What could possibly be more magical than Santa Claus coming down the chimney to leave nice little boys and girls all the presents they wished for? Bringing Santa and Disney together, of course. As one might expect, Disney parks go above and beyond when it comes to celebrating the holiday season, with everything from celeb-filled concerts to Christmas movie nights. No matter which park you head for during the holidays, there are spectacular decorations and kid-friendly events that await.
At the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., Cinderella’s Castle is decorated with shimmering lights, long green garlands, and giant Christmas trees. Not ones to be left out, all the Disney characters are decked out in Christmastime costumes. The nightly light shows are even holiday themed, with lights making bright, colorful bows, and wrapping paper, ribbons, ornaments, candy canes, and strands of colored Christmas lights all on the outside of the castle. Make sure to hunt down a smoked turkey leg and some popcorn, found all throughout the park — they’re Disney specialties!
In Hollywood, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, delight in The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Millions of twinkling lights and animated displays are turned into 3-D carousels and wreaths, angels and snow flurries, and Santa and his reindeer. Or bring the kids to the park’s Premier Theater for a holiday-themed movie night complete with a make-your-own-cupcake station. The movies are all Disney animated shorts like Mickey’s Christmas Carol and Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas. Parents should refuel with an iced coffee or espresso drink at the Writer’s Stop.
At Epcot, the Candlelight Processional is a retelling of the Christmas story with a live orchestra and choir. If you call ahead, you can arrange a Candlelight Dinner as well, which comes with prime firework viewing spots, a seat at the Processional, and dinner in one of Epcot’s many restaurants. And their Holidays Around the World is a Christmas market-style activity where families can stroll from stall to stall learning about international holiday traditions, as well as how Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are celebrated. Make sure to try the fruity shaved ices from the Japan Pavilion and a funnel cake while you’re there.
Disneyland Resort not only decorated a giant cartoon-filled Christmas tree in Mickey’s Toontown, but their Christmas Fantasy parade is a longstanding favorite, with “snowfall” on Main Street to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Disney characters can be seen wrapping presents, baking Christmastime treats, and anticipating Santa’s arrival. Next door, at California Adventure, the World of Color nightly water spectacular has taken on the holidays with the help of “Santa’s tech-savvy elves.” (Photo courtesy of Disney Parks)
Disneyland Resort also has a kid-friendly, holiday-themed list of “hidden” decorations to find throughout the park, including character-shaped ornaments atop the Christmas trees, Toy Soldiers carefully placed in the park, and three new holiday songs added to “It’s a Small World.”
While you’re running around the park trying to find hidden charms, stop to eat some of Disneyland’s best snacks, like the Dole Whip from the Adventureland Tiki Bar, a waffle cone from the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, the ubiquitous churros, and gumbo in the sourdough bread bowl from New Orleans Square’s French Market. Also, keep in mind that while Disneyland is dry, California Adventures (next door) serves alcohol and their Wine Country Trattoria is worth a stop if the kids will allow the respite.