Christmas at Disneyland is one of the most magical times of the year to visit the Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland Christmas this year runs from November 12th through January 9th giving guests plenty of time to enjoy the festivities.
Disneyland at Christmas offers so much to see and do for guests including themed attractions, a holiday parade and fireworks, fantastic holiday food, festivals, and breathtaking decor!
Reading: christmas decorations in disneyland
The 2021 year marks the return of popular entertainment like the A Christmas Fantasy Parade, Believe… in Holiday Magic fireworks along with popular overlays like Haunted Mansion Holiday and its a small world Holiday!
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NEW Disneyland Holiday After Hours Party: Merriest Nites
NEW this year is a Disneyland Christmas after hours party called Disney Merriest Nites! The event will include a special viewing of A Christmas Fantasy Parade, themed holiday areas, live music, dance parties, unique character sights, snowfall on Main Street plus limited capacity access to Disneyland after close!
- Disney Merriest Nites will take place on Nov. 11, Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 9.
- Tickets will be available for purchase beginning Sept. 14, 2021 beginning at 9AM.
- Ticket prices are $165 per person for ages 3 and up Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 9. Ages two and under are free. Opening night on Nov. 11 is $175 per person.
- Guests with ticket can enter Disneyland beginning at 5PM.
- The party takes place from 8PM to midnight.
Special Holiday Entertainment
There will be six themed holiday parties around the park featuring enhanced entertainment with photo backdrops, unique character sightings and unique holiday treats! You can also look forward to mini themed holiday parties around Disneyland such as:
- Mickey Mouse on Main Street, U.S.A. with Victorian flair along with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and other Muppets traveling in a special coach singing Christmas carols.
- Princess Tiana rings in Noel in New Orleans Square with a bayou-inspired celebration.
- Miguel from “Coco” will be featured in Fronteriland wishing everyone Feliz Navidad.
- Lilo & Stitch will host. a tropical party in Adventureland.
- Elsa's wintertime celebration will take place in Fantasyland.
- Buzz Lightyear will host his holiday celebration in Tomorrowland.
Your friends and family will enjoy enhanced entertainment such as themed photo backdrops and character sightings, and themed specialty food and beverage offerings within the event. And guests are encouraged to dress up if they wish as costumes will be allowed for all ages!
The after hours event also includes a showing of A Christmas Fantasy parade plus unlimited PhotoPass downloads. Access to attractions includes all those inside Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland, New Orleans Square and Frontierland… which includes Haunted Mansion Holiday and it's a small world Holiday.
Read more about Disneyland's Merriest Nites in our guide!>
Enjoy Our Disneyland Christmas Video Guide
Take a look at our Christmas video guide below to get a great head start for learning about Disneyland at Christmas.
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Disneyland Christmas Tips: What to See, Do, and Eat!
Both Disneyland and the adjoining park, California Adventure, get in the spirit of the holiday season with themed attractions, great food, entertainment, and breathtaking décor. The Disneyland Park will feature most of the classic Christmas things to see which is why I recommend spending extra time in this park to make sure you see all the magic.
Disneyland Christmas 2021 Décor
There are plenty of amazing spots around Disneyland to enjoy the holiday decor but the decorations on Main Street, U.S.A. are breathtaking. As you enter the park, right in front of the train station, you will see the gigantic 60 foot Christmas tree in Town Square.
Make sure to spend some time admiring the tree as you take in all the custom made ornaments.
Every year the tree is decked out in custom ornaments from top to bottom.
Don't forget to get your picture taken in front of the beautiful Disneyland Christmas tree on Main Street. There is usually a line for this but it's worth it. Ask your PhotoPass photographer if they have any holiday Magic Shots to add! As you can see above, we got Zero added to our picture on our last trip and it ended up being my favorite picture from our entire trip. Plus you get that high quality photo of the tree behind you that a cellphone could never do justice for.
New Orleans Square is another great spot to find beautiful holiday decor. The decorations are bright and festive.
The charm of this area really sparkles with some added festivities.
You can also find Christmas decor in Toontown.
Take some time to look closely at the garland, it definitely embodies the cartoon vibe just in the same way the decor in New Orleans Square is inspired by the spirit of jazz.
Sleeping Beauty's Castle is enchanting during Disneyland Christmas
Hands down, one of the most breathtaking displays at Disneyland is Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Disney goes all out decorating our beloved castle for the holidays as they cover it with snow and over 80,000 LED lights. During the day, the fake snow sparkles in the sun and it's a sight to see. But at night it transforms into an amazing work of art.
