Travel – A Disney Christmas

What could be a more perfect place to celebrate the holiday season than … Disneyland!

Growing up in Southern California, our family has been going to Disneyland since it opened back in 1955.  We have so many great memories of the “Happiest Place on Earth”.  Disneyland is magical on an ordinary day – but the Christmas season is extra special!

Officially the holiday season is November 12, 2012 to January 6, 2013.  Please check the Disney website for current Holiday information regarding park hours, etc. at


In Town Square a 60 foot Christmas tree is decorated with 4,800 energy- efficient LED lights and over 2,000 ornaments including a 3 foot gold star at the top for the holiday season.  During Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2005, the ornaments and decorations on the Main Street Christmas tree were all a golden color.  As you look down Main Street there are pine garlands strung from one side of the street to the other side with a Hidden Mickey shaped wreath in the center.  (We love Hidden Mickey’s!!)  At the end of Main Street is Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, the iconic symbol of Disneyland.  During the holiday season the castle’s overlay gives the most enchanting winter appearance and the castle turrets are “snow” covered with more than 80,000 lights to give the beautiful effect as if the icicles were sparkling when lit at night.



The “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” debuted during the 1994 holiday season at Disneyland.  Featured in the parade are about 200 performers and several themed floats.  My favorites are the marching toy soldiers from “Babes in Toyland”, the dancing snowflakes and the prancing reindeer.  Riding on the floats are all the favorite Disney characters and the final one has Santa flying over the float in his sleigh.

TIP: Check the parade schedule when you arrive and get to the parade route early for the good viewing spots.  While you are waiting for the parade to begin, I would suggest having someone get some food to bring back to your parade spot to eat a quick meal or maybe have someone get some fast passes to a ride to use when the parade is over.


Since 1997, one of Disneyland’s most popular rides, “It’s A Small World”, has featured a holiday overlay during the Christmas season.  Closed in October and reopened in early November through January, the attraction is transformed by a crew of over 30 Technical Services Cast Members who decorate both the interior and exterior with 350,000 lights especially for the holidays. (In January the attraction closes again to remove the overlay)  The attraction takes guests on the same boat ride through the countries of the world but the ride’s original soundtrack is mixed with “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls”.  Listen for the mermaids in the South Seas section of the ride – they sing their own holiday version of “Jingle Shells”.

As you ride the “It’s A Small World Holiday” attraction be prepared for sounds, sights and even smells.  In the European sections of the ride there are the wonderful smells of freshly cut pine and sweet peppermint candy canes.  Just before the South Seas section there are magical bubbles and look for the plate of fish left out for Santa by Ariel and her under sea friends.  In the attraction’s final scene they recently added 14 foot sparkling snowmen, surrounded by twirling snowflakes and holding a “Happy Holidays” sign sculpted out of “ice” that magically changes color.


Since 2001, the “Haunted Mansion” in New Orleans Square had received a holiday overlay inspired by Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” movie.  The attraction is closed for two weeks in September as the Technical Service Cast Members convert the ride into the “Haunted Mansion Holiday”.  The overlay features Jack Skellington who brings his creepy friends from Halloween Town to the mansion with hundred’s of evil Christmas presents and decorations. The ride becomes a twisted blend of Christmas with a Halloween style!  The “Haunted Mansion” attraction is reopened in late September is shown through January.

To combine both holidays, the outside the “Haunted Mansion” it is decorated with jack-o-lanterns and Christmas decorations.  On the roof is Jack Skellinton’s coffin sleigh.  The portraits in both the stretching room and the portrait hall have been replaced with Christmas scenes that turn into scary scenes inspired by “The Nightmare Before Christmas” movie.  Instead of the black crows that appear in different rooms of the mansion there is a Vampire Teddy.  As the “doom buggies” move into the ballroom, the ghosts are still there but the table is now set for a Christmas party and there is a large gingerbread (or should I say gingerdread) house which the Imagineers change every year.  As the ride proceeds into the attic the decorations have been replaced with creepy presents and toys.  A huge snake seems to travel across the entire room holding a “naughty and nice list”.  At the graveyard gate instead of the the wide-eyed caregiver and the shaking dog, there is now Jack dressed as “Sandy Claws” and his dog, Zero.  The graveyard is covered with snow the iconic spiral hill featured in the movie with falling snowflakes instead of ghosts rising.  As the “doom buggies”  enter the crypt, instead of the three hitchhiking ghosts there is Oogie Boogie who bids a final goodbye and at the end of the ride as guests exit up the escalator there is a tiny version of Sally who tells everyone to hurry back!


Located at the Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland during the holiday season is “Santa’s Holly Jolly Jamboree”.  This is where Santa and Mrs. Claus are celebrating a western style Christmas.  It is a great opportunity to get that photo with Santa and also a chance to get one with the very camera shy Mrs. Claus.  Then walk over to the corral where there are several live reindeer for everyone to see.  This area in Frontierland is a fun place to bring the children for crafts, games and music!



In 2000, Disneyland created the “Believe … There’s Magic in the Stars” fireworks show.  It proved so popular with their guests that Disney decided to create a holiday version.  “Believe … In Holiday Magic” fireworks show runs over 13 minutes and includes various Christmas songs.  At the conclusion of the show, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is beautifully lighted with sparkling icicles but the best part is with the aid of cleverly hidden machines it actually snows on Main Street! (also at the Small World and Fantastmic fireworks viewing areas)  It is the perfect end to a holiday visit to Disneyland!

The photo at the right shows my son with Goofy Santa.   In 1991, we stayed at a nearby hotel in Anaheim and went to Disneyland on Christmas morning and it was a once in a lifetime experience!  There were almost no crowds until the afternoon and we had a wonderful time.

TIP: When planning a trip to Disneyland during the holiday season, be prepared for large crowds.  The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of the busiest times at the park.

Be sure at check ahead of time for current park hours and other important information such as parade and fireworks showtimes at

For a wonderful idea that brings a little Disney into a home at Christmas time, please check out this month’s Craft post Christmas Wreaths.  For ideas on displaying a Disney collection throughout the year, please check out the Decor post Disney Memorabilia Collection.