Christmas is the most magical time of the year to visit Disneyland. Parades, fireworks, music, and decorations are all holiday-themed to get you in the holiday spirit.
At the end of this article, check out our Disneyland Gluten-Free Holiday FAQ for Disneyland’s “gluten allergy-friendly” disclaimer and tips for dealing with Disneyland crowds during the busy holiday season.
Here are 11 Magical Moments you can celebrate during “Holidays at the Disneyland Resort“.
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Holiday Ice Cream & the Christmas Fantasy Parade
It’s unlikely to be cold during the day, so visit Gibson Girl in Disneyland Park for hand-scooped ice cream.
Ask for a manager and explain that you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The Special Diets trained cast member will scoop your ice cream from the back following allergy protocols.
We’ve had success modifying the seasonal peppermint ice cream on the holiday menu. So good and it tastes like Christmas!
If candy cane isn’t your favorite flavor, be sure to ask for Christmas sprinkles to add a festive touch to your ice cream. They have always been gluten-free when I’ve inquired, but confirm on site.
Then take your Christmas ice cream right outside to enjoy the Christmas Fantasy Parade in Disneyland.
The Christmas Fantasy Parade is my second favorite Disney parade. (IMO, The Mulan Parade was in a class of its own.) The Christmas Fantasy Parade is full of your favorite characters in holiday scenes, dancing reindeer, and, of course, Santa Claus!
On the Disney California Adventure side, go to Clarabelle’s Hand-Scooped ice cream and sit outside to watch Festival entertainment on Buena Vista Street.
Celebrate with a Gluten-Free Holiday Meal
While there are many advantages to the convenience of mobile ordering via the Disneyland app at a Quick Service Restaurant, for a special holiday trip to Disneyland it’s worth savoring at least one meal at a Table Service Restaurant.
I cover my favorite Disney-owned table service restaurants throughout the resort in this article on the Best Gluten-Free Dining at Disneyland. Read the insider tip for getting a gluten-free fried, Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou Restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and learn where you can find gluten-free Mickey waffles.
Any one of those recommended restaurants will be perfect for your gluten-free celebration during the Holidays at the Disneyland Resort.
On the actual holidays, there are special Thanksgiving and Christmas Day feasts at a couple of the resort hotels: Napa Rose and Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian and Goofy’s Kitchen in the Disneyland Hotel.
Napa Rose offers Thanksgiving and Christmas Day feasts that are culinary masterpieces with prices to match. No characters.
All three restaurants can accommodate your gluten-free diet with care and culinary creativity. Be sure to note a gluten allergy for your party when making your reservation.
¡Viva Navidad! Street Party & Traditional Mexican Dishes
Multiple times throughout the day, Disney California Adventure hosts the ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party with dancers, drummers, and puppets all celebrating the holiday traditions of Mexico and Brazil.
This incredible celebration takes place close to Goofy’s Sky School in Paradise Gardens, which is fully decked out for a traditional Latin American Christmas.
Check the Disney Mobile App for the entertainment schedule.
Nothing says Navidad quite like tamales. If you’ve been lucky enough to join in the fun of a tamale-making party, you know. The Paradise Garden Grill often has tamales on the Gluten/Wheat Allergy-Friendly menu!
This restaurant changes its menu frequently with the seasons. On our recent visit, Impossible (plant-based) albóndigas soup was on the gluten-free menu. It was so good that as we left the park, my husband lamented not having a to-go bowl of soup to take home.
So, grab a bowl of caldo de albóndigas and relish ¡Viva Navidad!
Festive Foods Marketplace at the Festival of the Holidays
Festival of the Holidays in Disney California Adventure offers music and entertainment celebrating winter holidays from around the world, including Christmas, Navidad, Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day.
Check the entertainment schedule in the app, as the festival entertainment is found throughout Disney California Adventure and the schedule changes regularly during the holiday season.
Disney has everything from mariachi and Bollywood to toy drummers. It would be nearly impossible to see it all.
What’s a Disney Festival without food? Disney offers the Festival Foods Marketplace so you can eat your way through holiday traditions around the world. These booths are located throughout California Adventure.
You can purchase snacks and drinks a la carte or purchase a Sip & Savor pass with 8 entitlement tabs. Exchange each entitlement tab for one food or non-alcoholic beverage.
Disney notes “gluten-friendly” items on the festival menu, but always discuss preparation methods and cross-contamination with a chef at the Festival.
Tip! Find the slowest booth and talk to the Disney chef there to get a consult for the whole festival. All the chefs are trained on every booth.
