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Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disney California Adventure Park (2023)

Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disney California Adventure Park (2023)


Is it your holiday wish to celebrate Christmas at Disney California Adventure park? I’m sharing top tips for making the season bright this season at Disney California Adventure. Get all the best advice on celebrating the holidays at Disneyland this year!

Photo credit: Disney PhotoPass

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This post originally published November 16th, 2014 and has been updated and republished with a new date.

Christmas at Disney California Adventure Park This Year

The holiday season returns to the Disneyland Resort for winter 2023. There are so many highlights happening this Christmas season that you’ll need several days to see and do it all!

This article will cover what you’ll find for dining and music during Festival of Holidays and where to meet with Santa.

Get the details on visiting Christmas in Cars Land with fantastic decor and fun ride overlays. And of course all the best tips for viewing !Viva Navidad! and where to go for the most popular character meet n’ greets.

Nibbling on her candy cane from Santa

This article will continue to be updated as details of the Disneyland Holidays are released. These are the key marks to hit during Christmas at Disney California Adventure:

  • Seasonal Decorations & photo ops with Disney PhotoPass photographers
  • Cars Land ride overlays
  • Disney Festival of Holidays
  • Festival Foods Marketplace
  • !Viva Navidad!
  • Live Entertainment including music and dancing
  • World of Color – Seasons of Light
  • Santa’s Holiday Visit at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail
  • Mickey’s Happy Holidays processional
Cars Land decor is can’t miss

Disneyland Changes You Need to Know

If it’s been a while since you’ve experienced the holiday season at Disneyland, there are a few important things to know.

  • First, Disneyland tickets are not currently being sold at the park gates. All Disneyland tickets must be purchased ahead of your visit, online sales only.
  • Second, reservations are required for all guests. Day reservations can only be booked via the Disneyland website.
  • Third, Fastpass and Maxpass are no longer. Disney Genie+ is the new app plan to skip the regular lines. If you don’t plan on purchasing the $25+ per person, per day Disney Genie+, then stand-by lines are how you’ll experience the park.

There are more details to know, including which rides offer paid Lightning Lane to line-cut and why mobile ordering is important. To find out more about the changes happening in the theme parks, read up about going to Disneyland this year.

Top Questions About Christmas at Disney California Adventure

What Date is Disney California Adventure Decorated for Christmas?

The holiday season at Disney California Adventure Park runs from November 10th, 2023 until January 7th, 2024.

Do you need a reservation for Christmas at Disney California Adventure?

Reservations and park tickets are a must, all-year round. Theme park tickets are no longer sold at the front gates. Purchase Disneyland tickets ahead of time then make a valid day reservation, booked on the Disneyland website in advance.

DISCOUNT DISNEYLAND TICKETS – My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.

Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through January 12th, 2025. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today today and lock in the best pricing of the year.

When you’re ready to book your Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package (when booking 2+ nights with two or more tickets).

Seasonal Decor for Christmas at Disney California Adventure

Just like at Disneyland park across the esplanade, the Christmas decorations at Disney California Adventure should not be missed!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort is simply magical! Here are the top tips on maximizing your Christmas at Disneyland vacation.
Retro-themed holiday decor inside Disney California Adventure park.

As guests stroll down the entrance on Buena Vista Street, you can’t miss the whimsical 1920s-appropriate garland and vintage-style ornaments. Towering over Carthay Circle is a stunning 50-foot Christmas tree. Return in the evening for a tree-lighting. This happens at 5 pm, accompanied by songs from carolers.

Photo Credit: Disney PhotoPass

The Christmas decor carries over into Hollywood Land, Grizzly Peak, Pacific Wharf and Paradise Gardens Park. Each location has it’s own distinctive look, inspired by the theme of the Land. Naturally there are plenty of great holiday photo-ops so watch out for Disney PhotoPass photographers. Guests can find the location of PhotoPass by using the Disneyland app feature.

All these great things during Christmas at Disney California Adventure can mean crowds and you’ll want to come prepared. Read more tips on holidays at Disneyland tips for busy days.

Cars Land hubcap tree

Cars Land Holiday Decorations and Ride Overlays

One can’t miss spot during Christmas at Disney California Adventure is Cars Land. All of Route 66 is decorated for the season, with automotive inspired touches. Just outside the entrance to the Cars Land area, take your photo with a “snowcar”.

