Christmas at Walt Disney World Beginners Guide

Christmas at Walt Disney World Beginners Guide

If you’re planning Christmas at Walt Disney World, there are a few things you should know about the most wonderful time of year at the most magical place on Earth. Never mind about the Disney crowds, the high expectations, and the Florida cold. What about all the other stuff that you can only do at Disney World during Christmas time? If you’re like us and need to experience Disney during the holidays at least once, we get it. So what can you expect if you’re visiting Walt Disney World during Christmas?

Disney World at Christmas 

Christmas time at Disney World doesn’t have to be stressful. So, if you’re looking to add a little Disney to your holiday season, never fear. We’re sharing the plans for the holiday season at Disney World Park. From the Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade and the EPCOT Christmas Festival, to Animal Kingdom Holiday activities, and Christmas at Hollywood Studios. 

There’s nothing like Disney at Christmas time. Whether you’re visiting Disney World at Christmas for a few days or a full blown Christmas vacation, there are things to do both in and outside the parks to make things extra merry. We’ve rounded up the best Disney Resorts to Stay at for the Christmas, all the Disney Christmas Events, and our favorite fun, festive and FREE Things to Do for Disney at Christmas in this post. Read on for all the details. 

Disney Christmas Castle Projection Show 2020

When Does Christmas at Disney World Start?

If you’re ready for the holidays, and wondering when does Disney start Christmas. Then know that Disney World starts Christmas early! The day after Halloween in fact. So on top of their game, if you’re visiting Walt Disney World on October 31st for Halloween, you’ll be amazed to see the parks dressed up for Christmas the following morning. Christmas Decorations start arriving by November 3rd, with the rest of the holiday details in the parks and resorts by the week of Thanksgiving. 

Is Disney World Open on Christmas Day?

Yes. Walt Disney World is open 365 days a year. And on Christmas Day, you can see the holiday entertainment typically reserved for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The Once Upon a Christmas Time Parade happens at Magic Kingdom along with special shows and fireworks. And there are also plenty of places to grab Christmas Dinner at Walt Disney World too. 

When is the Best Time to Visit Disney World during Christmas?

Disney World during Christmas is one of the best times to visit Walt Disney World. It can also sometimes be the busiest and most expensive. Luckily, you have options if you are looking for the best time to visit Disney for the Holidays. 

  • November 1- 21: Weekdays. Minus Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving Week
  • December 1- 17: Weekdays. Minus Christmas Week and New Year’s Eve

The best dates to visit Walt Disney World for Christmas fall in the early part of November and the early part of December. If you are choosing the Early November dates, know that Christmas Decorations at Walt Disney World typically go up the third week in November. In 2023, you can expect Christmas Decorations at Walt Disney World to be up across the parks and resorts the week of  November 11th. Both Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, on select nights November 9, 2023, and Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios on select nights starting November 11, 2023, give you ample things to do during this time of year. If you’re choosing the Early December dates, you can take advantage of the EPCOT Festival of Holidays and the Candlelight Processional, both included with your EPCOT Park Ticket. 

What are the Busiest days during Christmas at Disney World?

The Week of Christmas is by far the busiest week to visit Walt Disney World during the holiday season. 

disney treats at christmas time

Disney World Christmas Checklist

To get started we like lists. Do you need to know what rides, restaurants, and shows are best at Disney during Christmas? Check out our Disney Christmas Events Holiday Checklist for a surefire list that is already made up for you! And if you’re ready to tackle everything to do, see, and eat at Walt Disney World for Christmas, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you’ll find across all the Parks, Resorts, and Disney Springs this Holiday Season. Check out our New Holiday Snacks at Walt Disney World post for a full list of all the new gingerbread, peppermint, caramel, chocolate, and more seasonal flavors you can find this year. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World for Christmas be sure to grab some of these special treats.

hollywood studios christmas

Epcot International Festival of Holidays, Disney christmas, free disney fun, free disney christmas things, disney holiday decorations, walt disney world holiday

Christmas Decorations at Disney World

One of our favorite things about Disney during Christmas at the decoration. Christmas Decorations at Walt Disney World usually go up the 2nd or 3rd week of November and typically stay up all the way through the first week in January. They include decorations across the parks, like Mickey Wreaths, the Christmas projection show on Cinderella’s Castle, kitschy Holiday Decorations at Hollywood Studios, and earthy Animal-themed ornaments at Animal Kingdom. Decorations also include Christmas Trees at all the Disney Resorts, and Gingerbread Houses at some Disney World Deluxe Hotels. 

When does Disney World decorate for Christmas?

Christmas Decorations at Disney World go up right after Halloween. Most notable is the Magic Kingdom Christmas Tree, which arrives in Town Square the first week of November. 

With Mickey Wreaths, Christmas windows on Main Street, and even natural ornaments on display in Animal Kingdom there is so much to see in each park! One of our favorite parks last year for Christmas decorations was Hollywood Studios. In classic Hollywood fashion, the park is dressed to the nines in a very kitschy 1950s style. We absolutely loved it! Check out our whole post on Hollywood Studios at Christmas.  And take time to visit the Disney Resorts throughout the holidays as well! While all the resorts sport Christmas Trees, you can also find special snacks and life-size Disney Gingerbread Houses at several of the Disney Deluxe Resorts. 

Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney World Christmas Events with a Special Ticket

If you’re traveling to Walt Disney World this Christmas you have the option to add even more holiday cheer to your itinerary. While these events are not included in your park tickets, perks like fewer crowds in the parks and exclusive entertainment may make them excellent choices for your Christmas at Disney World vacation. 

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom

The Christmas party at Magic Kingdom is known as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, or MVMCP, and offers exclusive snacks, merchandise, and complimentary cookies and cocoa throughout the evening. This nighttime event also includes the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, which can only be seen at the party, unless you’re visiting Disney World for Christmas Week. Check out our Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Guide for details, dates, activities, and ticket prices. 

Disney Jollywood Nights Christmas Party at Hollywood Studios 

New in 2023, for Christmas at Hollywood Studios, is Disney’s Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios Christmas Party adding a bit of glitz and glamour to the evening. This limited-capacity event promises fewer crowds at this evening party. There is exclusive entertainment, such as the Latin Festival on Commissary Lane, and Kermit and Miss Piggy’s Variety Show featuring loads of Disney characters on stage. Check out the Disney Jollywood Nights Christmas Party page for details, dates, and ticket prices. 

Disney during the holidays

Christmas at Magic Kingdom Park

If you’re looking forward to a Magic Kingdom Christmas, look no further! considered to be one of the best Disney Parks for Christmas, you can find decorations around every corner, cheerful and festive Disney Christmas snacks, special entertainment, and holiday merchandise. Here is a snapshot of what’s happening at Magic Kingdom for the Holidays. 

Magic Kingdom Christmas Decorations

One of the best parts of Christmas at Walt Disney World is the decorations. And at Magic Kingdom, you can find Mickey wreaths, garlands, and Christmas trees. Main Street USA in particular is known for its Toy Soldier display and the Town Square Christmas Tree. 

Frozen Holiday Surprise

A Brand New Christmas Show at Magic Kingdom has arrived! Frozen Holiday Surprise is a “Frozen”-inspired show that will illuminate the castle in a whole new way. Guests will be able to see Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and the Snowgies in front of Cinderella Castle. Available during regular park hours and during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. New for 2023, we’re excited to see this new Christmas Castle lighting ceremony for the holidays. 

Mickey's Christmas Party

Cinderella Castle Holiday Projection Show

Beautiful digital projections cover Cinderella’s Castle with holiday designs throughout the evenings at Magic Kingdom. You can see gorgeous blues and golds, reds and greens, and even a fair isle sweater print pattern that shows up on the castle during this evening’s projection show. It loops every 15 minutes, so you’re sure to see gorgeous colors all evening long. Since it is dependent on nighttime lighting, this show is not offered on nights that Mickey’s Christmas Party is offered. Be sure to double-check park times before planning your Magic Kingdom Day so that you can choose a day without the party. 

Main Street Philharmonic and the Toy Soldier March

Adding a little holiday cheer throughout Magic Kingdom, the Main Street Philharmonic marching band and Toy Soldiers take to the streets throughout the day playing holiday music. The best view of this show is centered on Main Street, with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. 

Christmas Cavalcades

Walt Disney World Resort parks have a slew of Christmas Cavalcades that happen in each park throughout the holiday season. At Magic Kingdom, you can see Santa Christmas Cavalcade, A Royal Christmas Processional, Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade, and Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade. All offer unique takes with our favorite Disney characters decked out in holiday decorations and outfits. 

