The Christmas Celebration and Festival of Holidays at the Disneyland Resort is SUCH an exciting and memorable time to visit the parks – our favorite time of the year! We are so excited to share that all the fun will begin on November and continue until January ,2018.
Disneyland and California Adventure have so many new happenings and experiences that are SO fun for families – it’s almost overwhelming to figure out what to make time for in your Disney day schedule. Not to worry though, we are breaking it all down for you so you can see exactly what will be happening at the parks this year and hopefully help you decide what you must do during your visit!
All photos below are from last year, so we’re excited to see if there are any new additions to this year’s decor!
Holidays at Disneyland
The gigantic Christmas tree in the middle of Main Street! Such a beautiful site!
Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle – an absolute Christmas dream!
Prepare to take 5,700 photos with your family in front of this beautiful castle if you’re visiting during the holidays!
Poinsetta galore – we love it!
The Lighting of the Main Street Christmas Tree
The Main Street Christmas Tree is one of the top photo spots during the holidays – it’s just amazing and gigantic! Something we suggest everyone see during a visit to Disneyland during the holidays is the lighting of the tree. Every evening at 5:00 PM, guests are invited to help countdown from 10 to light the tree – we guarantee you’ll get chills when you experience this!
The tree during the day…
…and the tree at night! Beautiful!
We take SO many photos of this tree during Christmas time – ha!
More Main Street Decorations
Mini Christmas trees planted in the hub in front of the castle – so cute!
We love this Christmas tree inside Gibson Girl on Main Street!
Lollipops and wreaths – essentials.
Be sure to stop by Main Street in Disneyland to visit Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Chip n’ Dale in their festive attire! In California Adventure, stop by Buena Vista Street to see Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy in their 1920’s holiday get-ups!
Holiday Decor in Toontown
The citizens of Toontown go all out for Christmas! Be sure to stop by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Chip n’ Dale’s homes to check out how they decorate for the holidays – it’s lots of fun! See some photos of Toontown during the holidays below!
Christmas Tree in front of City Hall in Toontown
Frontierland and New Orleans Square Decorations
Not all lands at Disneyland get decked out for the holidays, but we’re so happy Frontierland and New Orleans Square do! In Frontierland, we love the country Christmas decorations that go up – the Golden Horseshoe even gets decorated inside and features a new Holiday-themed show!
New Orleans Square also gets a major holiday makeover and it’s so colorful and beautiful! You can also meet “Nightmare Before Christmas” stars, Jack Skellington and Sally at Royal Street 21 through the holiday season. Keep in mind, these characters are extremely popular, so we recommend checking the Disneyland app for appearance times and lining up in advance!
The Golden Horseshoe decorated for Christmas
Decorations seen on the New Orleans Square balconies in the background.
“it’s a small world” Holiday
It’s a Small World gets an extra magical Holiday overlay every year and it is one of our favorite things about this season! The ride through this beloved attraction is so beautiful and it is so decked out for the holidays that you will be in awe – seriously, it’s the most amazing thing to see.
Not only is the ride and music a little different (the classic “it’s a small world” tune mixed in with “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” – amazing), but the facade of the attraction is covered in thousands of colorful lights! Every evening, the lights turn on and it is absolutely something you MUST see if you’re going to Disneyland during the holidays. When those lights go on, hearing everyone’s reaction is just priceless – it’s THAT beautiful.
Also, something you will want to add to your list of must-see things is the 2-minute long projection show on the facade of the attraction! The projections happen every quarter hour, after sunset, to a few favorite classic tunes form the Nutcracker and Babes in Toyland – it’s really amazing to see!
Check out some photos below of the attraction during the day and the lights at night!
The famous lights! How amazing is this?! This photo doesn’t even do it justice!
The Jingle Cruise
Every year during the Holiday season at Disneyland, the Jungle Cruise receives a Holiday overlay and turns into, “The Jingle Cruise.” The story goes that a plane has dropped precious Christmas cargo throughout the jungle, so the skippers are on a quest to find their gifts! The Jungle Cruise Skippers still navigate the boats while sharing their jokes and puns, but with a Holiday twist – so fun! Check out a couple photos below of the world famous “Jingle Cruise.”
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Haunted Mansion Holiday is a fan favorite! The Haunted Mansion gets a “Nightmare Before Christmas” overlay from September (September 15 this year) when Halloween at Disneyland begins, all the way until early January 2018 when Christmas at Disneyland ends.
In our opinion (and our kids’ opinion), this version of the attraction is less spooky than the original, it’s a little more upbeat which makes it less scary for the littles. You know your kids best though, so we encourage you to check out the attraction on YouTube before deciding if your little ones should ride.
We highly recommend getting a Fast Pass for this attraction since it is extremely popular! The line tends to get pretty long, so the Fast Pass will save you a lot of time waiting! Be sure to read about how to obtain Fast Passes by utilizing MaxPass here.
