Is it your holiday wish to celebrate Christmas at Disney California Adventure park? I’m sharing my family tips for making the season bright this Christmas at Disney California Adventure. Get all the best advice on dining and entertainment for Festival of Holidays and where to find Santa. It’s Christmas in Cars Land with fantastic decor and fun ride overlays. And of course World of Color-Seasons of Light and character meet n’ greets.
There are so many seasonal highlights happening this holiday that you’ll need several days to see and do it all! 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
- World of Color – Seasons of Light
- Anna & Elsa Frozen 2
- Santa’s Holiday Visit
- Mickey’s Happy Holidays
Seasonal Decor for Christmas at 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.
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 Photopass photographers.
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 Holiday Decor 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”. 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”.
Disney Festival of Holidays
Returning 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. 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 12 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.
For example, 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 Shepard’s Upside-Down Pie). Brews & Bites is where you’ll find the largest beer selection. I’m loving all the Mickey shaped foods!
The rich and hearty offerings from the kiosks are served in small portions. These include a turkey and stuffing tamale with cranberry relish and macaroni and cheese with holiday stuffing crumbles. And my favorite, beef pot roast on a potato roll with horseradish cream…yum! 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. Read more of the budgeting tips for taking on the Festival of Holidays With Kids and whether the Sip & Savor Pass is worth it for your family.
More Festival of Holidays Foods and Treats
Desserts at the Festive Food Marketplace kiosks are more reasonably priced. If you don’t purchase a Sip & Savor Pass, consider buying a few sweet treats to share. The Gingerbread Mickey Cookie, Churro Yule Log and Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Macaron 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 Bourbon Cranberry Cocktail, Cran-Blackberry Mimosa or Vanilla Pear 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 Warm Peppermint Chocolate Float and Navidad Punch.
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. Arrive early in the day with your appetite ready to avoid the crowds!
In addition to the Festival Foods Marketplace, you’ll find seasonal specials at other food locations in the park. Paradise Garden Grill dining has Latin flair including pozole, street tacos and torta al pastor. There’s also a loaded latke at Smokejumpers Grill, pumpkin soup at Pacific Wharf Cafe and a pecan pie churro at Willie’s Churro Cart (among others).
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 mojiganga puppets are incredible!
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.
Guests can also meet and greet with many of the characters in the Paradise Garden area. Several times a day Princess Elena of Avalor (of the namesake television show on the Disney channel) greets children for photos and autographs. Other characters will include Mickey, Minnie, The Three Caballeros, Chip n’ Dale, Goofy, and the Country Bears.
From January 3rd-6th, 2020, 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 harmony of The Sound, an acappella group that sings R&B-style holiday music. 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. Mostly Kosher also returns this year with a Hanukkah spin to their music.
The Holiday Sunset Concerts will include high energy bands on alternating nights. Phat Cat Swinger plays Wed, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. *NEW FOR 2019* The Suffragettes take the stage Sunday, Monday & Tuesday.
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.
Save money on your Christmas Disney California Adventure vacation with these additional savings from my travel partner Get Away Today. Use code REWRITTEN on ticket/hotel packages 2+ nights for an extra $10 off savings.
Christmas at Disney California Adventure Character Greetings
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. They 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.
Anna and Elsa
With the new Frozen 2 movie release, there’s bound to be a resurgence in the popularity of Anna and Elsa. As usual, they are found inside the Disney Animation building in Hollywood Land. The room will take on a wintry feel on the screens inside the waiting area. Guests will also find the Frozen gang on stage for the live musical show, “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion.”
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. It’s a great idea to purchase Maxpass for at least one member of your party to get those complimentary photo downloads.
*NEW IN 2019* Mickey’s Happy Holidays
“Mickey’s Happy Holidays” is an all new 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 new Festival of Holidays outfits. The rarely seen Country Bears and Pixar Characters will appear in the show as well.
*RETURNING IN 2019* World of Color-Season of Light
After a hiatus, the World of Color-Season of Light returns. 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 a FASTPASS or special dining package! The only way you’ll have a seat is if you book a World of Color Dessert Package. 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!
Spending the holidays at the Disneyland park during the holidays? Be sure to read the must-do Christmas at Disneyland tips.
This post originally published November 16th, 2014 and has been updated.