Our tadpoles' wish lists for Santa always start with "VACATION TO DISNEYLAND!" We can't blame them, and we certainly won't complain. It's a gift that the whole family can enjoy. Falling right on the heels of Halloween Time, Disneyland Resort transforms from a fall festival to a winter wonderland for the holiday festivities. After reading this guide to the hoppiest Christmas at Disneyland, you'll want to add Disneyland tickets (and theme park reservations) to your holiday wish list too! Holiday Time runs Nov. 11, 2022, through Jan. 8, 2023.
Overview of the Holidays at Disneyland
Christmas at Disneyland is back to its normal magical self, with full entertainment, decor and holiday fun. Just note that theme park reservations are required to visit, which means you'll need to plan ahead, purchase tickets and reserve your days to visit early.
Otherwise, the good news is that the holiday season at Disneyland in 2022 will include all of the holiday favorites, such as Believe ... in Holiday Magic fireworks, snowfall and World of Color — Season of Light! During the holiday season, all entertainment is offered every day and night. It's such a great time to visit! All of the holiday shows, parade and entertainment is available daily during normal park hours.
There is SO MUCH to do at Disneyland Resort this merry season. If you want to experience all the holiday hoppenings there is no way to do it all in one day or even two days. If you want to hit it all and go on rides and enjoy other park experiences besides the holidays, you'll need about four days to really feel like you got the full experience. We hopped about Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on opening day of the holiday season, and we barely scratched the surface when it comes to characters, food and holiday entertainment available with your admission. Our only ride of the day was "it's a small world" Holiday and we were there almost from open to close! So set priorities when you visit and give yourself enough time to hit your must-do items.
There is so much to see and do, we cannot fit it all in one post. Here are a few other Disneyland holiday posts you might want to check out:
- Hoppin' Good Guide to Disney’s Festival of Holidays
- Our Guide to the Yummiest Holiday Treats & Foods at Disneyland Resort
- Tips for Spending New Year's Eve at Disneyland
Mickey Minnie and pals appear in all-new vintage-inspired red and green outfits in Town Square this year too! (You can catch them in their regular clothes near "it's a small world" if you want a timeless photo.)
This year, a nightly holiday dance party with characters is back in Tomorrowland. Though not completely new, it returns from 2019. Lily loves these character dance parties so much that it's hard to pull her away.
In other big news, World of Color — Season Of Light has returned to Disney California Adventure this year! (And it interacts with MagicBand+!)
And, finally, Holiday tours are back! The Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort Guided Tour has returned with new surprises! This 2.5-hour walking tour shares holiday traditions and includes a ride on "it's a small world" Holiday, treats and reserved viewing for A Christmas Fantasy Parade.
Best Time to Visit Disneyland During the Holidays
The Frog Family loves hoppin’ around the many Christmas trees at the Merriest Place on Earth. We know the best times to visit Disneyland and beat the crowds without missing any of the fun. Holiday Time kicked off Nov. 11, 2022, and lasts through Jan. 8, 2023!
Most of November and the beginning of December are quiet in the parks. Well, they usually are. This season is a lot busier than last year when capacity was lower. Expect the highest crowds during Thanksgiving week and on Veterans Day, which is the start of the season. But we have found the holidays to be quite manageable up until it gets closer to Christmas. Don your holiday spirit early with visits before Thanksgiving week or during the first two weeks of December for the lowest anticipated crowds. Expect Fridays and weekends to be busier than Tuesday through Thursday. That being said, the less-expensive weekdays also sell out lately, so crowds are more evenly dispersed with the new theme park reservation system.
The weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year are usually very busy. New Year's Eve in particular is one of the busiest days of the entire year! Don't let fear of crowds scare you away — just make sure to adjust expectations for your time in the parks and expect longer delays in parking, security and lines when visiting at peak times.
Reserve your days early this year! Regular 1-Day through 5-Day ticket holders can reserve up to 120 days in advance. Magic Key holders can reserve up to 90 days in advance. If you're traveling from afar and purchasing tickets, we recommend buying and reserving as early as possible for the best selection, especially if you're visiting on peak days (when kids are off from school) and holidays. Get your theme park tickets and reservations before you get flights and hotels. Here's a hop tip: If you do stay on-site at the Disneyland hotels, link your hotel reservation to your app or Disney account and you may see a better pool of park reservation choices. If you normally spend three days at Disneyland, add an extra day so you can get it all in.
Even if you need to visit during more crowded weeks, you're in for a merry good time. The great news is that during busy times, the parks are open for longer hours and offer more entertainment. You can see Disneyland Park hours and showtimes on our crowd calendar.
It's always possible that holiday filming could take place in November. In 2019, the holiday filming of A Christmas Fantasy parade took place Nov. 13 and 14 at 11 a.m. There was filming for a special throughout the day and evening on those days. We saw filming at the base of the Christmas Tree on Main Street, U.S.A., in front of the Millennium Falcon and by "it's a small world." We saw a holiday filming sign on Nov. 16, 2021, and some celebrity performances (Gwen Stefani and Pentatonix!) on Nov. 17-18, 2021. Toadally cool! We can't wait to see what 2022 holds.
Keep in mind that if you choose to wait for a performance, you may be waiting for a while and may not get to find out who the performers are for musical acts until the last minute. All that waiting may keep you from enjoying other aspects of the park. Also, you may not get your iconic views or photos that day due to filming. Dress festively if you wish to participate! You might even get some props if you're in the right place at the right time.
Tips to Maximize Time and Avoid Crowds During the Holidays
- Use a MagicBand+ to stay off your phone, save time and be able to interact with nighttime entertainment, certain rides, smaller shows and even snowfall!
- Look at the park hours before your visit (Disney California Adventure closes at 5 p.m. on Nov. 16 and at 9 p.m. on Dec. 7)
- Arrive before park opening to get a head start on rides with short wait times. If staying on-site, take advantage of Early Entry.
- Dress for the weather. Layers are key this time of year with cold mornings and nights but possibly warm sunny days.
- Get a locker to store warm clothes or umbrellas when you aren't using them.
- Pack hats, scarves, thin gloves and extra layers instead of bulky items.
- Utilize Genie+ to skip ride lines.
- Use Mobile Order to skip the lines at restaurants.
- Make dining reservations 60 days in advance, or use the Walk-Up list.
- Check the show times to identify must-see entertainment.
- Visit during the week in November or early December.
- Add an extra day to your visit so you can enjoy all the extra food and entertainment along with the rides.
- Take a break midday so you can stay until closing. The park is beautiful at night and the crowds drop after the fireworks.
- Visit Haunted Mansion Holiday or "it's a small world" Holiday early in the day (or use Genie+).
I'll let you in on a Frog Family secret: The period between Halloween Time and Disneyland Christmas is one of the best times to visit the Disneyland Resort. The crowds are low, and the weather is usually mild. It's exciting to see the transition between Halloween Time and the holidays! Keep in mind there may be less entertainment and earlier closing hours to watch out for.
Disneyland Christmas Decorations
All of Disneyland Resort is beautifully decorated for the holidays. The holiday decorations start going up in October, even before Halloween. The snow on Sleeping Beauty Castle is the first thing to arrive in mid-October. The fringes of the park get decorated before Halloween, so we see decorations going up in Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Toontown in October. As soon as Halloween ends, the Halloween decorations begin to come down and a flurry of Christmas decorations begins to appear, day by day.
Each park has a large Christmas tree, and each hotel lobby gets one too! Mickey garland is strung across Main Street, U.S.A. Sleeping Beauty Castle is decked out in icicles and shimmering lights.
The start of the holiday season at Disneyland is usually about the second or third weekend in November, but it can vary slightly. The first day of Disneyland Christmas in 2022 is Friday, Nov. 11. The festive foods and ride overlays become available on that official first day of the season, except for Haunted Mansion Holiday, which will already be open. It runs through both Halloween Time and the Christmas season. Also, the festival booths usually soft-open two days before, so keep that in mind for next year. You can get a lot of those holiday foods out of the way before the event kicks off. Sip and Savor passes are not for sale until the event officially starts.
