Disneyland Resort celebrates the holidays in a festive style that is nothing short of magical. Guests experienced the winter wonderland in 2019, but as you know, all celebrations were canceled in 2020 due to the park’s closure. This year in 2021, Disneyland Resort’s holiday celebrations are back and better than ever, and will be running from November 12, 2021, through January 9, 2022. 

Be sure to check the Disneyland Resort calendar to see what’s happening during your visit. Here is why you need to go during the holidays.

See also: How to Buy Discounted Disneyland Tickets

You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.

1. Special Holiday Desserts

This Peppermint Shake topped with whipped cream and chocolate creme cookies can be found at Schmoozies! at Disney California Adventure Park throughout the holiday season. (David Nguyen/Disneyland Resort)

Walking around Disneyland Resort all day burns a ton of calories (right?) so go ahead and treat yourself to the many seasonal desserts.

New treats include a sugar cookie churro but rest assured that old favorites are returning, too. Look out for Micky snowman apple, eggnog latte cheesecake, hot chocolate beignets, gingerbread funnel cake fries, and holiday dinner pizza, to name a few treats off of a very long list.

Of course, don’t forget about the classic Gingerbread Shingles if you can find them.

Disneyland's gingerbread shingles recipe

Grab the recipe for Disneyland Resort’s gingerbread shingles.

2. Festive Decorations

Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle with holiday decorations reflected on the water.
The Disneyland Resort transforms into the Merriest Place on Earth for the holiday season. Among the merriment at Disneyland Park, Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle shines brightly with the glow of the shimmering icicles and twinkling lights, enchanting guests from day to night. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

The mood is even more elevated at Disneyland Resort during the holiday season with thousands upon thousands of festive decorations.

The 60-foot tall Christmas tree on Main Street, U.S.A. alone boasts nearly 1,800 ornaments and is the perfect spot to take a classic family photo. As you walk down Main Street, you will also experience magical snowfall and colorful projections happening all around you. 

Nearly 10,000 poinsettia and 10,000 cyclamen plants also decorate the Disneyland Resort for the holiday season.

Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle is also illuminated each night with more than 80,000 twinkling lights, wreaths, sparkling icicles, and shimmering snow-capped turrets. 

To say they go big is an understatement.

3. Favorite Rides Change Themes

Located in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park is the Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland Resort
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

The Haunted Mansion becomes a world where two holidays collide: Christmas and Halloween. It’s inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I thought it was much less “scary” than usual.

"its a small world" is decked out for the holidays!

The children of “it’s a small world” Holiday celebrate their own holiday traditions throughout the ride where three immersive scents fill the air (cherry blossoms from Asia, cinnamon from South America, and coconut in the South Seas) in addition to pine and peppermint candy scents in the European scenes.

Located in Fantasyland at Disneyland Park, this ride is normally a feast for the senses and incorporates holiday tunes and décor in a manner that pleases all ages.

4. “Believe… In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular

Fireworks light up the sky over Sleeping Beauty's Castle during Disneyland holiday events.
Among the merriment, in the evening at Disneyland Park, the spectacular “Believe … in Holiday Magic” fireworks spectacular and its magical snowfall finale create lasting holiday memories for guests. (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

End a festive evening at Disneyland with a pyrotechnical spectacle over Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle at 9 p.m. on select nights from November 12, 2021, to January 9, 2022 (weather permitting). Catch a little snowfall just prior at “it’s a small world.”

4. Cars Land Holiday Transformation

Cars Land holiday decorations at Disney's California Adventure park
Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

Cars Land gets into the holiday spirit. Snowflakes hang above Route 66, a “snow car” greets guests at the entrance of Route 66, and holiday attractions are decked out for the season including Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl including some catchy holiday tunes sung by both characters.

5. Disney Festival of Holidays

Mickey and Minnie dance with friends during the Mickey's Happy Holidays show.
Among the merriment at Disney California Adventure Park, guests can dance and sing along during the all-new character celebration, “Mickey’s Happy Holidays.” (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Disney Festival of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure park involves music, food, and fun that celebrates meaningful traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa and Three Kings’ Day.

Mickey’s Happy Holidays runs twice-daily with show moments at Paradise Gardens Park and Carthay Circle. Favorite Disney and Pixar characters join Micky to dance along to the beats of toy drummers. Of course, they’re all decked out in their holiday best.

The Suffragettes will perform holiday hits at Holiday Sunset Concerts in the evenings at the Palisades Stage.

Festival Foods Marketplace has multiple marketplace locations offering holiday comfort dishes that span cultures and family traditions. To get the most out of this event, guests can also purchase the Sip and Savor Pass, which includes 8 entitlement tabs that can be redeemed for select food and nonalcoholic drinks at the Festival Foods Marketplace. Younger guests can also enjoy craft stations and cookie decorating kits to add to their festive fun at Disney California Adventure. 

Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party includes Folklorico and samba dancers, live musicians, a dash of Disney magic, and much more. Located at Paradise Gardens Park, this special event takes place from November 12 – December 25, 2021. 

Later in the holiday season, guests will also experience the unveiling of the newly featured Mirabel from the upcoming film “Encanto.”

6. A Christmas Fantasy Parade

Santa Claus on top of a decorated holiday float in the "A Christmas Fantasy" parade.
Among the merriment at Disneyland Park, Mickey, Minnie, Disney Princesses and Santa celebrate the season in “A Christmas Fantasy” parade, a daily procession with floats, music and marching “tin soldiers.” (Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort)

Twice a day (3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.), everyone’s favorite characters dress for the season and ride floats from “it’s a small world” to Main Street, U.S.A.

