Although I have been to Disneyland a multitude of times, up until last week, I had never visited during the holiday season. Now that I have experienced the happiest time of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth, I defy Scrooge himself to remain cranky during a trip to Disneyland during the holidays.
My son, Leo, and I standing in front of the huge Christmas tree on Disneyland’s Main Street
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!
A trip to Disneyland during the holidays is worthwhile, even if only to stroll down the quintessentially Christmas-y Main Street. Of course, the decorations don’t end on Main Street. Throughout Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Park, everything is doused with greenery, ornaments, and twinkling lights. You can’t miss Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, in the center of the park all dolled up with snow, icicles, and lights galore.
Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle
Haunted Mansion Holiday
It is worth waiting in an enormous line to see the Haunted Mansion Holiday…for older kids and adults. The attraction is transformed with a jack-o-lantern-laden, red and green “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme during the Halloween and Christmas seasons. This ride may be a bit too spooky for youngsters; I’d say hold off on this one until age six or so.
“it’s a small world” decked out with holiday lights
“it’s a small world” Holiday Celebration
This ride is an absolute must-see at Christmastime. Yes, the line is long. Yes, you will get the cutesy song stuck in your head. Yes, your children will adore the animatronic dolls representing cultures from around the world dressed up in their holiday finest. The China display features fireworks in red and gold to commemorate Chinese New Year, while Polynesia wishes you a “Mele Kalikimaka” and includes hula dancers jingling in unison with strings of bells draped across their hips. Try to hit “it’s a small world” holiday early in the day before the line gets too long and stimulation-overload sets in.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
Usually we skip the parades during our Disney visits. Rather than waiting with two wriggling kids for a viewing spot along the parade route, we use parade time to take advantage of shorter ride lines. On this trip, however, I got a sampling of what I have been missing out on. The Christmas Fantasy Parade features dancers, spinning snowmen, and trumpet-playing toy soldiers, plus floats topped with everyone’s favorite characters. Most impressive was the float on which Mickey and Minnie skated across a real ice rink!
The parade was my four-year-old daughter’s admitted favorite part of our holiday visit. When I asked her why she liked it so much, she looked at me as though I had reindeer antlers growing out of my head and said, “Because it ended with Santa Claus!”
Well, duh, of course!
My daugher, Karissa, posing with a festive Pluto and Donald Duck
Be sure to find your favorite characters decked out in their festive sweaters and scarves. You may even get a holiday-card-worthy photo out of it! Kids love to meet their favorite Disney characters. Parents love to snap those adorable photos. My daughter is stubborn about getting her picture taken so I take full advantage of Disney character meetings as the one time she merrily smiles for the camera.
My kids munching on Disney’s holiday brownies and cookies
Bring a sweet tooth and leave the diet at home during your Disneyland holiday visit. My family and I enjoyed brownies topped with red and green candies as well as snowman-shaped sugar cookies. And, next year, I vow to sample more holiday treats!
I stumbled across Guy’s Disney Holiday on the Food Network just after our visit. I wish I had seen this special featuring Guy Fieri BEFORE we went! Who knew I should have been on the lookout for waffle ice cream cones dipped in chocolate and crushed candy canes? Or Yule logs made of chocolate sponge cake, butter cream, and chocolate ganache?
Santa’s Reindeer Roundup
Apparently there are live reindeer and “western fun” at Santa’s Reindeer Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch. According to the Disneyland website, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Pluto the rein-dog can be found here in addition to festive face-painting.
I’m sorry to say we missed this attraction during our visit. It’s hard enough to squeeze in everyone’s favorite rides and shows on a regular day, much less when there are special parades and holiday-themed attractions to see! The summer crowds were nothing compared to the crush of people we experienced during our Christmastime visit. My advice? Plan to go for at least two days. One day just wasn’t enough!
“a bug’s land” holiday decorations
Magic in “a bug’s land”
Head over to ”a bug’s land” at Disney’s California Adventure to pose before giant Christmas ornaments and humongous glowing holiday lights.
My favorite memory of our Disneyland holiday adventure took place over here when I took my ride-phobic 21-month-old son, Leo, on Flik’s Flyers. It’s a circular flying ride, much like Dumbo, but with giant pretend boxes of animal crackers, Chinese take-out, or raisins functioning as the cars instead of elephants.
Leo said, “No, no, no” and clung tightly to me as we boarded the ride. But I sat him on my lap and whispered reassuring words into his ear and he settled down. I could feel his body tense as we slowly took flight, but he didn’t cry. He just leaned his head into my chest hard and stared at the wonder of the world whipping past him. He’s getting to be a big boy in a world full of so many things to explore and it’s hard to get him to slow down long enough to snuggle up with me too much anymore. As I rubbed my chin across the tufts of his fine baby hair, I wondered how much longer will the world seem completely safe to him, just as long as he is with his mama. It was one of those moments you want to stop and bottle up and keep forever – just the two of us flying through the crisp winter air together.
Beyond the decorations, treats and shows – this is what I love about Disneyland – magical moments that I will carry with me forever.
What is your favorite Disney holiday memory? Do you have any questions about visiting Disneyland during the holidays? Please leave a comment!
A Note from The Travel Mama: My family and I received free one-day Park Hopper passes as part of Disneyland’s Family Media Day. This did not affect the content of this post in any way. I love Disneyland no matter who pays!