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Hoppin' Good Guide to Disney’s Festival of Holidays

by Mommy Frog on December 4, 2019 Los Angeles

Disneyland Resort is one of the most festive places on earth with all the lights, Christmas trees, holiday foods, characters in costume, music and holiday entertainment. But Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated at this time of year. Other holidays celebrated this season include Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Latin American Christmas traditions such as Navidad and Three Kings Day. That's a lot of celebrating! But where can you celebrate all these holidays at once? At Disney’s Festival of Holidays, of course!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays is a multicultural celebration that brings together different holidays and traditions — along with American Christmas traditions — at Disney California Adventure. We love getting to add new dimensions to our celebrating and learning to appreciate other ways that people celebrate. It's a small world, after all. There’s so much we want to share with you about celebrating at the Festival of Holidays, so let’s hop to it.

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-entranceOur Hoppin' Guide to Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-cars landThe Festival of Holidays at Disneyland Resort is the name of the holiday celebration that takes place inside Disney California Adventure. The celebration spreads throughout the park. It includes festival booths with many tastes of traditional foods, usually with a twist, to delight any foodies. There are themed and sparkling beverages for toasting the season. You’ll be mesmerized by beautiful lights throughout the park at night, a Christmas tree in Carthay Circle and festive décor both day and night. In fact, once the sun goes down the lights turn on and make the park even more beautiful.

What we love the most about his celebration is that Disney California Adventure takes the holiday season and opens it up to include people who celebrate different holidays outside Christmas and even different ways of celebrating Christmas. This gives all park guests a chance to see their own holidays get some attention. Plus it's toadally fun to also learn about other traditions. Kids can do free crafts and learn about different holidays. We love free souvenirs! Kids of any age can:

  • Design a Christmas ornament
  • Make a Hanukkah dreidel
  • Create a Diwali Akash Kandil (lantern)
  • Make a Mkeka (decorative mat)
  • Color and create a papel picado lantern
  • Design a royal tiara (and then go meet Princess Elena to show it off for sure!)
  • Do even more crafts during Three Kings Day!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-craftsYou’ll hear music played from various traditions and experience live musical acts that represent different ethnic groups. Don't worry, you'll also get a healthy dose of American Christmas fun with Holiday Drummers, visits with Santa Claus, characters wearing their Christmas best and delicious holiday treats. Cars Land is festively lit and decorated. Be sure to hop by to wish Mater in his Santa hat a Merry Christmas. Can you spot the Cars Land Christmas movie posters when you walk through?

When Is Disney’s Festival of Holidays?

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-three kingsThe Festival of Holidays usually takes place the same time as all the holidays at Disneyland, from early to mid-November until early January. For the 2019-2020 season, the Festival of Holidays runs from Nov. 8, 2019, to Jan. 6, 2020. Some years, Festival of Holidays can run a few days longer, with Three Kings' Day to honor three wise men. However, Three Kings' Day takes place Jan. 3-6, 2020.

Three Kings' Day

Three Kings' Day in Paradise Gardens brings some special decorations, crafts and traditions to celebrate Epiphany, or the twelfth day of Christmas. This holiday of honoring three wise men is celebrated around the world, but in Central and South America it's known as El Dia de los Reyes Magos. You can enjoy traditional decor, photo ops and learn more about the holiday when you visit. Luckily we do not have to travel far to experience it because Disney's Festival of Holidays brings it to us!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-treeDecorations During Disney’s Festival of Holidays

As you enter Disney California Adventure, you’ll pass under the Festival of Holidays sign. The park is decorated with greens, bows, poinsettias, lights, signage, toy soldiers and the 50-foot tall Christmas tree in Carthay Circle. At night the park is aglow in colorful lights. You cannot help but feel swept away to a winter wonderland.

Characters During Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-Mater Santa hatMany characters are dressed to impress in their holiday best. All the traditional Disney favorites — Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy  — are dressed for the season in their vintage holiday wear in Carthay Circle. You might Meet Pluto in the Festival area with his holiday antlers.

