Tis the Season: Ranking every Disney park ride holiday overlay from worst to best

Disney often has a great time putting special holiday-themed overlays for top attractions but which rank as the best among them?

Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration
Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration / Handout/GettyImages

The holiday season is always a big deal at the Disney parks. Disney goes all out with decorations, parades, and the like, complete with characters decked out in holiday gear and special events. It’s been that way for years and Disney loves giving fans a special bonus for a Christmas vacation.

That counts for rides as Disneyland and Walt Disney World have provided some fun holiday-themed overlays for their attractions over the years. It’s interesting what does and doesn’t get special treatment as some attractions are better than others, providing special holiday cheer.

Not all of them are used every year or even in every park, but those that are show Imagineers can be quite inventive. Here is how each Disney attraction holiday overlay ranks to show again why Christmas is such a magical time at the parks. 

9. Alien Swirling Saucers

This Toy Story Land attraction doesn’t change too much for the holidays except for some lights. The main touch comes when it starts, as the usual music is swapped for some Christmas carols. If anything, Disney could do more by making the saucers look like ornaments with the spins and lighting, so it’s more underrated among the holiday overlays but still a fun one for the kids. 

8. Mad Tea Party

Guests ride Mad Tea Party at Disneyland in Southern California.

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Guests ride Mad Tea Party at Disneyland in Southern California. Xxx Sh Disney100 015 Jpg A Oth Usa / Sandy Hooper / USA TODAY NETWORK

Like the Saucers, the Tea Party doesn’t go too all-out, although it can be nice to see some Christmas lights and such on the outside. Much better is the music, a mix of great Christmas carols but in the quirky theming that fits Wonderland. The flashing lights can also be a fun touch as it makes the already frenetic Tea Cups a more lively spin than usual. 

7. Monsters Inc Laugh Room

The Monsters Inc. Laugh Room is often skipped over despite being a pretty funny show. For the holidays, it’s notable as the interactive animation allows guests to hear new Christmas-themed jokes from Mike, Sully and the rest. It can play on the idea that the monsters are trying to understand Christmas and why the humans make a big deal out of it, and the background animation can be good, too. So, if you want some laughs during the Christmas season, the Laugh Room is a good spot. 

6. Tomorrowland Speedway

This is one of those overlays that work so much better at nighttime. During the day, you can spot Christmas trees and other decorations set around the huge Tomorrowland track, which aren’t bad. But at night, it comes alive with fantastic lighting and festive decorations to speed around. Better is how the lights are specially coded to flash and even follow the cars as they pass by. It makes this ride so much more fun, a festive journey and one of the parks’ better holiday overlays. 

5. Space Mountain

The rollicking roller coaster has always been good at mixing in some overlays. So it’s no surprise it does so during the holiday season with the iconic exterior bathed in red and green lighting. The ride itself adds some of the same lighting rather than the space themes, which oddly works well. The soundtrack is also adjusted to a “futuristic” mix of Christmas tunes to make this the fastest and wildest Christmas overlay of the bunch to add to the thrills of an already thrilling ride. 

4. Living With The Land

Long one of the most underrated rides in Epcot, Living With the Land gets some holiday cheer with some additions of decorations. In the daytime, it’s not too bad, but at night, the place is fantastic. The greenhouse is lit up with snowmen and fantastic light displays, including special colors for the vats and other areas. It transforms the Land into a winter wonderland and a reason to hold off until nighttime to get a fantastic rush for the Christmas season at Epcot. 

3. Jingle Cruise

This has been a popular overlay for years, and it has always worked well. It’s not just throwing lights on the boats and adding bits like hats on the animals or a tree. The skippers get into it with plenty of Christmas-laced puns and the jungle-themed Christmas music is also a nice touch. There are clever gags from which animals are wearing what kind of Christmas gear and sometimes a mild storyline of finding a missing package. But it’s really just a nice Christmas feel for one of the best Disney attractions ever to shine at the holidays.

2. It’s A Small World Holiday

A slow  boat through It's a Small World at Disneyland.

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A slow boat through It's a Small World at Disneyland. Img 3772 / Scott Craven/The Republic, Arizona

Yes, It’s a Small World has the biggest earworm song of all time. Yet the holidays can bring some nice touches in its overlay. The Disneyland version is fantastic, with the outside lit up like a massive Christmas tree with some of the most colorful lights imaginable. Inside, every one of the nations shows Christmas cheer with snowflakes, decorations and more. Even the cultures that don’t celebrate Christmas have some notable decorations, while the Mexico section looks amazing. Also, the soundtrack mixes that classic song with Christmas carols in different languages. It comes together for a magical journey that makes this attraction more of a delight. 

1. Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion

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Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland - September 30, 2005 / Barry King/GettyImages

It’s still amazing how well Disney makes this work. The Disneyland Mansion transforms every year to replicate Tim Burton’s classic The Nightmare Before Christmas film and it’s in fine style. Every room is remade, the music is wonderful, and it makes the Mansion stand out even better. It’s still odd Disney has never had the WDW Mansion transformed like this, but it has to count as one of the best overlays of any Disney attraction at any time and makes an already great attraction even better.