See photos of the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay below.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
A Christmas Fantasy Parade is one of our favorites. We love everything about Christmas, so this parade always really gets us into the spirit of this wonderful holiday! This parade features classic Christmas tunes mixed in with the “Christmas Fantasy” song made just for the parade (a catchy one that will get stuck in your head – ha!). There are also so many character favorites to see like Mickey and friends, the princesses AND their princes (this always excites people – haha), Winnie the Pooh and friends, Toy Story pals, SAAAANTA (I know him!) and more! We feel the need to mention that Santa is absolutely amazing in this parade…like, he will make you cry. He appears at the very end of the show and says “Merry Christmas” in multiple languages (including sign language) and it will give you all the Christmas feels.
The parade typically happens twice daily during the holiday season. Be sure to check the Disneyland calendar for show times up to 6 weeks before your visit.
Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip – ROMANCE.
SANTA! The best.
Meet Santa at “Pooh’s Thotful Spot” in Critter Country
If your littles want to meet Santa, you can find him at “Pooh’s Thotful Spot” in Critter Country until December 24! The line to see him can get long, so we recommend checking the Disneyland app for appearance times and heading to his location a few minutes before he’s due to come out (typically by mid-morning) so that you can get into the line before it gets too crazy.
The Lighting of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle
If there’s one thing we are going to tell you that you HAVE to see while you’re at Disneyland during the holidays, it’s the lighting of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. This is seriously one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever seen, and if you love Disneyland already, you’re going to love it even more after witnessing this (if you haven’t already) – ha!
Two times every night during the holidays, the castle will transform into what you see below! They don’t just turn the lights on, it starts SNOWING (what?!), and music that will make you cry (we cry a lot at Disneyland) can be heard up and down Main Street as the castle slowly reveals a beautiful scene of lights and magic! Really, you CAN’T miss seeing this at least once! Like mentioned above, this happens a couple times a night, usually a couple hours before fireworks and then again one hour (or so) before fireworks. Be sure to check with a Cast Member for the exact times so you don’t miss it!
There usually aren’t a ton of people standing around waiting for the lighting of the castle to happen (like they do for fireworks or parades), so we suggest trying to stand right in front of the castle so watch! The snow fall happens around the hub and up and down Main Street, so if you’re wanting to see that, just be sure you’re somewhere in that area!
Believe…in Holiday Magic Fireworks Spectacular
The “Believe…in Holiday Magic Fireworks” Spectacular is also something you won’t want to miss! The show full of so many Christmas classics, festive images that are projected onto Sleeping Beauty Castle, the buildings up and down Main Street, the it’s a small world facade, and onto water screens on the Rivers of America. It also snows during fireworks, which just adds to the magic of it all! If you’re watching from the castle, Main Street, it’s a small world facade, or Rivers of America, you’ll be able to experience the snow, so not to worry if you’re not right in front of the castle for the show.
For tips and info on where to get a spot for fireworks, click here.
See the Christmas tree projection on the castle?!
The Candlelight Processional
The Candlelight Processional on Main Street is hands down our favorite thing about the Christmas season at Disneyland. We are just so happy that they have kept this tradition going for so many years (since 1958)! We were in tears watching last year! Every year, a celebrity host/narrator shares the story of Christmas and the birth of Jesus. In between the narrator reading from the Bible, the most talented choirs with angelic voices perform songs like Joy to the World, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, We Three Kings, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Silent Night and the Hallelujah Chorus.
The processional starts up by the castle and the performers walk all the way down through Main Street until they reach Town Square where they get into position for the main part of the show. If you don’t happen to get a chance to see them perform on the steps of the Main Street Train Station, then try to get a spot along Main Street as they walk through the heart of Disneyland singing with their candles – literally getting the chills just typing this – it’s such an amazing way to get into the spirit of Christmas!
The Candlelight Processional happens only TWO nights a year on the weekend (typically one show the first night and two shows the second night) during the holiday season, and people start reserving spots when the park opens – we know, crazy! Last year was our first year getting to see the show and we waited in our spot THREE hours before show time – worth every minute.
If you’d really like to see the Candlelight Processional during your visit, we recommend hanging around the area close to the Main Street Fire Station or the Emporium at least a couple hours before show time, or ask a Cast Member where guests get to stand when the show starts so you can know where to go (you’ll notice they have chairs set up for Club 33 members, Disney Executives, Media, etc.). One thing that Cast Members will sometimes do is let guests who have been waiting in the standing areas sit in the chairs if there are any open ones – this happened last year, but we chose to stay standing so we could see better!
If you don’t plan to see the Candlelight Processional during your visit, but your Disneyland days fall on the Candlelight Processional dates, just prepare for crowds at the entrance of Disneyland and Main Street! It is best to avoid this area altogether during the evening if you can, so try to plan accordingly.