Holiday Trolley featuring the Dapper Dans

A staple in Magic Kingdom, the Dapper Dans, take to Main Street in their Christmas best. Courtesy of the Main Street Trolley singing songs with tidings of comfort and joy. Be sure to stop and listen for your favorite Christmas songs by this talented group!
Disney Jingle Cruise

Jingle Cruise on the Jungle Cruise

A fan favorite, Jingle Cruise returns every holiday season to Walt Disney World to add a little holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise. With Holiday decorations, stories, and jokes, this boat ride should be on your holiday must-do list. 

The Christmas Shoppe

Available all year round The Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom debuts all the new Christmas ornaments and decor items as soon as the holiday season arrives. Be sure to stop by the shop to see the new seasonal merchandise. 
very merry christmas parade wdw

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party happens only in Magic Kingdom and features the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Mickey’s Mot Merriest Celebration, and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show. This is an annual event. This party requires a special ticket and allows you access to the parks at 4 pm, ahead of the 7 pm party start time. A traditional event for families, this party features music, snacks, special entertainment, merchandise, and more.

Christmas Week at Magic Kingdom

Beginning after the last day of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you can see previously exclusive entertainment at Magic Kingdom for Christmas.  And includes some amazing holiday fun if you’re up for battling the Christmas crowds at Disney World. 

  • Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration: This holiday stage show featuring Mickey and Friends on the Cinderella Castle Stage is offered  through Christmas Week. Before that, it’s only available at the Christmas Party. 
  • Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show: The Christmas Fireworks at Magic Kingdom are typically only available at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But, for Christmas Week, you can see these fireworks in the evening. Truly magical at Christmastime. 
  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade: While this parade is only available at MVMCP through the season, on Christmas Week you can see this parade daily at Magic Kingdom. Complete with Santa Claus and “Snow” on Main Street.

Christmas at Hollywood Studios Park

By far one of our favorite places to find Disney Christmas Decorations, Hollywood Studios brings in the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood, and the kitschy fun of the 50’s all at once. Christmas lights in Toy Story Land, and the most amazing holiday projection shows, here is everything you can do for your Hollywood Studios Day at Disney World

Sunset Season’s Greetings on Hollywood Holiday Tower Hotel 

This magical digital projection show lights up The Hollywood Tower Hotel with holiday scenes from our favorite stories that loop throughout the evening. Usually looped in 15-minute segments, this show starts at dusk, around 6:30 pm or so. Be sure to catch all the storylines through the night. You can see a  Snowy Arendelle, building blocks from Toy Story, and classic Victorian Christmas scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol. 

Flurry of Fun

Christmas at Hollywood Studios just wouldn’t be complete without snowflakes on Sunset Boulevard and Christmas Shorts on the Billboards. As part of this flurry of a fun experience, which is free and included in your park ticket, you can stroll the streets with your favorite Christmas snack and take in the season. 

Merry Motorcade with Santa Clause

Hollywood Studios is known for its cute cars cruising the streets. And during the holidays, you can see Santa Claus himself going for a drive throughout the day. 

For the First time in Forever Olaf’s Holiday Finale

This Sing-Along performance gets a holiday overlay in the form of Olaf’s Holiday Finale! A great way to take a break from the Florida weather, settle in to listen to the story of Frozen, and Let it Go!

Toy Story Land Christmas Overlay

If you’re looking for evidence of the holidays in Andy’s Backyard you won’t be disappointed! Large Christmas Cookies, ornaments, gifts, and more can be found throughout Toy Story Land, and is worth a stroll. 

Disney Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios

Offered select nights  NEW Disney World Christmas Party, Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios has loads of holiday fun at the ready. Much like an After Hours Party, this party has limited capacity. Offered from 8:30 pm- 12:20 pm this event features Jingle Bell Jingle BAM!, specialty snacks, entertainment, and more.

international festival of holidays at epcot christmas at walt disney world

Christmas at EPCOT Park

Traveling to EPCOT for Christmas is always a good idea. Filled with cultural cuisine, decorations, new Christmas Snacks, and holiday entertainment. You truly won’t find these Disney World Christmas Events anywhere else. And since the EPCOT Festival of Holidays is included with your park ticket, no additional ticket is required.  

