No theme park celebrates the holidays quite like Disneyland. Take a place that many people already find quite magical, decorate it with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights, and the holiday magic is sure to touch even the most Scrooge-like among us.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Disneyland as part of a hosted family blogger weekend. My family delved deeply into all the holiday offerings at Disneyland this year. We found Disneyland well worth a visit during the holidays for anyone who can schedule a quick trip this winter. And for the rest of you, start making plans for the holidays at Disneyland in 2015!
There are so many holiday offerings between the two parks (Disneyland and California Adventure) that seeing them all truly requires a full day visit without riding anything else. If you don’t visit Disneyland regularly, I would recommend a visit of more than a single day to experience the rest of Disneyland and California Adventure.
Lights, tinsel, ornaments, wreaths, and other holiday decorations adorn every lamppost, storefront, and attraction. The magnificent and enormous Christmas tree in the Main Street USA square dominates the landscape. Sleeping Beauty Castle is decorated with garland by day and breathtaking white lights at night. Over in California Adventure, Cars Land is a winter wonderland and decorations abound. Downtown Disney is even in on the action, with Olaf’s Ice Rink making a special holiday appearance.
The decorations are just the start. Disneyland has numerous holiday food offerings that tempted us more than once. The two parks also feature several parades and shows that are unique for the holidays. In addition, three of the regular rides within Disneyland park have been transformed with special holiday overlays.
But what if you don’t have time to experience it all? While you simply cannot go wrong with any of the offerings, some took our breath away a little more than others. And some were just ideally suited for young elementary age kids and toddlers. Here are my top three picks at Disneyland during the holidays for families with young kids. Don’t miss any of these if you visit with little ones this holiday season.
It’s a Small World Holiday
This attraction, created by Walt Disney for the World’s Fair in 1964, is truly a Disney classic. I happen to believe that It’s a Small World during the holidays, however, is even better than the original. The outside is adorned in 300,000 colored lights and each room on the inside is themed in lights and decorations befitting each country featured.
The ride is already a perfect way to introduce your young children to travel and different cultures. During the holidays, the decorations and lights make the allure of the multicultural message that much stronger. Every time we rode It’s a Small World (four times during the month of November alone!), our five year old asked about each country she saw. Meanwhile, our 13 month old was mesmerized by the lights. He sat perfectly still for the entire ride each time, giving us the baby sign for “more” when the cruise came to an end on his first ride. I suppose Disney magic translates at an early age.
Jingle Jangle Jamboree
(Editor’s Note for 2015: 2014 sadly proved to be the last year for the Jingle Jangle Jamboree, as Big Thunder Ranch is closing to make way for Star Wars Land. Thanks for the memories!)
Hidden in the back of Frontierland next to Big Thunder Ranch is Jingle Jangle Jamboree, a sprawling tent with numerous holiday activities. Santa and Mrs. Claus have set up shop for visits and photos, and a special western-themed holiday show runs several times a day on the stage. Children can also purchase a Christmas cookie-decorating kit ($6) and sit on the benches to decorate and enjoy a treat. Chip, Dale, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy roam the cookie decorating and arts and crafts tables for photo opportunities.
With all the visiting characters, Jingle Jangle Jamboree rivals a character dining experience (but without the cost!). Since it is located in the very back of the park, many visitors don’t discover the space, meaning that the crowds are quite reasonable. My family found it to be the perfect escape on a busy weekend afternoon. The kids both really enjoyed themselves, and my husband and I couldn’t stop laughing at the antics of an especially hilarious Pluto, who chased our jubilant toddling son around.
World of Color Winter Dreams
As someone who prefers Disneyland rides over shows and parades, I must admit that I’ve never seen a complete World of Color show at California Adventure before this trip. I had no idea what I was missing! World of Color is a show that displays film projections on a screen created by enormous spouts of spraying water.
This year, Disneyland has a special edition of World of Color for the holidays, Winter Dreams. If you have young Frozen fans in your family (who doesn’t?), this show doesn’t disappoint. Olaf hosts the show, which includes several songs from Frozen as well as a character-filled rendition of the Nutcracker. It put everyone in our family in the Christmas spirit.
The show times can be a bit late for the little ones (the early show usually starts at 9:00 pm), but World of Color Winter Dreams is worth missing bedtime. Be sure to grab a Fastpass in the morning to secure a good viewing location (World of Color Fastpasses are not connected to other Fastpasses in either park, so getting them won’t slow you down in securing Fastpasses for other rides).
Disclosure: Disneyland graciously hosted my family for three days and two nights at a family blogger weekend to showcase all the Disneyland holiday offerings. My family also took a trip to Disneyland at our own expense two weeks earlier where we previewed many of these attractions as well. As always, all opinions are my own.
Can’t get enough of Disney during the holidays? Check out my Pinterest board full of Disney holiday travel tips, decorations, recipes, and inspiration: