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Dreaming of a magical Christmas vacation at Disneyland? Or maybe you want to use Thanksgiving to visit the Happiest Place On Earth? Perhaps you just want to escape the cold and enjoy some sunshine (like me) during the Holiday season. A visit to Disneyland is a great way to kick off the holidays, but it can be an overwhelming time to visit the park as well. From crowds that make the parks reach capacity, to special holiday offerings, and everything in between, I have all the answer to your questions about visiting Disneyland Resort during the Holidays.
*I was a guest of Disneyland Resort for their Holiday Media Event. All opinions are my own.*
I have spent several days exploring everything Holidays Disneyland has to offer so that I can bring you the best tips. I couldn’t do EVERYTHING on my own, so I was excited that my co-founders of Disneyland with Kids were able to visit Disneyland Resort with me. If you haven’t joined our group on Facebook yet, you should! We did lots of in-park lives, and more. Plus search #DWKHolidays on Instagram and Twitter for even more tips and info.
Answers To Your Disneyland Holidays Questions
There have been a lot of questions about Disneyland during the Holidays in the Disneyland with Kids Facebook group. From those visiting Disneyland at Thanksgiving or Christmas, to those trying to hit it up for the New Year, there are a lot of questions. I want to try and answers all those questions so you can have a magical vacation this Holiday Season.
1. When is it best to visit Disneyland During the Holidays?
If you are wanting to visit Disneyland during the Holidays, you are not alone. There is something super magical about visiting Disneyland during the Holidays. I think many parents dream of spending Christmas at the Disneyland Resort. Or maybe you want to go during Thanksgiving. While these are great times as far as schools may be concerned, you will find lighter crowds the week after Thanksgiving through the end of the second week in December.
Can’t go unless you go during Thanksgiving or Winter Break? That is okay. Crowds do not mean you won’t have a great time. It just means you will need to do a little extra planning and learn all the tips (which is what this post is for right?).
Holidays at Disneyland Resort happen November 9, 2018 – January 6, 2019. Disney Festival of Holidays extends through January 8, 2019
2. What if I am visiting Disneyland during Thanksgiving or Christmas Breaks?
Okay, so you have to go during one of those Holiday breaks, and you have heard that parks reach capacity during those times. So should you cancel your plans of visiting Disneyland during the Holidays?
You can still have an amazing time at Disneyland Resort, even with crowds. Yes, at times the Disneyland Resort will reach capacity, but even if Disneyland reaches capacity, Disney California Adventure may not, and vice versa. Also, with tips such as using Fastpass or Maxpass, maximizing your first hour at Disneyland, and even utilizing Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hour, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time.
The biggest thing to know about those crowded days is that if the park does reach capacity, and you leave the parks, there is a chance you may not get back in…even if you have reservations in the park. So once you are in the park, if possible, stay in the park until you are done for the day.
3. How can we eat all the foods, without breaking the budget?
Okay, so if you haven’t heard, Disneyland Resort has some amazing food during the Holidays. (They always have yummy food, but I am talking specific to the Holidays.) One of my favorites is the Festival of Holidays, at Disney California Adventure, includes food carts that feature tasty treats from all different cultures around the world.
Not going to lie, for you foodies out there (like my husband) all those tempting foods can really add up. Calorie wise – you walk it off, so it is all good. Money wise… well, Disneyland has something to help with that too. This year the Sip and Savor Pass is available to EVERYONE. Guests can purchase it for $54 or Annual Passholders can purchase it for $49. The Sip and Savor Pass allows you to taste 8 items from the Festive Food Marketplaces at this set cost. You can use them all in one day, or spread it out over your entire visit.
4. Is there a Christmas party at Disneyland or other special events?
If anybody is telling you the Christmas party at Disneyland is a must do, then they might be a little confused. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a seasonal, ticketed event at Walt Disney World. There is not a separate ticketed event at Disneyland. Guests at Disneyland Resort get to experience all of the Disney magic with their regular park admission. How cool is that?
5. What are some unique attractions for Disneyland Holidays?
One thing that is really special about Disneyland Resort for the Holidays is that some of the attractions get special overlays (or versions) of the rides for the Holiday Season. These are unique to the Disneyland Resort and include:
Haunted Mansion Holiday – when Halloween and Christmas collide you get a special overlay that is there from early September through the Holiday Season. The Haunted Mansion Holiday is where Jack Skellington and his crew have taken over the mansion and are decorating it for their haunted, spooky, Christmas celebration. This is a favorite of my family, but some kids who may normally enjoy the haunted mansion may find it a bit scary.