Disney California Adventure Park is the place to be during the holiday season. There are decorations throughout the park, including Buena Vista Street and Cars Land. Every address along Route 66, including Flo's V8 Cafe, Fillmore's Taste-In, Cozy Cone Motel and Luigi's Casa della Tires, gets a holiday makeover. Garland and poinsettias appear around the park and festival booths line the parade route.
So how and when does Disneyland decorate for Christmas with park guests out and about? Many of the decorations appear overnight when the park is closed. Each morning leading up to holiday time is like Santa has magically visited overnight to leave new decorations while taking away bits of Halloween. A few decorations go up a bit later once the holiday season is underway. The tree usually appears the Monday before Holiday Time starts.
Disneyland has been decorating for Christmas since the very first Christmas the park was open in 1955. The parks have sure come a long way since the first few wreaths were hung and the sparse stands of garland dressed the castle! The first Christmas tree was placed in the hub (instead of Town Square). Today, the Christmas season is breathtakingly beautiful at Disneyland with the twinkling lights, snowfall, a sprinkling of magic and décor that all guests can enjoy.
Disney California Adventure Park opens up the holiday celebrations with a cultural nod to various ways to celebrate Christmas, as well as many other winter holidays beyond Christmas, at Disney's Festival of Holidays. More holidays to share and new foods to try — hooray! The festivities tend to be more seasonal than religious, with the exception being the Candlelight Ceremony. The Disneyland Christmas decorations bring festive fun and excitement into a time of year when the days are shorter and colder. All of the lights warm and brighten the otherwise dark evening hours and spread holiday cheer. Plus we think it’s a great excuse to try all of the festive foods!
Fun Facts About Disneyland Christmas Decorations
- There are 3,500 colored lights, 1,500 Victorian-inspired ornaments and 100 faux candles on the 60-foot-tall Disneyland Christmas tree!
- The Carthay Circle Christmas tree in Disney California Adventure is nearly 50 feet tall! It's decorated with vintage-style ornaments.
- Disneyland pumps Christmas-y smells into a treat section of “it’s a small world” during the holidays. Get your sniffer ready to identify new scents in "it's a small world!" We caught peppermint, cherry blossom, and coconut. You'll also notice a gingerbread aroma in Haunted Mansion Holiday. Note the yummy smells that accompany snowfall, as well.
- Disneyland also pumps holiday scents into Main Street during the holidays. We kept getting whiffs of pumpkin spice or perhaps gingerbread last year.
- “it’s a small world” Holiday glows with over 50,000 lights and video projections.
- It takes almost three dozen cast members 35 days to install the glittering lights on the facade of "it's a small world." Plus it takes nearly 18 days to decorate the interior.
- Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle is illuminated with over 126,000 twinkling LED lights and icicles.
- The Main Street, U.S.A. exterior is decorated with about 220 garlands, measuring more than four miles long! About 80 wreaths and 120 bows bring the seasonal charm to life.
- More than 80,000 ornaments are used to decorate Main Street!
- Take some extra time to check out the holiday decorations in Downtown Disney.
- If you're staying at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels, you can plan ahead for personalized holiday in-room celebrations and decorations to make your trip extra special.
- Disney's Grand Californian Hotel lobby hosts a giant gingerbread replica of the hotel, created with over 500 pounds of gingerbread and 60 gallons of frosting and icing. Hop in to enjoy it and bask in the glow of the beautiful Christmas tree, along with some delicious cookies, treats and beverages near the crackling fire. Perhaps you’ll even get a chance to tell Santa what you’d like for Christmas! Be sure to check the holiday cart hours, which are generally later afternoon and evening.
What About Hanukkah Decorations?
You can find some Hanukkah decor in both parks. At Disneyland Park, you can typically find a menorah in two spots on Main Street, U.S.A. There is one in a window above the jewelry store (typically during Hanukkah, which is Dec. 18- 26, 2022). The other is in a window to the left of the fruit cart when facing the locker area. Listen for "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" during fireworks.
At Disney California Adventure, look for the menorah and Hanukkah decorations in the window of Julius Katz & Sons on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure. Enjoy Hanukkah music throughout the Festival of Holidays, as well as 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”). We always enjoy musical performances from Mostly Kosher and try all the different holiday foods at the Festival of Holidays. There is usually a take on latkes. Look for a Kwanzaa kinara in a window across from The Little Mermaid.