Festival of Holidays Menus 2023

Epcot’s International Festival of Holidays

Epcot’s International Festival of Holidays offers more than just amazing cultural holiday cuisine across the World Showcase. With games, performances, merchandise, and festive foods, here is everything you can do for your EPCOT day at Walt Disney World.
  • Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition: You can also play the Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition game, finding Olaf in each country via stickers on a map, and then collecting a special prize.
  • Holiday Cookie Stroll: Take on the Holiday Cookie Stroll Challenge finding the 5 select dishes to try on your way to grabbing a foodie treat prize.
  • Holiday Storytellers: Visiting with the Holiday Storytellers in each country is a wonderful way to learn the history of Santa, Christmas, and all the holiday stories from across the globe. Check out What’s New for the Festival of Holidays at Disney World? for the details. 
  • Festival Kitchens One of our favorite reasons to visit EPCOT for Christmas is the food. With sweet and savory treats, mini meals, and festival drinks, not only can you enjoy, but also be inspired to make holiday food creations at home. Check out the Epcot Festival of Holidays Menus for a sneak peek of what to eat this season. 
  • Holiday Music Performances As part of the daily celebration for the holidays at EPCOT, music groups perform throughout the season. Featuring the Voices of Liberty, Mariachi Cobre, and Joyful! A Celebration of the Season and The Epcot Pianist, there is plenty to hear throughout the day to help get you in the holiday spirit.  Check out the Things to Do at the Festival of Holidays at Disney World for details. 

Candlelight Processional at EPCOT

The Candlelight Processional is a reading of the Nativity Story, accompanied by an orchestra, and choir, and is considered a must-do event for the holidays. Absolutely one of our favorite Christmas events at Disney World, be sure to add it to your holiday lineup. You can also grab a Candlelight Processional Dining Package for dinner and a guaranteed seat for the reading if you don’t want to wait in line.

Merry and Bright Nights on Living with the Land

Having a Walt Disney World Christmas means finding magical festive surprises around every corner. Luckily, you can add a little Christmas to your next boat ride through the Living with the Land ride at EPCOT. This holiday overlay adds Christmas lights and decorations throughout the ride, showcasing foods for the Festival of Holidays. Called Merry and Bright Nights, this ride is a Disney Christmas Must Do for the season. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Holiday

Set to a Christmas soundtrack during the holiday season Guardians of the Galaxy gets a whole new festive vibe. You can take this thrill ride rollercoaster all around the world at EPCOT to the tune of the holidays. Virtual Queue Boarding Pass is currently required. 

Holidays Animal Kingdom

Holidays Animal Kingdom

Christmas at Animal Kingdom Park

Christmas at Animal Kingdom is wonderful. It’s lower key than the other parks, offering cute marionette animals, and the Holiday edition of Tree of Life. Check out everything you can do at Animal Kingdom for the holidays. 

Tree of Life Awakenings Holiday Edition

On select evenings throughout the season, Animal Kingdom stays open later, for nighttime entertainment. As a result, The Tree of Life at Walt Disney World gets dressed up for the holidays with a new lighting show in the evenings. This holiday edition features adorable winter animals crawling all over the tree in a winter-themed digital projection show that shares stories of the seasons. 

Merry Menagerie Animal Marionettes

As part of the fun, Animal Kingdom puppeteers take to the streets throughout Animal Kingdom to share beautiful larger animal marionettes to help ring in the holiday season. Reindeer, Penguins, Bears, and more show up throughout the season. 

Festive Flotillas

You can find the Disney characters at Animal Kingdom sailing down Discovery River in festive floats. Santa Claus, Donald’s Dino-Bash, Chip and Dale, Mickey and Friends, and the Discovery Island Drummers all make appearances throughout the season. 

Holidays in Pandora

Pandora World of Avatar gets dressed up just like the rest of the park through the holidays! With draped greens, ornaments, and random things that look like ornaments, this is a fun part of the park to explore during the festive season. 
Disney Springs Holidays at Jock Lindsays Bar

Christmas at Disney Springs

Disney Springs brings back the Christmas Tree eye candy this year with trees covering all four corners of the shopping center. Trees will be scattered throughout Disney Springs as part of the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll Scavenger Hunt Game. Grab this game and coupon book at the Welcome Center and make a day of it!

One of the nice things about Disney during the holidays is the shopping at Disney Springs. Not only for exclusive Disney Parks merchandise but also for all the specialty shops throughout the complex.  It’s definitely worth the time! The whole place is decorated to the nines. They have festive treats and trees that showcase some of our favorite Disney films! So what happens at Disney Springs for Christmas?

