Holidays at Disneyland 2016 – Everything You Need to Know

Updated March 8, 2017

***I’ll update this post as information becomes available for the 2017 Holidays at Disneyland season. Find me at Facebook.com/DisneylandDailyCasey for more updates.

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.

An Overview

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.

Disneyland-Its-A-Small-World-Christmas-at-night

photo credit

Attractions

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.

Food

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.

Trolley Treats at California Adventure and Candy Palace Bakery at Disneyland – plus Pooh Corner in Critter Country – have many holiday selections for you to enjoy in the parks or to take home.

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.

 

15109555_1086608081436834_4177166108312083720_n

Candy Canes

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.

*They’re divine!

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.

15220072_1086607874770188_8281047244308497385_n

And, here was the line behind me!

15109558_1086607988103510_4301964941678057984_n

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.

15202662_1086607941436848_5304333154710191486_n

 

Candy Cane makers!

12308445_855627511201560_7316958836580301906_n

Look for this large candy cane upon returning to know where to line up to get yours at either Candy Palace or Trolley Treats:

12316648_855628141201497_3001743743407775679_n

The final product:

12342473_855628154534829_2805927497196983661_n

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:

15203270_1086608031436839_4140175719339557787_n

Special Events

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.

009

Santa Claus

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.

Check your entertainment schedule for timing for Santa, but most are there for the majority of the day.012

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:

15037294_1072394209524888_7414972290916840010_n

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:

12294807_852595454838099_1337501083840820490_n

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.

15171192_1088012494629726_8085546222178479570_n

The Grand Californian Hotel – traditional with such a beautiful tree behind him:

15241777_1088012561296386_5114203025467100487_n

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.)

15181617_1088012607963048_2492452555893659004_n

Shows, Parades, Fireworks, and Hotels

108

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

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.

The Happiest Place on Earth Just Got Merrier

My Suggestions

  • 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!
Tickets I recommend (read why)
Enter code DLRPS at checkout to save an additional $2 on each ticket.

132 COMMENTS

  1. We are planning on being in the parks December 30-January 1. I saw above you mentioned the tiered pricing. When does that start?

    How early do you think we need to arrive to avoid not being able to get in due to the park being at capacity?

    • Tiered pricing started earlier 2016. You’ll see the highest pricing during your visit. Arrive before opening so you can get stuff done before the crowds hit. It will be super busy. Capacity could happen by noon. Good luck!

  2. We’ll be visiting on the 25th & 26th of December. I know it will be crowded and will need a good plan. Would you recommend we schedule the Holiday tour to secure the fastpasses and a seat for the parade. We’re traveling with our 6 year old.

  3. Merry Christmas

    Will there be a Christmas tree light up at the DL town square?
    I know there’s one at DCA as it’s in the online time guide.

  4. Your site and info is helping me so much. Thank you!, how long do you usually have to stand in line to get a bracelet for a candy cane? We have a 9:30 am reservation at the Plaza Inn on Dec. 14.

  5. How would you plan to see the Christmas parade, Paint the Night and fireworks Friday the 18th? How long would you camp out at a spot (and where roughly)? Thanks!

    • Christmas parade is daytime, so choose which you prefer. See the first PTN from near it’s a small world and then stay in the same spot for fireworks. I’m there that day and am doing the Aladdin’s Oasis package that gives you reserved viewing for the parade. Hang out in that spot for fireworks right after. Highly recommend booking that package if you still can. Details here: https://disneylanddaily.com/special-dining-events-with-reserved-seating-for-shows/

      • Do you mean stay there from 6:30 parade until 9:30 fireworks? That seems like a long time to wait for fireworks. During the 60th when we were there, the parade was at 8:30/8:50 and the fireworks at 9:30. Now there’s a 3 hour delay. I’m trying to figure out our strategy as well, but not sure it’s worth the long wait. Especially since we’re already getting there early for Paint the Night. We’ve never seen the holiday fireworks, so we definitely want to see them. Do you think we could just find a spot closer to 9-9:30? Plus where do you think the best viewing is ISASW or Main Street/castle area? Thanks…your blog is always so helpful!

          • We will be there the week of Thanksgiving, but have reservations for Aladdin’s Oasis on Nov 22 for the 6:30 parade. Your reviews have been very good, so we are going to try it. I’m just not sure about staying there for the fireworks, which doesn’t start till 9:30. Is that spot worth waiting another 2 plus hours? Thanks!

          • I see. Sorry for the confusion. Arrive 1.5 hours early for front row of the viewing area…..have one person get in line……then ask the rest to return 20 minutes prior to parade time to get settled in the spot you claim. If you’re not concerned with front row, an hour – 45 minutes suffices to claim your spot. The parade will start at it’s a small world, so watch that and take a break until fireworks. You can return to the same area, but of course, your spot won’t be there. Still, it’s a small world is a lovely place to watch the show because the projections are shown onto the backdrop of the attraction. And, it’s a nice break from the madness of in front of the castle and Main Street. While waiting, enjoy the Single Rider line at the Matterhorn, maybe a Fantasyland ride or two (Pinocchio, Snow White, or Mr. Toad), etc, etc.

            Does that make sense?

  6. Hi Casey! I need a current DCA strategy (4 kids, 2 adults) to meet Santa, Elena, and Elsa and Anna, as well as ride Soarin, Toy Story, and RSR, and see the Frozen show. Help! Thank you for your amazing work ??

  7. Do you think the glow with the show ears will match up with world of color and paint the night parade like they did during the 60th?

  8. Hi Casey, just discovered your very informative website – well done for sharing so much info!
    We are travelling from Australia to the US and will have 5 nts in Anaheim (staying at HJ) from Dec 14-19. Our kids are 13(son)&11(daughter). Just wondering if we should buy a 2 or 3 day pass (park hopper?)as we want to also go to Universal & a day shopping. As we won’t arrive at hotel until approx 9.30 am ish after long haul flight on Wed 14th, I’m thinking it’s best day for shopping. Would you suggest 2 or 3 day park-hopper ticket straight days in a row or go one day Disney, then one Universal (front of line pass) & then Disney again? Trying to fit into weekdays but some days will end up on the weekend. Is it best to get tickets through you or our Hotel?

    • Hi, Wendy. Thank you! I would choose 3 day tickets – hoppers or one park per day to save money – and visit Disneyland for 2 days and California Adventure for 1. Arrival day is best for shopping because that will be your most flexible time. Break up the Disney visits with one to Universal…..but do as many Disney days during the week that you can. I would do Disney on the 15th and 16th, Universal on the 17th and then Disney again on the 18th. If you get a break day in there, save Disney for the 19th and break on the 18th. The least expensive tickets that you will find are through Park Savers with my additional discount. You can find all those details in this post: https://disneylanddaily.com/discounted-disneyland-tickets-that-are-actually-safe-to-purchase/

      Enjoy!

  9. We are going to Disneyland Dec 14-18 with our 4 year old. It’s our first time and we are so overwhelmed! I’m assuming it’ll be super busy? Where do we even start?

  10. Hi Casey! Do you know whether Santa is available the whole time the parks are open, or if there are specific hours that the booths are open? Also, any intel on whether Princess Elena will be doing one or multiple grand entrances during the day? Thx, and thx for the advice on doing a Park Hopper for our 1-day visit – defimtitely the right thing to do!

    • Hi, Rachel.

      I’ll be looking for Santa this Thursday on my visit and will be sharing photos and times as soon as they’re available. He’s typically there most of the day within each park. Always surprises me how late he stays.

      No info on Elena yet. I’ll be looking for that, too. We were told she’d be arriving with the holiday season, which starts on the 10th. Anxious to know more!

  11. Hi Casey-
    Thank you for this amazing website. I’m planning my daughter’s first trip to Disneyland for her birthday this December and this site is incredibly valuable in the process.

