When visiting Disneyland during Christmas, trying to prioritize your time can be difficult with so many treats, entertainment, and seasonal things to do! Whether you're visiting for just one day or a few days, here are our top five seasonal things you must not miss at Disneyland during the holiday celebration.
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1. Nighttime Entertainment like “Believe… In Holiday Magic” Fireworks and World of Color- Season of Light
One of the best things about visiting Disneyland during Christmas is that there is no extra ticket needed to see all the seasonal entertainment. As long as you have your general ticket to Disneyland, you're all set- there are no Holiday parties like at Disney World. One of the highlights of this great entertainment is “Believe… In Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular that takes place in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle, it's a small world facade, and the Rivers of America. This nighttime fireworks show features Disneyland themed Christmas music, breathtaking fireworks, and scented gingerbread snowfall in front of the castle.
Pro tip: get a spot near the castle by 7:30PM to catch the first castle lighting and then stake your spot until the fireworks begin. While I normally don't recommend waiting for the castle spot for fireworks, the holiday fireworks are worth it due to the breathtaking display of lights on Sleeping Beauty's Castle. It makes it all the more magical!
The nighttime entertainment over in Disney's California Adventure Park is the World of Color show called Season of Light. This Christmas version of World of Color combines holiday music with classical Disney moments from beloved films. This beautiful World of Color show is a fan favorite among many Disneyland guests and it's a must see for your holiday vacation.
Pro tip: read our guide to World of Color to find out how to secure a FastPass to the show or if picking a dining package is the right choice for your group! I always like to splurge on the Dessert Party so you can read my review to see if that's a fit for you!
2. A Christmas Fantasy Parade
A Christmas Fantasy parade is the seasonal parade for Disneyland during Christmas 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. My favorite are the reindeer- they're just too cute. This parade will often have two showings- one at 3:30PM and one at 6PM. I always like to watch the second showing to really enjoy the lights in the parade.
Pro tip: Get a spot near it's a small world to watch the second parade at 6PM. Grab a FastPass for it's a small world Holiday that begins at 6:30PM and then hop in line to ride after the parade ends. If you get a spot early enough, at least an hour before the parade, you can also see the small projection show that occurs every 15 minutes after dark on it's a small world Holiday.
3. Themed Attractions like Haunted Mansion Holiday or it's a small world Holiday
Disneyland goes all out for holiday decor for two of its most beloved attractions: Haunted Mansion and it's a small world. These holiday overlays are so impressive and are one of the best things about visiting Disneyland during Christmas.
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. 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. You can also view a short projection show that lights up the attraction every 15 minutes making it a great place to watch the parade from.
The Haunted Mansion Holiday is an overlay based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. 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! Some guests actually prefer this version over the original! Make sure you don't miss it.
Pro tip: grab a FastPass for both of these attractions as they become quite popular during the holiday season with these seasonal overlays. If you head to both in the morning you can then grab a FastPass for a second ride during the evening to enjoy all the lights.
4. Seasonal Food and Festival Treats
The holiday food at Disneyland during Christmas is amazing! There is an abundance of holiday cookies, ice-cream, beginets, seasonal churros- you name it! You can read our entire foodie guide to Disneyland during Christmas to get an idea of what you should look out for. Each year the resort will release a new updated food list but some seasonal treats return each year.
Over at Disneyland's California Adventure park, their holiday celebration is one of multicultural food and holidays with tons of great food to try at their Festival of Holidays. You can easily spend the entire day eating your way through all the great food booths offered.
One of these much anticipated treats are the hand-pulled candy canes that have been a Disneyland tradition for over 50 years! Guests line up early just to get a wristband for the chance of receiving one of the coveted candy canes.
Pro tip: if you have your heart set on a candy cane, the lines for the hand-pulled candy canes are often much less intense and shorter over at California Adventure. Head straight to Trolley Treats right when the gates open to get your wristband and then your candy cane!
5. Holiday Decor
There are plenty of amazing spots around Disneyland during Christmas to enjoy the holiday decor but the one that steals the show are the lights on 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. Every evening there is a lighting ceremony in front of the castle which includes a brief snowfall of gingerbread scented snow. This ceremony typically occurs at 6:00PM and 7:30PM every night.
In both California Adventure and Disneyland you can find 60 foot Christmas trees in Town Square and in front of Carthay Circle. Both of these trees have lighting ceremonies that occur nightly and are filled with amazing detail. Take the time to get up close to look at the beautiful ornaments.
You will also find decorations integrated into many of the lands in both of the parks adding that holiday touch into nearly every corner at Disneyland during Christmas.
The one area you cannot miss though is Cars Land at California Adventure. The details of this land are already incredible and they go all out with Christmas from a snow man themed car at the entrance to themed lights for each store in Radiator Springs.
You'll find the attractions that receive holiday overlays over in Cars Land: Luigi's Joy to the Whirl and Mater's Jingle Jamboree. Mater's Jingle Jamboree and Luigi's Joy to the Whirl are both decked out in holiday lights along with a Christmas jingles.
Pro tip: take an hour to grab a hot chocolate in the evening and just walk around to look at the holiday decor in both parks. It's easy to get so caught up in jumping from ride to ride that we forget to take a moment to slow down and enjoy the park atmosphere.
Ready to See Disneyland During Christmas?
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- Discount Disneyland Ticket Guide
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- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Guide
- Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway
- Guide to Parades at Disneyland