The Halloween decorations have been packed away and the holiday decor is just being unveiled at the Happiest Place on Earth. As much as I adore Halloweentime at Disneyland, the Christmas holiday season is perhaps even more magical. My family has been able to make quite a few trips to experience the Holidays at Disneyland the last several years, and I’m excited to watch what Disneyland has in store for this year.
The 2016 holiday celebrations brought back a lot of the classics after a unique 2015 holiday season that overlapped with Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. Many more of those same classics are back for 2017 again. But Disney is also always innovating, and there are going to be quite a few new offerings for Disneyland’s 2017 holiday season to note and include in your plans.
Here’s what you need to know before you go to Disneyland in November and December 2017.
When Are the Holidays at Disneyland?
The Disneyland holiday season in 2017 officially runs from November 10, 2017 to January 7, 2018. This is the second year in a row that the celebration kicked off in time for the Veterans Day holiday, so perhaps this will be a trend. (If you are reading this in subsequent years where the dates fall differently, note that early birds need not fear: most of the decorations go up even before the official opening date of the holidays at Disneyland. Veterans Day visitors are almost always able to see everything decked out in close to full holiday decor.)
What to Do: Holiday Ride Overlays
Disneyland has had three special ride overlays for the holiday season in previous years. Sadly, one of these favorites, the Jingle Cruise, has been retired in 2017. I must admit that I will miss the corny fruitcake cokes.
But never fear – the other two ride overlays (which admittedly are more popular) are making a return this year, including:
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Jack Skellington and his Nightmare Before Christmas pals take over the Mansion with their version of Halloween and Christmas mixed together. Haunted Mansion Holiday is a continuation of the overlay already in place from the Halloween season, so it’s already ready to for early November visitors. Haunted Mansion Holiday is offering Fastpass again as in previous years, so plan accordingly. The new Disneyland MaxPass may well be a smart investment if you want to avoid the long trek through a busy New Orleans Square to the distribution kiosks.
“it’s a small world” Holiday
Inside, Christmas lights and decorations adorn every room and the children sing Christmas carols in a medley with the traditional “it’s a small world” song. The facade of this classic Disney ride is decorated with thousands of twinkling lights, so don’t miss it at night. In my opinion, the holiday version is better than the original! It’s a small world closes for a brief period in late October and early November to set up the overlay. This year the closure is scheduled to extend until the official opening day of the 2017 holiday season on November 10.
Two special changes of note about this attraction in 2017. First, 2017 will be the first year that it’s a small world Holiday offers Fastpass! It will be available with both MaxPass as well as the standard digital Fastpass system with a distribution point near the Matterhorn. The addition of Fastpass will likely lead to drastic changes in the standby lines for 2017 (likely making them longer). I’d recommend riding it early if you aren’t going to get a Fastpass for it.
Second, this ride overlay is going to stay open even longer than normal into 2018. Usually, the holiday overlay closes as soon as the official season comes to a close, but it is slated to stay open through January 21, 2018. I suspect this may be due to the fact that Disneyland is planning a number of closures of other attractions in early January to make way for Pixar Fest and Pixar Pier.
What to Do: Shows and Parades
The parades and shows are going to include several of the classics that have been going strong at Disneyland for years. Returning is “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade which runs in the daytime in Disneyland park. Parade ¡Viva Navidad! in California Adventure is also back in 2017. It is part of an expanded celebration that debuted in 2016, Festival of the Holidays, which is also making a return (more on that below).
Disneyland has had special holiday versions of its popular World of Color shows the past several years. This year will mark the second year of “World of Color – Season of Light.” Guests wanting prime viewing areas should definitely grab Fastpasses or consider a dinner package to get the very best vantage point. I’m not much of a fan of shows, but World of Color is dazzling and worth making a point to see.
Over in Disneyland park, the well-loved fireworks show “Believe … in Holiday Magic” is back for another year. There will not be an night time parade this year in Disneyland park (last year Paint the Night had a limited run), so plan accordingly.
Festival of the Holidays
Last year’s debut of Festival of the Holidays was a resounding success, so it is back for another year in Disney California Adventure. Festival of the Holidays celebrates diverse cultures from around the world, with musical performances, crafts, and dancing (see Disney Tourist Blog’s Complete Festival of the Holidays Guide). There will be plenty of music, including new Holiday Sunset Concerts. Princess Elena of Avalor will be around for meet and greets. The event culminates in a celebration of Three Kings Day in early January.
The other the big draw for this festival is the food. Food and Wine and Flower and Garden Festival lovers will enjoy a new holiday spin on that same tradition: the Festive Foods Marketplace. The marketplace will feature a dozen booths with holiday treats and drinks, including several specialities new for this year.
Photos with Santa
What holiday outing is complete without a chance to see the big man himself? You can sit on Santa’s knee in both parks this year, so he’s always available even if you don’t have park hopper tickets. In 2017, head to Critter Country in Disneyland park for a photo opp. In Disney California Adventure, he’s over at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. You can almost always find Photopass photographers at each location to get everyone in the holiday shot.
A huge part of the magic of the holidays at Disneyland is the decor. In Disneyland, the most unique decor undoubtedly goes to the Mardi Gras colors and themed Christmas decor in New Orleans Square. Always a favorite is the giant tree near the park entrance on Main Street, U.S.A. Finally, Sleeping Beauty castle decorated with a winter overlay that lights up at night is a spectacle to behold.
Over in Disney California Adventure, Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle get festive. But the crown jewel is in California Adventure in Cars Land. Neon and holiday lights combine for true holiday awe at night. Plus, the tire themed wreaths and decorations add a whimsical flair in keeping with the movie’s humor.
New in 2017: Cars Land Ride Overlays
Speaking of Cars Land…. after making Cars Land a big focus point during Halloween this year (with Haul-o-Ween), Disneyland is planning something extra special for Cars Land for Christmas too. Two rides are getting holiday overlays. Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree will become Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters transforms into Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl. Both will be set to new holiday music to help set the seasonal mood.
Tips & Tricks for the Holidays at Disneyland
1. Prepare for crowds: The Holiday season at Disneyland is always popular, so plan accordingly. If you are expecting to go on a crowded day, read up on my best line Disneyland avoidance tips and on things to do on a crowded Disneyland day. More than any other time of year, I’m guessing the brand new MaxPass system (which allows guests to book Fastpasses on their smartphone without running from ride to ride) is going to well worth it to avoid being held up in park choke points.
2. Don’t pay full price for your tickets: This tip is true all year round, but who couldn’t particularly use a little extra cash in your pocket around the holidays? The bottom line is that I don’t recommend buying your tickets from Disney. Why? You’ll pay full price! I have a partnership with the largest seller of Disneyland vacations, Get Away Today, where you can buy any multi-day tickets or Disneyland vacation packages at a discount. Use promo code TYKES10 for an extra $10 off all package stays of 2 nights or more.
3. Make time for shopping and a few treats: The merchandise at Disney is always pretty amazing, but Disney goes all out for holidays and special events. You can always find some special holiday gifts for Disney fans on your list. And it goes without saying that you’ll be tempted by at least a few of the holiday treats.
Want to celebrate the holidays in Florida instead? Luxe Recess has the scoop on Christmas at Walt Disney World and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
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