    The Disneyland website hasn’t yet posted times for the parades or WOC but I’m trying to make a couple dining reservations for special seating packages and stuff… can you advise when the parades and WOC (holiday edition) have been in the past holiday seasons on weekdays? Thanks!!

    • Keep checking the entertainment schedule for your dates. You can do so at this link. Just change the calendar date to reflect when you’re visiting:

      https://disneyland.disney.go.com/entertainment/

      WOC Holidays has been during the week, too, so it’s hard to tell right now.

      I’ve just updated this post with more Paint the Night dates and times. And, I will update it, too, if Disney releases any special dining events with reserved viewing for shows/parades. Hope they do!

  12. Do you know if there is a dining package with aladdins oasis that includes preferred seating at Christmas fantasy parade? Thank you!

  13. Hi Casey! Thanks for all the info! I got to Disneyland often but I always come back to your site when I’m taking non Disney folks to Disneyland. Question – We going on Dec 3 and saw that the candlelight processional will be happening. What exactly is this? Is it a choir that performs? Will we have to camp out just to watch it?

    • It’s an invite only event with very limited space for “regular” park guests wanting to attend. People wait all day to get a spot. It’s held at the front of the park at the Main Street RR Station and causes quite a congested area for the two nights it runs. I recommend avoiding the front of the park on these nights. Without committing to waiting all day for a spot, you’re better off focusing elsewhere.

      • You’re very welcome! I just told my husband a couple days ago that you are doing my dream “job”. I would love to spend the time you do at the parks. One more question – do you happen to know if they will have the ice skating rink downtown again this year?

  14. Do you know when they start and how long it takes for them to take down the Christmas decorations?? we will be visiting in February and just wanted to make sure that It’s a Small World will be open again. We went around the same time last year and it was close (I cant remember if it was for refurbishment or to take down the Christmas lights). Thank you for all your wonderful information!!

    • it’s a small world is last to go down and stays Christmas until the third week of January. It takes a couple of weeks to transform back to normal. No official dates yet. I’ll keep this post updated as I hear more. Hope that works with your trip!

      • Thank you so much for replying!! One day we’ll brave the crowd and go when all the Christmas decorations and festivities are going on. But for right now, we try and go when it’s the least crowded =)

  15. Casey,
    We have been to DLR many times but have never been during the holidays. This year we will be enjoying New Years Eve and Day. We are thinking that with older teens DCA would be better for an older crowd? My husband and I would also like to have a drink or two. Also we have heard that DCA will still have World of Color should it rain? We would then hit DL New Years day. Any advice on this?
    BTW thank you for such a great site.

  16. Hi, Casey! I noticed Paint the Night is scheduled to happen the first night we arrive (12/4). Hasn’t there been a dining packing in the past (maybe at Blue Bayou) that includes premium seating for Paint the Night? As of now I can’t find an option to make a reservation for any kind of Paint the Night dining package on 12/4. Any idea if that will be an option as we get closer to December? Many thanks! Beth

  17. great post! We will be visiting the DLR on Christmas Day and would like to know what restaurant you would recommend to eat at on that day?

  18. Awesome information Casey, really appreciate the details, makes planning so much easier. Any news on Paint the night for Christmas – we arrive 11Dec for a week

  19. Thanks for all the great information Casey. Is Disneyland open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day? I can’t seem to find anything saying it’s open or not. If it is open, do you know how heavy the crowds are on those days?

  20. Hi Casey,

    I just booked a trip from January 3-7. According to Disneyland’s website, the holiday season will be running through January 8th. I saw in this thread that you responded to someone and let her know that holidays would be still be in full swing, which is perfect! My question is: Do they still do the tree lightings each night? I read something somewhere else that was saying they only do the tree lightings until December 24th, but that didn’t really make sense to me if Christmas is still in full swing. I’d love to hear your experience with this. Thanks so much for helping us all to plan our magical trips!

    • Hi, Cate. Good question. This detail – and if Santa sticks around – seems to change from year to year. I’ll update my Holiday post as I learn more on what you can expect in January.

