Best Disneyland Christmas 2019 Tips and Tricks Guide

Come join the Disneyland Christmas celebration. The holidays are upon us once again which means this is absolutely the most beautiful time of year to visit the Disneyland Resort. The holiday season runs from November 8th 2019 through January 6th 2020. 

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!

But first, a quick deal for you:

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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 from the beginning of November through the first week of January.

Checkout my list of the top must-see Disneyland Christmas items here!

Watch Our Disneyland Christmas Guide:

Watch our full Disneyland Christmas video guide below. You will love some of the helpful hints and tactics!

The best way to save money, avoid crowds, and have a fantastic Disneyland vacation is to purchase your Disneyland tickets from recommended third party ticket reseller approved by Disney. Our recommended reseller, Get Away Today, is certified by Disney and can save you more than $20 per ticket when you book in advance. Check out all of our advice regarding purchasing Disneyland discount tickets  and more info on planning a Disneyland Christmas 2019 trip.

They exclusively offer the lowest priced Disneyland tickets to Disney Dose readers via the links above. 

Here are some tips to help minimize the madness, plus a list of what to see while you're there. Most of tips apply to best times for visiting Disneyland all year round.

Tips For Disneyland Christmas

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.

disneyland-christmas-tree-main-street

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.

For even more tips on when to visit Disneyland check out our dedicated page.

What to See at Disneyland During Christmas

disneyland-christmas-2017

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 Disneyland 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.

Disneyland is adding the Disneyland MaxPass service and Disneyland FastPass service during Disneyland Christmas for “it's a Small World Holiday”.

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 Plaza Inn usually offers a dining package for this parade during Christmas time.

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.

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 last year's 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.

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.

Disneyland Christmas Treatsdisneyland candy cane for sale at disneyland during christmas time

Image Via OC Weeky

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 last year's Foodie Guide to all the Disneyland holiday treats here. 

Disneyland Christmas 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.

While I don't recommend spending your Extra Magic Hour, be aware that many people will begin to line up during this time period on days when the Disneyland candy canes are released.

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:

Dates to be announced!

Trolley Treats at California Adventure:

Dates to be announced!

For more information on Disneyland Christmas Candy Canes you can call the Disneyland candy information phone line here: (714) 781-0112.

Disneyland Candlelight Processional 2019

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.

Tips for Visiting Disneyland During Christmas

For a truly magical Disneyland experience I highly recommend that you check out our complete guide to visiting Disneyland.

The best way to save money on your Disneyland vacation is to book through a certified Disney travel agent. We highly recommend you always request a travel quote because a travel agent will almost always give you the best deal for your vacation. Get a quote here >

  1. Best Time to Visit Disneyland
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  3. Reviews of the Best Disneyland Restaurants
  4. Disneyland Halloween 2018 Guide
  5. Using Time Wisely at Disneyland

Universal Studios Hollywood can also be a great addition to any Disneyland vacation. It can be quite affordable. You can find info on Universal Studios discount tickets on our page here.

What are you most excited about at Disneyland this Christmas?

54 comments add yours

  1. Wow that looks better than ever. I want to visit Buena Vista Street and Carsland this December.

  2. Is the third week normally busy? I know most schools aren’t out until the week of Christmas. We are thinking of going the week of December 15th. Any advice?

    • For years we have taken our kids out of school and made an annual day trip to Disneyland the week before Christmas (the last week of school for most public schools). I would suggest Mon/Tues/Wed, Dec 14-16 as your best bets. It will become progressively more crowded as the week goes on. In general T-W-Th are good days any other time of the year, but be mindful that park hours change based upon the day of the week, so check that out on the Disneyland website. Also, I don’t know if the Candlelight Ceremony will be taking place on any of those dates. That definitely increases guest volume but it may not be taking place in 2015.

      • Thank you for adding your commentary Lenda. The podcast episode is from 2014 as we have not yet recorded this year’s Christmas planning episode. The 2015 Disneyland Candlelight Processional will take place on Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6. There will be two shows on both evenings.

        • I visit Disneyland regularly over the Holidays but an accident has kept me away for last 2 years. One thing I have found is crowds on certain days are not predictable. Weekends are always busy but some years Thanksgiving and Black Friday are jammed, other years they are not. Best times are very early and late late.

