Disneyland Christmas: The Happiest Holidays on Earth!

Gwen Kleist Avatar

Holiday parade for Disneyland Christmas.

The Disneyland Resort is a magical place to visit any time of year. But during the holidays, this Anaheim, California theme park explodes with festivities from fall through the New Year. A Disneyland Christmas features sparkling decorations, holiday-themed rides and, of course, seasonal treats and snacks!

And actually, a Disneyland Christmas is all-inclusive and celebrates Chanukah, Kwanza, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings Day.

In addition, the entire Disneyland resort is decked out including the Downtown Disney District, the three resort hotels and both theme parks. There are Christmas trees, swags of evergreen garland and over-sized ornaments everywhere. In fact, the Disneyland Resort is the perfect backdrop for your family holiday photo.

Minnie Mouse and Mickey celebrating Disneyland Christmas in front of a decorated tree.
The Disneyland Resort transforms into the Merriest Place on Earth for the 2021 holiday season! Photo credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Christmas Dates 2023: When Can I Experience Christmas at Disneyland?

For the 2023-2024 season, Disneyland Christmas festivities and decorations will run from November 10, 2023 through January 7, 2024.

These two months are filled with Christmas decorations, celebrations, parades, festive ride overlays and delicious seasonal treats. Enjoy a distinctly Disney holiday experience with beloved traditions that include the breathtaking Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle, “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade, and snow falling on Main Street, U.S.A. At Disney California Adventure Park, the holiday season comes to life with Disney Festival of Holidays, “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” Street Party and the holiday décor on Route 66 in Cars Land.

Check out the full lineup here.

Cars Land at Disneyland Christmas.
Cars Land Christmas Tree. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist

Disneyland Christmas Decorations

From the moment you pass through the gates and approach Main Street U.S.A., you’ll be immersed in holiday magic. The first thing you’ll see is Disneyland’s magnificent, 60-foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with nearly 1,800 ornaments. The building facades along the street are decked out in poinsettias and holiday wreaths and garland. It is truly a beautiful sight!

SheBuysTravel Tip: A family photo in front of the tree on Main Street U.S.A. is a holiday must, so plan to do this early in the day before kids get cranky and mom’s hair gets wind-whipped on Space Mountain. Even if there is a line, this classic shot is worth the wait!

Inside the entrance to Disney California Adventure, you’ll find a dazzling, 50-foot Christmas tree in Carthay Circle town square. The tree and surrounding buildings are decorated with vintage-style ornaments in keeping with the theme of Buena Vista Street, inspired by Los Angeles as it appeared in the 1920s when Walt Disney arrived. There is also a Menorah and Chanukah decorations typically on display in the window of Julius Katz & Sons on Buena Vista Street. (At Disneyland, you can also spot a Menorah in a window on Main Street U.S.A.)

Carefully themed throughout many of the different areas of the parks are the amazing holiday decorations. The holiday decor in Cars Land is so unique and fun! The yuletide spirit shifts into high gear, beginning with a snow-covered billboard at the land’s entrance and stretching all the way to the hubcap-studded tree decorating the front of the courthouse, and the white-wall tire garlands that drape over Route 66 in between, Cars Land is positively charming for the holidays!

Sleeping Beauty castle illuminated for Disneyland Christmas.
The Disneyland Resort will once again transform into a merry and magical place as guests return to enjoy their holiday season from Nov. 10, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024. Photo credit: Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Christmas Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle is transformed at Christmastime! At the entrance to Fantasyland inside Disneyland, the holiday magic shines brightly each evening when Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle begins to sparkle with light and music fills the air, illuminating the night in an enchanted wintertime spectacle.

Disneyland Christmas Fireworks and Nighttime Shows

The fireworks spectacular “Believe… in Holiday Magic” should not be missed!  Set to festive holiday music, the 15-minute fireworks show includes a magical snowfall finale. During this show the castle lights up with over 80,000 twinkling lights.

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SheBuysTravel Tip: Watching from in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle on Main Street U.S.A. is always magical. However you’ll still be able to experience the show (and snow!) with slightly smaller crowds if you watch from the area in front of “it’s a small world” or along the Rivers of America.

Another event to head to for nighttime fun is the World of Color- Season of Light. Located at Paradise Gardens Park in California Adventure, water, light, story and sound come together to celebrate the season. Beloved moments from Disney and Pixar films will be illuminated on a tower of mist.

