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Christmas is a magical time of year, regardless of where you are. Being at Disney World makes the season even more special. Disney World goes all out for Christmas. Throughout the parks and resorts, you will find Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, and other decorations. And, of course, you will hear Christmas music playing everywhere you go. These tips for Christmas at Disney will help you get the most out of your holiday trip to Disney World. (Updated September 20, 2020.)
When to Go
The Christmas decorations at Disney World usually start going up the first week of November. Most years, the Christmas parties also start in early November. (Unfortunately, the Christmas parties in 2020 have been canceled due to the pandemic.) By Thanksgiving, all of the decorations are up. Christmas activities at Epcot usually start on Black Friday. The holiday festivities generally last into the first week of January.
Christmas week and the week between Christmas and New Year’s are, by far, the two busiest weeks of the year. It is not uncommon for the parks to close due to capacity during these two weeks. I recommend, especially if it is your first trip to Disney World, to avoid those two weeks, if at all possible. The week of Thanksgiving is a much better time to go. You can experience all of the Christmas decorations and activities without the hoards of people. The crowds are pretty light during the first part of that week, and are still manageable towards the end. Additionally, the ticket prices for the November Christmas parties are generally cheaper than they are for the December parties.
Christmas at Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is the most decorated park in Disney World. It is the place where you will feel the Christmas spirit the most. Cinderella Castle gets decked out in “dream lights” and Main Street USA is decorated with wreaths and Christmas lights. A few other areas of the park are decorated, but not as heavily as Main Street. The biggest Christmas celebration at the Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Again, the Christmas party, along with the dream lights, have been canceled for 2020. There will, instead, be special Christmas character cavalcades, treats, and projections on the castle.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
If you love Christmas, you can’t miss Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! It is a wonderful way to get in the Christmas spirit. The parties are offered on select nights throughout November and December in the Magic Kingdom. It is a hard-ticketed event, meaning that you must buy a separate ticket to attend. During the party, you can meet some of the rare characters, such as the Seven Dwarfs and Scrooge McDuck, as well as some of your favorite characters in their Christmas outfits. The party also features several dance parties, a special Christmas parade, holiday fireworks, and free cookies and hot cocoa. It also snows on Main Street! And now, there are several rides which get special Christmas overlays during the party.
My son and I love the Christmas party! It is a lot of fun meeting the characters you can’t normally meet. We also enjoy the holiday fireworks show. But, the best part, for us, is the Christmas parade. It features toy soldiers, dancing gingerbread men, and some beloved Disney characters. I highly recommend the Christmas party to anyone who will be in Disney World during the holiday season.
The other big change to the Magic Kingdom during the holiday season is the Christmas overlay of the Jungle Cruise. It becomes the Jingle Cruise. This basically means that there are Christmas decorations in the queue and the boats get holiday themed names. Also, the skippers’ script is tweaked to include Christmas jokes. This is a cute change that you should experience at least once.
Christmas at Epcot
Epcot has a few unique Christmas celebrations that you should consider experiencing. Please note that Epcot does not get into the holiday mode until the day after Thanksgiving usually. So, if this is high on your celebration to-do list, plan your trip for the end of November or December.
International Festival of the Holidays
Another one of my tips for Christmas at Disney is to enjoy the International Festival of the Holidays in Epcot’s World Showcase. In each of the countries, you will find storytellers dressed in traditional garb. They share stories about the holiday traditions in their home countries. In the American Adventure, you will find Santa and Mrs. Claus. This is a great way for kids to learn about different holidays that are celebrated around the world. You will also find holiday snacks in the various countries as well.
During this annual event, a celebrity narrator tells the Christmas story while a 50-piece orchestra and a huge choir entertain you with traditional Christmas music. It is performed three times a night from Thanksgiving through the end of December. Another tip for Christmas at Disney is to book a dinner package for the Candlelight Processional to ensure you get a seat. This is really helpful when there is a popular narrator. For more on the Candlelight Processional narrators and dinner packages, visit Disney’s website. The Candlelight Processional has also been canceled for 2020. Instead there will be a couple special Christmas concerts.
