It’s that time of year to get in the jolly holiday spirit and fa-la-la-la around the Disney Parks! The holiday season is in full swing over at Disney California Adventure. This SoCal Disney theme park is unique because they celebrate Christmas, Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and more! The Festival of Holidays really is just that. It’s a festival that celebrates everyone and their cultures, and it’s a beautiful thing to see Guests gather round and celebrate. It’s so much fun to walk around the park because you get a taste of different cultures, music, and food, so the experience is extremely special. Here are a few things you can expect to experience at the Festival of Holidays now through January 9…
There is plenty of entertainment at the festival this year! Mostly Kosher, who performs at the Sonoma Terrace, were my absolute favorite band to watch. They honor Hanukkah with an eclectic blend of musical styles from klezmer and jazz to Latin and rock. I am not very familiar with Hanukkah music, but it was so fun to watch them and be so passionate, singing about their folklore and how they celebrate the holidays.
The Mariachi Divas, a two-time Grammy Award-winning musical group, is wonderful to watch over at the Pacific Wharf. These ladies bring distinction and honor to the tradition of Mariachi music. They absolutely rock the stage and have Guests singing and dancing right along with them. When they were finished playing, Guests were yelling endlessly for minutes for an encore!
The Holiday Concert featuring The Suffragettes is another hit, and they perform in Paradise Gardens Park. They play a mix of Holiday and Top 40 cover songs during their Holiday Concerts, and they also have an amazing backdrop behind them with Mickey’s Fun Wheel and the Incredicoaster. These ladies are so much fun to watch, and they have a lot of talent performing on their stage.
Other entertainment includes the Phat Cat Swinger that plays swinging holiday music; Mickey’s Happy Holidays where Guests can dance along with Mickey Mouse and friends to the merry rhythms of the Holiday Toy Drummers; and the Blue13 Dance Company, where spirited performers turn up the fun with traditional dances that celebrate Diwali. There are so many different concerts that play music to celebrate the holidays in all other ways, making the festival such a magical experience.
My last personal favorite entertainment for the Festival of Holidays is Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party. This is a street party not to be missed as it features holiday traditions from Mexico and Brazil brought to life by cultural performers. Donald Duck and his amigos José Carioca and Panchito, “The Three Caballeros,” host the ultimate fiesta for Navidad. It’s so much fun to watch and dance with everyone, and it’s an extremely high-energy party. It features exuberant performances, including authentic folklórico dancers, mariachis, Brazilian samba dancers, drummers, and incredible 12-foot-tall mojiganga puppets of Santa and Mrs. Claus, with a special appearance by Mickey and Minnie in their fiesta best!
Of course, no festival at a Disney park is complete without characters. Right now is an extremely special time to visit Disney’s California Adventure. During The Festival of Holidays, you get to see characters dressed up in costumes special to each culture. The characters not to miss at this year’s Festival of Holidays include:
- Mirabel from Disney’s new and upcoming film, Encanto at Paradise Gardens Park
- Santa at Redwood Creek Challenge
- Special appearances by Ana and Elsa at Buena Vista Street
- Chip, Dale, and friends from the Country Bear Jamboree at Grizzly Peak
- Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy dressed to their holiday 1930s best at Buena Vista Street
While Guests are still unable to stand right next to characters for meet and greets, it’s still an unforgettable and magical experience to be just a few feet away from them and still get the same experience with interactions and taking pictures with them. It’s truly a holiday treat watching both kids and adults get so excited to see their favorite characters in their holiday finest!
Festive Foods Marketplace
Food brings everyone together and does that at the Festival of Holidays! There are seven marketplace booths this year, and each one offers up different kinds of tasting-sized foods, drinks, and treats. This year’s booths include:
- Brews and Bites
- Winter Sliderland
- Holiday Duets
- Favorite Things
- Grandma’s Recipes
- Merry Mashups
- Making Spirits Bright
I was able to try a few things when I attended the festival this year, and every single thing I tried was an amazing 10/10! From Winter Wonderland, I tried the Nashville Hot Turkey Slider with a dill pickle and the Prickly Pear Tea Lemonade. I love spicy food, and I was very pleased with the spice level on the Nashville-style Turkey Slider. It’s not over the top spicy, but it does have a good kick to it, so if you are sensitive to spice, you would want to skip over this one. The chefs could have added another dill pickle because there is so much turkey, but overall, it was a decent portion for being “tasting sized.” The tea lemonade (non-alcoholic) surpassed my expectations, and it was refreshing, especially since I was eating something with a bit of spice. The drink features Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Co. Ceylon Black Tea (Cold Brew), Prickly Pear, House-made Lemonade. It’s fruity, light, and the flavor is just a magical delight.
Over at the Brews and Bites Marketplace, I tried the Impossible Chorizo Queso Fundido, which is also really excellent. This is definitely a shareable item as they give you plenty of warm and crisp tortilla chips and plenty of queso. I’d never had anything Impossible-style before, and I was quite pleased with the flavor and texture of the Impossible Chorizo in the queso fundido. This also has just a little bit of a kick, and the flavoring is fantastic!
Unfortunately, quite a few Marketplaces were sold out of treats I wanted to try this season, including the Hot Cocoa Macaron at Making Spirits Bright Marketplace and the Maple Hazelnut Hot Buttered Rum from Treats for Santa Marketplace. However, I was able to try the Gingerbread Mickey at Grandma’s Recipes Marketplace. This may be considered more of an average treat item at the festival; however, I definitely think it’s worth trying. It’s a giant cookie that’s shareable (or not!), it is very moist, and the gingerbread flavor is not extremely overpowering. There are holiday sprinkles on top, which provide some texture giving the cookie a slight crunch, and I just thought it was a really wonderful holiday treat!
Insider Tip: For the best success, I recommend looking up what you want to try ahead of time. Instead of standing in two lines for each booth (one to order and one to pick up), you can order most of everything you want at just one booth. The Cast Member will then hand you a receipt, and you can visit each booth that has the food items you ordered and get in the pick-up line. It saves so much time and leaves you more time to enjoy the food and entertainment!
The Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure is a fantastic holiday experience between the entertainment, characters, and food. This year, they celebrate how different cultures celebrate holidays, making for a genuinely inclusive, magical, eye-opening experience. It’s so much to celebrate other holidays together where we can learn and eat together at one of the most magical places on earth. The Festival of Holidays at California Adventure is definitely an experience you won’t want to miss this holiday season!