The holiday season at Disneyland is absolutely magical and is always a special experience. From November 9th to January 6th both parks are transformed with festive décor, food, and activities. These are my favorite things to see and do during the Holidays at the Parks.

The lighting of It’s a Small World is something you must see at least once. I tear up every time I watch the show, it is just absolute magic. The best part is you don’t have to wait around for hours to reserve a spot. The lighting can be viewed every half hour from 5:15 pm till 11:30 pm. Just show up 5-10 minutes before and you should be fine.

Cars Land has some of my favorite decorations because they are so creative. Mater and the gang have decked out Radiator Springs with Garland assembled from air filters, tires and crescent wrenches. Each area has a different take on Christmas decorations to reflect the personality of the character. Mater’s snow-dusted Christmas tree is built out of a pile of retread tires with a spark plug “star” on top.  The garland on Mater’s attraction is made from oil cans, oil spouts and old license plates.   While at the Cozy Cone Hotel there is an orange cone tree decorated with orange cone ornaments and topped with an orange cone star.  It is powered by a car battery and jumper cable. There are so many great details in these decorations, really take your time and check everything out.  Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree is transformed into the Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters becomes Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. And  while you’re exploring Radiator Springs be sure to get a photo with Mater “Santa”.

Photos with Santa can be taken over at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where the elves have been busy creating seasonal games and outdoor activities for all ages. Santa and all of his helpers are so wonderful and interactive with the kids, it is hands down my favorite place for Christmas photos. The Challange trail is also a great area to let the kids run off some of their energy. It has plenty of slides and rope bridges to bounce between and tunnels and caves to explore. Chip and Dale can often be found in this area in their Christmas attire for festive photos and there usually isn’t a bad wait to meet with them.

The Grand Californian Hotel Lobby is stunning all year long with its California Craftsman-inspired architecture, overstuffed chairs, and beautiful fireplace. It is one of my favorite spots to stop and relax during a busy day at the Park. During the holidays a magical team of 16 bakers, 6 craftsmen, and 2 electricians design and build a replica of the hotel in a stunning Gingerbread House that stands 7 feet tall by 12 feet wide.

600 pounds of gingerbread, 250 pounds of fondant, 12 gallons of egg whites, 3.5 gallons of lemon juice, and 1 pound of “pixie dust” glitter all goes into the making of this magnificent cookie creation. In the center of the lobby stands a stunning Christmas Tree lit with arts and craft style lanterns. It really is the perfect place to sit and snack on something sweet or just wander through on your way between California Adventure and Downtown Disney.

Main Street USA is stunning in all of its Christmas décor. It’s Christmas Tree stands over 60 feet tall. A Christmas Fantasy Parade features Santa and his Reindeer and Disney characters all dressed in their Holiday best. The ”Believe…in Holiday Magic” Fireworks light up the sky accompanied by music and snow at the finale. The best viewing location is on Main Street but if you have tickets for Fantasmic just stay put after the show and you will have a good spot for the fireworks as well.

The castle lighting is always special to watch. It’s beautifully decorated but there is something about the lights coming on as it gets dark that makes it even more magical.

The food! There is no shortage of delicious foods to eat between the holiday-inspired items at restaurants throughout both parks and the Festival of Holidays Marketplace booths at California Adventure it is easy to snack your way through the day. For reviews on some of the delicious eats at the Festival check out my post-Disney’s Festival of Holidays.

The festive snacks are as delicious as they are cute.


2 thoughts on “Holiday Magic – 7 things you can’t miss at Disneyland and California Adventure

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