Looking for all the tips on meeting characters at Disneyland during the holiday season? I'm sharing where to find Mickey & Minnie, other Disney characters dressed for Christmas and where to find Santa at Disneyland! These time saving tips will guide you on how to meet n' greet, parade tips to see Disney characters in winter wear and where to get souvenir autographs at the Disneyland resort in California.
Take a photo with a Snow Car at the entrance to Cars Land

Draped over Route 66 are garlands of auto filters and snowflakes made from wrenches. Each of the shops and restaurants along the route feature holiday décor that reflects the personality of the “Cars” character who lives there.

Don’t you love the Christmas tree, glowing with the shine of new hub-caps! Even Stanley has the holiday spirit and is wearing a Santa hat.

Cars Land also features the only two ride overlays during Christmas at Disney California Adventure park. Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl (Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters) and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree (Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree) each feature different holiday songs with a twist, like “Radiator Rockin’ Holiday,” and “We Wish You Season’s Speedings”.

Be sure to return to Cars Land after dark to see how the neon glows against these whimsical decorations!

Celebrating Christmas at the Disneyland Resort is simply magical! Here are the top tips on maximizing your Christmas at Disneyland vacation.
Cars Land seasonal decor is whimsical and unique.

What is the Disney Festival of Holidays?

Returning this year is the popular Disney Festival of Holidays, where guests can celebrate holidays from around the world at Disney California Adventure.

This seasonal event is included in the day’s admission and features live entertainment, complimentary crafts for kids and specialty foods for purchase. No extra purchase needs to be made to experience Festival of Holidays, unless you want to indulge in the dining.

The Paradise Gardens area at Disney California Adventure is where you’ll find all the Festival of Holidays events. Look for the marketplace kiosks selling food, stages for entertainment and craft tables set up for kids. There are also plenty of souvenir and shopping kiosks here as well.

Festival Foods Marketplace

A highlight of the event is the Festival Foods Marketplace, which offers snack-sized dishes from around the globe. The Festival Foods Marketplace kiosks serve up freshly prepared snacks and drinks. Each kiosk celebrates either a culture or tradition of the holidays.

Grab the Disney Festival of Holidays Tasting Passport at any kiosk. Use it to keep track of where to find certain dishes and get a stamp in the souvenir booklet.

This little booklet includes a map with details on all the food and drinks available for purchase during the Festival. If you have specific dining issues (milk or gluten insensitive, vegetarian or vegan), see the key next to each item or refer to the index in the back of the booklet.

This is a sampling of the Festive Foods Marketplace locations:

  • A Twist on Tradition offers twists on holiday classics.
  • Grandma’s Recipes serves up traditional treats that remind you of home (including a plant-based meatloaf with mashed potatoes).
  • Brews & Bites is where you’ll find the largest beer selection.
  • Making Spirits Bright has alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for the holidays, as well as a Mickey gingerbread cookie. Be on the lookout for all the Mickey shaped foods!
  • New For 2023 – Check back to see what newest kiosks are added to the festival marketplace.

The rich and hearty offerings from the kiosks are served in small portions. These include a Chicken Tikka Masala and Southern Mac ‘n Cheese.

These dishes are more “gourmet” than the usual park fare and the prices reflect that. A single appetizer-sized dish may cost upwards of $8, or similar to the cost of a quick service meal.

More Festival of Holidays Foods and Treats

Desserts at the Festive Food Marketplace kiosks are reasonably priced. If you don’t purchase a Sip & Savor Pass, consider buying a few sweet treats to share. The Gingerbread Mickey Cookie, Pumpkin Layered Cheesecake and Peppermint Bark Bread Pudding are delicious and adorable desserts.

My husband is always thrilled to see the variety of beer options available and treats himself to an IPA. There are also many wines and cocktails to choose from. Consider the Hot Buttered Rum, Tiramisu Yule Log Cocktail or Mistletoe Mule to get you into the spirit!

If you’re bringing the kids, there are plenty of great eats and treats for them as well. Just like during the Disney California Food & Wine Festival, there are kid-friendly choices on the menus. Non-alcoholic sips include a Santa’s Milk & Cookies Hot Cocoa and Cherry-Mango Punch.

The Navidad Punch with Simply Limeade, apple juice and pomegranante syrup. (Disneyland Resort)

Time Saving Tips for Festival Marketplace Dining

When eating from the Festival Marketplace, consider dining early in the day to take advantage of lighter crowds. Lines at the kiosks are much shorter when they open at 10:30 a.m. By nightfall, the queues will grow and guests will experience very long lines. Arrive early in the day with your appetite ready to avoid the crowds!