Here’s Disney’s list of items on the Gluten/Wheat Allergy-Friendly Menu at the 2022-23 Festive Foods Marketplace:
Festive Foods Marketplace Gluten/Wheat Allergy-Friendly Snacks:
- Pork Belly Adobo
- Impossible Chorizo Queso Fundido
- Mrs. Claus’ Hot Cocoa Macaron – While this macaron is on the gluten-friendly menu, according to the chef I spoke with, it is produced in an environment with a high risk of cross-contamination with gluten flour. I would not consider it celiac-safe.
Festive Foods Marketplace Gluten/Wheat Allergy-Friendly Non-Alcoholic Beverages:
- Ceylon Splash
- Guava-Melon Lassi
- Cherry-Mango Punch
- Blood Orange Pom Limeade
- Churro Toffee Cold Brew Latte
Festive Foods Marketplace Gluten/Wheat Allergy-Friendly Alcoholic Beverages:
- Huckleberry Sake Sangria
- Cranberry Chai Pisco Punch
- Piña-Hibiscus Mezcal Mule
- Tiramisu Yule Log Cocktail
- Maple-Hazelnut Hot Buttered Rum
- Churro Toffee Cold Brew Latte Cocktail
- Spicy Apple Cider Margarita
Holiday Treats (& Food-Related Items)
Every year, just before the start of the Disneyland Resort Holidays, the Disney Parks Blog releases the anxiously-awaited Christmas Foodie Guide. Disney foodies, including those of us who are gluten-free, and Disneyland Special Diets (a team of cast members dedicated to food allergies and special dietary restrictions) are all on a level playing field, as none of us know in advance what will be on this list.
Unfortunately, most of the Christmas Snacks & Treats list will be bakery items that could not be further from gluten-free. Historically, nothing on the list is publicized in advance by Disney as gluten-friendly. Disneyland Special Diets will refer you to the chef at each establishment, where you can discuss the allergy-friendly status of a particular item.
Focus on the drinks, ice cream treats, and savory items, not baked goods. Speak with a chef directly to see if a seasonal item can be safely adjusted to be gluten-free. Go in with tempered expectations. If it works out, consider it pixie dust!
This year, we found the Holiday Dole Whip Sundae at the Tropical Hideaway was gluten-free with one small adjustment, no sprinkles, which the cast member said had a “may contain wheat” statement on the package. Miss E ordered a Holiday Dole Whip Float, made with a swirl of cherry and lime Dole Whip floating in pineapple juice and topped with a gummi butterfly. When we visited the Tropical Hideaway, the cast members were using Albanese gummi butterflies, which are labeled gluten-free. I always recommend confirming with cast members when you visit, as suppliers can change.
Even with the holiday treat list mostly off-limits, you can enjoy a festive twist on your snacks with glowing ice cubes for your beverages, tumblers/cups, and seasonal popcorn buckets sold in various locations in both parks. The freshly-made popcorn is plentiful throughout the resort and on my list of the Best Gluten-Free Disneyland Snacks & Treats.
“Believe in Holiday Magic” Fireworks & Popcorn
Speaking of popcorn, pick up a seasonal bucket of popcorn and find your spot on Main Street in Disneyland for the magical, nighttime fireworks.
Nobody does fireworks like Disney. Between projections on the castle and the buildings of Main Street, festive music, fireworks, and snow you will be wowed during this joyous end to your Disneyland day.
If you have little ones who need to get to bed, watch the Believe in Holiday Magic Fireworks from the beginning of Main Street, closer to the park exit. After the fireworks, there will be a mad dash to leave, and getting you and a stroller out will be much easier from this location.
Night owls in your group? After (and during) the fireworks, the ride lines get shorter, so squeeze in a few more rides before the park closes.
World of Color Season of Lights with a Meal Package or Dessert Party
If you have never seen World of Color (or the somewhat similar Fantasmic), it is hard to do this experience justice with just words. Dancing fountains, colorful lights, holiday music, and Disney film clips projected onto screens made of mist.
There are a few options for viewing World of Color Season of Lights: 1) first come, first served viewing around Paradise Bay, 2) a roped-off, standing-view area that requires a reservation, or 3) a sit-down dessert party. I recommend either of the last two.
To get the roped-off standing view, either join the virtual queue via the Disneyland Mobile App at noon or request the World of Color Dining Package at the Storytellers Cafe (Dinner Buffet) or Wine Country Trattoria (Lunch or Dinner).
