The Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Disney World

Magic Kingdom Entrance at Christmastime during the 100th celebration. This iconic photo spot also gets decorated at Christmas.
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Magic Kingdom Entrance at Christmastime during the 100th celebration. This iconic photo spot also gets decorated at Christmas.

Christmas is my favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World and we have experienced the holiday magic many times. There is no better way to celebrate the holiday season than a magical trip to see all of the Christmas decorations Disney puts up in December.

My husband and I have gone to Disney World during the Christmas season every single year for the last 10 years. We have experienced all of the Christmas magic and the Christmas chaos. Christmas being the busiest time of year requires a lot of planning, but is so worth it! Learn from our mistakes and have the best Christmas time trip.

Expect the long lines and heavy crowds, it’s the busiest time of year in the Disney parks. The good news is you can still have a magical time at Walt Disney World.

The best way to combat the crowds is to make your reservations well in advance. Knowing what to expect at Christmas Time will help you have the best Walt Disney World Vacation.

Let us help you plan your Disney trip and make the most out of your vacation at Christmas time!

When Does The Christmas Season Begin At Walt Disney World?

The Christmas season is mid November to December 31st to see everything Disney World has to offerYou can start seeing Christmas decorations in early November as they take down Halloween decorations. They start the long process of decorating for Christmas on November 1st.

Read More: When Does Disney World Decorate For Christmas?

How Busy Is Disney World At Christmas?

While you may be restricted by your vacation time, it’s important to consider the crowds during a holiday visit to the parks. The first two weeks of December can be a great time to visit Walt Disney World, and you’ll still enjoy all of the fantastic holiday entertainment. However, the closer you get to Christmas, the more the crowds grow each day. 

Crowd Levels are evident in this photo at the beginning of December. This is the lowest crowd level time of the Christmas season though it is still quite busy.
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Crowd Levels are evident in this photo at the beginning of December. This is the lowest crowd level time of the Christmas season though it is still quite busy.

Between Christmas and New Year, the parks experience some of the highest crowds of the whole year. If you are visiting during this time, ensure you book your resort, dining reservations, and park passes well in advance. Expect the parks to reach capacity on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, particularly in the Magic Kingdom.

Is Disney World More Expensive During Christmas?

Yes, Disney World uses dynamic pricing and Christmas is the busiest time of the year which means it will be the most expensive time to go. If your budget allows, it is worth the experience to go at least once at Christmas.

Keep in mind that transportation from the airport, Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes, resorts, and park tickets will all be more expensive at this time of year. It is the most wonderful time of the year, but it won’t be for your budget.

A great way to save some money on your trip is to use points for the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. This is a Marriott hotel allowing you to use points for your Christmas time stay. You can also use Early Entry and Extra Magic hours to help you save on Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes.

Ordering groceries to be delivered to any of the Disney resorts you choose is a smart way to offset the food costs in the theme parks.

Another tip to help you save money this time of year is so stay in early December or Early November. You can still see the Christmas Decorations without the heavier crowds.

Visiting the Parks in December

The start of the month offers guests regular opening hours, which as usual, will vary from park to park. As you get closer to Christmas, the park hours get longer and longer, usually closing as late as midnight during the final weeks of the month. 

All of the parks will stay open late for New Year’s Eve and have incredible celebrations throughout the night. It’s one of the most fun days of the whole year to be in the parks, but you’ll want to pack your patience as the crowds can be quite a challenge on this day.

The weather in Orlando during December can be quite mixed. Depending on where you are visiting from, you may find it to be quite warm during this time, as the average high is 75 degrees, and the average low is 55 degrees. There are often a few days throughout the month where the weather is good enough for swimming, but this will likely depend on your personal preference. The great thing about a December trip is that there’s very little rain, so you won’t have to worry too much about getting drenched in the parks.

Pack for all weather conditions this month, and you’ll want to have a light jacket to wear at night. If you are used to higher temperatures, you may even want to add some winter accessories for night time in the parks. Especially for nights such as New Year’s Eve, where you’ll be waiting for the fireworks late at night, ensure you have enough layers to keep you warm.

