Christmas at California Adventure: 2018 Recap

Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA

Welcome back to another edition of NOT! A! HALLOWEEN UPDATE!! Instead, we’re focusing on the winter holiday season with the first of our nowhere-near-as-bountiful Christmas updates, where we look at the Christmas overlays of local theme parks and local Christmas attractions.

Today, we’re at Disney California Adventure, which has really grown to become the more interesting holiday overlay between the two parks of the Disneyland Resort. While Disneyland has retained pretty much the same theming, shows, and attractions for Christmas every year, DCA has at least varied a few things.

Granted, the park has settled into a familiar groove for the holidays: theming in most of the lands—highlighted by Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, the Festival of Holidays and its entertainment offerings, and fantastic seasonal food items found only this time of year. This year does share a lot of similarities to the California Adventure holidays last year and in 2016. But there are a few new entertainment options (and one noticeably missing one), plus lots more unique food dishes to try!

Lets take a look, shall we?

Christmas on Buena Vista Street

Buena Vista Street is once again adorned with the classic, nostalgic holiday aesthetic of the 1920s. Red bows and simple wreaths and garland wrap around light poles and storefronts and even the face of the Carthay Circle Restaurant. A towering Christmas tree can be found behind the Storytellers Statue over at Carthay Circle. And colorful, bulbous holiday lights line the neighborhood buildings, adding color at night.

 Similar to Main Street, U.S.A., Buena Vista Street takes a classic approach to Christmas.

Similar to Main Street, U.S.A., Buena Vista Street takes a classic approach to Christmas.

 The towering Christmas tree is once again visible throughout Buena Vista Street.

The towering Christmas tree is once again visible throughout Buena Vista Street.

“Carsmas” in Cars Land

The wonderful and adorable theming in Cars Land is back. Mater, Lightning, and company wish everyone “Season’s Speedings” for this “Carsmas” season, which is filled with visual puns. Each of the residents in Radiator Springs has decorated his or her property in a unique, holiday-inspired manner, and it’s fun to see all the clever ways in which car parts and imagery have been reappropriated into Christmas icons of sorts.

 The Cars Land billboard has a seasonal overlay and is still attracting plenty of tourists.

The Cars Land billboard has a seasonal overlay and is still attracting plenty of tourists.

 Tires, radiators, wrenches, and more create familiar Christmas shapes.

Tires, radiators, wrenches, and more create familiar Christmas shapes.

Christmas Around the Rest of the Park

Not to be left behind, the other lands also have Christmas decorations, though not as richly as the aforementioned pair.

Hollywood Land continues the tinsel into Tinseltown, and lends a glitzy flair to the vintage Christmas look. Santa can be seen flying down the end of Hollywood Boulevard, next to the Hyperion Theater.

Grizzly Peak isn’t inundated with Christmas theming, but pretty lights and a most gaudy bear do provide some gleeful holiday happiness at night.

Paradise Park is home to Viva Navidad and its Hispanic celebration of Christmas, but the Little Mermaid ride building also has a decided aquatic looking garland, while Pacific Wharf mixes in some nautical aesthetic to its decorations. Pixar Pier doesn’t feature any Christmas theming, but perhaps next year, after it’s actually finally completely done, the Imagineers may add some decorations over there as well.

 Santa can be spied over in Hollywood, flying on his sleigh.

Santa can be spied over in Hollywood, flying on his sleigh.

 Pacific Wharf has a more rustic take on holiday theming.

Pacific Wharf has a more rustic take on holiday theming.

 The garland around the Little Mermaid building looks a bit like kelp, doesn’t it?

The garland around the Little Mermaid building looks a bit like kelp, doesn’t it?

 This is literally the best holiday theming in the entire park.  How can you not love a giant ugly Christmas sweater on a giant bear?

This is literally the best holiday theming in the entire park. How can you not love a giant ugly Christmas sweater on a giant bear?

Festival of Holidays Returns

The winter version of the Food and Wine Festival is back with new food stands, plenty of drinks, and more marketplace pizzazz. This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. Sampling all the various small plates dishes is a lot of fun (especially in a group), and it’s great to see different cultures and even some experimental culinary fusion represented in this foodie-oriented series of attractions.

For the first time, the Sip ‘n’ Savor Pass is available to all guests, not just Annual Passholders. It is $54 regular price, though AP’ers do get a $5 discount, bringing their tally down to $49 for a single pass containing 8 coupons. If you do the math, this means that any Festival Marketplace food item priced at $6.25 or more is worth using the Pass, while items $6.00 and under are not. This basically means use it on the savories and pay separately for desserts and drinks. Unfortunately, the pass does not work on alcoholic drinks.

Aside from the Festival Marketplace food, various restaurants across the park (and in Disneyland as well) are featuring special menu dishes inspired by the season. We only tried one of them during our trip earlier this month, but fortunately, the fine, sacrificing folks at Disney Food Blog have a comprehensive download on the great eats at this year’s Disneyland Resort holiday line-up. Also check out the Instagram of our friend and DFB food connoisseur, Heather Sievers, for pretty detailed information on the holiday eats!

 The Festival of Holidays is back along the Parade Corridor between Buena Vista Street and Pacific Wharf and Paradise Park.

