Visiting Disney World during Christmastime can be a great way to bring your family together in a truly magical place. However, there are some things you should know about what it’s like at Disney during Christmas before finalizing your trip plans.
The following will give you a summary of tips for Christmas at Disney World and let you know what you can expect during your Disney Vacation in December or November regarding Christmas crowds, special holiday decorations, and events.
Walt Disney World Christmas Attractions & Decorations
The first thing you should know about going to Disney World for Christmas is that the Christmas decorations start to go up the night after Halloween and they take about a week to complete across the property. After that, the entire resort is pixie-dusted from head to toe in Christmas décor. It’s a magical atmosphere of a warm welcoming Christmas!
Each of the four Walt Disney World parks will display a large, themed Christmas tree, have special holiday lighting and shows, and all sorts of seasonal cheer to go along with it. The resorts also get a holiday makeover, each featuring unique Christmas décor, lights, and trees.
Last but not least, Disney Springs also decks the halls with décor, highlighted by its Christmas Tree Trail, home to dozens of trees themed after your favorite Disney films and attractions. The Christmas Tree Trail also often gets visited by Santa Claus himself and has holiday themed snacks for purchase to complete the holiday experience!
Below is an additional breakdown of special events, decorations, and shows that you won’t want to miss during your trip!
Magic Kingdom Christmas
Magic Kingdom Park features a nightly show called A Frozen Holiday Wish where Elsa uses her magic ice powers to illuminate Cinderella’s castle with thousands of sparkling lights. The castle will then stay illuminated the rest of night, shining and shimmering with icicle lights.
All of the lands in Magic Kingdom are also dressed head to toe in garlands, candy canes, and snowflakes to put you in the holiday spirit!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
This special ticketed event will cost between $150 and $200 a ticket (depending on the particular night) but will grant you access to the Magic Kingdom Park. During party nights, the park will close early (usually 6pm), so pay attention to the park hours when planning which day to visit Magic Kingdom.
A ticket for the event will allow you entry into Magic Kingdom at 4pm, and the party starts at 7pm. Therefore, buying a ticket just for the party will still get you a solid 4pm-12am time in the park (if you’re willing to stay up that late!).
The event includes unlimited access to most attractions in the park, the special Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a special fireworks show, a special stage show, and free snacks and drinks (cookies, egg nogg, cocoa, etc.) throughout the park.
Snacks are set up at stations across all of the lands, and each offers a unique snack offering which will be specified in the park map. Special characters will also be available to meet, including Mr. and Mrs. Claus who are typically located on Main Street!
The entire event is something completely unique compared to what happens during most days in the park and feels very special to be a part of. Note that Disney also performs the special parade on Christmas Eve and Christmas day in lieu of the normal 3pm Festival of Fantasy parade, so be prepared for the change!
If it’s your first time at Disney, you may still want to see all the regular characters, floats, and princesses instead of seeing the special Christmas characters, so plan on visiting Magic Kingdom on an earlier or later day!
EPCOT is home to the Festival of the Holidays, which celebrates not only Christmas, but other special holiday events from non-Christian cultures. In addition, it has an amazing holiday cookie stroll, where you can get your hands on multiple types of specially themed cookies as you make your way around the World Showcase pavilion. These are some of the best Christmas treats at Disney World!
The entire park will of course be lit of with all sorts of lights, trees, and other décor, adding another layer of sparkle to the already beautiful park.
EPCOT’s best Christmastime experience is the Candlelight Processional. Most nights, the Christmas Story is told by a celebrity narrator, and features orchestral and choir music from special local high school and cast member ensembles.
It’s a tradition that has gone on for years and is truly something that should not be missed. Unfortunately, its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, and it may be difficult to get a seat without obtaining a special dinner package through Disney – so if you’re interested, be sure to plan ahead or show up extra early for the show!
Celebrity Narrators are normally publicized a month beforehand. Common and popular readers are Neil Patrick Harris, John Stamos, and Gary Sinise (who I strongly recommend seeing).
Hollywood Studios Christmas
Hollywood Studios has its own special Christmas decorations in the form of Sunset Boulevard’s nightly snow showers and Tower of Terror projection show, known as the Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel. Recently introduced in 2020, the new show features rotating short stories featuring classic Disney characters such as the Muppets.
When you throw in the snow and the atmosphere of Sunset Boulevard, it really feels like Christmas!
Animal Kingdom Christmas
Though animals don’t really know that it’s Christmas, the park still adds in a few decorations to keep Animal Kingdom guests in the holiday spirit. The park features its own giant Christmas tree, lighting, and decorations.
It also is home to new cute animal puppets which stroll about in front of the Tree of Life Daily, which are a nice addition to the park experience.