Every evening there is a lighting ceremony in front of the castle which includes a brief snowfall of gingerbread scented snow. This ceremony typically occurs at 6:00PM and 7:30PM every night.
As you can see from our pictures below, this is an amazing sight to see. It's one of the most magical parts of Disneyland at Christmas.
Even during the day the castle is gorgeous with all its holiday décor!
Make sure to take some up close pictures to get a good glimpse of the the garland and wreath above the drawbridge.
If you get a prime spot for the nightly fireworks, you'll also have the perfect chance to get a picture like this without any people in it.
The details on the castle are beautiful. Take a moment when walking over the drawbridge to look up at all the lights.
A great spot to get pictures is to stand off to the side and you will also get the lights reflecting in the water.
After the fireworks you'll catch breathtaking views of the castle with the spotlights lit.
Disneyland Christmas Attraction Overlays
Disneyland pulls out all the stops for two of its most classic rides it's a small world and Haunted Mansion. These fantastic holiday overlays is one of the best parts of Disneyland at Christmas. Both of these rides get busier than usual this time of year due to the popularity of these themes.
I recommend following our Christmas time Disneyland touring strategy to help you plan your day which prioritizes both of these attractions. At the very least, you should at least utilize MaxPass for these rides and arrive early so you can avoid waiting in long lines. For it's a small world holiday, that ride is best experienced after dark so you can take in the brilliant display of lights on the facade while you wait.
You can see the benefits of an early morning and MaxPass here from our list visit!
The Haunted Mansion Holiday is an overlay based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. For some guests, they actually prefer this version over the classic because it's just that good! If you haven't seen the Tim Burton flick then you should definitely add it to your Disneyland movie list before your visit.
The Haunted Mansion gets the makeover from start to finish from the decorations outside to the music.
The main thing to watch for on the ride is the famous gingerbread house display that actually gives off a gingerbread scent as you drift by in your doom buggy!
Every year the Disneyland chefs pull out all the stops for the enormous gingerbread house with a different theme each year.
You will see many of your favorite characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas featured throughout the ride. Oogie Boogie is my favorite!
You can watch the full video of the ride above if you want a preview before your visit. This may be wise for smaller children to make sure that the ride isn't too spooky for them. Although, I do think the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay is less intimidating for younger guests than the traditional Haunted Mansion is. If you've never been on the ride, I always recommend not spoiling the surprise but we all have different ways we prepare ourselves for Disney trips.
Haunted Mansion Holiday's 20th Anniversary
This year marks the Haunted Mansion Holiday's 20th Anniversary! One of the favorite yearly traditions of the Haunted Mansion Holiday is the changing gingerbread house from year to year. This year Disney is going to pay homage to all previous houses in celebration of the 20th anniversary. Tim Wollweber, associate art director for Disney Parks, mentioned, “we went back to the graveyard to dig up all of our ideas from the past 19 years. This year’s Franken-house stitches together favorite elements from the previous 19 houses!”
In the picture above, you can see a piece from each house is represented in this year's gingerbread house! Here's the corresponding list of the previous years houses listed below:
- 2001 – Monster House
- 2002 – Present House
- 2003 – Giant Oogie Boogie House
- 2004 – Zero’s Dog House
- 2005 – Giant Man-eating Wreath House
- 2006 – Monster-infested House
- 2007 – Jack-in-the Box House
- 2008 – Giant Gingerbread Coffin House
- 2009 – Scary-Go-Round House
- 2010 – Pop-Up Sandy Claws House
- 2011 – Mimic Monster House
- 2012 – Jack Skellington’s House
- 2013 – 13 Days of Christmas House
- 2014 – Gingerbread Zombie House
- 2015 – Gingerbread Card House
- 2016 – Stitched-Up-Patchwork House
- 2017 – Oogie Boogie Bug-infested House
- 2018 – Giant Gingerbread Spider House
- 2019 – Haunted Mansion 50 Years of Hauntings House
- 2021 – Gingerbread Franken-House
it's a small world Holiday is best enjoyed at night to take in the nearly 250,000 lights that adorn the facade of its a small world. You can also view a short projection show that lights up the attraction every 15 minutes for the it's a small world holiday. The parade space in front of it's a small world is my favorite place to watch the Christmas parade (more below on this magical display!) so you can catch this projection show and take in the beauty of the lights while you wait.