  21. I’m so sad, I was hoping we would catch both the end of Halloween and the beginning of Christmas like we did a few years back. We loved the snow after the show. I wanted to take my kids back so bad to see it. We are going to be there Nov 2-9 I guess that’s what you get when you have to plan your vacations in advance and they don’t put up a schedule of events until the month of. 🙁

      • We will, how can one not enjoy Disneyland?! Do you know when Dapperdays is going to be? I’m thinking we will avoid it with little kids.
        Thanks for your blog and fb posts it really has been my goto for information. Best I have found! 🙂

  22. Is there not a Mickey’s Christmas party at Disneyland? I am so confused. If there is I’m trying to find out the hours. Thanks.

  23. Casey, super thorough! Very helpful.

    We are arrive Dec 1 to 3. You think there’s any shot at Paint the Night Parade? We totally thought the 60th anniversary would go through December and hate to miss it!

  24. Great advice, your enthusiasm shines through! Surprising my daughter on Dec 5 with day trip to the parks. Disneyland can’t say yet when the park will open, but I have to book flights ASAP. Do you know the average opening time of DL in December? Also, what time do the parades begin generally?

  25. Hi Casey! Sorry if this has already asked but in terms of crowds – would it be less busy to go in November as soon as Christmas first starts in Disneyland? Or waiting a week or two? We don’t plan on going until next year so our dates will be completely flexible – but our son will only be two years old, so obviously the less crowded the better! Thank you!!

    I love Christmas and love Disneyland, so I can’t wait to see the two together!

  26. Hi! Do you know when the Grand Californian puts up the decorations?…tree, gingerbread house etc..have booked two reservations one for Nov 13-19 and one of Nov 27-dec 2. We usually stay the sunday of Thanksgiving weekend each year and everything is up, but the earlier dates works better for school..have been told hat the Grand does the decoratioms last and it will be closer to Thanksgiving…wondered if you had any insight? Love your articles! Thanka for the help 🙂

    • Since Holidays starts November 10, the hotels should be decorated along with that timing. I looked back at my notes and see that the gingerbread house was up by November 15, 2015, so that’s definitely a good sign since it’s such an integral part of the holiday decor at the Grand Californian Hotel. I think you’ll be just fine with your timing. Disney seems to move everything up a bit each year. 🙂

      • Thank you so much for getting back to me! I hope you’re right 🙂 that does help knowing last year the house was up early! I did ask someone in the hotel the other day and they said thanksgiving probably but that they did not really know for sure. I still have awhile before I need to cancel one of the reservations. Ill keep checking and see if I can nail down a definitive answer from conceierge or the front desk. Thanks again love your articles and Facebook page!

  27. Hi! We are moving to SoCal and will be heading to DLR with our families (and a 3 year old, 1 year old, and 8 month old) for Thanksgiving and Christmas days! hahhaa Wondering if they have special food and where I should look to reserve? We will be staying at the Grand Californian for both holidays. We like fancy food and the girls are pretty used to that and enjoy the spectacle 🙂

    Also – (sorry for all the questions) – our 3 year old will be turning 4 and her birthday is the same day as Mickey’s! Do they do anything special for that day at the parks? We are debating taking them (nov 18) then again the next week for Thanksgiving, but if it’s super special to have the same birthday as the Mouse, we will figure out a way to be there since we live so close. 🙂

    Last question – do you know if they do anything special for Christmas morning etc? Or Christmas Eve? We haven’t booked those dates and if it’s just regular awesome then we might just go earlier that week when it might be less crowded.

    Thank you again for any advice!!! I already bought the princess dresses you suggested and they are beautiful!! I am going to wrap it up for birthday presents/ Disney announcement! 🙂 And we will have birthday breakfast at Minnie’s to see all the characters! 🙂

    • Hi, Kelly.

      I hope you love SoCal as much as we have. It’s heaven on earth!

