Christmas at Disneyland. Does it get any better? My family doesn’t consider our holidays complete without a visit to the parks to enjoy the festive Disneyland Christmas season.
From fabulous seasonal food to vibrant holiday decor and spectacular shows, it simply can’t be beat. I attended opening day of the Christmas season so Trekaroo could bring all the details on the happenings during Disneyland Christmas 2023 fun to you! Read this before heading out to the parks this holiday season.
Disneyland Christmas 2023- Everything You Need to Know
When does Disneyland decorate for Christmas?
The official Disneyland Christmas 2023 season runs November 10- January 7. As usual, Disneyland will be decked out in its holiday best with a massive, 60-foot Christmas tree in Town Square on Main Street. The tree has some new decorations this year including 3,5000 lights, 1,500 Victorian-style ornaments, and 100 faux candles. Holiday music is piped in, making the atmosphere cheery and fun.
Expect to see 80 wreaths, 120 bows, and 220 garlands measuring four miles in length on Main Street!
10,000 poinsettia and 10,000 cyclamen plants have been planted around the Disneyland Resort to keep the gardens festive as well. 300 additional trees are brought into the resort during this time of year to keep things extra festive.
The atmosphere is festive during the day but when the sun sets and the lights turn on, it becomes downright magical.
More than 126,000 sparkling lights drip down Sleeping Beauty’s Castle like icicles, and vibrant holiday decorations trim nearly every nook and cranny of the park. The ever-popular “Christmas Fantasy” Parade starring Santa Claus returns to put us all in the Christmas Spirit. Disney traditions continue with Disneyland’s “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks show which is capped off with a snowfall finale.
Tip: Head to Disneyland mid-week during early to mid-December when the park is lower on crowds but high on holiday magic. Disneyland tickets are typically less expensive during these times as well. If you do visit Disneyland during weekends or busy holiday periods, take advantage of the extended park hours and Disney Genie + and Lightening Lanes to get the most out of your family’s Disneyland experience.
Christmas at Disneyland Park 2023
It’s a Small World Holiday
For over 20 years, the ride we all know and love has transformed into a holiday wonderland with “it’s a small world” Holiday . The ride’s 300+ audio-animatronic dolls take a break from singing the namesake song and instead belt out Christmas music- Deck the Halls and Jingle Bells in 10 different scenes throughout the ride.
Guests will have a “scentsational” experience on this ride. There will be cherry blossoms in Asia, cinnamon in South America, coconut in South Seas, and pine and peppermint in Europe.
The attraction is especially worth visiting at night when the front facade as well as the surrounding trees and topiaries are decked out with 400,000 multi-colored lights. On every quarter hour, the facade also features a brilliantly-colored projection show. It is so cute to watch the clock open and see wooden dolls from various nations do their little parade.
Fun fact: It takes two dozen cast members 35 days to install the facade outside and 18 days to decorate the interior!
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Haunted Mansion Holiday continues to enchant visitors with its seasonal tribute to Christmas as celebrated in Jack Skellington’s Halloweentown from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The ride is quite different from what you experience during the rest of the year and many regulars, my family included, think that the holiday version is even better than the original. For over 20 years a giant homemade gingerbread house is on the Haunted Mansion ballroom and checking out the new house each year is something regulars look forward to.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
To celebrate the season, all your favorite Disney characters dance about during A Christmas Fantasy Parade. This parade first debuted in 1995 and has become an annual tradition. As a matter of fact, it is the longest running parade in Disneyland history!
Disney princesses, along with Mickey and his gang, make appearances alongside the guest of honor, Santa Claus. Marching tin soldiers, life-size gingerbread cookies, and rollerblading snowflakes join in the fun as well. There are 16 different parades in this festive parade, as well as two Christmas trees.
The parade usually runs a couple times per day but I prefer to watch it at night with the 25,000 lights adorning Sleeping Beauty castle in the background.
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Disney Christmas Food
An important part of any Disneyland holiday experience is enjoying some of the special treats which are only available during the holiday season. Every year specially selected desserts are available for purchase at several eateries around Disneyland. We tried our best to eat our way around the resort and barely scratched the surface!