Let it Snow Flurries

On select evenings at Disney Springs, you can experience snowfall for the season while you shop. Typically Fridays- Sundays throughout the season. 

Jock Lindsays Hangar Bar Holiday Takeover

Jock Lindsays Hangar Bar transforms into a festive playground of fun during the holiday season. Holiday menu items typically include a holiday capers wreath, Egg nog drinks, and Christmas cake pops. This is a perfect holiday stop for Disney Adults.

Disney’s Days of Christmas Shop

Open all year long, this Christmas store features the largest selection of Christmas items on Disney property! Including ornaments, decor, and more. Be sure to stop in and get your fill of all the new seasonal merchandise. 

Santas Winter Watercade

Disney Springs lets Santa go for a boat ride to relax! See if you can spot him sailboating around Disney Springs during your Christmas shopping day. 

Waterside Stage Holiday Music

As part of the Christmas festivities all season long you can hear Christmas music both recorded and live throughout the day at Disney Springs. Evenings and Weekends typically have local bands on the Waterside Stage, if you’re looking for live entertainment. 

Breakfast with Santa at Disney Springs 

You can also find Santa Claus at Maria and Enzo’s Restaurant for a breakfast filled with classic Italian menu items. This visit with Santa Claus is a family-friendly holiday activity that includes take-home treats and a keepsake photo souvenir. Plus Disney Adults ( 21+) attending get a free mimosa to have with breakfast. Kids can share Christmas Wishes with Santa, and get a special photo taken. Seating times are 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10 a.m. Prices range from $49- $79 per person ( plus tax and gratuity ). And children under 2 are free. Reservations are required. Grab your Breakfast with Santa at Disney Springs Tickets. 

disney christmas whoopie pie at hollywood studios

Disney World Christmas Dining & Restaurants

Celebrating Christmas in Disney World includes not only great Disney Christmas events, but also seasonal meals to try at the restaurants too! If you’re looking for somewhere to eat at Disney World for Christmas, then you have a few wonderful restaurants to choose from. While Christmas Dinner at Disney World is only offered at a few select restaurants, festive meals can be found across the parks and resorts.

Christmas at the Polynesian Resort Disney World

Choosing a Resort at Disney World for Christmas

The Resorts at Walt Disney World all get dressed up for the festive season every year and offer some of the best Christmas decorations across the property. If you’re hoping to be in the middle of the action, check out our post on the Best Disney Resorts to Stay at for Christmas.  Decorations begin showing up at Disney Resorts during the third week of November. Additionally, each resort’s holiday decorations match the resort theme. As such, if you’re hoping to find African Christmas Ornaments that lend to the Lion King, Christmas at Animal Kingdom Lodge may be a resort to visit. Or perhaps you’re interested in the Gingerbread Carousel at Disney’s Beach Club, celebrating decades of Gingerbread themes. No matter what you fancy, you’re sure to find it at the Disney resorts. 

Do All Disney Resorts Have Christmas Trees?

Yes. All Disney Resorts have a Christmas Tree in their resort lobby, with decorations to match the theme of the resort. Christmastime at Disney World covers all the parks, Disney Springs, and resorts. As such, you can expect to see Christmas Trees everywhere. While the Disney Deluxe Resorts have the most elaborate Signature Trees, that rise multiple stories, all other Disney Resorts have trees too. If visiting the Art of Animation Resort you can count on your favorite Disney character ornaments covering a Christmas Tree in the lobby. The Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort Christmas Tree is covered in fun island decor and bright Caribbean ornaments. 

When Do Disney Resorts Get Christmas Decorations?

Christmas Decorations at Disney Resorts typically show up around the second or third week of November. 

Nothing beats browsing the many Disney resorts with trees and decorations. You will not see anything like this anywhere else. With themed trees, larger-than-life decorations, and experiences that add to the magic, here’s the lineup. Check out our favorite strategy for seeing the Disney Resort Decorations at Walt Disney World. And since your time may be limited, here are our Best Disney Resorts to Visit for Christmas.

Yacht Club at chrismtastime

Christmas at Walt Disney World

There you have it! Everything you can do, expect, and plan for Disney at Christmas. From Christmas Crowds at Disney World to Christmas Decorations and Events for the Holidays at Disney Parks, hopefully, we’ve covered it all.  We hope you find Disney World at Christmas time to be as magical and festive as ours have been.  

Beginners guide to Walt Disney World at Christmas #disneyatchristmas #disneyholidays #disneyfamily

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.

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