      OK, check out the answers to your questions:

      We are moving to SoCal and will be heading to DLR with our families (and a 3 year old, 1 year old, and 8 month old) for Thanksgiving and Christmas days! hahhaa Wondering if they have special food and where I should look to reserve? We will be staying at the Grand Californian for both holidays. We like fancy food and the girls are pretty used to that and enjoy the spectacle. – As we get closer to the holidays, Disney will announce an option for Thanksgiving for sure. I’ll update this post and will share that option on Facebook.com/DLRPrepSchool as soon as I see it. Those reservations fill up fast, though, so book it as soon as you see it. Beyond a themed meal hosted by Disney, I highly recommend Napa Rose at the hotel you’re staying in. It’s lovely with a ‘fancy’ menu and unique food choices. More on that and other dining at the hotels here:

      https://disneylanddaily.com/a-review-of-all-dlr-hotel-restaurants/

      You might also enjoy the afternoon tea at the Disneyland Hotel:

      https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland-hotel/afternoon-tea/

      Also – (sorry for all the questions) – our 3 year old will be turning 4 and her birthday is the same day as Mickey’s! Do they do anything special for that day at the parks? We are debating taking them (nov 18) then again the next week for Thanksgiving, but if it’s super special to have the same birthday as the Mouse, we will figure out a way to be there since we live so close. – Nothing comes to mind for an actual birthday celebration or even acknowledgement. If I learn of anything, I’ll return to this post and let you know.

      Last question – do you know if they do anything special for Christmas morning etc? Or Christmas Eve? We haven’t booked those dates and if it’s just regular awesome then we might just go earlier that week when it might be less crowded. – You could look into having your room decorated or any of the other services you can add on to your visit at this link, which specializes in adding extra magic to your stay: http://disneyland.disneyfloralandgifts.com/category/in-room+celebrations.do?utm_source=DLRWebsiteChristmaspage&utm_medium=DLRWebsiteChristmaspage&utm_campaign=DLRWEbsiteChristmaspageIRC

      I can’t imagine the hotels not doing anything for Christmas Eve and morning, but I’m not recalling anything. I’m going to add this to my list for my next park visit and will let you know if I find anything you might be interested in. I visit once a week and share trip reports on Facebook. It’s a great place to stay connected. Feel free to ask again if you have any other questions!

      • Casey, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! 🙂 Today the reservations opened up for Thanksgiving meals (nothing special for specific holiday dinners, just general reservations so far) – so I made the ones I could. The times went fast!! 🙂 Thank you for all of your help! I got your email, and you answered all of my questions for sure! THANK YOU!!! 🙂 I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. We are planning a trip to Disneyland Nov 4 to 11 but we are flexible with our dates and could go a few days later (Nov 8 to 15 would be the latest). What do you recommend based on crowds and Christmas decor etc. We are coming from Edmonton Alberta Canada and this is a once in a lifetime trip for us so we want to make it super special for our 4 kids! We will buy a 5 day park hopper pass to enjoy the parks as much as we can.
    Thank you for your help.

    • Crowds during your timing – either option – won’t be horrendous. Really just depends on how much holiday you want to see. The latter option will allow you to see more attractions, as two of the holiday ones will be closed for your first date option. I think you should go with the second. Enjoy!

      • Thank you very much for your help. We were thinking of Nov 4 to 11 because it would mean we would avoid being their the long weekend (we’d be traveling home on the 11th). But if you think the crowds will be ok then maybe we should come the later option so that we see more Christmas fun.
        Which holiday attractions will be closed for the first option?
        We also saw that their is some kind of Avengers super hero half marathon at Disney from Nov 10 to 13. We were worried that might bring in big crowds too.

  29. Hi Casey! Thanks for all the great info! We’re arriving November 6th and leave on the 11th. Do you think the decorations will be up before the 10th? And will other holiday things (food, rides, etc.) possibly be available/going before then? I’m picturing us rushing around the parks on our last day to see and do as much as possible, which we can happily do, but would rather not. 🙂 Also, do you have any idea where Princess Elena will be? My five year old is SUPER excited she might be there when we are. Thanks so much!

