2023 Disneyland Christmas Guide: Dates, Tips, Decorations, and More!

Disneyland goes all out for Christmas with a holiday celebration that typically takes place from early November through the first week of January. Disneyland’s Christmas includes two popular themed overlays for Haunted Mansion and it’s a small world along with holiday fireworks, an iconic Christmas parade plus a holiday version of World of Color.

I visit Disneyland every year for the holiday celebration and it is my favorite time of year to visit. A Christmas Fantasy parade is easily one of the best aspects of the holiday season along with the two ride overlays. Disneyland at Christmas has so much to see and do plus no of it requires a special event ticket and is all included with your general admission.

Keep reading for the full overview of Disneyland Christmas including special entertainment, the ride overlays, my best tips based on my yearly experience at the parks, and this year’s seasonal events.

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When does Disneyland Christmas 2023 Start?Disneyland Christmas

Typically Christmas decorations start to go up around the last week of October – yes, sometimes you’ll see snow on the castle at Disneyland on Halloween night! Then, more decorations and merchandise will be put out during the period leading up to the official kick-off of the holidays. We discuss when Disneyland decorates for Christmas in our dedicated guide here.

The 2023 Disneyland Christmas season will run from November 10, 2023 through January 7, 2024. All the classic favorites will be returning this year like the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure with our favorite Viva Navidad celebration plus the World of Color holiday show Season of Light.

These dates are in line with our expectation that Disneyland Christmas typically runs from the second Friday in November (usually around Veteran’s Day) through the first week of January.

We actually already have the dates for the 2024 Christmas season as well! The 2024 holiday season will start on November 15th. No official end date has been announced but we do know this is the official beginning date so you can start planning your holiday trip for next year!

Will Merriest Nights Return?

Disneyland’s Merriest Nites was a Disneyland Christmas after-hours event that debuted in 2021. The holiday party took place on select nights in November and December. The event included special holiday entertainment, limited capacity access to popular rides, a special viewing of A Christmas Fantasy parade plus snowfall on Main Street.

Merriest Nights did not return to Disneyland in 2022 and is not returning for the 2023 season. One of the benefits Disneyland has over Walt Disney World’s holiday season is the holiday hits like the parade and fireworks are available to all guests, not just those who have purchased a party ticket.

Disneyland Christmas Overview

Disneyland Christmas

Disneyland at Christmas includes multiple attraction overlays, entertainment options in both parks, holiday decor and a full list of seasonal food. Our Disneyland holiday guide will cover everything you need to see so you do not miss any of the magic.

Though we refer to the celebration as Disneyland Christmas, the official name is the “Holidays at the Disneyland Resort” because there are celebrations of a wide breadth of holidays that take place throughout November, December, and January. The Festival of Holidays, which we cover in much greater detail below, celebrates Christmas/Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day through entertainment, food and beverage, and merchandise. The Disney team does a great job providing a look at so many different cultures and their holidays. In any case, all of these celebrations come together to make the Holidays at the Disneyland Resort one of my personal favorite times of year to visit.

Disneyland Christmas Attraction Overlays

Disneyland has the two main attraction overlays with a complete holiday makeover for it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion. These fantastic holiday overlays are one of the best parts of Disneyland at Christmas.

California Adventure does overlays to the two smaller Cars Land rides: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. These overlays are pretty minor and not on the same scale as the ones in Disneyland but they are worth seeing!

I recommend following our Christmas-time Disneyland touring strategy to help you plan your day which prioritizes all of these attractions. For it’s a small world holiday, that ride is best experienced after dark so you can take in the brilliant display of lights on the facade while you wait.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

Haunted Mansion Holiday

The Haunted Mansion Holiday is an overlay based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. For some guests, they actually prefer this version over the classic because it’s just that good! If you haven’t seen the Tim Burton flick then you should definitely add it to your Disneyland movie list before your visit.

The Haunted Mansion gets the makeover from start to finish from the decorations outside to the music.

The main thing to watch for on the ride is the famous gingerbread house display that actually gives off a gingerbread scent as you drift by in your doom buggy!

Christmas at Disneyland haunted holiday gingerbread

Every year the Disneyland chefs pull out all the stops for the enormous gingerbread house with a different theme each year.

Oogie Boogie

You will see many of your favorite characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas featured throughout the ride. Oogie Boogie is my favorite!

