*Updated* Guide to Christmas at Disney World

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I love Christmas. And I love Disney World. As a result, I REALLY love Christmas at Disney World. As far as I’m concerned, the Christmas season is the best time of year to visit Disney World (Updated July 12, 2021)

Seriously, Disney World at Christmas is just stunning. They go out of their way to basically hit you over the head with a unique blend of Disney and Christmas cheer. What’s not to like? Other than the crowds…

So far, Disney has not revealed many details for Christmas at Disney World 2021. However, this post gives you all the information we know so far.

I will continue to flesh out each of the sections as more information is revealed.

Use the Table of Contents to skip down to the sections specific to 2021 to get all the specific details for this year.

Christmas at Disney World - Toy Story Land

Christmas At Disney World Overview

You will find many different components of Christmas at Disney. To add to the general confusion, they don’t all start at the same time.

Each of the Disney parks has its own special Christmas flair. However, you can enjoy many wonderful Christmas offerings without going into any of the parks.

First let’s take a look at some of the basics about Christmas at Disney. Then we’ll get into details about some of the amazing events and offerings.

When Do Disney World Christmas Decorations Go Up?

In the world of Disney, Christmas begins as soon as Halloween ends. And I mean as soon as it ends. Once the final Disney After Hours Boo Bash of the year wraps up, the Christmas decorating begins.

Many people deliberately schedule their trips to span this time frame so they get a dose of Halloween and Christmas all in one trip.

This video below really highlights what I mean. They quite literally change the decorations overnight.

In reality, it takes a few weeks to get the decorations up in their entirety, but you can get a pretty good Christmas vibe on November 1.

At the end of the Christmas season, the decorations usually come down around the second week of January.

When Do Disney Christmas Events Begin?

There is no straightforward answer to this as different events roll out at different times. When you plan the dates of your trip, keep this in mind. Make sure you know when the events you are really interested in begin.

In general, the Christmas party typically starts the first full week in November after Halloween wraps up. In2021, Disney Very Merriest After Hours begins on November 8.

The resort decorations will be fully installed closer to Thanksgiving. Epcot’s big event, the International Festival of the Holidays kicks off the Friday after Thanksgiving. From that point on Christmas at Disney World is in full swing.

Disney at Christmas: Crowds

Crowds are a rather significant factor when planning a trip to Disney at Christmas. And the scope of the crowds varies dramatically throughout the Christmas season.

Hands down, the week of Christmas is the busiest week at Disney World of the entire year. However, there are some gems thrown in there which are actually phenomenal times to visit in terms of crowds.

Busiest Days for Disney at Christmas

The following are the busiest times at Disney for the Christmas season.

  • Week of Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Week of Christmas
  • Christmas Day
  • New Years Eve
  • New Years Day

In general, take a gander at your local school calendar. If there’s a school break during the Christmas season, it will be crowded at Disney.

However, you’ll notice that mid-November and the beginning of December have significantly lower crowds. If possible, I recommend to plan your trip between the end of November through December 18 or so.

This time frame allows you to experience the full splendor of Disney at Christmas while avoiding most of the crowds.

Christmas at Disney World in 2021

Just like 2020, Christmas at Disney World in 2021 is not quite normal yet. However, it’s at least a little bit closer to normal.

Now, onto the Disney World Christmas details. The official Christmas season at Disney World will run from November 12 through December 30.

Cancelled Events

For everyone hoping for a big announcement about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, unfortunately it’s not favorable. For the second year in a row, MVMCP is cancelled.

Don’t worry, there is a replacement which you can read about below.

As of this writing, parades still haven’t returned and there hasn’t been any information about their return.

Magic Kingdom Christmas Plans

At Magic Kingdom you can expect Main Street to get decked out for the holidays. While the Castle Dream Lights won’t be in place, the castle will show a rotating array of castle projections which transform the castle into different holiday themes.

