Preview of Holidaytime at the Disneyland Resort

Sleeping Beauty Castle decorated with Christmas lights and ornamentation
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The TV commercials have already begun for the holiday season. Disneyland is no exception to the rule. The day after Halloween, all of the festive decorations lining Main Street and the other lands of the park will have disappeared. The decorating for the Christmas season begins November 1. Little by little decorations  come to life. The official kick off will be November 9 for Disneyland Resort. Here are some highlights to expect.

Sleeping Beauty Castle and Fireworks

The most well known icon of Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle will be decorated with snow, and multicolored lights and wreaths. The castle is one of the most intricate buildings park decorators set to work on as it is one of the most visible and photographed locations at Disneyland.

The snow covered holiday tops of the castle actually are placed over the regular castle.When I was a Cast member, I would see the castle tops pulled from the storage facility and be cleaned,painted, tested and prepped behind California Adventure Park. I wish I had photographs, but there is no photography allowed in any back of house location. The goal was always to protect the magic as much as possible. 

This year’s firework extravaganza will be “Believe in holiday magic.” The show will take place once a night and is well worth waiting for as long as the weather behaves. The music to the show will put you in a festive mood as will the show at the end of the show! Nights in Southern California can be a little chilly, make sure you are well dressed for the night weather if you stay for the night show. If there is any wind at all, keep in mind that the odds are not in your favor.

The fireworks are often cancelled as the pyrotechnic fallout cannot go out over the city of Anaheim!Fun fact; to test the winds, a pile of balloons is sent out from the castle before the show. If the balloons go straight up, the show will go on. If they do not, fireworks are cancelled. Fireworks can begin and can also be cancelled mid show. Safety is the priority. 

Disneyland Park Holiday Attractions

Fireworks burst in the sky above Sleeping Beauty Castle
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DIsneyland Park’s two most festive attractions will be: It’s a Small World Holiday and the Haunted Mansion. I’ve written before about the Haunted Mansion. It transforms form the traditional attraction into a Nightmare Before Christmas theme when the Halloweentime celebration at Disneyland begins. It you enjoyed the attraction then, it’s the same! Look out for the real life gingerbread house inside of the haunted ballroom.

It’s a Small World Holiday is a unique attraction to the Disney Parks as well. For the holiday season, the exterior is lit with thousands of lights. I would encourage you to go at sunset to see the lights come to life. It’s one of my favorite moments when I was waiting for the parade. The interior of the attraction transforms into holiday themed dolls in their country’s tradition garbs for the holidays. Lines can get long (they still go pretty fast), but if you take advantage of Maxpass or Fastpass, it can speed things along.This is a must ride for me. 


The Disneyland Parade this year will be a Christmas Fantasy. There are traditionally 2 showings of the parade. I would always recommend the later parade as it can be less crowded.Lines for a good viewing spot will form 1-3 hours before showime. Don’t waste your time lining up that early. Walk along the route and see what areas look empty. I used to recommend the It’s a Small World Area.

My advice is to check which direction the parade is going. It it starting on Main Street or Small World? Start at the beginning of the route and follow it after it ends. You don’t want to get trapped behind masses of people are trying to leave at once. The parade hasn’t changed much over the years and will have your favorite characters,dancers and Santa! It can be a little long, I want to say 45 minutes. There is no Paint the Night or other parades during the holidays. 

Festival of Holidays and Viva Navidad in California Adventure

Let’s not forget about California Adventure. There are just as many things that are holiday themed to do there as well! One of my favorite is the Festival of Holidays. Similar to the Food and Wine Festival, boots will be set out in California Adventure with traditional food and beverage items from different countries around the world. There will be different ethnic groups performing on stages in the evening as live entertainment.

In the Paradise Gardens area, Viva Navidad, will have your favorite characters dressed in Mexican themed outfits to meet and greet you. There are live performances every hour or so ringing in the holiday season. The area is nice because you can find food and activities for kids.It’s a nice escape from Disneyland Park when it’s crazy crowded. 


Radiator Spring Street in Cars land decorated for the holidays at Disney California Adventure Park
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Carsland has it’s take on the holiday season with decorations that are all car themed. The attractions Luigi’s Rocking Roadsters and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree are transformed to holiday themed music and decorations for you to enjoy. I like the special popcorn options at the Cozy Cone in. Last year they had a delicious candy cane flavored one I couldn’t stop buying. I’m not sure what this year holds.

Other Notes

Just a few other quick notes. One is that there will be special food offerings everywhere! Try everything! I love to recommend hot chocolate and the candy cane and peppermint filled beignets from the Mint Julip bar. If you see people lining up on Main Street or Buena Vista Street for candy canes, they are normally the handmade ones that are $12.99 and huge! They sell out fast.

I haven’t heard anything about the World of Color returning to California Adventure this year yet, but I would venture it probably will not be back from refurbishment until next year. When I was there in October, my friend who is a tech said it may be a while. 

If you are taking family photos, there are Christmas trees in both theme parks! California Adventure is often much less crowded than Disneyland Park.The hotels also each have a tree you can enjoy! I’ll be posting about those soon! Photos are free to have taken, but may require you to purchase them if your phone or camera isn’t the best in low lighting. 

The parks will also be extremely crowded! Expect parking to fill up early and lots of lines with long wait times. Be prepared to wait in line a lot. It’s the nature of the holidays. Be patient and smile. Hope this preview helps get you excited for the holiday season! I’ll update once I know more about this year’s offerings. everything I’ve mentioned so far is confirmed by Disneyland’s Official website. Happy travels!