You can watch the full video of the ride above if you want a preview before your visit. This may be wise for smaller children to make sure that the ride isn’t too spooky for them. Although, I do think the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay is less intimidating for younger guests than the traditional Haunted Mansion is. If you’ve never been on the ride, I always recommend not spoiling the surprise but we all have different ways we prepare ourselves for Disney trips.

it’s a small world Holiday

its a small world holiday

it’s a small world Holiday is best enjoyed at night to take in the nearly 250,000 lights that adorn the facade of its a small world. You can also view a short projection show that lights up the attraction every 15 minutes for the it’s a small world holiday. The parade space in front of it’s a small world is my favorite place to watch the Christmas parade (more below on this magical display!) so you can catch this projection show and take in the beauty of the lights while you wait.

its a small world holiday

The song of the ride changes to the tune of Jingle Bells as the inside of the ride is also transformed into a festive display with holiday themes and lights.

its a small world holiday

It’s so bright standing in front of this facade, it truly takes your breath away. You can always get great pictures in front of the ride while you wait too!

You can watch the full video of the ride above if you want a preview before your visit. Like I said earlier with the Haunted Mansion Holiday, if you’ve never been on the ride I recommend not spoiling the surprise by watching a video.

Mater’s Jingle Jamboree

Mater’s Jingle Jamboree is decked out in holiday lights along with a Christmas jingle. This ride gets overlooked often because it appears like a simple child’s ride but it’s really fun. Don’t miss it!

Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl

Disneyland at Christmas Joy to the Whirl

Even better, in my humble opinion, is the Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl where you can enjoy Christmas themed songs while you spin around in Luigi’s fleet of cars.

Again, don’t overlook these as ‘just’ kids rides! I recommend riding at night to better enjoy the lighting of Cars Land.

Disneyland Christmas Entertainment

After you make sure to see all the holiday overlays, the next step is enjoying all the Disneyland Christmas entertainment. The entertainment at Disneyland is part of what really sets it apart from just an average theme park. The parades, fireworks, and shows are part of the heart and soul of Disney.

Top holiday entertainment at Disneyland includes A Christmas Fantasy parade, Believe… In Holiday Magic Fireworks, World of Color- Seasons of Light, and light shows on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Disneyland Christmas Parade 2023

The Disneyland Christmas parade is the A Christmas Fantasy parade which follows the traditional parade route from it’s a small world to Main Street. This parade is a favorite among Disneyland guests and shows a variety of Disney favorites along with holiday characters like snowmen, gingerbread men, reindeer, and Santa himself.

Christmas Fantasy Parade

The song for this parade is a wonderful blend of Disney classics and Christmas music that literally made me cry the first time I saw it. This continues to be one of my favorite parts of the Disneyland Christmas celebration.

In the above video you can see this beloved parade from the viewing area in front of it’s a small world.

Christmas Parade with nutcracker men

Like most parades throughout the year, The Plaza Inn will offer a dining package with reserved viewing with a holiday-themed menu.

The Plaza Inn Dining Package for the Christmas Fantasy Parade

  • Meal Options: Holiday menu of turkey, macaroni and cheese, seasonal vegetables, stuffing and cranberry sauce with a holiday dessert. Vegetarian options are also available upon request. Kids’ meals combine chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese with a choice of side, holiday dessert and a beverage.
  • Price: $39.99 per adult and $24.99 per child (ages 3-9) – tax not included; gratuity not required
  • Reservations made between 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM will receive a voucher for the day’s second performance of A Christmas Fantasy Parade

Reservations are recommended for all dining packages. You can make your reservation up to 60 days in advance on the Disneyland Dining site or by calling (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily.

However, I don’t think a dining package is necessary for the parade unless you’re visiting on a crazy busy day! If you get your parade spot in front of it’s a small world, you can enjoy the lights from the themed overlay while you wait. There are restrooms nearby, snack kiosks, and plenty of room for kids to run around while you wait.

Disneyland Christmas Fireworks

The one entertainment option that you cannot miss is the “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks! This nighttime fireworks show features Disneyland-themed Christmas music, breathtaking fireworks, and scented gingerbread snowfall in front of the castle.

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While I normally don’t recommend the coveted castle viewing for fireworks, unless you’re extremely committed to waiting, for this show I recommend seeing it from this location if you can handle the crowds. The fireworks combined with the stunning display of Sleeping Beauty Castle is something that everyone should experience at least once.

Watch the above video if you want a preview of what the fireworks look like over the castle. Truly spectacular.

