Updated 11/8/18. Christmas Time at the Disneyland Resort is one of the most magical times of year to visit the park. The holiday decor at Disneyland and California Adventure is breathtaking. The holidays at Disneyland tend to be crowded so we recommend using our Christmas time Disneyland strategy to get you through the day.
As always, we at Mickey Visit recommend planning your day in advance to avoid feeling overwhelmed (especially for Disneyland first timers!) at the parks.
There are a few basics that are essential to becoming familiar with in order to best use your time at the Disneyland Resort. This is especially important when you're visiting during a seasonal celebration and the crowds may be higher than usual.
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Disneyland App To Jumpstart Your Day
Disneyland has an app that you can download for either Android or iPhone that will give you the most accurate wait times for rides. This app is a must have for anyone visiting Disneyland. You can link your park tickets to it, make dining reservations, use the mobile food ordering feature, link your PhotoPass tickets, and book FastPasses with MaxPass!
Pro tip: download this app PRIOR to your trip and become familiar with it. This way when you show up to the gates you are already a pro at using the app. Take a look at the layout of each park on the app so you have a rough idea of where you are going once you enter!
Christmas Time Disneyland Strategy FastPass
We have written an ultimate guide to using FastPass at the Disneyland Resort. This is definitely a must read for first time guests. Check out our guide here. FastPasses give you a return window to come ride the attraction later to help avoid guests waiting for hours in the standby line. Be sure to be familiar with FastPass because they are essential for having a smooth start at either park! Some FastPasses go quicker than others due to the popularity of the ride so that is why it is so important to grab them in the morning. Fastpasses are essential to this Halloween Time Disneyland strategy!
Pro tip: check out the list of attractions that offer FastPass and see which ones are your group’s top must sees. Make those your priority in the morning!
Disneyland MaxPass Strategy
Disney released a mobile version of the FastPass system called MaxPass in Summer 2017. MaxPass, unlike FastPass, isn’t a free feature and costs $10 per person per day. Depending on the size of your group, this feasibly may not be an option. But it is a great feature that makes touring the parks a breeze.
MaxPass allows you to book FastPasses from your mobile device so it saves you a walk across the park. This not only helps you grab FastPasses efficiently but it also helps save energy! MaxPass also comes with unlimited PhotoPass downloads for the day which is a great additional feature. If you only have one day in the parks, MaxPass is highly recommended for your group.
Doing Disneyland Rope Drop Right
Thirty minutes before park opening, cast members will begin letting guests into the parks. This helps control the flow of crowds and it can be a huge advantage for morning park visitors! There will be ropes (guarded by cast members) that block off access points of the lands until the official park opening time. Being one of the first groups positioned at those ropes can be a huge advantage for your morning strategy for Disneyland! You can also begin booking MaxPass once you enter the gates so this is also a great plus for groups that plan on purchasing MaxPass. To be there at Rope Drop plan to arrive at least one hour prior to the park opening.
Pro tip: Grab breakfast to go and eat while you're waiting to be let in through the turnstiles. This will help keep adults happy and kids occupied during that early morning wait time. We always recommend either eating here or at your Disneyland hotel.
Popular Holiday Seasonal Attractions in Our Christmas Time Disneyland strategy
There are four rides at the Disneyland Resort that get the Christmas Time seasonal treatment which are definitely worth centering your day around. These attractions become even more popular than usual during these holiday overlays so our Christmas Time Disneyland strategy prioritizes these attractions so you don't miss out!
- Haunted Mansion Holiday
- The Haunted Mansion gets a makeover inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Be prepared to experience decor courtesy of Jack Skellington such as jack o’ lanterns and wreaths, terrifying toys, and a spooky scented gingerbread house! Sally and Oogie Boogie are also on hand to wish you “Season's Screamings!”
- “it's a small world” Holiday
- Enjoy it's a small world with a holiday makeover including regional decorations and holiday songs!
- Check the schedule to watch the “it's a small world” holiday lighting and projection show that takes place every evening usually at 5:15PM.
- Luigi's Joy to the Whirl
- Luigi and Guido celebrate Christmas with seasonal tunes and festive holiday decor.
- Mater's Jingle Jamboree
- Don't miss Mater's Christmas celebration in his lit up holiday junkyard!
