Is there anything more magical than visiting the Happiest Place On Earth during the festive season? During Christmas time, Disneyland transforms and becomes a glowing wonderland of colorful lights and cast members.
Christmas at Disneyland runs from the beginning of November to early January, so guests can have plenty of time to enjoy the holiday festivities. There’s a lot to see, and even more to do, with holiday parades, themed attractions, fireworks, festivals, food, and much more.
The Disneyland park is widely regarded as the most extravagantly decorated of all the US Disney theme parks. Not only does the park become filled with Christmas decorations, there are also plenty of attractions that draw in most seasonal visitors.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
The Haunted Mansion Holiday is essentially a marriage between two holidays – Halloween and Christmas. It’s been around since October of 2001. Each year, Disney transforms their famous Haunted Mansion into a Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired attraction, based on the film by Tim Burton, of course.
This overlay is great for both holidays since Halloween and Christmas are so close to each other. When you arrive, you’ll see Jack Skellington assuming the role of Sandy Claws in his misguided, yet earnest, attempt to present a twisted version of Christmas festivities.
His efforts take the form of a ‘takeover’ of the Haunted Mansion, which features a giant cake in its ballroom that is made differently every year and is generally considered the highlight of the attraction. The Haunted Mansion Holiday is one of the most popular attractions among guests. The only people who don’t like it are the Haunted Mansion purists.
While it does bear a resemblance to the original attraction, it is essentially a new attraction altogether. You may want to go early in the morning, since it becomes quite busy later in the day, with its peak being around 7-8 pm.
‘It’s a Small World’ Holiday
During the holiday season, the classic Children of the World attraction is transformed. The theme of the attraction itself moves to a ‘happy holidays, peace on earth’ one. Pretty much everything is changed, from the large props to the classic title song.
When you enter the attraction, you will get to experience three distinct, immersive aromas during ‘It’s a Small World’ holiday. In South America, you’ll smell the classic cinnamon scent associated with the holidays.
For Asia, be prepared to smell the stunning fragrance of the cherry blossom tree, while the South Seas takes you to the tropics with a coconut smell, which is accompanied by hundreds of sparkly bubbles floating around you. These scents are combined with the peppermint candy and pine smells that have been in the European scenes for years.
The most noticeable change to the attraction is the lighting that is added to its exterior. It’s impossible to describe with words just how bright, colorful, and beautiful these lights are. They’re certainly something that you need to experience in person to appreciate them fully.
Unfortunately, since the lights are one of the attraction’s main, well, attractions, the lines are going to be much longer at night. Of course, you can avoid this by visiting the attraction earlier in the day, but you wouldn’t be able to see the lights, so you should try to make the trip at night at least once.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
The Christmas Fantasy Parade consists of about 12 floats, 6 units, and more than 100 performers. In terms of entertainment, this is likely one of the largest productions of the year, whether you’re at Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
From reindeer, princesses, and the characters from the Fab Five, to Santa Claus – everything is here. It’s important to note that the parade has been around for more than 20 years, and you can definitely tell.
Still, it’s certainly worth seeing, though it could use a bit of an update. The crowds that gather for this parade can be quite large, especially over the weekend, so try to see it during the week if you’re able.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade is generally shown twice a day, and it’s not easy to choose which one you should see. If you visit the parade that takes place during the day, you’ll be able to avoid the locals that rush to it after work.
But, the day parade is shown during the afternoon, when the sun will be baking on you, and it’s quite a long parade. The second showing has an advantage if you’re trying to avoid the sun, and the lights make it a bit more enjoyable at night.
Believe… in Holiday Magic! Fireworks
This attraction consists of a few instrumental renditions of many traditional Christmas tunes after “Can You Remember?” with some lighting and pyrotechnical effects coming from Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to match the music’s tempo. Like all of Disneyland’s firework shows, this one is often canceled because of higher elevation winds.
Disneyland has actually introduced an alternate version of the show because they’ve had to cancel it so frequently, with the new show featuring projections rather than fireworks. If the full version of the show can’t run, then the new one will.
Since this attraction is canceled so frequently, you might not want to camp out all day to see the fireworks. Main Street also becomes quite crowded in the hours leading up to the show’s start. So if you want to avoid being squished between other people, then you should watch the fireworks from the area near ‘It’s a Small World’ holiday, where you’ll be able to see most of the pyrotechnical stuff.
There’s so much more to Disneyland during Christmas than the few attractions we’ve mentioned here. It goes beyond the attractions, the lights, and the fireworks. It’s more about being in a magical place surrounded by people who want to experience the magic just as much as you do. If you ever get the chance, be sure to visit Disneyland during Christmas time – you’ll thank yourself for it later.
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.