Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland Resort are back in full holiday swing for 2021.
Orange County’s theme parks are back this holiday season with lights, charismatic characters and lots of festive food. Both Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland Resort have returned for the 2021 holidays to offer families a variety of activities, shows and other ways to celebrate the merry season.
“There are literally miles of garland throughout the park,” said Phil Rahn, senior manager of Resort Enhancement at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. “Seventy-five hundred feet of ribbon and we have about 800 bows, so it’s 1.4 miles of just ribbon for bows. And then 8,000 feet of garland. … And this is all done with a relatively small team.”
And the decor is just the start. Both parks have also created an extensive holiday menu for the season, along with an impressive lineup of themed entertainment. Here’s more of what families can expect at the parks this month:
Knott’s Merry Farm
“Everything’s pretty much new except for our turkey balls and our turkey sandwich and our tamales — those are staple favorites we bring back every year,” said Laura Brubaker, vice president of Food and Beverage at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park.
Some of this year’s holiday specialties include the mistletoe bacon mac & cheese dog with chips; traditional turkey tetrazzini; couscous salad with pomegranate, walnuts and radishes; and The Prancer pickle and bacon pizza. Of course there are plenty of sweets like the Christmas maple walnut bundt cake shake; colorful Christmas cookies; the salted caramel toffee cookiewich; and Comet’s pumpkin cheesecake stuffed churro.
Once families have eaten themselves into a food coma, they can fill their day with a schedule of shows. “Home for the Holidays” takes over the Calico Mine Stage with dancing and entertainment synced to holiday music favorites. Ice-skating show, “Merry Christmas, Snoopy!” glides through the Walter Knott Theater with Snoopy, the Peanuts and a cast of pro ice skaters. Families can watch as Snoopy trims the Christmas tree, waits for Santa’s arrival and visits the festive Christmas Ball.
Meanwhile at Ghost Town’s Bird Cage Theatre, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “Marley’s Wings” bring some of that holiday tradition to the stage. “Marley’s Wings” brings back the Ghost of Jacob Marley in the form of a holiday musical experience. The Camp Snoopy Theatre hosts “A Peanuts Guide to Christmas” with a musical mashup of the gang’s favorite holiday songs. Families can head to the Peanuts Meet and Greet area after the show for some memorable photo ops.
Between shows and rides, sneak over to Ghost Town’s Wilderness Dance Hall — which has been remade into Santa’s Christmas Cabin. Take some photos with Santa and his friends and partake in some treats, including freshly baked cookies — which will overpower your senses as soon as you walk in— pastries, hot chocolate with marshmallows or even just a glass of milk to have with your cookies.
There’s also plenty of new merchandise you can find throughout the park as well as Knott’s Christmas Crafts Village, including dozens of local artisans with unique gift ideas for the whole family.
Knott’s isn’t the only theme park determined to make you put on a few pounds this holiday season. Disneyland Park alone will keep you plenty satiated throughout the season with items like the turkey noodle soup; holiday brownie with white chocolate mousse and holiday sprinkles; the holiday sandwich with roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce on rustic bread and house-made chips; and the Mickey gingerbread cookie, all available at Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. Or the pork pozole — a traditional Mexican stew of hominy, shredded pork and guajillo peppers garnished with lime, cabbage, onion and radish — Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon flavor; and Dessert Nachos, made with cinnamon crisps and topped with berry compote, whipped cream and honey crème anglaise at Rancho del Zocolo. And that’s far from the complete list.
Meanwhile the Disney Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure park offers a tour of music, food and fun while celebrating various cultural traditions, including Christmas/Navidad, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Three Kings Day. Part of the celebration is The Festive Foods Marketplace, including eight locations offering holiday dishes exploring traditions across the globe.
Some highlights from the food festival are the Nashville hot turkey slider with dill pickle; the Bourbon cranberry cocktail and the ultra refreshing prickly pear tea lemonade at Winter Sliderland Marketplace. The Favorite Things Marketplace offers holiday stuffing mac & cheese and the hibiscus ginger mezcal mule while Merry Mashups Marketplace has some holiday spiced wings with citrus cranberries and honey guava pisco punch with pisco, guava, spicy honey syrup, ginger and lime juice. Paradise Garden Grill has quite a bit of festival-inspired fare, including the chile relleno plate; house-made pozole; torta al pastor — a soft telera roll, chorizo beans, pork al pastor, cabbage, guacamole and crema served with tortilla chips and molcajete salsa; street-style tacos; and the pineapple Tres Leches Roulade. And there’s plenty more where all that came from.
As for entertainment, of course, there’s the holiday favorites we’ve all come to expect from the parks as well as some unique additions.
The Disney Festival of Holidays offers live entertainment across Disney California Adventure, including performances by The Mistletoes, an a cappella ensemble, which is new to the Festival of the Holidays this year, and celebrates an R&B Christmas and the spirit of Kwanzaa while performing classic holiday songs at the Pacific Wharf Stage and the Palisades Stage. Mariachi Divas is a Grammy Award-winning group performing at Pacific Wharf with catchy, bilingual holiday music. Mostly Kosher celebrates Hanukkah and brings together klezmer, Latin, jazz and rock on the stage at Sonoma Terrace. Blue13 Dance Company’s enthusiastic performers turn up the energy with traditional Indian dances celebrating Diwali as well as a Bollywood-inspired party at the Palisades Stage. Mickey Mouse and his friends bring the holiday cheer through Disney California Adventure with “Mickey’s Happy Holidays” — encouraging kids and adults to join in the fun with Disney and Pixar characters as they dance along to the high-energy Holiday Toy Drummers.
Of course, you can’t visit Disneyland Park during the holidays without at least one ride through the Haunted Mansion. This year, Haunted Mansion Holiday turns 20 and continues to draw crowds to its Christmas-o-ween theme inspired by Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Fun Haunted Mansion fact: A 13-foot tall gingerbread house in the Haunted Mansion’s Grand Hall ballroom features elements from 19 previous years of gingerbread houses inside Haunted Mansion Holiday. This year’s house was made with 200 pounds of powdered sugar, 50 pounds of egg whites, 200 pounds of gingerbread dough and one pound of glitter.
For those who love the Disneyland classics, “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade and the “Believe…in Holiday Magic” fireworks show are back. “A Christmas Fantasy” Parade has been running for 26 years, but shows no sign of aging with its 115 performers, including 17 elves, eight reindeer, eight snowmen, six gingerbread cookies and 16 floats, including two stand-alone Christmas trees and one “Humdinger” wind-up toy car.
By Jessica Peralta