Chip and Dale are creating mischief at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, and that’s where you can meet the big man himself — Santa Claus! — with his elves. Pick up a holiday games booklet when you enter for some bonus family fun. Be sure to sign your name onto Santa's good list! He has a nice wide bench so everyone can get in the photo and tell Santa what they want. I asked for a new iPhone, but Santa said the data plan is on me! After Christmas Eve, Santa must hop in his sleigh to deliver presents, so Santa Goofy may fill in for the rest of the season (Dec. 25 to Jan. 6). When you meet Santa you can get a free candy cane!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-santaYou’ll see Mickey and Minnie, along with the Three Caballeros in the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party in their Latin American festival clothes. You can also meet them in Paradise Gardens. Goofy is dressed up there too! The Three Caballeros rotate in with Mickey and Minnie and then Goofy, so you never know which character(s) you will actually meet when you hop in line. Princess Elena of Avalor meets guests nearby as well. The Cars in Cars Land are dressed for the holidays too. If you love character spotting be sure to catch the brand-new Mickeys’ Happy Holidays show. Many Disney and Pixar characters dance around in their Santa hats and garland.

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-jingle jamboreeRide Overlays at Disney’s Festival of Holidays

There are two rides that will take you for a spin during the holiday season. Both can be found in Cars Land. Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree both have holiday music and lighting. The rides are more dramatic at night.

Most of the songs are related to Christmas, but if you wait around Mater’s Jingle Jamboree long enough, you’ll hear Mater’s take on the Dreidel Song, (“Oh tractor, tractor, tractor, I love to watch ‘em spin; and when they get all tired, they stop and then I win!").

Merchandise for Festival of Holidays

You can find exclusive Festival of Holidays merchandise at locations nestled amongst the Festival Booths. There's also plenty of Disneyland Resort holiday souvenirs and clothing in many of the Disney California Adventure shops. We spotted a menorah and Hanukkah decor in Julius Katz & Sons as well as Disney Hanukkah home goods in front of The Little Mermaid.

Entertainment During Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-mMickey's aoppy HolidaysThe musical entertainment, cavalcades, shows and street parties are sure to keep you hoppin’. In Carthay Circle, catch the tree lighting every day at 4:55 p.m. There’s a ton of musical entertainment and a new show in 2019, Mickey’s Hoppy Holidays.

Mickey's Hoppy Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-Mickey's Happy Holidays showThis brand-new new show is part cavalcade and part dance show. Mickey and his Disney and Pixar friends dress up for the holidays and dance their way through the festival with the Holiday Toy Drummers. Starting out near The Little Mermaid, they make stops at the Obelisk (in front of the pier) and in Carthay Circle before heading back the way they came. It’s a fun way to see a lot of characters at once. I don't know about you, but seeing Mr. Incredible in a Santa hat just makes me feel jolly!

Disney ¡Viva Navidad!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-viva navidadDisney ¡Viva Navidad! is a colorful street party with lively dancers in colorful costumes, musicians, characters and 12-foot tall mojiganga puppets of Santa and Mrs. Claus. The shows run from early afternoon into the evening and take place between Silly Symphony swings and Goofy’s Sky School, but some viewing areas are better than others.  If you want to be right in front of the Three Caballeros float, then hop in place across from the middle entrance to Paradise Gardens about halfway between Jumping Jellyfish and Silly Symphony Swings. Stand across the street from Paradise Gardens. You should see tape on the ground for the viewing areas. You'll see plenty of dancing and excitement in front of Jumpin' Jellyfish.

Holiday Toy Drummers

Whatever you do, make sure to catch the Holiday Toy Drummers in front of the Obelisk. These living wooden soldiers are delightfully energetic and fun.

Musical Entertainment

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-soundMusical acts celebrate a variety of cultures. Acts may take place on the Paradise Gardens Park Stage, Pacific Wharf Stage and Sonoma Terrace. A few smaller acts also take place in the gazebo of Paradise Gardens in the Viva Navidad area. Here are a few must-see acts:

  • Blue 13 – Bollywood dance party for Diwali
  • Mostly Kosher – Yiddish klezmer music for Hanukkah
  • The Sound – Christmas and Kwanzaa music
  • Mariachi Divas – Bilingual holiday tunes
  • Holiday Sunset Concert - New in 2019 is the Holiday Sunset Concert has different acts stepping in each night. You might catch the big band sound of Phat Cat Swinger or a mix of holiday and top 40 music from The Suffragettes

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-mostly kosherWorld of Color – Season of Light

Finally, put a magical finale on your night with World of Color – Season of Light. The show will put you in en electrifying Christmas spirit for sure. Some nights have two shows. You’ll want to collect a FASTPASS as soon as you enter the park in the morning from the distribution near The Little Mermaid. If you use Disneyland MaxPass, you can now collect the FASTPASS from your phone as soon as you enter the park (plus, with MaxPass, all your holiday PhotoPass photo downloads are included). These FASTPASSes do disappear quickly through, so set a reminder to get a FASTPASS as soon as you can. Arrive early to hop in place if you want the best view.