  3. Does anyone have any information about visiting Disneyland on Christmas Day? Is it really busy?

    • Throughout the morning on Christmas day, Disneyland is relatively quiet. The crowds will pick up later in the afternoon, but it is quite a nice place to spend the morning.

  4. We have booked dinner at the big ranch thunder BBQ for the 18th of December….so will they still have the Big Thunder Ranch Jingle Jangle Jamboree with Santa and his reindeer?…we were told that they wont have the reindeer this year. And do they usually close down the big thunder ranch BBQ to make way for Santa. So if we were able to book dinner their, does that mean Santa will be relocated?

    • Hello Amanda. Santa only takes up a very small part of the large area that is the Big Thunder Ranch. Your reservation is totally valid. Have a great dinner!

  5. Are all these fun events still open during the time we are visiting the 24th of december-28th

    • Yes. Check the entertainment schedule upon arrival, but most performances should be operating.

  6. I read Billy Hill and the Hillbillies will be playing, is this true ? I thought they were disbanded earlier this year.

    • As far as I know they are currently playing as Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies at Knott’s Berry Farm.

  7. Please let me know how I can make the best out of this Christmas in Disney land for my granddaughters, thank you so much.

  8. Hello,

    We’re only a couple weeks away from experienceing Disneyland for the very first time with our daughter. We will be spending the week of Christmas at Disneyland. I haven’t began to create an itinerary. Our daughter is two years old and I want her to get the best experience possible. Do you have any recommendations on where to begin? I’ve looked at parade and firework show times and we have that squared away but what about during the day. What rides are age appropriate for toddlers in California Adventures and Disneyland? What would you recommend as far as an itinerary for those two parks over a course of three days? Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

  9. when do the christmas light shows end. do they go to the first of the year

  10. What are the Disneyland Christmas 2015 dates? Are decorations and Christmas parade etc. run to the beginning of January 2016?

    • The parade will run to the beginning of January, but there are no specific Christmas fireworks this year. The dates for Christmas are November 13-January 6.

  11. We are taking our 6 year old granddaughter X-mas week. Which character breakfast and Christmas buffet would you recommend. Also best place to see the parade with her? Thank you in advance.

    • Take a look at our review page for info on all character meal reviews. My favorite place to watch the parade is in between the top of Main Street and the hub area. You can step into the crowd a few minutes before the parade and still have a good vantage point.

  12. Does anyone know if getawaytoday.com is a legit disney ticket reseller?

  13. Thank you Gavin for all of your attention and kind advice. During the Thanksgiving break are the Christmas decorations up, or is that December 1 or 4 or something? After your writing that Christmas weekends and week are the busiest of the year I’m trying to find a time to bring my 3 grandchildren so they aren’t overwhelmed with crowds. Many thanks!

    • Hello Nancy, the decorations are slowly being added to the parks. Everything will be up by mid November. Early Thanksgiving week is a nice time to visit because many of the Annual Passes are blocked out, so there will not be as many crowds. Have a great trip!

  14. We are visiting Dec. 28-29 this year and can’t wait to see everthing. Thanks for your tips.

  15. Hey Gavin!

    Do you know if Sleeping Beauty’s Castle will definitely be decorated with all of the Christmas lights this year? I am visiting mid-December and I am worried that they won’t put the Christmas lights on the castle due to all of the 60th decorations. Do you have any idea? Thanks!!

    • The castle will remain decorated for the 60th Anniversary. Also, many of the other decoration pieces around the resort will feature diamonds in honor of the 60th DIAMOND Anniversary.

    • It was actually announced in the Disney Blog that the Castle will not have it’s Christmas Holiday overlay this year. It will have it’s 60th decor instead.

  16. The castle is not going to be decorated this year for Christmas due to the 60th stuff. AT least that is what I have read.

  17. Hi Gavin,
    Great info! This may be of interest to your readers. I just updated my song “Going to Disneyland,” to reflect the holidays, “Going to Disneyland: Christmas Time.” The original song has been played all over the world and is a favorite in many homes and cars! You can stream it everywhere. Happy Holidays!

    • Please provide a link. I would love to listen, but was not able to locate your song.

  18. Wondering if besides the popcorn containers for christmas do they have any giveaways in the restaurants with the desserts.

