Celebrating the Holidays at The Disneyland Resort
Disneyland gets even merrier during the holiday season as it turns into “The Merriest Place on Earth.” December is our favorite time to visit Disneyland and California Adventure Park. Everything is beautifully decorated and attractions are transformed into holiday fun. It’s a magical feeling walking down festive Main Street with the giant Christmas tree and seeing Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. It’s even more special this year as Disneyland adds special touches for its 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. Whether you’re visiting one or both parks during the holidays, don’t miss these events and attractions.
It’s A Small World Holiday
The ride’s iconic It’s A Small World song is mixed with Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls as visitors cruise through each decorated land. Don’t be surprised if you find your family singing the tunes long after the ride. We never miss this attraction because it’s like a whole new ride during the holidays. Experience the ride at night to see the festive exterior décor up close.
Candlelight Ceremony and Procession
This classic event at Main Street USA Train Station is the scene for a narrated Christmas story and a choir singing all the holiday songs. This has a varied schedule every year so check the Disneyland holiday events schedule. The show generally occurs during one weekend in early December with two shows each on Saturday and Sunday. We saw the stage but didn’t get to watch it. We saw it a couple of years ago and was a beautiful ceremony to watch.
The Christmas Fantasy Parade
Disneyland’s holiday parade is always extra special with prancing reindeer, dancing gingerbread men, characters in their holiday outfits, princesses, Mickey and Minnie ice skating and of course, Santa Claus. We’ve seen this parade many times and it’s always a joy to watch. There are a couple of shows in the afternoon. Be sure to claim your viewing spot early.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas plays Sandy Claws and takes over the mansion. The mansion is wildly decorated with Halloween and Holiday decorations. The ride is holiday themed with whimsical decorations and surprises including a large gingerbread house in the ballroom. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or not, it’s worth going inside for a holiday tour of the haunted mansion.
Disneyland Forever Fireworks
This special fireworks show is for the 60th Anniversary and occurs nightly. The fireworks display and show are phenomenal and really showcase why Disneyland has remained so magical and special after all these years. The best viewing spots are around Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It’s a great thing this show will be around even after the holidays.
California Adventure Park
Cars Land Holiday Decor
We’ve seen Cars Land decked out over the years but seeing Christmas trees and wreaths shaped like tires and car parts never gets old. We love how creative Disney gets here. Walk around and see what you discover around Radiator Springs during the holidays.
Frozen Sing-Along Celebration and Olaf’s Snow Fest
We loved this interactive show that included Anna, Elsa and Kristoff from the Frozen movie. Of course, it was hard not to sing along. We will take any type of snow to feel some winter wonderland here in Southern California. Olaf’s Snow Fest runs until Jan. 6, 2016 and has many activities including building a snowman (of course) or just playing in actual snow. Kids can meet Olaf here too.
World of Color – Winter Dreams
Do not miss this nightly show with a holiday theme. Frozen’s Olaf hosts winter and holiday scenes from favorite Disney movies and scenes set to Christmas music with light and water effects along Paradise Bay. The images are projected on a 19,000 square-foot water screen. There’s even a fun sing-along segment. This show is so entertaining and unique that it’s worth battling the crowds.
Get the FastPass at Grizzly River Run area as soon as you can. It doesn’t interfere with other FastPasses for rides. This gives you a designated section from which to watch the show. People line up at least an hour before the show at roped off areas.
We’ve always enjoyed this small celebration showing how the Latin culture celebrates the holidays. The Paradise Garden area has live music, dance lessons, crafts and even face painting for the kids. The Street Party is wonderful to watch with the Mojiganga (giant dancing puppet figures), mariachi bands, many lively dancers and Disney characters in full costumes on bikes. The Three Caballeros including Donald Duck host the party. The shows occur throughout the day and one after dark. There’s also a meet and greet with rotating characters in costumes. We’ve always found the lines here shorter.
Meet Santa Claus
It takes some convincing these days for my kids to meet Santa, but he is available at both parks. He is at Elias & Co. in California Adventure near the giant Christmas tree and at Critter Country in Disneyland. The lines can get pretty long but it’s worth it to see the smiles on kids’ faces when they meet Santa. PhotoPass photographers are available to capture the moment, but using your camera and smartphones to snap photos are free.
Disneyland Holiday Treats
Don’t forget to try these special treats offered during the holidays. We loved the Mickey shaped candy cane beignets at the Mint Julep Bar at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square. It’s their delicious beignet topped with powdered sugar and crushed candy canes. Pair it with a refreshing Mint Julep.
The Yule Log at the Plaza Inn Restaurant is a sponge cake with creamy filling and comes in pumpkin or chocolate flavors. Our December weather is mild enough to try some Peppermint Ice Cream with crushed candy cane or red/green sprinkles cones at Main Street’s Gibson Girl in Disneyland.
We also found the adorable Elf Mickey Stein around Disneyland restaurants and snack carts to fill with beverage choices. It’s a wonderful holiday park souvenir. Stop by Disneyland’s Jolly Holiday Bakery and Candy Palace Bakery and California Adventure’s Trolley Treats for some seasonal treats. It’s hard to leave these places empty handed.
Tips for Visiting Disneyland During the Holidays
- Expect crowds and very long lines during Christmas week and between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Make use of the FastPass system and plan what to ride and see before you get to the park.
- Get the Disneyland Resort Hopper tickets even for one day to get the best out of both parks.
- Go early. Waking up early to get to the parks right when they open is worth it. We love coming early to beat the crowds and lines. We’ve often walked on to many of the popular rides and cover a lot before noon.
Have you visited the Disneyland Resort during the holidays?
You may also enjoy:
- Visit Disneyland Like a Pro
- Things To Do in Orange County Beyond Disneyland
- Mickey’s Halloween Party in Disneyland
- For a great hotel close to Disneyland, check out Hilton Anaheim
Mary was provided with two complimentary one-day Park Hopper tickets so she could share her holiday experience at Disneyland with you. All opinions and photos are her own.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…