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It’s the merriest place on Earth! The Holidays at Disneyland are a special time to visit the parks but can be overwhelming for those who have not visited during Christmas and the surrounding holidays before, then I definitely suggest planning a trip to Disneyland for the holidays. It is unlike any other time of year. This is your guide to the Holidays at Disneyland 2021.
Disneyland Holidays 2021 Guide
The holidays are one of my favorite times to visit Disneyland Resort. In 2021 the Holidays kick-off just after Veterans Day, but I do expect plenty of holiday decorations will be up by the holiday for those wanting to visit the park.
There is so much happening during Christmas and the holidays at Disneyland, that many guests feel overwhelmed trying to get all the information.
That is why I am going to break it down for you right here to help make sure you have everything you need to know to have the merriest vacation possible.
When are the holidays celebrated at Disneyland in 2021?
Officially the Holidays at Disneyland are celebrated November 12, 2021 – January 9, 2022.
Many members of the Disneyland with Kids Facebook group ask how quickly the decorations go up. A popular answer is that as soon as the last guest leaves on October 31st, the decorations get switched over. Truth is though, there have been many years that you will see decorations sneaking up around the land in October.
And while many decorations will be up before then, you may have a few Disneyland Christmas decorations that are still not up until mid-November.
What Disneyland Christmas Decorations Can I Expect?
Since we just talked about when they start to put up decorations, let’s break down some of the decorations you might find. Disneyland goes all out on their holiday decorations, but we will break it down for you to make sure you are able to find some of the unique offerings that will add a little extra magic to your trip.
Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle
At Disneyland, during the holidays Sleeping Beauty castle is transformed into Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle, with snow, icicles, and more.
This is probably the most recognized of Disneyland Christmas Decorations, save some of the ride overlays. I personally cannot picture Christmas at Disneyland without Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle.
Disneyland Christmas Decorations throughout the parks
At both Disneyland and California Adventure, you can find Christmas and Holiday decorations throughout the park. Be sure to take a few moments to enjoy the many decorations.
All decorations tend to be themed towards the land. So in Critter Country, all the decorations are made of nuts or pine tree branches, but in Cars Land you will see everything made from something related to cars.
Two of the most uniquely decorated lands are Cars Land, as mentioned above, and New Orleans Square.
In Cars Land you will find a Christmas tree made out of tires. Garlands include a tire wreath hanging from them, and you will find a snow car at the entrance to Cars Land.
In New Orleans Square, everything is Mardi Gras themed. A giant Mardi Gras mask hangs over the walkway.
No matter which land you are in, look around and find the unique decorations. You can see the decorations in each land, throughout the resort in our Picture Tour of Disneyland Christmas Decorations.
Holiday decorations at Disneyland outside the parks
Disneyland doesn’t just celebrate the holidays within the parks. You can find lots of decorations throughout the entire Disneyland Resort, including the Disney-owned hotels and Downtown Disney.
The great thing about Disneyland at Christmas, and the Holiday decorations including these areas, is that park admission is not required to visit the hotels or Downtown Disney and take in the decorations.
INSIDER INFO: One of my favorite hotels, Courtyard Anaheim Theme Park Entrance also goes all out in Holiday decorations. So even if you aren’t staying onsite, you can keep the Holiday Magic going at your hotel.
Ride Overlays During Christmas at Disneyland Resort
One thing I love about going to Disneyland during the Holidays is that they have some unique ride overlays that you will not find at other Disney parks (looking at you, Walt Disney World!). There are two rides in each park that get a holiday overlay.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Haunted Mansion Holiday is what happens when holidays collide. This ride overlay is also part of Halloween at Disneyland, but continues through the holiday season as well.
In this ride overlay, Jack Skellington and his friends have taken over the Haunted Mansion and are decorating it for a spooky Christmas event.
One of the most celebrated parts of this overlay is that each year Disneyland Resort creates a new, unique Gingerbread house for the ballroom scene. (Note, I love the smell of the ballroom because the gingerbread smell is so yummy!) I won’t spoil the surprise about what this year’s gingerbread house looks like, but it is really cool this year.
One thing I love about the Haunted Mansion Holiday is that I feel it is less spooky than the traditional version for kids. My twins are usually a little spooked out from the Haunted Mansion but love Haunted Mansion Holiday.
The exception is at night. Because it has so many decorations on the outside that glow, it can be a bit spookier at night.
“it’s a small world holiday”
The “merriest” cruise that ever set sail is when “it’s a small world” has its holiday overlay. If you normally avoid this ride I would suggest going ahead and riding it during the holidays at Disneyland.
Inside of the ride, you will see how the holidays are celebrated around the world. In addition to the traditional ride soundtrack, you will also have holiday songs mixed in, so it changes up the tune a bit.
