Holidays at Disneyland one-day itinerary: Your family’s guide to the best day ever

in Disney, Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland, Disneyland Resort

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Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth 365 days a year, but it gets even merrier every year when the holidays begin. Visiting Disneyland Resort during the most magical time of the year can be overwhelming if you don’t do it right. We have created a guide for spending an entire day at Disneyland with your whole family so you can have the best day ever during the most wonderful time to visit. So don’t miss out on all the magic and read on for your one-day holiday itinerary at Disneyland Resort.

Morning: Disneyland Park

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If you’re looking to spend the entire day at Disneyland Resort, consider arriving at park opening. Meet some characters in Town Square, get your photos by the Christmas tree and castle, and pick one of your kids’ favorite Fantasyland attractions to hop on first. If you want a little holiday magic to get you in the spirit at the beginning of the day, we suggest the merriest cruise that ever sailed, “it’s a small world” Holiday! Enjoy classic holiday tunes and breathtaking décor on this attraction that is fun for the whole family. After your first ride (or more, if the wait times are particularly short), it’s time for some breakfast.

If you’d like to have breakfast while taking in the sights and sounds of Main Street U.S.A., Jolly Holiday may be your best option. Jolly Holiday Bakery Café is a quick-service dining location that is great for groups wanting to have a quick bite to eat before hitting their favorite attractions in Disneyland Park. If you’re in a savory mood, the croissant sandwich is a classic, but if you’re feeling something seasonal, grab the caramel apple muffin with streusel. This holiday food item is as delicious as it sounds and doesn’t disappoint.

If your younger children love Fantasyland and you can’t imagine spending your morning anywhere else, consider dining at Red Rose Taverne, a quick-service restaurant themed after “Beauty and the Beast.” This dining location serves some of our favorite food in all of Disneyland Resort, and their holiday menu is one for the books. Try the snowman pancake with Applewood smoked bacon to add some seasonal flair to your morning meal. Delicious!

Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle

Hang around Fantasyland with your little ones or take your older kids on some classic thrill rides to finish up your morning in Disneyland Park.

Mid-day: Disney California Adventure

Season’s Speedings! By the middle of the day, you can head over to Radiator Springs for some holiday fun in Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. Here, you can enjoy even more holiday fun with two festive attraction overlays. Laugh and sing along to some classic holiday tunes sung by Mater himself on Mater’s Jingle Jamboree. And on Luigi’s Joy to the Whirl, you can hop in a dancing car and spin to the beat of some Italian holiday songs. Each of these attractions is worth riding if the wait is short, so be on the lookout for when you can hop on for a quick ride.

In between holiday rides, take in the beauty of Cars Land during the holidays. There is so much hidden magic in the décor here. We love taking a peek at the Cozy Cone Motel to check out the decorations in Sally’s office. Peer through the windows so you can see for yourself!

Afternoon: Disney California Adventure

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By the afternoon, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. What better way to spend your lunch than a food tour of the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure? We suggest picking up the turkey and stuffing tamale from Merry Mashups and the reuben potato tots from Favorite Things. These two dishes are fan favorites this season, and for good reason.

While munching on some delicious seasonal bites, grab a place to sit and relax while viewing the ¡Viva Navidad! street party. This cultural celebration is a family favorite and features the Three Caballeros, including Donald Duck, Panchito from Mexico, and Jose Carioca from Brazil, who invite guests to join in their fiesta, complete with live mariachi and samba musicians and folklorico dancers. This year, Princess Elena of Avalor will also be joining in the fun, so your little princes and princesses can dance along in this musical celebration.

Take some time to relax during your afternoon at Disney California Adventure. Spending an entire day at Disneyland Resort and hopping between the two theme parks can be tiring for a family, so take advantage of the relaxing atmosphere of Disney California Adventure. Eat some Festival of Holidays food and listen to the live musical performances from one of the bands playing at Paradise Gardens Park or Pacific Wharf. While the holiday fun at Disneyland Resort is never-ending, sometimes a bit of rest and relaxation are all you need to take in the holiday atmosphere while prepping for a fun night ahead.

If meeting Santa Claus is a priority for you and your family, spend some time in the afternoon at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Parents can relax on the picnic benches while children can play around the awesome obstacle courses in the area. When you’re done, take a family photo with Saint Nick before you head back over to Disneyland Park (you’ll want to give yourself enough time to stroll before grabbing a seat for A Christmas Fantasy parade!).

Evening: Disneyland Park

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Head back over to Disneyland for the rest of the evening, where you can take a ride on Haunted Mansion Holiday. This ride is worth the wait, but we highly suggest using a FastPass. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this year’s gingerbread house in the ride’s ballroom scene. With its larger than life façade and delectable scent, you can’t miss it.

After taking in the colorfully decorated New Orleans Square, find a spot to watch the 6 p.m. performance of A Christmas Fantasy parade. There are many places throughout Fantasyland and Main Street U.S.A. where you can catch this parade, and so as long as you give yourself 30 minutes to find a viewing location, you and your family should be just fine.

For dinner, head over to Frontierland to eat at Rancho del Zocalo and taste some of their delicious seasonal menu options. This restaurant has some of the best nighttime atmosphere in the entire park, and you can watch the trains go by if your table overlooks Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Try the chile relleno served with rice, ranchero beans, and pickled vegetables. For dessert, you and your family will love the frozen Abuelita hot chocolate. Trust us! After dinner, the big kids in your family can hop on the wildest ride in the wilderness. Yeehaw!

Night: Disneyland Park

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Nighttime is when Disneyland truly comes alive during the holidays. Take this time in between dinner and the fireworks to truly take in the wonder and joy that the holidays bring to the park. Stroll around Critter Country so you and your children can take a look at the fun “Winnie the Pooh”-themed snowmen and the beautiful holiday garland around Splash Mountain. Listen to the holiday music in each land and don’t resist picking up a seasonal treat, like the gingerbread-flavored churro, as you walk from attraction to attraction.

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Every night, the Believe…in Holiday Magic fireworks illuminate the sky and several buildings around Disneyland display holiday projections. Whether you grab a viewing spot in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle or “it’s a small world” Holiday, you won’t be disappointed. But our favorite spot to watch the holiday fireworks is on Main Street U.S.A. The projections on the buildings down Main Street can’t be beat, and who doesn’t love the falling snow (or should we say, snoap)? Before sitting down to watch the amazing fireworks display, grab a sweet dessert that you can only purchase during the holiday season, like a Santa Mickey caramel apple or a gingerbread cookie. A sweet snack, some holiday tunes, and soapy snowfall are all you need to end the perfect Disneyland day.

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