Here’s another time saving tip for dining in the Festival Marketplace. Purchase all of your dishes from the kiosk with the shortest line. This will allow you to bypass the long order line and walk straight to the pick up window. Keep your receipt in a safe place! You’ll need to show it to the cast member when picking up your foods from each kiosk.

Some of the beverages are available in a souvenir tumbler for just a few dollars more. This is a great option if you want a memento of your time celebrating at Festival of Holidays!

2018 Festival of Holidays souvenir cups

More Dining Tips for Christmas at Disney

In addition to the Festival Foods Marketplace, you’ll find seasonal specials at other food locations in the park. There are holiday foods and treats to satisfy the entire family.

Paradise Garden Grill dining has Latin flair including Chicken Tinga Arepa, Loaded Yucca Fries and Pozole Dip Torta. There’s also a maple bacon shake at Smokejumpers Grill, apple-bacon Atomic Pretzel at Pym Test Kitchen and a pumpkin pie churro at Cozy Cone (among others).

Find delicious gingerbread cookies, seasonal Rice Krispy treats and themed candied apples at Trolley Treats and Bing Bong’s Sweet Stuff. On a few select days during the season, guests may purchase a handmade candy cane. My friend Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth outlines how to get one of these coveted sweets!

Mobile ordering is the best way to quickly get ahold of festive foods during the busy holiday season. Access menus for quick service locations in the Disneyland app, then place mobile orders. You’ll be able to bypass the ordering lines and go straight to the mobile ordering window for pick-up!

Mobile ordering screenshot from Disneyland app

!Viva Navidad!

The Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, Panchito and José Carioca) host !Viva Navidad! This festive celebration includes mariachi and samba music, folklorico dancers and Mickey and Minnie in full Latin-American garb.

You can’t help but join in the lively street party, dancing and clapping along to the vibrant sounds. The party takes place several times a day in the Paradise Garden area of Disney California Adventure Park. The 12-foot-tall Santa and Mrs. Claus giant mojiganga puppets are incredible!

Looking for all the tips on meeting characters at Disneyland during the holiday season? I'm sharing where to find Mickey & Minnie, other Disney characters dressed for Christmas and where to find Santa at Disneyland! These time saving tips will guide you on how to meet n' greet, parade tips to see Disney characters in winter wear and where to get souvenir autographs at the Disneyland resort in California.
Santa appears in the !Viva Navidad! Street Party

I’ve seen this show several times and have a few recommendations for best viewing with kids:

  • Show up about 20 minutes early and stand in the area between the Silly Symphony Swings and Jumpin’ Jellyfish. This will put you front and center of the action and give you the best view of the characters.
  • Choose the shows that are earlier in the day to capture the full essence of this energetic show. By nightfall parts of this area are poorly lit and it may be difficult to see all of the aspects of the party. It will start getting dark around 5 pm. The section in the middle is much better lit if you do watch during the evening hours. 
These tips for Holidays at Disneyland will help you navigate crowds & enjoy the most magical winter vacation! #Disneyland
Viva Navidad!

Guests can also meet and greet with many of the characters in the Paradise Garden area. Several times a day Mirabel from Encanto greets guests for photos and autographs. Other characters may include Mickey, Minnie, The Three Caballeros, Chip n’ Dale, and Goofy.

In early January, the park celebrates the traditional Three Kings Day with displays, kids’ crafts and traditional sweets for sale.

Festival of Holidays Entertainment

Live performance groups entertain the crowds at several venues this holiday at Disney California Adventure park for the Festival of Holidays. During our previous visit we had the pleasure of dining in the Pacific Wharf area and listening to the pleasant musical entertainment.

Disney California Adventure park Festival of Holidays
  • Mariachi Divas is already a park favorite and will having you singing and dancing along with their bilingual songs.
  • Blue13 Dance Company offers vibrant dance routines that have guests moving right alongside them.
  • Phat Cat Swinger serves up energetic holiday favorites with a “big band” style.
  • The Mistletoes sings soulful R&B with Christmas and Kwanzaa songs.
  • Mostly Kosher also returns this year with a Hanukkah spin to their music.
  • Tina and the Sounds of Celebration! were a new addition in 2022.
Festival of Holidays Blue13 dance group

Love the music of Christmas at Disney California Adventure? Enjoy the sounds of the season with the Disney Festival of Holidays playlist, a specially-curated Apple Music® playlist within the Play Disney Parks app.

For the kids, there are stations near the food kiosks with complimentary children’s craft tables to create art or to color. There are several crafts available to please all ages from toddler-friendly ornaments to color to more complicated weaving crafts. Do one or do them all!

