Did you realize you don’t need a park ticket to celebrate Christmas at The Disneyland Resort? The hotels and Downtown Disney have their own special festive celebrations, which is especially handy if your AP is blocked out between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Honestly, even though my AP has no block-out days, I really enjoy having a meal and a cocktail in Downtown Disney and soaking up the festive atmosphere. And the hotels have so much to offer; the lobby areas are a great place to relax during hectic park days!
Celebrating Christmas at The Disneyland Resort Hotels and Downtown Disney
All three Disneyland Resort hotels have fun holiday decorations and activities, including visits with Santa! And, anyone can enjoy the holiday atmosphere, even non-hotel guests.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
The grand lobby of craftsman style Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel features a jaw-dropping 35-foot tall Christmas tree, decorated in lovely rustic ornaments and thousands of white lights. Pro tip: Go up to the third floor for a stunning view.
Also located in the lobby, you can smell the “Grand” gingerbread house from the moment you enter the building. Yes, the 7 food tall gingerbread house is made with real ingredients including 600 pounds of gingerbread, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, and 150 pounds of fondant, and took a 25 member team 1225 hours to create! There are 25 hidden Mickey’s on the house; can you find them all? (Because I can’t!)
This year Chip and Dale were included; aren’t they adorable?
And right next to the gingerbread house is the holiday cart, serving up some yummy snacks and drinks! The highlight of the year is the Mickey Gingerbread cookie. It’s delicious! And the famous “cookie shot” is back. The cookie shot is an edible cookie shot glass which can be filled with milk or chocolate milk ($8) or select liquors ($15). Liquors available were Bailey’s, Rumchada, Peppermint Schnapps, or Spiced Rum, but availability may vary. I tried the Bailey’s and it was delightful!
In the evenings, you might catch a visit with Santa or hear Bell Carolers in the lobby, too! Check with the Cast Members for hours.
New this year – holiday drinks at the GCH Craftsman Bar!
There are two drink specials for the holidays:
Californian Snowball is made with Don Q Rum, Coconut rum, and Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut.
Holiday Spice is made with Captain Morgan Rum, Rumchata, and Pumpkin Spice liqueur.
Both were delicious but Holiday Spice was the winner for me!
The Disneyland Hotel
The beauty of the holidays begins before you even enter the building! Hundreds of colorful lights adorn the greenery outside, and don’t forget to look up!
The holiday theme at The Disneyland Hotel this year is It’s a Small World! You’ll find this cute mural right as you walk in.
Looking for holiday swag? Stop in the Fantasia gift shop. They had plenty of attire, decorations, and ornaments to take home.
On the other side of the gift shop, you’ll find the “holiday scene.” Every year Disney sets up a cute immersive scene for photo ops with Santa. For the last few years, they have featured this mid-century living room and I’m not at all mad about it. In fact, one year I dressed in vintage style JUST for this photo op. Obsessive Disney fan? Perhaps.
Keep going towards the restaurants and you’ll find some properly themed Christmas trees. In fact, I have a whole seperate article dedicated to the Christmas Trees at The Disneyland Hotel, if you want to see them all!
Finally, stop by Trader Sam’s to enjoy their festive holiday decor and a drink or two or three!
– Gin-ger Snaps: Hendrick’s Gin, Canton Ginger Liqueur, lemon juice, ginger syrup, and cinnamon syrup, dusted with cinnamon and garnished with candied ginger.
– Jungle All the Way: Fernet Branca, Kahlda, lime juice, pineapple juice, and coconut cream.
– Peppermint Barks: El Dorado 8-Year Rum, Rumple Minze Peppermint Schnapps, ginger syrup, lemon juice, Coco Real cream of coconut, mint leaves, and pomegranate juice, garnished with a candy cane.
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
I love that all the Christmas decor at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel is beach and ocean themed! Their lobby tree is just gorgeous, and peek around the first floor because you’ll find other cute trees!
You can also check with Surfside Lounge bar for holiday drink specials. When I went in mid-November they told me they hadn’t heard about any holiday drinks this year, but you never know!
Downtown Disney has a fun theme this year – Glow! The area is adorned with bright neon trees that light up at night! It’s absolutely gorgeous!
Lots of restaurants have holiday food and drink specials, too! Here are just a few:
Naples – The newly remodeled Naples has a lot of impressive features, including a wide variety of holiday specials! I tried the “Glow Spritz” which was made with Ruffino Proseco, Lillet Rose, Svedka vodka, and raspberry puree, and served with a glow cube to match the Downtown Disney decor!
Uva Bar – Uva bar and Catal are also offering a glow drink, the Mega Blueberry Sangria. This is a cocktail for two for $45 so stop by with a friend and splurge.
Tortilla Jo’s and Splitsville are also offering specialty glow drinks this year!
Catal – Catal hosts “Breakfast with Santa,” which you can read about over on Disneyland Daily.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen – I haven’t tried it, but I was told they would be offering a yummy peppermint martini!
Some additional helpful information:
Parking – Parking is available at the Downtown Disney lot. From their website: “Enjoy 3 hours of parking when you make a $20 minimum purchase and receive validation from any Downtown Disney location (including quick-service restaurants, merchandise locations and kiosks) — or up to 5 hours of parking with validation from any Downtown Disney table-service restaurant.” Beyond your validation, each additional 30 minutes is $7, up to a maximum of $56. You can also park in the Mickey and Friends parking structure for $25 flat.
Hours – Hotel lobbies are accessible 24 hours a day (but hanging out in a hotel lobby at 3am when you’re not staying there is a little weird, so don’t do it). Restaurants, bars, and lounges have varying hours; check online or with a hotel Cast Member. Downtown Disney establishments have varying hours as well, with most restaurants closing between 9pm and midnight.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition at The Disneyland Resort?