Holidays at Disneyland: A Complete Guide to the Most Magical Time of Year

by | Nov 18, 2023 | Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland, Disneyland Parks, Disneyland Resorts, Downtown Disney

Here’s how to celebrate the holiday season with festive decorations, entertainment, food, and more at Disneyland Resort.

Glowing lights, glittering castle decorations, green wreaths, and towering ornament-covered trees – these are the hallmarks of the holidays at Disneyland Resort, and we can’t wait to see them come to life each year! The holidays are a truly magical time of year at the theme parks and across the resort, with special seasonal offerings that are only available during the winter. From holiday attraction overlays to special winter character attire to once-a-year treats, there’s so much to try and experience.

So, what’s in store for the holiday season? Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other winter tradition, you can find something special to mark the occasion at Disneyland Resort. Find out what’ll be in the parks and around the resort from November through January below!

Experience the Holidays at Disneyland Resort

What’s special about the holidays at Disneyland Resort? Well, it’s a resort-wide celebration that includes seasonal decorations, classic Disney characters in festive winter wear, and some annual holiday-inspired ride overlays and experiences. Oh, and did we mention there are also holiday nighttime spectaculars, parades, and even events? It’s two full months of festive fun, and it’s a great opportunity to see Disneyland, California Adventure, and the entire resort transformed with a touch of seasonal magic.

When Does the Holiday Season Begin at Disneyland?

The holidays kick off on November 10, 2023 and run through January 7, 2024. You’ll see wintery decorations start to appear in the parks and across Disneyland Resort as soon as Halloween Time wraps up on November 1.

Holidays at Disneyland Park

Holiday decorations at Disneyland Park

Photo by Danny Shuster

When the holiday celebrations get underway at Disneyland Park, it’s absolutely magical. You’ll find wintery touches at every turn, from the glistening icicle-like lights decorating Sleeping Beauty Castle to the draping greenery and wreaths dotting Main Street, U.S.A. (and every land gets a special holiday-inspired touch, of course!). At the center of Main Street’s Town Square, you won’t want to miss the towering Christmas tree decorated with huge ornaments – it’s the perfect place to snap seasonal photos.

As you explore Disneyland, you’ll discover more decor and theming that’ll have you in a festive mood. But of course, the holidays are about more than mere decorations. Keep reading to find out what special offerings are around only from November through the first week of January.

Holiday Ride Overlays

disneyland holidays

Photo courtesy of Disney

If you couldn’t get enough of Haunted Mansion Holiday, the seasonal attraction overlay for the Haunted Mansion, good news: Because it covers both Halloween and Christmas, it sticks around until January! You can see The Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired transformation of Disneyland’s spookiest ride, complete with frighteningly fun gifts, spooky wreaths, a towering gingerbread haunted house, and an appearance by Sandy Claws.

Over in Fantasyland, “it’s a small world” also gets a glowing holiday overlay and transforms into “it’s a small world holiday.” The beloved boat ride around the world is completely covered in rainbow-hued lights on the outside, and inside the dolls gather together to celebrate international traditions with special decor touches (like stockings, garland, and more) and some classic holiday tunes.

Holiday Shows and Entertainment

A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland

Photo by Regan Wong

One of Disneyland Park’s most beloved holiday traditions is the annual A Christmas Fantasy Parade. It just isn’t the holiday season until you’ve watched the toy soldiers from Babes in Toyland stroll down Main Street and waved hello to Santa Claus himself! This daily parade features a whole cast of Disney characters in the midst of seasonal celebrations, from Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse organizing letters to Santa to Goofy and Pluto building a gingerbread house to Elsa and Anna bringing frosty wintertime flair. 

Later in the evening, you’ll want to make sure to catch a special holiday fireworks display: the “Believe… In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular. Featuring festive fireworks set to stirring music, you’ll have the opportunity to watch snow fall in Southern California (well, “snoap”, at least!). Plus, in addition to the fireworks and snow, the spectacular includes more than 80,000 twinkling lights atop Sleeping Beauty Castle that join in along with the music and other show elements

In addition to traditional entertainment like these spectacular shows, you’ll also love the little moments that happen throughout the park as the sun sets. During the holiday season, two of Disneyland’s most iconic attractions come to life at night with special lighting shows. 

Over at Sleeping Beauty Castle, the icicle lights, wreaths, and dripping snowfall decorations shimmer to life at night – complete with snow falling from the sky, music in the air, and thousands of twinkling fairy-like lights. You can also head to Fantasyland to see “it’s a small world holiday” come to life and its kaleidoscope of over 50,000 lights turn on nightly. Paired with seasonal video projections, the ride’s exterior totally transforms before your eyes!

