Denise's Corner

The Disneyland Resort for the Holidays – What to See and Do at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (Photos, Video)

Hi everyone!

We returned a few days ago from a 6 night trip to the Disneyland Resort to enjoy their holiday offerings! I always love the Christmas decorations and holiday attraction overlays – and this was our first time seeing Radiator Springs for Christmas. I took 3000 photos in that time, and you can see a handful of them in this article – along with corresponding videos!

Heading to the Disneyland Resort in the next few weeks? Here are some must-sees! The holiday season at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure ends on January 6th, 2014. If you aren’t going this year, we highly recommend a visit in the future.


A Christmas Fantasy Parade – This is my all-time favorite Christmas parade, and I’d heard this music looped many times on our CD before we arrived at Disneyland. Storybooks tell the story of the holidays, with floats and beloved characters in between them. My parade favorites have always been the reindeer, gingerbread men and toy soldiers! I’m not sure if I prefer the parade during daytime or in the evening, we watched it both ways this year.

Jingle Jangle Jamboree – Big Thunder Ranch is turned into a festive location with cookie decorating, a bevy of Disney characters, and Billy Hill and the Holiday Hillbillies. Billy Hill has been a staple for us during each Disneyland visit over the last 20 years, and they are truly a not-miss as they sadly won’t be at Disneyland after January. One of the most fun moments each day was what I call “the running of the goats”. The petting zoo goats and horse are brought backstage at this time, and it’s always quite the sight! We also enjoyed lunch at the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, which is a buffet location.

Believe in Holiday Magic Fireworks – This fireworks show will make you believe in the magic of Christmas! The music has the feel of “Remember the Magic” and the show ends with snow and castle lights. Snow is located in several locations, including near the Rivers of America in New Orleans Square.

Haunted Mansion Holiday – On my first Christmastime visit to Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion Holiday debuted (it was the same year that Disney California Adventure opened). It was an instant hit for me, and it has only gotten better over the years. 2013 marks the 13th year of Haunted Mansion Holiday, which fuses together the popular Haunted Mansion attraction with the Nightmare Before Christmas. Haunted Mansion Holiday spans two seasons, Halloween and Christmas, and is not to be missed!

“it’s a small world” Holiday – This is a gorgeous overlay of the “it’s a small world” attraction. From the bright lights on the facade to the Santa hat on the clock face, the exterior of the ride envelops the senses before guests even enter a boat. The “it’s a small world” holiday music is still in my head, nearly a week after our last visit to the attraction. This ride attracts one of the longest lines in Disneyland, and there is a light show every so often on the facade. While riding, make sure to notice all of the holiday additions – it amazes me how much work goes into the overlays at Disneyland.

Jingle Cruise – This is the newest holiday overlay at Disneyland! Unlike the Walt Disney World version, there have been additions to make the attraction more merry (watch for the bengal tiger and the apes in the camp scenes). The Jingle Cruise often has long waits, so head there first thing in the morning if possible.

New Orleans Square Decorations – Most of Disneyland has decorations for Christmas, with one of our favorite locations being New Orleans Square. It looks beautiful at night! We enjoy the Nightmare Before Christmas inspired decorations inside of the French Market.

Disney California Adventure

World of Color Winter Dreams – Olaf the snowman from “Frozen” hosts this holiday version of World of Color. This isn’t just a segment added inside the World of Color, but the entire show has been changed. Make sure to arrive on time for the chorus section, it is absolutely beautiful! Carthay Circle offers a $39.00 lunch package that includes great viewing for the show, as well as a $59.00 dinner. It’s a terrific deal. Don’t wait until your last night to see World of Color Winter Dreams, we had one showing cancelled after 5 minutes during high winds (we already had seen it twice). There is a fun surprise at the end of the show, just look to the sky!

We interviewed Josh Gad, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell about “Frozen” back in August. Gad also talked about his excitement in hosting World of Color Winter Dreams.

Carthay Circle Christmas Tree – There is a tree lighting ceremony each evening, which we kept missing (we also missed the Radiator Springs lighting). Hopefully we’ll be back next year to see both!

Disney Viva Navidad! – Billed as a Latin-themed holiday street party, this was the biggest surprise of our trip. I wish we could have seen it again! There are meet and greets with Mickey and Minnie, The Three Cabelleros and Goofy in their festive costumes, along with a high-energy street party that includes all but Goofy. It is almost as if the Gran Fiesta Tour at Epcot (Walt Disney World) came to life. Special food and merchandise is available for purchase.


Radiator Springs for Christmas – A year and a half ago, Radiator Springs opened at Disney California Adventure. It is clear that Disney thought about the Christmas decorations very early on. Unlike New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, this section of the park has gorgeous decorations everywhere! The Cozy Cone Motel even has a gingerbread twin within it.

Disney Character Meet & Greets – Many characters are dressed in their holiday best! We purchased Disney’s Photopass ahead of time for just $69.00, which allowed us unlimited photos (including on Radiator Springs, Tower of Terror and a few other attractions). Duffy the Disney Bear, Daisy, Mickey, Minnie and many more favorite characters can be found in their Christmas outfits! Jack Skellington and Sally visit with guests near Haunted Mansion Holiday during early daytime hours.

Decorations in Disneyland and DCA – It is impossible to see everything! We stayed nearly a week and there is quite a bit of decor I didn’t see this time around. And we missed the bell ringers on Buena Vista Street and the Red Car News Boys show.

Christmas Merchandise – This was the major disappointment for me. I was hoping to pick up some Christmas gifts, but most items could be also purchased at Walt Disney World (with the Walt Disney World logo instead of Disneyland). We picked up merchandise at Club 33 and I purchased a Christmas shirt at Disney California Adventure. There is absolutely nothing for Haunted Mansion Holiday, Small World Holiday or World of Color Winter Dreams. On one of our last days, I ended up shopping on Amazon once we went back to our hotel room. I would have loved some unique merchandise to take back for family and friends, especially since we still receive 20% off with our Premier Pass.

Except for the lack of unique holiday merchandise, we had a great visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure! There is so much to see and do. Downtown Disney also has an ice skating rink themed to Olaf, and we walked through the Disneyland Hotel to see the decorations and to visit Trader Sam’s. The parks really shine at their best during the holiday season! And here is a fun addition this winter to Disneyland, an Olaf audio-animatronic that entertains guests before the Anna and Elsa meet and Greet at the Frozen Royal Reception.