Christmas Festivities & Entertainment at Disneyland Park
You’ll find holiday decorations all around the Disneyland Resort. The characters in Town Square or Buena Vista Street are all dressed in their holiday attire for special seasonal photo opportunities. Holiday music will entertain you, and certain attractions will be especially festive or even covered in snow! Foodie froggies will love that there are so many yummy holiday treats and foods at Disneyland during the holidays — we certainly can’t resist! There's a nightly Christmas tree lighting at about 5 p.m. Holiday Time also brings seasonally-themed items into the stores (merchandise is usually available in late October), making shopping merrier. Perhaps ‘tis the season to get some holiday shopping done!
We are so hoppy that all of the usual holiday entertainment has returned! Let's first look at the holiday at Disneyland Park. This is where you will find big entertainment, such as fireworks, a parade, ride overlays and characters in special holiday outfits.
Special Ride Overlays During Holidays at Disneyland
Some of our favorite parts of Disneyland at Christmas time are the special holiday attraction experiences. Certain rides receive a festive makeover to really get your frog family into the spirit of the season! You can enjoy special holiday versions of "it's a small World" and Haunted Mansion. They are very popular, so you'll want to visit early in the day or book a Lightning Lane with Genie+.
"It's a small world" added the holiday version in 1997. That means "it's a small world" Holiday is celebrating 25 years in 2022. Can you spot the 25 in every room? Some of them are pretty tricky! We had to ride twice to find them all! A nice surprise this year is that when the ride reopened for the holidays, two new dolls who use wheelchairs are in the ride! Toadally awesome to see that inclusion. Can you spot them in the Latin America room and the final room?
Keep in mind that some nights the ride closes an hour before fireworks and reopens about 15 to 20 minutes after fireworks end. We were able to hop on with a short wait after it reopened following fireworks.
Jack Skellington and his crew take over the Haunted Mansion throughout the holiday season. The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay usually takes about a week and a half to deck the spooky halls of the Haunted Mansion. The Haunted Mansion will be closed Aug. 15 to Sept. 1, 2022, to make this transition. Expect a closure in January to return it to its normal state. By holiday time, Haunted Mansion Holiday is already in full swing, as it runs from Halloween Time straight into Christmas.
The holiday overlay is brimming with scary Tim Burton-esque Christmas spirit. Check out the gingerbread house featured in the ride; it’s different each year!
Haunted Mansion Holiday attracts much scarier wait times than the classic Haunted Mansion attraction, so we recommend that you visit this ride in the first hour of park opening or book a Lighting Lane through Genie+.
"it's a small world" Lighting and Projection Show
Don't miss the sparkling lights in the facade of "it’s a small world." You'll definitely want to take time to bask in the glow of the festively lit exterior at night and catch one of the projection shows. Be in front of "it's a small world" for the awe-inspiring nightly lighting of the exterior lights with a projection show and music — check the entertainment calendar or ask a cast member for the time but expect the lighting of the facade at about 5 or 5:15 p.m., and then projections about every 30 minutes throughout the evening starting at 6 p.m. While viewing the magical exterior requires special timing, you can ride anytime. And don’t worry — the inside is the same, day or night.
Mickey, Minnie and pals are dressed in holiday clothes around Town Square (and usually Toon Town, when it is open). Jack and Sally greet guests in New Orleans Square all through the holiday season. Jack sometimes dons his Sandy Claws attire for certain days. It’s a joy meeting these unique characters! Jack is delightfully “horrible.” At dusk, keep an eye and ear out for the Haunted Mansion lighting each evening.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
A Christmas Fantasy parade takes place in the afternoon and evening with Mickey, Minnie and a variety of Disney characters. They celebrate the holidays alongside Santa Claus. Showtimes are typically 3:30. and 6:30 p.m. but can vary the week of Christmas and during the Candlelight Ceremony days (which are Dec. 3 - 4, 2022), so double-check the entertainment calendar.
If you don't want to spend time camping out for the parade, Plaza Inn offers a dining package that has a voucher for a reserved viewing area (although if you want a good spot in the viewing area, you'll still have to camp out). More on that in the food section. We loved our spot on Main Street for the second parade. It was an amazing view with the Christmas tree in the background.