Read More: Tips for Visiting Disney World in December

Which Disney World Park Is Best For Christmas?

All of the parks decorate for Christmas so you can’t go wrong no matter what park you choose. Our favorite is Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. You can’t beat the decorations at Magic Kingdom.

Entrance to Magic Kingdom at Christmastime. You can't miss the 65 foot tall tree, the biggest on Disney World property.
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Entrance to Magic Kingdom at Christmastime. You can’t miss the 65 foot tall tree, the biggest on Disney World property.

I just love walking into Magic Kingdom at Christmastime and seeing the 65 foot tall tree right as you enter. This is the largest tree on property. I also love walking down Main Street with all of the garlands and wreaths making Christmas magic come alive.

All four of the theme parks as well as Disney Springs will be packed from Christmas to New Years as this is the peak time to go during school vacation.

Magic Kingdom Christmas Celebrations

The main draw in the Magic Kingdom this holiday season is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is one of the holiday special events that does require a party ticket not included in an annual pass or regular park admission and is only available select nights.

This after-hours event features attractions, character sightings, and delicious treats. You can also catch Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks at the party.

You’ll find that the crowds are much lower during this party, which is another great reason for paying for the event. You’ll find that the majority of attractions are open during this time as well, so it’s a great way to extend your day in the Magic Kingdom.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Sign and the 65 foot tall tree in Magic Kingdom.
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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Sign and the 65 foot tall tree in Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella Castle will be transformed throughout the season with beautiful castle projections. Make sure you stick around into the evening to see the castle come to life in a way you’ve never seen before. Main Street, U.S.A. is another great spot to spend time this holiday season, as you’ll find most of the holiday decorations are found here in the park. 

There are also plenty of delicious limited-time treats and drinks throughout the holiday season, which will make mealtimes even more special. Finally, in the Magic Kingdom, make sure you take a ride on the Jingle Cruise, which is updated for the holiday season with a festive overlay.

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

Epcot is home to the Festival of the Holidays from late November until the end of December. You can enjoy strolling through the countries and seeing the sights and sounds of the season.

There will be delicious food booths with snacks from around the world for you to try, as well as entertainment in various pavilions in the park. The Holiday Kitchens and Holiday Cookie Stroll start at the end of November, and are a great way to enjoy lunch and dinner in the parks at this time. 

The main attraction though during this time of the year in Epcot is the Candlelight Processional. This event takes place throughout the season and welcomes a celebrity narrator each day to tell the Christmas story. 

The show is supported by a live orchestra and cast member choir, and you’ll want to try and book the Candlelight Processional Dining Package to guarantee your place in the theater. Some of the celebrities attract a huge crowd, so plan ahead if you intend to visit during this time.

One of our favorite additions to the parks during this time of year is Epcot’s celebrations around World Showcase. In each country, you’ll learn more about the celebrations that take place there and enjoy sampling food and drinks around the world. Similar to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, you’ll find that there are various additional food booths scattered around World Showcase with delicious treats to sample. 

Another fun holiday surprise is a special song added to Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind for the holidays. Don’t miss this awesome ride on your Disney Vacation!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Hollywood Tower Hotel is the backdrop to the Sunset Seasons Greetings. This projection show is beautiful, and you’ll love finishing off your night each day with this show. If you fancy a holiday dining opportunity in the park, visit Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine. The characters are all in their holiday costumes, which makes for a great photo opportunity for the whole family.

Santa Claus appears each day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Santa Claus Merry Motorcade. It travels up Hollywood Blvd. and is a fun way to guarantee you see Santa on your trip.

This year you can also attend another special ticketed event in Hollywood Studios called Disney Jollywood Nights. This event requires a party ticket on select nights similar to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. There have been mixed reviews on this party as people say the crowds are too large to be able to enjoy the event.

Head over to Hollywood Sunset Boulevard to watch the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM fireworks only during the Jollywood Nights Party. You’ll find some delicious treats in the various restaurants throughout the park and, of course, an incredible Christmas tree at the entrance to the park.