Disneyland Christmas Parade

A holiday favorite returns for the 2023-2024 holiday season! “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade is the classic Christmas parade featuring Mickey, Minnie, Anna and Elsa, and of course Santa Claus. There are even dancing gingerbread cookies and toy soldiers. The parade typically runs twice a day – at 3:30 and 6:30 – but be sure to the check the Disneyland app or your Entertainment Guide.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The parade travels in both directions – from “it’s a small world” in the back of the park to Main Street U.S.A. in the front for the early show, and then vice versa for the later show. I like to catch the earlier parade and sit by “it’s a small world.” Not only is it usually less crowded, but the parade passes through this area first, meaning you’ll be done watching and back on the rides long before all the people lining Main Street!

Colorful banner advertising Festival of Holidays during Disneyland Christmas.
Festival of Holidays at Disney’s California Adventure Park. Photo credit: Julie Bigboy

Disney Festival of Holidays

The Festival of Holidays celebrates holidays from around the world at Disney California Adventure. Much like the popular International Food & Wine Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World, this seasonal event features festive foods and beverages from across the globe. There is also live entertainment, music and character sightings like Mirabel from Encanto. You’ll find multiple cultures and holidays represented – including Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and Kwanzaa.

The Festival of Holidays made its debut at Disney California Adventure Park in 2016 and continues to grow in popularity. We’ve attended a few times in the past and always have fun wandering from booth to booth and sharing bites! One of our favorites was the warm peppermint chocolate float. Other holiday foods available at the Festival of Holidays include tamales, Swedish meatballs, eggnog and gingerbread.

The food is served in small, shareable portions. You can purchase items a la carte or purchase a Sip and Savor Pass, which allows you to choose eight dishes, desserts or non-alcoholic drinks from any of the festival kiosks.

Lines get longer as the day goes on, especially at night when people are more apt to want to try the beers and alcoholic drinks available during Disney Festival of Holidays. If you want to sample lots of different foods and maximize your time, I recommend visiting earlier in the day, perhaps even planning on calling this lunch.

SheBuysTravel Tip: There are live performances daily at several venues throughout the Festival of Holidays. Be sure to download the Disneyland app and check for show time and locations when planning your visit!

Disneyland Christmas - Three Caballeros
Among the merriment at Disney California Adventure Park, The Three Caballeros host the popular “Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party” celebration, featuring folklórico and samba dancers, live musicians, and Mickey and Minnie in their fiesta best. Photo credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

Disney !Viva Navidad!

The celebration continues with “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” as Disney characters host a fun street party featuring Mexican folklórico dancers and Mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists, giant mojiganga puppets and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their fiesta best.

In the Paradise Gardens area of the park, you can enjoy festively themed food and beverages plus live music and performers starting November 10. This is also where you can meet Mirabel from Disney’s “Encanto.”

The Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, Panchito and José Carioca) host !Viva Navidad! This festive celebration includes mariachi and samba music, folklorico dancers and Mickey and Minnie in full Latin-American garb. Be sure to check out the 12-foot-tall Santa and Mrs. Claus mojiganga puppets; they are awesome!

If you are visiting in early January after the New Year, there will also be a Three Kings Day celebration. Disney California Adventure Park will be celebrating with displays, kids’ crafts and traditional sweets for sale.

Disney Merriest Nites

If you were eagerly anticipating Disney Merriest Nites holiday party we are sorry to report that this separately ticketed special event will once again not be returning. It was a blast in 2021 and we hope it will come back!

Disney World in Florida will still be holding their Christmas party nighttime event.

Read More: Disney’s Very Merriest: Magic Kingdom’s Christmas Party

The Haunted Mansion for Disneyland Christmas
Haunted Mansion Holiday brings the frightfully fun cheer of “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas” to the Disneyland Resort. Photo credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

Disneyland Holiday Ride Overlays

While the entire park gets into the holiday spirit, two rides at Disneyland receive magical holiday overlays. What does this mean? It means that some of our favorite Disneyland rides are re-themed to embrace the holidays.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

First up is the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square, which actually undergoes its holiday transformation in September to be a part of Halloween celebrations. Jack Skellington and his friends from The Nightmare Before Christmas take over this classic ride, causing Halloween and Christmas to collide!

“it’s a small world” Holiday

The second attraction to receive a seasonal overlay during Disneyland Christmas is “it’s a small world.”  Reimagined and called “it’s a small world” Holiday, the ride replaces its standard catchy tune with “Jingle Bells.” Don’t worry; they’re equally guaranteed to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day!

Inside the boat ride attraction, the animated children are enjoying the distinctive holiday traditions of their cultures. Every setting is adorned with traditional lights and decorations. Outside, more than 50,000 colorful lights, music and video projections add to the holiday magic every 30 minutes. The clock that chimes every quarter of an hour wears a giant Santa hat.

