Posing in front of the tree on Buena Vista Street.
It’s November. You know what that means...bye-bye Halloween, HELLO holiday season! (We do get a nod to Thanksgiving in the parks, but it’s not quite as big of a deal.) So now that we’re in the month of November, you may be wondering what ride overlays, food, and seasonal offerings there are to look forward to in the holiday season. Oh, you’re not? Well the holiday-obsessed Disney fans definitely are, and there’s a ton for them to look forward to!
Even if you don’t consider yourself “excited” for the holiday offerings in the park, you’ll surely find some things to be excited about. Halloween used to be my favorite time to visit the parks, but then I visited during the holiday season. It completely changed my mind! The decorations, holiday spirit (even in November), abundance of gingerbread-flavored treats, and ride overlays warmed my soul. I found myself questioning how much you could truly feel the “holiday spirit” in early November; however, it wasn’t an issue.
Last year, I visited on the very first day that the holidays were being celebrated in Disneyland: November 9th. Seems a little early, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. Well...maybe it was, but it doesn’t feel early when you’re in the parks, immersed in the holiday spirit. So to prepare you for your own dose of holiday spirit, here’s what to expect during the holiday season in Disneyland!
You can experience the holiday offerings in Disneyland from November 8th to January 6th! That gives you plenty of time to visit, and experience the holiday magic for yourself!
Some things to keep in mind while choosing the dates for your visit:
There are a lot of Annual Pass (AP) blockout dates in this period of time, so be sure to check the blockout calendar before planning your visit.
The parks can get very busy as you near the end of December, so plan for crowds if you’re visiting during that time. The worst days tend to be December 25th and December 31st, for obvious reasons.
Now that we have the dates out of the way, let’s jump into holiday offerings!
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Ride overlays are one of the biggest changes to the parks during the holiday season, and some guests even find themselves visiting for the ride overlays alone. If you haven’t visited Disneyland in a few years, there are some ride overlay changes that you may not be aware of, so be sure to read through this list to see what you can expect!
Haunted Mansion Holiday: This ride overlay is a favorite to many, and is one of the most extensive holiday overlays you can find in Disneyland. They don’t just add some festive lights and holiday music in and call it a day (looking at you, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl). This overlay completely transforms the ride into a Nightmare Before Christmas-themed celebration. And don’t forget to check out this year’s gingerbread house in the ballroom scene!
“It’s a small world” Holiday: Imagine “it’s a small world” with holiday costumes on the dolls, and a mix of holiday music being played. There you have it – “it’s a small world” Holiday in a nutshell. Although I’m a harsh critic of this ride, I still believe it’s worth a ride, mostly because it’s a park staple.
Mater’s Jingle Jamboree: Special holiday music and cool lights. That’s it. That’s the “overlay”.
Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl: See above.
You may notice that Jingle Cruise is not mentioned. It unfortunately is going another year without a return.
You won’t find a shortage of entertainment in Disneyland during the holiday season. Disney does an amazing job at ensuring there’s holiday entertainment that will excite each and every guest. Be sure to look through to find what you want to catch during the holiday season!
A Christmas Fantasy Parade: This parade is one of my favorites in Disneyland. Toy soldiers, dancing gingerbread men, reindeer, our favorite Disney characters, and Santa! I mean honestly, does it get any better than that?
Since this is a seasonal entertainment offering, be sure to stake out your spot in advance. It’ll be popular during your visit.
“Believe...In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular: If you’ve read my column in the past, you know I despise fireworks. So I can’t really speak on the quality of this show, but I know this is a beloved seasonal offering!
World of Color - Season of Light: This show focuses in on friendship, family, and love, with the help of some of our favorite Disney characters and stories. Any World of Color show is worth the time to watch in my book, and this holiday-themed show is no different.
Buena Vista Holiday Tree Lighting: This offering usually includes a countdown to the lighting of Buena Vista Street’s tree in Disney California Adventure. It may seem a bit boring when compared to some of the other entertainment offerings, but I can assure you that it’s anything but. It gets you into the holiday spirit, and starts your night in the parks off on the right foot.
“it’s a small world” Holiday Lighting: If you’ve ever seen the facade of “it’s a small world” during the holiday season, then you know how magical it truly is. Disney found every light bulb available to light up this building, and it’s a sight to behold. The best part is that you can watch as each bulb comes to life, blinding you with holiday cheer...quite literally.
Disney ¡Viva Navidad!: Experience a multicultural celebration by visiting Paradise Gardens Park in Disney California Adventure. This is perhaps one of my favorite offerings, as I get to watch cultures blend and come together to celebrate the holiday season. There’s music, dancing, food, and more!
Santa's Holiday Visit at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail: Just as we saw in the Halloween season, the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail transforms to fit the holiday season. There are seasonal activities available, and...SANTA CLAUS! Make sure you stop by to see Santa, and give him some hints on what you want this year!
Food and Merchandise
Festival of Foods Marketplace: Taste holiday treats and drinks from around the world when visiting these special booths in Disney California Adventure. To view the menu, click this link.
Merchandise: If you’re anything like me, you go into a trip with the mindset that you won’t waste all your money on merchandise. But alas, Disney makes this nearly impossible with their amazing selection. Especially during the holiday season! Holiday-themed ears, spirit jerseys, t-shirts, hats, and more. Before your trip, be sure to check out the holiday-themed merchandise here.
“Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort” Guided Tour: I’ve never been on this tour, but I’ve only heard good things about it. This seems to be one of the best tours that Disneyland offers, and gives you some insight as to how they create the holiday magic.
Adults: $99 (Annual Pass discount can be applied to this price)
So there you have it! these are only some of the offerings you can look forward to once the holiday season begins in Disneyland. I’ve visited Disneyland during every time of the year, and the holiday season is my favorite. There’s so much to do, and there’s just something special about the magic they’re able to bring to the holiday season. If you’re visiting the parks in the next two months, enjoy!