There is no word yet on whether parades will return by the holidays. However, you can also expect the Character Cavalcades to take on a holiday twist. I would expect to see some of the Christmas parade floats make an appearance with characters decked out in their holiday finery.

Disney has not officially announced this yet for 2021, but I would expect the cavalcades if there are no parades.

Nothing is specifically said about Jingle Cruise but I’m sure that famous holiday overlay happens!

While Magic Kingdom is a little thin on details now, it will improve. Mostly there are fewer details on the rest of Magic Kingdom because they spent most of there time talking about this next section…

Disney Very Merriest After Hours Event

The biggest news about the Magic Kingdom Christmas festivities is the Disney Very Merriest After Hours event. This is the replacement for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

It’s not quite the same as MVMCP, but it’s a good compromise while we wait for everything to slowly get back to normal.

Disney Very Merriest After Hours Event allows Disney to control the crowds a bit more, giving those guests the opportunity to enjoy Magic Kingdom with significant smaller crowds.

Add some special Christmas touches on top of this, some included snacks, tons of upcharge holiday treats, character, and more, and it should be a pretty fun time.

Epcot Christmas Plans

©️ Disney

Epcot again presents a bit of a scaled down Christmas. There is no word yet on Candlelight Processional, I just don’t think it will return for 2021. But fingers crossed it’s back for 2022, because it’s simply amazing.

International Festival of the Holidays

Starting on November 26, a scaled back International Festival of the Holidays will begin and run through December 30, 2021. There will be Holiday Kitchens scattered throughout World Showcase featuring some delicious treats.

Currently, Disney’s information page dedicated to the Holiday Kitchens lists up to 20 different food booths. Since menus haven’t been released yet we don’t know if this is the final list of booths, but it’s a good sign.

Holiday Entertainment

Also present at Epcot will be a couple different performances of holiday favorites. World ShowPlace will host the popular group JOYFUL! They will perform R&B, Gospel, contemporary, and traditional holiday favorites.

You can also find Voices of Liberty sharing their famous 8 part harmonies at the American Gardens Theater stage. They perform a special concert of carols and holiday songs.

Mariachi Cobre will delight Epcot guests with Las Posadas, a celebration of Mexican holiday traditions through music and dance.

Guest favorites, JAMMitors will be on the Mill Stage in Canada Pavilion showing off their percussion talents.

So far for 2021, Disney only mentioned Voices of Liberty performing. However, I expect some, if not all, of the other acts mentioned above to also participate.

Holiday Cookie Stroll

The traditional Holiday Cookie Stroll also makes a return to Epcot’s Christmas festivities this year. There are 5 different locations throughout the park you can sample the Holiday Cookies. Once you complete all 5 cookie stations you get a complimentary cookie.

©️ Disney

Hollywood Studios Christmas Plans

First things first, you’ll find vintage themed holiday decor scattered around Hollywood Studios. Aside from that, there are a few other holiday touches to expect.

Also, Frozen Sing Along gets a special holiday twist for a festive finale.

Sunset Seasons Greetings

Sunset Seasons Greetings returns for 2021. This turns the Hollywood Tower Hotel into several wonderful holiday themes.

This year guests will see a snowy corner of Arendelle, a Muppets gingerbread masterpiece, a Toy Story toy hotel, and a Dickensian village inspired by “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”

Minnie’s Holiday Dine

Minnie’s Holiday Dine is back for another year. This is a fan favorite character meal at Hollywood & Vine. Santa Goofy will be there alongside Minnie and some of her other friends.

All of the characters at Minnie’s Holiday Dine will be decked out in their holiday finest.

At this point, assume that the character interactions continue to be modified to promote distance.

Character Motorcades

In addition to Minnie’s Holiday Dine, the character motorcades will have a holiday feel. So far, Disney has only identified one holiday motorcade: Santa Claus!

However, I expect at least a couple more motorcades rolling through Hollywood Studios.