Both of those restaurants make this list of the Best Gluten-Free Table Service Restaurants at Disneyland and the chefs there do a stellar job accommodating gluten-free diets. Be sure to select the gluten-allergy option when you make your reservation and ask to speak to a chef when you are seated. Of the two, the buffet at Storytellers Cafe will have the widest variety of gluten-free options.
A sit-down dessert party is the third viewing option, which will require a bit of advanced planning for the best gluten-free experience. Unfortunately, since the Covid pandemic, several of Disney’s gluten-free suppliers have gone out of business or changed ingredients, limiting some of the gluten-free options.
Here’s the trick for gluten-free at the dessert party! Note “gluten” under special dietary requests when making your reservation and email special diets a week or so before your dessert party reservation to request a phone consult with the chef. This extra step will really add to your gluten-free experience at the dessert party.
Then sit down after a long day of “getting in your steps” and feel spoiled with your fabulous spread of fruit, cheese, and desserts while watching the spectacular Season of Lights.
Santa & Candy Canes
Visit Old Saint Nick in Critter Country (Disneyland), Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (Disney California Adventure), and in the lobby of each of the resort hotels. Check the app for an up-to-date schedule.
Our Disneyland Santa visits have frequently ended with my kids being given candy canes. While candy canes are usually gluten-free, cast members at Santa spots have not had packages with an ingredient list when I have asked.
Simple solution! Come prepared with a few candy canes from home if you are planning a Santa visit. A candy cane will also make a nice addition to your hot chocolate later at night!
Christmas at a Disneyland Resort Hotel
It doesn’t get much better than sleeping at the happiest place on earth during the Christmas season.
The hotels are decked out for Christmas, Santa is in town, Christmas trees are up, and carolers are singing. The Grand Californian is particularly breathtaking with a giant tree and gingerbread replica of the hotel in the lobby.
The restaurants at each hotel will give the same great attention and care to your gluten-free diet that you experience in the theme parks.
Plan a day to make holiday memories outside the park. Have a character breakfast. Splash in the pool. Visit Santa. Shop for Christmas presents at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. Some of the hotel rooms offer views of the Believe in Holiday Magic Fireworks and World of Color Season of Lights.
Cozy, Gluten-Free Quick Service Meal
It may be hard to pretend it’s Christmas during the day in Southern California. But, at night, put on a jacket and maybe even a winter hat and act like it’s winter with the rest of us Californians.
When you’re ready for a cozy, winter meal, head to the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe.
For my family’s very first gluten-free Disneyland trip, Chef Bill, who was a Disneyland gem, recommended this stop as a favorite of gluten-free guests. You’ll quickly see why. Jolly Holiday serves the very popular grilled cheese sandwich on a gluten-free bun with tomato basil soup, perfect for a cool Christmas evening.
Finish with a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie or blueberry muffin. If you time it right you can finish eating and step right outside to Main Street for the Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
Hot Chocolate & Wintertime Enchantment “Snow” on Main Street
Warm up with hot chocolate while it “snows” on Main Street.
The hot chocolate situation at Disneyland is a bit tricky.
Although suppliers can change at any time, Disney’s hot chocolate does not currently seem to be gluten-free. Ingredient information is not always readily available when I have asked. When cast members have known the hot chocolate supplier, it has been Nestle, which carries a “may contain wheat” statement on its packaging.
Starbucks is an option. I contacted Starbucks customer service in November 2022 and was informed that the hot chocolate is gluten-free. Reach out to Starbucks directly for the most current information. Please note that in its allergen disclaimer, Starbucks warns of the risk of cross-contamination within the store.
There are three locations where you can purchase Starbucks beverages: Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Cafe in Disney California Adventure, Market House in Disneyland, and Starbucks in Downtown Disney.
Another option is to bring your own packet of Swiss Miss peppermint hot chocolate, which is labeled gluten-free. It takes up very little room in your backpack or stroller, and you can request a complimentary cup of hot water from a cast member at a quick service or table service restaurant. That little trick makes hot chocolate the most affordable treat of your Disneyland vacation!
Once you have your hot chocolate, settle in along Main Street for the Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. This usually occurs twice nightly, before fireworks. Look for the times in the Entertainment Schedule on the Disney App. During this nighttime light show which beautifully transforms the castle, the air is filled with music and snow!
Whichever magical moments you choose for your Disneyland holiday visit, you will make wonderful memories!
Take it in. Look up. Look around. This takes intention when hurriedly looking down to attend to little ones or push a stroller. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Christmas are everywhere, as are the gluten-free options.
Wishing you a magical Disneyland Holiday!