“it’s a small world” Holiday – Celebrate Christmas and Holidays all around the world with this new take on a classic ride. The ride also includes traditional Holiday tunes mixed in with the classic “it’s a small world” music. So if you normally avoid this ride because of the ear worm… take a chance on it during the Holiday season. It is definitely worth a ride or two.
Mater’s Jingle Jamboree – Mater has his junkyard all decked out and is ready to celebrate the Holidays with some new tunes. You will love Mater’s renditions of Holiday tunes and enjoy a bit of crazy fun. This ride has a 32″ height requirement. (Be sure to check out information on Disneyland ride height requirements before your trip.)
Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl – Mater isn’t the only one in Radiator Springs getting into the Holidays. Luigi has some all new tunes for you to whirl around and dance with his family. This is a favorite ride of my family as well. This is also a perfect ride to take smaller siblings on while older ones ride Radiator Springs Racers. Again, this ride has a 32″ height requirement. If you are wondering if your kid will hit the requirement, we have info on how accurate the height requirement markers are for you as well.
TIP: Use Maxpass or Fastpass to cut your wait time on both Haunted Mansion Holiday and “it’s a small world” Holiday.
6. Does it even feel like winter in Sunny Southern California? (Where to find snow)
Think it will be hard to get into the Holiday spirit at Disneyland Resort when you are in sunny southern California. Think again, all of the little touches around the resort let you instantly get into the holiday spirit. But what gets you into the Holiday spirit more than snow?
Did you know there are at least 14 places you can find snow in Disneyland Resort during the Holidays? Okay, maybe not real, build a snowman snow, but here are just a few of my favorites to check out.
Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle is embelished with snow and icicles to help you feel like winter is here.
The Matterhorn lets you speed through snow and ice on a great thrill ride. Be careful though, you don’t want to disturb the Abominbable Snowman. My husband swears to this day the yeti bit him once…
Cars Land greets you with an adorable snowcar. How can you not get into the Holiday spirit with all this amazingness!
Check out Elsa and Anna, and of course, our favorite summer-loving snowman, Olaf, in “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” in Disney California Adventure.
My all time favorite…. it ACTUALLY SNOWS in Disneyland on Main Street, U.S.A. and in front of “it’s a small world” Holiday during the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular.
7. How can we get great seats to A Christmas Fantasy Parade?
When we were at Disneyland on Veteran’s Day, we noticed people camping out for the first showing of A Christmas Fantasy Parade over an hour before it began. So with this you might be wondering, do you really need to camp out this early for a good seat?
Over the next few days, I checked, and while people would start lining up an hour or more before the parade, I was often able to show up a few moments before the parade and get second row access. This was especially true in the town square area across from the Main Street Train Station. I litterally walked up as the parade was already starting and got second row, and there were a few benches open even.
If you want to guaruntee a great seat, then I suggest either camping out (what fun is that…) or purchasing a dining package which provides you with reserved viewing area. When this was first introduced for parades, many of us Disneyland pros kind of shook our head, but it is getting rave reviews, and I have become a believer myself seeing the great seats that are reserved for these packages.
8. Where should we view “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular?
You can usually catch Disneyland’s fireworks from around the park, but with the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular, I definitely suggest find a top viewing area. I get it, I hate scoping out my seat hours in advance, but these fireworks are well worth it.
To get a great view, my personal favorite is to view them in front of “it’s a small world” Holiday. Yes, you will see the projections, and yes it will still snow here. I also love this area because as you wait you can get some great photos in front of the ride with all it’s lights, you can eat a few churros, and there are restrooms nearby.
Another great viewing area is Main Street, U.S.A. Just be prepared to stand in the middle of Main Street for a while, and know that it can be a bit chaotic afterwards.
9. What Holidays do the foods belong to? (Festive Foods Marketplace)
The Festive Foods Marketplace is every foodies dream. The kiosks are broken down by the type of food they are mostly. For instance, Merry Mashups, or Spciy Celebrations. So maybe you are wondering exactly what Holidays are represented at each kiosk. The kiosks have little Mickey heads on the top to notate which Holidays are represented at that kiosk.
10. Are there any festive, kid-friendly foods at Disneyland during the Holidays?
The Festive Foods Marketplace doesn’t really appeal to many kids. I get it. As a mom of 3 youngsters, they found a few items they liked, but most of it wasn’t for them. However, there are plenty of other holiday offerings around the park. Find something that your kids are excited about and let them try it out. My family was personally excited that there are TEN (that is right 10) Holiday Churros. We set out to taste all 10 Holiday Churros over the course of three days. (All in the name of research right?) It was a fun experience and we video taped it all.