The song of the ride changes to the tune of Jingle Bells as the inside of the ride is also transformed into a festive display with holiday themes and lights.
It's so bright standing in front of this facade, it truly takes your breath away. You can always get great pictures in front of the ride while you wait too!
You can watch the full video of the ride above if you want a preview before your visit. Like I said earlier with the Haunted Mansion Holiday, if you've never been on the ride I recommend not spoiling the surprise by watching a video.
Disneyland Christmas Parade 2021
The Disneyland Christmas parade is the A Christmas Fantasy parade which follows the traditional parade route from it's a small world to Main Street. This parade is a favorite among Disneyland guests and shows a variety of Disney favorites along with holiday characters like snowmen, gingerbread men, reindeer, and Santa himself.
The song for this parade is a wonderful blend of Disney classics and Christmas music that literally made me cry the first time I saw it. This continues to be one of my favorite parts of the Disneyland Christmas celebration.
In the above video you can see this beloved parade from the viewing area in front of it's a small world.
Like most parades throughout the year, The Plaza Inn will offer a dining package with reserved viewing with a holiday themed menu.
The Plaza Inn Dining Package for the Christmas Fantasy Parade
- Meal Options: Holiday menu of turkey, macaroni and cheese, seasonal vegetables, stuffing and cranberry sauce with a holiday dessert. Vegetarian options are also available upon request. Kids’ meals combine chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese with a choice of side, holiday dessert and a beverage.
- Price: $39.99 per adult and $24.99 per child (ages 3-9) – tax not included; gratuity not required
- Reservations made between 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM will receive a voucher for the day’s second performance of A Christmas Fantasy Parade
Reservations are recommended for all dining packages. You can make your reservation up to 60 days in advance on the Disneyland Dining site or by calling (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463 between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM daily.
However, I don't think a dining package is necessary for the parade unless you're visiting on a crazy busy day! If you get your parade spot in front of it's a small world, you can enjoy the lights from the themed overlay while you wait. There are restrooms nearby, snack kiosks, and plenty of room for kids to run around while you wait.
Disneyland Christmas Fireworks
The one entertainment option that you cannot miss is the “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks! This nighttime fireworks show features Disneyland themed Christmas music, breathtaking fireworks, and scented gingerbread snowfall in front of the castle.
While I normally don't recommend the coveted castle viewing for fireworks, unless you're extremely committed to waiting, for this show I recommend seeing it from this location if you can handle the crowds. The fireworks combined with the stunning display of Sleeping Beauty Castle is something that everyone should experience at least once.
Watch the above video if you want a preview of what the fireworks look like over the castle. Truly spectacular.
Our last visit at Disneyland at Christmas, we managed to get a spot right in front of the castle with a front row view. It was amazing and worth every second that we spent waiting- all 90 minutes of it. This area does get extremely cramped and crowded- I recommend bringing some snacks and some patience. Bring an easy foldable blanket to just and mark off your space the best you can but you really will be squished right next to everyone else.
If the castle viewing isn't your thing, which is understandable, watching the fireworks from in front of it's a small world is a great spot too! And much more convenient with smaller children. My son is nine so I was able to convince him to deal with the crowded wait in front of the castle but if he was any younger he would not have been up for it!
You can read more about my tips and tricks from our last visit for seeing the fireworks in my Facebook post.
Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2021 Dates and Info
The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is another annual Disneyland tradition that dates back to 1958 and the days Walt himself walked the park. Each year features a celebrity narrator joined by a large choir for a retelling of the biblical story of Jesus' birth in front of the Main Street Station. Some of the past narrators have includes Kurt Russell, Dick Van Dyke, Ginnifer Goodwin, James Earl Jones, and John Wayne. Disney is always pretty tight lipped on who the celebrity narrator is and usually manages to keep it a secret until they step onto stage!
This special event is limited to just four performances over two days during the first weekend of December with shows at 5:30 pm and 8pm on each day. The reserved seats for the show are not available to the general public but you can stand alongside the white rope and listen to the performance.
So far we don't know yet if the 2021 holiday celebration will include the Candlelight Processional.
Based on past years performances, you can expect a rough schedule (remember, none of this is official!) that looks something like this:
- 4:45PM – Invited guests are seated for the first show.
- 5:20PM. – The first processional starts.
- 5:30PM – The first ceremony starts at Town Square.
- 7:15PM – Invited guests are seated for the second show.
- 7:35PM – The second processional starts.
- 7:45PM – The second ceremony starts at Town Square.