Finally, no trip to this park is complete without seeing For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. While this show is on throughout the year, it’s a great way to celebrate the winter season with your favorite characters like Olaf, Elsa, and Anna.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

There is so much to see and do in Disney’s Animal Kingdom this holiday season. One of the highlights of a visit here is seeing the Tree of Life Awakenings holiday projection show and the Merry Menagerie puppetsvas you enter the park. These life-size puppets feature some of your favorite winter animals, and they are one of the most unique entertainment offerings for the season.

Down on the Discovery River, you’ll find there are festive flotillas throughout the holiday season. Look out for Santa Claus, Donald Duck, the Discovery Island Drummers, and Chip ‘n’ Dale each day on the water. Of course, the park is also fully decorated for the holiday season and looks incredible to take family photos in front of.

Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs

While the parks have plenty to keep you entertained in the winter months, you won’t want to miss out on an evening in Disney Springs on your Christmas trip. One of our all-time favorite activities is the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll. You’ll find dozens of beautiful Christmas trees which are decorated in the style of your favorite movies and characters. They are spread throughout Disney Springs, and you’ll find there are fun snacks and drinks on offer here too.

In the West Side, you can enjoy a flurry of snow each night when you are shopping here. Kids and teens will love seeing snow in Florida, which is a rare sighting for anyone who lives in this part of the world. For the adults in your party, head to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. This lounge has a festive makeover, and there are some fun seasonal additions to the menu too.

Disney Food Blogs guide to Disney World at Christmas time.

If you don’t have park tickets for one day of your visit, take the time to head over to Disney Springs and see their holiday offering. The Christmas Tree Trail is a free entertainment offering where you’ll walk through a trail of Christmas trees that are themed after your favorite Disney characters. It’s the perfect place for some fun photo opportunities as a family, and you can also meet Santa Claus here throughout the day. 

Check out the various treats on offer here and throughout Disney Springs in the stores and restaurants.

Walt Disney World Resorts

No matter where you are staying on your Christmas trip, you’ll find that Disney makes plenty of effort to decorate each resort for the holiday season. If you find you have a spare day on your next trip, plan to resort hop and see some of the incredible Christmas trees and decorations they’ve put up. 

Grand Floridian Gingerbread House at Christmastime.
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Grand Floridian Gingerbread House at Christmastime.

The Grand Floridian is home to a gingerbread house, where you can enjoy purchasing gifts for your family and friends back home. We also love the holiday displays in the Contemporary, which are a fun way to celebrate the season.

If you head over to Fort Wilderness, you’ll be impressed by the effort that many of the residents here put into their campsites. Many people stay for the holidays and completely redecorate their trailer or campsite. Rent a golf cart here and drive around for a unique night out. 

Disney's Boardwalk Inn tree and gingerbread display.
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Disney’s Boardwalk Inn tree and gingerbread display.

The Boardwalk is also another fun area to visit at this time of the year, and they have a gingerbread carousel on display in the lobby.

When you need to take a break from the theme park crowds, take your family on a Walt Disney World Resort tour of the Walt Disney World resorts during the holiday season. Each resort is decorated to match the resort’s theme, and you’ll love seeing the various Christmas trees on offer.

Our favorite resorts to visit at this time of year include Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, which have massive Christmas trees that are perfect for your family photo. You’ll enjoy seeing the decorations in each resort and tasting some of the special treats on offer at the quick-service dining locations. 

Also, check out Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort, where they also have incredible gingerbread displays. My favorite is the nautical themed trees at the Yacht Club as this is my favorite Walt Disney World Resort.

As with any Christmas vacation, make sure you book up well in advance for both Christmas and New Year. These are two of the most popular times of the year, and resorts and dining reservations go well in advance of the season. You might need to be more flexible with your plans during this time, and you may also want to consider using Disney Genie+ to skip the queues. The more you can plan ahead for a Christmas trip, the more you’ll enjoy your stay at Disney.

If you are planning to visit during Christmas and New Year’s week, make sure you plan to avoid the crowds and factor in some rest time during one of the busiest weeks of the year in the theme parks.

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