Updated 11/13/18: Come join the Disneyland Christmas 2018 celebration. The holidays are upon us once again which means this is absolutely the most beautiful time of year to visit the Disneyland Resort.
Because of the large number of tourists that come to see the beauty during December, the parks can get a little crazy…
That’s why you need our advice on Christmas at Disneyland shared below!
When does Disneyland decorate for Christmas? Disneyland starts celebrating in November and the decor stays up until the beginning of January! You can expect to see holiday decor at the parks November 9th, 2018 through January 6th, 2019.
Watch our full Disneyland Christmas video guide below. You will love some of the helpful hints and tactics!
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If you can visit during the first 2 weeks of December, DO! Once the kids are out of school around week 3, the parks become crazy, usually ranking a 10 of 10 on crowd index websites.
Visit on a rainy day. December is typically one of the wettest months in So Cal. If you have flexibility for your visit, keep an eye on the weather report and make plans to visit on a rainy day. Make sure to bring your raincoat, poncho or umbrella with you. If you forget, those items at the park will cost you a pretty penny.
Arrive early. The early mornings are the quietest at the Disneyland Resort. Get there when the park opens to maximize your time. In addition, visiting on days with the longest hours will help make it possible for your family to do it all. Check on the Disneyland website for daily operating hours.
Make an itinerary and stick to it. Yes, it is fun to just “go with the flow” but this is not the time of year to do so. The more planned your visit is, the smoother things will go. Again, go to the Disneyland website and check the times of the shows, parades, etc. that you want to see and make a plan.
At Disneyland there is plenty to see and do in terms of Christmas themes on classic rides, entertainment, food, and plenty of holiday decor.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
The centerpiece of Disneyland is of course, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Even during the rest of the year, the castle is spectacular. But this time of year it is a site so amazing that it could bring tears to your eyes. Covered in snow capped turrets and 80,000 LED lights, the castle is transformed into a glowing work of art. 4-5 times a night,
Disneyland offers a lighting ceremony at the castle which includes a brief “snow fall” of gingerbread scented snow. This ceremony typically occurs at 6:00PM and 7:30PM every night.
Disneyland Holiday Decor
The entire resort is beautifully decked out for the holiday season, but the Christmas decorations on Main Street USA are the crown jewel. You will be greeted by a massive 60 foot Christmas tree in Town Square and over 70,000 lights and 2,000 custom made ornaments.
You can see snow three times a day at the Disneyland Resort during the holidays, it will snow by Sleeping Beauty’s Castle during the castle lighting at 6:00PM and 7:30PM and after the fireworks on Main Street, near the castle, by Rivers of America, and it’s a small world.
Top Rated Disneyland Christmas Attractions
Disneyland goes all out at Christmas time, especially on two of its classic rides, It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion.
The Haunted Mansion Holiday is an amazing overlay based on the Disney film, The Nightmare before Christmas. You won’t want to miss the gingerbread house display that actually gives off a gingerbread fragrance.
For it’s a Small World Holiday, about 250,000 lights have been added to the outside of the ride and 30,000 to the inside. There are snowmen, icicles, and snowflakes in addition to the animatronic dolls singing “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells. Even for those visitors that wouldn’t normally visit this ride, you will want to take the time to do so. I guarantee it will take your breath away.
You can also view a short projection show that lights up the attraction every 15 minutes for the it’s a small world holiday.
Disneyland Christmas Fireworks
The popular “Believe… in Holiday Magic” fireworks returns this year with special performances featuring incredible Disneyland Christmas music, stunning fireworks and snowfall.
The show features a combination of Disney music and Christmas classics. I highly recommend ending your Christmas experience at least one day with this show.
Disneyland Christmas Parade
Enjoy “A Christmas Fantasy” parade. The parade, which takes place on Main Street, includes many of your favorite Disney characters as well as an appearance by Santa Claus himself. Make sure you arrive early as Main Street fills up fast for this parade.
I hold a special place in my heart for the Christmas Fantasy parade as it was the first Disneyland parade that I ever saw. The characters combined with the catchy tune will have the parade playing over in your head for weeks after viewing.
The times of the parade for the 2018 season are 3:30PM and 6:00PM.
The Plaza Inn offers a dining package for this parade during Christmas time which is essentially the same as it was for the Pixar Play Parade.
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.
Meet Santa at Disneyland
You can meet Santa at varying times throughout the day in Critter Country. You can check the character app for available times.
What to See at California Adventure
Over at California Adventure, there is plenty to see and do in terms of Christmas themes on classic rides, entertainment, food, and plenty of holiday decor.
