Christmas at Walt Disney World

Who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas at Walt Disney World? It’s the best time of the year and the Most Magical Place on Earth, which makes for one magical combination!

Walt Disney himself was a huge fan of Christmas. He really wanted Christmas at the parks to be something special. In fact, the first year Disneyland opened, Walt insisted that the park have a special Christmas parade, even though they really didn’t have the money to do a special parade.

Attendance during the Christmas season skyrocketed, and the rest, as they say, is history. So, what’s it like to visit Walt Disney World during the holiday season? Here’s how Christmas is celebrated at the theme parks and resorts.

Christmas in Disney World’s Theme Parks

Christmas at Magic Kingdom Park

Christmas at Disney World shines in the Magic Kingdom. Literally. It shines. Every part of the park is decorated, every shop, every restaurant, every nook and every cranny. Even the Jungle Cruise gets a holiday makeover to become – get this – the JINGLE CRUISE!

But the real star of the show at Christmas is Cinderella Castle, decked out with over 300,000 lights bring sparkle to its exterior.

Every day during the Christmas season, right as the sun goes down, the cast from Frozen gathers and Elsa uses her magical power to transform Cinderella Castle into a winter wonderland of dancing icycle lights with A Frozen Holiday Wish.

Christmas at Disney World is “the most wonderful time of the year.” It truly is. And the most wonderful celebration during the most wonderful time of the year is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special ticketed event that happens select nights in November and December with free cookies and cocoa and all sorts of surprises.

What a great celebration. There are special shows including a very special parade – the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. There is a special version of the fireworks called Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season. It’s just awesome. And it really snows on Main Street. (Sorta.)

Christmas Entertainment at Magic Kingdom

Entertainment at Magic Kingdom during Christmas is fantastic; it’s your chance to see some of the best shows of the year, anywhere. These shows range from the funny and innovative Totally Tomorrowland Christmas show in Rockettower Plaza to the heartwarming song and dance spectacular, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration on the Castle stage.

The infamous Disney Christmas Day Parade doesn’t actually happen on Christmas Day. It’s shot in November. Actually, December 25 at the Magic Kingdom is totally nuts. Having a parade on Christmas day just isn’t possible so they film it early, edit it, and broadcast it as a replay. You can watch it on ABC on Christmas Day.

Christmas at EPCOT

EPCOT, strangely enough, may be the most Christmasafied (yes, Dad’s making up words again) of all the theme parks.

EPCOT goes all out for Christmas. All around the park there are decorations that highlight the special time of year. The Fountain of Nations even gets into the act. During Christmas at Disney World, the fountain in Future World dance the day and night away to great Christmas music. And just past the fountain there is a big Christmas Tree.

The theme park is also home to the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. This includes the Candlelight Processional, Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season, the Holiday Kitchens, Storytellers, and more.

Candlelight Processional

The Candlelight Processional is the best Christmas show at Disney World. The best. It’s the story of the birth of Christ told in scripture and song.

Each night, at the American Gardens Theater, a celebrity narrator reads the Gospel of Luke account of Jesus birth. Along with the story there are some of the best Christmas Songs ever written sung by a 500 voice choir with an orchestra accompaniment.

What could be better than a great show and a good meal? Duh! Reserve the Candlelight Processional Dining Package and get both, plus reserved seating for the show.

The EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays

During the holidays, the countries around the World Showcase get all dolled up in their holiday finest. Not all of the countries around the world celebrate Christmas, and if they do, they don’t always celebrate it the way we do here in America.

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays is a celebration of the winter holiday season in each of the countries. In most of the pavilions there are storytellers that tell how Christmas or their special holiday is celebrated. It’s really neat.

Plus, you can be on the lookout for traditional holiday decor in the pavilions, and Holiday Kitchens featuring festive flavors from around the world.

Christmas at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios gets all decorated up for Christmas. Unfortunately the Osborne Lights Festival of Lights show has been taken down to make room for Toy Story Land. But that doesn’t mean Christmas has been forgotten at the Studios.

In 2016, a new Christmas show made its debut. It’s called Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! and it’s a combination of a display show on the Chinese Theatre, fireworks, special effects and even some “snow”. Oh, and of course some pretty cool music.

Christmas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Even Animal Kingdom gets all dressed up for the holidays. There aren’t any special shows (yet), but the holidays don’t skip the Animal Kingdom.

Christmas at Walt Disney World Resorts

One thing that’s fun to do is to tour the Disney Resorts at Christmas. All the resorts, even the value resorts, get dressed up for the holidays. Each resort has a special holiday tradition, too.

The Grand Floridian has a 1,000-square-foot gingerbread house. A real gingerbread house that’s made with over 1,000 pounds of honey. Go ahead, lick it and see what happens. (Not really.)

Big Christmas trees decorate the lobbies of most of the resorts. Each resort’s decorations take on the personality of the theme of the resort. At Coronado Springs, the decorations are Southwest-themed; at Port Orleans, the seasonal decor is themed after New Orleans; at the Polynesian, there are island-inspired decorations. It’s truly amazing.

Disney Springs

Disney Springs celebrates Christmas at Disney World with carolers, shopping, holiday treats, shopping Christmas lights, shopping, Santa Claus, shopping, holiday performers and shopping. Oh, did I say shopping?

In 2016, there was even a cool drone show (Starbright Holidays) every night during over Lake Buena Vista. This year, you’ll find a Christmas Tree Trail with 25 trees decorated for beloved movies and characters.

After you get your picture with Santa, stroll around the shops. There is live entertainment throughout the day. Each shop goes all out with Christmas decorations and displays.

When Does Christmas at Disney World Begin and End?

Now that’s a good question. The Christmas season at Walt Disney World starts the first week of November. It takes Disney about 3 or 4 days to get all the Christmas decorations up (it’s an amazing transition) and they start putting up decorations a couple of days after Halloween. The first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party usually starts the season on the first Thursday of November.

The Candlelight Processional always starts the day after Thanksgiving and runs through December 30, which ironically enough, is Dad’s Birthday.

While the official beginning of Christmas at Disney World won’t be until that first Friday in November, the first week of November decorations will be going up in the parks and the second week the hotels usually get their decorations up.