My first time seeing Disneyland at Christmas time did NOT disappoint. It was just as spectacular as I always imagined it would be. I admit, I was nervous about the crowds and using the app for everything but we managed to pack in 15+ rides, a fireworks show, a parade, a train ride, shopping, AND a fine dining experience at Blue Bayou (without a reservation!) all in one day. Here are all the details about our Disneyland Christmas trip!
My best friend Sarah picked me up from the airport Wednesday afternoon and whisked me directly to the Disneyland Hotel. With no park tickets that day, we unpacked at a leisurely pace before heading out to downtown Disney. We spent the afternoon shopping, trying Disney treats at Marcelline’s and the Grand Californian, before eating dinner at Catal.
I ate my way through the park because I take my job as a food blogger very seriously. The food as a whole was excellent. You can read my master list of holiday treats here. My absolute favorite holiday treats were the waffle cone eggnog shot found at the Grand Californian, the Santa Hat Macaron, and the Peppermint Marshmallow Mickey. My favorite non-holiday treats were the Churro Toffee (it absolutely lives up to the hype!), the Loaded Potato Bites at Red Rose Tavern, and the Tigger Tail from Pooh Corner. You can read my whole article about the best holiday treats at Disneyland here.
The convenience and cuteness of the Disneyland Hotel cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, we were given a room with a king bed despite booking a room with two queens. The concierge tried to switch the room but the hotel was sold out. We were pretty annoyed to have to share a king when we specifically booked two queens but we thought, at least we’ll have a more spacious room! But sadly no. This was the smallest room I’d ever had at Disneyland Resort. Having said that, the room was clean as a whistle and beautifully appointed with a nice view of the pool. We bounced out of bed at 5:45 am to line up for our magic hour before 7 am. That made a huge difference, as we were able to ride four rides during the magic hour!
Lunch at Cafe Orleans
We were able to walk up to Cafe Orleans right at lunch time and were seated almost instantly. I worried about dining reservations for nothing! I was dismayed to discover that the parmesan garlic fries are no longer available on their own (and apparently haven’t been since the park shut down in 2020) but they come with the monte cristo. Luckily for me, that’s Sarah’s favorite dish so she ate the famed monte cristo sandwich and I ate gumbo and fries. We had a super cute table by a fanciful tree with a nice view. Gotta love lunch at Disneyland!
Dinner at Blue Bayou
I had been stressing for weeks that we weren’t able to score reservations for basically any restaurant but imagine my surprise when we waltzed up to Blue Bayou at 6:30 pm and asked if they could possibly take a party of two and they said it was only a ten minute wait! We weren’t seated on the water but we had a decent table and were delighted to remember that Disneyland now serves alcohol and we were able to savor a glass of wine with dinner.
Blue Bayou has a new menu, which, sadly, does not include my beloved lamb dish. We got the corn fritters and hearts of palm salad to start – both excellent! – and I thoroughly enjoyed my mushroom ragu, which featured housemade pasta in a creamy herb sauce and tons of mushrooms. It’s a delightful dish!
Dinner at Catal
I think Catal is the most underrated restaurant at Disneyland Resort! I’ve never had a bad meal at Catal. The restaurant serves delicious Mediterranean cuisine and its expansive balcony overlooks downtown Disney. We split grilled octopus (FANTASTIC) and crispy calamari (also amazing!) and I once again ordered the paella.
Christmas at Disneyland
Hands down THE reason to go to Disneyland at Christmastime is the holiday version of it’s a small world. No one prepared me for how damn cute this ride is. I’m not really a small world fan so I was kind of indifferent about getting on the ride when I only had one day but I was absolutely enchanted. It’s Christmas joy personified. We rode it twice, once during the day and once at night, which I HIGHLY recommend, and honestly I could have ridden it more. Don’t skip it!
You think Disneyland can’t get any cuter until you see Main Street decked for the holidays. It’s so festive to see garlands and twinkle lights and bright red bows everywhere you turn.
I can’t stress enough how apprehensive I was to visit Disneyland after seeing horror stories and photos of the insane crowds at Disneyland. Thursday morning could not have been more pleasant. We walked on four rides during our magic hour. Staying on site so you can enjoy the park immediately upon open is 100% worth it in my opinion. It really didn’t start getting crowded until noon but even then, the crowds never “ruined” the magic for me.
Wondering whether or not to get Genie+? Get it. At least for one day of your trip! It was so nice to book our lightning lanes on the app. I thought I would hate using my phone for everything but between Genie+ and ordering my food online, I wondered how much time I used to waste standing in line! We used Genie+ for Haunted Mansion, Small World, Big Thunder, and Indiana Jones. We also could have used it for Star Tours and Space Mountain but sadly I had a headache in the afternoon and we ended up castling some of the bigger rides.
I loved the Christmas parade! This is probably one of my favorite parades I’ve ever seen at Disneyland. There are twirling reindeer, an icy Frozen float, a whole Santa’s Toys section featuring Toy Story (clever!), and Christmas ball showcasing all of our favorite Princesses. Plus the music was too cute!
I was adamant about watching the fireworks, as I typically go to Disneyland for my birthday in January and the weather has cancelled the fireworks show on every single trip my entire adult life. I hadn’t seen the fireworks at Disneyland since I was 17 years old!
My expectations were high and, while the Believe…in Holiday Magic show was beautiful, it was not as spectacular as the fireworks shows of my teenage years. It was also a bit melancholy, which suited me just fine as I am grieving but it was kind of surprising that the fireworks show didn’t have more Christmas cheer. I did love that it snowed in the park after the finale though!
This was my first time seeing Galaxy’s Edge! The walk to the area through Critter Country was a little underwhelming, as you hit the line for Rise of the Resistance before you can really see that you’re in Galaxy’s Edge. Seeing as we had a lightning lane for the ride, we did the ride before I ever “saw” the land. Very strange! Galaxy’s Edge looks very cool and I’d love to spend more time there but there wasn’t a heck of a lot to do. Seeing the Millennium Falcon definitely made me cry. It’s just as awe-inspiring as you think and the photo pass option was amazing.
Smuggler’s Run was a bit of a disappointment. I had high hopes but it’s part video game and I hated having to look down to do my engineer duties instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride. While it’s awesome to be inside the Millennium Falcon, you miss a lot looking down and won’t have a great experience if your driver isnt’ experience. It’s similar to Star Tours but, in my opinion, not as good.
Can you believe we packed so much into ONE DAY at Disneyland!? I’m so glad I finally got to see it the park during Christmas. It may have been my first Christmas visit but it certainly won’t be my last!