Disney California Adventure Christmas Decorations
You can enjoy the festivities of the holidays in Cars Land and Buena Vista Street at California Adventure. The park is beautifully decorated, complete with a 50 foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of Buena Vista Street, a “Snowcar” outside of Cars Land and “Cars” inspired Christmas trees made of tires, hubcaps and cones down Route 66. Bell ringers and carolers fill Buena Vista Street with holiday cheer.
Disney California Adventure Christmas Attractions
Two Cars Land attractions receive a holiday overlay to become Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree.
These attractions are decked out for the holidays with lights, new tunes, and a fun twist on the holiday spirit that kids will love.
Meet Santa at Disney California Adventure
Make a stop at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Disney California Adventure park where you can meet and greet with Santa Claus and partake in fun holiday activities.
We recommend meeting Santa here because the lines tend to be much shorter than over at Disneyland in Critter Country.
Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure
California Adventure celebrates the holidays with the Festival of Holidays which includes dining booths with unique culinary creations from all corners of the world and holiday entertainment throughout the parade corridors of the park. Disney has announced that the Festival of Holidays will remain open two additional days until Jan. 8, 2019.
Festive Food Marketplaces at Disney California Adventure park: As part of the Festival of Holidays, the delicious mix of holiday dishes and beverages found at the Festive Food Marketplaces celebrate diverse cuisines, cultures and traditions. You can find the 2018 guide to all the food and beverages offered here.
Guests can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass, which gives you the opportunity to taste your way through your choice of eight different dishes or non-alcoholic beverages from participating Festive Food Marketplaces. This pass can be purchased at various locations throughout the park, including Festival Merchandise Carts, Seaside Souvenirs, Kingswell Camera Shop, and Rushin’ River Outfitters.
For no cost, you can grab a Disney Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport at any of the marketplaces to guide you on your yummy holiday journey. As you visit each marketplace, get your passport stamped and when you’ve filled your passport, you’ll get a special completion stamp.
¡Viva Navidad! is a Latin American inspired experience featuring a street parade, special meet and greets, and unique holiday food offerings. This unique show is a gem. Find a time to relax in the Paradise Garden area and experience this fun holiday offering.
World of Color- Season of Light
Also in Disney California Adventure is the “World of Color–Season of Light” show. This is a special Christmas version of World of Color that combines holiday music with classic moments from Disney films. This version of the show is much better than the former Olaf holiday show that used to play during the Disneyland Christmas season. The new show features timeless Christmas moments and a fantastic score.
*World of Color is still closed without a reopening date announced. We have our fingers crossed Disney will have the show up and running for the 2018-2019 holiday season. Keep checking back as we will update this page as soon as we hear news from Disney.
What to See at Downtown Disney During Christmas
Downtown Disney also joins in on the Christmas Time fun with lavish lights and decorations throughout the area.
Disney Hotels Decorated For Christmas?
Many people don’t know this, but one of the most quiet, beautiful locations inside the Disneyland Resort is Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa. The Grand California has a beautifully decorated lobby and it is a great place to catch a quick rest.
The Disneyland Resort Christmas Carolers perform in the lobby of each of the three hotels: Disney Grand Californian, Disneyland Hotel, and the Paradise Pier Hotel.
You can also meet Santa in the lobby of each of these hotels throughout the day.
Olaf’s Frozen Ice Skating Rink
In 2017, Disney installed a beautiful ice skating rink based on the film Frozen called Olaf’s Frozen Ice Rink.
Located out front of the ESPN Zone, the rink is surrounded by a festive assortment of seasonal treats, a forest of “snow” covered pine trees, twinkling holiday lights and garlands, an interactive children’s art experience and fun winter-themed photos ops.
The rink is open 3pm to 10:30pm Monday through Thursday and 30m to 11:30pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 60 minute sessions are $15 for adults and $12 for toddlers. Skate rentals are only $3. Annual Passholders can purchase one skate ticket at regular price and your guest will receive general admission, skate rental and tax for no charge.
*The 2018-2019 dates and pricing haven’t been released yet but we expect it to be similar to last years. Keep checking back for updates as we get them! So far we haven’t heard if the ice skating rink will be open this year.
The most popular Disneyland Christmas treats are the homemade candy canes. Disney makes three batches of candy canes with 40 candy canes in each batch. Every batch is carefully crafted by a Disneyland Cast Member–many of whom have been making Disneyland candy for years. Special wristbands are handed out each morning in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to 120 people.
You can see the 2018 Foodie Guide to all the Disneyland holiday treats here.
Disneyland Christmas 2018 Candy Cane Dates
Upon arrival at the parks, head immediately to either the Candy Palace in Disneyland or Trolley Treats in Disney California Adventure to pick up your wristband to get your candy cane. The distribution of wristbands will not begin until the park officially opens.
