In The Parks: Disneyland Resort Christmas Cheer By Day And Night

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in In the Parks

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Published on November 16, 2012 at 5:04 am with 22 Comments

The unequivocal master of theme park Christmas, the Disneyland resort, wows guests once again with style and copious holiday cheer.  This week we share more of the Christmas offerings at Disneyland and California Adventure by day and by night. Please read all the way through to the bottom for some information on a very special opportunity this weekend.


Familiar almost to a fault, Disneyland Christmas returns.  New this week were the final decorations on Main Street and the Castle, as well as it’s a small world holiday overlay of it’s a small world, the Christmas Fantasy Parade, and the Believe in Holiday Magic fireworks spectacular. Let’s enter the world of the classic Disneyland Christmas season. While the word is that management is dangerously close to charging for the holiday parade and fireworks next year, they are still free with admission for now, so let’s enjoy it while we can!

The usual snowflakes sit atop the front gates.

Stepping into Main Street U.S.A. we see that all is decorated, from top to bottom, and the tree in Town Square is sparkling with hues of red, green and gold.

Further up the street, garland stretches overhead.

The Castle is once again dripping with lights that dazzle at night in an hourly lighting show that leaves the castle frosty and bright.

But, as lovely as the castle looks at night, the decorations aren’t quite as elegant up close by day.

The cheap looking groupings of lights pales in comparison to the lovely roof top treatments on the same structure.

It’s not made any better by the corkscrewed plastic streamers doubling as icicles.

It just seems that it would be fitting to extend a little more panache to the central icon for the entire of the resort.


The long running Christmas parade returns to Main Street to entertain guests once again.  Yes we love this parade.  It is a long form procession, no show stops, and is full of classic moments.  All that said, while still high on our list of must-do holiday fun, this show could use a little freshening up.


Below we have video of this years Believe in Holiday Magic.  But what is even cooler is that we also have video here of the Glow with the Show ears interaction with the show.  What do you think?

it’s a small world holiday

One thing that always delights is it’s a small world holiday.  The production of this holiday overlay really sparkles with extra color and activity. If you are one of those people who can’t tolerate the regular version of this ride, you should give the holiday version a try.


The corner of the park which is home to Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion Holiday also features some of the best decorations in the park.  It is over the top, yet tastefully done.


Then, of course there is Frontierland.  While the Big Thunder Ranch area is filled, once again, with the cursory holly leaves, ribbons, and decorated surreys, the Festival Arena area brings something new to the table this year.

The reindeer are missing from the corals this year, but their accompanying feed bucket set dressings are still in use.

The Jingle Jangle Jamboree is home to a range of family style, home-spun Christmas surprises.  It is great to see Disney choosing to expand the experience for the day guest with this flex area.  They do what they can with this space and it works nicely.

There are even seasonal treats here that you can take advantage of.

Yes, you read that right. Monte Cristo Bites.

Mrs. Clause hosts the Reindeer games on occasion.

Children are invited to make their own Christmas cards.

It’s also a lot easier to run into some of the characters back here with a smaller wait time.

Mickey wants you to come say hi!



The only real sour note in all of the Christmas decoration offerings are the ones found in Toon Town.  These decorations abandon the sense of charm that other decorations in the park have for very generic looking decorations that feel mass produced.  So sad.

Minnie’s house

Mickey’s house

Disney California Adventure Park has begun its first official holiday season since its relaunch.  Last week we toured some of the wonderful decorations throughout the park during the day.  Here we catch you up on the final touches that were added, along with an overview of what things look like at night once all those colorful lights come on.


While not entirely accurate to 1920′s Hollywood, the decorations on display in Buena Vista Street are retro enough to entertain, but not so much as to alienate modern audiences.  It’s a tricky balance, but one that they strike admirably.

If you get a chance, catch the bell ringers.  They are fantastic.

The Christmas Tree in Carthay Circle is a riot of bright colors and uses the same forced perspective tricks as the Disneyland tree. Note that while the same ornaments are used throughout the tree, they are bigger at the bottom of the tree and smaller at the top, which give the illusion of extra height.

The wreath atop the Carthay Circle Theater tower lights up as well.


Missing the lavish decorations that Cars Land and Buena Vista Street received, Hollywood Land attempts Christmas with just a few minor elements.

Sadly, wrapped light poles is about all there is to Christmas here.


The Mad T party received some minor holiday decor.

Blue and white holiday ribbon has been added.

