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Disneyland is often billed as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but during the holiday season this family-friendly destination magically transforms into “The Merriest Place on Earth.” And because they want to ensure every Disneyland visitor has a chance to get in on the festive fun, the holiday season begins on Nov. 12th, 2021, and runs all the way through the new year until Jan. 9th, 2022. The celebration encompasses Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park with decor, food, entertainment, after-hours parties, and, yes, actual snow in Southern California.
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As you enter Disneyland park’s Main Street, U.S.A., you’ll encounter garlands, twinkling lights, wreaths, and a towering 60-foot Christmas tree. At the end of Main Street, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is dripping with more than 80,000 twinkling lights and other holiday decor, and each evening, you can watch the castle shimmer to life as snow falls all around on Main Street. On select nights, you can enjoy even brighter castle views during Disneyland’s “Believe…In Holiday Magic,” fireworks spectacular
There’s also a daily Christmas Fantasy Parade featuring favorite Disney characters, a marching toy soldier band, gingerbread men, reindeer, and more. The last float carries Santa himself and his sack full of presents. The parade runs multiple times throughout the day and there are multiple viewing spots along the parade route to see the show, including along Main Street, near the “it’s a small world” attraction, and near the Matterhorn Bobsleds coaster. Arrive at least 30 minutes early if you want to secure a great viewing spot.
Speaking of “it’s a small world,” it’s one of two attractions in Disneyland park that receive a holiday makeover. Candy canes, trees, and other holiday decor are added to the ride’s show scenes and the animatronic characters inside the ride sing familiar holiday tunes in their country’s language. In the evening, you can watch an animated light projection show on the ride’s facade. Over in New Orleans Square, the Haunted Mansion welcomes Jack Skellington, Sally, and Oogie Boogie for a makeover inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The highlight of Haunted Mansion Holiday is always the real gingerbread house added to the dining room scene in the mansion. It changes every year and smells delicious.
Disneyland has never held an after-hours holiday party, but that is all about to change with Disney Merriest Nites. On five select nights throughout the holiday season, guests can visit Disneyland park after it closes to day guests for entertainment, photo ops, characters in their Christmas best, and specialty food and drinks with very low crowds and basically non-existent wait times. Six lands throughout the park will host six holiday parties with different themes, including characters like the Muppets on Main Street, U.S.A., Princess Tiana in New Orleans Square, and Lilo & Stitch in Adventureland. Disney Merriest Nites is a separately ticketed event and tickets can be purchased on the Disneyland website.
At Disney California Adventure, guests can celebrate the international winter holidays during the Disney Festival of the Holidays. Dine on festive foods, meet costumed characters, and check out live music and dance honoring Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings’ Day. Kids can create holiday crafts and decorate cookies, too.
Over in Cars Land, Radiator Springs gets gussied up for the holidays with automotive-themed decor and holiday transformations of attractions like “Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl” and “Mater’s Jingle Jamboree.”
And it wouldn’t be the holidays if you couldn’t meet Santa! He’ll be greeting guests from the comfort of his home at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail where you can tell him your Christmas wishes and snap a photo. Mickey and Friends will also make appearances throughout the day.
You should also leave time to stop by Disneyland’s resorts and hotels and Downtown Disney for an added dose of Disney cheer with special food and drink offerings, Christmas trees, and gingerbread displays. Aside from Disney Merriest Nites, holiday offerings are available to all guests with valid admission and a theme park reservation.