It’s that time of the year where most kids are back in school and the season is starting to change, so that means the holiday season is fast approaching. And at Disneyland that means its almost time for Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort which usually runs from mid-November to the first week of January and the park goes out for the holiday season. There is plenty to see and do during the holiday time from Sleeping Beauty’s Castle to It’s a Small World Holiday to giant Christmas Trees to Carsland Holiday to World of Color Winter Dreams. Here are some helpful tips/suggestions I use as my survival guide to Holidaytime at the Disneyland Resort.Disneyland Holiday time – Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
When and when not to go during Holiday Time at Disneyland resort?
Best time to visit during is either during the 2nd week of November/the week before Thanksgiving week or the first 2 weeks of December.
- Another good time to visit is on a rainy day as the park crowds tend to be lighter and you can survive the rain with a poncho, raincoat or even an umbrella. I have personally gone on a rainy December day and the rain wasn’t bad; it was just enough to clear out some of the crowds and the rain only lasted a little while so I was able to do some rides before the rain stopped and the crowds returned, so I would suggested staying if you don’t mind getting a little wet.
- Early mornings during a week day (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) typically is less crowded than any other time especially during school hours.
I would not recommend going during Thanksgiving week especially Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday as the parks is usually at max capacity these days. Same goes for the weekend before Christmas all the way through New Year’s Day, the park can and will be extremely packed running anywhere from 85% to max capacity. New Year’s Eve the park is typically at max capacity around Noon with limited new entry, so arrive early if you want to spend New Years in the park.
Max capacity is estimated to be around 85,000 for Disneyland and around 32,000 for California Adventure park.
Planning on going during Thanksgiving Day/weekend, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, here are a couple suggestions:
For the past few years, I have spent my Christmases at Disneyland even though the park is completely crazy with crowds upon crowds upon crowds of people inside and outside the park. Something about going on Christmas is extra special for my family so we don’t mind the crowds. But we do try to make the most out of our trip and here’s how.
- What I can suggest is to arrive as early as possible. I typically tried to arrive to the park entrance gates at least 30-45 minutes prior to the park opening, so I can get in as soon as the gates open and start with the rides I really want to ride as the park will get busier as the day progresses.
- Make an itinerary or at least a list of what you want to do. I always have a plan before I go in so I can optimize my time in the park wisely. Visit the Disneyland parks website for operating hours, park maps and entertainment schedule and make a list of what you really want to do while visiting the park. There is so much to see and do during the holidays at both parks and without a plan, it will be hard to accomplish everything you want to see. From the 2 Holiday themed rides – The Haunted Mansion Holiday and It’s A Small World Holiday, to parades, shows, characters, fireworks, to Santa Claus and his reindeer at Disneyland and Viva Navidad at California Adventures. Take time to sit out and make a list of what you want to do and see.
- Bring plenty of snacks and drinks. Just like any other trip bring the snack and drinks or lunch/dinner. The park is busy so I would avoid the typical meal times for lunch (around 11am-1pm) and dinner (5-7pm) as the quick service food lines are typically the longest and wait times at restaurants are even longer so if you don’t mind eating earlier or later in the day bring snacks to hold you over and save the time to ride even more rides or see another show.
- Make reservations for dining. Full-service restaurants at Disneyland tend to be busy on any day with waits averaging 30 minutes to 1 hour but during the holidays the waits can be up to 2 hours for a table. So make a reservation before you go either by calling Disney Dining directly at (714) 781-3463 or online through Disneyland Dining. You can make a reservation up to 60 days in advance.
- Be patient and courteous. Disneyland tends to have a lot of visitors in the park, most of whom are in a rush, some feel entitled like they should have special privileges and others might even be plain out rude. But don’t let these people dampen or even ruin your trip. Just remember to take your time, watch your surroundings and enjoy yourself. While I understand you want to get every ride done and every show seen in that day, I can tell you it is not possible. The park is way to crowded, it is miserable trying to do it all too (trust me, I’ve tried to do it all my first Christmas at the park). I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been hit (intentionally) by numerous strollers/wheelchairs, walked into by people not paying attention and worse being pushed/shoved while waiting for a ride, parade, or fireworks. I just try to smile and be polite to everyone I meet.
- Consider going on a Tour. Disneyland has several different tour options you might want to consider doing. I have done a tour in the past and it was a lot of fun, filled with trivia and fun facts I never knew about Disneyland. They offer a special Holiday themed tour which cost around $75 per person but might be worth the cost as you get a tour of the park by a specially trained cast member, usually go on the rides – the Haunted Mansion holiday & It’s a Small World holiday and see the parade from a reserved viewing area with a special treat and warm beverage. You also receive a special trading pin and button. Tour are separate from park admission and there is a 20% off discount available to Disneyland Annual Pass Holders, AAA members, Disney Visa Card holders and Disney Vacation Club members.
Can I experience both Halloween time and Holiday time at Disneyland?
- For those looking to mix the 2 holiday seasons, I would suggest going to Disneyland on Halloween as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle usually has snow on it and there is some Holiday decorations up in New Orleans Square, especially down near the shops around the exit for Pirates of the Caribbean. But that is as far as the crossover goes thats about it. Disneyland has a crew work who works overnight on October 31st to take down as much Halloween/Fall decorations as they can by park opening on November 1st to start preparing to put up the Holiday decorations, so there isn’t to much of an overlap of the two seasons except for Haunted Mansion Holiday which is operating during both Halloween time and during the Holidays.
Enjoy your special holiday trip to Disneyland. And if you do go on either Christmas Day or Thanksgiving Day, you might end up leaving the park saying it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be and I would definitely visit again on a holiday. At least that is what I am always saying when I have left the park after a long, busy and crowded visit to the parks.
If you have any questions about Holiday Time at the Disneyland resort, please feel free to comment below.