Disneyland in December is one of the best times of the year to visit! The holiday celebrations are in full swing with Christmas themed parade and fireworks, holiday overlays on favorite attractions, an abundance of holiday food, and more!
Everyone has personal preferences to consider when planning the date of their Disneyland trip- each season will have its pros and cons and guests’ choices will vary based on those. Make sure to read our Disneyland crowd calendar to get an idea of what to expect when picking a date to visit Disneyland.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting Disneyland in December including current events, what weather to expect, crowd level predictions, and what to pack!
Disneyland December 2023 Events
Here are all the current events to know about impacting Disneyland in December!
Festive Holidays & Christmas Celebration
The holiday season kicks off at Disneyland on November 10th and runs until January 7th, 2024. So for guests visiting Disneyland in December, your visit is going to be filled with magic from the Holiday season celebrations. The amount of things to see and experience during the Christmas celebration is overwhelming because of the abundance of great offerings! We recommend reading through our Christmas guide so you have an idea of what to expect and what you want to see.
Holiday Themed Parade, Fireworks, and Attractions
A Christmas Fantasy is the name of the Disneyland Christmas 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.
The breathtaking fireworks display is called “Believe… in Holiday Magic” which are themed for the holiday season! This nighttime fireworks show features Disneyland themed Christmas music, breathtaking fireworks, and scented gingerbread snowfall in front of the castle.
Disneyland pulls out all the stops for two of its most classic rides it’s a small world and Haunted Mansion. The facade for it’s a small world is transformed with thousands of twinkling lights and the tune of the ride changes to a Jingle Bells melody. it’s a small world becomes it’s a small world Holiday for the Christmas season. The Haunted Mansion receives a Tim Burton Night Before Christmas theme which is so well done that some guests prefer this version over the original! The Haunted Mansion is then transformed into Haunted Mansion Holiday. Both of these rides get busier than usual this time of year due to the popularity of these themes.
Christmas Decor, Food, and Meet and Greets
Other highlights of visiting this time of year include seeing both Disneyland and California Adventure decked out in their holiday finest. There will be enormous Christmas trees in both parks filled with incredible detail and thousands of lights. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle gets a holiday makeover adorned with twinkling icicles, lights, and wreaths. Cars Land in California Adventure gets fully decorated with immense detail focused on the Cars movie- don’t miss out on seeing those great decorations!
The celebration that takes place inside California Adventure is the Festival of the Holidays with international food kiosks featuring holiday food from all over the world and delicious holiday treats. The park also celebrates with ¡Viva Navidad! which is a Latin American-inspired experience that features a street parade along with unique meet and greets. Read more about the Disneyland Festival of the Holidays including food menus, entertainment, and tips.
Downtown Disney also gets special holiday treatment with holiday decor throughout the downtown and inside the Disney-owned hotels! Take some time to stop in at 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 with decor, treats, and a larger-than-life Gingerbread House in the lobby.
Guests can also enjoy an abundance of holiday-themed food at the bakeries, restaurants, and candy shops! One Christmas treat favorite for guests is the hand-dipped candy canes that Disney has been making for over 50 years. You can also meet Santa in both parks, see our favorite characters in their holiday finest, and enjoy a plethora of great holiday shopping.
Universal Studios Hollywood Christmas Celebration
Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates Christmas with a fantastic celebration in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that includes gorgeous decorations, a nighttime show on Hogwarts castle, and live entertainment. They also have an annual Grinchmas celebration which features characters, entertainment, and food offerings from the Dr. Seuss classic.
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Disneyland December Crowd Calendar
The holidays at Disneyland are an extremely popular time of year for people to visit the resort. Each year gets a bit trickier when it comes to avoiding crowds. The biggest thing you can do to potentially avoid those higher crowds (although I’d still be prepared for busy!) is to come earlier in the month of December. If you can visit within the first two weeks of the month, you’ll have a greater chance of avoiding the larger crush of crowds that come with schools let out for holiday breaks.
The Disneyland locals always have an impact on crowds and even more so for the holiday season as many Magic Key holders will turn out in droves to see it all. It’s always helpful to take a look at the blockout date calendar on Disney’s website. It’s a common misconception that weekdays aren’t busy at Disneyland- this isn’t always the case when it comes to the pass calendars. Here are the block-out dates for Magic Key holders in December 2023:
- Imagine Key: most Fridays-Sundays, all of December
- Enchant Key: most Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 20-31
- Believe Key: Saturdays, peak holidays, Dec. 20-31
- Inspire Key: Dec. 20-31
By looking at the blockout dates for the Magic Key passes, Saturday will consistently be one of the best days to visit Disneyland during the Christmas season. Since weekends are consistently blocked out for passholders in the holiday season, this will also greatly contribute to Monday being one of the worst days to visit the parks as passholders will often come on Mondays after being blocked out all weekend.
Another interesting thing to note is that Dec. 20-31 is blocked out of ALL Magic Key holders. This will greatly help reduce the crowds during those dates but still expect crowds since the holiday season is so popular among tourists. This also means we will see large crowds on December 19th as the passholders that are not blocked will come out to see the parks before they are limited for the rest of the year. So this would make that particular Tuesday one to avoid!
