Disneyland California is a magical place at any time of the year that said the experience is simply unbelievable on Christmas Day.
However, while combining the excitement of Christmas with Disneyland may seem like a dream, it’s not always a good idea.
That’s because Christmas Day is one of the busiest days of the calendar year to visit Disneyland, California. The park often reaches capacity by 11am, and hotel prices are often at an all-time high. So if you’re travelling on a budget or don’t like crowds, this is the worst time of year to visit.
However, if you’re looking to share in the magic of Disney on one of the most magical days of the year, then Christmas Day can be the perfect day to visit.
In our opinion, the most important thing when it comes to visiting Disneyland California on Christmas Day is to be prepared, which is why we’ve gone ahead and put together this guide based on our own experiences.
Table of Contents
- Is Disneyland California Open On Christmas Day?
- Disneyland California Christmas Day Attractions & Decorations
- How To Avoid Crowds At Disneyland California On Christmas Day
Is Disneyland California Open On Christmas Day?
Disneyland California is open on Christmas Day with the following opening times;
Disneyland Park – 8am to 12am
Disney California Adventure Park – 8am to 10pm
Disneyland California Christmas Day Attractions & Decorations
The holiday celebrations at Disneyland California generally begin the second weekend in November and conclude the first weekend in January. However, exact dates are often provided several months in advance on the website.
There are no special events or decor for Christmas Day specifically. Instead, all attractions, parades and decor remain the same over this period regardless of the day or time you visit.
Therefore if you’re looking to experience the magic of Disneyland California at Christmas but don’t quite want to have the crazy atmosphere that comes with Christmas Day, then visiting in late November is often best.
With that being said, what can you expect from Christmas decor at Disneyland California? Well, to start with, you’ll find over 300 Christmas Trees and more than 100,000 new plants.
However, the holiday magic doesn’t end there.
The entire resort is covered in a wealth of festive decorations, and an entirely new Disneyland Christmas Parade that runs along Main Street comes alive.
Some attractions, such as The Haunted Mansion, put on special Christmas-themed shows, while other areas, such as The Redwood Creek Challenge, provide you with a chance to meet Santa and his Elves.
In our opinion, one of the most magical moments at any Disney park is the fireworks, and the special holiday-themed fireworks, complete with a snowfall effect, are simply spectacular and something you shouldn’t miss when visiting over the holidays.
How To Avoid Crowds At Disneyland California On Christmas Day
By now, you’ve hopefully realised that Disneyland California will be incredibly busy on Christmas Day and over the holiday period.
This can often lead to a stressful trip rather than a fun and exciting one – that is, if you’ve not planned your trip accordingly.
So, with that in mind, how can you avoid the crowds and make your trip to Disneyland California one to remember (for all the right reasons).
Avoid The Weekends
Weekends at any time of the year are often busiest at Disneyland California.
However, weekends over the holidays often see the Disneyland California parks reach capacity before lunchtime, with many travellers looking to tie in a trip to the parks with visiting friends and family in California.
As a result, consider visiting the parks on either a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday where you can.
Use My Disney Experience
The My Disney Experience app is available for all iOS and Android smartphones; it’s completely free and a must-have download when visiting the Disneyland California Resort.
You can use the app to plan your trip in advance by booking tables for lunch and dinner, for example.
However, you can also use the app during your visit as a detailed map of the park or find out live wait times for rides.
One of the quietest times to visit the Disneyland California Resort is early morning, just as the parks open.
Therefore if you want to avoid the crowds, we recommend arriving at the park gates between 30 minutes to an hour before the rope drop.
Keep in mind that the park imposes a capacity limit for safety reasons, and this limit is often met by 11am on both Christmas Day and other popular days over the holidays.
If you’re planning to arrive at the park early, then you must make the most of your first hour inside the park.
As such, we recommend deciding what ride you should run to first or what photo opportunities you want to try and achieve with minimal people in the background.
Don’t Go, Park Hopping!
Hopping between parks at Disneyland California is something we’d usually recommend, especially if you’re only spending a day or two at the resort.
However, we don’t recommend it over the holidays when the parks are reaching capacity.
This is because when you leave one park to go to another, you won’t be guaranteed entry if the park you’re going to is at capacity.
Instead, you may find you get to the next park, and you have to wait outside the gates until people leave (which could take hours).
Based on our own experience, we recommend that those looking to visit both parks at Disneyland California over the holidays book a single day for each.
Decide On Rides In Advance
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that planning would be essential when visiting Disneyland California over the holidays.
In this case, one of the critical planning areas should be around the rides you’d like to go on at the park.
We complete the following rides planning process at least two weeks before visiting Disneyland California;
We start by making a list of the rides we’d like to go on at the park, highlighting the top three.
Then, we group the rides on a park map while also marking up the ride’s general wait times.
Remember that the wait times over the holiday period will be anything from an additional 20% to 100% depending on how busy the park is on the exact day of your visit.
If any of the rides in our highlighted top three have a general wait time of more than one hour, we mark that ride as the one we’ll head to first at rope drop.
If more than one ride on our top three has a wait time of more than one hour, then we head to the ride that has the largest wait time first.
We then use that as our starting point as we work our way around the park to the next ride.
The key here is to minimise the time you’re spending walking between rides.
For example, the last thing you want to do is head to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at opening, then over to Tomorrowland and back to Mickeys Toon Town.
Keep in mind that while you have your outline for your day, it is likely to change as the day goes on.
In this case, having the wait times for all rides within a short walking distance on the My Disney Experience app is essential.
That way, if you notice one of your three highlighted rides has a lower than average wait time, you can quickly head to it.
The cost of staying on-site at the Disneyland California Resort comes at a premium compared to other hotels in Anaheim.
However, staying in one of the three resort hotels also comes with some incredible perks that can make your trip to the resort significantly more enjoyable.
The most notable will be the extra magic hour which provides guests with entry to the park one hour before the general public.
However, other benefits include the close proximity to the parks, the ability to meet characters in the hotel lobby and access to a wake-up call from a character.
Many people leave Disneyland California, after the fireworks. However, those who want to maximise their time at the park stay until the last minute.
Based on our own experience, we’ve found that leaving the park after the fireworks often results in queuing to get to your car or taxi and then queuing again to get out of the parking lot.
Instead, you can often use this time to access some rides up to an hour after the fireworks (depending on the park’s closing hours for that evening), and since most other visitors have already left, you’ll find that wait times for even the most popular rides are up to 90% lower than usual.
However, that’s not the only benefit of staying late, as once you’re ready to leave the park, you’ll find that the traffic around the resort has often subsided from its peak.
As a result, you should be able to get to your car or get a taxi significantly easier than you would have just an hour or two earlier.
Book Everything In Advance
Accommodation in Anaheim around the holiday’s books up quickly, not just with people looking to visit the Disneyland California Resort but with others in town looking to visit friends and family.
As such, booking accommodation in advance will likely provide you with the most extensive choice and the best prices.
However, if you’re unsure whether or not the accommodation will be suitable for you nearer the time, consider booking accommodation that offers a free cancellation. That way, you can capitalise on the affordability while still being flexible.
Meanwhile, if you want to eat at an on-site restaurant during your trip to Disneyland California, over the holidays, you must book your table as far in advance as possible.