    • Not sure of Elena’s location yet. I’ll update as soon as I know. Holiday immediately starts going up after Halloween is over, so you’ll see it develop each day you’re there. Treats and food don’t typically arrive early, but merchandise will. Enjoy!

  30. I am so excited! We will be there from December 28-January 2! (5 days at the Disney parks, one day to go see the Wizards. ?)
    I have so many questions, but this is a great help to begin with!

    Even in that busiest time of year, do you think we can see everything we want to? I mean, we aren’t adding a 6th Disney day, but I want to be sure we can do as many rides as possible but still take in all of the other things!

  31. Hey Casey! LOVE what you do and I thank you! I was wondering if the santa pictures have a year on them or if it says Disneyland/CA Adventure? Also how soon is santa available at the parks? Thank you for all you do! I’ve been following your posts for the past three years and my Disney vacations are better thanks to you!

    • Thank you, Camille. 🙂 The photos are standard PhotoPass images, so they don’t say anything and you won’t get print outs unless you purchase them at the photo shops. You will own the images with your PhotoPass One Day or One Week or Collection purchase and can print at home. Or if you want print outs, the shops will do that for you. They may be able to add a date with a cute border. Check out the PhotoPass post here for more on that:

      https://disneylanddaily.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-photopass-and-why-you-should-have-it-for-your-trip/

      So, the Santa visit is free and then you can use your phone or own camera for pics or buy Disney’s PhotoPass option.

      Santa typically arrives on opening day at each park, which is November 10 this year. I’ll be there to report on him and more! Can’t wait.

  32. Hi Casey,
    We’re going to DLR from January 1-6. We’ve only been to the parks once before, years ago, and we’re super excited to see them done up for Christmas. Our flight arrives at 3pm. Would it be possible to get into either park on New Years Day or will they have reached capacity? Or should we just wait until January 2nd to start our park days? Thanks for this amazing site!

    • Great question. There are just a few days each year that reach capacity. NYE and New Years’s Day are good possibilities for it. However, tiered pricing and people not renewing APs could change that this season. I would plan on the 2nd just because I wouldn’t want to spend the money on so few hours in the park. But, we might have a better idea of capacity as we get closer to your timing. Feel free to contact me again in case I can give you a better estimate.

  33. Hi Casey! I love everything about your blog – you have so much helpful information! I’m from Oregon and have been to Disneyland several times at Christmas time, but want to go at a non-Christmas time for a new experience. I planed a trip for January 3-7, 2017. Do you know if the Christmas music is still playing at that time? Are the decorations being taken down at that time, or is everything still in full ‘Christmas’ mode? Any inside info you have from the experience of being there that first week of January would be really really helpful!
    Thank you!!
    Joan

    • Hi, Joan.

      In 2016, Holidays officially ended on January 6. I’m expecting the same for 2017, give or take a few days. Until then, Holiday is in full swing – music, decor, attraction overlays, etc…..it’s all still Christmas. As soon as Disney announces the dates for this coming season, I’ll update this post with that information. Hopefully you can better plan then. Stay tuned! Usually happens early Fall.

      • Just a heads up, we went Jan 2015 (a few days after MLK day), and there was still some Christmas decorations up, and Small World was still Christmas ?? that was a happy surprise cuz I know it’s usually way done by then ?

  34. We just got back from our first Disneyland vacation as a family of 4. It was our 5 year old and 2 year olds very first time. Your tips helped our 2 days (1 park per day) run so smoothly! Both the Hubby & I have the itch to go back ASAP & are currently planning to go back during Christmas time. I just want to thank you, again, for keeping this blog. I was already excited but after reading all the goodies and festivities that happen during the holidays, I MUST GO BACK!

  35. Hi! Are there any rumors yet about when the Holiday season will start this year (2016-2017)? We are considering a visit from Nov 14-18. From the very first day of the holiday season, are all the decorations up and are parades/fireworks shown every day?

    Thanks!
    Amy 🙂
    Love your blog btw.