Not only does “it’s a small world” get a ride overlay on the inside, but the outside gets completely decked out in lights. Each night they have a small lighting ceremony (a couple of times each night) so be sure to check it out.
Luigi’s Joy To The Whirl
The two ride overlays in California Adventure are both in Cars Land. These ride overlays are much more subtle, mostly entailing a change in soundtrack.
Luigi’s Joy To The Whirl takes on holiday tunes and a slightly different dance routine than Luigi’s Rollickin Roadsters.
Mater’s Jingle Jamboree
Much like Luigi’s Joy To The Whirl, Mater’s Jingle Jamboree is a subtle overlay to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree in Cars Land, mostly focusing on a change in music during the ride.
I definitely suggest taking a spin on this ride simply because it is a lot of fun and the change is music is a nice touch.
Food at Disneyland During The Holidays
One of the biggest parts of the Holidays at home is the food, and at Disneyland, it is no different! You will find more food than you can possibly eat during your visit to Disneyland during the holidays.
Throughout the Disneyland Resort, you will find holiday treats especially for the season. From Christmas-themed Carmel Apples to a whole slew of Disneyland Holiday Churros, you will find a wide array of sweets specifically for the holidays at Disneyland.
Hand-Pulled Candy Canes
One of the most popular items at Disneyland Resort is the hand-pulled candy canes. These items are available on limited days. You will need to receive a wristband in the morning to come back and get your candy cane later as the number available is limited.
Keep checking back to this page as I will update this post with all of the candy cane info as it is released.
Disney Festival of Holidays at California Adventure Park
One of the most unique offerings for Holiday foods at Disneyland is the Festival of Holidays at California Adventure. This is a Food and Wine Festival with a Holiday twist.
Located in Paradise Gardens Park, you will find booths celebrating holidays from all around the world with food. Each booth will have a theme or holiday it represents, and a selection of items you can try.
You can also purchase a Sip and Savor pass for Festival of Holidays.
A sip and savor pass is a card you can purchase that has vouchers that you can redeem for food items at the Festival of Holidays booths. Starting in 2018, the sip and savor pass was available to both Annual Passholders and non-passholders.
I will update this post once I verify the cost of this year’s sip and savor passes.
Special Holiday Meals at Disneyland Resort
If you will be at Disneyland for Thanksgiving or visiting Disneyland at Christmas, you will have the opportunity to book special dining options for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners at Disneyland Resort. These tend to book quickly, so follow my Facebook page and the Disney Parks Blog to know when these reservations will open up.
Holiday Entertainment at Disneyland
Disney ¡Viva Navidad!
This is one of my favorite offerings at Disneyland during the Holidays and it will be back in 2021. Disney ¡Viva Navidad! is a high-energy show celebrating some of the traditions of Latin cultures during the Holidays.
This show is performed multiple times each day, so be sure to check your entertainment schedule on the Disneyland app.
Mickey’s Happy Holidays – Not Confirmed
This is a cute little character parade with upbeat music that starts in Paradise Gardens Park and goes down to Carthay Circle making a couple of stops for some fun and dancing.
This happens twice each day so check the entertainment schedule.
While this was not mentioned in the Holidays 2021 update, I think it would be a perfect opportunity as it is basically a Holiday Calvacade.
A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland Park
Disneyland’s Christmas parade is a beloved tradition for many. A Christmas Fantasy Parade takes place two times per day along the parade route between “its a small world holiday” and Main Street USA.
One of the best viewing areas for this parade is near “it’s a small world” or near the King and Queen Restrooms (near Alice in Wonderland).
TIP: My secret tip is to view across from the Main Street Railroad Station, in the hub with the Flag Pole. I have often been able to walk up and find a second-row seat right before the parade.
World of Color – Season of Light – Not Returning for 2021
World of Color is not returning for 2021. I am keeping this section for those thinking of possibly coming for the Holidays in 2022. (PS- you can already book vacations for 2022 and lock in the current ticket prices through my partners at Get Away Today.)
In Disney California Adventure, World of Color – Season of Light is hosted by everyone’s favorite, warm-hugs-loving snowman, Olaf. The nightly show features water, projections, lasers, lights, and music celebrating the holidays.
Disneyland also has reserved viewing for the Dessert party and dining packages. The Dessert Party is the only option that allows guests to sit during the show, so I would definitely choose this option over any other.
Meet Santa at Disneyland Resort – Not Confirmed
While this is not confirmed, as up-close meet and greets are currently unavailable, I believe we may see a modified activity here. Learn more about distanced character sitings since the park reopened. Again, I will leave this section for those planning for 2022.
