Disneyland at Christmas time is one of the very best times of the year to visit, and it is no doubt the merriest place on earth! We’ve visited Disneyland during the holidays every year for the last eight years, so I thought I would share some of our favorite Disneyland at Christmas tips and tricks. If you are headed to Disneyland on Christmas break, it will be busy. The good news is that when it’s busy, Disneyland opens earlier and stays open later, so you have plenty of time to experience the Christmas magic.
If you are planning a visit, I highly recommend checking with Get Away Today for discount park tickets! If you use the promo code Pencil, you can save $10 off a Southern California vacation package when you book with them!
1. A Christmas Fantasy Parade
The Christmas Fantasy Parade is completely magical. Check the schedule for the day or days you will be there and make sure to plan your afternoon or evening around enjoying the parade.
It’s best to save a spot early, especially on a busy day. I think this a a great time to grab a seat on the curb and snack on a hand-dipped corndog from the Little Red Wagon or a holiday treat from the Jolly Holiday Bakery.
You may want to bring a small blanket to hold your spot and to sit on while you wait. Be prepared for a tight squeeze once the parade starts. If you aren’t sure where to sit, ask a Cast Member where they recommend you wait. They always have good suggestions!
Parade photos courtesy of Kristi Wallace
2. Don’t Miss the Jingle Cruise
This was one of our absolute favorites this year! The World Famous Jungle Cruise is ready for the holidays and the details are just amazing.
We love the Jungle Cruise, and the Christmas decor is such a fun spin! Make sure to take the time to read the signs on your way through the line!
3. “it’s a small world” Holiday
During the holidays, It’s a Small World is transformed and the holiday details are just beautiful!
Even if you ride during the day, make sure to check out this attraction at night as well. The small world facade is absolutely gorgeous all lit up!
Small World photos courtesy of Kristi Wallace
4. Meeting Jack Skellington and Sally – Jack and Sally are probably the most in demand meet and greet at Disneyland. They are only out three months out of the year, so the lines can get really long, but it is completely worth the wait. My best tip is to check the Disneyland app to see when they will be appearing. Cast Members will not allow you to form a line ahead of time, so just relax and hang out in the area and be ready to form a line when they appear.
Our kids brought their Nightmare Before Christmas Tsum Tsums to show Jack and Sally and they had a lot of fun talking to them about the Tsum Tsums.
Jack and Sally spend a good amount of time talking with each guest, so bring your patience and be kind to the Cast Members and guests around you.
5. The Haunted Mansion – Halloween Time marks the return of the Haunted Masion Holiday where it is completely decked out with The Nightmare Before Christmas decor. Soak up all the fun details on this ride! Make sure to keep your eye out for the Hat Box Ghost, newly returned to the attraction, and the gingerbread house display, my personal favorite!
6. Fast Pass – During the Haunted Mansion Holiday, Disneyland offers Fast Passes for this attraction. The demand for the ride is really high during this time, so a Fast Pass is your best bet to avoid waiting in a long line! If you are at the park early, you can probably hop right on, but I would still recommend getting a fast pass for this attraction and visiting popular attractions that don’t offer fast passes first thing in the morning.
7. Holiday Characters
The easiest way to get some fun pictures with the characters in their holiday attire is to check the Disneyland app. Most of the main characters have appearances scheduled in Town Square. I prefer to catch them in the morning when the lines are shorter and everybody looks fresh! Goofy likes a selfie too!
8. California Adventure
While California Adventure is not actually a secret, I think it’s easy to miss all the gorgeous Christmas decor on Buena Vista Street. This year, we visited on a very busy day and ended up spending a lot of time at California Adventure. On busy days, California Adventure is a great place to feel like you have a little more space.
9. Christmas Tree Pictures – California Adventure is also a great place to get a picture in front of the Christmas tree! The line at Disneyland can get really long and you often have the sun in your eyes.
10. Cars Land
Cars Land is amazing during the holidays! In every corner you can find unique Cars themed Christmas decor.
I love a red, white and blue Christmas tree!
Over at the Cozy Cone Motel snack area, you can get a picture with Santa Mater, plus some of the best snacks in the park! The Chili Cone Queso is one of my favorites. My kids love the soft serve and the churros.
11. Holiday Food
You can find a list all the specialty food and drinks that Disneyland offers during the holidays here on their official blog.
The beautiful handmade caramel apples are one of my favorite Disneyland holiday treats, and they make great gifts for friends and family at home.
This case full of Christmas goodies gets me in the holiday spirit every time!
You can pick these cute cake pops and gingerbread men up at Jolly Holiday Bakery at the end of Main Street, Pooh Corner, or at Trolley Treats at California Adventure. They go perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate. :0)
I didn’t have a chance to try it this year, but the Turkey Pot Pie soup from Pacific Warf Cafe sounds amazing! Don’t forget to grab a Mickey Mouse sourdough loaf to take home, beginning December 18th they will have holiday shapes available!
12. Santa at Disneyland
You can meet Santa at both parks, but this adorable Santa at Elias and Co. on Buena Vista street is my favorite. It’s a perfect vintage department store Santa set-up! My son and I had a magical moment during our latest visit. We were in the park early and Santa was in the doorway of Elias and Co. with no line! He called us over and we got a one-on-one visit.
And is this not the cutest little elf? She was kind enough to offer several picture perfect poses!
13. World of Color – Winter Dreams
Right now, there are two World of Color performances. The first is my favorite, Winter Dreams. This holiday spectacular is narrated by Olaf and ends with the most magical snowflake bubbles floating through the sky. It’s a can’t miss! Check the Disneyland app or the show schedule to confirm the times for the show on the day you will be there. It takes some planning to see World of Color, but it’s just so breathtaking. World of Color issues Fast Passes, so you’ll want to get those as early as possible in the morning (they won’t interfere with getting other Fast Passes), then you’ll need to make sure you line up early to grab your spot.
14. Viva Navidad
Also in California Adventure, over in the Paradise Gardens area, you’ll find the Viva Navidad Celebration. Throughout the day, check the daily schedule via the Disneyland app for times, the Disney Viva Navidad Street party featuring the “Three Caballeros” happens in the street right in front the Paradise Garden Grill. The float featuring the Caballeros does not move, so it’s best to grab a seat right in the middle of the action. This street party is a lot of fun and very unique! One of my new favorites!
You can also find great photo ops here throughout the day. There is a gazebo just past Goofy’s Sky School where they alternate between Mickey and Minnie in festive Mexican attire and the Three Caballeros. How cute are Minnie and Mickey in our picture from last year?!
15. Start Early and Stay Late
If you are visiting during Christmas break, the parks will get very busy. You can make the most of your time by getting as early a start as possible. Afternoon, when the park is busiest, is a great time to head back to the hotel for a nap or a swim, depending on weather. Then head back to the park in the late afternoon/evening to catch shows and parades.
16. Grand Californian
Even if you aren’t staying at this beautiful resort, you can visit the lobby to see the absolutely gorgeous Christmas decor. The gingerbread model of Grand Californian is a must see and smell! There is a roaring fire and a cart where you can buy warm drinks and holiday treats.
17. Disneyland App
I’ve mentioned the app a few times in the post. It’s Disneyland’s free app, and it’s a great resource for planning your day! Make sure you download it before you go so you can check hours and make plans for which shows and rides will be your priority. You can find the character schedule, as well as current wait times for rides.
18. Planning a Trip
If you are planning a trip to Disneyland, you can find great deals through Get Away Today, and I highly recommend booking your trip with them. They even have a layaway option if you want to make payments! If you use the promo code Pencil, you can save $10 off a Southern California package when you book with Get Away Today.
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