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I spent opening day of Christmas season at Magic Kingdom this year. This allowed me to see first hand what a Magic Kingdom Christmas looks like during a pandemic!
So for all of you who plan to head to Magic Kingdom during the 2020 Christmas season, this post is for you! Or for the dreamers who just want to read about all things Disney, here you go.
I also have a guide to Disney at Christmas which gives a greater overview of what to expect during the holidays at all of the parks and resorts.
This post is chock full of photos from around Magic Kingdom and even my first attempt at a video!
Magic Kingdom Christmas Decorations
As usual, this year’s Magic Kingdom Christmas decorations went up over night on November 1. Of course, 2020 looks different than any other year we’ve ever experienced.
While these are definitely slightly scaled down, they are mostly what we’ve come to expect. The main thing that’s missing is the giant floral Mickey in front of the train station.
Also missing are the additional Christmas trees that grace this space. This is a bit disappointing, because the floral Mickey is just so beautiful. But I’m sure that is labor intensive, both in growing the flowers and planting them.
However, how hard would it have been to at least add the Christmas trees?
The biggest absence in the Christmas decor are the castle twinkle lights. However, this absence was turned into a pretty cool positive in the form of castle projections.
If you haven’t seen the castle projections in Happily Ever After before, you are in for a treat. They are truly amazing. So amazing that if you didn’t know any different, you would think the castle was actually painted that way.
There are 4 different castle projection scenes that rotate through about every 15 minutes. For some reason, every single time I saw the castle it had the same two scenes. Just bad luck, I guess.
I could have parked myself right in the Hub or along Main Street to see them all. And I truly wanted to do that, but man, it was CROWDED. As we walked down Main Street towards the castle we could see the crowds up ahead.
Later, we came back through the Hub on our way out of Magic Kingdom. This time we approached from Liberty Square and we were both startled by just how many people were clustered there.
As we approached closer we could see that there was actually about 6 feet of space in between the groups. There were also cast members with signs about physical distancing milling through the throng.
Even with this, we just weren’t comfortable hanging around with that many other people so we never got to see all of the projections.
TIP: If you want to see the castle projections from a much less crowded spot, head to the bridge that leads to Liberty Square. This is my favorite spot to snap pics of the castle!
Main Street Decorations
Aside from the new castle projections, the Main Street Christmas decorations remain the same. The view down Main Street towards the castle will always be a favorite of mine in general, but with Christmas lights added to the mix? Yes please!
The Mickey shaped wreaths are there, along with the lighted wreaths placed higher on the light posts and strings of garland. It’s beautiful during the day, but at night? I simply love it.
And of course, the Magic Kingdom Christmas tree is standing tall and proud at the entrance to Main Street. Under the tree are some oversized presents (Mickey must have been VERY good this year). And alongside the tree are the toy soldiers.
All in all, it makes for an amazing entrance into Magic Kingdom during the Christmas season.
The Rest of the Park
Aside from what I mentioned above, the decorations through the rest of the park are more subtle. You’ll find garland strung up in various locations throughout the park, but nothing truly extensive. It’s most noticeable in the area where the characters make an appearance.
The exception is the return of Jingle Cruise! This fan favorite Christmas overlay has returned for 2020.
Christmas Characters at Magic Kingdom
While there are no opportunities to get up close and personal with characters right now, Disney has done a good job of making sure character interactions are still possible.
While they don’t look the same as they did before, this doesn’t mean it’s worse. In fact, I think some of these new options are even better.
All of the character interactions listed here do not happen on a schedule. This is deliberate on Disney’s part as they don’t want people to form crowds in anticipation.
Basically, you never know when you’ll stumble across a character interaction opportunity, so keep you eye (and ears) peeled.
I did find that character interactions happened often, so don’t worry that you’ll make it through the whole day without seeing a single character.
The character cavalcades are perhaps my favorite thing to come out of the pandemic changes at Disney World. In case you didn’t know, the cavalcades are essentially surprise mini-parades. There tend to be about 4 different cavalcades that roll through several times throughout the day.
For Christmas, the cavalcades are, you guessed it, Christmas themed. Essentially, the characters ride on floats from the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party parade. The characters are also dressed in their Christmas best.
It’s very noticeable when a cavalcade is about to begin as the music playing along the cavalcade route changes. Each cavalcade has its own distinct music.
The character cavalcades run on the same route as the parade: Frontierland, Liberty Square, the Hub, and Main Street.
Mickey and Minnie
Mickey and Minnie Mouse are important headliners in these character cavalcades. How could they not be? They ride on a float with a giant Christmas tree and presents.
In addition to the rulers of the Mouse House, there are a number of other characters walking along with the float. You’ll find Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Wendy, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Geppetto, The Mad Hatter, Alice, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, and Bert.
Clearly, they didn’t skimp on characters for this one!
Disney Princess Cavalcade
It’s princesses galore with this Christmas cavalcade! Princess Merida starts this cavalcade off, riding a truly gorgeous horse. She is followed by Princesses Belle and Tiana riding in a gazebo decorated for the holidays.
