Updated December 8, 2016
What’s more magical than Halloween Time at Disneyland? I dare say Holidays at Disneyland. Imagine the already understood magic of the park with gingerbread smells piped in, amazing decor everywhere and holiday music playing. It’s almost too much for me and I cry every visit.
So, I cry often at Disneyland…..that’s not entirely groundbreaking. But, the holiday celebration at the park is fantastic and something everyone should see at least once. There’s so much involved.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
This post will be updated often, as more information becomes available, so check back again for further planning.
In this article
From November 10, 2016 until January 8, 2017, the park transforms. Beautiful holiday decor adorns every part of the park possible. A 60 foot Christmas tree compliments Main Street with 70,000 lights and 2,000 custom made ornaments. A 50 foot Christmas tree sits on Buena Vista Street in California Adventure.
Disneyland Resort is open 365 days a year, so count on a Christmas visit if you wish, but know the parks will be super crowded.
Both parks have tree lighting ceremonies at around 5pm every day. Carolers walk the parks with hand bells, singing classic tunes, while the trees come to life. It’s a fun event to see if you’re close by.
As always, check the entertainment schedule prior to visiting for specifics on each day’s events and times for Holidays at Disneyland.
Three attractions are completely redesigned for the holidays. They’re limited time. Check them out:
it’s a small world holiday – Hear the iconic song from the original ride along with a holiday medley, as this ride transforms into a holiday treat. The outside is as amazing as the inside. Every 15 minutes, a holiday projection show will light up the exterior of the attraction for a short show, just lasting a few moments. It’s a site to see. Don’t miss it.
Haunted Mansion Holiday – Jack Skellington and friends celebrate Halloween and Christmas all wrapped into one. Don’t miss the gingerbread house in the main parlor and be sure to notice the fresh baked smells, too.
Jingle Cruise – This is the fourth year for the newly adapted Jingle Cruise, which adds some holiday cheer to the silly boat ride already loved for ages. Skippers adorn their boats with holiday lights and decor sent in from loved ones at home. This attraction continues to improve, so don’t miss it.
There are holiday treats around the park and you won’t have any trouble finding them. Here are a few spots not to miss:
Holiday themed Beignets – Find these at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. They’re Mickey Shaped and totally worth the calories. You’re going to walk 10 miles during a day’s visit anyway. Indulge! 2015 included Candy Cane flavored beignets. 2014 had Gingerbread flavored. Anxious to see what this year brings! Updated: 2016 is Candy Cane again, but they improved the flavor and added crushed candy canes. Recommend!
Jolly Holiday Bakery – The Jolly Holiday Bakery is always one of my favorite stops for dining in general, but their sweet treats during the holidays, including gingerbread men, are so delicious. Be sure to stop there for a bite to eat.
DCA is hosting the biggest part of holiday food this year – Festival of Holidays – with huts set up along the parade route (formerly used near the holiday ice rink and at the Food and Wine Festival). Check out all of those options before visiting. You can find menus for each booth before arriving. I’ll be trying some during my weekly visits, too. Follow me on Facebook to see those.
Thanksgiving options are plentiful this year. Check out the details from the Disney Parks Blog.
Christmas Dinner can be enjoyed buffet style (with Mickey!) at Paradise Pier’s PCH Grill.
New Year’s Eve Dinner is hosted at Paradise Pier’s PCH Grill, too.
Candy Canes can be found at The Candy Palace (Disneyland) and Trolley Treats (California Adventure). They are serious business, friends. People line up at each candy shop at park opening to receive a special wrist band entitling them to a single candy cane. Take a look at my full candy cane post for lots of information.
The batch time (to pick up the cane) will be given to you when you receive your wrist band and then you must return by the batch time you are given to gather your candy cane, or it will be made available to someone in the standby line.
The park only makes a limited amount each day and the canes weigh in at about 5 ounces, so these are popular items and people know to look for them. If you’re interested, get in line at the appropriate candy shop as soon as the park opens. Wrist bands are typically not given out during extra magic hour or magic morning, so everyone gets a fair chance. (Most dates avoid EMH all together.)
The Disneyland Candy Hotline can be reached for more info on the candy canes and what will be baked each day: (714) 781-0112.
Each cane is $12.99 and annual pass discounts are not applicable.
You will only find the canes at these parks, on the dates listed within this post. Typically, Disneyland candy canes draw a bigger crowd. And, many people think that a candy cane from DLR tastes different from one at DCA.
Candy Palace at Disneyland:
November 25, 30; December 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 24
Trolley Treats at California Adventure:
November 26, 29; December 3, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 25
Here is how to get your candy cane:
*Line up at LEAST an hour prior to park opening to have a shot at getting one of the wrist bands. Go DIRECTLY to the candy shop to get in line. People will literally be running. You are technically not allowed to run in the park, so be there early enough to not have to break the rules. Walk fast.
