Disney has announced Christmas dates & details, with info about returning & new entertainment, decorations, food, etc. at Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and the resort hotels. This post shares everything revealed and offers commentary about what’s coming, what’s (likely) ending early, some surprises (to us), and what’s still unknown.
Disneyland will celebrate Christmas beginning on November 10, 2023. This is exactly what we expected and consistent with historical precedent of the holiday season starting on the Friday of the Veterans Day long weekend. The only notable thing about the start date is that Walt Disney World is opting to kick off Christmas on November 11. (I’m still convinced that’s a typo.)
Regardless, the holiday season at Disneyland Resort will return November 10, 2023 through January 7, 2024. In addition to the scant details released about new character costumes and returning ride overlays, we now know more about festive entertainment, seasonal décor, merry menus, and more.
Holidays at the Disneyland Resort offers distinctly Disney experiences guests of all ages will enjoy, such as Disney Festival of Holidays, the “Believe…In Holiday Magic” nighttime spectacular and décor.
Guests will discover some new seasonal food and beverage offerings throughout Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park, the Downtown Disney District, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel. Families and friends can remember their visit for years to come, as well as find great gifts for loved ones, with a new collection of holiday merchandise.
In case you missed it, Disneyland shared the above concept art for new Minnie and Mickey Mouse Christmas character costumes during Halfway to the Holidays. These new mid-century modern inspired looks will be sported by Mickey and his posse in in the park, putting a spin on the classic red and green with the addition of pastel colors and playful prints. These looks will include snowy sparkle, plus matching holly brooches.
For each of the last few Christmas seasons, Mickey and co. have been getting new costumes each year for their meet & greet appearances around Town Square in Disneyland. These are a huge hit with fans, and the costumes are usually really good for Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy. (Pluto is present, too, but typically just gets a new collar.)
In addition to these Christmas character costumes, Santa Claus will pose for jolly family photos, making stops in Critter Country in Disneyland, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in Disney California Adventure, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel through December 24, 2023. (After which, he obviously has other business elsewhere…)
Décor will make the season bright throughout Disneyland Resort, featuring grand Christmas trees decorated with uniquely themed ornaments in both theme parks, the Downtown Disney District, Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, where a festive gingerbread house will inspire amateur gingerbread architects with its intricate design.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, where the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights are still MIA, icicles and snow-capped turrets will once again adorn Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. With a bit of Disney magic, “snow” is scheduled to fall every night in select areas of Disneyland.
Ornaments, lights and more will also embellish beloved attractions. In Disneyland, a merry boat ride on the wintry waterway of “it’s a small world” Holiday will serenade guests with choruses of cheerful tunes. In New Orleans Square, Jack Skellington from “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” redecorates the Haunted Mansion into the frightfully festive Haunted Mansion Holiday, complete with a hauntingly delightful gingerbread house.
Guests can gear up for some cheer in Disney California Adventure on Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl and Mater’s Jingle Jamboree, which will both undergo seasonal spins for the “haul-idays.”
“A Christmas Fantasy Parade” will spread holiday cheer in Disneyland, starring characters from Disney Animation’s “Frozen,” Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story” and more. This parade is almost half as old as Disneyland–here’s hoping it gets an overhaul before turning 30 years old in a couple years. (It’s possible there will be another refresh this year, but that’s still unknown.)
The “Believe…In Holiday Magic” nighttime spectacular will illuminate the night sky over Disneyland with fireworks and sprinklings of snow. For guests who want to add even more holiday magic to their trip, the Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort Guided Tour will offer a hosted experience of select seasonal offerings and reserved viewing for “A Christmas Fantasy Parade.”
Multiple times per day, Disney and Pixar characters will march to the festive beat of the Holiday Toy Drummers in “Mickey’s Happy Holidays” in Disney California Adventure. The spirit of togetherness and love will fill Paradise Bay as hundreds of fountains illustrate warm moments from Disney animated films in “World of Color – Season of Light” nighttime spectacular.
In addition to holiday shopping and dining in the Downtown Disney District, guests can groove to a variety of “mistle-toe-tapping” live musical performances select evenings at the Downtown Disney LIVE! stage. On some nights at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel, live entertainment will create a wonderfully cozy atmosphere.
Disney Festival of Holidays in Disney California Adventure Park draws inspiration from the diverse dishes and cherished traditions of Christmas, Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day. Guests can expect to sample new and returning food and beverages such as southern mac & cheese and a beef brisket slider, accompanied by upbeat music at the Palisades Stage and Sonoma Terrace. For the first time, Festival of Holidays will also be celebrated in the Hollywood Backlot. (What that’ll entail beyond food booths is still unknown. Crossing our fingers for the unlikely return of elecTRONica…plus Santa hats!)
Festival-goers may purchase a Sip and Savor Pass, which offers eight entitlement tabs that can be shared among friends and family. Valid for the entirety of Disney Festival of Holidays, foodies may redeem their tabs for select food and nonalcoholic beverages from several marketplaces and select dining locations in Disney California Adventure.