In addition to the parade, be sure to catch showings of the holiday cavalcade in the early afternoon, usually 12:45 at Disneyland. Be sure to catch the other cavalcade, Mickey's Happy Holidays, with multiple showings at Disney California Adventure.
Fireworks and Snowfall
Enjoy a special nightly fireworks show: Believe ... In Holiday Magic. You can view the fireworks and enjoy the snowfall that follows at three locations: the castle (snowfall is a bit farther back and to the sides), Main Street, U.S.A. and “it’s a small world." We also experienced snowfall at Rivers of America last year.
Fireworks are generally at 9:30 p.m. in 2022, but check the calendar when you visit. Pro tip: Snow does not fall right in front of the castle, but it does usually fall to the sides and on Main Street, U.S.A. We recommend hanging back near the Jolly Holiday Bakery and Plaza Inn or in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A., which offers projections on the buildings during snowfall and the fireworks, as well as a view of the castle. Pick a spot with a nice castle view.
We recommend Main Street, U.S.A. (for extra projections) or the hub to view the dramatic castle lighting, as well as the snowfall. but Rivers of America can be a nice and less-crowded area to watch the show.
There are typically special fireworks on New Year's Eve with not one but two fireworks shows. Our New Year's Eve post has the details. There is also a New Year's Eve parade viewing package available at Plaza Inn.
Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle is the perfect backdrop for your annual holiday card with over 80,000 twinkling lights! Ask a PhotoPass photographer to add a little magic to some of your photos. They once put us in a snow globe!
Catch snowfall during the Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle and on Main Street U.S.A., usually at 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. each night (but check the entertainment calendar). Snow will also fall immediately following the "Believe … in Holiday Magic" fireworks show over portions of Main Street, U.S.A. Take a big whiff. Is that a gingerbread smell wafting in the snowy air? Last year, we also saw snowfall at Rivers of America after the fireworks. Also, we got a bonus snowfall on Main Street at 11 p.m. when we visited. If the fireworks cannot go off due to weather, you'll get snowfall instead.
One of our favorite places to experience snowfall is by "it''s a small world." The snow falls there at the same times as one Main Street, but the audio is a little different. After fireworks, the snow comes down. We caught snowfall at 8:30 and we were treated to the projection show immediately after so that's one way to hit two experiences at once.
You may expect other musical entertainment around Disneyland. The Dickens Yuletide Band usually performs throughout the day along Main Street, U.S.A. The Dapper Dans are likely to include holiday songs in their barbershop quartet selections.
Holiday Character Dance Party
You can put on your dancing shoes and join your Disney pals in Tomorrowland at the Disney Holiday Dance Party from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m on select nights. In past years, it has taken place on weekends and holidays in the beginning but often picks up more nights as the season gets underway, so check the calendar if you want to get your boogie on. The dance party takes a break during fireworks.
The Candlelight Ceremony, a musical retelling of the story of Christmas, is held twice nightly on a weekend in early December. This year it's Dec. 3 and 4. In 2021, it was Dec. 4 and 5. The show can put parades and other events on a special schedule, so plan accordingly! The parade may run early at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. on those days. (In 2018, Candlelight Ceremony was held Dec. 1 and 2 and featured narrator Chris Pratt! In 2019, the dates were Dec. 7 and 8, and the narrator was Lin-Manuel Miranda!) In 2021, the ceremony was hosted by Sterling K. Brown. The narrator is sometimes a surprise until the first show each year. The Candlelight Ceremony began in 1958 as a way for Walt Disney to thank the Orange County community.
Disneyland keeps quiet about the details (unlike its EPCOT counterpart) because the event is more intimate at Disneyland. The seats are for invited guests, such as Club 33 members, VIPs and some high-profile guests. You can usually see the setup for the event in Town Square during the day. You might be able to find some standing room on the fringes or catch sight of the ceremony as you walk by. Some park guests camp out early in the day for standby viewing. Sometimes cast members let people queue for it and fill in empty seats. The process may vary each year, so ask a cast member about it that day if you're interested in catching it. The later ceremony is much easier to see with lighter crowds.