Cars Land decorated for Disneyland Christmas
Cars Land at Christmas time. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist

Disney California Adventure Park Holiday Ride Overlays

Like Disneyland, Disney California Adventure decks the halls big time during the holiday season! This is especially true in Cars Land.

Cars Land is the one land totally transformed for the Christmas season.  Two attractions receive special ride overlays. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree becomes Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters turns into Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.

The decorations in Cars Land are as clever as they are cute! You’ll find a Christmas tree made with hub caps and white-wall tire garland that drapes overhead across Route 66. The whimsical “Snowcar” greets guests at the entrance to Radiator Springs, and each character also gets a holiday makeover. The shops and restaurants in town are decorated, as well!

Frontierland Santa Claus sign at Disneyland
Find out where to meet holiday characters. Photo credit: Julie Bigboy

Photos with Santa Claus

No Disneyland Christmas celebration is complete without the chance to meet the big man himself! This year, Santa and his elves can be found at two locations at the Disneyland Resort.

At Disney California Adventure, he’ll be at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This rustic, woodsy setting is perfect for family photos! At the Disneyland park, Santa can be found in Critter Country.

Snow at Disneyland!

Guests celebrating a Disneyland Christmas in California need not forgo the snowflakes, as “snow” does fall in several locations through the parks! These are the spots to seek out during Christmas at Disneyland if you’re looking for snowfall.

Take an evening or nighttime walk through Grizzly Peak in Disney California Adventure Park to see this magical snowfall. The lights change color, special music plays and snow falls several time each night.

After the Believe. . . in Holiday Magic fireworks show, guests can dance under the snowfall near “it’s a small world – Holiday”, on Main Street U.S.A. as well as along the Rivers of America.

Downtown Disney and Disneyland Resort Hotels

The holiday magic extends beyond the parks! Be sure to visit the Downtown Disney District where the decorations are amazing, and stores offer festive shopping, dining and live entertainment.

The three hotels at the Disneyland Resort – Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel – are all beautifully decorated.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel has a giant gingerbread house on display in the lobby. There is also a towering Christmas tree and hot cocoa and treats for sale. This, combined with a roaring fireplace, comfy seating and easy access via a direct entrance from Disney California Adventure Park, makes this hotel the perfect place to stay when you visit Disneyland.

Read More: 25+ Hotels Close to Disneyland that Bring the Magic

Disneyland Christmas Tips for 2023-2024

While the holidays at the Disneyland Resort are spectacular, big crowds are often a major downside. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time during the holiday season.

1. Make Your Reservations Early

In addition to purchasing Disneyland tickets, you’ll need to make reservations to enter the parks. Be sure to choose your dates as early as possible to ensure you get your chosen dates.

2. Arrive Early to the Parks

The best advice you can get to beat the rush at Disneyland Christmas is to arrive early. The crowds are lightest at opening time. Arrive 15-30 minutes before the parks open to take advantage of lighter crowds.

3. Download an App to Check Wait Times

Download the Disneyland app so you’ll be able to check wait times in real time. The app will give you an overview of posted and predicted wait times for all the rides at both Disneyland Park and Disney’s California Adventure. Otherwise, you have to do it old school — checking the Tip Board on Main Street or just showing up only to find long wait times.

4. Splurge on Some Holiday Treats

Disneyland is known for its delicious and beautiful treats year-round, but during the holidays there are some extra special offerings.

You can save time at many restaurants by using mobile food ordering on the Disneyland app. This feature allows you to view a restaurant’s menu and pricing, place your order, pay, and pick up your meal or snack without ever having to wait in line.

5. Make Dining Reservations Early

If you are planning to dine at a sit-down restaurant – especially on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve – make a reservation as soon as you can! Reservations will fill up early on these holiday dates and really throughout the whole busy season. You don’t want to miss out on a special dining experience this time of year!

6. Don’t Forget to Stop and Shop

Disneyland unveils some amazing merchandise during the holidays! Even though your kids will resist (if they are anything like mine) leave time to poke through some stores. Whether you are buying souvenirs, Christmas gifts or a special commemorative ornament, the stores in the theme parks and at Downtown Disney are an attraction in themselves.

Happy Holidays!

Gwen Kleist Avatar
Gwen Kleist is an award-winning travel writer and author based in Southern California. She is the mother of one very active son who shares her love of travel and adventure. She is the owner and publisher of CaliforniaFamilyTravel.com, a family travel blog dedicated to sharing the best destinations and experiences in California and beyond! Her articles have also appeared in San Diego Family Magazine, Sunset Magazine, Cat Fancy, Huntington Beach Magazine, and she was a contributing author to Explorer Publishing’s guidebook, Los Angeles: The Complete Resident’s Guide.
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