*Don’t get out of line if it looks like you might be too late. Often, they’ll make more than advertising. Even if a cast member tells you that “from this far back, you’ll likely not receive a band”, stay in line. This happened to us and we received bands.
*Be careful once you receive your cane and put it in your locker if you have one. They’re very fragile and will not be replaced if broken.
*Shelf life – once open – is around 1 year.
Visit my Facebook page for a thorough look at how the first day of candy cane making went at Disneyland.
Some photos from my 2016 experience:
Here is what the line looks like at Disneyland. I arrived at 7:00am to wait outside the gates. They let us in at about 7:45am. Went straight in line – didn’t run – and this is what was ahead of me.
And, here was the line behind me!
Now, this was opening day for 2016. So, subsequent visits shouldn’t look exactly like this. Lots of people show up for the first day.
Here is what your wrist band will look like if you’re lucky enough to get one. Each person in line may get 1. You also cannot hold places for others to join you in line. If you walk up to meet your party, you’ll be asked to go to the end of the line.
By the time I got to the front of the line, it was about 7:53am. And, the star on my wrist band notes that I can go immediately to get my candy cane. Not far behind me, other guests started to get wrist bands with 9:00am, 10:00am, etc…….return times.
Candy Cane makers!
Look for this large candy cane upon returning to know where to line up to get yours at either Candy Palace or Trolley Treats:
The final product:
What’s all the fuss about? This is a time honored tradition with some candy makers creating them for more than 35 years. Disneyland is super rich in history and tradition and the candy cane making each year is a perfect example of that. They’re more than just a super delicious candy cane. They’re part of the park’s deep commitment to tradition.
Take a look at how the candy making process works here:
Finally, don’t miss your chance to look like a fool in the middle of Main Street like me:
Disney Viva Navidad (featuring Three Kings Day Celebration) – At California Adventure, Latino music, dance lessons, festivities, delicious food and more make this part of DCA a ton of fun.
Holiday Time at Disneyland Tour – For $85, enjoy a tour through the park while learning information on holiday celebrations from years past, ride holiday attractions, see a parade and enjoy yummy treats. Note: I enjoyed this tour recently. Check out my full review.
Princess Elena of Avalor – She’s finally going to arrive at Disneyland Resort! Find her at California Adventure in Paradise Pier. I’ve shared lots of information on how to meet her and how to enjoy her Grand Arrival in a previous post.
There are two options to meet Santa at the Disneyland Resort. Both visits are free and should have PhotoPass photographers on site to take your picture professionally, in addition to snapping a photo with your phone or camera if you wish.
I’m a huge fan of PhotoPass+ and encourage you to read up on what it offers because the images taken with Santa will be available with your others if you purchase the pass. If you do not purchase PhotoPass+, you can still use the (free) PhotoPass card to purchase a print out of your image at the Main Street Photo Supply Company in Disneyland.
1. You can see Santa in Disneyland in Critter Country at a sweet country setting, as you were able to in 2015. The line is typically longer here than your other option, but the pictures are cute.
2. New this year, Santa at DCA can be found in the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. This set up far exceeded my expectations. You can see Santa here, find other characters photo ops, play Elf Games throughout the trail, sign Santa’s Nice List and more. I recommend this option over Disneyland and will post photos as soon as my kids see him here.
Find lots more on Santa at DCA from my recent visit.
California Adventure Santa can be found in the challenge trail. He’s typically there from 8:30am to 8:00pm. Check your dates to confirm on the Disneyland website. The entrance is cute:
Disneyland Santa is a cute, country style. His park times aren’t posted, so check the entertainment schedule before you visit. Take a look at his set up in 2015:
Santa makes special appearances at the Disneyland Resort Hotels, too.
From November 24, 2016 until January 8, 2017, find him at:
- Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel: Crystal Cove Foyer
- Disney’s Grand California Hotel & Spa: Great Hall
- Disneyland Hotel: near the Grand Ballroom
Santa meets guests from around 4:30pm to 8:30pm, with small breaks throughout. The Santa meet ups at the DLR Hotels are open to everyone. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel. PhotoPass+ photographers are typically on site, so don’t forget to take advantage if you bought a package.
Times will increase after December 17, 2016 to see more children before Santa heads back to the North Pole.
Carolers also walk the lobby of the Grand Californian singing traditional holiday songs from around 4:30pm to 8:30pm. Love them!
Check out what Santa looks like in each location.
The Disneyland Hotel – perfectly retro, just like the hotel.
The Grand Californian Hotel – traditional with such a beautiful tree behind him:
Paradise Pier – fun and whimsical with a beachy feel:
(That’s not Santa. That’s my dopey friend, Tyler. Santa hadn’t arrived when we visited.)