On our last visit to Disneyland at Christmas, we managed to get a spot right in front of the castle with a front-row view. It was amazing and worth every second that we spent waiting- all 90 minutes of it. This area does get extremely cramped and crowded- I recommend bringing some snacks and some patience. Bring an easily foldable blanket to just and mark off your space the best you can but you really will be squished right next to everyone else.

If the castle viewing isn’t your thing, which is understandable, watching the fireworks from in front of it’s a small world is a great spot too! And much more convenient with smaller children. My son is nine so I was able to convince him to deal with the crowded wait in front of the castle but if he was any younger he would not have been up for it!

You can read more about my tips and tricks from our last visit for seeing the fireworks in my Facebook post.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is enchanting during Disneyland ChristmasDisneyland Christmas

Hands down, one of the most breathtaking displays at Disneyland is Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Disney goes all out decorating our beloved castle for the holidays as they cover it with snow and over 80,000 LED lights. During the day, the fake snow sparkles in the sun and it’s a sight to see. But at night it transforms into an amazing work of art.

Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle 

Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Every evening there is a lighting ceremony in front of the castle which includes a brief snowfall of snow. This ceremony typically occurs at 7:30PM and 8:30PM every night.

As you can see from our pictures below, this is an amazing sight to see. It’s one of the most magical parts of Disneyland at Christmas.

Even during the day the castle is gorgeous with all its holiday décor!

Make sure to take some up close pictures to get a good glimpse of the garland and wreath above the drawbridge.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

If you get a prime spot for the nightly fireworks, you’ll also have the perfect chance to get a picture like this without any people in it.

Sleeping Beauty castle at night

The details of the castle are beautiful. Take a moment when walking over the drawbridge to look up at all the lights.

Sleeping Beauty Castle

A great spot to get pictures is to stand off to the side and you will also get the lights reflecting in the water.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Christmas

After the fireworks, you’ll catch breathtaking views of the castle with the spotlights lit.

Special Disneyland Christmas World of Color Edition

Disneyland at Christmas has great offerings of nighttime entertainment this season with “World of Color–Season of Light” show. World of Color underwent a long refurbishment so this year’s show is much missed and highly anticipated.

This Christmas version of World of Color combines holiday music with classical Disney moments from beloved films.

Watch the video above to get an idea of what to expect. But as always, I don’t recommend spoiling the surprise by watching videos in advance if you’ve never watched it before.

This show is sure to be popular this year since it was on hiatus the last holiday season. I recommend treating yourself to the Dessert Party or a dining package to ensure you have good seats. Read our World of Color guide closely for tips on how to get the best spot for the show.

Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure

The main celebration that takes place in California Adventure is the Festival of Holidays which includes dining booths with unique food items from all over the world along with holiday entertainment in the parade corridors of the park.

Read more about the Festival of Holidays at Disneyland in our guide which includes menus and entertainment reviews.

The show stopper of this event is the Festive Food Marketplaces where you can find a glorious amount of international and local holiday specialties.

Festival of Holidays sign

Disneyland at Christmas is not complete without an assortment of great food and the Festival of Holidays has you covered when you’re in California Adventure. Here are the essential details you need to know:

  • Sip and Savor Pass: this pass gives guests the chance to choose from eight different dishes or non-alcoholic beverages. You can purchase the pass at various locations throughout the park, including Festival Merchandise Carts, Seaside Souvenirs, Kingswell Camera Shop, and Rushin’ River Outfitters.
    • I recommend looking at the foodie guide before purchasing in case you have any picky eaters in your cohort.
  • Free keepsake alert: for no cost, you can get a Disney Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport at any of the marketplaces for a full guide to all the food offered. As you visit each marketplace, get your passport stamped and when you’ve filled your passport, you’ll get a special completion stamp.

Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding, White Chocolate Cranberry Brownie, Eggnog Wreath Éclair, and S’mores Frozen Chocolate Milk from Visions of Sugarplums Marketplace at Disney Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park

To be honest, I just went for all the dessert when we visited the marketplace booths and they did not disappoint.

Disney California Adventure Christmas

¡Viva Navidad! is a Latin American inspired experience that features a street parade along with unique meet and greets.

Mickey and Minnie’s arrival on fun festive bicycles is always greeted with cheers during the street parade.

Image result for disney viva navidad

Mickey and Minnie are decked out in festive outfits for the occasion.

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I loved seeing The Three Caballeros in action! Donald Duck fans will love it!

