Visiting Disneyland at Christmas has been on our bucket list for years, and I know I am not the only one that dreams of a Disneyland Christmas. We’ve found that Christmastime at Disney World is magical, and we were inspired to see how Disneyland celebrates the Christmas season. However, with so many different holiday offerings it can be hard to choose what to see when visiting Disneyland for Christmas. Here are the things we loved at Disneyland for Christmas and what activities we could have skipped.
Things We Loved When Visiting Disneyland at Christmas
Disneyland Christmas Attractions And Parades
Haunted Mansion Holiday
If I’m going to be honest, one of the main reasons we planned a Christmastime Disneyland trip was Haunted Mansion Holiday. The Nightmare Before Christmas has been part of our family Halloween and Christmas seasons for over 20 years. I couldn’t wait to see it come to life in one of our favorite attractions.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion overlay is usually in place from sometime in September until just after New Years. This makes a lot of sense, since the entire movie tells what might happen if Halloween took over Christmas preparations.
For fans of Nightmare Before Christmas, the Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction is absolutely amazing. The first day of our trip we arrived during the early Extra Magic Hour thanks to jet lag. This meant there was virtually no wait to ride Haunted Mansion.
We took full advantage and rode the attraction three times in a row! Each time we went through the ride we found even more amazing details from the Nightmare Before Christmas movie.
Haunted Mansion Holiday Outdoor Decor
The experience starts outside with Halloween Town’s takeover of the mansion decor. Over 100 flickering jack-o-lanterns, dozens of candles, Jack’s coffin sleigh, and Halloween inspired Christmas garland set the mood for what is inside.
Haunted Mansion Holiday Ride Experience
Once you enter the stretching chamber, the real fun begins with the introduction of the story. Jack Skellington even breaks through the stained glass ceiling above you to give you a holiday greeting.
Next you exit the stretching chamber. There are paintings along the walls showing iconic images from The Nightmare Before Christmas. These portraits even alternate between Christmas and Halloween versions.
Finally it is time to board your “sleigh” and begin your ride through the attraction. There are so many amazing Nightmare Before Christmas details in Haunted Mansion Holiday that I think it would be nearly impossible to list them all.
Some of our favorite details were Zero floating down the long, dark hall; the immense spooky gingerbread house in the dining room scene; Jack giving Christmas greetings as you enter the cemetery, and Oogie Boogie’s roulette game at the end of the ride. I could probably ride Haunted Mansion Holiday a hundred more times and still find something new.
It’s A Small World Holiday
The Haunted Mansion isn’t the only attraction that undergoes a huge transformation for the holidays. It’s A Small World gets completely new decorations inside and out for Christmastime.
Each country in the attraction gets decorated with culturally appropriate holiday attire and decorations. Twinkling lights and holiday decorations seem to adorn every surface. The classic It’s A Small World song even gets a holiday twist with a mix of the normal soundtrack and Christmas music.
As if the amazing holiday changes inside It’s A Small World weren’t enough, the entire outside of the attraction is covered in roughly 50,000 Christmas lights. If you ride the attraction during the day make sure you come back and see the facade of It’s A Small World all lit up at night. The colorful lights are more stunning in person than any photo I could share.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
Disney is known for extravagant parades and A Christmas Fantasy keeps the tradition going. The parade has a variety of favorite Disney Characters dressed in festive holiday attire. In between the ornate floats there are huge decorated Christmas trees that navigate the parade route. There are also entertainers that dazzle with incredible skating or dancing ability.
Santa Claus is the finale and he shouts cheerful messages to those who are watching. The parade was so much fun that the time flew by even though the parade is around 30 minutes long.
Our Favorite Disneyland Holiday Treats
There are so many holiday treat options at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure it can be a bit overwhelming. We tried a few options and enjoyed all of the them. The peppermint fudge at Trolley Treats was our favorite. It was smooth with just the right combination of chocolate and peppermint.
Another seasonal treat I loved was the Minnie Gingerbread Crispy Treat. I usually go for the crispy rice Mickey drenched in chocolate and M&M’s, but I thought the sugar coating was a surprisingly delicious twist. I liked it so much I brought one home on the plane.
Although not a traditional treat, I did treat myself to a cranberry sangria from the Favorite Things booth at Disney California Adventure. This cranberry sangria is slightly tart and not overly sweet. I thought the cranberry sangria made a perfect drink to sip while enjoying the Christmas ambiance.
Because it wouldn’t be Disneyland without churros there are also a ton of specialty churros for the holiday season. We did not get to try any, but friends of ours really liked the Sugar Plum churro found near Haunted Mansion.
Our Favorite Disneyland Christmas Decorations
Sleeping Beauty Castle and Main Street Christmas Decorations
I liked that Sleeping Beauty’s castle has a decorated wreath and garland with snow capped towers that is beautiful even during the day. However, the castle is even more stunning at night when lights and illuminated icicles bathe the castle in a peaceful glow.
On the other end of Main Street is an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree standing 60 feet (18 meters) tall. All down Main Street garland and lights hang above the street. Each of the shops and all of the trees are also covered in soft white lights. Walking around Main Street at night with the castle on one end and the incredible tree on the other was beautiful.
Christmas In Cars Land
The residents of Radiator Springs go all out for the Christmas season in Cars Land. The transformation begins outside of Cars Land with the addition of Snowy the Snow Car to the iconic Cars Land sign area.
Car themed garland stretches across Route 66, and each shop is decorated in its own style. Pay special attention to the details in the garland. The wreath is a whitewall tire, air filters make up a bulk of the garland, and the snowflakes are made of wrenches!
The two smaller rides in Cars Land also get a bit of seasonal flair. Renamed Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy To The Whirl the ride experience is the same, but Christmas music and Christmas jokes extend the holiday experience.
Disneyland Christmas Activities You May Want To Skip
“Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular
I know you might think I am crazy, but the Christmas fireworks at Disneyland left me feeling underwhelmed. The Christmas fireworks and castle projection show at Disney World is much more extravagant.
We saw people securing spots two hours ahead of “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular. I would definitely not recommend doing this. The castle and Main Street projections are nice and the fireworks are pretty, but I would grab a spot last minute next time.
Pro tip: Make sure you have a good view of the left side of the castle. Most of the fireworks tend to be on that side.
I think my favorite part of “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular was at the end of the show. That is when the “snow” starts falling over Main Street and a small area around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The snow even smells like gingerbread! I like this Disneyland snow a lot better than the snow we get at home.
Christmas Castle Lighting
Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle generally occurs twice a night during the holiday season. This show brings the castle from darkness to stunning beauty with some music and minor castle projections.
I love the holiday castle lighting show at Disney World and was so excited to see the one at Disneyland. Again I felt a bit disappointed.
Although not a bad show, I did regret spending so much time staking out a spot. Don’t miss out on the other spectacular Christmas activities to see it, but stop by if you happen to catch the show.
Final Thoughts On Visiting Disneyland At Christmas
Disneyland has an incredible number of unique offerings for the Christmas season. The most impressive holiday options are the two complete ride overlays. Both Haunted Mansion Holiday and It’s A Small World Holiday were amazing. These two special attractions were a highlight of our entire Disneyland at Christmas trip.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade, Disneyland Christmas treats, and all the special decorations put us in full Christmas mode. I have always loved Disney World at Christmas, but now I love Disneyland just as much! I definitely recommend adding a visit to Disneyland at Christmas to your vacation bucket list.
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