‘Tis the Season: Disney World Holidays, Enjoying the Season

The holiday season is one of the most magical times of the year at the Happiest Place on Earth. From holiday parties, to festive treats, and even “snow” in select theme park areas, you’ll feel like you’re in a winter wonderland when you visit Disney World during the holiday season. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the special events, holiday decorations, parades, shows, and even food that will help you get into the holiday spirit. So, put on that holiday music and make some hot cocoa, as we learn a bit more about the Disney World holidays.

When Do Disney World Holidays Begin?

The holiday magic at Disney World begins starting in early November. If you want the full holiday experience though, your best bet is visiting the Disney parks after Thanksgiving, as some events, like the Candlelight Processional at Epcot don’t begin until after November 24th. Holiday decorations at the resorts also begin to go up starting early November with the full holiday decorations up after Thanksgiving. Most holiday festivities end the first week of January. So, you’ll have a good 2 months of holiday cheer to enjoy.

Disney World Holidays in the Theme Parks

One of the most magical ways to celebrate the holiday season is visiting the Disney parks. Each of the parks offers unique decorations, entertainment, special events, and more. If you love the holidays, checking out each of the parks during the holiday season is the perfect way to experience it all and enjoy each park’s unique offerings. Let’s take a look at all that the parks have to offer during Disney World holidays.

Magic Kingdom - Disney World holidays

Photo Copyright Chad Sparkles / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Magic Kingdom

It may be the most magical park during the holiday season. The Magic Kingdom is, well, magical when it’s decorated for the holidays. Main Street U.S.A. is decked out in lots of classic holiday decorations, complete with a giant Christmas tree, lots of wooden toy soldiers, and even a great photo spot for pictures with the characters in their holiday attire and Santa Claus himself. It can’t get any better than that. In addition to the festive decorations on Main Street, there are also a lot of unique holiday experiences you’ll love at the Magic Kingdom.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Unique to the Magic Kingdom is one of the most well-loved holiday events — Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Starting in early November and ending near the Christmas holiday, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a must-do for holiday lovers. This event is a special ticketed experience. This means you’ll need to purchase a separate admission/ticket to attend the event per guest. The event begins typically at 7 p.m. (though guests with party tickets can get into the park as early as 4 p.m. at the time this article was published). Guests receive wristbands to wear throughout the event. The event includes a special holiday parade, fireworks, and shows. Plus, it’s a great time to take photos with your favorite Disney characters. In addition, you’ll be treated to complimentary hot cocoa and cookies at select treat locations. And, the best part of the night? Seeing it “snow” on Main Street U.S.A.

Jingle Cruise

Getting into the holiday spirit is easy when you head to the Jingle Cruise, located in Adventureland. This holiday overlay of the classic Jungle Cruise attraction gives it a holiday inspired twist, complete with bad holiday jokes and more. This is currently the only holiday themed attraction at the Magic Kingdom during the holiday season. So, it’s a must-do if you go. Be sure to get a Fastpass+ for this attraction during your visit. The Jingle Cruise is very popular during November and December when the overlay is up.

Holiday Food

And, don’t forget the holiday inspired food. When it comes to Disney World holidays, the food is one of the most fun things to experience. The Magic Kingdom offers seasonal treats, like cupcakes and other desserts. And, you can also find holiday themed meals at locations like Liberty Tree Tavern where you can get a holiday meal all year long. One of our best tips? If you’re going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, make an early dinner reservation for Liberty Tree Tavern to really get into the holiday spirit.

Epcot - Disney World holidays

Epcot

Celebrate the holidays around the world when you visit Epcot during the holiday season. Epcot is the park to visit if you are interested in learning about different types of holidays and experiencing unique holiday festivities. In addition, Epcot is home to the Candlelight Processional, one of the most iconic holiday festivities at Disney World.

International Festival of the Holidays

Beginning in mid-November, Epcot celebrates the International Festival of the Holidays. This event gives guests a chance to experience the holiday traditions in all 11 World Showcase locations, and beyond. Not only do you get a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the holiday, you’ll also get to learn more about each country’s traditions. One of our favorites is the Julenissen, a holiday elf from Norway. Shows are featured daily at each World Showcase pavilion, so you can spend the day, walking the World Showcase and checking out all of the holiday traditions.