The dancers are mind blowing. So much talent and culture, it’s worth the time to stake out a quick spot to see this street parade.

The street parade happens a few times throughout the day over by Goofy’s Fly School. Check the Disneyland app for the most current show times on the day of your visit. Be sure to pick a spot in the shade- that afternoon sun can feel really hot once you’re sitting in it for awhile. I liked the spot over by Symphony Swings to wait because I was close enough to watch my son ride the swings (over and over) while I held our spots. Kids ages 8 and up that meet the height requirement can ride without an adult.

¡Viva Navidad! includes a special appearance by Mirabel from the new movie “Encanto” inspired by the people and cultures of Columbia.

Mickey’s Happy HolidaysHoliday Toy Drummers

Twice a day a celebration featuring Disney and Pixar characters offer a dance party with Mickey Mouse to the merry rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers. You can find this dance party at the Paradise Gardens Park Obelisk and Carthay Circle.

Holiday Sunset Concerts 2023Image result for Holiday Sunset Concerts

Returning this year to the Palisades Stage will be the Holiday Sunset Concert series with bands on select nights including:

  • The Suffragettes- This festival cover band covers famous holiday songs on select nights.
  • Phat Cat Swinger- The West Coast’s “Little-Big Band,” will showcase their swinging selection of irresistible holiday music..
  • Blue13 Dance Company- This band presents a spirited tribute to Diwali through traditional Indian folk dances and Bollywood.
  • Mostly Kosher- This band brings the spirit of Hanukkah in a concert that combines Klezmer, Jazz and Rock & Roll.
  • Mariachi Divas- The Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Divas bring the joy of Navidad to Disney’s California Adventure.
  • The Mistletoes – an a cappella group celebrating an R&B Christmas and the spirit of Kwanzaa.

Check the daily events calendar during your visit to see who’s performing!

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2023 Dates and Info

The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is another annual Disneyland tradition that dates back to 1958 and the days Walt himself walked the park. Each year features a celebrity narrator joined by a large choir for a retelling of the biblical story of Jesus’ birth in front of the Main Street Station. Some of the past narrators have included Kurt Russell, Dick Van Dyke, Ginnifer Goodwin, James Earl Jones, and John Wayne. Disney is always pretty tight-lipped on who the celebrity narrator is and usually manages to keep it a secret until they step onto stage!

This special event is limited to just four performances over two days during the first weekend of December. The reserved seats for the show are not available to the general public but you can stand alongside the white rope and listen to the performance.

Based on past years’ performances, you can expect a rough schedule (remember, none of this is official!) that looks something like this:

  • 4:45PM – Invited guests are seated for the first show.
  • 5:20PM. – The first processional starts.
  • 5:30PM – The first ceremony starts at Town Square.
  • 7:15PM – Invited guests are seated for the second show.
  • 7:35PM – The second processional starts.
  • 7:45PM – The second ceremony starts at Town Square.

So the most common question we get from our readers is: how do I view the show since it’s limited for exclusive guests?

The best you can do is try to snag some standby viewing. It’s very limited to get those spots though and they go quickly to those most dedicated to seeing the show! You can find coveted bench seating by the Christmas tree in Town Square along with standing-only areas near the Opera House, City Hall, and any other open areas in Town Square that cast members will allow you to stand in.

Once the first processional ends, guests will be asked to leave the viewing areas to allow other people to take their spots and get a chance for the second show. Because of this a line often forms on Main Street as early as 5PM. Guests with disabilities can inquire with a cast member on what their best options are for the performance. You can also hear the singers clearly all the way down Main Street so if you don’t grab the best spot, you can sit on the curb and listen.

You can expect the Christmas Fantasy parade, Main Street vehicles and other attractions to be impacted by the performance in Town Square. The parade time has been adjusted to 12:45PM and 3:15PM on processional days to accommodate for the performance. The Main Street vehicles still stop running at 12PM, many of the stores close to the square will close, and no popcorn/churro carts will be open on these days in that immediate area. In order to not distract from the performance, the Disneyland Railroad and the Jungle Cruise will not run during the performances.

If you have no interest in seeing the processional, we recommend avoiding Main Street all together in the evening to not get caught up in the crowds.

Where to Meet Santa at Disneyland Christmas

And of course, you can’t have a complete Christmas at Disneyland without a meeting with Santa! You can find Santa and his elves in an elaborate photo op set up throughout the day in Critter Country in Disneyland Park (above) and Redwood Creek Trail in California Adventure.

