As the holiday season approaches every year, we experience feelings of nostalgia as we complete time honored traditions of picking out the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving, going Black Friday Christmas shopping, putting up the the Christmas decorations around the house, cranking up the holiday tunes MONTHS in advance (to some people’s dismay), and just enjoying the feeling of magic that always accompanies the holidays. For some that feeling of magic continues not just at home but at the Happiest Places on Earth of Disney Parks.
Being a California local growing up, my family always jumped at the chance to go visit Disneyland during the holidays and it was a time that I always treasured. There is truly NOTHING better or more magical than Disney Parks during the holidays in my humble opinion! For at Disney Parks, the magic is already there but during the holidays, it is maximized by 1000%. Today, I want to share with you my favorite ways to enjoy spending the holidays at Disney Parks!
One of my favorite things about the holidays is getting to decorate with twinkly lights, green garlands, and putting up our family Christmas tree. And if there is anything that Disney does rights, it’s decorate! Every nook and cranny of the parks, attractions, restaurants, and resort hotels are always decked out in beautiful holiday lights, tinsel, garlands, and ornaments that leave in you in awe, especially at night!
In almost every hotel lobby on Disney property and in every Disney park, a beautifully adorned Christmas tree stands magnificently that features decorations that showcase the theme of that resort. I love traveling around the resorts sometimes to just marvel at the details on the ornaments on each of the lobby’s Christmas trees! Also at resorts like the Grand Californian at Disneyland and the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Beach Club, and the Boardwalk at Walt Disney World feature a huge, handmade gingerbread house in their hotel lobby that is modeled after the style of the resort. It is such a treat every year to see what gingerbread creation the Imagineers and bakers on property have cooked up (literally!) There are even stalls next to the houses where you can purchase your own piece of fresh-baked gingerbread! The smell alone is enough to get my taste buds watering!
Christmas Goodies and Treats (Giant Candy Canes, Peppermint Soft Serve)
Another thing that Disney Parks are notoriously known for is their FOOD! No Disney Parks vacation is complete without sampling a new yummy creation or old favorite treat and during the holidays that is no exception! There are so many yummy treats that Disney Parks have to offer that I could not do them all justice but I want to just mention a couple of my favorites!
The Main Street Bakery at Disneyland boasts one of the most coveted and sought after holiday treats that you have to basically get a type of FastPass and wait in line to get: Giant Handmade Candy Canes! (yeah you read that right: HOMEMADE). These special candy canes are ONLY made during Christmas time and on specific dates during the holidays. The wait for one of these bad boys is always packed and once they are sold out, that is it! These delicious treats are huge and are the perfect souvenir to take home with you and dunk into your hot cocoa. If you are interested in getting one of these peppermint treats, make sure and know in advance what days they are being offered. Once you pick your day to grab on of these sweet treats, get to the park at opening and there will be a line to pick up a wristband for ONE candy cane per wristband. The wristbands are given out on first come, first serve basis so make sure and get in lines as early as possible!
At the many ice cream parlors at Disney Parks during the holidays, you will always find some kind of peppermint ice cream being offered! Peppermint is my favorite around the holidays so I always make sure and snag a cone of these minty treat!
All over the parks, there are also many offerings with a holiday flair to them. From sugar cookies, to yule logs, and peppermint dusted churros, there’s enough sugar to keep you hopping from ride to ride all day!
Haunted Mansion Holiday & It’s a Small World Holiday
If you have read any of my other blog posts about the parks, then you know I love the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World! Well during the holiday season, both of these beloved attractions get a facelift to become two of the spookiest and jolly rides at Disney Parks. The Haunted Mansion, with a little help from everybody’s favorite Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, transform into a holiday home for Jack and his friends as they prepare to make a scary Christmas just for us! One of my favorite parts of this merry attraction is in the dining room where every year the Imagineers create a new gingerbread house with a new theme. I can still smell the gingerbread even here! It is always so much fun to see what new creation the Imagineers have cooked up for us every year!
The song everybody loves to hate also gets a makeover for the holiday season as It’s a Small World becomes It’s a Small World Holiday. The 1,000s of holiday lights on its exterior is enough to make you shriek in delight as they turn on at dusk. It truly is a sight to see! On the inside, the children of world sing holiday carols in their native tongues and show us how they celebrate the holidays in their various cultures. In keeping with the themes of Peace on Earth from the original attraction, this version adds on more meaning and also showcases fun holiday traditions from all over the world.
Holiday Firework Shows
What Disney trip wouldn’t be complete without a spectacular firework show? For the holiday season, the parks feature special holiday themed music and images in their nightly firework shows. If singing along to holiday carols as whimsical images play up on the castle, doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, then I don’t know what will! To add to the festive atmosphere during the firework shows, Disney Parks also feature a phenomenon that you almost never see in Los Angeles and Florida: snow! Main Street is created into a real-life winter wonderland when snow falls magically during the show and creates a true holiday ending for the perfect Disney day.
Visits from Santa + Other Special Events
If all this holiday cheer and treats weren’t enough, to top it all off, at Disney Parks you can have the opportunity to meet the one and only Santa Claus! Santa has regularly scheduled trips to the Disney Parks and certain hotels so keep an eye out for the big man so you can share with him your Christmas list early! Also becomes a perfect memento of your holiday parks visit as Disney PhotoPass Cast Members are close by to take a picture with Santa!
Throughout the parks, there can also be special events that bring the holiday cheer like Olaf’s Ice Skating Rink in Downtown Disney and Elsa’s Frozen Surprise at Disney’s California Adventure. Be on the lookout for other fun offerings during your stay at the parks!
The holidays can be a magical time at Disney Parks when spent with the people you love but remember to savor the holiday moments as they come as they only come once a year!