Candlelight Processional

Starting after Thanksgiving, the Candlelight Processional is a Disney World holidays tradition loved by many. Featuring a celebrity narrator, choir, and orchestra, this special event highlights the story of Christmas. This is a very popular event and space in the American Adventure pavilion theater fills up quickly. So, for your best experience, we recommend booking a Candlelight Processional Dining Package. This gives you priority seating at a showing of the Candlelight Processional along with a delicious meal.

Holiday Kitchens

If you’re a fan of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, you’ll love the Holiday Kitchens during the holiday season. These booths are located throughout Future World and the World Showcase and highlight seasonal holiday food and beverage. Options can include dishes like Slow-Roasted Turkey with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cranberry Sauce at the American Holiday Booth. Drinks include hot cocoa, select wines, and even a house-made hot spiced wine at the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen.

Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree

If you have children, check out some of holiday games that Disney offers. In Epcot, parents and kids will love playing Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree. This activity includes collecting ornaments throughout the park to earn a festive prize from Chip & Dale. The map for this game is currently $6.99 per map.

Osborne Lights - Disney World holidays

Photo Copyright Jared / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Hollywood Studios

The glamour and glitz of old Hollywood comes to life during the holiday season at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once home to the now gone Osborne Lights, Hollywood Studios has been reinventing how it celebrates the holidays with new shows, activities, and dining experiences that you’re sure to love.

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam!

This holiday show begins nightly in early November and features an awe-inspiring spectacular of projections, music, and fireworks. Even better? You’ll even see a bit of “snow” during the show too. Want to get the most out of your Disney World holidays at Hollywood Studios? You can book a special Tinsel-Town inspired dessert party that takes place during the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell! Show. You get a special viewing area, dessert party (including food and select alcoholic beverages, and a mix & mingle with Disney characters. This is a separate ticket event, so if you do participate in the dessert party, expect to pay around $45-$50 per guest. But, if watching the show in style and with holiday treats is on your list, the dessert party is a great way to experience it all.

Sunset Seasons Greetings

Another new show that is featured nightly beginning in early November until the end of December is the Sunset Seasons Greetings. This takes place on Sunset Boulevard. And, it features twinkling lights, projections, music, and more. You’ll see characters like Mickey and Minnie, the Swedish Chef, and characters from Toy Story. Each tell a different story about the holiday season.

Holiday Food

When it comes to holiday-inspired meals, Hollywood Studios has lots of options for guests. In addition to specialty cupcakes and seasonal alcoholic beverages, guests can also have a holiday inspired meal at Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine. This holiday buffet features all of your seasonal favorites and includes holiday decorations, along with meet & greets with your favorite characters. It’s the perfect way to celebrate the holidays in Hollywood Studios.

Animal Kingdom

Celebrate a wild holiday in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom is probably the least decorated theme park of them all during the holiday season. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t get into the holiday spirit. You’ll find a festive tree before you enter the park and lots of holiday decorations throughout. There aren’t any holiday shows or events in the Animal Kingdom. But, we recommend enjoying the seasonal decorations and holiday atmosphere while you are there.

Grand Floridian Gingerbread - Disney World holidays

Photo Copyright HarshLight / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

Disney World Holidays in the Resorts

There’s so much to see and do at the Disney theme parks during the holidays. But, did you know that the resorts get in on the holiday celebration too? In fact, one of our favorite things to do during the holiday season is to visit the various Disney resorts to check out their holiday decorations and seasonal activities. The holiday decorations are so impressive that many guests actually plan a day or an afternoon to spend time resort-hopping and checking out the seasonal cheer. Here are some of the must-do’s and most popular resorts during the Disney World holidays.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

It doesn’t get more iconic during the holidays than the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. This resort located on the monorail loop near the Magic Kingdom is well-known for one of the popular resort holiday destinations in the Disney parks & resort. That’s because it’s home to a giant life-sized gingerbread house. Each year, the Disney culinary team creates this magical holiday inspired gingerbread house that features a gift shop where you can buy real gingerbread shingles and other seasonal baked goods. This show-stopping holiday decoration is a must-do on any Disney holiday resort tour.

