Coolest Things to Do at Disneyland During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth and if you didn’t think Disneyland could get more magical, just wait until you see Sleeping Beauty Castle shimmering with lights all aglow as “snow” falls over a twinkling Main Street, U.S.A. From the return of a beloved holiday parade and elaborate seasonal ride overlays to festive cultural celebrations filled with music, dancing, and international flavors, ‘tis definitely the season to celebrate at the House of Mouse. Here are the best things to do at Disneyland during the holidays, now through January 9, 2022.

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Disneyland

See Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park decked in their holiday finest.

No place decorates for the holidays like Disneyland. While both parks are dressed to the nines day and night, you’ll want to make sure you see Disneyland Park after dark. From a sparkling 60-foot Christmas tree and illuminated garland strung across Main Street, U.S.A., to the breathtaking façade of “it’s a small world,” all is merry and bright when the sun goes down.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooke Geiger McDonald

Over at Disney California Adventure Park, just a stone’s throw from Disneyland. Buena Vista Street’s colorful, kitchy tree is lit every evening at 4:45 and is a great spot to snag that holiday photo. Cars Land gets the “haul-iday” treatment, Route 66 style, with a holiday overlay complete with plenty of tire wreaths and garland-embellished traffic cones. Try to time your visit to dusk when the land’s neon lights turn on — it’s a magical moment.

Take a holiday spin on re-themed rides.

Some attractions get the seasonal treatment too. Two of Disneyland Park’s most iconic rides get elaborate annual holiday overlays that have for many guests become as beloved as the originals. “it’s a small world” Holiday puts a festive spin on the 1966 Disneyland classic and Haunted Mansion Holiday, the “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed overlay to Haunted Mansion, is an absolute must-do for fans of Jack Skellington and his Christmas hijinks.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooke Geiger McDonald

Don’t miss the parades, street parties and cavalcades.

Be sure to carve out some time to catch one of Disneyland’s most beloved holiday traditions. “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” makes its way down Main Street, U.S.A. at 3pm and 5:30pm. See favorite Disney and Pixar characters like Mickey and Minnie, Chip ‘n Dale, Anna and Elsa, and Woody and Buzz, plus holiday favorite Toy Soldiers (a holiday staple at Disneyland since 1961 when the film “Babes in Toyland” debuted), adorable dancing snowmen, and of course the big finale, Santa Claus in his sleigh.

At Disney California Adventure, “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” street party is a fan favorite for good reason. This isn’t just one of Disneyland’s best holiday offerings, it’s one of the most delightful displays of live entertainment at any Disney park all year. Mexican folklórico dancers and Mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists, and giant mojiganga puppets are joined by “The Three Caballeros,” Mickey and Minnie in this exuberant holiday fiesta. Showtimes run throughout the afternoon and evening — check the Disneyland app to find a time that fits your day.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooke Geiger McDonald

Festive character cavalcades also make their way through both parks multiple times throughout the day. If you spend all day in the parks, chances are you’ll catch them passing by without having to seek them out.

In addition to seeing Santa in the parade at Disneyland, you can also meet Kris Kringle and his elves at Disney California Adventure’s Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Grab an activity map and explore the decorated trail plus get your photo with the big guy.

Sip and savor at Disney Festival of Holidays.

Celebrations for Christmas/Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day are all on the menu at Disney California Adventure Park during Disney Festival of the Holidays. Seasonal food marketplaces, holiday-themed menus, live entertainment, and themed merchandise are available around the park.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooke Geiger McDonald

Sample holiday dishes from around the world at the festival’s holiday kitchens, where you can try both traditional and inventive takes on classic dishes and drinks, like holiday stuffing mac and cheese, arepas topped with plant-based Impossible meat, reimagined beef wellington, and maple hazelnut hot buttered rum.

Snag a Sip and Savor pass to sample eight dishes or non-alcoholic drinks at a discount.

Explore the hotels of the Disneyland Resort.

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Photo: Courtesy of the Brooke Geiger McDonald

In addition to being our two top recommended places to stay at the Disneyland Resort, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Disneyland Hotel are worth a visit even for day guests during the holidays. Check out the Grand Californian’s elaborate gingerbread house and lobby Christmas Tree and pick up some of the resort’s famed gingerbread and other holiday treats to go from the Holiday Cart — perfect for stocking stuffers. At the Disneyland Hotel, each of the resort’s towers has a different themed Christmas tree. Check out the trees then head to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (reservations are a must for indoor seating!) for a tropical take on the holidays with drinks like Jungle All the Way and Gin-ger Snaps.

Do some holiday shopping.

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Photo: Courtesy of Brooke Geiger McDonald

For souvenir ornaments and holiday gifts, stop by Plaza Point Holiday Shoppe, the charming year-round holiday shop that recently opened on Main Street, U.S.A. Ornament personalization is available.

End the night with a bang.

For the perfect end to a holiday visit, watch the “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks at Disneyland Park. Projections light up the buildings along Main Street, U.S.A. and the façade of “it’s a small world,” and snow falls to close out the show. Be sure to check the schedule before you go — fireworks only happen on select nights.

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