Christmas Festivities & Entertainment at Disney California Adventure Park
There is so much holiday fun to be had at California Adventure. There are a number of musical acts that represent other cultures and holiday celebrations. And then there is the return of World of Color — Season Of Light! You can look forward to special character outfits and interactions, ride overlays and more.
Holiday Ride Overlays and Lightings
Two Cars Land rides get seasonal overlays — Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree! At dusk, check out the Cars Land lighting. There is a nightly Christmas tree lighting on Buena Vista Street at about 4:55 to 5 p.m. It hoppens pretty quickly.
World of Color — Season of Light
Experience heartwarming moments from Disney and Pixar films set to a score of holiday music as the scenes illuminate a giant screen of mist. See colorful fountains dance in time to festive music as shimmering snowflakes fill the scene. This show weaves classic films such as "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp," "Beauty and the Beast," "Toy Story" and "Fantasia" with modern classics such as "Frozen" and "Inside Out." Our favorite electrifying scene involves Goofy! This breathtaking is the perfect ending to your day at Disneyland. To see the show, join the virtual queue in the Disneyland app at noon. If you will not have entered a park by noon, consider a dining package. Follow our tips for viewing World of Color.
This can't-miss celebration will delight you with diverse cultural celebrations, including the popular ¡Viva Navidad! holiday street fiesta. Disney ¡Viva Navidad! at California Adventure is an authentic Latino street fiesta, featuring musicians, dancers and storytellers.
Enjoy lively Mexican music, crafts, festive foods, photo-ops with favorite characters and tasty Mexican specialties. Three Kings' Day, a traditional festival celebrated in Mexico, Central and South America, runs near the end of Holiday Time.
Our holiday tip for this park is to know where to stand to watch the ¡Viva Navidad! dancers, along with the Three Caballeros, Mickey and Minnie. For a front-row, straight-on view of the float, you'll want to stand near the Paradise Gardens area, halfway between the Jumping Jellyfish ride and the Silly Symphony swings on the waterside of the street (across from the middle entrance to Paradise Gardens). Consult the Entertainment Guide for showtimes and get in place about 15 minutes early.
During the Festival of Holidays, you typically decorate cookies at Treats for Santa (for a fee) near the exit of meeting Santa. Your tadpoles can also do free crafts related to many holidays, including Hanukkah, Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Navidad. There are also free coloring pages in Paradise Gardens Park.
Holiday Toy Drummers
Keep a lookout for one of our favorite acts, the highly entertaining Toy Drummers. Their show is short, sweet and definitely worth catching. This year, they are back at the spot in front of the Obelisk by Pixar Pier.
Mickey's Happy Holidays
In addition to their regular performances, the Toy Drummers join up with Disney and Pixar characters for a cavalcade procession. Catch Mickey's Happy Holidays about four times daily. The cavalcade travels from The Little Mermaid to Hollywood Land. Many characters are dressed to impress in their holiday best and Santa hats, and they dance in the streets. A great place to watch is in Hollywood Land in front of Off the Page.
Characters During the Holidays
There are some interesting character sightings to find throughout the parks, as well. Mirabel from "Encanto" returns to Paradise Gardens Park. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and the Three Caballeros also greeted guests in that area. Chip 'n' Dale may be near the Redwood Creek area. Around Carthay Circle Fountain, the Disney characters show off their holiday clothes. Even the cars in Cars Land get into the holiday spirit! In 2022, the holiday stunt show is back with Hawkeye and Kate Bishop.
Some rare characters are out this holiday season, such as Carl from "Up" and Clara Cluck in Disney California Adventure.
Catch the Holiday Sunset Concert series in the area in front of the water. The rock cover band, the Suffragettes, and Phat Cat Swinger take the stage in Paradise Gardens Park. You'll also find favorite returning acts at various smaller stages. Listen for live entertainment from such acts as Mostly Kosher, The Mistletoes, Blue13 Dance Company and Mariachi Divas as well as other smaller acts on various stages.
Meeting Santa During the Disneyland Christmas Celebration
You can find the big man himself at two locations. Santa Claus typically greets guests at Critter Country in Disneyland Park and at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area, along with his mischievous elves, at Disney California Adventure Park. Santa also visits each of the hotels.