I recommend you check the Disneyland phone app for times. This character meet and greet is quite popular, for good reason, so make sure to line up early.

I preferred the area in Redwood Creek Trail for taking my son to see Santa because I found the photo area to be more elaborate. It was also fun enjoying the area while we waited too. My tip for taking kids to see Santa is to do this first thing in the morning right when Santa makes his first appearance. This way everyone is looking fresh and kids are happy so you will get the best pictures. Don’t save the meet and greet with Santa towards the end of the day when everyone’s exhausted!

Santa at Redwood Creek Trail

You can see the photo area for the Redwood Creek Trail above from my son’s last meet and greet with Santa. The PhotoPass photographers will also take a photo with your camera too if you ask them!

I loved the charm of meeting Santa here over the one in Disneyland, I highly recommend it.

You can also meet Santa in the lobby of each of Disney owned hotels throughout the day. I still recommend meeting Santa at California Adventure, if you can!

Disneyland Christmas 2023 Décor

There are plenty of amazing spots around Disneyland to enjoy the holiday decor but the decorations on Main Street, U.S.A. are breathtaking. As you enter the park, right in front of the train station, you will see the gigantic 60 foot Christmas tree in Town Square.

Main Street USA

Make sure to spend some time admiring the tree as you take in all the custom-made ornaments.

Main Street USA Christmas tree

Every year the tree is decked out in custom ornaments from top to bottom.

Don’t forget to get your picture taken in front of the beautiful Disneyland Christmas tree on Main Street. There is usually a line for this but it’s worth it. Ask your PhotoPass photographer if they have any holiday Magic Shots to add! As you can see above, we got Zero added to our picture on this trip and it ended up being one of my favorite pictures. Plus you get that high-quality photo of the tree behind you that a cellphone could never do justice for.

New Orleans Square

New Orleans Square is another great spot to find beautiful holiday decor. The decorations are bright and festive.

Christmas at Disneyland

The charm of this area really sparkles with some added festivities.

Christmas at Disney California Adventure Decorations

You will find holiday decor the most heavily concentrated in Cars Land and on Buena Vista Street. You can also find a giant 50 foot tall Christmas tree in front of Carthay Circle so make sure you don’t miss it! Similar to over at Disneyland, the large Christmas tree takes front and center stage for PhotoPass pictures- save some time to get in line for this great photo op.

Trolley during Christmas at Disneyland

Even our favorite trolley gets in the spirit of the season.

California Adventure Christmas tree

Make sure to take the time to look at the ornaments of this fabulous tree!

It’s hard to feel impressed by other Christmas trees until you’ve seen the ones at Disneyland!

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I especially love all the old time toys you see scattered lovingly underneath the tree. We always enjoy the Disney details and these fantastic trees are filled with them.

Cars Land during Christmas at Disneyland

Cars Land by far has some of the best holiday décor you can find in both parks. The amazing amount of detail that’s already present in Cars Land is further enhanced by the Christmas festivities.

Christmas at Disneyland in Cars Land

Notice the snow-caped tire Christmas tree!

Cars Land at night

And of course, you need to come back at night to see everything all lit up!

Cars Land at night

Most of the lighted areas in Cars Land get some extra Christmas flair! My favorite part was the area by the Cozy Cone Motel.

I could spend all night here. Do I see tinsel?

Each store gets their own festive holiday lights that match their theme.

Don’t miss the clever holiday movie posters on the way into the land.

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Don’t forget your photo op with the Snow Car outside the Cars Land entrance! You may have to wait awhile for this one but it’s worth it. Or get it first thing in the morning before the crowds build.

Pixar Pier Christmas

You’ll see some smaller decor touches over by the wharf.

Pixar Pier christmas

Another great photo op is waiting for you in front of The Little Mermaid.

Monster's Inc ride

Roz is even sporting a Santa hat inside Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!

I recommend allowing some time to grab a hot chocolate in the evening and wander around to take in the lights. It’s truly magnificent to slow down and take it all in.

Downtown Disney and Disney Hotels During Christmas

Downtown Disney also decorates for the season and you can take in all the full lights as you wander around to enjoy the shopping, dining, and entertainment options. If you’ve never been to Downtown Disney I recommend reading our full guide. 

Downtown Disney is the place to go to find plenty of holiday treats and shopping. I particularly enjoyed the Disney Home store as it was filled with an abundance of fantastic holiday decor to fill my suitcase with. I recommend starting your arrival evening, if you’re not heading to the parks, with a dinner in Downtown Disney and some shopping.