The surge of people from the turnstiles to the candy shops is unexpected until you try a candy cane for the first time. Wow! They are worth it.
Both the Candy Palace and Trolley Treats have specific alternating days that they make the candy canes. The candy canes sell for $12.99 each and are 5 oz each. Annual Pass discounts are not applicable for purchasing a Candy Cane.
Below are the Disneyland Christmas 2018 Candy Cane dates.
Candy Palace at Disneyland:
November 23, 26, 28, 30; December 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 24
Trolley Treats at California Adventure:
November 24, 27, 29; December 1, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25
For more information on Disneyland Christmas Candy Canes you can call the Disneyland candy information phone line here: (714) 781-0112.
Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2018
The Disneyland Candlelight Processional is an annual tradition that dates back to Walt Disney’s time and kicked off in 1958. Each year a celebrity narrator is joined by a massive choir for a retelling of the biblical story of Jesus’ birth in front of Main Street Station. In the past narrators have included Kurt Russell, Dick Van Dyke, Ginnifer Goodwin, James Earl Jones, and John Wayne to name a few.
This special event has four performances over two days during the first weekend of December. There are reserved seats for this Disneyland Christmas show that are not available to the general public. If you are in the parks you can stand along the white rope along the edges and take in this marvelous performance.
This show is far superior to the Walt Disney World version of the Candlelight Processional which takes place in an amphitheater in Epcot.
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Nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of Simi Valley, California, just 80 miles from Disneyland and 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. This 100 acre site has over 100,000 square feet of museum galleries including Reagan’s actual Air Force One aircraft. It is in itself an amazing tourist attraction. Now add a display of 90 years of Disney history to that and you have yourself a must see Southern California Attraction.
In conjunction with the Reagan Library, D23, the official Disney Fan Club, presents to the public the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archive. This 12,000 square foot, 2 level exhibit includes over 500 artifacts, 50% of which have never been seen by the general public.
The exhibit is divided up into two sections. The first area covers Walt’s early life which includes some truly impressive items such as the original script for “Steamboat Willie” that Walt kept in his desk his entire career. Walt’s whole office, which was formerly on display at Disneyland, was also recreated for this exhibit. The original busts that were used to design the animatronic Hall of Presidents at WDW are also on display, as well as the first-day of issue Disney stamp. It would be easy to spend an hour alone examining all the detail and artifacts in the first part of this exhibit.
The downstairs section is full of costumes and set pieces from some of Disney’s most recent, and biggest hits, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted, Tron and Alice in Wonderland. There is a section dedicated to Marvel which includes Tony Starks race car from Iron Man 2 and one of his original Iron Man suits. If you attended the D23 Convention in Anaheim in 2011, you will recognize much of the downstairs display.
My favorite part of the exhibit was the vintage Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean display. This small display includes the original 3 hitchhiking ghosts, tombstones, the original attic bride, a retro Pirates poster and an animatronic pirate straight from the ride itself. This section made me feel very nostalgic for “old school Disneyland” from my childhood years. I may even have shed a tear or two.
One of the reasons this location was chosen for this exhibit is because of the friendship and business relationship between these 2 astonishing men, which dates back to Reagan’s acting years. Reagan, then host of the TV show “General Electric Theater”, attended the opening ceremonies for Disneyland on July 17,1955. As the governor of California he made many trips to Disneyland with his family and even petitioned the United States postmaster to issue a Walt Disney stamp. Reagan’s first public event after leaving the White House was a trip to Disneyland, where he inaugurated the park’s 35th anniversary celebration. In addition, Walt Disney was a huge supporter of Reagan during his presidency.
An exact replica of Walt Disneys office
Your admission price includes not just admission to the Disney Archive but also to the Reagan Library. In my opinion, by itself either of these galleries is worth the price of admission.There aren’t any other places that I can think of where you can see a chunk of the Berlin Wall and a replica of the Oval Office as it was when Reagan was in office. The fact that both of these exhibits are offered at one price is a super deal. The museum also offers a gift shop with a wide assortment of Disney, D23 and Treasures of the Archives souvenirs as well as souvenirs for the library.
The Treasure of the Walt Disney Archive are on display until April 30, 2013. The museum is open daily from 10am – 5pm. General Admission price is $21.00, seniors 62+ are $18.00, Youth Admission (11-17) is $15.00, Child Admission (3-10) is $6.00, children 2 and under are free and active military are free with valid military ID. To buy tickets to this fantastic exhibit visit the museum site.
When visiting the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, it isn’t unusual for visitors to have a limited amount of time or for the parks to be exceptionally busy, leaving them wondering what the must do’s of their visit should be. Here is a list of some of the most popular attractions voted as must do’s by recent park visitors.