11. Can you meet Santa at Disneyland during the Holidays?
Nothing quite says Christmas like meeting Santa right? Disneyland Resort has two great in park locations to meet Santa, one in each park. Disneyland has Santa set up at Pooh’s Corner. This line was very long while we were there, and there is not much to do for young kids while you wait.
That is why my favorite place to meet Santa at Disneyland Resort in the parks is at the Redwood Creek Challenge. There is plenty to do while waiting in line to meet Santa, and there is still the Redwood Creek Challenge, with lots of great energy burning activities.
12. Will the characters be in special Holiday outfits?
You might be wondering if you will find characters wearing special holiday outfits like you do during Halloween at Disneyland
The answer is, maybe. You will find characters throughout the parks in both special holiday outfits and in classic outfits. If you are hoping for Holiday outfits, you best bets are Main Street, U.S.A. and possibly Buena Vista street. Mickey and Minnie also have Viva Navidad outfits they may be wearing in Paradise Gardens Park.
If you are hoping to avoid the Holiday attire, don’t worry, there are still plenty of classic character outfits to be found through out the park.
13. What are the must-take photos at Disneyland for the Holidays?
There are definitely a few photos you will want to make sure to get during your visit to Disneyland Resort during the Holidays. You will want to be sure to get a photo in front of one of the Christmas Trees. There is one on Buena Vista Street and on Main Street. You can even get a photo in the day and again at night for a totally different feel.
Be sure to get a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. This one I totally suggest doing at night. But I DO NOT suggest trying to DIY a night photo. Definitley use a Photopass photographer for that one.
Same thing for “it’s a small world” Holiday. Definitely get that photo at night with all the lights lit up. And again, use a photopass photographer if one is available.
14. How can I avoid the long Photopass Photographer lines?
I know that the lines can get long for the Photopass Photographers, but my biggest tip is to check that you are in the correct line and if there are multiple lines. We noticed a big long line for the middle of the Christmas tree on Main Street, only to realize, there were Photopass Photographers on each side, and that big long line was actually for those taking their own photos.
This was the case in many of the popular photo loations. They are trying to up the number of photopass photographers at these locations, so look to see if there are multiple lines and choose the shortest one.
15. Okay, but how do I get those photos for a good price?
I definitely always suggest purchasing at least one MaxPass for your party because it includes digital downloads of all your photopass photos, including ride photos. Definitely a great deal just for the photos alone.
If you really don’t want to pay, there are packages you can purchase before hand, or you can always hand a photopass photographer your camera, but just know that they will not change your camera settings to improve your photo. That might be find during the day, but at night, it is hard to get a good photo on a phone or point and shoot camera.
16. Where can I find Holiday Merchandise at Disneyland?
You will find a great deal of Holiday Merchandise throughout the parks and in Downtown Disney. Some of the items may be found at multiple locations, but others are specific to the area. For instance, Festival of Holidays merchandise is generally only in Disney California Adventure.
Some of my favorite Holiday Merchandise are the special Minnie Ears, Tees, and Ornaments. These are available through out both of the parks and Downtown Disney.
17. Can I get personalized ornaments?
You sure can! At Disney California Adventure I got to see some of the amazing personalizations that cast members can do for you on your ornaments.
18. What is one don’t-miss attraction most people overlook?
For sure Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party. This was probably my family’s favorite Holiday offering. The party happens multiple times each day at Disney California Adventure in Paradise Gardens Park, so check your app or entertainment schedule for more info. You will be dancing and smiling during the entire thing.
You should have no problem showing up about 15-20 minutes before the show and getting great viewing. Or, if you are like my family, we sat down to eat at the tables, and didn’t finsih until right as the show began, so we enjoyed the show from behind, and later on from the front. Yes it was that good we enjoyed it twice…IN THE SAME DAY!
19. How can I save money on my visit to Disneyland during the Holidays?
If you want to visit the Disneyland Resort during the Holidays, there are still some great deals this year from my friends at Get Away Today. In fact (SHHH) there is a huge Black Friday Sale coming up.
If you book a vacation package of two nights or more, and use code CrazyAdventure you will save even more on your vacation. Find out all about Disneyland Deals and how you can save money on your vacation.
Be sure to check out our complete guide to Disneyland at Christmas and the Holidays before your trip.