Christmas at Disney World

Your Guide to the Decorations and Seasonal Holiday Events around Christmastime

As magical as the parks are during any season of the year, Christmas at Disney World is extra magical.

Florida (the “Sunshine State”) usually isn’t synonymous with Christmas, but Disney proves that you don’t need North Pole-like weather to experience the enchantment of the holiday season.

Starting in early November, Disney Cast Members begin to dress the parks and resort hotels head-to-toe with lights, trees, wreaths, garland, ribbons, and other Christmas-themed topiary. Once all of the decorations are in place, the entire park is filled with Christmas trees, festive decorations, and magical Christmas elements in every corner.

While each theme park has its own special take on the Christmas theme, certain areas of the resort have slightly more sparkle and pageantry than others.

And while Christmas is certainly the primary focus, you’ll also find nods to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and many other winter holidays.

In this article, we give you an overview of the festive goings-on at the theme parks and resorts during the Christmas season. We hope this guide will prepare you to experience Disney’s holiday magic to the fullest!

Christmas at Magic Kingdom

As Disney World’s flagship theme park, Magic Kingdom is not surprisingly fully decked out every holiday season. Here’s a look at some of what you can expect:

Magic Kingdom Christmas Decorations

Upon arriving in Town Square, just past the train station, you’ll be greeted by the park’s giant “icon tree,” a 65-foot tall (yet still somehow old-fashioned) Christmas tree featuring classic toys and of course, plenty of lights.

Elsewhere you’ll find lots of other decorations, including wreaths, garland, candles, and more. Be sure to take some time to check out the series of animatronic window displays at The Emporium on Main Street U.S.A., depicting scenes from the classic animated special Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Even more astounding is that these decorations spring up literally overnight after the Halloween season ends.

A favorite for many years was the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights décor package, which saw the iconic castle simply smothered in a stunning holiday lights display that mimicked ice and snow. Sadly, the Dream Lights did not return for the 2022 season, thanks partly to extra décor on the castle for the 50th-anniversary celebration. In their place, Disney promises to continue with the “Beacons of Magic” projection effects, adding a holiday edition that dresses the castle up in nighttime holiday décor.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

The flagship event of the Christmas Season is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This nighttime event is offered select nights in November and December, after the Magic Kingdom closes for the day. You’ll have to pay a separate admission — ranging from $149-199 per adult (kids slightly less) — depending on the date you choose to attend.

NOTE: Check back for information on the 2023 Christmas Party dates and tickets.

Chart showing Dats and Prices for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

In addition to shorter lines for rides thanks to attendance limits, you’ll also enjoy the Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade featuring Santa, reindeer, and toy soldiers.

Some attractions also receive a special holiday makeover. The Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise, and there are special enhancements to Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, and the Mad Tea Party.

A sweet feature of the evening is the chance to enjoy free cookies and hot cocoa throughout the park all night long.

And of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without just a little Disney magic. Do those look like snow clouds to you? Nah, couldn’t be. This is Florida, after all. Hmmmmmm…

If you have visions of Mickey Pretzels dancing in your head this holiday season, reach out to the elves at The Vacationeer to make all your Christmas vacation wishes come true!

These Authorized Disney Vacation Planners know-ho-ho exactly how to make sure your Disney/Universal trip is a success. Not only can they help you get your tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but they’ll make all your hotel and dining reservations for you, too!

They’ll even keep an eye out for any new discounts that might pop up and apply them to your trip (that’s right — even after you’re already booked!).

So get in touch with them today — their help is absolutely free to use and there’s never any obligation to book. Get your free quote today!

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays

Disney World Christmas - EPCOT

One could make a compelling argument that EPCOT is Holiday Headquarters at Disney World, surpassing even Magic Kingdom. As home to World Showcase, EPCOT is not surprisingly the park which best showcases the multitude of winter holidays celebrated all around the world. Here, you’ll find acknowledgments of not just Christmas, but also Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, and more.

The International Festival of the Holidays takes place from November 25 – December 30 (with New Year’s Eve at EPCOT being a separate celebration in its own right). All events are included with your regular park admission.

Here are some highlights:

Candlelight Processional

The flagship event of EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays is the Candlelight Processional. While certainly the most religion-focused of all of the Disney World Christmas events, this event is a stunning spectacle for even those who stick primarily to the secular elements of the holiday season. There are three performances nightly, at 5:15 PM, 7:00 PM, and 8:30 PM. During the approximately 50-minute show, a celebrity narrator (see schedule) relays the biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ; highlighting key moments in the narration, a massed choir performs Christmas carols in English and international languages, accompanied by a live orchestra.

The event is immensely popular, as is evidenced by the fact that it is presented more than 100 times over the course of the holiday season. You’ll find the biggest crowds on nights when when the most-popular of the celebrity narrators (such as Whoopi Goldberg or Neil Patrick Harris) are scheduled, drawing heavy “Locals” traffic. To avoid waiting in a long standby line with no guarantee of seating, we suggest you partake in a Candlelight Dinner Package; these guarantee your admission to the show (ask your Disney Travel Agent for details). You can also just walk by — the event is held at the outdoor America Gardens Theatre, so you can see and hear a good bit of the show without even going inside the seating area.

Holiday Storytellers and Entertainers

Around the park, experience unique storytelling performances at several points throughout the day. Scheduled performance groups and times change daily — be sure to grab a times guide when entering, or check the MyDisneyExperience app for show times.

Among the performances you might see:

  • JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season: this upbeat performance several times daily highlights Gospel, R&B, and holiday songs for Christmas and Kwanzaa
  • Las Posadas: a musical tribute to Mexico’s Las Posadas religious festival, featuring traditional dances and a performance by Mariachi Cobre.
  • Mischievous Magical Barn Santa: a magical (and mischievous) Santa can’t seem to help himself from interfering just a bit as Sigrid shares the story of Christmas celebrations in Norway
  • Lion Dancers: celebrate the Lunar New Year at the China pavilion with a mesmerizing performance featuring two skilled dancers performing acrobatically in single lion suit.
  • La Befana: Italy plays host to this gentle and loving witch known for visiting children just before Epiphany
  • Santa Claus: the one and only — spreading cheer, taking gift requests, and checking for the naughty and nice — appearing at the Odyssey pavilion
  • Daruma Storyteller: gather ’round the Japan pavilion to hear the story of the Daruma doll — a talisman of good luck — along with Japanese New Year’s traditions
  • Hanukkah Storyteller: the history and traditions of Hanukkah, from the miracle of the oil to the significance of dreidels, latkes, and traditional music; presented between the Morocco and France pavilions
  • Père Noël: France’s Father Christmas shares a heartwarming letter that helps everyone rediscover the magic of the season
  • Father Christmas: A view of Christmas across the pond, as the United Kingdom’s Father Christmas shares how Christmas is celebrated in the United Kingdom
  • Canadian Holiday Voyageurs: Have a happy holid-eh with these rollicking performers who provide a whirlwind musical exposition of the ways different parts of Canada celebrate the holidays
  • Voices of Liberty: The acclaimed a capella group (which performs year-round at the American Adventure pavilion) adds special holiday favorites to its performance sets every Christmas season

Holiday Kitchens, Cookie Stroll, and Scavenger Hunt

A nod to the ever-popular International Food & Wine Festival, you’ll find holiday kitchens spread all around EPCOT — each booth offers tasting-sized international holiday favorites for a small fee. You’ll find plenty to keep your tummy merry and bright, from European and Asian offerings to traditional American fare.

If cookies are more your speed, check out the Holiday Cookie Stroll. Purchase any five specialty holiday cookies throughout your visit(s) to the festival and get your special “passport” stamped as you do; then show your completed passport to get your special sweet reward.

Or, skip the food and spend your afternoon searching high and low with Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt. Purchase a map and stickers for a little under $10, then search World Showcase for hidden items and use the stickers to mark their locations on the map. When you’re done hunting (your map doesn’t have to be complete or correct), return the maps to receive a small holiday keepsake.

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Overlay and Other Highlights

EPCOT’s new Roller Coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, gets a special holiday overlay. As Disney puts it: “This season, the Guardians are trading in their classic hits playlist for a mash-up of seasonal jams … blast off to the tune of an awesome holiday single, bringing joy to Xandar and Terra, too.”

Elsewhere in the park, you might find a few surprisingly festive fruits and vegetables in the greenhouses as you sail by on Living with the Land. And of course, the park has a giant icon tree near the entrance to World Showcase, along with lots of other festive decorations.

Christmas at Hollywood Studios

Though Disney’s Hollywood Studios is no longer the Christmas juggernaut of its earlier years (when the park originally played host to the famed Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights), there’s still plenty to enjoy during the season.

Special Holiday Décor can be found all around the park, including 1930s/1940s-era displays along Hollywood Boulevard and special holiday touches in Toy Story Land.

As part of Sunset Seasons Greetings, special holiday projections are displayed on the Hollywood Tower Hotel (AKA Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) each night.

The Santa Claus Merry Motorcade brings St. Nick to Hollywood in a candy-apple red convertible, packed with a sackful of presents.

Enjoy an updated performance of For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, featuring a unique holiday finale with Olaf.

For a seasonal character dining treat, check out Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine. Enjoy seasonal favorites along with classic Disney characters in their holiday finest.

Christmas at Animal Kingdom

Like Hollywood Studios, the holiday events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom are much more subdued. But there are still a few beloved additions to the park for the season.

The “sleeper hit” of the park’s holiday celebrations is the Merry Menagerie, a sort of performance art display in which a troupe of live musicians and talented puppeteers bring to life arctic animals such as penguins, reindeer, foxes, and polar bears. Kids absolutely love these critters — and many grown-ups are entranced, too. Check a times guide or the app for show times, but don’t worry about finding a seat; this event takes place solely as a walk-around performance on Discovery Island.

Elsewhere around the park, keep an eye on the Discovery River — you never know who might float by! The big guy himself has been known to take part in a Santa Claus Festive Flotilla, sailing along to a world-beat holiday soundtrack. Or, rock to the beat of the Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla, featuring a colorful group of percussionists.

Of course there’s plenty of holiday décor around the park. And don’t miss the Tree of Life Awakenings – Holiday Edition, where the park’s icon shimmers and sparkles with projection effects and a seasonal musical score.

Christmas at Disney Springs

Disney World Christmas - Disney Springs

Disney’s shopping and entertainment district has plenty to do beyond Christmas Shopping.

The Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll features a collection of elaborately decorated Disney Christmas trees throughout the neighborhoods of Disney Springs. You’ll find trees themed to different movies, animated series, theme parks and attractions, and other specialty decorations.

Enjoy the sounds of the season with live musical performances and DJs. Plus, encounter Toy Soldier Stilt Walkers, Snowflake Skaters, and a visit with Santa himself. “Snow” Flurries happen nightly at Disney Springs Town Center, completing the holiday mood.

And, enjoy the spirits of the season at Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar; the Hangar Bar transforms for the season with a fun holiday menu, eye-catching décor, and more.

Christmas at the Disney Resort Hotels

Christmas Decorations at Grand Floridian

You could easily spend a day (or two… or three!) exploring the holiday décor at the Disney Resort hotels.

Each resort has a gigantic Christmas tree that’s specially themed to the hotel; many of them tower several stories high. You’ll often find PhotoPass photographers on-site nearby to take family photos. Many of the resorts also feature larger-than-life holiday displays. If you find yourself at a resort in the days immediately before Christmas, you might even see some special live holiday concerts featuring local community arts performers such as chorus groups and handbell choirs.

Grand Floridian

One of the most awe-inspiring Christmas displays is at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. There, you’ll find an (almost) life-size gingerbread house that’s big enough to actually function as a shop where you can purchase gingerbread shingles and other holiday treats.

Disney World Christmas - Grand Floridian Gingerbread House

As you might imagine, installing this magnificent structure is quite a feat that blends culinary with carpentry.

Disney World Christmas - Grand Floridian Gingerbread House Ingredients

Be sure to head up to the second floor where you can look down into the gingerbread house from above!

Yacht & Beach Club

Another Resort Holiday favorite is the display at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.

At the Beach Club, There’s a working (but sadly not rideable) Gingerbread Carousel featuring four horses whose designs change each year. The carousel actually rotates! For an added challenge, be sure to look for all the tiny Hidden Mickeys stamped in gold Luster Dust on different parts of the carousel.

Disney World Christmas - Beach Club Gingerbread Carousel

Next door at Yacht Club, you’ll find an expansive multi-level miniature Christmas Village and train display. The display has something to see from every angle, so don’t stop looking once you’ve seen the front! Peek around the back to see scenes featuring Disney characters, including Elsa!

Disney World Christmas - Yacht Club Holiday Display

Fort Wilderness

Campers at Fort Wilderness are well known for their elaborate homegrown holiday displays. Much like their famed Halloween décor, the Christmas displays put on by Guests spending the holidays at the campground are legendary.

Another popular holiday observance at Fort Wilderness is the holiday sleigh ride, a 25-minute ride in a one-horse open sleigh (wheeled) or carriage. A group of four people can share the ride; a fifth person can be accommodated if the party consists of two adults and three children  The 2022 cost was $75 plus tax. Availability is extremely limited, so advance reservations are always a good idea. Contact your Disney Travel Agent for details on the 2023 season.

Christmas Day Parade on ABC

Christmas Parade at Disney World

We’ll let you in on a little Disney secret: the Disney Parks Christmas Day parade you see on television isn’t actually happening live on Christmas Day. The event is typically taped over a series of several days in late November or early December at locations all around Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. For the past few years, the actual parade portion has been filmed in California while most of the musical performances happen in Florida.

Should you find yourself at Disney early in the holiday season, you might even be able to attend part of the tapings! Just be forewarned that this is very much a “made for TV” event. Part of your view may be obstructed by camera equipment, and you might end up watching the same performance over and over and over again to capture various camera angles and to get the sound just right. But think of all the fun you’ll have looking for yourself on TV as you unwrap your presents on Christmas morning!

And if you are braving the Crowds at Disney World on Christmas morning — one of the busiest days of the year — you’ll quickly understand why they’ve chosen to pre-tape the event rather than trying to pull it off live that morning amid all those people.

Crowds at Disney World During the Christmas Holiday Season

Disney’s full Christmas season runs from late November (after Thanksgiving) through the beginning of January.

With the exception of Christmas week through New Years’, Christmas has traditionally been a less crowded time of year. But with all of the festivities surrounding the holiday season these days, Disney World is fairly crowded throughout this stretch. Even though the weather isn’t quite as nice as other times of the year, don’t expect Disney to be less crowded than early June or late September (because it won’t be).

As far as the best time to visit in terms of crowds, the second week in November tends to be lighter as the park transitions from the Halloween season to the Christmas season. However, not all of the decorations will be up at this time.

The Monday following Thanksgiving through the first two weeks in December is probably your best bet because the park is fully decorated and you will beat the school vacation crowds.

The third week in December starts to get more crowded. The time period from the weekend before Christmas through New Years’ tends to be the most crowded time to visit.

Christmas at Disney World is truly a magical time to visit. Just because the holidays are more crowded than they used to be, don’t let the crowds deter you from going during Disney’s most magical time of the year!

When Do They Decorate Disney World for Christmas?

With four theme parks, two water parks, two major shopping districts, and dozens of hotels (not to mention two other resorts in the southeast and five cruise ships!), it’s no surprise that it takes a bit of time to decorate Disney World for the holidays.

But, each location’s decoration happens “instantly.” You won’t see one particular hotel being slowly decorated with a Christmas tree today, then garland next week. Instead, Disney’s famed Holiday Services department swoops in overnight and does absolutely everything in just a few hours! It’s amazing to wake up the next morning and find that Christmas has suddenly arrived at a resort or theme park that was “normal” just the night before. (Note: one major exception to this is that Magic Kingdom’s Christmas tree might be installed later than the rest of its decorations; they sometimes don’t install the tree until they’ve finished recording the Christmas Parade broadcast.)

Magic Kingdom is usually decorated first, on a night in the narrow period of time between the last Halloween Party on October 31 and the first Christmas party (typically a week or so later). In 2022, the last Halloween Party ended at midnight and Christmas decorations were already up by the time the park reopened for resort Guests at 8:30 AM the next morning!

The other parks and resorts follow, and everything is usually decorated by mid-November.  Most of the décor usually remains in place through the end of the year.

If you want to be absolutely certain everything is decorated for Christmas when you visit, we’d stick with a timeframe between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.  The “sweet spot” combining low crowds and holiday decorations is typically the first full week of December.

Holiday Events at Other Theme Parks and Attractions

Universal Orlando features several popular Christmas offerings. Most notable is a parade featuring balloons used during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There’s also a raucously funny Grinchmas live show as well as performances by Mannheim Steamroller. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at both Universal parks also adds special entertainment and décor for the holidays.

SeaWorld Orlando offers a magnificent Christmas Celebration each year featuring characters from the beloved classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. You can also expect the Sesame Street characters to get into the spirit, and you’ll find plenty of holiday-themed entertainment, special food and treats, and much more.

LEGOLAND Florida celebrates the season with its Holidays at LEGOLAND event. Marvel at a giant Christmas tree made entirely of Lego bricks, enjoy special seasonal entertainment and holiday treats, and meet costumed Lego characters.

ICE! at Gaylord Palms is one of the most unique Christmas offerings in the Orlando area, allowing you to explore a 20,000-square-foot display featuring more than two million pounds of carved ice. It’s a frigid 9° Fahrenheit inside, so you’ll be very happy to know they provide complimentary winter parkas during your visit (just don’t forget to wear warm clothes — skip the sandals for this event). The theme changes each year — for 2022, it was Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

A newer entry to the Orlando holiday scene is the Night of a Million Lights benefiting Give Kids the World. Originally held in 2020 at GKTW’s village (which provides week-long “wish” vacations for children with critical illnesses), the event moved to a new home for 2022 — Island H2O Water Park.  The unique interactive holiday experience features a choreographed light display on a five-story water slide tower, dueling piano, a capellla music performances, a DJ dance party, Santa visits, and more.  Note that the water park’s rides and pools did not operate during the event. We will see what happens for the 2023 season.

The holiday fun isn’t limited to just dry land. Disney Cruise Line celebrates the season with Very Merrytime Cruises onboard all of their ships during November and December. From Disney characters decked out in their holiday finest, to visits from Santa Claus, to a giant gingerbread house in the ship’s atrium — and of course plenty of themed décor, activities, and celebrations — you’ll find much to make merry with onboard. We’ve even heard of a most unusual wintry forecast for Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Ready to Book your Disney World Holiday Vacation?

Whether you’ve set your sleigh’s GPS to bring you to Disney World, Universal, or any other Orlando destination — you’ll want to make sure you’ve got The Vacationeer as your co-pilot.

Why use a Disney travel agent for your trip? There are plenty of reasons: they offer free help planning your Orlando vacation (Disney Cruises, too!); they’ll make sure you get the absolute best possible price on your trip (even adding new discounts as they’re announced; and they serve as your single point of contact for everything related to your trip (no more waiting on hold!).

We believe The Vacationeer is the best Disney Travel Agent out there, and we know you’ll love them, too.

We hope our Christmas at Disney World page has helped you formulate your Disney holiday visit.

For more useful Disney World information, please review some additional pages on MagicGuides like our Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, Disney Dining Plan CalculatorDisney Transportation Map, Best Disney YouTube Channels, and Disney World Tips and Tricks articles.

Thank you for reading our page, and we hope you have a magical Walt Disney World holiday vacation!