And last but not least, an enormous mirrored float carrying a multitude of princesses. You’ll find Ariel, Aurora, Elena, Snow White, Jasmine, Cinderella, and the Fairy Godmother.
Goofy and Friends
There is also Max, Goofy, and Clarabelle in another grouping. This cavalcade involves 2 floats, a small motorized car, gingerbread men, and dancing elves.
What Christmas would be complete without the big man himself? Of course, Santa makes an appearance among all of the cavalcades.
His cavalcade is accompanied by some dancing reindeer and of course, more elves.
Magic Kingdom Philharmonic
Perhaps one of my favorites were the toy soldiers leading the Magic Kingdom Philharmonic. I seriously love the toy soldiers and Christmas music.
You can find characters interspersed throughout the park for some distanced viewing. Each of the characters is dressed in a holiday themed outfit.
We spotted the Country Bears along with Chip and Dale in Frontierland.
A bunch of fan favorites can be found on the porch at Crystal Palace. Here on the porch you can find some Winnie the Pooh favorites dressed up in their Christmas gear. I got to see Rabbit, Eeyore, and Piglet looking adorable as ever.
The spot to see the major Disney favorites (i.e. Mickey and Minnie or the Princesses) is the Main Street Train Station. The characters line the balcony of the train station, waving and interacting with the guests below.
The Muppets are Back!
In an unannounced surprise, the Muppets are back in Liberty Square! And I missed them every time!
They aren’t doing a skit like they used to, which is a crying shame. This is more of a distanced photo opportunity than anything else. Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Kermit, and Gonzo do some hamming for the cameras.
Sure, it’s not the same as a funny skit full of Muppet humor, but I’ll take whatever Muppets I can get.
The Dapper Dans typically wander Main Street and perform holiday classics. This year, they ride around Main Street on the trolley and sing those tunes.
The Dapper Dans still wear their favorite Christmas outfits with candy cane stripes.
Magic Kingdom Christmas Treats
As with any holiday, or for no real reason, there are always some special holiday treats to be found. This was no different this year as there are quite a few Magic Kingdom Christmas treats to enjoy.
My family made the ultimate sacrifice (in the form of trying the treats) so I could give you a review of said treats. Check out my review of Magic Kingdom’s holiday treats, to get the whole story.
But here’s the short version: Everyone’s favorite holiday treat was An Orange Bird Christmas. The runner up was the Let it Snow Taco.
Some of the others were fine but nothing extraordinary, and there’s one that I ranked as a pass. But everyone’s taste is different, so don’t hesitate to give them a try yourself.
My Overall Impressions
First off, you’ll be hard pressed to ever get me to speak negatively about anything involving Christmas. I’m a bit of a nut that way. And overall, I was pleased with the Christmas-y feel to Magic Kingdom.
Of course, I’m disappointed that there’s no Christmas party this year, but I also think that’s the right decision. The party just has an over the top Christmas feel that I love.
But I think Disney did a good job considering the situation they are working in. It’s not like anything about 2020 has been even remotely normal.
My biggest concern was the crowd level we encountered while we were there. To be fair, we were there on opening day of “Christmas”, which likely drew larger crowds. And our Magic Kingdom visit straddled a Friday and Saturday.
Right now, the weekends are definitely more crowded at most of the parks, and Magic Kingdom was no different.
And while I think we’re all used to crowds at Disney in the general scheme of things, the world is different right now. There were areas of Magic Kingdom that were seriously congested. Like shoulder to shoulder congested.
Oddly, the worst spot we encountered was the pathway between Cosmic Ray’s and Tomorrowland Speedway. It was kind of ridiculous, people just standing/sitting about practically on top of one another.
Right now, this is beyond my comfort level.
But again, I’m hoping it was a little bit of a fluke with my timing. Most of the rest of the Christmas season should be more reasonable. Except for Thanksgiving week and Christmas week, of course.
Before I comment, you should probably know two things about us. 1) We never wait in lines to meet characters 2) I love a parade, any parade.
So now you know my biases.
I’m a HUGE fan of these new character interactions. I think these are so much better than waiting in line for an hour for a 1 on 1 meet with a character. But again, I’m biased.
There are legions of huge character meet and greet fans who just yelled in disagreement. But hear me out.
The spontaneity of never knowing when you’ll run across some characters is great. It also allows you to interact with a much higher number of characters than you normally would have.
And the cavalcades are amazing. As I mentioned, I love parades of any sort, but Disney parades are my favorite. Again, the spontaneity here is so cool. You never know when one will go through. It’s a nice little parade atmosphere all day long.
Just prepare yourself for a temporary crowd. Everyone lines the parade route, and there is NO social distancing. However, it’s not nearly as packed as a normal parade. I’d say more of a loose crowd rather than sardines.
Bottom line: The Magic Kingdom Christmas festivities are alive and well at Disney World. I didn’t feel that anything was really lacking overall.
What do you think about the Magic Kingdom Christmas offerings? Is there anything you will truly miss? Let me know in the comments below.