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Southwest’s Guide to Disneyland During Christmas!

Explorer B

My family comes from a long line of Disneyland goers. My in-laws have been going to Disneyland since they were kids. They have been every year since it opened and have continued the tradition with their own kids and grandkids! I’ve been tagging along for the last twenty years and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way! 


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We’ve seen Disneyland in every season and holiday, and Christmas time at Disneyland is our very favorite. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years:


Tips for Christmas at Disneyland


Stay Multiple Days


There is so much to do and see between Disneyland and California Adventure that you are going to need 2-3 days to get through it all. Give yourself a little extra time and snag multi-day park hoppers so you’ll have time to experience everything they have to offer. 


Stay On Property


That might be the most magical part. If you’ve got tired kids (or parents) who need naps or a place to escape the heat (think poolside), staying on property is simply the best. You also get the “Magic Hour” perk reserved for guests who stay at a Disney hotel property. That means you get to enter the park an hour early. While that hour might not seem like a lot, you’d be amazed at how many rides you can fit in when the wait time is next to nothing!


Plan Your Disneyland Christmas Visit Ahead Of Time 


I’m not a big planner. I like to fly by the seat of my pants in most cases on vacation. However, Disneyland might not be the place to do that. If you want to catch the parade on Main Street or see World of Color over in California Adventure you're going to need to plan in advance and make sure you show up early to save your spot. There are lots of little things happening throughout Disneyland.


Even though you are planning ahead stay flexible. Some things will work perfectly, while some might not because of wait times, cranky kids, or the need for food and bathrooms. But if you’ve got a roadmap going into it, you’ll feel less chaotic in the crowds that come for Christmas. 


Download Disney’s MaxPass App


It will simplify your trip. You can link your park tickets to your account (no more fumbling for your paper tickets), snag fast passes, and get unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads of the day. More info at


More From Our Team: Disneyland at Halloween


When is the best time to go to Disneyland over the holidays? 


Weekdays are always the safest bet, but I’ve also been there on the weekends and literally walked on to rides.


A few things to consider:


Avoid Veteran’s Day Weekend: In California, all of the public schools have Veteran’s Day off. This makes Veterans Day weekend at Disneyland JAM PACKED. It’s a 3-day weekend for locals, the Christmas decorations are up and the weather is typically fantastic...that’s all a recipe for a BILLION people. 


Annual Passholder blackout dates: Disneyland has over 1,000,000 annual pass members and there are a few days of the year that annual pass holders won’t be at the park, including several dates that probably line up with YOUR winter break!


Here here to view the best times to visit!


Is Disneyland Decorated for Christmas?


You bet your mouse ears and Disneyland does it Christmas right!


Disneyland decorates for Christmas starting in November! Holiday decorations stay up in Disneyland from November 8, 2019 through January 6, 2020.


Some highlights: 


Main Street


It’s tempting to rush through Main Street on your way to hop in line for rides, but there’s loads of holiday magic packed into Main Street! You’ll catch the huge Christmas tree upfront and all of the charming decor lining the streets. 


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It’s a Small World Holiday


And make sure you see it at night! It’s a Small World Holiday is COMPLETELY made over for Christmas. If you happen to ride in the day time, be sure to head back in the evening because one of the very best parts of Disneyland at Christmas is how Small World is lit up at night! 


Photo credit: @angie.bee.disney credit: @angie.bee.disney credit: @Angie.bee.disney

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle


One of the first things you’ll notice entering the park off Main Street is that Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has been “enchanted”. Every evening there is a lighting ceremony in front of the castle which includes a brief snowfall of gingerbread scented snow. This ceremony typically occurs at 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM every night.


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The Haunted Mansion Holiday


The Nightmare Before Christmas is in full swing at the Haunted Mansion. I know you’re all excited for Jack Skellington, but don’t miss the Gingerbread display as you drift through the Haunted Mansion. You might even catch the scent of gingerbread! The gingerbread design themes change every year. 


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Can’t wait to see the ride in real life? You can get a little preview in the video below:





Cars Land


This would be my kids’ favorite place in all of Disneyland and California Adventure. Not only is Radiator Springs Racers at the top of their list when it comes to rides, but when it comes to holiday decor, Cars Land wins first place! The decorations are made of car parts, think wreaths made of whitewall tires, and ornaments made of hubcaps. Make sure you stop by at night to see it all lit up!


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Is Star Wars Land Decorated for Christmas?


Not one bit. Here’s my theory. I don’t think the First Order or the Resistance celebrates Christmas or any of our other winter holidays for that fact. They are dedicated to keeping it real over in Star Wars Land. 


That doesn’t have to stop you from buying festive Star Wars GIFTS at Christmas time though! I did see some adorable Star Wars ornaments and this cutest Darth Vader Bear! You can find all kinds of cool stuff throughout the park. 


Where is Santa in Disneyland?


  • He’s in California Adventure! (Park admission is required
  • You can find Santa at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail near Grizzly Rapids. 
  • You’ll also get to say hello to Chip and Dale, cross the Jingle Bridge, “Fly” with the Santa’s Reindeer, and of course...there are cookies. 
  • Santa’s schedule is subject to change, so be sure to check out his schedule before you go.


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What airports are close to Disneyland?  


You might be asking yourself what airports to book through when flying Southwest to Disneyland. When flying to Southern California Southwest offers lots of options.


Southwest Airlines flies to:


  • LAX: Los Angeles (about an hour drive to Disneyland)
  • BUR: Burbank (about an hour drive to Disneyland)
  • LGB: Long Beach (about a 30-minute drive to Disneyland)
  • ONT: Ontario (about a 45-minute drive to Disneyland)
  • SNA: John Wayne / Orange County (about a 30-minute drive to Disneyland)
  • SAN: San Diego (about a 2-hour drive to Disneyland)


Don’t be afraid to book a different arrival and departure airport. For instance, I could find great direct flights coming from SLC to LAX, but my options for a direct flight home from LAX were limited. I booked our return flights through Burbank and found a great direct flight at just the time I wanted. 


You should plan on anywhere from a 30-60 minute drive from the airport to Disneyland (and vice versa) regardless of the airport you book through. California traffic can be nasty! Make sure you give yourself lots of wiggle room (especially if you are driving in the afternoon).


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Tips for Booking Your Disneyland Trip


When you’re considering what airport to fly in and out of for your Disneyland vacation, Orange County is a great option. This will allow you to shorten your commute between the airport and the resort so you can get to The Happiest Place on Earth that much faster! 


Want to get the best deals on your trip? Check out the Southwest’s Low Fare Calendar, which can help determine when you can get a great price on your airfare. You can also find hotel and airfare packages using the Southwest Vacations search engine. 


Do you have a favorite Disneyland travel tip? A ride that should not be missed or a favorite spot to grab a snack? Tell us in the comments!


You can also hop over to our Discussion Forum and talk to other travelers and get more inside scoop—there’s a whole section devoted to Disneyland questions! 


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