So the most common question we get from our readers is: how do I view the show since it's limited for exclusive guests?
The best you can do is try to snag some standby viewing. It's very limited to get those spots though and they go quickly to those most dedicated to seeing the show! You can find coveted bench seating by the Christmas tree in Town Square along with standing only areas near the Opera House, City Hall, and any other open areas in Town Square that cast members will allow you to stand in.
Once the first processional ends, guests will be asked to leave the viewing areas to allow other people to take their spots and get a chance for the second show. Because of this a line often forms on Main Street as early as 5PM. Guests with disabilities can inquire with a cast member on what their best options are for the performance. You can also hear the singers clearly all the way down Main Street so if you don't grab the best spot, you can sit on the curb and listen.
You can expect the Christmas Fantasy parade, Main Street vehicles and other attractions to be impacted by the performance in Town Square. The parade time has been adjusted to 12:45PM and 3:15PM on processional days to accommodate for the performance. The Main Street vehicles still stop running at 12PM, many of the stores close to the square will close, and no popcorn/churro carts will be open on these days in that immediate area. In order to not distract from the performance, the Disneyland Railroad and the Jungle Cruise will not run during the performances.
If you have no interest in seeing the processional, we recommend avoiding Main Street all together in the evening to not get caught up in the crowds.
Christmas at Disney California Adventure Tips and Overview
Disney's California Adventure Park has worked hard over the past few years to continue to increase the holiday offerings in this park which has had great results. You can find holiday nighttime entertainment, a festival all about food, great decor, and holiday ride overlays!
You can read more about our last trip to Disney's California Adventure during Christmas on our Facebook page.
Holiday Decor at California Adventure Celebrating Disneyland Christmas
You will find holiday decor the most heavily concentrated in Cars Land and on Buena Vista Street. You can also find a giant 50 foot tall Christmas tree in front of Carthay Circle so make sure you don't miss it! Similar to over at Disneyland, the large Christmas tree takes front and center stage for PhotoPass pictures- save some time to get in line for this great photo op.
Even our favorite trolley gets in the spirit of the season.
It's hard to feel impressed by other Christmas trees until you've seen the ones at Disneyland!
I especially love all the old time toys you see scattered lovingly underneath the tree. We always enjoy the Disney details and these fantastic trees are filled with them.
Cars Land by far has some of the best holiday décor you can find in both parks. The amazing amount of detail that's already present in Cars Land is further enhanced by the Christmas festivities.
Notice the snow-caped tire Christmas tree!
And of course, you need to come back at night to see everything all lit up!
Most of the lighted areas in Cars Land get some extra Christmas flair! My favorite part was the area by the Cozy Cone Motel.
I could spend all night here. Do I see tinsel?
Each store gets their own festive holiday lights that match their theme.
Don't miss the clever holiday movie posters on the way into the land.
Don't forget your photo op with the Snow Car outside the Cars Land entrance! You may have to wait awhile for this one but it's worth it. Or get it first thing in the morning before the crowds build.
You'll see some smaller decor touches over by the wharf.
Another great photo op is waiting for you in front of The Little Mermaid.
Roz is even sporting a Santa hat inside Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!
I recommend allowing some time to grab a hot chocolate in the evening and wander around to take in the lights. It's truly magnificent to slow down and take it all in.
Disney California Adventure Christmas Attractions
You'll find the attractions that receive holiday overlays over in Cars Land: Luigi's Joy to the Whirl and Mater's Jingle Jamboree.
These overlays are pretty minor compared to the ones you see over in Disneyland but they're still worth checking out! Mater's Jingle Jamboree is decked out in holiday lights along with a Christmas jingle. This ride gets overlooked often because it appears like a simple child's ride but it's really fun. Don't miss it!
Even better, in my humble opinion, is the Luigi's Joy to the Whirl where you can enjoy Christmas themed songs while you spin around in Luigi's fleet of cars.
Again, don't overlook these as ‘just' kids rides! I recommend riding at night to better enjoy the lighting of Cars Land.
Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure and the Best Disneyland Christmas Food
The main celebration that takes place in California Adventure is the Festival of Holidays which includes dining booths with unique food items from all over the world along with holiday entertainment in the parade corridors of the park.
The show stopper of this event are the Festive Food Marketplaces where you can find a glorious amount of international and local holiday specialties.
