Disneyland is the ‘Happiest Place on Earth.” During the holidays, you’ll find magical parades, festive rides and decor that’ll put you in the holiday spirit. But here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your Disneyland Christmas.
Plan Things Out in Advance
Disneyland is AMAZING during the holidays. But sadly, everyone else always has the same great idea to visit the park in December. Although the park is likely to be busy, that shouldn’t stop you from scheduling a vacation that works for you.
If your schedule allows (meaning you’re okay pulling your kids out of school for a couple of days), plan your vacation in mid-to late November or early December. Early January works, too. This season, Disneyland will be in full holiday decor from November 9 through January 6, 2019. The busiest time is when kids across the country are out for the winter break (approximately December 20 to January 2). Weekends are also going to be busier than weekdays.
If the only time that works for your family is during the busy days, don’t cancel your vacation. The park is still manageable, and some of the later tips will help.
We LOVED a visit to Goofy’s Kitchen Dinner, located in the Disneyland Hotel. There are many other restaurants inside and out the parks. If you are set on eating at one of the popular restaurants (like Blue Bayou) or a character meal, book those as soon as possible. Reservations can be made starting 60 days in advance.
Arrive at the Park Right When it Opens
Believe it or not, Disneyland does have a maximum capacity limit. During the peak days of the holiday season, guests may be restricted from entering the park in early afternoon. I know my kids would be disappointed if that happened and we were delayed getting into the park.
While kids (and yes, sometimes adults) may not like getting up early, the sooner you can get to the park, the better your chances are of entering. Plus, you’ll be able to start getting your FastPasses and riding rides before things become too crowded. Although lines start filling up pretty fast.
Ride the Attractions with the Holiday Themes
The Haunted Mansion is a classic, yet popular ride at Disneyland. During the holidays, when it’s decked out as “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” it’s even more popular. And rightly so.
It’s a Small World is also decorated for the holidays. The exterior often has lights galore with projected images and symbols from the holidays. Inside, it celebrated Christmas around the world.
While many other rides in both Disneyland have holiday decorations, don’t forget about Disney’s California Adventure. In Cars Land you can enjoy Mater’s Jingle Jamboree or Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl in his Rollickin’ Roadsters.
If you want to save time on riding the Haunted Mansion or It’s a Small World, grab a FASTPASS or upgrade your ticket to MaxPass.
Experience the Parades, Shows and Fireworks
When we visited Disneyland in early November 2017, we caught a performance in front of the castle by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell (Anna and Elsa from Frozen). It was being filmed for a Disney Channel special.
But outside of that extra event, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure have a lot of other magical holiday events. Here’s a rundown with details:
- A Christmas Fantasy Parade travels down Main Street USA in Disneyland. Your favorite Disney characters join Santa and rock to the music as they make their way along the parade route. Times may vary, but they’re generally scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and lasts 40 minutes.
- ‘Believe… In Holiday Magic’ fireworks spectacular runs every night at 9:30 p.m. in Disneyland. The 15-minute show is amazing. It’s even better when you can be in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to experience the snow flurries. It’s hard not to feel the magic of Disney and the holiday season.
- Disney’s Viva Navidad parade in Disney’s California Adventure is complete with colorful clothes, authentic music and dance.
Outside of the holiday-specific events, don’t miss out on night performances of Fantasmic! or World of Color. However, I note that World of Color is closed through late 2018, so not sure when it will start playing again.
Enjoy the Decor Throughout BOTH Parks
One of my favorite places to explore at Disneyland during Christmas is Toontown. I just love the whimsical nature of that area, and with a few extra holiday trimmings, it’s fun to explore. But regardless of where you visit in Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure, the festivities of the holiday are everywhere.
Main Street USA greets visitors with a large Christmas tree, and lights and garland guide you through Main Street USA to your jumping off point at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. While almost every ‘Land’ in Disneyland gets spruced up, Tomorrowland seems to have missed the memo. Maybe Christmas isn’t celebrated in the future? 😉
The holidays also bring a lineup of delicious treats. Grab a candy cane beignet in New Orleans Square. Or maybe a festive chocolate caramel apple on Main Street USA. You’ll probably find holiday treats at most restaurants, so indulge a little.
A Few Additional Notes on Disneyland
Christmas at Disneyland would be complete without a visit with Santa Claus. In Disneyland, kids of all ages can sit on Santa’s lap in Critter Country to let him know what’s on their list. In Disney’s California Adventure, you’ll find him along the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Rumor has it that the line to meet Santa is shorter in Disney’s California Adventure than in Critter Country.
Even with the holiday decor throughout the park, kids may get bored standing in long lines. Check out these tips for keeping kids (and adults) entertained while waiting in long lines at Disneyland.
If you’re wanting to take a family vacation to Disneyland but are afraid of breaking the bank, read 7 things you can do to make it more affordable for the whole family.