Christmas at Disney World
Guide to the Decorations and Seasonal Holiday Events around Christmastime
Photo Credit: Joe Shlabotnik
As magical as the park is 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 park head-to-toe with lights, trees, wreaths, garland, ribbons, and other Christmas-themed topiary. Once all of the decorations are in place after Thanksgiving, 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 park have slightly more sparkle and pageantry than others. 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!
Disney’s full Christmas season runs from late November (after Thanksgiving) through the beginning of January. With the exception Christmas week through New Years, Christmas has traditionally been less crowded. With all of the festivities surrounding the holiday season nowadays, Disney World is fairly crowded throughout this stretch. Even though the weather isn’t as nice as other times of the year, don’t expect Disney to be less crowded than June or 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 are 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, but certainly, 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!
As you might expect from such an iconic park, Magic Kingdom goes all out for the holiday season. Cast Members decorate every corner, including the shops, restaurants, and even some of the attractions, For example, the Jungle Cruise attraction gets a Christmasy makeover. Main Street U.S.A is decked out with garland and wreaths, and Town Square is home to a spectacular 65-foot foot Christmas tree adorned with thousands of twinkling lights.
Disney categorizes any large tree – 30-feet and up – as an “icon” tree. Liberty Square’s icon tree is considered one the park’s crowning jewels.
But perhaps the most strikingly decorated feature of Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle. With over 300,000 sparkling lights covering its exterior, Cinderella Castle lights up at dusk when Elsa magically transforms it into a winter wonderland for the A Frozen Holiday Wish Show. It’s a sight not to be missed!
If there is one Disney theme park that outdoes Magic Kingdom during the Christmas season, it may just be Epcot. The park really goes all-out with events and decorations, with the showpiece being the icon tree located in World Showcase Lagoon (between World Showcase and Future World). The tree is decorated with giant bells, globes, and flags from around the world.
Epcot’s holiday celebration is called the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. The highlights include the Candlelight Processional, Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season, World Showcase Storytellers, a holiday “Peace on Earth” version of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
Unfortunately, Hollywood Studios doesn’t have as many events as Magic Kingdom or Epcot. And it isn’t as decorated as those parks either. However, you can find Christmasy elements throughout the park including an icon tree right outside the front gate. In terms of events, Hollywood Studios does have one great Christmas show: the always entertaining Jingle bell, Jingle Bam! show.
Photo Credit: d.k.peterson
The highlight of Animal Kingdom’s Christmas season is its massive icon tree. Located near the gates of the park, the tree is decorated with the usual lights and traditional ornaments, but you’ll also see lots of interesting animal and African-themed ornaments. There are giraffes, hippos, lions, zebras, drums, and other such decorations.
Other than the icon tree and a few other Christmas trees here and there, Animal Kingdom really doesn’t have a lot in the way of decorations. The reason for this may be because the park is rarely open at nighttime, so brightly lit decorations aren’t practical.
All of the Disney Value and Moderate resorts decorate for the holiday season, mostly in the lobby area with ornate Christmas trees and other various Christmas elements to match the theming of the respective hotel. But if you’re in search of extra magical Christmas touches, then head to the Disney Deluxe resorts. Each of the Deluxe and DVC resorts has a lavishly decorated Christmas tree and a variety of other festive decorations. Here are some of the resorts that go above and beyond during the holiday season.
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 Calculator, Disney Transportation Map, and Disney World Tips and Tricks articles.
If you need help planning and booking your magical Walt Disney World vacation, contact our friends at The Vacationeer. Their services are always helpful and totally free of charge!
Thank you for reading our page, and we hope you have a magical Walt Disney World vacation!