Disneyland at Christmas is not complete without an assortment of great food and the Festival of Holidays has you covered when you're in California Adventure. Here are the essential details you need to know:
- Sip and Savor Pass: this pass gives guests the chance to choose from eight different dishes or non-alcoholic beverages. You can purchase the pass at various locations throughout the park, including Festival Merchandise Carts, Seaside Souvenirs, Kingswell Camera Shop, and Rushin’ River Outfitters.
- I recommend looking at the foodie guide before purchasing in case you have any picky eaters in your cohort.
- Free keepsake alert: for no cost you can get a Disney Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport at any of the marketplaces for a full guide to all the food offered. As you visit each marketplace, get your passport stamped and when you’ve filled your passport, you’ll get a special completion stamp.
To be honest, I just went for all the dessert when we visited the marketplace booths and they did not disappoint.
¡Viva Navidad! is a Latin American inspired experience which features a street parade along with unique meet and greets.
Mickey and Minnie's arrival on fun festive bicycles is always greeted with cheers during the street parade.
Mickey and Minnie are decked out in festive outfits for the occasion.
I loved seeing The Three Caballeros in action! Donald Duck fans will love it!
The dancers are mind blowing. So much talent and culture, it's worth the time to stake out a quick spot to see this street parade.
The street parade happens a few times throughout the day over by Goofy's Fly School. Check the Disneyland app for the most current show times on the day of your visit. Be sure to pick a spot in the shade- that afternoon sun can feel really hot once you're sitting in it for awhile. I liked the spot over by Symphony Swings to wait because I was close enough to watch my son ride the swings (over and over) while I held our spots. Kids ages 8 and up that meet the height requirement can ride without an adult.
Special Disneyland Christmas World of Color Edition
Unfortunately, World of Color- Season of Light will not return for the 2021 holiday year.
Disneyland at Christmas has great offerings of nighttime entertainment this season with the return of “World of Color-Season of Light” show. World of Color underwent a long refurbishment so this year's show is much missed and highly anticipated.
View more: LEGO Advent Calendar | WTBBLUE
This Christmas version of World of Color combines holiday music with classical Disney moments from beloved films.
Watch the video above to get an idea of what to expect. But as always, I don't recommend spoiling the surprise by watching videos in advance if you've never watched it before.
This show is sure to be popular this year since it was on hiatus the last holiday season. I recommend treating yourself to the Dessert Party or a dining package to ensure you have good seats. Read our World of Color guide closely for tips on how to get the best spot for the show.
Mickey’s Happy Holidays
Twice a day a celebration featuring Disney and Pixar characters offer a dance party with Mickey Mouse to the merry rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers. You can find this dance party at the Paradise Gardens Park Obelisk and Carthay Circle.
Holiday Sunset Concerts
Returning this year to the Palisades Stage will be the Holiday Sunset Concert series with bands on select nights including:
We don't have the 2021 band list yet but you can get a preview of what to expect by seeing who performed last year below:
- The Suffragettes- This festival cover band covers famous holiday songs on select nights.
- Phat Cat Swinger- The West Coast’s “Little-Big Band,” will showcase their swinging selection of irresistible holiday music..
- Blue13 Dance Company- This band presents a spirited tribute to Diwali through traditional Indian folk dances and Bollywood.
- Mostly Kosher- This band brings the spirit of Hanukkah in a concert that combines Klezmer, Jazz and Rock & Roll.
- The Sound- A cappella performance to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa
- Mariachi Divas- The Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Divas bring the joy of Navidad to Disney's California Adventure.
Check the daily events calendar during your visit to see who's performing!
Where to Meet Santa at Disneyland Christmas
It's likely that this year's 2021 Disneyland holiday celebration will do a distanced meet and greet for Santa. The good news about this is there won't be a long line to meet him!
And of course, you can't have a complete Christmas at Disneyland without a meeting with Santa! You can find Santa and his elves in an elaborate photo op set up throughout the day in Critter Country in Disneyland Park (above) and Redwood Creek Trail in California Adventure.
I recommend you check the Disneyland phone app for times. This character meet and greet is quite popular, for good reason, so make sure to line up early.
I preferred the area in Redwood Creek Trail for taking my son to see Santa because I found the photo area to be more elaborate. It was also fun enjoying the area while we waited too. My tip for taking kids to see Santa is to do this first thing in the morning right when Santa makes his first appearance. This way everyone is looking fresh and kids are happy so you will get the best pictures. Don't save the meet and greet with Santa towards the end of the day when everyone's exhausted!
You can see the photo area for the Redwood Creek Trail above from my son's last meet and greet with Santa. The PhotoPass photographers will also take a photo with your camera too if you ask them!
I loved the charm of meeting Santa here over the one in Disneyland, I highly recommend it.
You can also meet Santa in the lobby of each of Disney owned hotels throughout the day. I still recommend meeting Santa at California Adventure, if you can!
Downtown Disney and Disney Hotels During Christmas
Downtown Disney also decorates for the season and you can take in all the full lights as you wander around to enjoy the shopping, dining, and entertainment options. If you've never been to Downtown Disney I recommend reading our full guide.
Downtown Disney is the place to go to find plenty of holiday treats and shopping. I particularly enjoyed the Disney Home store as it was filled with an abundance of fantastic holiday decor to fill my suitcase with. I recommend starting your arrival evening, if you're not heading to the parks, with a dinner in Downtown Disney and some shopping.
There are a few yearly seasonal events you can look forward to at the Downtown Disney Restaurants such as:
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Holiday Gingerbread Workshops
Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen hosts a Gingerbread workshop building event that includes a buffet brunch, carols, and interactions with the chefs.
The buffet brunch takes place from 11AM-12PM with the workshops taking place from 12PM-2PM. So altogether, all from 11AM-2PM for this event. Guests can also enter their gingerbread houses in the Best of the Best Gingerbread contest! Winner to be selected by Chef Darrin Finkel and will receive a $100.00 gift certificate to be used on a future date at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen! Be sure to get your tickets in advance so you don't miss out!
Breakfast with Santa at Catal Restaurant
This popular event returns every year to Downtown Disney and is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Be sure to buy your tickets far in advance so you don't miss out!
- Pictures with Santa
- Stuffed animal given to each child from Santa himself!
- Family-style breakfast
- Bottomless Mimosas (21yrs +)
- Hot cocoa cart
- Personalized stockings for each child
- Charles Dickens carolers
- Interactions with Santa’s elves
- Cookies & Milk Station
This breakfast gets rave reviews every year and can be a great addition to your trip.
Downtown Disney Treats
Many of the eateries in Downtown Disney offer seasonal holiday treats and dinner options such as:
- Ballast Point Brewing Co. is offering a holiday-inspired brew called Ale Nog, which is an innovative take on the classic holiday beverage.
- Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes will feature a Chocolate Peppermint CrazyShake, with a chocolate frosted rim and crushed peppermint topped with a Peppermint Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake slice, whipped cream and syrup!
- Catal Restaurant is presenting an elegant, three-course prix fixe menu on Christmas Eve with a choice of items such as filet carpaccio, Alaskan halibut, braised short rib pasta, egg nog pot de crème and chocolate raspberry mousse cake. An a la carte menu for children 10 and younger is available.
- Earl of Sandwich offers its holiday best year-round with its Holiday Turkey Sandwich, a delicious layering of turkey, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and mayonnaise on freshly-baked artisan bread.
- Kayla’s Cake’s sweet snowman, gingerbread and snowflake macarons are delicious and adorable.
- La Brea Bakery Café has a “glowing” cocktail list with the Jolly Old Fashioned, the Merry Manhattan, Tinsil-tini, Mistletoe Margarita and the Joyful Daiquiri. Splitsville Lanes, Catal, Uva Bar, Tortilla Jo’s and Naples Ristorante e Bar are getting in the spirit as well with holiday-themed “glow” margaritas and cocktails.
- At Salt & Straw, savor a scoop or take home a pint of seasonal flavors such as Gingerbread Cookie Dough, Apple Brandy & Pecan Pie, and Peppermint Cocoa.
- Sprinkles has a new Christmas Cookie Cupcake, along with a Chocolate Peppermint Cupcake and a Gingerbread Cupcake that can be boxed as a sampler which is always a hit at holiday parties!
- Wetzel’s Pretzels is offering a reusable, light-up plastic Mason jar that you can sip from as you stroll the district. The cup glows in eight different colors!
Downtown Disney Entertainment and Decorations
“Let It Glow” is Downtown Disney's holiday display with an outdoor gallery of 200 UV glow trees in fluorescent shades of blue, green, yellow, orange and pink vary in size and make an eye-catching backdrop for your next photo-worthy moment!
There will also be an abundance of evening holiday entertainment in Downtown Disney with cappella carolers, Holiday Harmony decked in their darling holiday sweaters, to the Sugar Plums, Jingle 5 and other talented musical groups throughout the promenade.