See below for a couple of photos of this very special evening!
Holiday Food Offerings
We LOVE the holiday-themed food that Disneyland and California Adventure offer during this season. There are a number of places to find goodies at both parks! See a few of the yummy treats below.
One of our favorites – Chocolate-covered Mickey Rice Krispy Treats! Available at Candy Palace on Main Street, Pooh Corner in Critter Country, Trolley Treats on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney.
Caramel Apples from Candy Palace on Main Street, Pooh Corner in Critter Country, Trolley Treats on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney.
Cupcakes from Candy Palace on Main Street, Pooh Corner in Critter Country, Trolley Treats on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney.
Treats from Pacific Wharf Cafe in California Adventure.
Be sure to stop by the Mint Julep Bar, Cafe Orleans or the French Market Restaurant for Candy Cane Beignets for the holidays! You can still get the traditional powdered sugar beignets if you’re not a fan of peppermint (it’s not a super overpowering on the beignets). The quickest way to get beignets is at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. Cafe Orleans is a table service restaurant (beignets come with dipping sauces!) and reservations are recommended. French Market Restaurant doesn’t require reservations.
Cookies from Candy Palace on Main Street, Pooh Corner in Critter Country, Trolley Treats on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and Marceline’s Confectionery in Downtown Disney.
Soft-serve Ice Cream and Root Beer Float from Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company in California Adventure.
Can’t beat the free piece of chocolate at Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop on Pacific Wharf at California Adventure! During the holiday season, you’ll receive a piece of free peppermint bark!
Famous Disneyland Candy Canes
If you haven’t ever heard about Disneyland’s FAMOUS handmade candy canes, let us fill you in! They are one of the most popular and desired treats offered at the parks! You just might want to add purchasing one to your list of Holiday souvenirs! And we aren’t talking a little tiny candy cane, these are HUGE.
How to get a Candy Cane:
Wristbands will be given out at The Candy Palace in Disneyland or Trolley Treats in California Adventure at opening. We highly recommend getting to the main gates of whichever park is selling the candy canes for the day 30-45 min before scheduled park opening to ensure you’re one of the first in line to get a wristband – the earlier you get to the main gate, the better! If you are eligible for Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour, then that’s great because you’ll be inside the park before general admission guests.
Additional Candy Cane Info:
- Wristbands are limited and available while supplies last (about 40 given out per batch with 3 batches on the days candy canes are available (so that’s 120 wristbands total)!
- ONE wristband per guest for ONE candy cane only.
- Wristband must be shown at the time of purchase.
- A few batches of Candy Canes are usually sold on the days noted below, so if you miss the first batch, but you received a wristband, there will be a pick up time noted on the wristband (in the past, all Candy Canes had to be picked up by 4 PM or else someone else could purchase any that were left).
- Candy Canes are $12.99 and NO Annual Pass discount applies.
- The Candy Canes are only available on certain days at each park (they officially start selling them at the end of November).
They really are so good!
Littles love them too (mostly to use as a weapon – Ha)!
During the holidays, you’ll see special souvenirs available at shops around both parks! Some of the bigger shops you can find most of the items include the Disneyland Emporium on Main Street, Los Feliz Five and Dime on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure and World of Disney in Downtown Disney.
We love the Christmas balloons! Don’t forget that if you purchase a balloon and it deflates or pops during your visit, you can exchange it for a new one for free! These balloons typically last quite a few weeks, which makes the price of $9.00 worth it!
Some adorable Christmas plush toys!
Holidays at California Adventure
California Adventure has its own unique holiday celebration every year and we LOVE it so much. There are a ton of fun new things to do and see throughout the park from decorations to entertainment to amazing FOOD – we’ve shared all the details below!
The Lighting of the Buena Vista Street Christmas Tree
We love the Buena Vista Street Christmas tree! Before you venture into the park, be sure to stop by and snap a photo in front of the tree and check out all the adorable vintage ornaments that fill the tree!
The tree is beautiful during the day, but at night – WOW. Every evening at around 4:55 PM, the tree lights up and its a must-see! There is a countdown to the lighting of the tree and everyone says “Happy Holidays!” and it’s just really magical.
The vintage ornaments! We love staring at the tree and finding new ones!
The tree at night – so pretty!
Christmas in Cars Land
Cars Land at Christmas time is so, so fun. Radiator Springs goes ALL out with decorations! Be sure to listen for the special cars-themed Christmas music as you stroll down Route 66 and don’t forget to check out the unique Christmas trees located at each attraction and shop!
Santa’s Holiday Visit – Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
Santa is available for photos at Ahwahnee Camp Circle at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail at California Adventure until December 24! Kiddos can even sign his nice list and will receive a candy cane! As you can probably imagine, the line for Santa can get pretty long, so we recommend trying to make it to the meet and greet location when the park opens. Starting December 25, Santa Goofy is available to meet at the same spot!