Contemporary Resort

If seeing unique gingerbread displays is on your list, your next stop should be Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This resort is home to some charming holiday decorations and a Frozen inspired gingerbread display. Like the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary offers baked goods for sale at the display — all of which are made by the Disney culinary team. And, the treats offered here for purchase are different than those at the Grand Floridian. So, be sure to visit both for a variety of delicious holiday treats.

Wilderness Lodge Resort

For a true holiday experience, head to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. The rustic charm and Pacific Northwest inspired atmosphere lends itself to a cozy holiday celebration. We absolutely love the giant Christmas tree in the lobby, as well as the roaring fire nearby. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Disney Vacation Club villas too. They are also decorated for the holiday season in a rustic way.

Ft. Wilderness Resort

Enjoy even more rustic holiday charm, when you visit Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort. This campground and cabin resort, not only features decorations put up by Disney and by those staying at the resort. We love Ft. Wilderness during the holidays, when it’s the perfect time to take a stroll and see all the different decorations. Plus, it’s home to holiday sleigh rides, where you and your family can enjoy 25 minute sleigh ride to enjoy the season.

Boardwalk Inn Resort

Continuing with the gingerbread display theme, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn offers its own unique twist on a gingerbread house. Inspired by the turn-of-the-century boardwalk, their holiday decorations have a slight nautical theme. Plus, their gingerbread display features a boardwalk kiosk built entirely of gingerbread, where you can buy even more seasonal treats.

Beach Club Resort

For yet another gingerbread display, stop by Disney’s Beach Club. We absolutely adore the beach themed decorations. And, the gingerbread carousel (that actually moves!) is pretty charming too. They don’t have baked goods to sell here. But, you won’t have to worry about missing out with so many locations offerings seasonal baked goods.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

One of our hands down favorite locations for seasonal decorations during the Disney World holidays is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The decorations are extremely unique and reflect the African theme of the resort. In addition, the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers some of the best activities during the holidays. Want to create your own ornaments? Or, want to enjoy a hot beverage? How about listening to carolers? The Animal Kingdom Lodge offers these on a regular basis throughout the holiday season, though most take place during December closer to the Christmas holiday.

Take a Tour: Holiday Tours at Disney World

And, if resort hopping and theme park activities aren’t enough, check out the special holiday themed tours offered by Disney. Currently Disney offers 2 seasonal tours: Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy and Disney’s Holiday D-Lights. Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy tour is a 3 ½ hour tour that gives you a behind the scenes look at how Disney makes the holidays come to life at the parks and resorts. You’ll visit several theme parks and even make a trip to a Disney resort to learn how the resorts get decorated during the season too. Plus, you’ll receive a treat and holiday keepsake to take home with you. This tour takes place during the day, so it’s a good tour for families and small groups.

If seeing how Disney’s holiday decorations come to life at night is what you’re looking for, Disney’s Holiday D-Lights tour is for you. This tour begins with dinner at a select Disney restaurant (currently, Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), then you’ll make your way to Epcot to see the Candlelight Processional and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. All the while, you’ll learn how Disney transforms the parks at night for the holidays. And, you’ll get a keepsake pin to take home with you too.

Magic Kingdom Castle - Disney World holidays

Photo Copyright Josh Hallett / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Celebrate the Season: Disney World Holidays

As you can see, Disney really makes the holidays come to life during November and December each year. With impressive decorations at each theme park and resort, seasonal activities, special events, and holiday inspired food, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. For guests going to Disney World for the first time or those who make it a yearly tradition, the Disney parks offer so many different and unique ways to celebrate the season.

We recommend making the most out of your time by visiting the parks and resorts. And, while there are many special events you can take advantage of, there are also lots of special experiences included with your park admission. For a special event, our must-do’s are Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the Candlelight Processional. For resort hopping, making a trip to Disney’s Grand Floridian Cafe and the Contemporary are on our list too. Of course, however you experience Disney World holidays, we know it will be magical.