It may be coming up on Thanksgiving this week, but at Disneyland Park it is already Holiday Time! Holiday time at Disneyland is one of my favorite times of the year. The entire resort is decorated for the holidays and you can smell the gingerbread in the air. Most of the holiday events will last through January 6, 2016. Here are some of my recommendations of what not to miss this year:
Christmas Fantasy Parade
Twice each day, this holiday themed parade winds through Disneyland’s traditional parade route. The first parade of the day starts near “it’s a small world” and the second starts at the beginning of Main Street USA. It is filled with holiday favorites like the Disneyland Tin Soldiers, Disney characters in their holiday best and even Anna and Elsa on their Frozen float. People start staking out a place to watch early, but don’t worry there are a lot of great places along the route to see the parade.
Christmas Tree on Main Street USA
It is the first thing you will see when you emerge from the entrance tunnel on to Main Street USA. It is hard to miss! The artificial evergreen is 60 feet tall and decorated with more than 1,800 ornaments and sparkles with 70,000 lights. There is always a Photo Pass photographer or two near the tree. Stop by and get your family’s picture taken in front of the iconic decoration. Once past the beautiful tree, don’t miss the fantastic Main Street decorations.
Santa Claus in Critter Country
Even though Big Thunder Ranch has closed to make way for the upcoming Star Wars Land, there is still an opportunity to meet the Man in Red himself. Santa Claus has moved from his past location at Big Thunder Ranch to Pooh’s Thoughtful Spot in Critter Country. Come visit him early; the line can get long and it moves slowly as Santa likes to spend time with each visitor.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
This is my absolute favorite ride transformation for the holiday season. Just as he takes over the Christmas holiday in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington takes over the Haunted Mansion and creates an entirely new attraction. Each room in the mansion including the pre-show stretch room and even the façade has been “decked out” to tell Jack’s story. The ride is incredibly popular and even has a FastPass available when the overlay is present. The Gingerbread House in the ballroom changes every year so even locals can look forward to something new each holiday season.
Holiday Food and Treats
Many of the counter service restaurants have special holiday menu items, even the Mint Julep bar with my beloved beignets have some holiday themed treats. Check for signs like these at the different counter service restaurants for all the holiday goodies. Don’t miss out on the holiday popcorn buckets and sippers too!
Disneyland Handmade Candy Canes
Starting after Thanksgiving Disneyland sells very special handmade candy canes. They are only available on certain days and they make a limited amount. You will need a wrist band that you can collect at The Candy Palace on Main Street in order to purchase the candy canes later on in the day when they are ready.
The Jingle Cruise
I am not a huge fan of the Jungle Cruise, but in 2013 during the holiday season, Disneyland created a holiday overlay and turned the ride into the Jingle Cruise. They keep tweaking the holiday decorations and the jokes each year. The Jingle Cruise is now a must do when I am at Disneyland during the holidays. I have been known to pass up all the other more traditional popular rides to make sure this is the first ride of the day for me! The story is that the holiday decorations have been lost in the jungle, the cargo plane crew was found but the yuletide cargo is still missing; assumed lost in the jungle. The jokes and holiday gags abound, my favorite is seeing the natives dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters and tree skirts.
“it’s a small world” holiday
For the holidays, the outside of “it’s a small world” is magnificently lit with colorful lights and every quarter hour there is a short light and projection show set to music on the façade of the ride. Inside the ride is just as inspiring. Each country has added decorations representative of their winter celebrations and traditions.
Every year the hotel puts together a life sized gingerbread display, this year is no exception. Make sure and stop in to see the Gingerbread Castle located at the entrance to the main lobby. It is worth the trip.
Just like the parks, Downtown Disney is filled with holiday decorations and a special Winter Village that surrounds Olaf’s Frozen Ice Rink. You can shop at the little ‘chalets” that hold special holiday and gift giving merchandise or take a turn on the ice rink. In the center of the ice rink is another impressive holiday tree decorated as only Disney knows how. (The Winter Village will be up through January 3rd).
Disneyland ‘s Holiday Time Tour
This guided tour is one of the most popular guided tours at Disneyland and just like the Happiest Haunts Tour during the Halloween season, it fills up fast. The Holiday Time tour takes you through the Disneyland park and your guide tells stories about holidays around the world and stories more personal to Disneyland. Your tour includes two rides and as bonus you will receive a warm drink and snack, reserved seating for the Christmas parade and a collectible pin. You can start making your reservations 30 days prior, the cost of the tour this year is $85 and separate theme park admission is required: admission is not included in the tour price.
Check back later this week for my favorite Holiday Time extras at Disney’s California Adventure Park. I will be visiting as many times as I can before the holiday season ends, I can never get enough!
Do you have a favorite holiday tradition at Disneyland?