  19. We have a group going Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Saturday. I am so excited. We are going for my 58th birthday (I was born in 1958 — Clever Huh?) One of my friends coming it will be her first time to Disneyland. I can hardly wait!! Thanks for all the info. Still trying to decide if we will make a mad dash for the candy canes!! LOL

  20. I know I’m jumping the gun, but we plan on visiting in 2017 – and have never seen Disney decorated for Christmas!!

    In terms of crowds – do you suggest trying to go as soon as the decorations are up in November? Or waiting a week or so after? We will be bringing our son who will only be two, so the less crowds the better! 🙂 thank you!

  21. Thank you for this article! So helpful!

    I’ve never been to Disneyland during December. We’re going first week of December. Any recommendations on what to wear clothing-wise? Not sure how cold it gets during day or night time.

    Thanks! 🙂

    • It gets cold at night and can continue on to the morning. Bring a jacket everyday and dress in layers.

  22. Hi, I sent an email before deciding to post a comment/question on here. Feel free to ignore one, but not both! 🙂 ha!

    We are wanting to visit the park the Sunday-Tuesday right after Thanksgiving 2017. Trying to minimize # of days out of school/work. Going with both sides of family! I’m seeing conflicting information regarding the crowd size during our anticipated dates. Do you have any thoughts on the crowd size for those specific days? I’m sure Thanksgiving will be busy, but we also knew that weekdays would be less busy…not sure what to make of it. Thank you so much!

      • Thank you, Gavin! I will revisit that link again. A friend commented that at least we will have the most patience on our first day (Sunday after Thanksgiving, when it would the most crowded out of all our days) and then the next 2 days we will be able to enjoy it with a hopefully smaller crowd!

  23. Thank you for all of the amazing information! This is a great site! We are wanting to visit sometime before Christmas, but want to have the Christmas experience that Disneyland offers. When does it start? We are thinking of visiting the week before Thanksgiving. Is this a good time to avoid crowds, but still experience the Christmas festivities? We also thought about the first week in December. What do you suggest? Thank you for any help you can give us!

  24. Hi Gavin!
    can you tell me what time of day the Christmas parade is at Disneyland? and where do you recommend viewing it?

    • The Christmas parade typically has two showings. One in the afternoon sometime around 3 pm and the other in the early evening. I like watching the parades either in Town Square or up by the hub. You can always see the floats well in these big turning areas.

  25. Looking at booking a trip to take my boys for the first time over Christmas Holidays. If we did the park starting New Years Day through the beginning of January will it be so busy that we will regret it? Can we still have fun?

    • This is my absolute favorite time to visit Disneyland. You will keep your Christmas celebration going and will have a fantastic time.

  26. I just got back from another weekend in the not so magic kingdom. The Candlelight Processional took over the park and made navigation impossible and ridiculous. Basically shuts down most of Main Street and there is very little information given to guests about all of the closures and inconveniences. Perhaps it looks pretty and they have a good message to spread to all, but it is billed as a private event. We didn’t see any of it. We walked back around it in disgust. Never again will I step into the park if this is going on. I would rather miss the whole season than have to deal with this mismanaged mess in the park.
    Now for some better news…we got in line Saturday for Candy Canes in California Adventure. The gates opened about 7:35 and the line started right inside the gates. They then moved the line until it got to Trolley Treats where we were given the choice of getting one right then inside the store or a wrist band to get one by 2:30 at any register in all the stores along Trolley Treats side of the block. It looks like they had upped production and were still making them at 1 PM when we picked up ours. Happy about that!
    Now about Small World Holiday. If you go in the morning, the line starts to grow. When we got there at 10 AM it was 15 minutes. 50 minutes later we got on. The kicker…if we had gone down to the Fast Pass distribution center we would have been able to get on about 10:30. In other words, the fast pass was quicker to pick up and get on the ride than just getting in line with out a fast pass. Check times carefully before waiting. They seem to give substantial priority to Fast Pass holders, unlike Holiday Mansion where they seem to let a lot of stand by people board along with the Fast Pass holders who are scanning their passes. And there wasn’t any second pass scan in the boarding area at Small World.

    • Christmas at Disneyland returns on November 9, 2018 this year. The Disneyland Christmas celebration ends on January 6, 2019.

  27. Does anyone have any information about visiting Disneyland on thanksgiving day, Is it really busy?

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