There’s an intangible magic unique to the Disney brand. Disneyland at Christmas elevates that feeling to the next level. Children’s imaginations are ignited, and adults, released from the daily grind, feel free to unleash their inner child.
We’ve been fortunate to walk through the Disney Park gates many times and I always take a moment to read a plaque with a quote from Disneyland’s creator, Walt Disney: “I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place… where parents and children can have fun, together.”
Walt Disney’s dream has certainly been realised and our family has always had a fun-filled accessible experience. The clever theming for the various holidays and seasons means no two visits are the same. These transformations keep returning guests engaged with Easter, Halloween and Christmas events proving major drawcards.
Plentiful Christmas treats
Although it looks like Tinkerbell has waved her wand, it is in fact the Disney imagineers’ keen eye for detail that transform Disneyland at Christmas into a wonderland at every turn. From the characters’ clothing to the cute foodie treats, you’ll find a nod to the season wherever you look. Each land is given a Christmas makeover with appropriately themed wreaths, garlands and twinkling lights. Cameras are sure to be in overdrive with so many photo opportunities. Take a special snap under the Radiator Springs Christmas tree decorated with hub caps or pose with Minnie Mouse decked out in her finest festive dress in Toon Town.
When the sun goes down the atmosphere intensifies. Disneyland’s centrepiece, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, drips in dazzling lights and crowds gather to watch the Christmas parade that should not be missed. Mickey Mouse and pals, the Disney Princesses and all your Toy Story character favourites travel through the park on opulently decorated floats, accompanied by dancing reindeers and snowmen. Check with Cast Members for directions to reserved accessible viewing areas.
Making the most of Disneyland at Christmas
While it’s wonderful to wander around the theme parks in blissful fascination, you’ll soon realise time quickly gets away from you and you’ve missed out on some of the essential rides and those treats you’d gushed over on Instagram while researching your trip. Some planning is required, especially during the most popular times of year.
Download the Disneyland app before you leave home and familiarise yourself with its features. The app allows visitors to see what’s on in the parks, book Disney dining, buy tickets and more. The ability to check on the accessibility of rides and any restrictions is particularly helpful when you’re on the go.
Staying at one of the Disney-owned hotels will not only ensure you remain in a Disney fantasy bubble for your stay, but they offer accessible accommodation and easy access to the parks. Prior to Covid, guests staying at a Disney hotel received an Extra Magic Hour to enter the parks before opening to the general public. While this is currently suspended, it is hoped it will be available again in the future. Making the most of this hour by targeting the most popular rides helps to avoid the long queues which build during the day.
While in Disneyland we used the Disney MaxPass which was a pay-for-use FastPass booking system and the ultimate time-saver. In late September this will be replaced by Disney Genie+ service which allows you to choose the next available time to arrive at many of the park’s popular rides. On arrival at the ride you will be able to use the Lightning Lane entrance, avoiding the usual lines.
At an additional USD$20 per ticket per day it’s an expensive addition for families but the time saved each day may make it more cost effective in the long run.
New Disability Access Service (DAS) option
Disneyland Resort theme parks endeavour to provide information and facilities to ensure guests of all abilities have the best possible experience. The parks offer guests who find it difficult to tolerate extended wait times in a queue due to their disability, access to the Disability Access Service (DAS) program.
Disney has introduced a new option to register for the program virtually with a Cast Member via live video chat up to 30 days prior to your arrival at the park. During the chat visitors will also be able to select up to two experiences per day (subject to availability) using the new DAS Advance planning option. This is well worth trying if you really want to make the most of your Disneyland at Christmas experience.
When to go
The parks maintain their festive makeover from November to January. We visited Disneyland and California Adventure Park ten days before Christmas and although busy, the crowds were not overwhelming.
Due to the changing COVID-19 restrictions at theme parks please check the Disneyland website prior to booking as some experiences may not be operating.
This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.