Thank you to Disneyland for inviting us to experience the Festival of Holidays!
What’s it like to go to Disneyland during Christmas?
It’s been a few years since my family and I went to the most magical place on earth during the most wonderful time of the year. We missed it.
Ayva and I have looked back at pictures and reminisced about all that we could remember, but going to Disneyland and experiencing it all dolled up and ready for the holidays this year showed us that it was even better than we had remembered!
I couldn’t wait to get Jamie there and experience Disneyland through my toddlers eyes, and that was everything I wanted. Jamie was in awe the entire time!
His personality is to try to remain stoic when he’s feeling excitement or joy, but there were several times during our Disneyland visit when he just couldn’t contain himself.
Experiencing the It’s a Small World attraction, watching Mickey Mouse and all of his friends during the Mickey’s Happy Holidays celebration, and riding on the Disneyland Railroad were all highlights of our family’s trip.
So, what’s it like to go to Disneyland during Christmas?
It changes every year, so I want to share the specific highlights of 2019!
Disney Festival of Holidays
Before I go on, I need to point out that the holiday season at Disneyland is truly a celebration of diversity. It’s not just about one specific holiday, but rather about the traditions that are important to cultures all across the globe.
Think It’s a Small World in holiday form!
From Christmas to Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and even Three Kings Day, the Festival of Holidays runs from November 8, 2019 to January 6, 2020. That means there’s plenty of time for you to get there!
When you do get there, you’re going to be blown away by the decorations. I’m not talking about the lights and such. You’d expect Disney to do that well.
What made my heart swell were the cultural elements that were integrated in everywhere we looked all around the park.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade
Every year, Disneyland delights with holiday parades. We learned our lesson from our first year going, and scoped out our viewing spot really early. It’s totally worth it to see all of our favorite characters in their winter finest dancing right in front of us!
Besides ice skaters, toy drummers, and the cutest snowman people ever, all of our Pixar and Disney faves were there.
We saw Goofy and Clarabelle, all of the princesses including Tiana and Belle, Ana and Elsa, and of course Mickey and Minnie.
Many of our Pixar Pals were there, too, and the kids went crazy of Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
The parade ends with the big guy himself, Santa Claus, and it’s just the sweetest thing to witness all of the children (and adults) calling out his name and waving.
Disney California Adventure Park
I’ve had many conversations where I’ve stated how much I love Disney California Adventure Park even more than Disneyland or Walt Disney World.
There are so many great surprises in the smaller park on the Disneyland Resort, and I geek out over discovering them!
The holiday season extends to Disney California Adventure Park, too. We stayed at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel, so we were able to experience Magic Hours every morning.
An hour before the normal park opening, guests who are staying on property at Disneyland Resort get to start their day early in one of the parks!
Ayva and I were up at the crack of dawn and raced inside before coffee or breakfast to ride some of our favorite rides and really get a close look at all of the Disneyland holidays magic.
Cars Land blew us away! There were Christmas trees made out of street cones, and hubcap wreaths.
Even your less spirited family members will get a kick out of the clever decorations.
Holiday Sip and Savor Pass
Of course Disneyland is known for its delicious food. As you can imagine during a culturally diverse holiday celebration, the food is ridiculously good!
The Festival Foods Marketplace in Disney California Adventure has eight different kiosks to experience reimagined classics, as well as some new flavors.
I knew Terrence and I would taste a bunch of things, so we picked up the Sip and Savor Pass. It allowed us to order eight food or non-alcoholic beverage options at the kiosks and a few other participating locations.
We started with the Pecan Pie Churro and ended with the Holiday Mac & Cheese. I’d say the Sip and Savor Pass was well worth it for a fun food taste test adventure with the fam!
It’s a Small World
Let me just say that I am so proud of myself for the incredible restraint I showed in waiting until now to talk about It’s a Small World. This is the best part of Disneyland holidays!
You might be able to tell by the number of times I mentioned it earlier in the post that I have a special place in my heart for the attraction.
The very first time I experienced It’s a Small World was during the holidays when Ayva was just 5 years old. We remember everything about it, from the smell of peppermint (this year there’s also coconut and cinnamon!), to our favorite rendition of the iconic song.
I could not wait to go back this year, this time with Jamie!
It was everything I remembered and more! Thankfully we had a MaxPass, so we reserved a FastPass for Sunday evening right before the sun went down.
When we got in the boat, Jamie’s face lit up and I held back the tears because I didn’t want to make the moment about me.
It’s a Small World is for families, but during the holidays, y’all—it’s for the kids. There is absolutely nothing like seeing my children react to the scenes from around the world. They were in awe of the children, the animals, the music.
It’s the ultimate 4D experience.
Meet Santa at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
The only thing that could top It’s a Small World was meeting Santa. Oh, but it wasn’t just meeting Santa! Over at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail, there are all sorts of fun things to experience during Santa’s Holiday Visit.
You can purchase a sugar cookie decorating kit and sit there and be creative, engage with the hilarious elves, and get photos with Chip n’Dale.
The trail is decorated and you can pick up a map to help make sure you don’t miss any of the cool stuff happening there!
As you can imagine, Santa’s crib is poppin’! Redwood Creek Challenge Trail opened at 9 AM on the day we went to see Santa. We go there at 9:05 AM (darn that The Little Mermaid ride for sucking us in! Ha!) and waited in line for about 30 minutes.
It was totally worth it.