The giant lanterns have been reskinned with holiday appropriate fabric.


Next we visit Cars Land at night to see the decorations in a whole new light.

The entry billboard has been updated and decorated.

This is your view as you enter the land. Impressive to be sure.


Mater’s ride gets a Santa hat, tire tree and garland.


Inside and out, Sarge’s is patriotic and festive.

Yes, a tree out of sandbags. CLEVER!



We caught a few more shots of the finalized decorations at Cozy Cone Motel during the day and spied an adorable Gingercone house display inside the office as well.

How cute is this?!!!

Exactly the sort of tacky lawn decorations you’d expect to find in an old roadside motel. Cone stars.

Now for night time…


At night you can’t read the “Winter” addition to the sign, but the shop sports holiday garland and lights.


Minimal decoration on Flo’s, but it is still nicely done.

Just to the right of the counter, there is a tree with a gingerbread Mater.

Don’t forget to try some of the new holiday treats as well.

This one is REALLY good.



We also noticed that Ghirardelli has finally gotten the Peppermint Bark in stock. They seem to have plenty.


One area that falls short is paradise Pier.  Most noticeable is the absence of any decorations in the shops in this land.

The Paradise Garden Grill restaurants have a few minor details added.



We spotted the few bits of merchandise that actually say Merry Christmas at the resort.  They are located in the Five and Dime shop at the front of the park.  We are not here to debate the issue between Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.  Both are be acceptable and should be used when appropriate.  It is just nice to see this option available too.

Candles and t-shirts with this design wish a Merry Christmas.



If you’ve never attended a MiceChat noon meet, this Sunday is a great time to do so. Very special guest Don Ballard (Author of the fascinating Disneyland Hotel books) will be joining us along with Al Lutz and many of your Mice Pals. We meet at Noon at the Walt and Mickey Statue in the central hub of Disneyland. Following the meet, we’ll head to the Disneyland Hotel for lunch at the Tongaroa Terrace. Don is a really amazing guy and tells some fantastic stories. This is a really great opportunity for you to learn some things you never knew about the Disneyland Resort. We hope to see you on Sunday at noon!


Website, Behind the Thrills, is conducting a vote to determine the top Theme Park Fansite. MiceChat is honored to have been nominated, but it would be even more exciting if we actually won. You can help push us over the top by taking just 15 seconds to click the link and select MiceChat. Vote For MiceChat HERE


MiceChat Partner Hotel, Anabella, is offering a very special rate of just $66 on some limited dates in November and December. Take a look at the dates and see if this great deal is an option for you. If so, give them a call right away so you don’t miss out on this very limited offer.


A special thank you to CaptPhoebus for his fantastic photos this week. We really appreciate his help. We’d also like to thank all of you wonderful readers for your support and for your comments. You really are the fuel that keeps us going week after week. It’s so much fun to watch the resort change from season to season and year to year, but covering it for an audience like you really makes it all worth while. I really am sincerely thankful for you and hope to meet some of you this Sunday at the noon meet. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we’ll see you again next Friday for a little more Disney holiday magic.

What Do You Think?

Have Disneyland Resort’s decorations sparked your holiday spirit this year or do you find them somehow lacking? Chime in on what you like (or don’t like) about Christmas time at the resort. We love to hear your thoughts.

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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  • SpectroMan

    The author hits the nail on the head with his tone of voice in describing how lovely, yet predictable, DLR’s decorations are. For the frequent visitor like most of us, it borders on boring but of course dazzles nonetheless.

    “A Christmas Fantasy” must be on a 30-year amortization schedule these days; think about it…the parade is built and paid for, so they can devote any seasonal budget to changing out a few minor elements each year vs. building a whole new show that only runs 6 weeks.

    And while I applaud the almost 100% changeover to LED in all the decor, it does show a marked slip from past years in terms of brightness. This is especially true on BV St. and in Carsland, where some items are so dim, they’re almost considered part of the year round decor. Oh well – electricity savings are a good thing, so we’ll just have to learn to deal.

  • Rex Dopey24

    good pictures. i like disneyland christmas decorations much better. and i had fun there last night

  • clippers6

    It is sad to see Toontown stuck with those old WDW decorations that were forced upon it last year. A few years ago, I’d dare say Toontown had decorations on par with what Cars Land has today.

    As for the castle, I agree that it looks tacky in the daytime, but short of covering it with fiber optics, what could they really do to get the same icicle effect?