Disneyland Hotels during the Holiday Season

One of my favorite parts of Downtown Disney year-round is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Most guests don’t realize you don’t actually have to be staying at this hotel to hang out in the lobby. At Christmas time, this is especially fantastic as this deluxe hotel pulls out all the stops for the holidays.

This hotel features one of the best holiday traditions – the “Grand” Gingerbread House. This giant gingerbread replica of the hotel and stands at 7 feet tall and 12 feet wide, the structure is created from more than 600 pounds of gingerbread, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, 250 pounds of fondant, 1 pound of pixie dust, and features 25 hidden Mickeys.

The 2023 GHC Holiday Cart Treat list has been released and includes special treats including:

  • Mickey Gingerbread
  • Poinsettia Cookie
  • Snowman Cookie
  • Christmas Cookie
  • Hanukkah Cookie
  • Holiday Cookie Box
  • Assorted Macarons (New) 
  • Kwanzaa Sweet Potato Loaf (New) 
  • New Year’s Cookie (New) 
  • Crisped Rice Treat
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Hot Apple Cider (Available with Bailey’s Irish Cream, Captain Morgan, Grand Marnier, or Rumchata)
  • Waffle Shot (Available with milk, low-fat milk, chocolate milk, or eggnog) 
  • Waffle Shot (Available with Bailey’s Irish Cream, Captain Morgan, Grand Marnier, Rumchata, Amaretto, Butterscotch Schnapps, Rumple Minze, Crown Royal Apple, Skrewball Whiskey, Fireball Whiskey, Louis the 13th

The merchandise inside Grand Californian for the holidays always goes quickly so grab yours when you see it!

We spent a long time looking for all the hidden Mickeys in this display and taking in all the details.

Gingerbread House

Look at the details in the fireplace! So majestic. So delicious.

Gingerbread House

The back of the gingerbread house is also decorated and you can find more hidden Mickeys on this side too!


Just to see the scale take a look at the Disneyland Resort Christmas Carolers perform in the lobby! That’s one giant gingerbread house.

The Disneyland Resort Christmas Carolers are extremely talented, you can find them at each of the three hotels: Disney Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and the Paradise Pier Hotel. Watch the video above to listen to part of one of their performances. They’ll usually include kids in their shows too which is great for little ones to experience some Disney magic.

Grand Gingerbread ExperienceImage result for grand californian gingerbread house 2019

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel offers a decorating workshop where guests can build their own gingerbread house with the help of the same team who helped create the giant one in the lobby!

The cost is $70 per person, tax included, and no discounts apply. Each participant receives an apron, and a selection of snacks, cookies and hot cocoa are served during the 90-minute workshop.

Last year’s event was only offered to guests staying at the hotel, this year they have opened up to all park guests! Call (714) 781-3463 to book your tickets.

Hand-Pulled Disneyland Candy Cane Dates 2023 and InfoHand pulled candy canes

This Christmas treat is so popular it deserves its own section in our Disneyland at Christmas guide! Disneyland is one of the remaining places to make their candy canes homemade. Each batch of candy canes is carefully crafted by a Disneyland cast member- many of who have been making them for years. This is a Disneyland tradition that dates back to 1968 and it’s a special experience to be a part of. Each candy cane is 18 inches long and they are absolutely to die for.

These coveted candy canes can be hard to come by if you don’t plan in advance. Guests line up the very instant the gates open to receive their wristband which is limited to only about 120 people per day. Guests are only allowed one wristband per person and it entitles you to one candy cane at that location. No discounts apply for candy canes and you must present your wristband to purchase one!

Both the Candy Palace and Trolley Treats have specific alternating days that they make the candy canes. The candy canes sell for $19.99 each and are 5 oz each. Annual Pass discounts are not applicable for purchasing a Candy Cane.

Best Disneyland Christmas Food 2023

To be honest, I’m just here for the food! Well, partially. But the food offerings at Disneyland are fantastic for the holiday season. Disneyland at Christmas has so many fantastic treats to enjoy that it’s overwhelming.

Each year we keep our Disneyland Treat Guide updated with new offerings. Some of the highlights include:

Holiday Churros at Disney California Adventure Park for 2018 Holidays at Disneyland Resort

So many churros! Our favorite is the Sugarplum Churros located near Haunted Mansion Holiday. I could eat a pound of them. There are great seasonal churro offerings in both parks ranging from Gingerbread to Sugarplum to Candy Cane!