    • No timing mentioned yet. But the last two years included a start date of November 13. Nearly everything is up and running day 1, so you’ll be in good shape. Stay tuned for an update on this post as soon as I learn more!

  36. Hi Casey,

    First time visiting Disneyland park with my 2 yr old and i would like to see all the evening parades. Your site has been really useful by the way. I checked the times and available parades for Disneyland on their website and I’m confused between Disneyland Forever and Fireworks at Disneyland, are they the same? They both start at 9pm. Then there’s also the Paint the Night at 8:45 PM and will run for 40 minutes which will overlap with the Fantasmic (9PM) and fireworks.

    Would you be able to clear this scheduling up? I would love to see all four of them plus the Fantasy parade. Thanks in advance!

    • Good question, Calvin. I’m not sure why Disney does this, but Disneyland Forever IS Fireworks at Disneyland.

      Paint the Night and Fantasmic! usually overlap because Disney wants you to choose one or the other and then everyone watch fireworks. Which day are you visiting? I’ll try to find a way for you to see it all if I know the date.

      • We’ll be there on the 22nd which is a Tuesday. If I can only choose between Paint the night and Fantasmic, which would you suggest? Thanks again.

        Btw, would like to dress up my daughter as a princess but I’m afraid she’ll get cold wearing those costumes. How did you dress your daughters up for Christmas time at Disneyland?

        • Hey, there.

          OK, here is what I suggest:

          3:15pm Christmas Fantasy Parade

          5:45pm Paint the Night Parade

          9:00pm Fantasmic! (Grab FASTPASSES for reserved seating for this show on Big Thunder Ranch Trail in Frontierland in the morning. Then, stay where you are for the fireworks. You won’t have a good view of the castle but the projections happen over the Rivers of America on a water screen and you’ll have your own set of fireworks in addition to the large show.)

          9:30pm Disneyland Forever Fireworks

          So, I think you can do both. Regarding dressing princesses, put them in leggings and a long sleeve tshirt and then a simple play dress. Then, put their princess dress over the play dress. Have them wear boots if possible. Bring a sweater, too. I often bring my daughter a light scarf, too. Hope this helps!

  37. Hi Casey! We’re taking the kids to DLR for the first time 27-29th December. We know we are crazy and the crowds will be chaos! I wish we had booked an onsite hotel, but we are staying close. We have restaurant reservations for WOC and Fantasmic fastpasses. We’ve identified our must see/must do’s and we’re not being too ambitious with the number of attractions. Mostly about Star Wars, Cars and soaking in the atmosphere and staying safe. The plan for Day 1 was to go early, do Star Wars , Space Mountain, Indiana Jones etc, take snacks with us, maybe ride the train, do the Sailing Ship Columbia. Then escape to the hotel for nap/hot tub/shower. Then return for dinner reservations and the evening entertainment. I’m worried though whether we would be able to get back into the park. What do you think? Then Day 2 I was thinking of having a hang at the hotel kind of morning and arrive for our lunch reservations, do the CA attractions and stay for WOC. Bad idea? Do we need to arrive early and stay all day late and then do it all again the next day?

    • Sounds like fun! I actually recommend arriving early, before park opening, and then taking a mid-day break. That way, you’ll avoid the crowds and get more done in the morning. The only issue you might encounter, however, is that the days you’re visiting will be super crowded and the park may reach capacity, which means that if you leave, you might not be allowed back in. So, keep that in mind for sure.

  38. Hello Casey!

    I would like to know if anything is added to the Character Dining experience during Christmas. Do the prices stay the same? Are the all characters in Christmas clothing? We are thinking of doing a character dining Christmas morning so I just wondered if I should expect a little extra magic.

    • We were at Disneyland Dec 3-7 and had two character breakfasts. Surf’s Up with Mickey was just standard beachwear, but Minnie was in her holiday outfit at the Plaza Inn. They also had an amazing Christmas tree set up inside the Plaza Inn!

      • Thanks so much we are planning for 2016 Christmas and Surfs up was our #1 choice for our boys but not if they are not in their Christmas outfits. We will plan on Plaza Inn. Thank you!