The Festival of Holidays is back along the Parade Corridor between Buena Vista Street and Pacific Wharf and Paradise Park.

 Plenty of booths selling wares—both official Disney and independent vendors.

Plenty of booths selling wares—both official Disney and independent vendors.

 And of course, there are a lot of little food booths as part of the Festival of Holidays culinary attractions.

And of course, there are a lot of little food booths as part of the Festival of Holidays culinary attractions.

 The Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Garlic Fried Rice was a huge hit last year and is back this year at the “Blissfully Braised” booth.

The Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Garlic Fried Rice was a huge hit last year and is back this year at the “Blissfully Braised” booth.

 The “Spicy Celebrations” booth has two winners: the Jalapeño Latkes with Chipotle Crema (one of our absolute favorites) and the Nashville Hot Fried Turkey with Dill Pickles.  Both pretty tasty with an actual bit of a spice kick!

The “Spicy Celebrations” booth has two winners: the Jalapeño Latkes with Chipotle Crema (one of our absolute favorites) and the Nashville Hot Fried Turkey with Dill Pickles. Both pretty tasty with an actual bit of a spice kick!

 For refreshing adult beverages, it’s tough to beat the Blood Orange Ginger Mule with Rosemary Sprig.  It’s similar to the Meyer Lemon one from the Food and Wine Festival.

For refreshing adult beverages, it’s tough to beat the Blood Orange Ginger Mule with Rosemary Sprig. It’s similar to the Meyer Lemon one from the Food and Wine Festival.

 Of course, you gotta have the Yule Log—available at the “A Twist on Tradition” booth.

Of course, you gotta have the Yule Log—available at the “A Twist on Tradition” booth.

 At “Winter Sliderland,” the Roasted Turkey Slider with Cranberry Sauce is tasty.  The Holiday Stuffing Mac & Cheese is also pretty good, though more creamy than tasty.  But—FOOD HACK!!—combine the two of them together, putting the mac & cheese on top of the turkey inside the slider, and you have a heavenly combination.

At “Winter Sliderland,” the Roasted Turkey Slider with Cranberry Sauce is tasty. The Holiday Stuffing Mac & Cheese is also pretty good, though more creamy than tasty. But—FOOD HACK!!—combine the two of them together, putting the mac & cheese on top of the turkey inside the slider, and you have a heavenly combination.

 Also, not a Festival Marketplace food item, but Pacific Wharf Cafe has a Turkey Pot Pie Soup in a Bread Bowl, and it’s freaking life altering.  This is a must-half this holiday season at the Disneyland Resort!!

Also, not a Festival Marketplace food item, but Pacific Wharf Cafe has a Turkey Pot Pie Soup in a Bread Bowl, and it’s freaking life altering. This is a must-half this holiday season at the Disneyland Resort!!

Festival Entertainment

Finally, the Festival of Holidays also packs a great entertainment line-up spread across multiple stages at Pacific Wharf and Paradise Park. At a bandstand next to Pacific Wharf Cafe, another one at the Sonoma Terrace, the Paradise Park stage at the center of the World of Color viewing area, and over by the Paradise Gardens Bandstand, various musical acts can be found throughout the day, paying homage to cultures all around the world. From Latin to jazz to a-capella to Indian to fusion, there are a lot of great artists playing day and night at California Adventure—some familiar faces and others new for this season.

One favorite that is not playing: World of Color: Season of Light. With the World of Color center platform still down, there is no nighttime holiday show. Instead, Phat Cat Swinger anchors the evening main event slot at the Paradise Park viewing area.

As far as Disney-specific shows, though, ¡Viva Navidad! and the Princess Elena's Musical Grand Arrival mini-shows are back. The first reunites Donald Duck with The Tres Caballeros, plus a few other friends, for a lively and dynamic salsa and mamba-filled medley celebrating the holidays. The latter sees Disney’s first Hispanic princess returning to tell her origin story.

 The Blue13 Dance Troupe celebrates Diwali at California Adventure.

The Blue13 Dance Troupe celebrates Diwali at California Adventure.

 The Mariachi Divas sing classic Christmas songs at Pacific Wharf, next to the Cafe.

The Mariachi Divas sing classic Christmas songs at Pacific Wharf, next to the Cafe.

 There are familiar and fresh names on the entertainment line-up.  The band depends on the day.

There are familiar and fresh names on the entertainment line-up. The band depends on the day.

 More artists on the bill.

More artists on the bill.

 There is a bit of a sequence for the various performers.

There is a bit of a sequence for the various performers.

 And ¡Viva Navidad! is back in its regular location over by the Boardwalk restaurants, next to Goofy’s Sky School!

And ¡Viva Navidad! is back in its regular location over by the Boardwalk restaurants, next to Goofy’s Sky School!

There you have it for what’s happening this holiday season at Disney California Adventure. The festivities run daily now through Tuesday, January 8th. Now is a great time to visit the Resort for the holidays, as things are still relatively quiet. But they’ll only ramp up, culminating in two weeks of madness during Christmas and New Year’s. So head over asap to beat the mob. It’s always magical to celebrate the yuletide season at the Disneyland Resort!

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