Gingerbread cookies on a tray

The Gingerbread Cookies are a holiday staple and with good reason. We always make sure to get a stack of these to enjoy while we waited for the fireworks. We found ours in the carts located by the hub.

Another favorite twist on a Disney classic is the candy cane beignet! So much food, so little time.

You will also find an abundance of themed holiday dinners at the many restaurants at Disneyland.

Candy cane shaped bread

Over in California Adventure, you can find plenty of seasonal offerings aside from the Festival of Holidays Marketplaces. You can find holiday shaped bread at the Boudin Bread Cart which is a great snack to have in your park bag.

Holiday Treats from Clarabelle’s Hand Scooped Ice Cream at Disney California Adventure Park for 2018 Holidays at Disneyland Resort

Another favorite of mine was the holiday ice-cream sundaes from Clarabelle’s Hand Scooped Ice Cream. Ice-cream for Christmas? In California, it works just fine.

Holiday Treats from Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park for 2018 Holidays at Disneyland Resort

Hands down one of my favorite spots to grab snacks was the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land. We enjoyed the warm chili cone treats and the macarons.

There is so much to eat when you come to Disneyland at Christmas, I recommend you bookmark our guide to all the holiday treats so you can start planning your foodie itinerary.

Tips for Managing Disneyland Christmas CrowdsImage result for disneyland christmas

There are a few things you can do to help avoid crowds when you visit Disneyland at Christmas. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to visit on days when the Magic Key (annual passholders) are blocked. You can check the blockout calendar here. Since Disneyland is primarily a locals park, the the Magic Key holders have a huge impact on the crowd levels.

Another thing you can do is to visit before many of the school districts are out for the holiday season. November (excluding Thanksgiving week) and the first two weeks of December will see lighter crowd levels due to schools still being in session. Read more about planning the dates of your trip in our crowd calendar guide. 

If you have no choice but to visit during the busiest time of the season, it really will be okay. We came on an extremely busy day on our last visit and we still accomplished plenty. Some of the things we did to manage the chaos and still see everything we wanted:

  1. We were at the gates prior to opening so we were able to walk right on (after a quick jog and a skip) to Peter Pan and other favorites to cross off our list. Getting there for rope drop makes all the difference even on the busiest days.
  2. Because we came so early, we had most of the major rides done by lunchtime and were able to spend the rest of the day feeling at ease that we crossed those off our list.
  3. I had figured since it was a Saturday when the APs were able to visit it was going to be busy so when I booked the trip I made sure we had lunch and dinner dining reservations for this day. This way we had a guaranteed place to eat and relax for both meals. I was thankful I did this because every restaurant’s walk in line was long and even the churro stands had long lines! When we could, we used mobile ordering as often as possible.
  4. My son was getting overwhelmed (imagine being half the height of most of the crowd) so we just took the train from land to land. It was much more relaxing than walking through crowded walkways and plus it incorporated that experience into our day. Just remember- it will close prior to the fireworks.
  5. When we felt overwhelmed, we would take a break. We hung out in Star Wars Launch Bay for over an hour and it was quite relaxing. All the wait times for the characters were low- it seemed like most folks were hanging out by the seasonal rides and parade routes.

Now one thing that is also popular this time of year that some folks don’t realize until they’re in the moment? PhotoPass lines!

Everyone wants that perfect holiday picture. We did our castle pictures both days first thing in the morning which gave us no wait and a nice empty backdrop. As for the castle at night, the line will be much less on a weekday if you’re visiting before school is out. Plan your pictures for those days, if you can. And don’t forget to ask your photographer for a Magic Shot! They have lots of fun holiday ones like snow globe frames and Zero from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

And if you can, stay after the fireworks. Many people leave after the fireworks show which drastically cuts down on the wait. Grab some coffee and power through! The crowds will only ruin your day if you let them. You can still have a great experience if you come prepared. You can read more about managing crowds at Disneyland in our guide.

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Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.

About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the content director of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and Disney Dose- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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27 comments add your comment

  1. Hey Team, we will be there from 9th November – 21ST November 2020 and was wondering:
    a) when did the Christmas fireworks kick off last year? from the 2nd weekend in November or from the start? and are they only of a weekend or just Friday, Sat & Sunday?
    b) When did the Christmas tree’s go up and go live with lights/lighting? from the websites i have read Christmas time at Disney starts the 2nd weekend of November but i don’t know if this usually means for everything or if the trees go up before hand or have a separate lighting ceremony?
    c) when does the holiday themed food usually start arriving in stores?
    When do you think they will kick off the holiday season this year for 2020?

