Christmas at California Adventure: 2017 Recap

Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

From last Friday's Knott's Merry Farm update, we move a few cities over to Anaheim to visit the Disneyland Resort and explore its holiday offerings.  Disneyland has long since synonymous with warm holiday spirit, but in recent years, Disney California Adventure has really come into its own as a fantastic, packed holiday park of its own.  In fact, we devoted a huge update last year to its Festival of Holidays addition, which brought a Food and Wine Festival atmosphere to the Pacific Wharf and Paradise Pier areas of the park.  The Festival returns this year, along with the usual goodies.  Lets take an in-depth look at what California Adventure offers guests with regards to the holiday season!

Festival of Holidays

As mentioned, last year's huge new thing was the Festival of Holidays, a large banner of amenities that covered boutique stand and special seasonal dining opportunities in the Festival Marketplace, the lively Viva Navidad presence at the Boardwalk portion of Paradise Pier, and the bevvy of live entertainment at multiple stages in Paradise Pier and Pacific Wharf.  The event was a huge hit, attracting bountiful crowds and high interest, so it was no surprise that it is back this year.  Once again, the Festival Marketplace features an assortment of various vendors selling specialty items and holiday gifts.  In addition, Annual Passholders have their own special merch area for exclusive Festival of Holidays AP perks and souvenirs. 

Festival Food

Also back is the food portion of the Festival of Holidays.  A baker's dozen different food stands (down from 14 last year) offer special tapas-sized items inspired by holiday traditions all around the world.  Savories, sweets, and plenty of potables provide a lot of dining choices for guests, and just about all of the items are different from last year. 

Furthermore, Annual Passholders can purchase a Tasting Passport for $45 total that includes (8) tasting tickets good for any non-alcoholic item at the Festival Marketplace food stands.  Doing the math, any item at $5.75 or more amounts to a savings over buying the dishes separately.  And guests can use it across multiple visits.  It's pretty wonderful that this is back for the Festival of Holidays, because while the Tasting Passport has been a fixture at the Food and Wine Festival the past two years, it was strangely absent at last year's Festival of Holidays.

Naturally, there are plenty of delicious items to sample.  I didn't have a chance to taste every single item offered, but I was mostly pleased with what I was able to sample.  Here are a few of the items I've been able to try during the first couple of weeks of the Festival of Holidays.  And for a broader review the gastronomic offerings, check out the coverage our friends at Disney Food Blog provided for this year's event!

¡Viva Navidad!

Over at the Boardwalk side of Paradise Pier, the Latin America-inspired ¡Viva Navidad! festivities are back this year.  Included are a meet-and-greet and mini-show with Elena of Avalor, a seasonal menu at the Garden Grill, special Disney character meet-and-greets, and of course, the actual ¡Viva Navidad! show itself with Donald Duck and his pals, José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles.

For photos of the ¡Viva Navidad! and Elena of Avalor shows, check out last year's update

Festival Entertainment

There is plenty of entertainment back for this year's Festival of Holidays.  At the bandstand in front of the Garden Grill, various music acts play throughout the day.  They rotate around but provide a very lively and jubilant musical atmosphere. 

The dance and musical acts from last year's Festival of Holidays have returned this year as well.  Performing at stages located in the middle of Paradise Park, at the Sonoma Wine Terrace, and just outside the Pacific Wharf Cafe, popular acts such as the Mariachi Divas, Phat Cat Swinger, Mostly Kosher, and Blue13 Dance Company thrill and entertain.  Most of the shows occur before 6pm, but it's fantastic to see so much variety featured at the park!

And again, photos of additional acts mentioned above can be found in last year's update!

World of Color: Season of Light

Back for a second year is World of Color: Seasons of Light.  This wondrous Paradise Bay spectacular is the holiday version of the World of Color fountain, laser, and pyrotechnic show.  And after last year's wildly successful and absolutely touching and brilliantly wonderful reworking of the previous World of Color: Winter Dreams show (aka the original 22-minute Frozen "short film"), it is no surprise to see World of Color: Season of Light return.

Christmas Around DCA

Our holiday update at California Adventure's last year concentrated on Festival of Holidays, since that was brand new.  But unlike Halloween, which only made its way over this year, Christmas has been a fixture all around Disney California Adventure for years.  Holiday decorations can be found throughout the park, and here's a stroll to see DCA in its Christmas trimmings!  The following pictures are an assortment of photos I've taken around the park during the holidays over the past few years.

Buena Vista Street

This California "Main Street" takes on a classic, Norman Rockwell era aesthetic with Christmas, featuring big, bright, colorful bulbs, fancy tinsel, and a heavy classic Christmas style.  A towering Christmas tree can be found behind the Storytellers Statue at Carthay Circle, and there are plenty of red ribbons and holly to be found.  Christmas on Buena Vista Street is just like steeping into the time of Sinatra, Martin, or Crosby--quite nostalgic!

Hollywood Land

Hollywood Land has a similar style of Christmas, but since this is Tinseltown, there's a bigger emphasis on tinsel!  Christmas is shinier here, highlighted by a Santa Claus sighting at the end of Hollywood Boulevard!

Grizzly Peak

Christmas takes on a more rustic affair at Grizzly Peak, with evergreens creatively decked in beads and lights, and even the Grizzly River Run bear provided with some holiday cheer.  The holidays feel more serene here, as nature filters the hustle and bustle of city Christmas life away.

Pacific Wharf

There's a similarly slower Christmas charm at Pacific Wharf too, though not as quiet as Grizzly Peak feels.  Because this area is all restaurants and shops, there's a higher energy from the guests.  But the decorations are still quite lovely, especially with the nautical motif that marks the area.  At night, the colorful Christmas lights make for a vibrant scene!

"Carsmas" at Cars Land

Finally, there is the fantastic visual feast and puns that is "Carsmas" at Cars Land.  Although it took till this year for it receive something spooky during Halloween Time, Radiator Springs has featured a Christmas overlay since the very beginning.  The entire town has transformed itself into a holiday lane that mixes in plenty of automotive imagery to very clever results!  And perhaps most out of all the lands of California Adventure, by night, the holiday scene becomes stunning in its illumination!

That concludes our very long California Adventure Christmas tour!  If you liked the eye candy throughout this update, please check out my personal Disney blog, Disney Photoblography (cheap plug).  It's got plenty of pretty pictures like the series above and content from Disney parks all around the world--in fact, every Resort is represented!

As you can see, Disney California Adventure is bursting with Christmas content.  I love how it's evolved nicely into Disneyland's own EPCOT--a park with seasonal and special events that take on a cultural emphasis and offer diversity of amenities.  DCA has come a long way from the days where just two or three hours could conceivably be enough to do everything significant in the park.  It's a bona fide attraction in its own right for the holidays, and even though Disneyland Park remains the heavy attraction most people associate with the Disney Christmas spirit, DCA is certainly no slouch.  I'd definitely recommend people stop by if they're at the parks this time of year.  There's plenty to do here!


Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.