humming along to Dean Martin’s “Let it Snow” or Michael Buble’s and Idina Menzel’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”.
Save your visit to “it’s a small world Holiday” till after dark. After the sun sets, this classic attraction gleams and sparkles with thousands of twinkling lights. Every quarter of the hour, instead of the usual parade of dolls, you’ll see holiday scenes projected onto the front of the attraction. The holiday makeover continues inside: as your boat sails the seven seas, you’ll see depictions of holiday celebrations around the world. Dolls are dressed in holiday finery, and the (in)famous “it’s a small world” soundtrack is interspersed with “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” sung in various languages.
Close out your Disneyland visit by watching Believe… in Holiday Magic fireworks show. Set against the backdrop of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the holiday version of Disney’s nightly fireworks display is set to holiday music and ends with a magical snowfall. It’s definitely worth letting the kiddos stay up past their bedtime. And if they happen to fall asleep in their stroller, at least they’ll drift off to dreamland with stardust in their eyes.
Enjoy Seasonal Attractions
“It’s a small world” isn’t the only attraction to get a holiday makeover. Head over to Adventureland and board the Jingle Cruise (aka Jungle Cruise) to see what happens when a plane full of holiday decorations accidentally dumps some of its cargo into the jungle.
Christmas collides with Halloween as Jack Skellington and his ragtag gang of misfits take over the Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion Holiday is much brighter and cheerier than its regular version, so don’t be afraid to take the little ones. They’ll see singing jack-o-lanterns, faithful Sally, funny teddy bears, and loveable Zero the Ghost Dog. As you glide past the haunted dining hall, take note of the Haunted Gingerbread Mansion, created from scratch every year, and take in a big sniff of the heavenly gingerbread scent.
Every corner of the resort is bedecked with holiday cheer, from Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle to the giant Christmas trees on Main Street and Carthay Circle to the gingerbread mansion at the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel. In typical Disney fashion, each location gets its own themed decor. Don’t miss the larger-than-life holiday ornaments at A Bug’s Land or the snowcar and whitewall tire wreaths at Cars Land!
Even musical entertainment gets a holiday twist. Hang out on Main Street to catch a caroling performance by everyone’s favorite barbershop quartet, the Dapper Dans. They never fail to win the crowd over with their vaudeville routines, Deagan Organ Chimes, and killer a capella harmonies. In addition, the Disneyland Marching Band plays holiday tunes at the flagpole and by Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Say Hi to Special Friends
You’ll find Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, and other Disney friends at their usual character meet-and-greet locations throughout the park. For the holiday season, they’ve donned special holiday outfits, so you’re sure to capture some magical holiday photos with the kids! Tip: Disney photographers will take your photo and hand you a Disney Photo Pass card so you can view and order photos online. Even if you decline the Photo Pass Card, the photographers will happily snap a photo for you with your own camera.
Santa Claus has parked his sled at Disney California Adventure’s Redwood Creek Challenge Trail! Guests can make their way through brightly decorated paths, complete challenges to join the ranks of Santa’s elves, then pose for a photo with Santa and whisper holiday wishes into his year. If you’re at Disneyland Park, you can find Santa at Critter Country. Santa also appears at the end of the Christmas Fantasy Parade and Viva Navidad parade.
Fans of the popular Disney Channel show Elena of Avalor will enjoy welcoming Princess Elena at her Musical Grand Arrival for the first time ever! This colorful parade happens several times at Disney California Adventure’s Paradise Bay. Princess Elena waves from a magical float and greets her subjects with waves, smiles, and songs. Afterwards, she poses for photos and signs autographs in a beautifully decorated corner of Paradise Bay.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Guests can ask for free cups of ice water at counter service restaurants throughout the resort.
- Download the official Disneyland Resort App and check it often to get up-to-date wait times and FASTPASS Ticket return times for every attraction in Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.
- Stand in one less line by purchasing tickets in advance (online, at the Disney Store, or at retail stores).
- Most weekdays and all weekends during Holidays at the Disneyland Resort are considered Peak Season days; expect to pay top prices for 1-day park tickets. Multiple day ticket prices do not vary by date. Crowds are usually larger on peak days, but the parks stay open longer.
- Early birds get the worm (or mouse) at Disneyland: if you’re staying at one of Disney’s resort hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian, or Paradise Pier Hotel), you get an Extra Magic Hour to either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park, for the duration of your stay. Also, visitors with 3+ day park tickets enjoy one Magic Morning, which allows them to enter either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park one hour before the general public.
Disneyland and California Adventure Park
313 Disneyland Dr.
Anaheim, Ca 92802
Holidays at the Disneyland Resort runs through January 8. Have you been to Disneyland over the holidays? What’s your favorite part? Tell us in the comments below.
photos: photos courtesy of Disneyland Resort