The Best Christmas Time Disneyland Strategy
Now let's take a look at our Christmas Time Disneyland strategy to help you experience all the Christmas magic at Disneyland! We prioritized the Christmas themed entertainment and attractions combined with popular rides to get the most of out of your day.
- Grab Haunted Mansion Holiday FastPass with MaxPass when you enter the park.
- If you plan on getting one of the coveted Candy Canes and you're there on one of the selected dates- then you should go straight to Candy Palace to line up for your candy cane. If you're not interested, then skip this step.
- Get your picture in front of the Christmas Tree on Main Street (We recommend doing this in the morning for a few reasons: you're fresh and looking your best, the line will be short, and it's right on your way as you make it down Main Street)
- Line up by the rope drop facing Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
- Ride Peter Pan. (This ride is one of the most popular attractions in Fantasyland. The downside of that is the ride is slow loading and the lines for this ride move slowly as a result. If you are present at Rope Drop, line up facing Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The entrance to Peter Pan will be on the right once you walk through the castle. Walk as quickly (no running, Disney rules!) as you can to snag a place in line. If you are not present at Rope Drop, save this ride for the evening rather than spend precious morning hours waiting in this line.)
- Ride Haunted Mansion Holiday with FastPass.
- Grab Star Tours FastPass with MaxPass.
- Ride Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Ride Indiana Jones Adventure. (Skip this and come back later with a FastPass if the wait time is longer than 20 minutes)
- Ride “it's a small world” Holiday.
- Ride Star Tours-The Adventure Continues with FastPass.
- Grab Space Mountain FastPass with MaxPass.
- Ride Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
- Ride Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
- Ride Autopia.
- Ride Space Mountain with FastPass.
- Grab Big Thunder Mountain Railroad FastPass with MaxPass
- Ride Astro Orbiter. (Skip if the wait is over 20 minutes and come back in the evening)
- Ride Jungle Cruise.
- Ride Splash Mountain (The earlier you ride- the shorter the standby line will be. If you're worried about getting wet, wear ponchos! You can get them at the Dollar Store for a buck! If the line is over 20 minutes, skip and come back later with a FastPass.)
- Ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
- Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with FastPass.
- Break for lunch.
- Make a plan to see the The Christmas Fantasy Parade at either 3:30PM or 6PM in Disneyland.
- If meeting Santa is on your list, you can see him in Critter Country in Disneyland or at Redwood Creek Challenge in California Adventure.
- It's up to you how you plan on spending the rest of the afternoon, you could stay in Disneyland and tackle low wait time rides in ToonTown and Fantasyland or you can cruise over to California Adventure right away.
- At California Adventure, make sure to take the time to go to Cars Land and see the Christmas decorations and themed attractions such as Luigi's Joy to the Whirl and Mater's Jingle Jamboree. While in California Adventure, take the time to visit the Festival of Holidays.
- Regardless of your afternoon plan, make sure you continue grabbing those FastPasses throughout the day and make a plan to see the Believe…In Holiday Magic Fireworks at Disneyland at 9:30PM.
If a ride on this list offers FastPass and has a standby time of over 20 minutes, I recommend skipping it and moving to the next one in the Christmas Time Disneyland strategy. You can always catch it later with a FastPass- don't waste precious morning time standing in long standby lines.
Adjust the Christmas Time Disneyland strategy as needed if there's attractions you want to skip or others you want to prioritize. The biggest thing is to get there early and tackle those high wait rides early in the day before the crowds come.
Pro tip: You can cancel FastPasses after you've booked them with MaxPass using the Disneyland app. This way, if you have a current FastPass and notice you need to abandon that one and grab one for a favorite ride that's at risk for running out- you can cancel the existing one so you're free to grab you a different FastPass.
More Disneyland Planning Tips
There is always a lot of information to consider before planning an Disneyland vacation. Make sure to spend time planning your days in the theme parks and become familiar with everything Disneyland has to offer. Don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE Deals Newsletter to stay on top of the current planning tips, strategies, and deals.
You can discover more about planning your trip to Disneyland from these links:
- California Adventure Touring Strategy: Guide to Maximize Your Mornings
- Disneyland Character Dining
- How to Plan Your Disneyland Trip
- Disney Christmas 2018 Tips and Tricks Guide
- 40+ Places to Find Cheap Food in Disneyland