Consider dining in the Pacific Wharf area for lunch so you’ll be able to take in a show during your meal. We were able to see two acts while we dined and the groups had the kids up and dancing in front of the stage.

Check the Disneyland app or view signage for entertainment locations

Christmas at Disney California Adventure Character Greetings

In 2021, character greetings took place with favorite characters “distanced” from guests. Hugs, autographs and close encounters returned in 2022!

Looking for that perfect holiday card photo of the family with your favorite Disney characters at Christmas? There are many locations throughout the park to capture those memories. Be sure to use the Disneyland Parks app to get character meet n’ greet times.

Meeting with Goofy – Photo Credit: Disney PhotoPass

Characters aren’t always available immediately upon park opening, but it’s best to get to the location early. Popular Disney characters can be found in the Carthay Circle and Buena Vista Street area, along with PhotoPass photographers to catch the moment.

Mirabel from the film Encanto will be greeting fans in the Paradise Gardens Park area.

Merry Christmas from me and Daisy!

Meet Santa Claus for Christmas at Disney

As in years’ past, you’ll find Santa greeting friends inside the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Along with the usual meet n’ greet, the entire trail has been made over with holiday themed fun.

Set aside about an hour for exploring and additional time waiting in line for Santa. There are PhotoPass photographers here to capture memories. It’s a great idea to purchase a Disneyland ticket with Disney Genie+ for the day to access the complimentary photo downloads.

Photo Credit: Disney Photopass

Mickey’s Happy Holidays

Mickey’s Happy Holidays is a high-energy dance and music celebration. The show happens twice a day at both Paradise Gardens Park Obelisk and Carthay Circle, featuring the Holiday Toy Drummers.

Guests are invited to dance along with Minnie and Mickey, Chip n’ Dale, Goofy and Clarabelle, dressed in their Festival of Holidays outfits. Pixar Characters will appear in the show as well.

World of Color-Season of Light

After a hiatus in 2021, the World of Color-Season of Light returned in 2022 and will show again in 2023.

This nighttime holiday show at Disney California Adventure Park combines lights, beloved movie clips and Christmas music. Sprays of mist become the screen for projected animation of Disney and Pixar films in a winter-themed production.

Keep in mind the World of Color shows are standing room only, even if you have booked through the virtual queue portal or have a special dining package! The only way you’ll have a seat is if you book a World of Color Dessert Package.

Disneyland Splurges for Kids (and Money-Saving Splurges You MUST make!)
Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

If seeing the World of Color-Season of Light show is on your agenda, consider taking a mid-day break back at the hotel to rest up the family so you’ll have the stamina for a late evening show.

Also be sure to bring a jacket with you as being sprayed with mist on a chilly winter night may not be ideal. Consider that before choosing to stand in the front row!

Disneyland Christmas Time

For families with a Park Hopper Disneyland ticket, enhance your trip with a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth! Here’s what guests will find at the other theme park:

  • Favorite Disney characters meet ‘n greet on Main Street USA.
  • Without a Christmas parade at Disney California Adventure, your best bet is to watch A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland. The longtime traditional parade features marching toy soldiers and a great way to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse aboard parade floats!
  • it’s a small world holiday is a can’t miss, with the seasonal overlay that takes over both the interior and exterior of the classic attraction.
  • Jack Skellington continues his New Orleans Square takeover with Haunted Mansion Holiday, lasting from early September and through the holiday season.
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle is transformed into Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle each evening, with rousing music, sparkling icicles and enchanting snowfall.
  • Believe…In Holiday Magic fireworks spectacular on select nights.

Spending the holidays at the Disneyland park during the holidays? Be sure to read the must-do Christmas at Disneyland tips

More Holiday Theme Park Fun

Extend the wintertime enchantment into a full Southern California Christmas experience! These other SoCal destinations also offer winter season events:

  • Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood – Magic of Christmas nighttime show at Hogwarts Castle, Grinchmas with a Dr. Seuss inspired tree and other seasonal entertainment.
  • Knott’s Merry Farm at Knott’s Berry Farm – Incredible winter decorations across the entire park as well as a Snoopy themed ice skating show, Christmas crafts village and Santa’s Christmas cabin.
  • Holidays at LEGOLAND California – Guests may enjoy the 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree and life-size LEGO Santa and reindeer along with other fun characters to meet.
Celebrate the holidays at LEGOLAND in California with seasonal shows, treats and LEGO-sized Christmas touches around the park!

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