Resort Christmas Decorations
Given all of the amazing resorts at Disney, it should not come as a surprise that many of their holiday additions are can’t miss experiences. In particular, be sure to check out the Grand Floridian’s Gingerbread house.
It’s a giant house crafted out of all home-made ingredients by the expert bakers and chocolatiers on site and is a great spot to take a Christmas card photo! It’s easy to hop on board the resort monorail and visit the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary resorts to explore all they have to offer!
Other resorts, such as Port Orleans Riverside at Christmas, are also particularly beautiful. Port Orleans resort is an easy boat ride from Disney Springs and can be part of a great evening! To offer a break from the crowded parks, it is a great idea to have a break-day in the middle of your vacation to explore the entire resort on your own schedule.
What’s Walt Disney World Like on Christmas?
The weather in Florida will finally be starting to get a little chilly (usually more brisk than bone-chilling cold), so wearing a sweater and enjoying hot cocoa will get you in the holiday spirit! It should not be understated how different the parks feel during this time of the year. Though busy, the parks and entire resort still feel somehow comforting and inviting.
Is Walt Disney World Busy on Christmas?
Disney World, including Magic Kingdom, is open on Christmas Day, and it is very crowded. It is guaranteed to get so crowded at Christmas that they used to stop people from coming in due to reaching capacity by around 10 or 11am! Therefore, you’ll need to obtain a park pass reservation for your family as soon as you can!
Keep in mind that the parks won’t only be busy on Christmas day, but also before and after the holiday. The extreme Christmas crowds normally start around the week of Thanksgiving and don’t let up until the week following the new year. This of course begs the question of how to save time in the parks, which is covered in the next section!
How do I avoid crowds at Walt Disney World over Christmas?
Your best bet is to plan your days carefully and avoid times during the afternoon when the parks get the most crowded. If you arrive at the park right before it opens, you’ll be one of the first in line for your pick of attractions with little to no wait to start your day!
Similarly, later at night (especially after fireworks), many guests will have already headed back to their resort for the night, leaving more space for you to enjoy attractions with less waiting! Throughout your day, we recommend using the paid Genie+ system to reserve Lightning Lanes for your favorite attractions. It’s worth the time saved during busy days, especially in Magic Kingdom.
Lastly, be sure to save indoor shows for the middle part of the day, when the park is busier, because they never have excruciatingly long lines! Also keep in mind that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will cause Magic Kingdom to close early certain days, so you might miss out on some valuable park time if you’re not able to attend a party.
Hopefully, the rest of this article cleared up many of the questions you had regarding a Christmastime trip to Disney World. If not, here are a few more answers to lingering questions you may have:
Where should I eat at Disney for Christmas?
The single best Christmas meal that we recommend is the Thanksgiving-style dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom. This all-you-can-eat family style dinner serves all of the Thanksgiving staples, including mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and, of course, turkey!
It’s always a good plan to get a bunch of snacks throughout the morning and midday, then have a nice sit-down late lunch/early dinner in the park.
Is it worth going to Disney World at Christmas?
That depends on your priorities. If you have never been to Disney, or this will be your once-in-a-lifetime trip, I’d recommend against visiting around Christmas due to the high crowd levels. Visiting another time of the year will be a lot less stressful, easier to maneuver in and enjoy the parks, and far easier to get more done during your visit.
At the same time, the holiday decorations are absolutely beautiful, and the Christmas spirit feels alive at the parks, so it’s something you might not want to miss.
Which Disney World park is best for Christmas?
In previous years, I would steer clear of Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on Christmas day, as there just isn’t enough room for the crowds of people. However, it’s unclear what Disney’s park capacity will be (it has been reduced ever since the pandemic), so it is tough to judge. Epcot is the most beautiful, has the most space, and the most culture, so it’s our top pick.
Is it crowded at Disney World on Christmas Day?
Is Disney World more expensive at Christmas?
No, prices are the same as any other time of the year. Attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party is a rather hefty additional charge. However, if you are planning 2 days in the Magic Kingdom anyway, swapping one of them for a party (and arriving ASAP at 4pm) can be a good deal.
Can you meet Santa at Disney world?
Yes! Santa is at Disney Springs on the Christmas Tree Trail most nights in November and December, and will also appear at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party to meet (and at the end of the parade!).
What’s the best Disney Resort to Stay at for Christmas?
Depending on your budget, we recommend the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Port Orleans (Riverside or French Quarter), or Art of Animation. Each of these resorts has a nice Christmas touch and has a great family feel.
When do holiday decorations get taken down?
Usually, the removal of decorations starts a couple of days after the new year.
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