Tasty treasures include the chocolate mint shortcake at Plaza Inn, peppermint holiday sundae at Gibson Girl, Teddi Barra holiday funnel cake at the Hungry Bear Restaurant, candy cane beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square, and Holiday DOLE Whip Sundae at The Tropical Hideaway
There are also a variety of gingerbread Mickeys, cookies, cupcakes, holiday caramel apples, marshmallow snowmen, macarons, and festive churros that can be found throughout the parks.
Past savory food options include a Thanks-mas Sandwich at Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, a Celebration Potato filled Thanksgiving favorites at Troubador Tavern, and a Hyperdrive Holiday Chicken Sandwich at Galactic Grill.
Holiday Time at Disneyland Guided Tour
If you still can’t get enough of Disney during the holidays, consider taking the Holiday Time at Disneyland Guided Tour which will give you an up-close look at what goes in to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure’s holiday transformation.
In addition to the tour guests will receive reserved seating at the parade, holiday-themed treats, and a special collectible pin. Reservations for this tour can be made online, at Disneyland City Hall on Main street or by calling (714) 781-8687.
Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park
Disney California Adventure won’t take a backseat to its sister park during the Christmas season! Every year, DCA ups its game, creating its own winter wonderland full of fun! Santa can be found at the Redwood Creek Challenge as he has been in year’s past, but there is somuch more to get excited about!
Disney California Adventure Holiday Decor
Buena Vista Street is trimmed in its holiday best, complete with vintage-style ornaments. At the center of Carthay Circle is a 50-foot Christmas tree. Over on newly imagined San Fransokyo Square, themed garlands adorn the fronts of the restaurants. My favorite is the Chinese takeout-themed garland in front of Lucky Fortune Cookery.
Mickey’s Happy Holidays
“Mickey’s Happy Holidays” is a dance and sing along that has quickly become a DCA holiday tradition. Mickey, as well as various other Disney and Pixar characters, rock our to high energy music which is led by Holiday Toy Drummers.
Expect to see Mickey, Minnie, Chip n’ Dale, and even the Country Bears! The show runs twice daily as it makes its way through the park, stopping at Paradise Gardens and Carthay Circle for special show moments.
Christmas in Cars Land
Cars Land has been transformed into holiday wonderland- Radiator Springs style! Where else will you see trees trimmed with hub caps, bright orange tinsel encircling a tower of bright orange road cones, a snowcar, and a tow truck donning a Santa hat? Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters gets in the spirit as Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is Mater’s Jingle Jamboree for the duration of the season.
The Cozy Cone Motel food stands have plenty of great holiday food offerings. Cozy Cone Motel 1 has the Cranberry Yogurt Churro and the Nog Chata with Rumchata topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Cozy Cone Motel 2 is offering the Christmas Tree Cone which has peppermint soft-serve decorated with holiday sprinkles.
Cozy Cone Motel is offering a savory Chicken Pesto Cone filled with creamy pesto alfredo pasta, marinated chicken, balsamic glaze, bruschetta tomatoes, and Romano cheese. And finally, Cozy Cone Motel 4 has the Gingerbread Mule which is made with cinnamon whiskey, ginger beer, lemon juice, and gingerbread syrup.
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World of Color- Season of Light
Back for another year, World of Color-Season of Light is THE evening entertainment event of the holiday season in DCA. This water projection show features 120 characters from 30 Disney and Pixar films, including the ever-popular Frozen sisters, Anna and Elsa.
Over 800 lights and 1200 fountains bring this show to life. Several popular holiday songs accompany the production, including Feliz Navidad, Blue Christmas, Baby It’s Cold Outside, and Let It Snow.
We love Viva Navidad which celebrates the Hispanic culture that such a big part of life in Southern California. The Three Caballeros host a street party in front of Paradise Gardens. There are featuring Mexican folklórico dancers, mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers, and giant mojiganga puppets as well as appearances by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse on bikes!
There is also live music throughout the day and places to visit with Disney characters, including Mirabel from Encanto.
Sesonal food offerings at Paradise Grill include Impossible albodingas soup, tacos gobernador, chocolate flan cake, achiote-marinated half chicken, street-style watermelon, and a mango candy cocktail.
Disney Festival of Holidays
One of our favorite parts of the holiday fun being offered at Disney California Adventure is the Festival of Holidays that celebrates the diversity of the season and cultural traditions from around the world.
Seven different performing groups will keep things festive as you stroll the booths at the Festival of Holidays. Over at Viva Navidad, folklorico dancers and live musicians put a Latin spin on festive fun. Mirabel from “Encanto” will be stopping by for visits as well.