Disney ¡Viva Navidad! will return to Paradise Gardens Park for its tenth season (hard to believe it’s already been 10 years–time flies when you’re having fun!), and this year, guests will be able to taste their way through an all-new menu at Paradise Garden Grill.
The Three Caballeros will host a joyous street party, featuring Mexican folklórico dancers and mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers and percussionists, giant mojiganga puppets and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in their holiday best. Additional festivities will include live music and dancing, visits with beloved Disney characters and special appearances by Mirabel from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto.”
In terms of commentary, the first thing that sticks out to me is that there’s not a single mention of the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration or Disney100. This started back in January at Disneyland Resort, and the end date is still unknown. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney100 quietly concludes at Disneyland with the start of Halloween Time or the holiday season.
Not that it really matters, but the actual 100th Anniversary is on October 16, 2023. If Disney is going to do anything to celebrate the milestone, it would make sense to leave the decor up through Halloween. Thus far, there’s been no indication that the date itself will be recognized in the parks. I’d be somewhat–but not totally–surprised if it’s not recognized in some way. That makes removing the decorations between the Halloween and Christmas seasons the more likely option.
Regardless, the Disney100 festivities fizzling out this year just makes sense. Walt Disney World is starting the 100 Years of Wonder “celebration” at EPCOT on September 22…and ending it on December 31, 2023. If the event were to have a comparable duration at Disneyland, it would’ve ended prior to the start of summer. Moving on makes sense for a variety of reasons–they’ve already moved as much merch as possible, Christmas is more popular, etc.
Most notably, it’s hard to see how the Christmas decorations coexist with the Disney100 medallions and such. In particular, Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle would need to have its icicles and wreaths modified to accommodate the crest and banners for Disney100. That seems like a complete waste of money if the Disney100 stuff is going down at the end of December, anyway. That’s just one of several examples of Disney100 stuff being up where Christmas decorations would normally be. Our guess is that it all goes down before the holidays…or even Halloween.
There’s also the matter of World of Color. One of the big questions for me was whether World of Color – ONE or World of Color – Season of Light would be shown this holiday season. Against all odds and seemingly out of nowhere, Season of Light returned last year following a 5-year hiatus.
It thus made sense that it would return this year, but that was far from guaranteed. Perhaps another 5-year hiatus would be in order, or maybe someone at Disneyland would discover why it took a 5-year hiatus in the first place. We happen to absolutely adore Season of Light–it’s my favorite version of the show and far superior to ONE–but I can appreciate that it could be an acquired taste. Season of Light is slow by nighttime “spectacular” standards, and is beautiful in a less in-your-face kind of way. (Well, aside from the one Goofy scene that is very in your face!)
Anyway, I wonder if this is the end of the road for World of Color – ONE. The implication is that Wondrous Journeys will be back in 2024. And it should be. That fireworks show at Disneyland is one of the best nighttime spectaculars anywhere ever, and even though it debuted alongside World of Color – ONE for the start of Disney100, there’s no reason it cannot continue on after the end of the event. It’s not like it’s branded Disney100 or anything, and entertainment routinely outlasts celebrations.
The same is true of World of Color – ONE. So really, there’s no reason to believe it’ll end with Disney100. Except for the show’s quality and guest reception. (Pretty big caveats!) I’m not saying World of Color – ONE is bad; as compared to World of Color – Celebrate, it’s a veritable masterpiece. There’s a reason that incarnation of the show quickly ended, though, and I would hazard a guess that ONE will conclude for a similar reason. It’s a good show with some great moments and music, but it just doesn’t coalesce the same way as World of Color – OG.
Ultimately, that’s about all I have in the way of commentary. I’m also looking forward to the all-new menu at Paradise Garden Grill (it’s gotta be better than what’s there now!), but that’s very niche. When nothing material was announced during Halfway to the Holidays, my assumption was that no major changes or additions would come this Christmas. That analysis was, unfortunately, accurate.
While DCA has received plenty of additions and improvements over the last decade, Disneyland has largely stagnated during the holidays. Disneyland could use a new or refreshed parade and fireworks for Christmas, along with other enhancements and ride overlays. (Plot twist: Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy, but for Christmas instead of Halloween and the ghosts wear Santa hats!)
Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I would love to see Disneyland revive the Merriest Nites concept and turn it into an After Dark event on select low crowds nights during November and December. Even if that meant moving it over to DCA, I’d be on board. (Honestly, I’d probably prefer that.) Oogie Boogie Bash has been such a success, and has really allowed the entertainment teams to try new things and have fun–I’d love to see what they could accomplish with a blank slate and creative freedom to create a special event for Christmas.
What are your thoughts on the details released for Christmas 2023 at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? Excited or disappointed about anything? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!