As the air grows scented with cinnamon, clove and spice, scarves come out to play, and our thoughts turn to pine trees and pies, we begin to anticipate holiday celebrations. Where better to experience the most joyous season than in actual Fantasyland?
Disneyland, which is in the business of making dreams come true and memories that endure, is not only a nostalgic journey for your inner child, but a top events destination for gatherings of any stripe. Here, we share how to get started planning a Disney event, plus holiday-specific tips for adult enjoyment of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Plan Your Event at Disneyland
Wondering why you’ve never seen a corporate bash while strolling through Frontierland or spinning on Mad Hatter’s tea cups? It’s because the park has a multitude of hidden areas for events. Including the park-attached hotels, Disneyland offers over 180,000 sq. ft. of completely customizable event space, plus an entire team to take care of the specifics—from which space will suit your needs to themes and catering details. Host at Starcade, for example, which is a secret events-only space within Tomorrowland, or stage dinner inside elegant Carthay Circle restaurant, a replica of a theater from Hollywood’s Golden Age, in California Adventure.
The Disneyland Hotel, Grand Californian and Paradise Pier hotels encompass enchanted meeting spaces with the bonus of park attachment. The best place to start planning is with Disney’s full-service meeting and events team. It can get event attendees—and their friends and family—specially priced park admission tickets.
Not to Miss: November and December
The parks will be decorated to the festive max, but an extra treat for the eyes is the holiday version of World of Color. This spectacular display will get sugarplums and candy canes dancing in your head in no time. Insider tips: Use the Disneyland app for FastPasses, and if you book at the Grand Californian, your group will have access to a private viewing deck.
On Nov. 2–3, it’s Dapper Days. Your attendees can join thousands of guests dressed to the nines, many in vintage-inspired attire or dressy takes on character costumes.
Later in the month, restaurants in Disney parks and connected hotels get in the spirit with everything from festive snacks to full-out spreads. No matter what day you’re there or where you eat, making reservations well in advance is a must.
If your group might be curious about the park’s holiday history and likes getting its steps in, get it on the 2.5 hour walking tour, which includes reserved seating for A Christmas Fantasy Parade, festive treats and a collectible pin to commemorate the experience. But perhaps the most unique December event is the Candelight Ceremony, presented live by a celebrity narrator (whose identity is kept secret until the first night). It takes place Dec. 7–8.
Seasonal Eats and Treats
We all know that when visiting a theme park, sugar and calories cease to exist. Thank goodness, because tempting morsels lurk around every corner. Here are some of the best:
- Freshly made Matterhorn Macaroons from Jolly Holiday Bakery in the morning
- Crunchy, craggy and generously portioned fried chicken from The Plaza Inn, and save room for the Yule log they serve for dessert—the star of many a Disney Insta.
- Lobster nachos at recently renovated Lamplight Lounge (formerly Ariel’s Grotto and The Cove bar). The restaurant is an after-hours hangout for Pixar Studio animators and creators, and gastropub fare is served alongside craft cocktails.
- Tiki drinks at famed Trader Sam’s at Disneyland Hotel, a bar and eatery that transports you to 1950s Polynesia through the magic of imagineering. Sitting at the bar is a bit like being on a ride. We won’t give away why.
- Fresh, subtly sweet hot apple cider (with rum, if you please) and pastry treats from the holiday cart in the lobby of Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
- Corn dogs from the red trolley car in Disneyland—savory sausage hugged by perfectly fluffy, just-sweet cornbread. Insiders know—this trill cart serves the best.
Adulting at Disneyland
Setting your meeting or event at Disney presents endless options, plus the chance to top it off by celebrating the kid inside of you. Even as grown-ups, there are rides your attendees won’t want to miss—and for that a MaxPass is well worth the $15 investment. A little adulting will keep things running smoothly: download the Disneyland App for wait times, make reservations for your seated dining experiences, and enjoy Walt’s world of wonder during the most spirited time of year.