Radiator Springs Racers – One of 3 rides in Cars Land, the newest addition to California Adventure, this indoor/outdoor ride takes you through Ornament Valley, Stanley’s Oasis and as it suggests, Radiator Springs. Cars Land opened only a short 4months ago with rave reviews, especially about Radiator Springs Racers. During this 4 minute attraction, you will meet all your favorite Cars characters and end the ride with a thrilling race at speeds of up to 40mph. On the average day the wait time is generally 2-2 1/2 hours. Fast passes are usually gone within an hour of park opening. The detail and thrills of this ride does however, make it well worth the 2 hour wait.
Pirates of the Caribbean – Still a family favorite after 45 year, these swashbuckling, pillage and plundering pirates will entertain you during a 15 minute boat ride full of cannon blasts, gunshots and burning buildings. You can sing along to the forever popular “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me”. In 2006, Disneyland added 3 audio-animatronic Captain Jack Sparrows. They are so amazingly life like, you will think Johnny Depp is actually there.
Indiana Jones Adventure – “Indi”, as its known by us Disney freaks, is a turbulent off-road, dark ride that takes you through the world of Indiana Jones including rat cave, snake temple, bug room and so much more. This 3 minute ride ends with a giant rolling boulder headed straight for you. Of course, Indiana Jones comes to your rescue. Indi is currently closed for refurbishments but is set to reopen December 7. Once it reopens with new added show features, this ride will be even more popular than it was before. Fast Pass is available for this ride.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue– This 3D motion simulator ride is based on the highly successful Star Wars series. It originally opened in 1987 but in 2011 underwent a massive refurbishment. It now offers 54different side sequences, some of which offer a visit from Darth Vader himself. You never know where your Starspeeder 1000 will take you… Hoth, Tatooine and Naboo are just a few of the possibilities. One lucky rider is also chosen at random to be the Rebel Spy and have their picture presented during the ride.
Matterhorn – The popularity of the Matterhorn has seemed to have skyrocketed since its reopening in June 2012. The Swiss-Alps themed ride underwent a 6 month long refurbishment earlier this year to install new bobsleds with “yellow strapped safety belts”, to add more snow to the mountain and give that infamous yeti an “ego boast” of sorts. Real life mountain climbers once again scale down the mountain as they use to from its original opening until recent years. The ride track itself is exactly the same but some how feels different in the new, smaller and in my opinion, far less comfortable seats. If you’re new to this ride, it offers 2 tracks, the right track being a more mellow ride than the left.
Peter Pan’s Flight – Peter Pan is one of the few original rides that is still operational since Disneylands opening day in 1955. With an average wait time of 45 minutes, Peter Pan is by far the most popular attraction in Fantasyland. After boarding your own personal suspended pirate ship, you will sore above London and through Never Neverland visiting all your favorite Peter Pan characters. One of the reasons for this rides popularity is the special effects that make it actually look like you are flying miles above London. The charming music also adds a special touch.
Space Mountain – Located in Tomorrowland, Space Mountain is a thrilling, indoor roller coaster that zooms you through space at a maximum speed of 34 MPH. The soundtrack to this ride adds an extra special “oomf” that makes it feel like you’re going much faster than you actually are. At the last turn of this ride, your picture is taken to help capture the fun. Fast Pass is available for this ride. Without it your average wait time is 45-60 minutes.
Toy Story Mania – Located on Paradise Pier at Disneys California Adventure, this interactive 4D ride/game offers a unique experience the whole family will enjoy. After being greeted by a larger than life, interactive Mr. Potato Head, you will grab your 3D glasses and board an 8 seater spinning ride vehicle equipt with a gun for each rider. You will compete against your “ride buddy” as well as the other riders in the vehicle during 6 mini games all based on the Toy Story films. Be prepared for a longer than average wait time as this is one of DCA’s most popular attractions. Fast Pass is not offered for this ride.
it’s a Small World – If you are traveling with young children or happen to be at Disneyland on a hot day, this ride is a nice break from the elements and the hustle and bustle of the park. This indoor boat ride features over 300 brightly costumed animatronic dolls, each representing a different country. As you travel through all the regions of the world, the dolls sing “It’s a small world after all” in their native language. If nothing else, this 15 minute boat ride will give you a chance to rest your tired feet and regroup.
California Screamin’ – “Get ready to scream in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” With those words you are blasted down the track reaching 55MPH in just under 4 seconds. Like Space Mountain, this attraction is set to music which gives it a very “Disney” feel. This is the only attraction at the Disneyland Resort that has an inversion. Fast Pass is offered for this ride.
Honorable mentions – Hollywood Tower of Terror, Tom Sawyers Island, Big Thunder Mountain and Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
What do you think? Do you agree about our attraction choices? Do you have any to add?