Shows, Parades, Fireworks, and Hotels
World of Color – Season of Light – The always popular show brings a holiday twist with so much to see and a new version is arriving for the 2016 holiday season. Be sure to read up on FASTPASSES and how you can get one to secure a spot in the reserved viewing area. The show, according to Disney, will entertain you by “celebrating the warm and heartfelt spirit of the holidays. ‘World of Color – Season of Light’ will take guests through a sparkling winter fantasy, combining classic holiday songs with memorable moments from treasured Disney animated films to create an experience filled with magic.”
A Christmas Fantasy Parade – This is one of my absolute favorite parts of Holidays at Disneyland. The skating reindeer! The snowmen! The gingerbread men! I could write an entire post on how great this parade is. Do. Not. Miss. It.
Paint the Night – The new parade, created for and introduced during the 60th Anniversary of Disneyland, will run in limited release. Check the entertainment schedule on Disneyland’s website for when it will be seen.
Paint the Night is on the schedule for the following (thus far):
Friday, November 18 through Sunday, November 27, 2016 at both 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Friday, December 2, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Saturday, December 3, 2016 at 10:45pm
Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 10:45pm
Friday, December 9, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Friday, December 16, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Monday, December 19, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Friday, December 23, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Sunday, December 25, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Monday, December 26, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Friday, December 30, 2016 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Saturday, December 31, 2016 at 6:15pm
Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Monday, January 2, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
Friday, January 6, 2017 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Saturday, January 7, 2017 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm
Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 6:30pm and 10:30pm
***PTN dining packages are now available. Book these asap, as they will sell out. Find out LOTS more on what your options are before you book, as well as how to set up for those packages and how to coordinate with Believe….in Holiday Magic Fireworks.
Believe…….in Holiday Magic Fireworks – This beloved show will return for 2016. It’s a big hit with guests and features traditional Christmas music.
Candlelight Procession – This year includes shows on December 3 and 4, 2016. They are beautiful shows held at the Disneyland Train Station in Town Square and is invite-only with only a few spots left for those willing to camp out HOURS prior – if not the day before – to be part of it. Disneyland is also very hush-hush about how all of this comes together, who is invited and how to become part of it.
The Disneyland Resort Hotels – Each of the three Disneyland Resort Hotels is decked out in holiday decor and if you have the time, I recommend walking over to browse each. You can find lovely photo ops, gingerbread houses and more.
For parades and fireworks, set up at least an hour early by leaving someone with a blanket to secure your space in front. (Don’t leave your blanket unattended.) For more information on parades and fireworks, check out my Parade post.
*********Review my post on what to pack for more tips on how to politely, but effectively, block off an area for your crew. This will help in many areas of your visits – shows, parades, fireworks and more.
Downtown Disney, which is already filled with plenty to do, turns into a fun place to visit during the holiday season.
There are holiday decorations throughout and each restaurant has decor, too. There will not be a return of the snow rink by Earl of Sandwich. The construction where the rink was in previous years is for the new security check point coming in early 2017.
Catal hosts a darling Breakfast with Santa with limited availability. Check out all the details and book soon! I’ll be there soon with my family and will share tons of photos from our visit.
- Do not miss Cars Land. The decor here is so amazing and I’ve heard first hand from Disney execs that it’s one of their most celebrated creations ever. Pay close attention to the garland as you walk in. It’s all fantastic. Santa Mater can also be found just outside the Cozy Cone Motel.
- See the tree lighting each day in each park around 5pm.
- See the castle lighting with snow each night at 5:30pm and then again with fireworks. Ask a cast member to confirm times for your visit, as sometimes these vary.
- See a brief, 3 minute projection show, at it’s a small world every 15 minutes and until close, starting at 5:15pm each evening.
- Choose Santa at California Adventure over Disneyland for both design and less wait time.
- Absolutely do not miss the Christmas parade. Make time for this and schedule your day around it. Grab the entertainment guide on your way in at the turn stiles, so you know how to plan. Choose the late afternoon parade for less sun, as it’s usually quite bright during the earlier parade.
- Walk through Downtown Disney. There’s a lot to see and do. The ice rink is returning, too, for 2016! I’ll update this post with more on that as soon as I see it.
- Don’t miss the “snow” on Main Street, in New Orleans Square, and closer to it’s a small world. This happens typically just after fireworks. I cry at the site of the snow and then my mascara will run and that’s just embarrassing. Pull yourself together. Don’t be like me.
- If you have to choose one holiday treat to indulge in, I recommend the beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square.
- Want to make your Frozen fan’s day? Read how to meet Anna & Elsa and also consider a Frozen themed makeover at Anna and Elsa’s Boutique in Downtown Disney.
- Slow down and enjoy the entire park as a whole. We often get so busy at Disneyland that we miss the details. I try to take at least 30 minutes during a visit to grab a coffee, walk alone, take pictures, and soak up all that I would have missed otherwise while corralling children. There’s so much to see. Enjoy!
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