Several food, drink, craft, and merchandise marketplace kiosks line the main drag from the entrance to Cars Land to Paradise Gardens. This year the kiosks locations are more spread out than in year’s past, so be sure to grab a Festival of Holidays booklet from one of the park kiosks so you don’t miss a thing.
There is so much to eat (and drink!) at the Festival of Holidays. We suggest purchasing a Sip and Savor Pass at any of the Festival Marketplace carts. It will come on a lanyard and have eight little tabs that you can break off and redeem for food and non-alcoholic beverages at the festival.
Below are pictures of some of the offerings. Along with descriptions of what is at each cart We didn’t get to try them all but our favorites of those we did try are bolded.
A Twist on Tradition- Savory Kugel Mac & Cheese (my daughter’s top savory food choice), Guava-Melon Lassi, Glacier Margarita
Brews & Bites: Impossible Chorizo Queso Fundido with house-made tortilla chips, a variety of microbrew flights.
Favorite Things: Braised Pork Belly Adobo with garlic rice (my top savory pick), Mad Santa Macaron with chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse, Cherry Mango Punch, Churro Toffee Cold Brew Latte
Grandma’s Recipes: Barbacoa Tamal de Res, Berry Pomegranate Paloma, various wines including a winter winery flight
Holiday Duets: Esquites Carnitas Mac & Cheese, Chocolate Tart Made with TWIX Cookie Bar Pieces, Cuban Parranda Cocktail, Cantaritos Pineapple hard soda
Making Spirits Bright: Impossible Chicken Curry Bites, Pumpkin Layered Cheesecake, Tiramisu Yule Log Cocktail, Chocolate Mint Stout Shake
Merry Mashups: Southern Mac & Cheese with andouille sausage, Santa’s Milk & Cookies Hot Cocoa, Maple Hazelnut Hot Buttered Rum
Winter Sliderland: Togarashi Karaage Chicken Slider, Beef Brisket Slider, Spiced Pear Mule
Cappuccino Cart: Cafe de Olla Cold Brew, Salted Caramel-Mocha Bundt Cake
Hollywood Lounge: Three Gifts Flight which includes Gin Lavender Lemonade, Smoky Hibiscus Orange Cocktail, and Shimmering Apple Pie Cocktail
Lamplight Lounge: Holiday Special Duck Confit, Pan Dulce Donuts, and Holiday Cocktail made with Chai Tea-Oat Mix, vanilla vodka, and Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur
Pym Test Kitche: Cold Brew Infusion Cinnamon caramel cold brew with cardamom cream foam
Smokejumpers Grill: Kielbasa with Pierogi
Sonoma Terrace: Pan con Pollo, Bottle Logic Brewing Holiday Hopscotch
Studio Catering Co: Holiday Turkey Empanada
Paradise Garden Grill: Impossible Albodingas Soup, Tacos Gobernador, Chocolate Cake Flan
More Vendor Cart Options: Chicken Chile Verde Empanada, Honey-glazed Turkey Leg, Mickey-shaped Gingerbread Cookie
Churro Carts: Terran Treats- Hot Chocolate Churro, Churro Cart Near Goofy’s Sky School: Fresas con Crema coated in cinnamon sugar and topped with strawberries saturated in condensed milk, Churro Cart at Hollywoodland: Yule Log Churro, Churro Cart near Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: Chocolate Peppermint Churro
Looking to do Disneyland on a budget? Check out these tips on how to save money at Disneyland during the holidays.
Holidays at the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort
Be sure to stop by the gingerbread house in the lobby of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. The exterior of the gingerbread house resembles the outside of the hotel and stands nine feet tall!
This year’s impressive creation is made from 690 pounds of gingerbread, 690 pounds of powdered sugar, 290 pounds of fondant and one pound of “pixie dust.” Plus, it features 25 hidden Mickeys.
Hot chocolate and holiday-themed snacks will be offered at the nearby Grand California Hotel Lobby Cart.
If you are staying at any of the Disneyland Resort properties this season take time to check out their holiday displays, entertainment offerings, and special holiday menus. Disneyland Hotel features a retro theme with silver trees and bright colors.
Downtown Disney also gets into the holiday spirit with seasonal food and shopping as well as a capella carolers strolling and singing at night.
Lead photo by Disneyland Resort.