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 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 Jan. 8, 2023. 

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, kitschy 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.

One of Disneyland’s most iconic attractions is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its holiday overlay. “It’s a small world” holiday is a heart-warmingly festive version of the famous ride and it’s even more of a can’t-miss this year. Two new characters — both in wheelchairs — have been added to the ride, marking the first time in Disneyland’s 67-year history that characters in wheelchairs have been represented on an attraction.

Haunted Mansion Holiday, the “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed overlay to Haunted Mansion is another must-do at Disneyland. And in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Rolickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.

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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. twice a day (check the Disneyland app for times). 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. One of our favorite parts of the parade this year was seeing Santa using American Sign Language (ASL) to wish guests happy holidays.  

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 Turkey Poutine — sweet potato bites topped with layers of roasted turkey, cheese curds, gravy and frosted cranberries; Impossible Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes; Holiday Ham Sliders; and a Tiramisu Yule Log Cocktail or non-alcoholic Churro Toffee Cold Brew Latte.

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.

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 — or a splash.

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

Over at Disney California Adventure, another seasonal nighttime spectacular, World of Color — Season of Light, combines fountains, projections, and nostalgic holiday classics for a festive finish to a fun-filled day. For the best viewing areas, consider a World of Color Dining Package or World of Color Dessert Party, or join the Virtual Queue on the Disneyland app.

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