Christmas at Disneyland. Does it get any better? My family doesn’t consider our holidays complete without a visit to the parks which elevate their magic to another level during the festive winter season. Disneyland’s holiday season runs November 10th through January 8th, and there is plenty to get excited about.
Christmas at Disneyland Park
As usual, Disneyland park is decked out in its holiday best with a massive, 60-foot Christmas tree lit by 62,000 brilliant lights and adorned by 1,800 ornaments in the center of Main Street. Sparkling lights drip down Sleeping Beauty’s Castle like icicles and vibrant holiday decorations trim nearly every nook and cranny of the park. The”Paint the Night” parade continues to color parkgoers’ evenings and the ever-popular “Christmas Fantasy” parade starring Santa Claus returns to put us all in the Christmas Spirit. The season is amped up 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 low on crowds but high on holiday magic. If you do visit Disneyland during weekends or busy holiday periods, take advantage of the extended park hours to get the most out of your family’s Disneyland experience.
Explore more Christmas activities at Disneyland:
The newest holiday-themed attraction at Disneyland is the “Jingle Cruise,” a holiday-influenced version of the original Jungle Cruise. The ride’s premise centers around holiday decorations and presents that have fallen from the sky and landed in the jungle, resulting in cheesy fun that is an improvement upon the original Jingle Cruise concept. Highlights include hippos eating fruitcake, lions chomping on plastic reindeer, and head hunters dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters. Previous passengers of this classic Disneyland ride know that the corny jokes told by boat captains are what make this ride so fun and will be tickled to discover a new crop of silly holiday-centric jokes to moan, groan, and giggle about.
For the 20th year, “it’s a small world” Holiday transforms the ride we all know so well into a holiday wonderland. The ride’s 300+ audio-animatronic dolls take a break from singing the namesake song and instead belt out holiday classics, Deck the Halls and Jingle Bells. In celebration of the attraction’s 20th anniversary, half a dozen “Hidden 20s”-similar to Hidden Mickeys- have been placed throughout the ride. “It’s a small world” Holiday is especially worth visiting at night when the front facade, 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. Fun fact: It takes three dozen cast members 35 days to install the facade and 18 days to decorate the interior!
Haunted Mansion Holiday continues to enchant visitors with its seasonal tribute to Christmas as celebrated in Jack Skellington’s Halloweentown. 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.
To celebrate the season, all your favorite Disney characters dance about during A Christmas Fantasy Parade. Disney princesses, along with Mickey and his gang, make appearances alongside the guest of honor, Santa Claus. Frozen fans will be especially excited to find Elsa and Anna joining the parade cast.
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, such as Jolly Holiday Bakery, Plaza Inn, Blue Bayou, Carnation Cafe, and Cafe Orleans, and is served in a keepsake Mickey Santa demitasse. Other tasty treasures include the chocolate chestnut yule log at Plaza Inn, peppermint stick ice cream served in a crushed candy cane waffle cone at Gibson Girl, gingerbread beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square, and a variety of gingerbread men, cookies, cupcakes, holiday caramel apples, and marshmallow snowmen that can be found at Jolly Holiday Bakery and the shops along Main Street. If you really want to become a Disney holiday food aficionado, line up early in the morning when the park opens for a wristband so that you can purchase one of Disneyland’s coveted handmade candy canes. Call the Candy Cane Hotline (714) 781-0112 to get an updated schedule before your visit. Image Wikimedia Commons/Buckley.
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 receive priority access to two holiday-themed rides and reserved seating for the parade. Reservations for this tour can be made at Disneyland City Hall on Main street or by calling (714) 781-8687.
Read reviews of rides, attractions and dining at Disneyland Resort from parent’s who have been there.
If you are staying at the Disneyland Resort this season be sure to stop by the gingerbread house in the lobby of Disney’s Grand California Hotel & Spa. The exterior of the gingerbread house resembles the outside of the hotel and stands 7 feet tall! Hot chocolate and holiday-themed snacks are sold from one of the houses’ windows.
Christmas at Disney California Adventure
Photo by: Disneyland Resort
The big new addition to the holiday fun at Disney California Adventure is the new Festival of Holidays that celebrates the diversity of the season and cultural traditions from around the world. Nine unique shows- from the Mostly Kosher Klezmer band to the Bollywood-inspired Blue13 Dance Company to a cappella vocals of RAISE– bring music to the park. Princess Elena’s Musical Grand Arrival showcases Disney’s newest princess, Princess Elena of Avalor, the first Latina princess in the Disney family. Lining the pathway from the entrance to Carthay Circle to Paradise Pier are the 14 marketplace locations that making up the Festive Foods Marketplace. My favorites are the braised short ribs from Heritage Cottage, grilled spicy chicken sausage from Southern Hope Holidays, peppermint bark from Treats for Santa, and the beer tasting flights from Brew and Bites.
Photo by: Disneyland Resort
World of Color fans will be thrilled to discover an all-new version of this magical water masterpiece has been created for this holiday season, World of Color- Season of Light. This World of Color features scenes filled with beloved Disney characters that are set to holiday music sung by well-known artists and projected onto 1,200 powerful fountains shooting water up to 200 feet high. Musical highlights include “Let it Snow” by Dean Martin, “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” by Pentatonix, and a “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” duet sung by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel.
Good to know: This year kids will find Santa hanging out at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.
Explore more Christmas activities at Disney California Adventure:
A 1920’s holiday scene dominates Carthay Circle, with a 50-foot Christmas tree as its centerpiece. The red trolleys are trimmed with holiday finery and bell ringers and singers will be strolling Buena Vista Street, giving visitors a glimpse at the holidays of yesteryear.
Cars Land is completely decked out for the holidays with trimmings the citizens of Radiator Springs find quite apropos. Where else will you see trees trimmed with hub caps, bright orange tinsel encircling a tower of equally bright orange road cones, a snowcar, and a tow truck donning a Santa hat?
Back near Goofy’s Sky School in Paradise Gardens, “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!”, a celebration of the Latino culture that is ever-present in Southern California, can be found. ¡Viva Navidad!” features Mexican folklorico dancers, a musical street party, crafts for the kids, face painting, and Panchito, José Carioca, and Donald Duck, those wacky Three Caballeros. Special Mexican specialties are offered for sale during the event such as torta al pastor, street tacos, and chicken mole. This area especially comes to life during Three Kings Day which runs January 5-8, 2017.[hr
Disclosure: The author received a complimentary visit to Disneyland in order to experience the holiday activities and attend a media event. Disney hospitality is first-rate but all opinions are her own. All images, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Disney Parks.
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