Guide to Christmas Time at Disneyland with Kids

Disneyland is the merriest place on Earth to celebrate the winter holidays. Even Scrooge himself would find it impossible not to revel in the joy of the holiday season at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks. Here’s what you need to know before going to Disneyland with kids at Christmas time!

Holiday decorations at Disney California Adventure Park
Holiday decorations at Disney California Adventure Park (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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Magical Holiday Decorations

A trip to Disneyland at Christmas is worthwhile, even if only to stroll down the quintessentially Christmassy Main Street. Of course, the decorations don’t end on Main Street. Throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, everything is doused with greenery, ornaments, and twinkling lights. You can’t miss Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in the center of Disneyland Park all dolled up for Wintertime Enchantment with faux snow, sparkling icicles, and lights galore.

Disneyland holiday decorations on Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle
Disneyland holiday decorations on Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

A Christmas Fantasy Parade

Usually my family skips the parades during our Disney visits to take advantage of shorter ride wait times. The Christmas Fantasy Parade, however, is definitely worth watching. It features dancers, spinning snowmen, trumpet-playing toy soldiers, and floats topped with everyone’s favorite Disney characters. Most impressive is the float on which Mickey and Minnie skate upon a real ice rink!

This parade was my daughter’s favorite part of visiting Disneyland during the holidays when she was a preschooler. 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!

Santa Claus in A Christmas Fantasy Parade
Santa Claus in A Christmas Fantasy Parade (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

Santa Claus at Disneyland

There really is something so magical about meeting Santa Claus at the Happiest Place on Earth! If your family wants to meet the jolly old elf himself during your Disney visit, head over to Critter Country in Disneyland or Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Disney California Adventure. During the day kids have a chance to share their Christmas wishes and pose for a photo with Santa. When he heads out to deliver gifts on his sleigh on Christmas Eve, Goofy stands in for Santa until the Disneyland holiday festivities conclude in January.

Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse dressed up for the holidays
Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse dressed up for the holidays (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

Festive Disney Characters

Kids love to meet Disney characters and parents love to snap those adorable photos. Be sure to find your favorite characters decked out in their holiday sweaters and scarves during the Christmas season at Disneyland. You may even get a holiday card-worthy photo out of it!

Holiday-themed candied apples at Disneyland
Holiday-themed candied apples at Disneyland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Special Holiday Treats

Do like Santa does and leave the diet at home during Christmas at Disneyland. Look for holiday-themed sweet treats like Candy Cane Beignets, Gingerbread Crème Brûlée, Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Funnel Cake, and a Raspberry Mascarpone Yule Log.

Disney’s hand-twisted, gigantic candy canes are a big deal each Christmas season. Get yours at Candy Palace on Main Street in Disneyland or Trolley Treats in Disney California Adventure on special dates during the holiday season.

On the savory side, holiday specials include dishes like Chicken Mole and Caldo de Pollo at Rancho del Zocalo. Go to the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café to dig your teeth into the Thanks-Mas Sandwich, filled with oven-roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce on rustic bread.

Wash down your holiday goodies with a festive beverage, like a Pumpkin Spice Cold Brew Coffee or a Cranberry Julep. See a full listing of Disneyland holiday foods for 2019 here.

The Thanks-Mas holiday sandwich at Disneyland
The Thanks-Mas holiday sandwich (Photo credit: Disneyland Resort)

“it’s a small world” Holiday

Fabulous for all ages, “it’s a small world” is an absolute must-see during the holiday season at Disneyland. Kids will enjoy seeing the attraction’s darling animatronic world citizens 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.

During most of the year, you can usually expect a short line for this ride. Not so during Christmas time! Try to hit “it’s a small world” Holiday early in the day before the line gets too long.

"it's a small world" Holiday at Disneyland theme park
“it’s a small world” Holiday (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Haunted Mansion Holiday

It’s also worth waiting in an enormous line to experience Haunted Mansion Holiday. The classic spooky Disney ride is transformed with a “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme during Christmas and Halloween Time at Disneyland. Keep in mind, this ride may be a bit too scary for fearful young children. Thankfully, though, it’s less frightening with the red and green, jack-o-lantern-bedecked holiday overlay than its traditional theming.

Haunted Holiday during Christmas at Disneyland
Haunted Holiday during the Christmas season at Disneyland (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

Mater’s Jingle Jamboree

Look for another exciting ride at in Cars Land in Disney California Adventure theme park. During the holidays, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. This tractor pull takes on a new look and feel with seasonal decor and music.

