Disneyland at Christmas: What to Expect

A Guide to Disneyland at Christmas

Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland
Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland.

Betsy Malloy Photography

At Christmas, Disneyland visitors can enjoy moderate temperatures and little chance of rain. The park's seasonal decorations and events are fun to see and enjoy. And for families, the kids may be out of school for their winter break. With all those things going for it, Christmas may seem like a good time of year to consider making a trip. Unfortunately, that decision has its pros and cons.

Some people love Disneyland at Christmas, but many others say it's too busy during the holidays. To be more precise, it can be crazy busy. Crowd prediction calendars often say "Forget About It" for most of the month. You can get more details about that in the guide to Disneyland in December.

What's Special at Disneyland at Christmas

If you go to Disneyland during the Christmas holidays, these are the things you shouldn't miss.

Christmas Decorations: It takes more than 100,000 new plants, 300 Christmas trees, and 10,000 poinsettias to get the park dressed up for Christmas. In Town Square at the end of Main Street, you'll find a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree covered with thousands of lights and ornaments. Sleeping Beauty's Castle gets sparkly, sporting snow-topped turrets, and more than 80,000 lights. Elsewhere, don't expect something hanging from every tree branch and light pole, but all the major walkways are decorated.

Haunted Mansion Holiday: The mansion takes on elements from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that make it one of Disneyland's most fun Christmas spots. Ride twice to see it all, and walk by after dark to see the flickering candles in every window.

it's a small world: The famous ride is exuberantly decorated for Christmas, and there's a Christmas music track. If you love the ride but hate the song, the holidays are the time to go. Not only does it’s a small world play seasonal music, but they pump in seasonal scents that are tied to the geographic area. While you’re looking around, sniff for scents of peppermint,, coconut, cinnamon, or cherry blossoms.

Christmas Parade: The Disneyland Christmas parade features characters in holiday costume, and the band decked out like a box full of tin soldiers. Check the entertainment schedule or Disneyland app to find the parade times. The most crowded place to watch it is along Main Street, but it's also the most beautiful. You'll also find plenty of places to watch around the small world plaza.

The Mickey’s Happy Holidays parade at California Adventure celebrates not only Christmas but Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali. Characters in the parade also wear seasonal clothing.

Night Magic: You can always find magical things to do at Disneyland after dark, but during the Christmas season, staying past sunset is a must. Not only can you watch the holiday fireworks, but the castle puts on a periodic holiday light show that's bound to enchant you.

Fireworks: Disneyland creates a new show for every season, and Christmas is no exception. And even though you're in sunny southern California, snow falls at the end. To get the best snowfall effect, check the map you can get at the entrance to see the locations.

World of Color Holiday Show: In Disney California Adventure, the popular World of Color water show takes on a holiday theme.

Santa: at Disney California Adventure Park, Santa and his elves turn the Redwood Creek Challenge into a winter playground. Of course, you can take pictures with Santa, and if you make Santa's nice list, he might tell you your secret elf name.

Candy Canes: Disneyland's holiday candy canes may stir up the biggest fuss over an item of candy anywhere. The Candy Palace on Main Street, U.S.A. produces them starting right after Thanksgiving. They make a few small batches a day, a few days a week, and each guest can buy just two. If you want one, pick up a ticket at the shop immediately after the park opens.

Candlelight Processional: The 2019 Candlelight Ceremony will be held on December 8 and 9. It’s good to know about, but harder to see. Reserved seating is limited to invited guests and fans have been known to wait all day along Main Street U.S.A. for the few standing room only spaces. It’s easier to catch a glimpse of the choir processions along Main Street which usually start at 5:20 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Attractions and shops around Town Square will be closed or have reduced hours.

Plan Ahead for Disneyland at Christmas

If you want to enjoy the decorations without the crowds, go on a weekday in November (avoiding Thanksgiving week) or during the first two weeks of December.

Disneyland gets extremely busy from December 24 through January 1. These tips will help you cope with those crowds and make the most of your visit.

To see what the experts think about this year's crowds, check the crowd predictor calendar at isitpacked.com.

If you are planning to go on one of the most crowded days, get there early. The City of Anaheim sets strict limits for how many people can be inside the park. They will stop letting people in when they reach that number. After that, no matter what kind of ticket you have or how much you beg, they won't let more visitors in until someone else leaves.

The crowds are more manageable if you do your homework. These are some things to do:

  • Learn how to use Ridemax to learn how to avoid hours of standing in line.
  • If the park offers a holiday tour that you want to take, reserve a month in advance at 714-781-4400.
  • All of the restaurants in the parks and Downtown Disney are open on Christmas day. Make reservations for them up to a month and at least two weeks in advance by phone at 714-781-3463 or make a reservation online.