  39. We’ve only been to DLR once during Christmas and that was 5 years ago. We are really looking forward to bringing our 4 year old this time! Last time we were there, they had reindeer at Big Thunder Ranch. Any word on whether they will be there before the ranch shuts down? We would so love to see them again!

    Also, had no idea about the candy canes! I plan on making that a priority as my little man will LOVE that!

    Thanks Casey!

  40. Thank you so much for this awesome site! It has been hugely helpful in planning our trip. We are going at the beginning of December with a 2 month old and a 3 year old. We will have a 3 day park hopper and I just want some advice about the parades/entertainment. I read all about the parades that you posted and we plan to sit near small world for the first paint the night parade. But can you offer advice about when to see the Christmas parade? We will be there on December 10 and December 12 and looking at the schedule, the Christmas parade is way earlier than paint the night. So I don’t see how it would be reasonable to stay in our spots the entire time. Any tips there? We are planning to see Fantasmic one night, and Paint the Night the other night. When should we see the Christmas parade? And where should we sit? THANK YOU!

  41. Hi. Love your blog and all the useful information. If you get a wristband for a candy cane, do they give you a specific time to come back or would you be able to get the candy cane immediately? Thank you.

  42. Hi Casey! Love your blog; it is so helpful. I am planning a trip to Disneyland next year at around this time; do you suggest going the week before Thanksgiving? Will the Christmas decorations and events be up by then? Do you think it might be crowded?

    Thanks very much!

  43. We are plannig to visit DCA on 1/7 and then Disneyland on 1/8 & 1/10. Should we expect to see the holiday decor transitioning out of the park or is it cleared out overnight?

  44. Hi! I’ve been to Disneyland several times, but absolutely love your site to learn new things. Do you know if the pumpkin beignets will be offered at Café Orleans, or only at Mint Julep Bar?

  45. I am at California Adventure today. They announced this morning that as of today, there are no more fast passes to meet Anna and Elsa. Your site has been invaluable and has made our trip so much better exclamation thank you!

  46. Casey your website is amazing! Thanks so much for all this info. Using your 1 day plan for littles. Where would you fit in the christmas parade do you think? We are taking our girls 3 and 1 at the end of my husbands work trip. Going on 21 Nov from Australia. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Dee!

      The Christmas parade will be in the afternoon (not sure of the time yet). This will proceed Paint the Night, the nighttime parade that is shown at dark. Set up about an hour prior to what time of the day the parade starts for the time you’re visiting. I’ll have more information asap on timing and such as we get further into the season, but here is another post on parades to give you some ideas on where to sit and what each location has as far as advantages go:

      https://disneylanddaily.com/all-about-parades-at-disneyland/

  47. Is Disneyland Santa just totally lame? We aren’t doing a park hopper this trip, and I thought it would be fun to add Santa since he would be included in the photopass. Our little guy will only be nine months old, so really it’s just a quick gratuitous trip for us to eat some Mickey shaped food and take cute pictures. Daddy would probably prefer waiting in line for Christmas pictures with Chewbacca anyway so if he’s lame we’ll just skip him. We’re thinking about Monday the 14th if that makes a difference. Thank you!

    • Not lame at all. But, I prefer the California Adventure version. It’s just more old school and feels like NYC Macy’s to me. Disneyland will be a different set up this year, too, as it won’t be in Big Thunder Ranch, but instead in Critter Country, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. Can’t hurt to walk by and check it out. I’ll have photos of him, too, asap.

  48. Amazing. Im so excited. I was at disneyland 15 years ago for xmas but as 21 year old i didn’t stop to appreciate all the christmas things. Now taking my 9 and 7 year old this December I am so excited. 7 weeks till we leave Australia!

      • Hi Casey,

        I’m thinking of taking the family to disneyland this Christmas seson. We always go in the summer so this will be the first time in December. What do we need to know the kids are 16 and 14 it’s all about the rides. What else should we look out for or do then.

        Thanks,
        Alison

LEAVE A REPLY