Animal Kingdom Christmas Plans

At Animal Kingdom there will be festive flotillas. These flotillas sail around Discovery River with characters dressed for the holidays, playing songs inspired by the season.

In addition to this, Animal Kingdom gets decorated with animal themed holiday decor.

And finally, the Tree of Life also becomes the backdrop for a holiday edition of Tree of Life Awakenings.

Disney Resorts

Once again, the Disney resorts get decked out in all their Christmas-y glory for the holidays. Each resort has it’s own specially themed Christmas tree.

Some of them are truly breathtaking.

Also, this year brings the return of some gingerbread displays. They haven’t identified specifically which ones, but hopefully we see the return of the famous gingerbread house at Grand Floridian Resort.

Finally, many resort restaurants will have special holiday menus and treats.

From giant Christmas trees to gingerbread houses, the scope of the Christmas decorations is amazing. Here is a quick list of the usual amazing Disney resort Christmas decorations you can see.

  • Themed Christmas trees (any resort)
  • Full scale gingerbread house that sells gingerbread cookie (Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Gingerbread Cinderella’s Castle (Contemporary Resort)
  • Functioning Chocolate Carousel (Beach Club Resort)
  • The Disney Boardwalk made out of Gingerbread (Boardwalk Resort)
  • Christmas Train Scene (Yacht Club)

We don’t know yet which of these decorations will be present in 2021, but I wanted to give you an idea of the potential scope. I’ll change this as we learn more.

Best Disney Resort at Christmastime

Wilderness Lodge Resort at Christmas
Seriously, could this scream “Christmas” any louder?

If you can only see one, what is the best Disney Resort at Christmastime? Clearly this answer is quite subjective, but there is one Disney resort which is hailed as the best during Christmas: Wilderness Lodge.

Wilderness Lodge doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a fully functioning gingerbread house. However, what it does have is unbeatable ambiance. Because what evokes Christmas more than a lodge styled for the Pacific Northwest? The advantage is huge.

Wilderness Lodge hosts one of the giant Christmas trees Disney is known for. Of course the decorations are all themed to suit the atmosphere of the lodge. It quite literally just hits you over the head with Christmas. You can’t help but smile.

Take some time to fully explore because there are nooks and crannies all over the resort filled with Christmas decorations.

Disney Springs Christmas Plans

Guests can expect Disney Springs to get decked out in holiday finery. There will be holiday music, lights, decor, and more to turn Disney Springs into a winter wonderland. Well, as much as you can have one in central Florida.

To help that along, there will be some magical snow fall in Towne Center.

Finally, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar will transform into Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar. This will include holiday decor and a delicious holiday menu.

Disney Spring Christmas Tree Stroll

2021 brings the return of the Christmas Tree Stroll at Disney Springs. The Christmas Tree Stroll is a cute addition to Disney Springs during the holidays.

It consists of elaborately decorated Christmas trees done up with Disney themes. Guests can see some of the best trees from previous years, plus some new ones.

There will even be a tree done up with the 50th anniversary celebration theme.

Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs, Haunted Mansion Tree
How cool is this Haunted Mansion tree?

What to Wear During Christmas at Disney World

Just because the Christmas festivities are amended, doesn’t mean your fun needs to be! People going to Disney during Christmas love to dress up to show their holiday spirit.

Make sure you are able to join in the fun. Amazon is a great place to get Christmas themed Disney shirts at a low price. You can find ugly Christmas sweaters, t-shirt, tank tops, and so much more.

I personally have a Jack Skellington ugly Christmas sweater by this brand and it is amazingly soft and comfortable. It comes in so many different patterns there’s bound to be one you love. Just click on this link to see all the patterns.

Hint: Check it again closer to the Christmas season, there should be a much larger selection!

Even better, you can get them in men’s, boy’s, and girl’s sizes as well!

What’s the weather like at Disney World during Christmas?