You can still have a great vacation even if Disneyland is crowded as long as you plan ahead. Make dining reservations, consider booking a dining package for anticipated nighttime shows and arrive early to the parks every day. Even on an extremely crowded day, being there 30 minutes before the park officially opens allows you to experience the park with smaller crowds. Those two or three hours before 11AM are the best- don’t miss out. Read our full guide on handling crowds to prepare yourself for visiting Disneyland in December.
When it comes to experiencing the seasonal events and rides, here are some strategies that will help you maximize your time:
- Follow our Christmas time touring plan to prioritize it’s a small world Holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday. I always recommend doing the Haunted Mansion Holiday earlier in the day while doing it’s a small world Holiday at night in order to see all the twinkling lights.
- Watch the A Christmas Fantasy parade over by it’s a small world for more room to breathe from the crowds and easier access to close-by restrooms and snack carts.
- If you plan on meeting Santa, check the times on the Disneyland App and arrive before he does to get a good spot in line. The earlier in the day, you have your kids meet Santa the better- this way they’re fresh and happy!
- If you plan on watching the Believe… In Holiday Magic fireworks in front of the castle, be prepared for wait around 2 hours for a good spot. Get some hot chocolate and bring a blanket to sit on as the pavement will cool down at night. To enjoy the fireworks with less wait, get a spot over by it’s a small world Holiday. Read our full guide to fireworks with more tips on getting the best view.
Disneyland Weather in December
The weather at Disneyland in December is pleansantly cool but still sunny with an average high of 67 degrees and an average low of 48 degrees. The low typically never falls below 58 degrees and the high rarely exceeds 79 degrees. There is a chance for some rainfall in December since this is considered California’s winter month which means rain. The parks won’t close for rain but some rides with outdoor tracks might.
One good thing about experiencing rain at Disneyland is it tends to empty out the parks as many guests dash back to their hotels. This is a great time to throw on a rain poncho and experience low wait ride times.
Tips for Visiting Disneyland in December
When it comes to visiting Disneyland in December, we have some tried and true hacks for having a magical time on your vacation.
What to Wear
One of the most frequently asked guest questions is: what should I wear to Disneyland? Always check the weather leading up to your trip. The real trick to dressing for Disneyland in December is to wear layers. During the day when the sun is out you may feel most comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans. But then once the sun goes down, the temperature may drop and you’ll likely want a hoodie or zip up fleece to stay warm. If you experience rain, it’s smart to pack ponchos to be prepared just in case! You can put extra ponchos, coats, and hoodies in a locker so you’re not carrying them all day. It will cool down at night so be prepared- our first in December surprised me because being from Colorado I felt that no ‘California winter’ would phase me! I was mistaken- I definitely froze that first night without a warm fleece.
What to Pack
I always recommend packing layers for this time of year so you’re prepared for the day. My typical outfit for visiting in the winter months is a flannel, t-shirt, and hoodie so I can easily work with layers throughout the day. It is really up to personal preference but make sure you’re prepared for the warm sun during the day and the cool evenings.
Considering the abundance of seasonal dining options at Disneyland for the holiday season, you may want to pack some dressy clothes if you want to have a nice meal and feel a bit fancy!
You can read our giant packing list here to make sure you show up prepared for literally anything you need while you’re visiting Disneyland.
What to Expect
There are a few things you should expect when choosing December as your month to visit Disneyland:
- Plan for Themed Attractions- one of my favorite parts about visiting Disneyland during the holidays is experiencing the themed attractions! While there are a few holiday overlays in California Adventure, you simply cannot miss Haunted Mansion Holiday and it’s a small world Holiday in Disneyland. These rides will be much more popular than usual because of these themes so be prepared to use FastPass for both of them to avoid waiting too long in line.
- Plan for Crowds- the holiday season is a busy time of year no matter when you go but you can avoid the crush of crowds if you visit within the first two weeks of the month in December before most public schools let out for holiday break. If you can’t do this, don’t worry! You can still plan for large crowds and enjoy your day by following our awesome morning strategy for Disneyland here and California Adventure here you can be done with the major rides by lunchtime before the big crowds arrive. Getting to the gates early is the key to avoiding crowds even when visiting at a busy time of the year.
- Book Dining Reservations Early– another great way to plan for crowds is to make dining reservations far in advance so you know you have a guaranteed table to eat at so you can take a break from any crowds that may appear during your visit.
But most of all, remember to enjoy your time at the happiest place on earth!
Plan Your Disneyland Vacation!
Ready to visit Disneyland in December? Keep reading our blog to keep you updated on everything you need to know to prepare for a Disney Parks vacation! We have a team of writers working hard to keep you updated weekly on events in the parks and tips for navigating the magic. Subscribe to our free deals newsletter to receive helpful planning information, exclusive Disney deals, and access to the lowest priced Disney tickets anywhere. You can find more information on planning your vacation here:
- Discount Disneyland Ticket Guide
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Guide to Parades at Disneyland
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