Cars Land Christmas decorations at Disney California Adventure

Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl

Just like Mater, Luigi loves to decorate for the Christmas season. Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters get a festive makeover for a limited time with holiday trimmings. Children will want to take a spin in one of Luigi’s Italian Roadsters while he sings some of his favorite seasonal songs.

Cars Land festive holiday decorations at Disneyland
Festive holiday decorations in Cars Land (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Disney ¡Viva Navidad!

Disney ¡Viva Navidad! in Disney California Adventure Park is a multicultural celebration of the holidays. Hosted by the Three Caballeros (including Donald Duck), this festive street party includes dancing, music and larger-than-life puppets. In Paradise Gardens Park, Disney ¡Viva Navidad! brings the sights, sounds and flavors of Latin culture to life.

The Three Caballeros at Disney ¡Viva Navidad! at Disney California Adventure
The Three Caballeros at Disney ¡Viva Navidad! (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

World of Color – Season of Light

Also at Disney California Adventure, the World of Color show features a temporary overlay during the merriest time of the year. Season of Light invites you to celebrate the holidays with lights, water fountains and seasonal tunes. There are usually two showings each evening, and you can make FastPass requests for this attraction. Disney also offers World of Color Dining and Dessert Packages to secure priority seating.

World of Color - Season of Light holiday show at Disney California Adventure theme park
World of Color – Season of Light (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

Live Holiday Music

In Disneyland Park, Frontierland offers guests a chance to listen to jazz music and holiday songs. Gather at the waterfront of Rivers of America to listen to Jambalaya Jazz or Royal Street Bachelors perform on select nights. From your spot along the river, you can also catch the “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular that lights up the sky over Sleeping Beauty Castle.

“Believe...In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular at Disneyland during the holidays
“Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular (Photo credit: Joshua Sudock, Disneyland Resort)

“Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular

Top off your family’s visit to Disneyland during the holidays with the “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular. This impressive fireworks show is accompanied by music and a festive light display projected onto Sleeping Beauty Castle. Check the Disneyland app for showtimes. The show concludes with a magical sprinkling of “snow” on Main Street. It’s enough to bring tears to any Disney lover’s eyes.

Book Your Disneyland Trip

Save Money on Your Disneyland Christmas Vacation

Want to save money on your Disneyland vacation? Of course, you do!

Use discount code TravelMamas to get $10 off any two-night or longer Southern California package (hotel and two-ticket minimum) when you book through our trusted partner, Get Away Today. Just want tickets? Buy discounted Disneyland Park tickets now!

Learn more about how to save money at Disneyland during the holidays.

Disney California Adventure is a festive place to celebrate New Year's Eve with kids, or without!
Disney California Adventure is a festive place to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer, Disney)

Get More Christmas Travel Tips

Considering ringing in the New Year at Disneyland? You’ll want to read my tips for celebrating New Year’s Eve at Disney California Adventure.

Discover the best white Christmas vacations in the world, recommended by travel experts.

Celebrate the holidays in Arizona with these Christmas attractions and events in Scottsdale.

Learn about unusual European Christmas traditions.

Christmas at Disneyland Tips

Keep these Disneyland Holiday Season Tips

Be sure to save this guide to visiting Disneyland during the holidays. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have any questions about experiencing the holidays at Disneyland with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. the holiday time is the best time to be at disney. i hope to go back next winter, this year was off due to my health.

  2. i love christmastime at disneyland. one of the best times there! i just wish they upgraded the parade. and would be fine w/o the nightmare before christmas layover on the haunted mansion.

  3. “Cars Land” and “World of Colour” are my two picks from all these spots at Disneyland! They are my favourite chill-spots.

  4. That looks like a really fun time! I haven’t been to Disneyland in over 25 years and my husband and kids haven’t wanted to go. I stand alone! Maybe I will take myself to Disneyland and send them pictures!

    1. Whaaaat?! How crazy that your kids don’t want to go! Disneyland would make a really fun girlfriend getaway, too. You totally should go and send your family pics…I bet they’ll wish they were there!

  5. Nothing is better than Disney during the holidays! The energy is just so wonderful. That being said, there’s a lot to take in. These tips are going to be a big help to a lot of families.

  6. A trip to the Happiest Place on Earth is good for the soul. Going during the holidays, because Disney does holidays the best is an amazing experience.

  7. Very moving post. Makes me want to explore our world. How different the world we be if people would travel more and learn to celebrate our differences instead of hiding from them.

  8. It is impossible not to be happy at Disneyland. I can never tell who has more fun… me, my husband, or my 2 year-old son. It’s a Small World during the holidays is a must!