After Christmas Eve, Santa must hop on his sleigh, so Santa Goofy takes over at Disney California Adventure for the rest of the season. Santa also greets guests at Disneyland Resort hotels closer to Christmas. You might also get a chance to meet Mrs. Claus. She is so sweet! She roams around Critter Country and hands out recipes for her special cookies. And we all know how much her hubby loves cookies!
Festive Foods and Seasonal Flavors at Disneyland
Foodie froggies will love that there are so many yummy holiday treats and foods at Disneyland during the holidays — we certainly can’t resist! We always end our Disneyland holiday visits feeling a little bit like Santa. Our frog bellies are stuffed with so many cookies, holiday treats and festive foods from the Festival of Holidays. There are so many treats at the candy shops, special menu items at restaurants and tastes from the festival booths that we created a separate Guide to the Yummiest Holiday Treats & Foods at Disneyland Resort.
There are also frogtastic food offerings at Disney's Festival of Holidays. The festival marketplaces offer delish dishes and delectable desserts from around the world. The Paradise Garden Grill gets a whole new menu, as well, during the Festival of Holidays, and restaurants throughout the parks sell special holiday treats and seasonal delights. The Sip and Savor Pass returns with eight tabs for eating your way around the festival booths. Our Disney's Festival of the Holidays post and holiday food post will have all of the delicious details.
As for table-service dining, set a reminder for 60 days before your visit to book dining reservations. Reservations generally open at about 6 a.m. but it can vary. If you're planning to visit Disneyland around Thanksgiving or the school winter break, expect heavier crowds. If you plan to eat at any table-service restaurants in the parks, Downtown Disney or the Disneyland Resort hotels, we recommend making reservations up to 60 days in advance through the Disney Dining Reservation System. If it's too late to reserve, keep checking for cancellations that pop up or try checking for walk-up availability in the Disneyland app once you arrive.
Reservations open about 60 days before Thanksgiving Day and fill up quickly for Thanksgiving dinner. Reservations are limited and not announced. Practically every Disneyland restaurant offers a special seasonal dish, and some present a full spread. The Disneyland Hotel has not offered its fall harvest buffet in the ballroom since 2019. We are not sure if it will return. In 2019, it included carved roasted turkey breast, prime rib, homemade stuffing, sweet potato soufflé and so much more in years past. Yum!
There are Christmas Day dinners available at the Disneyland Resort hotels at Storytellers Café, Goofy's Kitchen and Napa Rose. The special New Year's Eve celebrations fill up quickly, so set your calendar to make reservations about 60 days in advance.
Plaza Inn offers a dining package that has a voucher for a reserved parade-viewing area. The dining package isn't offered on holidays (such as Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day). Reservations may also be unavailable in early December.
We tried it in 2021. The 2022 package includes Beef bourguignon (chicken tenders for kids), roasted vegetables, herbed mashed potatoes, forest yule log and a beverage. There are vegetarian options. After your meal, you can enjoy prime viewing for the merry mayhem of the second “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade.
The food was good, but keep in mind that if the package meal is not to your taste, you can substitute the fried chicken dinner instead. (It's a Frog Family favorite!) You'll receive a parade voucher lanyard and a ticket, which they will collect, so hold onto that. Continue to wear the lanyard while in the viewing area.
Where is the viewing area? It's across the street from the Main Street train station. We hopped by early to get a curb spot, so it did not really save us time compared to finding our own spot. The parade starts at Town Square for the second parade, so we were near the beginning of the parade.
The dining package is not cheap. And you'll still want to arrive early for a curb or bench, so it does not really save time. You can find your own parade spot for free and get in place about 90 minutes (depending on crowds) early if you want a good spot. We also like the raised area near "it's a small world" or seeing the afternoon parade near the castle's churro stand with the sun to our back and the Matterhorn in the background.
You might also consider dining packages for shows such as Fantasmic! and World of Color — Season of Light. They are not specific to the holidays, but they can save you time and help you secure a good viewing area.
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays at Disneyland, expect to make magical holiday memories. What questions do you have for us about this year's event?
Related: Favorite Disneyland Holiday Treats