Disney Hotels during the Holiday Season
One of my favorite parts of Downtown Disney year-round is Disney's Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. Most guests don't realize you don't actually have to be staying at this hotel to hang out in the lobby. At Christmas time, this is especially fantastic as this deluxe hotel pulls out all the stops for the holidays.
And not to be missed in this hotel is the gigantic gingerbread house in the lobby! We spent a long time looking for all the hidden Mickeys in this display and taking in all the details.
Look at the details in the fireplace! So majestic. So delicious.
The back of the gingerbread house is also decorated and you can find more hidden Mickeys on this side too!
Just to see the scale take a look at the Disneyland Resort Christmas Carolers perform in the lobby! That's one giant gingerbread house.
The Disneyland Resort Christmas Carolers are extremely talented, you can find them at each of the three hotels: Disney Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and the Paradise Pier Hotel. Watch the video above to listen to part of one of their performances. They'll usually include kids in their shows too which is great for little ones to experience some Disney magic.
Grand Gingerbread Experience
Disney's Grand Californian Hotel offers a decorating workshop where guests can build their own gingerbread house with the help of the same team who helped create the giant one in the lobby!
The cost is $70 per person, tax included, and no discounts apply. Each participant receives an apron, and a selection of snacks, cookies and hot cocoa are served during the 90-minute workshop.
Last year's event was only offered to guests staying at the hotel, this year they have opened up to all park guests! Call (714) 781-3463 to book your tickets.
Hand-Pulled Disneyland Candy Cane Dates 2021 and Info
This Christmas treat is so popular it deserves its own section in our Disneyland at Christmas guide! Disneyland is one of the remaining places to make their candy canes homemade. Each batch of candy canes is carefully crafted by a Disneyland cast member- many of who have been making them for years. This is a Disneyland tradition that dates back to 1968 and it's a special experience to be a part of. Each candy cane is 18 inches long and they are absolutely to die for.
These coveted candy canes can be hard to come by if you don't plan in advance. Guests line up the very instant the gates open to receive their wristband which is limited to only about 120 people per day. Guests are only allowed one wristband per person and it entitles you to one candy cane at that location. No discounts apply for candy canes and you must present your wristband to purchase one!
The 2021 Christmas Time Candy Cane dates are:
TBA- we've kept the 2019 dates below for your reference. We will update the guide once we have the 2021 dates.
Both the Candy Palace and Trolley Treats have specific alternating days that they make the candy canes. The candy canes sell for $15.99 each and are 5 oz each. Annual Pass discounts are not applicable for purchasing a Candy Cane.
Candy Palace at Disneyland
November 29; December 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, and 24
Trolley Treats at California Adventure
November 30; December 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, and 25
These Disneyland candy canes, if you haven't guessed already, are a big deal. These are the steps you should follow to get your hands on one of these delicious candy canes:
- Arrive to the park an hour prior to opening so you can be in the front of the line at the turnstiles entering the parks.
- The instant the cast members let you in, head straight to Candy Palace or Trolley Treats (depending on which park you are going for) and get in line. People literally sprint and run towards these candy shops! Technically, no running is allowed, but we skipped our way over just fine. Either way, move quickly.
- Once you're in line you will wait for a wristband. Every single person in your party will get one with a return time. If you were quick enough to be towards the front of the line, you will likely be able to pick up your candy cane right away. Remember: only one candy cane/wristband per person in your group. You also won't be allowed to save spots for other people in your group in this line.
- Come back on time for your candy cane! You will end up likely waiting in two lines for these candy canes when all is said and done. Now that's some Disney dedication!
The candy canes are extremely fragile so make sure you take care to store it in a locker or treat it like glass while it's in your park bag so they don't break. We put ours in a locker right away to ensure it's safety as we were able to get ours first thing in the morning.
You can read all about our experience with the candy canes from the holiday season in our Facebook post.
Best Disneyland Christmas Food 2021
To be honest, I'm just here for the food! Well, partially. But the food offerings at Disneyland are fantastic for the holiday season. Disneyland at Christmas has so many fantastic treats to enjoy that it's overwhelming.
Each year we keep our Disneyland Treat Guide updated with new offerings. Some of the highlights include:
So many churros! Our favorite is the Sugarplum Churros located near Haunted Mansion Holiday. I could eat a pound of them. There are great seasonal churro offerings in both parks ranging from Gingerbread to Sugarplum to Candy Cane!