If you are wanting to meet Santa during Christmas at Disneyland, you have a few options of where to meet him. In past years, Santa has appeared in Critter Country by Pooh’s Corner. This line can get quite long and doesn’t have much to entertain kids in my opinion.
I much prefer to meet Santa at Disneyland Resort in California Adventure. The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail is transformed for the holidays and has a great meet and greet with Santa. I love the backdrop for this location as well.
In the past Santa has also been available for meet and greets in the Grand California. I will update this post once I verify this is true for 2019 as well. After all, what is Christmas at Disneyland without being able to meet Santa?
“Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Show
Disneyland has a great fireworks show for the holidays. “Believe…In Holiday Magic” takes place nightly and includes music, lights, lasers, projections, fireworks…and SNOW!!!!
That is right folks, it snows in Disneyland during the fireworks.
The show can be viewed from several locations, but if you also want to experience snow, you will want to view the show on Main Street USA, or in front of “it’s a small world holiday”. In years past, you could also have snow by the Rivers of America, but since Fantasmic is not running, this may not happen in that area.
New at Disneyland – Merriest Nites
For the first time, Disneyland has a Holiday after-hours, extra ticketed event. Disney has introduced Merriest Nites, happening 5 nights in Disneyland Park.
The first party kicks off on November 11, 2021, the night before the official kick-off of the holidays. I will be at the first party and will bring you a full guide after the event.
What to expect from the new Merriest Nites
Disney has let us know that we can expect 6 themed areas celebrating the holidays in the parks. Guests attending will have access to shorter lines, special treats, and a special viewing of A Christmas Fantasy Parade. It is worth noting that the parade is still being shown to non-party guests each day.
There are no fireworks at the party, and you will not have access to Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance (Critter Country and Toontown will also not be accessible) which I think has contributed to the parties not selling out nearly immediately.
Merriest Nites are currently SOLD OUT
Crowds at Disneyland During The Holidays
One of the biggest questions we hear in Disneyland with Kids is how crowded will the parks be during the Holidays. This answer can vary greatly so we will break it down for you below.
Also, a note that Holidays at Disneyland 2021 is the first year we will see reservations required. This means we have no clue what Disney will do as far as limiting crowds.
Disneyland in November
If you plan on visiting Disneyland in November to take in the Holidays, there are a few things to watch for with the crowds.
Holidays kick off Veterans Day Weekend
Veteran’s Day Weekend is the opening of the Holiday Season at Disneyland Resort. This weekend tends to be crowded with locals and bloggers (guilty!) trying to cover the opening of the holiday season, plus several people taking advantage of the long weekend.
The week tends to remain semi-crowded, especially if Disneyland is taping anything for the multiple Christmas specials that will air on Disney-owned networks for the Holiday season. In fact, in 2018, the taping day was the most crowded day of the week I was there.
Thanksgiving Week at Disneyland
In the past, Thanksgiving week has been a wild card as far as crowds. Some years the entire week is busy, others only the last half of the week is busy, and some years, the crowds have been tolerable the entire week.
This year, I am not sure what we will see as far as crowds.
Disneyland during the rest of November
The rest of November should be a great time to go. Crowds will pick up in the evenings and on weekends as the locals head to the parks to enjoy the festivities, but as long as you are prepared, you will have a great time.
Disneyland in December
If you are heading to Disneyland in December, again, the crowds vary greatly from week to week.
Disneyland at the beginning of December
Starting the week after Thanksgiving, you will see lower crowds during the weekdays. The weekends and evenings will continue to be more crowded as local Magic Key Holders head to the parks before their Disneyland Annual Passes are blocked out for Christmas break.
Disneyland the week before Christmas
The week before Christmas the crowds at Disneyland tend to pick up as colleges begin their winter breaks and some schools start to release.
This time will be crowded, but if you head to the parks early, and really have a plan you will be fine.
Disneyland at Christmas Break
This section is still written for when we did not have park reservations. I will be watching crowd levels and what Disney does over fall breaks to make predicitions for Winter Break 2021. Please bookmark this page and check back.
Christmas or winter break is the most crowded time of year at Disneyland. Specifically the time between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
If you are wondering why this time is so crowded, just remember, basically the entire country has this week off from school, and it is a popular travel time.
During this time, Disneyland may reach capacity in the parks. Disneyland has several levels of “reaching capacity” from simply not allowing people to enter for the first time, to not allowing any guests to enter until the park empties some.
If you will be going to Disneyland this week, utilizing the early morning hours and packing patience is vital.
If you are planning a Disneyland vacation, I suggest booking through my partners at Get Away Today. They have discount Disneyland tickets, hotel deals (including free nights, and more) and you can save an additional $10 when you use my code CrazyAdventure on packages (2 night hotel and 2 ticket minimum).