The 40-minute parade is one of the longest-running parades at the Disneyland Resort, featuring over 100 performers.

The highlight for my daughter when she was younger was the Frozen float featuring Anna and Elsa. Other floats showcase Mickey and Minnie working with Chip ‘n Dale to get letters to Santa and the Disney Princesses dancing and curtsying at the Candlelight Ball.

The parade ends with everyone’s favorite jolly gift-bearer, Santa Claus. 

For best viewing, be sure to arrive early.

8. Disney Merriest Nights

Christmas tree on Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. lit up at night.
Mickey Mouse and his friends will host Disney Merriest Nites, the first after-hours holiday party at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, on five select nights from Nov. 11-Dec. 9, 2021. Tickets for Disney Merriest Nites go on sale Sept. 14, 2021 on Disneyland.com and the Disneyland app. (Disneyland Resort)

For the first time, Disneyland is introducing Disney Merriest Nites, which includes after-hours events at Disneyland Park on select nights in November and December 2021. Guests are invited to arrive early, starting at 5 p.m. to explore the park before the party.

Aside from the party events, guests can explore specially themed attractions include the “it’s a small world” Holiday and the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Don’t miss out on the specialty holiday treats, the event merchandise, the Christmas Fantasy Parade, and the festive photo opportunities. 

Mickey Mouse has invited many of his friends to host 6 themed parties which include:

  • Victorian-Themed Party: Located on Main Street, U.S.A, this party will be hosted by Mickey Mouse himself and will include snowy moments, jolly carolers, and some holiday favorites
  • Feliz Navidad Party: Located in Frontierland, this party will be hosted by Miguel from “Coco” and will include music, dancing, and more
  • New Orleans Holiday: Naturally located in New Orleans Square, this celebration will be hosted by Tiana and will be bursting with beads, beignets, and delightful holiday fun
  • Frozen-Themed Party: Located in Fantasyland, this party will be hosted by Elsa and will feature heartwarming cheer and some icy adventures
  • Tropical Party: Hosted by Lilo, this party will take place in Adventureland and will include lots of tropical flair, along with Lilo’s sidekick, Stitch 
  • Tomorrowland Party: Join Buzz Lightyear in this futuristic party in Tomorrowland, with a live DJ and much more

9. Santa’s Holiday Visit

Beginning on November 12, 2021, kids of all ages will have the opportunity to mingle with Santa Claus, along with his secret elves, on Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Redwood Creek Challenge Trail will also include a transformed, holiday-themed playground, seasonal games, and outdoor activities.

Special activity maps will be available to help you locate all of the elfish games on the trail. To take pictures with Santa, make sure to stop by Ahwahnee Camp Circle near the trail’s entrance. This attraction will be available until December 24. 

10. Buena Vista Tree Lighting

Visitors of Disney California Adventure can experience the magical Buena Vista Street Holiday Tree lighting every day from November 12, 2021, to January 9, 2022.

Head over to Elias & Co, to watch as the monumental tree twinkles to life with hundreds of ornaments, glistening garland, and colored lights. The tree lighting will take place every day at 5:30 p.m.

11. Holiday Gifts

Christmas ornaments on display inside Plaza Point, Disneyland's new holiday store.
Plaza Point is an all-new holiday store on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park. (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

While Disney parks are always good places to buy gifts for the Disney fan in your life, the holiday season is particularly remarkable should you want a holiday keepsake.

Thousands of Christmas ornaments, holiday-themed Mickey and Minnie Mouse ears and some other options that can only be purchased during the holiday season stock the shelves (though they do seem to have some ornaments year-round).

You can also check out their online store, which features tons of holiday goodies. But, there’s a new holiday store on Main Street U.S.A. called Plaza Point. Its merchandise will change seasonally to showcase other holidays like Chinese New Year, Easter, Halloween and others.

12. The Hotels Are Decked Out, Too

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel during the holidays
Disney Grand Californian’s lobby from our last Christmastime visit.

Book a Disneyland Resort hotel during the holiday season. Our top pick is Disney’s Grand Californian Resort and Spa which has the most beautiful Christmas tree and a 7-foot-tall gingerbread house in the lobby made from 600 lbs of powdered sugar, 250 lbs of fondant, and one pound of pixie dust!

This luxury hotel was created in a beautiful craftsman style and has its own entrance to Disney California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney. It takes about 5 minutes to walk to Disneyland Park.

Disneyland Hotel’s holiday decorations are themed to “it’s a small world” Holiday while Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel features an underwater holiday them.

Plus, it’s nice to have a nearby place to rest in the late afternoon when kids get tired.

13. You Can Buy Discount Disneyland Tickets

While 1-Day Disneyland tickets are best bought through Disneyland Resort, those considering longer visits can save through authorized ticket sellers like aRes Travel who always has discounted pricing on Park Hopper and 1-Park tickets. Save now.

What is your favorite thing about Disneyland Resort during the holidays

Top photo credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

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Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Disneyland during the holidays is awesome! We visited last year for the holidays and were there for Halloween a few weeks ago.

    Now trying to convince my wife we need to go again for the holidays!

  2. Disneyland at Christmas is amazing. This will be our second trip during this season and CAN’T wait. Even the kids said they enjoyed it better than when we went during the summer! All the lights and decorations can’t be beat!!