The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is one of our favorite spot to let our kids run around, but during the holiday season, it is an EXTRA special spot because the littles get to enjoy fun Elf games throughout the trail!
Red Car Trolley Newsboys
Every year during the holiday season, the Red Car Trolley Newsboys (one of our favorite shows!) add a little holiday flare to their performance! Be sure to check them out if you’re visiting California Adventure – they have a few shows daily! Download the Disneyland app for show times or check the daily entertainment schedule pamphlet.
Festival of Holidays at California Adventure
Festival of Holidays at California Adventure is one of our FAVORITE ways to get into the holiday spirit! Starting near Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge, all the way down to Paradise Pier, the park will transform into a celebration of cultural traditions, highlighting different holidays along the way! The celebration includes special food offerings at different marketplace booths, incredible entertainment (some of our all-time favorite shows!), character meet and greets and more! Check out more details below.
¡Viva Navidad! Street Party
The ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party is our favorite show at California Adventure out of any show at the park that happens during the year! It makes us cry happy tears to see cultures come together to share their amazing talents (Samba and traditional Mexican dance). We also love that the show features Mickey, Minnie and the Three Caballeros!
The show happens a few times daily in the walkway between the Bayside Brews/Jumpin’ Jellyfish area and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and Paradise Garden Grill restaurants. We recommend getting a spot about 15-20 minutes before show time in front of Bayside Brews or Jumpin’ Jellyfish, but make sure you’re facing west toward Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta! You can check the daily entertainment schedule pamphlet or the Disneyland app for showtimes.
More Festival of Holidays Entertainment
Throughout Paradise Pier, you’ll find special entertainment from talented groups of performers sharing the traditional and unique way their culture celebrates the holidays! Be sure to check the daily entertainment schedule pamphlet or Disneyland app for show times!
NEW Dia de Los Muertos Celebration
Starting November 5 all the way through January 7, 2018, guests will get to experience a sneak peek of “Coco” at the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” Theater! There will also be a Dia de Los Muertos celebration in A Bug’s Land.
Throughout California Adventure, you’ll find marketplace kiosks with different holiday cuisine! It is so fun to stroll through the park and try out some really delicious and unique foods as you go. Our kids really loved the Christmas cookie decorating kits from one of the booths last year! We’re excited to see what new menu items will be available this year!
Also, be sure to stop by the activity/craft tables set up for the littles along the way – you’ll find different traditional holiday crafts.
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie – so good.
The Treats for Santa booth where you can purchase a cookie decorating kit!
Every year during Festival of Holidays, Paradise Garden Grill gets a new traditional Mexican food menu (and a couple of nearby food carts serving up delicious eats) and it is AMAZING. One of the yummt goodies includes this Elote!
Fun decorations on the marketplace booths
Annual Passholders Corner on Paradise Pier
Every year during Festival of Holidays at California Adventure, there is a fun little area for Annual Passholders called “Annual Passholders Corner.” This is a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks and let your kiddos get creative! See below for all that is included at AP Corner.
- Special photo location
- Activities for the littles (see below)
- Complimentary button for AP holders (limit one button per Passholder)
Our kids decorating crowns at AP Corner last year.
Character Meet and Greets
Down at Paradise Garden Grill on Paradise Pier, you’ll find Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and the Three Caballeros in their Festival of Holidays outfits! The characters switch off for meet and greets throughout the day, so be sure to check the Disneyland app for character appearance times.
World of Color – Season of Light
We can’t even explain in words how magical this show is. Two of our favorite things ever are Disney and Christmas time, so this show full of classic Disney and Christmas tunes really hits us hard – lots of tears (always crying! Haha!). If you plan to stay into the evening during your visit to California Adventure, you MUST make time to see World of Color – trust us, you will love it! The show happens a couple times every night, so be sure to check the daily schedule for start times.
Fast Passes are available for World of Color next to The Little Mermaid ride. To guarantee a viewing spot, we recommend grabbing a Fast Pass in the morning if you can. If you aren’t able to get a Fast Pass, we have a couple recommendations for standby viewing. The first spot we like is along the fence that lines Ariel’s Grotto (photos below were taken from this location). If you want to get a front row standing spot along the fence, we suggest getting there about an hour in advance, just to be safe! Another good location is down by the Golden Zephyr. Last spot you can try is on the Boardwalk across from Toy Story Midway Mania or Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Not a ton of people usually stand there because it’s technically the back side of the show, but you can actually still see everything well!
If you made it to the end of this post, you deserve a Christmas cookie! Ha! There really is SO much to do and see during the holidays at Disneyland and California Adventure. We hope lots of you get to experience this special time of year!
Just for fun – one of our favorite window displays in Hollywood Land!