The World of Color dining packages give you vouchers for a reserved viewing area. And the World of Color Dessert Party offers the only seated option for viewing the show while you enjoy treats and  beverages. You can learn more about getting a good view of Disneyland World of Color and reserving dining packages through Disneyland Dining Reservations.

Food and Dining During Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-totsYou’d better put on your stretchy pants, because there are so many yummy holiday treats and foods throughout the park at the Festival Booths and restaurants. We have a detailed list of Disney California Adventure Festival of Holidays foods in our guide to the yummiest holiday treats and foods at Disneyland.

First of all, the Festival Booths are open for tasty bites of seasonal favorites and creative twists on tradition, such as Mickey-shaped Reimagined Beef Wellington (so yummy and cute!) and a Turkey & Stuffing Tamale with cranberry relish. There are many non-alcoholic and alcoholic mixed drinks, beers, wines and bubbly drinks for making seasons bright. Add a Mickey Jingle Bell glow cube to make your spirits even brighter! Get the Sip and Savor Pass, which allows you to try up to eight different foods or nonalcoholic drinks for a flat fee of $56 ($51 for annual passholders). You can also buy them individually. If you have special dietary needs, the tasting passport will help you locate vegetarian

Paradise Garden Grill has tasty flavors from Latin America, and most restaurants have seasonal special menu items available. A few other places accept the Sip and Savor Pass too!

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-Mickey peppermint shakeThen there are the yummy holiday treats throughout the park besides the festival marketplaces. They're everywhere! At Trolley Treats, you have your festive caramel apples, churro marshmallow wands (this treat is not found inside Disneyland), churro toffee, cookies, crispy treats, fudge, cupcakes and cake pops. You can also find a few holiday treats at Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff. At Schmoozies! get a Minnie wreath donut or the very fun peppermint Mickey shake. Think cookies and cream with a mild peppermint flavor, and of course topped with Mickey Oreo ears and a Santa hat. Yum! Other holiday treats on the menu include the gingerbread cookie ice cream sandwich, churro shake or holiday affogato. It's so hard to choose!

Fresh Candy Canes

On select days, you can line up early to get a wristband to purchase a hand-made candy cane, made that day! Cast members only distribute a certain number of wristbands each day, so you need to arrive before park opening and collect the band at Trolley Treats. The first guests may be able to purchase an already-made candy cane right away. Once those are gone, the wristbands are distributed for the next batch. Pick up the candy cane by the designated time.

Candy Cane dates at Trolley Treats Disney California Adventure for 2019 are:

Nov. 30

Dec. 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21 and 15.

Disneyland has a few candy cane dates too if you can’t make any of these dates.

Of course, there are other treats such as cotton candy, holiday popcorn buckets, special churros and more available in both parks.

Tips for Disney’s Festival of Holidays

Disney’s Festival of Holidays-tamaleHere are a few tips for visiting Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure:

  • Disney’s Festival of Holidays-mapsCheck the park hours and show times for must-see shows before your visit.
  • Arrive early to maximize your time.
  • Pick up an entertainment schedule, Holiday Food Guide, Festival Guide and Tasting Passport.
  • Get some PhotoPass Photos with some magic shots for hoppy holiday surprises.
  • Look for Santa’s sleigh and reindeer in Hollywood Land.
  • Get the Sip and Savor Pass If you want to try many foods from the festival booths.
  • When ordering at the festival booths, order any item you want from the shortest line, even if it’s from a different booth. Then take your receipt to the pick-up window. We love skipping lines!
  • Use Mobile Order at quick-service restaurants to skip long food lines.
  • Collect a FASTPASS for World of Color — Season of Light as soon as you enter the park.
  • See if you can spot the Hanukkah menorah in a window across from stroller parking for The Little Mermaid and a Kwanzaa kinara with seven candles in a window across from the ride's entrance.
  • Hop into Cars Land at night to enjoy the holiday lights and ride overlays.
  • Check out the free holiday crafts. We frogs love free stuff!

What are you most excited about at Disney's festival of Holidays? If you are looking for multiday tickets so you can enjoy Festival of Holidays and more holiday time fun at Disneyland Park, your favorite froggy friends can help you save money with discount Disneyland Resort tickets. That means you'll have more money for trying tasty foods and treats and holiday presents! Ribbit ribbit!

Related: Guide to the Hoppiest Holidays at Disneyland 2019

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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