You might be wondering why I suggested a sweater for Florida. The truth is, if you are there in late November through December, odds are good it’s going to be cooler than you expect. Or it could be 80 degrees.

In the span of one trip we went from wearing tank tops and shorts to winter coats and gloves. And I’m not even kidding you about that.

The later it is in the Christmas season, the greater the odds are you’ll need some warmer clothes, especially in the evening and mornings. But just in case, you might want to bring some Disney Christmas themed t-shirts as well! It doesn’t hurt to be prepared…

Disney World at Christmas Tips

Let’s face it, for many people, going during Christmas week is unavoidable. I’m a firm believer that even a crowded time at Disney is better than no time at Disney. However, you want to be smart about how you approach the entire trip when going at the busiest time of year.

The following tips mostly focus on how to have a great Disney Christmas trip during the busiest time, but they also apply to going to Disney in general during the Christmas season.

Be Mentally Prepared

This tip is huge. When I say it is crowded during Christmas week, think 10 on a scale of 10. Magic Kingdom typically closes by noon due to reaching full capacity. It is very important to prepare yourself for that level of crowded.

Make sure you realize there might be limits on what you can accomplish when it’s that crowded. You might not get on every ride on your list. As long as you are OK with that, you’ll be fine.

If you go in with the right attitude and are mentally prepared, you have set yourself up for a truly amazing trip. Because Christmas at Disney World is magic.

Pack For The Winter Season

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you check out my Disney packing list, specifically the part about packing for the weather. Because man, Florida is unpredictable in the winter.

In the days leading up to your trip pay attention to the weather forecast. It is quite possible you will see weather in the 40s and 50s in the early mornings and evenings. Clearly, you need more than shorts and t-shirts in that sort of weather.

Be prepared with layers to shed and add on as necessary. Or the weather could be beautiful and in the 80s the whole trip. You simply never know.

Plan, Plan, Plan

This one kind of goes without saying, but please don’t show up the week of Christmas without a plan. I’m all for winging things and being spontaneous, but the busiest time of the year isn’t when you should try that out.

Your plan will be your rock when you go during Christmas week. A solid plan can help you accomplish more than you would otherwise. Of course, even with a plan you need to be ready to go with the flow when necessary, but that firm foundation is key.

Go at Rope Drop

If you’re a Disney resort guest and have access to Early Theme Park Entry, rope drop is necessary.

Put simply, rope drop, otherwise known as when the park the opens, needs to be your new best friend. You can get more done during those morning hours than you will the rest of the day.

On top of that, if you are at a park that is likely to close due to reaching capacity, you want to be there as early as possible.

Eat During Off Hours

This tip is mostly geared towards Quick Service restaurants but can apply to having an easier time getting dining reservations as well.

Head to the restaurants during non-peak dining times for a much more relaxed dining experience. Everyone and their mother (literally) will try to eat lunch at noon. Don’t be that person. Eat lunch at 11a instead. Trust me, you’ll enjoy your meal a whole lot more.

Book Dining Reservations ASAP

You don’t want to mess around when it comes to booking your dining during a Disney World Christmas trip. As soon as your dining booking window open, you want to be right there, ready to pounce. Too dramatic? Maybe…

If you haven’t done so already, make sure you read my posts on how to book Disney dining reservations. Make sure you understand when your booking window opens and how to book.

Final Thoughts on Christmas at Disney World

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to enjoy during Christmas at Disney World. It is truly a fun and beautiful time of the year to visit. And lucky for us, Christmas at Disney lasts 2 months.

Remember, if you plan to go during the very busy Christmas week, make sure you have a solid plan and follow the tips provided in this post.

Along the lines of having a solid plan here are some links for you to check out to make sure you have the best Christmas trip to Disney World ever!

Christmas at Disney World pin image with Santa

Your Thoughts

Do you love Christmas at Disney World as much as I do? Did I miss some of your favorite things about a Disney Christmas? Let me know in the comments below.

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