Ho-Ho-Holidays with Families

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

The Disney theme parks offer many special attractions during the winter holidays. This week, we asked the Parenting Panel. What are your family’s favorite things to do in the Disney parks at the holidays?

Chris Salata, also known as GusMan, is a Disney-inspired author and photographer, and loves to help people get the most out of their Disney vacation. Chris writes:

Ah, the holidays at the parks. It’s one of those seasons where if you have never been during the Christmas season, you should consider giving it a shot. While I know there are many places in the country where you can see decorations in all their splendor, there is something very special seeing how Disney does the holidays.

By far, the favorite thing my family and I like to do while at Walt Disney World during the holidays is to spend a lot of time at Epcot, primarily around World Showcase. What you will find is not only some of the most beautiful decorations, but you can experience some of the best “edutainment” anywhere. This is because each country decorates their land according to their own traditions, while at the same time, you can hear stories about how the holidays are celebrated in each culture. For my family, we would get to the stage for each storyteller about five to ten minutes before the event starts and listen to the details of the different traditions and meanings behind the holidays in each country. What was nice about this is that Disney can tell a great story and they bring these traditions to life in a way where I know that we could never do it and have it be memorable. To have my kids understand that not everyone celebrates the season in the same way helps give them some appreciation and respect to other cultures. Personally, I am not one to push education while on vacation, but this is a great way to do both – and I’m willing to bet the kids won’t even know it. If you plan on seeing all the storytellers for all the countries, do plan on dedicating an entire day in doing so. Each country has their own storytelling schedule and you will have ample time to wander around each country between stories, which will also give you a chance to share a unique snack from each location.

In a very close second place, my family loves to resort hop and see the decorations for all the different Deluxe resorts. In a similar manner to the storytellers, this does take some time to do so, but the nice part is that there is a good chance that you will be near these resorts during your normal touring activities. While each resort is different, the décor matches the uniqueness of each resort experience. We usually start with the Monorail resorts and Wilderness Lodge, stopping by each one for pictures and some resort sight-seeing. The trees at the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge are worthy to see by themselves, to be honest. Do take some time to visit the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian. There is nothing like eating gingerbread that comes from a house made from gingerbread. From there, do take some time to visit the Boardwalk, Beach and Yacht Club resorts. You will be amazed at the details that go into their holiday presentations especially since a lot of them are made out of chocolate! Do not forget about Animal Kingdom Lodge as well. The tree there is beautiful and it gives you an excuse enjoy a wonderful resort as well.

I realize that a lot of these activities can take some time out of your schedule, but they are well worth the effort.  Don’t forget to bring your camera as well as you never know if you end up getting that one special picture that will end up on your family's Christmas card!

Santa awaits his visitors at a Disneyland photo opp. Disney offers guests many opportunities to meet Santa at their theme parks. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 3 and 5.Jen writes:

Disneyland trips with the kids are always fun but there's something special about going during the holiday season. There are decorations, lights, and new treats to try. Here are some of my family's favorite things to do at Disneyland at holiday time.

Holiday photos. Throughout the Disneyland resort there are quite a few fun holiday-themed photo locations. If you have one of the Disneyland Annual Passes that includes "free" PhotoPass downloads, this can be a good way to get a nice family picture to send to relatives or include in Christmas cards. Even if you don't have an AP, the PhotoPass photographers will take a picture for you with your own camera. A couple of my favorite photo locations are in front of the "snow car" at the entrance to Cars Land and either of the large Christmas trees at the park entrances. You can also find Mickey and friends dressed in holiday attire in the Main Street Town Square.

Holiday versions of rides. At Disneyland, Haunted Mansion, it's a small world and Jungle Cruise all feature holiday overlays. On a recent trip, our 3-year-old daughter and her 5 and 1-year-old friends enjoyed "Jingle Cruise", in which Christmas decorations and (mostly terrible) holiday-themed jokes take over the jungle. We also rode "it's a small world holiday", which, in addition to being appropriately decorated, includes the songs "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" mixed in with the typically endless repeats of the ride's theme song. Haunted Mansion Holiday, while with the addition of Jack Skellington and friends is less dark and spooky than the original, is still deemed "too scary" by the 3-year-old. Our 5-year-old son however was willing to give it a try.

A Christmas Fantasy Parade. My kids have enjoyed all of the Disneyland parades they've seen, and A Christmas Fantasy is no exception. Their favorite characters all make appearances, with the Frozen and Toy Story characters drawing the biggest happy reactions from my kids. They also love to see the reindeer, dancing snowmen, and of course, Santa Claus.

Winter Wonderland at Cars Land. At sunset on Route 66 in Cars Land, the song "Sh-Boom" is played and the signs on all the shops are lit up just like in the movie "Cars." During the holiday season, however, the song "Winter Wonderland" is played instead and Christmas lights are lit in addition to the signs. We did this on a recent visit and the kids enjoyed watching all the colorful lights and signs light up while dancing along to the music. It was a great way to wrap up a day with kids during the holidays at Disneyland.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By DisneyGator

    We've done DL the past 3 years, with 3 big trips in the Christmas season. We really loved the Winter Dreams World of Color. In fact, we got to catch it the first time it came out back in 2013. The original WOC is still the best for us, but the Winter Dreams version is a ton of fun!

    We also like the Christmas fireworks. Even though it's short by Disney standards (about 10 minutes), it's so Christmas-ee that it puts you in the Holiday mood. Especially with the White Christmas song at the end, complete with snow. Add in the Christmas Fantasy parade, and I feel like I'm getting a great deal. At WDW, you have to pay a crud load of cash more to see the Christmas stuff, which in my opinion is NOT worth it. I love DL for keeping it affordable for families during Christmas.

    One thing I do miss at WDW is over at Epcot. Of course, the above mentioned World Showcase entertainment is always better for Christmas (especially Liberty Voices). But the Christmas tag of Illuminations in nothing short of mind-blowing! I'd love to see that again for sure.

  2. Discuss this article on MousePad.