Tips for celebrating the holidays at Disneyland Resort

The holiday season truly is magical at the Disneyland Resort, bustling with special events, entertainment, and decorations. It’s also bustling with holiday crowds, which can certainly impact your experience. Here’s how to enjoy all the holiday magic while navigating the masses.

guide to the holidays at Disneyland

Tip 1: Know when to go

The holiday season at Disneyland and California Adventure officially launches in early November and continues through the beginning of January. The crowds will be lowest before December 20th, which is the week most kids are out of school.

Tip 2: Know what not to miss

The Festival of Holidays continues to be a hit at California Adventure, which celebrates the festivities of many cultures at kiosks offering multicultural crafts and holiday food, and performances showcasing music and dance. Families can even join in the fun during select performances, learning holiday dance moves. Think of the Festival of the Holidays as a cross between the Food and Wine Festival and a mini, seasonal World Showcase where you visit kiosks instead of full pavilions.

Tip 3: Know what to expect from nighttime entertainment

Families can expect a holiday-themed World of Color at California Adventure nightly. Over at neighboring Disneyland, Wishes is now Believe…in Holiday Magic, lighting up the night sky with fireworks, along with snowfall on Main Street. FastPass is available for World of Color shows, which are two-times nightly during the busy holiday season.

Tip 4: Know which attractions will be ‘dressed’ for the holidays

Three rides get holiday overlays during this time of year, including Haunted Mansion, which gets a Tim Burton Nightmare Before Christmas theme, It’s a Small World, which adds carols from around the world and magical lighting after dark. Lastly, the Jungle Cruise turns in to the Jingle Cruise during the holiday season, with special details in the already-detailed theming of the ride, and holiday jokes added to the script.

Bonus: Don’t forget to enjoy CarsLand during the holidays, with holiday ‘wraps’ on Luigi’s ‘Joy to the Whirl’ and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree.

Tip 5: Know where to see Santa:

In California Adventure, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail has the usual offerings of fun hands-on activities for kids, but now includes a holiday-themed scavenger hunt where kids look for ‘presents’ along the trail (ask a Cast Member for a sheet to get started), and kids can visit with the main man of the season…Santa. Santa can also be visited in Disneyland park at Critter Country.

Tip 6: Know how to navigate parade routes:

To view the Disneyland holiday parade, Christmas Fantasy, plan to find seating in designated areas a full hour before parade time. Ask Cast Members where you can sit or stand to view; they rope off disabled viewing areas and won’t allow families to watch in certain high traffic spaces. Once the parade starts, Cast Members will move along foot traffic, so don’t plan to watch on the fly. You also cannot watch in store and restaurant doorways, so don’t try! However, if you’re within a store, you can usually still see quite well…this is a good option if you find yourselves caught without a viewing location.

Tip 7: Know how to view World of Color

If you’re staying in either park for the nightly Holiday Magic or World of Color shows, prime viewing areas will fill up about 1.5 hours beforehand. For World of Color show, get a FastPass to World of Color (available by Grizzly Rapids in California Adventure by about 9:30 am) or book a dining package at a California Adventure restaurant. If you plan to simply stake out a spot, look along the benches by California Screamin’ or Ariel’s Grotto, but get there early!

Tip 8: Know how to view Holiday Magic

To watch Holiday Magic in a prime location, plan to start queuing a full two hours early. You’ll need to wait for the rope to drop in front of the castle to view there (then you’re permitted to put down a blanket and sit), or you can find a curb along Main Street. If you want to exit quickly afterward, I recommend grabbing a spot (again, well in advance) at the train station platform by the entrance to Disneyland. There are no dining packages available for the fireworks.