Holiday Attractions at Disneyland: Castle lights

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

Disney knows how to have a celebration, so it’s no surprise that the holidays at Disneyland Resort are a truly special event.  The giant tree in the square on Main Street USA and the castle covered in twinkling lights always set the Christmas mood. But for those who come to Disneyland for the rides, the holiday attractions at Disneyland make the theme park shine during the holidays.

There are currently three holiday attractions within Disneyland park with special holiday overlays to celebrate the season. I recently had a chance to sample all three (along with the many impressive holiday lights, parades, and shows) on a hosted weekend at Disneyland.  DestinationReview

Disneyland has had great success with these special holiday versions of classic attractions. The first holiday ride was unveiled in 1997 with an overlay added to It’s a Small World. Disney expanded its holiday offerings in Anaheim in 2001 with the Haunted Mansion Holiday featuring The Nightmare Before Christmas characters. Finally, beginning last year, Disneyland turned its classic Jungle Cruise into the Jingle Cruise. All three are running this year and are well worth a ride (or two or three).

It’s a Small World Holiday

Holiday Attractions at Disneyland: It's a Small World Holiday

The exterior of It’s a Small World Holiday decorated in 300,000 lights.
Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

The old adage says you can’t improve upon a classic, and It’s a Small World is certainly a Disney classic. Disney proves the adage wrong, however, with this ride during the holidays. The traditional song (sometimes criticized for being a tad repetitive) is combined in a medley with Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls to mix things up.


The exterior of the attraction, decorated in 300,000 dazzling holiday lights, is a can’t miss view. Every inch of the interior is decorated in lights and festive decor as well. The world cruise features different rooms corresponding to each of the continents, and each room is decorated with holiday decorations and displays in keeping with the countries featured. If you listen carefully, you might notice some special Disney touches, such as Ariel in the South Seas room singing “Jingle Shells.”

The ride is well-suited for every age and stage. My five year old daughter asked to ride it multiple times. My 13 month old son sat still in my lap in rapt attention for the entire ten minute ride, furiously signing to us “more” when it came to an end.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

Holiday Attractions at Disneyland: Haunted Mansion Holiday

Jack Skellington combines Halloween and Christmas at Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

If you had a chance to visit Disneyland during Halloween, you’ve already seen the Haunted Mansion’s holiday overlay. Jack Skellington and his friends from Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” have overrun the mansion, decorating it with their rare brand of Halloween and Christmas mixed together. Many of the classic Haunted Mansion touches are still there, including the projected singing head statues (currently harmonizing pumpkin heads). The Nightmare before Christmas theming has the effect of minimizing the prominence of ghosts, so the ride is actually a little less scary during the holidays for the little ones. Nevertheless, it still manages to be just as entertaining for the adults.

Jingle Cruise

Holiday Attractions at Disneyland: Jingle Cruise

Disneyland has decked the falls (Schweitzer Falls, of course, for you Disney fans) on the holiday Jingle Cruise.
Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

The classic Disneyland attraction Jungle Cruise in Adventureland has been transformed for Christmas into the very merry “Jingle Cruise.” Disney promises that its skippers have  “a boatload of new jokes sure to ‘sleigh’ you.”

This year, Disney has decorated every inch of the ride and created a special holiday story line involving some errant shipments of holiday decor. The same dry humor that has been a hit with Jungle Cruise fans over the years is prominently featured as well.  The skipper of each boat has some leeway to tell different jokes at different points in the cruise, so the attraction is different each time you ride it. Some of my holiday joke favorites? “Boy that joke sure got a frosty reception” and “Indiana Jones really isn’t looking forward to New Year’s Eve this year…. he hates it when the ball drops.” To be sure, the jokes can be groan-inducing, but that is the charm of the Jungle Cruise.

Holiday Attractions at Disneyland: Happy Holidays

Photo credit: Leslie Harvey / Frequent Flyer TravelingMom

If you are able to make the trip to Disneyland this year for the holidays, these three attractions should be high on your list. Lines at Disneyland can often be long during certain periods of the holiday season so don’t miss tips for dealing with Disneyland crowds if you plan a visit during a busy time. Disneyland Resort’s holiday season runs through January 6, 2015 this year.

Further Reading about Disneyland during the Holidays: