Disney World Christmas Guide

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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 June 24, 2023).

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…

Disney just released some of their Christmas plans during the Halfway to the Holidays celebration. This gives us information to start getting excited about Christmas at Disney World!

I put together this Disney World Christmas guide to make sure that anyone going to Disney over the holidays knows what they can look forward to.

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 Disney World at Christmas. Then we’ll get into details about some of the amazing events and offerings.

When Does Disney Put Up Christmas Decorations?

Disney puts up Christmas decorations a lot earlier than pretty much anyone else. In the world of Disney, Christmas begins as soon as Halloween ends. And I mean as soon as it ends.

Once the final Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party of the year wraps up (that’s November 1, 2023), 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, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party typically starts the first full week in November after Halloween wraps up. In 2023, the Christmas party begins on November 9.

The resort decorations are 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 World 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.

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.

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…

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the hallmark event for Disney World’s Christmas festivities. MVMCP is the event that most people look forward to.

This party takes place on select nights in Magic Kingdom. The park closes down for day guests, and only party guests are allowed free reign.

There are exclusive aspects of the party that can’t be experienced by non-ticket holders. There are special character meet and greets, party exclusive snacks, dance parties, parades, fireworks, shows, and more.

If you plan to be at Disney World between November 9 and December 22, 2023, you really should read up on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

It just might be the perfect cherry on top of your Disney World Christmas sundae.

Frozen Holiday Surprise

Once upon a time, Cinderella’s Castle sparkled with dream lights, courtesy of Elsa. Sadly, this disappeared after the pandemic and never returned.

Cinderella Castle dream lights at Magic Kingdom

However, Disney announced a Frozen Holiday Surprise coming in 2023! This is a brand new “Frozen” inspired feature that will light the castle “in a whole new way”.

There’s no news yet on what the whole new way will entail, but it’s exciting nonetheless. We know that it will involve a brief stage show with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and the Snowgies.

This show can be seen during regular park hours as well as during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Christmas projections on Cinderella's Castle

Jungle Jingle Cruise

One of the most famous aspects of Christmas at Magic Kingdom is the Jungle Cruise ride overlay. Each year, Jungle Cruise turns into Jingle Cruise.

The whole ride is decked out for Christmas and there are some special holiday puns to make the holiday theme complete.

Jingle Cruise is VERY popular, so expect longer than usual lines for it during the holiday season.

Epcot Christmas Plans

©️ Disney

Epcot has some of the most amazing holiday offerings. I mean, Epcot just hits you right over the head with Christmas.

International Festival of the Holidays

Starting on November 24, Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays begins. As per usual, the last day of the Festival is December 30, 2023.

There will be Holiday Kitchens scattered throughout World Showcase featuring some delicious treats. At this stage of the game we have no other details about the food booths, but the Holiday Kitchens are always amazing.

Holiday Storytellers

The Holiday Storytellers add such dimension to the Christmas offerings at Disney World.

The story tellers put on fun and entertaining presentations throughout the different countries in World Showcase. True to form, Epcot is all about learning about different cultures and technologies, so this adds some holiday flair to that idea.

The Holiday Storytellers are in specific locations around World Showcase and operate on a schedule. Make sure you check the times as the Storytellers are truly not to be missed.

You can see La Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France, Father Christmas in UK, and Sigrid and Barn Santa in Norway, Las Posadas Celebration in Mexico, Chinese Lion Dancer in China, Santa and Mrs. Claus in America, Daruma Storyteller in Japan, and the Hanukkah Storyteller between France and Morocco.

You probably won’t be able to fit all of them, but you should make it a priority to see at least 2 or 3. My personal favorite is Sigrid and Barn Santa!

Sigrid and Barn Santa Holiday Storytellers at Epcot

Candlelight Processional

Candlelight Processional is probably one of the most beautiful Christmas offerings in all of Disney World. This performance at American Garden Theater is extremely popular, and for good reason.

A celebrity narrator tells the Christmas story from the Bible. They are accompanied by a full orchestra and a stunning choir. It is truly a stunning spectacle.

The identity of the celebrity narrator varies depending on the date, but Candlelight Processional is offered daily during International Festival of the Holidays.

To guarantee preferred seating, you can get the Candlelight Processional Dining Package. This is a meal at select Epcot restaurants (usually appetizer, entrée, and dessert) for a set price. At the end of your meal you are given your tickets for Candlelight Processional.

Personally, I think this is worth it. You get an awesome meal and you don’t have to wait in line or stress about whether or not you’ll even get a seat in the theater.

They haven’t released a list of the celebrity narrators yet. That should come out in the fall, around early October. Last year I took my mom to Candlelight Processional for the first time. She is absolutely in love with it and it’s now our annual tradition. I already booked our room for it this year!

Choir singers at Epcot's Candlelight Procession, image copyright by Disney

Holiday Entertainment

Epcot is always filled with holiday entertaining throughout the park. While they haven’t announced details yet, I would anticipate performances by Voices of Liberty, the JAMMitors, and Las Posadas.

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

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Christmas Themed

We don’t know if this will return in 2023, but I’ll hazard a guess that it will.

In case you didn’t know, a large part of the ride experience for Guardians of the Galaxy is the soundtrack, a variety of 6 different songs you get at random. For Christmas, guests will ride along to a mash-up of seasonal jams.

