The holiday season is going full steam ahead at the Disneyland Resort! The Daps Magic Team was invited out to cover the opening day of the festivities on November 10. We’ve also returned to the Parks to take in even more of everything that’s going on at the Resort right now. There is so much to see, do, and eat during holiday time at the Merriest Place on Earth, happening now through January 7, 2024, that it’s just too much to experience in one visit or pack into one article. We’ll be bringing you not just one but a series of reports in the coming days.
In this first installment, I’ll be covering our top highlights, the brightest lights on the tree, if you will! Peppered throughout will be a look through our camera lenses in the form of videos and photos. We hope you enjoy! Keep reading to find out what joins raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens on our list of favorite things!
Seasonal Spectaculars and Entertainment
I don’t know about you, but when I think of holiday time at the Disneyland Resort, I can’t help but bring to mind the legendary shows, parades, and nighttime spectaculars. Every single one is of a caliber unmatched anywhere else (IMHO anyway). Even the classics that we’ve loved for years still hold up. There is truly something magical about seeing the trumpet-playing toy soldiers march by in the “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade. Who doesn’t look up in wonder during the snowfall moment at the end of “Believe… In Holiday Magic?” Below are our top entertainment picks of the season, in no particular order.
“A Christmas Fantasy” Parade
This returning favorite brings Christmas cheer in a way that never fails to make me smile. There’s something magical about each unit, beginning with the life-sized music box ballerina and teddy bear and ending with the Jolly Old Elf himself that kicks off the holiday season in style.
“Believe… In Holiday Magic” Nighttime Spectacular
Fireworks combined with the dulcet tones of beloved holiday classics is always a good combination, and nothing gets my spirits up like “Believe… In Holiday Magic.” The part I look forward to the most is the snowfall moment at the end. It calls to mind white Christmases in my past and almost always brings a tear to my eye with how beautiful it all is. Even if fireworks can’t be presented on a given night, the substitute show is still a joy to behold. Make sure to stand along Main Street, U.S.A., around the Hub, or on “it’s a small world” Mall to take best advantage of the snowfall moment.
A good barbershop quartet always brings me comfort, and the Dapper Dans are no exception. I feel like their melodious music at Christmastime is even more spectacular, more touching. It’s probably my great anticipation for the return of Christmas music every year that amplifies my excitement to hear the Dapper Dans. Most of their sets feature a different selection of songs, which is another element I love. I highly suggest spending some time with the Dans in Town Square or along Main Street, U.S.A.; you won’t regret it!
Disney California Adventure Park
Disney ¡Viva Navidad!
I know I said these were not in any order, but I feel like I should mention that ¡Viva Navidad! is right there at the top of the pack for me. Its enthusiastic vibrancy, danceable rhythms, and cultural infusion are extremely endearing. I can never get enough of this show and the spirit of collaboration it promotes. It’s a must-see for sure!
Mickey’s Happy Holidays
A spiritual cousin of ¡Viva Navidad! is Mickey’s Happy Holidays—a plucky little cavalcade with an infectious melody and all the character goodness that you could possibly want. When it makes its way down the parade route, it never fails to bring the smiles to everyone around. Mickey’s Happy Holidays is a multi-year Daps Magic Team favorite and definitely worth a watch! We suggest finding a spot around Carthay Circle for a view of the special show stop with a fun dance moment.
“World of Color – Season of Light”
“World of Color – Season of Light” is truly spectacular. Truly. I’ve had the chance to see this show three times now this holiday season, more than any other entertainment offering, and it blows me away every time. It has an element of sentimentality that walks the fine line between warm and cozy without going too saccharine. Its finale number, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” hits me straight on and reminds me about what the holidays are really about. Even now as I think about it, I’m starting to get emotional. Even for those who aren’t moved by it like I am, “World of Color – Season of Light” has a playlist that hits the best tunes of the season, a compilation of projections that work so well together, and dynamic fountain choreography that absolutely delights. It’s definitely a must-see!
Holiday Concert featuring Phat Cat Swinger
Out of all the Festival of Holidays entertainment, the true star has to be Phat Cat Swinger. Returning again this year for more seasonal shenanigans, PCS brings the heat and the sparkle in equal measures. If you like listening to jazz, big band, rock, pop, or just having a good ol’ time, Phat Cat Swinger is straight down your alley. This year, they perform two sets in Paradise Gardens Park every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 5:30pm and 6:45pm. You’ll likely find the Daps Magic Team there on most Fridays throughout the season for #PhatCatPhriday!
With Christmas getting a lot of love, it’s only fair that Hanukkah have a spot on our favorites list too. Mostly Kosher have been a part of the Festival of Holidays for several years and are always amazing. Their sound combines klezmer, rock, jazz, folk, and frankly, dynamite to create an explosively engaging result. Find them in the Backlot of Hollywood Land, next to the Hollywood Lounge. Grab a beverage of your choice and get ready to “L’chaim for your life” in the best way possible!
“it’s a small world” Holiday
The holiday overlay of “it’s a small world” has become an annual tradition since 1997, and this year brings the fairy lights back to its legendary gold spires once again. Even if the attraction isn’t your favorite, I would wager that the awe-inspiring illuminated facade of “it’s a small world” Holiday alone has turned many “Bah Humbugs” to “Merry Christmases” over the years. That’s not to discount the ride though—”it’s a small world” Holiday is definitely my favorite attraction to experience some seasonal joy, global-style!
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Jack Skellington’s annual visit to the Haunted Mansion is a must-see as well. Running from Halloween Time through the holidays, I always find that Haunted Mansion Holiday hits differently at Christmas. Its beautiful sets glow a little brighter and the gingerbread smells a bit sweeter. We recommend that you take a spin and see for yourself!
Meeting a Disney character is fun. Full stop. So it’s a slam dunk with this one. That said, the care and creativity Disney puts into the new seasonal outfits for our beloved Mickey and friends elevates the experience that much more. It is so fun to see what they come up with every year and try to find all the little details. One of my favorite things every year is to see how fans have created their own cosplay tributes to these costumes and how thrilled the characters are to see their style reinterpreted. The range of holiday costumes for 2023 is, at least in my opinion, one of the very best and worth a look when you’re in Town Square.
And last, but certainly not least, the holiday decorations around the Disneyland Resort deserve their own mention. Main Street U.S.A.’s 60 foot tree and garlands are nothing short of breathtaking, not to mention the icicle-bedecked Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. I look forward to visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure every year simply to wander in the winter wonderland the decor creates. I love that each land, attraction, and dining location have their own custom adornments, specially made to fit the individual themes. Disney excels at immersion, and the holidays are a spectacular example of this.
Disney California Adventure Park
Thanks for following along through our favorite things to see and experience during the holidays at the Disneyland Resort. Have you been yet this year, or do you plan to take a visit soon? What’s your personal favorite thing to experience at this time of year? Let us know in the comments below, especially if we missed anything that should be on this list!
We hope you will keep following along with the Holidays at the Disneyland Resort series for more seasonal goodness!
Disclosure: The Daps Magic Team was gifted complimentary experiences by the Disneyland Resort in exchange for an honest reaction. The thoughts and opinions contained in this article belong solely to the author and our staff.