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Guide to Christmas Time at Disneyland with Kids

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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 TripSave Money on Your Disneyland Christmas Vacation

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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!

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. If traveling to Disneyland during the holidays with little ones, then take a look at my picks for the best Disneyland rides and attractions for babies and toddlers.

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

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Vaughn Stemmer says

    Hey, first I want to tell you that I follow your blog. Great post, I entirely agree with you. Have a great day mate.

  4. Emman Damian says

    I hope to visit Disneyland soon! I’m so excited for it. It’s one of the happiest places on earth.

  5. Bill Sweeney says

    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.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I hadn’t ever thought of it that way before, but I do believe you’re right, Bill! Disneyland really is good for the soul…especially during the holidays!

  6. 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.

  7. Great pictures. Disney is really magical and enchanted .

  8. I really do love Disney. I haven’t yet been there during the Christmas holidays but it looks beautiful.

  9. Dominique Brooks says

    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!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      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!

  10. Disneyland. A dream place. one day I also visit this place..

  11. Emily Zielisnkli says

    It would be my dream to go to Disneyland at Christmas time.

  12. Ntensibe Edgar Michael says

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

  13. 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.

  14. katrina Kroeplin says

    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.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a tough year for your health. I hope next year you will be feeling fabulous and will be able to visit Disneyland for the holidays!

  15. I spent the holidays at Disney world once as a kid. I need to go back as an adult it looks magical.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      How wonderful to have childhood memories of visiting Disney World during the holidays! Disney really does go all out to celebrate this special time of year!

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