Holiday-Themed Character Meet and Greets

Disneyland character holiday meet and greets

Photo by Danny Shuster

During the holidays, you can catch your favorite Disney characters in special seasonal attire that’s meant just for chilly winter days. Don’t miss the meet and greet opportunities to see Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the Fab 5 in their holiday best! Wondering what Disney’s most famous mouse duo will wear for the 2023 holiday season? We’ve got a sneak peek for you!

Holiday Food and Merchandise

Each year, the restaurants and snack spots throughout Disneyland Park offer special menu items developed just for the holiday season. You can expect everything from sweets to limited-time additions to table service restaurants (and of course, a few specialty popcorn buckets!). 

Additionally, you’ll want to make plans to shop while you’re in the theme park. Each year, Disney typically releases a special holiday merchandise collection – one that includes items for Christmas as well as other winter holidays like Hanukkah. From spirit jerseys to holiday ear hats and ear headbands to plenty of ornaments, it’s all festive and beautifully decorative. Take a sneak peek at the 2023 collection right here!

Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park

California Adventure holidays

Photo by Danny Shuster

Across the esplanade at Disney California Adventure Park, you’ll find decorations that are similar to, but also completely different from, those at Disneyland Park. Here, the holiday decor is themed to the unique lands within the park, like vintage-inspired ornaments that dot the tree in the heart of Buena Vista Street and the Cars-themed wreaths and garlands hanging along the walkways of Radiator Springs. 

Plus, when it comes to seasonal festivities, there’s no shortage of fun to be found at California Adventure! Whether you’re looking to try all of the cuisine at the Festival of Holidays or want to check out the limited-time attraction overlays, you’ll want to soak up every last seasonal tradition.

Holiday Ride Overlays

California Adventure Cars Land holiday overlay

Photo by Danny Shuster

You won’t want to miss either one of California Adventure’s two holiday attraction overlays, both of which are located in Cars Land. Here, stop by Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree – which has been rethemed to Mater’s Jingle Jamboree for the holidays – to whirl around Mater’s stomping grounds inside a tractor while he sings you his version of classic holiday tunes. 

Deeper into Radiator Springs, you can visit Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, which becomes Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl during the holiday season. You can take a very merry spin around Luigi’s backyard with festive songs and dances that’ll make you feel ready for the holidays!

Holiday Shows and Entertainment

At California Adventure, the beloved nighttime spectacular World of Color gets a special seasonal transformation. Instead of the year-round show, you’ll have the opportunity to see World of Color – Season of Light, which features the same towering walls of water, sky-high fountains, and incredible illuminations along with heartwarming music and some of the Disney and Pixar stories and characters you love most. With festive holiday tunes and shimmering snowflakes, you’ll see Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, Frozen, and Inside Out come to life on the waters of Paradise Bay.

As a special addition for the 2023 holiday season, California Adventure will also feature a special water short ahead of performances of World of Color – Season of Light featuring Asha and Star from the Walt Disney Animation Studios Film Wish. The short will start appearing before shows on November 17!

Special Holiday Celebrations

Viva Navidad at California Adventure

Photo by Regan Wong

Along with the usual holiday fun, California Adventure offers two special events from November to early January: ¡Viva Navidad! and Festival of Holidays. Both are available to all Guests, without any special ticket purchases or additional fees.

¡Viva Navidad! is a celebration of the holiday traditions of Mexico and Brazil. Held in the Paradise Gardens section of the park, ¡Viva Navidad! includes the exciting ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party featuring folklórico and samba dancers, mariachis, and towering mojiganga puppets (and of course the stars themselves, Mickey and Minnie). You’ll also have the opportunity to meet characters, including Mirabel from Encanto, check out the vibrant and colorful decorations (like piñatas and papel picado banners), and try authentic Mexican holiday specialties at Paradise Garden Grill.

Just steps away along California Adventure’s main thoroughfare, you’ll find Festival of Holidays booths waiting for you. This annual foodie festival will introduce you to a diverse array of cuisines from around the world, which you can sample in small portions from each of the festival booths. You’ll also discover different holiday traditions from different countries and cultures, with dishes, sights, and sounds that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Navidad, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day.

Holiday Food and Merchandise

Each year, the restaurants and snack spots throughout California offer special menu items developed just for the holiday season – and there will also be special menu items added just for the ¡Viva Navidad! celebration, too. You can expect everything from sweets to quick service specialty items to limited-time additions at table service restaurants. 

Additionally, you’ll want to make plans to shop while you’re in the theme park. The 2023 holiday merchandise collection will not only be available at Disneyland Park, but also over at Disney California Adventure Park.

Holidays at Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney

Disney has yet to reveal what special offerings might take place at the Disneyland Resort hotels and throughout the Downtown Disney District when the holiday season begins on November 10, 2023. Check back here for more information once we learn more about what’s in store for this year’s celebrations!

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu

Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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