There really is no better way to spend quality time with your family than a visit to a Disney theme park. Charming scenery, adorable characters, and pulse-pounding thrill rides make the trip worth the often exorbitant price tag. A Disney park is beautiful every day of the year, but on Christmas, Imagineers have their chance to shine. The holiday theme makes familiar amusement parks into the perfect Christmas getaway… as long as you don’t mind spending it with thousands of people. The harsh reality of Disneyland during Christmas time is the fact that it is a popular destination for families worldwide, attracting record-breaking crowds and forewarning a miserable day. However, we were able to do it.
Step One: The Right Place to Stay
While some websites recommend that you stay at a Disney resort to enjoy all the amenities they have to offer, the fact of the matter is that time is precious during the Christmas season. We recommend checking out some of the hotels that are just outside the park campus. The Embassy Suites and Anaheim Marriott Convention Center hotels are two great options, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
Most of these hotels are considered “Good Neighbor” hotels, in that you can buy your tickets on the spot and catch a free (or very cheap) shuttle right to the main entrance. Goodbye hectic theme park parking! You won’t be missed!
Make sure you buy a Park Hopper pass, allowing you to enjoy both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Many people do not believe it can be done in one day, but it’s very manageable. Especially if you’re staying at one of these convenient hotels.
Step Two: Your Day at the Park
Make sure to get to bed early the night before. It’s going to be a lot of walking and you will have to get up much earlier than you probably want to on vacation. We suggest taking a bus that leaves around 9 or 9:30 in the morning. Here comes the real game changer: when you arrive on park grounds, go to California Adventure first, then Disneyland Park. For those of you who are unaware of the Anaheim Disneyland Resort, California Adventure has more thrill rides and family attractions based on popular Hollywood blockbusters. Disneyland is the iconic theme park complete with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Space Mountain, and all your other favorites.
If you get to California Adventure on time, expect little lines on all your favorite attractions including:
- Tower of Terror (30 minute wait tops)
- Radiator Springs Racers (GET HERE EARLY and snag a fast pass before they sell out. This is California Adventure’s hottest attraction and you may have to come back late at night to ride. But it’s totally worth it so don’t miss out!)
- California Screamin’ (15-20 minutes)
- Grizzly River Run (5 minutes)
- Toy Story Midway Mania (30-40 minutes) — you might need a fast pass here too depending on the time of day.
At around 4:00, head back to your Good Neighbor hotel and take a relaxing break. At around 6:00, head over to the Disneyland park. While most people are heading over to California Adventure, the crowds at Disneyland park are much more manageable. At 6:30, catch the tree-lighting ceremony on Main Street, then head to your favorite attractions, including:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (30 minutes)
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (10 minutes)
- Space Mountain (20-30 minutes)
- Splash Mountain (5 minutes)
- Matterhorn Bobsleds (25 minutes)
- Tomorrowland Speedway (10 minutes)
At the end of the day, head back to California Adventure one more time to hit up Radiator Springs Racers. And voila, you’ve done it!
Good Places to Eat:
- Cucina Cucamonga (California Adventure)
- Main Street Bakery and Cafe (Disneyland Park)
- Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta (California Adventure)
- Cozy Cone Motel (California Adventure)