How to Best Plan Your Disneyland Festival of Holidays!

The Holidays at Disneyland are upon us! 

From November 10th through January 7, 2024, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will have exciting festivities from a variety of holiday food, entertainment, merchandise, and activities for the entire family. Whether you are a Magic Key holder or just visiting for one day, it can become a bit overwhelming planning your day.

So we created a little guide for you — whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Navidad, Kwanzaa, or Three Kings Day, there is something for all of you.

*Please note, if you plan on purchasing a Genie+ pass, make sure you reserve your rides and their times – the Holiday-decorated rides are Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World Holiday” and “Haunted Mansion Holiday” and DCA’s “Mater’s Jingle Jamboree” and “Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.”

Start your morning with festive Holiday coffee at Starbucks in Downtown Disney (or if you have DCA as your first entry, they have a Starbucks inside). What kind of holiday coffee does Starbucks have? Coffee fans can get in the spirit with returning seasonal flavors, including Starbucks® Holiday Blend Coffee, Starbucks® Peppermint Mocha Flavored Coffee, Starbucks® Frappuccino Peppermint Mocha, Starbucks® Peppermint Mocha Iced Espresso, and Starbucks® Gingerbread Flavored Coffee. At Disneyland, the Red Rose Tavern in Fantasyland will have a Mocha Peppermint Taverne Cold Brew. 

For those entering Disneyland first in the morning, start your morning taking photos in front of the tree. As time goes on, there will be even longer lines throughout the day. Let’s get pictures out of the way. Head towards the castle for beautiful holiday photos.

Unless you’re trying to buy the special holiday popcorn buckets and sippers, GET THEM IMMEDIATELY. They will sell out for the day. 

Let’s talk breakfast: While Carnation Cafe won’t have any Holiday special breakfast, they have the best breakfast offerings in the morning. For something sweet and doughy, Mint Julep and Tiana’s Palace in New Orleans Square offer delicious beignets. But if you like to eat something a little more hearty that is holiday based, we’ll share it in the lunch offerings section. 

For rides, we recommend you head over to The Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square for their Nightmare Before Christmas theme ride. Jack Skeleton has taken over the Haunted Mansion and decorated it beautifully. After the ride, head up towards Critter Country to take pictures with Santa in Pooh’s spot. Take the long route to do your Star Wars Land activities towards Fantasyland to ride ‘It’s a Small World’ Holiday. 

Feeling hungry? These are the current holiday food options for lunch and dinner!

If you’re looking to attend the holiday parades, be prepared to save a spot for yourself early. The beloved Disney characters join Santa Claus for a merry musical celebration with A Christmas Fantasy Parade down Main Street and around the park at 3:30 pm and 6:30pm.

If you do the 6:30 pm parade, stay where you are and wait to enjoy the 7:30 pm showing of the  Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle – which is just a pretty light show projected on the castle. It happens again at 8:30 pm.

Or, if it happens to be 11am, you could head over to Disney California Adventure to follow the following schedule.

For those entering Disney California Adventure first, take your photos with the Christmas Tree in the center square of Buena Vista Street. 

Unless you want a Holiday Popcorn bucket and sipper, then GET THEM IMMEDIATELY. They will sell out for the day. 

Then head towards the Pixar Pier where you’ll be greeted with the Festive Foods Marketplace along the way. Stop at a booth to purchase a Sip and Savor Pass – a 8-tab badge that you can redeem for food and nonalcoholic drinks from the many different booths. You can purchase the food individually, but the Sip and Savor Pass is the best deal if you want to try the many different booths – and you get a nice souvenir with it. Pick up a passport book to collect stamps from each booth to redeem a bigger stamp to complete the book – another sweet souvenir!

Another benefit of the Sip and Savor Pass is that you can use it anytime throughout the day – and if you plan on coming back multiple days, you can still use it until January 7th. 

If you’re looking to sit and relax, why not do it while watching some of the amazing entertainment offered by DCA at the Hollywood Backlot Stage. 

  • Mickey’s Happy Holidays – dance along with Mickey Mouse and pals to the magically merry rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers
  • Disney Character sightings, including Mirabel from Disney’s animated film Encanto
  • Mostly Kosher honors Hanukkah with an eclectic blend of musical styles from klezmer and jazz to Latin and rock
  • The spirited Blue13 Dance Company celebrates Diwali with traditional dances during an unforgettable Bollywood party
  • Phat Cat Swinger presents brassy, classy, swinging holiday music selections with a fresh new twist
  • Hear the magic of The Mistletoes. Celebrating Christmas and the spirit of Kwanzaa, this a cappella vocal ensemble reimagines holiday hits with rhythm and soul!
  • Tina and The Sounds of Celebration! – Powerhouse vocalist Tina and her dynamic musicians perform holiday tunes and an uplifting repertoire of salsa, merengue, cumbia and rock Latino!
  • Holiday Toy Drummers march to their own beat while drumming up smiles wherever they go

Alongside the stage, there are fun activities for the kids to enjoy. From coloring Christmas cards to making a Jewish dreidel to a Diwali lantern, kids can learn about the many different cultural celebrations.

For those who want to celebrate in the rich tradition of Navidad and Three Kings Day, DCA has some fun activities, entertainment, and food (at Paradise Gardens Grill) for everyone at Paradise Gardens Park! There will be ¡Viva Navidad! Street Parties in the afternoon (12:10pm, 1:10pm, 2:10pm). Several Disney characters will also be dressed in traditional Navidad attire for photo opportunities. Encanto’s Mirabel will also be showing up at times! On January 6th only, the three Wise Men will visit the Nativity, featuring traditional decor and a photo opportunity.

After the entertainment and rides (all the holiday ones located in Cars Land), head towards the Redwood Forest to meet Santa for a festive photo op.

Nighttime Shows:

Here comes the dilemma for many who want to celebrate the holidays, but there are two shows going on at the same time – Disney California Adventure World of Color – Season of Light (9 pm, 10:15 pm) and Disneyland’s “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular (9:30 pm). Sure, World of Color is offered twice, but the likelihood of going from Disneyland’s fireworks show to getting a good seat at World of Color is very unlikely.

Both shows are lovely. But if I had to choose between the two, it would be Disney California Adventure’s World of Color – Season of Light. After viewing the ‘Believe… in Holiday Magic’ Fireworks Spectacular, it was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still lovely, but doesn’t have the pazazz leaving you feeling complete. 

End the night with some shopping – at either park or in Downtown Disney’s World of Disney store. There are so many beautiful Disney Parks merchandise available in person or online (but not everything will be offered online). 

There is just so much to do at the Disney Parks, it’s hard to do everything in one day – especially with the long times. The Lightning Lanes do help a bit, but sometimes those can be long. I definitely recommend going on a weekday to avoid the large crowds, but better do it before the holidays actually come. Enjoy!

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