The Gingerbread Cookies are a holiday staple and with good reason. We always make sure to get a stack of these to enjoy while we waited for the fireworks. We found ours in the carts located by the hub.
Another favorite twist on a Disney classic is the candy cane beignet! So much food, so little time.
You will also find an abundance of themed holiday dinners at the many restaurants at Disneyland.
Over in California Adventure, you can find plenty of seasonal offerings aside from the Festival of Holidays Marketplaces. You can find holiday shaped bread at the Boudin Bread Cart which is a great snack to have in your park bag.
Another favorite of mine was the holiday ice-cream sundaes from Clarabelle’s Hand Scooped Ice Cream. Ice-cream for Christmas? In California, it works just fine.
Hands down one of my favorite spots to grab snacks was the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land. We enjoyed the warm chili cone treats and the macarons.
There is so much to eat when you come to Disneyland at Christmas, I recommend you bookmark our guide to all the holiday treats so you can start planning your foodie itinerary.
Tips for Managing Disneyland Christmas Crowds
There are a few things you can do to help avoid crowds when you visit Disneyland at Christmas. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to visit on days when the Magic Key (annual passholders) are blocked. You can check the blockout calendar here. Since Disneyland is primarily a locals park, the the Magic Key holders have a huge impact on the crowd levels.
Another thing you can do is to visit before many of the school districts are out for the holiday season. November (excluding Thanksgiving week) and the first two weeks of December will see lighter crowd levels due to schools still being in session. Read more about planning the dates of your trip in our crowd calendar guide.
If you have no choice but to visit during the busiest time of the season, it really will be okay. We came on an extremely busy day on our last visit and we still accomplished plenty. Some of the things we did to manage the chaos and still see everything we wanted:
- We were at the gates prior to opening so we were able to walk right on (after a quick jog and a skip) to Peter Pan and other favorites to cross off our list. Getting there for rope drop makes all the difference even on the busiest days.
- Because we came so early, we had most of the major rides done by lunchtime and were able to spend the rest of the day feeling at ease that we crossed those off our list.
- I had figured since it was a Saturday when the APs were able to visit it was going to be busy so when I booked the trip I made sure we had lunch and dinner dining reservations for this day. This way we had a guaranteed place to eat and relax for both meals. I was thankful I did this because every restaurant’s walk in line was long and even the churro stands had long lines! When we could, we used mobile ordering as often as possible.
- My son was getting overwhelmed (imagine being half the height of most of the crowd) so we just took the train from land to land. It was much more relaxing than walking through crowded walkways and plus it incorporated that experience into our day. Just remember- it will close prior to the fireworks.
- When we felt overwhelmed, we would take a break. We hung out in Star Wars Launch Bay for over an hour and it was quite relaxing. All the wait times for the characters were low- it seemed like most folks were hanging out by the seasonal rides and parade routes.
Now one thing that is also popular this time of year that some folks don’t realize until they’re in the moment? PhotoPass lines!
Everyone wants that perfect holiday picture. We did our castle pictures both days first thing in the morning which gave us no wait and a nice empty backdrop. As for the castle at night, the line will be much less on a weekday if you're visiting before school is out. Plan your pictures for those days, if you can. And don’t forget to ask your photographer for a Magic Shot! They have lots of fun holiday ones like snow globe frames and Zero from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
And if you can, stay after the fireworks. Many people leave after the fireworks show which drastically cuts down on the wait. Grab some coffee and power through! The crowds will only ruin your day if you let them. You can still have a great experience if you come prepared. You can read more about managing crowds at Disneyland in our guide.
Start Planning Your Disney Vacation Now!
Start planning your visit to see Disneyland at Christmas now! Subscribe to our FREE newsletter where you can expect timely, quality information on exclusive Disney deals and access to the lowest priced Disney tickets anywhere. You can find more information on planning your Disneyland at Christmas vacation here:
- Christmas Treats Galore: A Foodie’s Guide to Eating Your Way Though Christmas Time at Disneyland
- Christmas Time: Disneyland Touring Strategy to Maximize Time and Experience the Magic
- Universal Studios Hollywood at Christmas: Everything You Need to Know
- Top 12 Disneyland Christmas Must-Sees
- 25 Christmas Pictures of Disney Parks Around the World: Get in the Spirit of the Holiday Season
- 20 Magical Disney Fan Christmas Gift Ideas
- Disneyland Christmas Tips and Tricks Guide
- 15 Pictures of the Disneyland Resort during the Holiday Season