Christmas at Hollywood Studios
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
The Christmas show at Hollywood Studios is Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! This show combines fireworks, lasers, projections, and music in a fun and innovative way. Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is a high energy show, which will appeal to a lot of people. This has also been canceled for 2020.
Sunset Season’s Greetings
Sunset Season’s Greetings is a projection show on Tower of Terror with synchronized lights on surrounding palm trees. This is a little show that you may enjoy if you happen to be in the area when it starts.
Toy Story Land Christmas
Toy Story Land gets decked out for Christmas as well. There are special Christmas decorations and the characters out for meet-and-greets get some holiday flair to their outfits. Aliens Swirling Saucers also gets some holiday love.
Christmas at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is just beginning to get into the Christmas spirit. Expect to see animal-inspired luminaries on tops of buildings, bird-shaped lanterns, and themed garland throughout Discovery Island. There are musicians and animal puppets during the day. And, at night, the Tree of Life Awakenings have holiday twists. You will also see unique Christmas decorations and additions in Asia, Africa, and Pandora. Each land has its own take on the holiday theme.
Each park has a huge Christmas tree at the entrance. Each tree is decorated in a theme consistent with the park. They are all beautiful and impressive. However, my favorite one is the Animal Kingdom tree. It is decorated with African masks, wooden animal sculptures, and natural materials, and is perfect for the park. My tips for Christmas at Disney includes taking time to appreciate each of the park trees.
All of the resorts at Disney World put up beautiful trees and other decorations. Each hotel’s Christmas decor complements the theme of the resort. At Yacht Club, the Christmas trees are decorated with boats, while at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the ornaments are all animal-inspired. Additionally, many of the deluxe resorts showcase large holiday displays that can’t be missed. For instance, at the Grand Floridian, you will find a life-size gingerbread house in the lobby. At Beach Club, there is a full-size chocolate and gingerbread carousel. While the resorts will still have Christmas decorations up, there will be no gingerbread displays this year.
Another one of my tips for Christmas at Disney is to take time during your trip to visit some of the resorts. You will be glad you did! These displays are worth the effort. They are incredible!
Christmas Card Photos
If you like including a family photo on your annual Christmas cards, then you will want to take advantage of the many photo ops throughout Disney World. You can easily find a place for a great family photo worthy of using in your Christmas cards. In addition to all of the typical locations, such as in front of Cinderella Castle, you will find some spots set up just for the Christmas season. And, of course, any of the hundreds of Christmas trees across property will make for a wonderful backdrop for your holiday photos.
Where better to visit Santa Claus than at Disney World ?!?! You will find him several places around Disney World starting the week of Thanksgiving. He is at Epcot’s American Adventure and Disney Springs, just to name a few. You can also see St. Nick in the parade during the Christmas parties at Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to meet Santa at Disney World this year, but he will make pop-up appearances at various places in the parks and Disney Springs.
There are four Christmas themed gift shops at Disney World that are open year round. You will find them in Disney Springs, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. You can find Disney themed Christmas ornaments at any of them. During the Christmas season, you will find Christmas ornaments in most of the gift shops around the parks and resorts. If you collect special ornaments, this is a great time to pick one up to remember your trip. Also, if you take your ornament to one of the permanent Christmas stores, you can have it personalized.
In addition to all of the wonderfully tasty snacks you will find on a daily basis at Disney World, you can find special holiday favorites during November and December. These can be find throughout the parks and resorts. Available holiday treats range from Christmas themed cupcakes to specialty holiday drinks. This is one of the simple tips for enjoying Christmas at Disney World.
Of course, it is impossible to go to Disney World without spending money. During the Christmas season, it is a good idea to do some shopping for your loved ones. Definitely take a trip to Disney Springs for this. There are several unique non-Disney stores there that you can’t find in other places. You will have lots of options for all of the Disney fans on your list as well!
Trips to Disney World during November and December are wonderful because they allow you to experience the magic of Disney while also enjoying the Christmas season. There are fabulous holiday decorations, fun photo ops, special treats, and beautiful displays that are only available during this time of year. I hope these tips for Christmas at Disney World help you to make the most of your holiday time in Disney! For more inspiration, see our posts on celebrating at Disney and Halloween at Disney. Happy travels!