If you don’t know much about this new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, or how to even ride it, make sure you read up on it in my Guardians of the Galaxy ride guide.

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.

Hollywood Studios actually has the most significant addition to this year’s Christmas plans at Disney: Disney Jollywood Nights.

Disney Jollywood Nights

Disney loves their after hours events, and I tend to love them. Disney Jollywood Nights is an after hours special party event taking place at Hollywood Studios.

In some ways, it should be similar to the idea of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but on a smaller scale. And different theming. So maybe not the same.

Disney Jollywood Nights is a separately ticketed event taking place from 8:30p-12:30a on 10 select nights from November 11, 2023 to December 20, 2023.

  • November 11
  • November 18
  • November 20
  • November 27
  • November 29
  • December 4
  • December 6
  • December 16
  • December 18
  • December 20

Reading the description, this event definitely sounds like it’s geared more towards adults than kids, though I’m sure kids would also have a great time.

There is a glitz and glam theme with a focus on cocktails and tasty bites, as well as music and dancing. All of this is finished off with the return of “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM”, a fireworks show.

Here are the rest of the details we know so far:

  • A DJ playing a mix of holiday music
  • Lively Latin Street Fair on Commissary Lane
  • Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy host a live holiday special at Theater of the Star
  • Hyperion Theater hosts a spirited sing-a-long
  • Two limited capacity entertainment experiences (I’m assuming these are an upcharge within the upcharge): a jazz lounge at Hollywood Brown Derby and an other-wordly soiree at The Hollywood Tower Hotel Courtyard

Amidst all of this will be special character meet and greets, special Magic Shots and PhotoPass experiences. As a bonus, all of the photos taken during the event are included with the cost of your event ticket.

And of course, there’s after hours access to the rides (Rise of the Resistance will use a virtual queue).

And finally, there will be special treats and drinks offered around the park, for an additional fee.

The ticket prices range from $159-$179 per person depending on date.

Important: There are no child ticket prices listed on the website. This isn’t an oversight. Disney Jollywood Studios is an event geared more towards adults. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring kids, but it’s not really focused towards them.

Sunset Seasons Greetings

Sunset Seasons Greetings returns for 2023. This turns the Hollywood Tower Hotel into several wonderful holiday themes through the use of projections.

They really are stunning to see.

Minnie’s Holiday Dine

This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but I fully expect this to return for 2023. 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 add 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.

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along

This very popular show also adds a special holiday touch. In particular, there is a festive finale featuring everyone’s favorite snowman, Olaf.

Along with Olaf, there are celebratory songs of the season.

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.

On one of those flotillas you’ll find the man of the hour: Santa Claus

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

The Merry Menagerie of winter animals is a relatively new offering at Animal Kingdom for the holidays, and it was instantly a big hit.

These life-size artisan sculpted puppets found on Discovery Island are works of art in and of themselves.

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.

Each resort has Christmas decorations to some degree. However, the Deluxe resorts have some of the most beautiful decorations you could hope to see.

Also, the gingerbread displays are back in full force. This is a huge deal because seeing the resort Christmas displays is something truly special.

Gingerbread House at Disney's 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 cookies (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)

One of my top recommended things to do at Disney World for Christmas is to resort hop. You could actually fill multiple days simply wandering from one resort to the next to bask in their Christmas decorations. They are simply stunning.

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.

Between the tree, all of the lighted garland, the hidden fireplace nooks, Wilderness Lodge simply can’t be beat at Christmas time.

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 is magical snow fall in Towne Center.

Finally, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar transforms into Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar. This includes holiday decor and a delicious holiday menu.

Disney Spring Christmas Tree Stroll

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.

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

These trees are all elaborately decorated and beautiful. You can walk through during the day or at night, but if you can, go at night. Everything looks just a little more magical at night.

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

This might surprise you, but you just might be able to wear your ugly Christmas sweater to Disney World.

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 reached full capacity on Christmas day. 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.

Typically, during the very busy holidays, the park hours get expanded. This provides the opportunity to get into the parks super early. Like, before dawn, early.

If you see this as an option during your trip, do it. I can’t even express how awesome it is to be in Magic Kingdom as the sun comes up. It’s breathtaking.

Sunrise at Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom

This picture isn’t during the Christmas season, but I think it demonstrates my point. I watched the sunrise in Magic Kingdom and the sky matched the castle! This picture isn’t even photo shopped! It was gorgeous.

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.

Also, make sure you place your mobile orders at quick service restaurants well ahead of time. The times will get booked up and then you’ll be left having to wait longer than you’d like to eat.

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 opens, 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.

Booking dining reservations has been even harder over the past 2 years. There are many instances where restaurants are completely booked up within minutes.

Please, please, please, do your research beforehand and know the tips necessary to increase your odds of getting the restaurants you want.

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.

But truly, it really is the most magical time of the year at Disney World. You’ll have an amazing time.

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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3 thoughts on “Disney World Christmas Guide”

  1. This article nails it, especially about planning and getting into a proper mental mindset. My husband and I had our two most remarkable Disney World vacations during periods that everyone we knew told us to avoid: (1) the week around July 4, and (2) Christmas 1999 through New Years Day 2000. Crowds? ABSOLUTELY! We had a fantastic experience in both instances (even witnessing a still-memorable adult temper tantrum at the Disney store at Disney Springs that we still talk about!).

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