It’s the merriest time of the year at Disneyland, where the “happiest place on earth” has transformed into a shimmering, magical winter wonderland for the remainder of 2021.
The Holidays at the Disneyland Resort officially kicked off last Friday, coming back for the first time in nearly two years since last year’s absence due to the COVID-related closure. The celebration will continue through Jan. 9, 2022.
During that time, fans will once again get to watch the seasonal fireworks spectacular and parade at Disneyland, and partake in the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park.
Among the fan favorites returning this year are the holiday fireworks spectacular, the Christmas Fantasy Parade, the Festival of Holidays and “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!”
There’s also a new after-hours holiday party taking place on six different nights at Disneyland during November and December, although tickets for it have already sold out.
Here’s a look of what you can expect at the resort this holiday season.
“Grim grinning ghosts come out do socialize” … with the Nightmare Before Christmas crew as two holidays collide in the always popular Haunted Mansion Holiday ride.
The lone holddover from the resort’s Halloween Time continues through the holidays with Jack Skellington, Sally, Zero and Oogie Boogie. Unfortunately for those who prefer this Halloween/Christmas take on the attraction, the end of Disney’s FastPass system means a likely long wait to get seated on a “Black Christmas Sleigh,” especially on more crowded days.
At Disneyland, the festive rides should at some point be joined by the holiday version of “It’s a small world,” although it’s still unclear when exactly the flumes will be in operation again. The reopening of the attraction has been delayed indefinitely due to flooding that affected the ride’s machinery last Wednesday.
Across the way at California Adventure, both holiday-themed rides happen to be at the suitably decked-out Cars Land: Mater’s Jingle Jamboree and Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl.
Those looking to indulge their sweet tooth or nosh on a holiday favorite should have no problem finding something that suits their taste buds.
Disney’s always creative approach to tasty (and photograph-worthy) food and drinks shines again during the holidays, offering an array of seasonal foods, desserts and beverages (with and without alcohol) once more.
A highlight is the Festive Foods Marketplace at California Adventure, which offers a guests the opportunity to sample smaller-sized portions of different cuisines and libations from around the globe. The marketplace is made up of eight booths, each with its own take on holiday traditions and classics (luckily, you can order any marketplace item — provided it hasn’t run out for the day — at any booth, meaning you don’t have to wait in line at each one and can pick from the shortest).
With so many options to choose from, visitors who plan on eating and drinking their way through the festival may want to consider purchasing the Sip and Savor Pass, which can actually end up saving them money. That option provides eight tabs that can be redeemed for select food and non-alcoholic beverages at the marketplace, plus certain special-sized items at other eateries in California Adventure Park (the pass itself comes with a two-sided menu, making it easy to determine what the tabs can be used for in advance).
More holiday traditions return
Parades, fireworks and other shows always tend to draw large crowds at both theme parks, with some parkgoers grabbing coveted front-row spots well beforehand — particularly for the fireworks shows and parades, the latter of which typically has two viewings during the day.
At Disneyland, the lineup includes A Christmas Fantasy Parade and “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks and its magical “snowfall” ending. At California Adventure Park, fans can partake in the “Disney ¡Viva Navidad!” celebration at Paradise Gardens Park near Pixar Pier, as well as other entertainment throughout the park that is part of the Festival of Holidays.
However, two of the park’s popular nighttime, waterfront attractions that won’t be back in time for the holidays are the special effects and pyrotechnic-filled shows World of Color and Fantasmic. Neither has started back up again since the Disneyland Resort began its phased reopening back in April, and in fact, Paradise Bay is currently completely drained.
Disney Merriest Nights
Tickets for this brand new after-hours event went on sale back in September and, not surprisingly, sold out before the first of five dates even took place.
The concept of “Merriest Nights” is that there are six themed parties featuring various Disney characters in different areas of the park: There is the Victorian-Themed Party on Main Street; the Feliz Navidad Party in Frontierland; the New Orleans Holiday in New Orleans Square; the Frozen-Themed Party in Fantasyland; the Tropical Party in Adventureland; and the Tomorrowland Party in Tomorrowland.
Like Disney’s Halloween party event — now the Oogie Boogie Bash at California Adventure Park — a limited number of tickets were sold, so those in attendance will deal with smaller crowds and shorter lines for rides (though Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Critter Country And Mickey’s Toontown will be closed off to guests).
The first date has already passed, but for those who plan to visit Disneyland on Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 7, or Dec. 9, you should know that the park closes early for the event, which will be held from 8 p.m. until midnight.
The good news for those who like parking at the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals Parking Structures, but don’t like the walk over to the theme parks: tram service is finally returning.
The bad news for those going specifically for the holidays: tram service isn’t expected to return until early next year, according to the Orange County Register.
To avoid the long walk, another parking option is the Toy Story lot, which currently features bus service that drops visitors off near the Disneyland Esplanade.