  2. In 2020 when will Disneyland turnover to Christmas. I want to be in Disneyland from November 9-12. Will we make the Christmas turnover?

    • We don’t have the official dates yet but I think it’s safe to say yes!

  3. Hello, are the Candy Canes going to be available on Dec7th at Trolley Treats next week? Since Buena Vista St. is open but with Covid restrictions, I was wondering about this. Thanks Jacki

  4. Everything looks wonderful and exciting. Any possible info about Candlelight Christmas ceremony?
    Thank you

    • Not yet, but Walt Disney World announced they are doing theirs so fingers crossed for Disneyland!

  5. Hi. Thanks for all the tips! I look forward to looking for all these exciting things. Just wondering…do you have inside info to confirm the parade will be done every day during the season this year? I know their site says it will be Nov 12 through Jan 9, but it’s only listed for Merriest Nites and also on Nov 12 and 13. All days after that say it’s not occurring that day (doesnt say “schedule not yet available”). Might Disney be saving the parade for those extra paid nights and maybe the opening and closing of the holiday season?

    • Disneyland is usually pretty slow in posting entertainment schedules- the parade will run daily at 3:30 and 5PM during the holiday season.

  6. We are planning a company Holiday Event for Dec 3rd to go to Disneyland and we are coming from Arizona, in regards to the Merriest Nites if they do it again this year 2022 and we purchase tickets for our large group for just regular entrance, will the park close at 5pm on that Sat Dec 3rd? I ask because we may have to book on a different Sat where the park may be open later.
    Thank you

    • We don’t know yet if Disney will hold Merriest Nites this year, keep checking back as we will post info as we find out more news!

  7. We have Disneyland booked nov 9-12 this year on our way back from Aulani. It hit me we may see the beginning of the holiday season. I am able to make our park reservations on July 7th. If I have 2 park days, Nov 10 and 11, Which Park – based on trends of previous years- do you think I should I reserve, which day, if I do NOT have hoppers? I have never been to Disneyland at Christmastime. Thank you.

    • What a fun trip! Aulani and Disneyland… exciting! I would expect that you will be either the first days of the holiday season or a week into the holiday season. Typically the holidays start on one of the first Fridays in November. Without any specific knowledge, I would bet that Disneyland Christmas 2022 will start on November 11th.

      Well, we don’t yet know if there will be a Merriest Nights holiday party again this year which could impact the day. I would personally recommend Disneyland on Friday and Disney California Adventure on Saturday. Friday will be crowded also but you will have a lot of locals coming in on Saturday to see the holidays. Lots of variables up in the air but I would start there!

      You will love Disneyland at Christmas in 2022! The holidays at Disneyland are my absolute favorite time of year.

  8. Good morning. Always checking your site because we do a Disney vacation at least once a year, (plus I love the wordle.) We are going to Disneyland mid-September, and I’ve been noticing that Fantasmic! has disappeared from the schedule. Any scuttlebutt as to what is going on with that? Thanks.

  9. Thanks, Mickey Visit! Can someone tell me if the nighttime shows will run every night during the indicated holiday season? I’m taking my son January 2-5, so I want to make sure we can see them.

    • While we don’t have a complete schedule yet, we can be pretty sure that the parade and fireworks will be performed daily throughout the holiday season based on previous year’s schedules.

  10. Hello, do you know if the park is usually open late on December weekdays or just weekends? I plan to visit first week of December and want to get max hours while possibly avoiding weekend crowds. Thanks for your help

    • The parks are usually open late throughout December, especially as we get closer and closer to the end of the month holiday period.

  11. Hi! Do you know when we can know of the Merriest Nights are coming back this dec?

    I am going with my family dec 7th – 13th and wouldnt want to purchase tickets on Night Party day due to having to leave early.

    Thank you!

    • No word yet on if Merriest Nites will return, we will update this guide immediately if we get news!

  12. Is this truly updated for 2023? You click on the Breakfast with Santa link and it says Catal Restaurant is closed.

    • The article is updated with information as we get it. The Catal restaurant is now closed. We will remove that mention in the holiday guide. Thank you for commenting. As you can imagine, there is lots of information on the site that is always changing.

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