The holidays have returned to Magic Kingdom! Just like in past years, the transition from Halloween into the holidays practically hoppens overnight, as garland with giant red bows quickly replaces all of the pumpkin wreaths. The iconic Christmas tree rises above the rooftops of Main Street, while toy soldier statues keep watch nearby.
After dark, special holiday projections appear most nights on Cinderella Castle, alternating with the castle’s transformation into a Beacon of Magic for Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration. Plus, an all-new After Hours event, “Disney Very Merriest After Hours,” debuted Nov. 8. The separately ticketed event is available on select nights through Dec. 21, offering up a special holiday parade, fireworks, stage show, Disney characters throughout the park, holiday music and décor, treats included and so much more!
If you plan on visiting Magic Kingdom during the most wonderful time of the year, you'll want to be prepared for a busy (and exciting!) time in the park. Keep reading for our top tips for celebrating Christmas at Magic Kingdom in 2021!
Walt Disney World Holiday Hoppenings at Magic Kingdom
The holiday festivities officially kicked off Nov. 12, 2021 and Magic Kingdom will continue to be a winter wonderland generally through Dec. 31. With the 50th anniversary of Disney World hoppening this year, this holiday season will likely be even busier than normal. Psst — if you haven’t already gotten your tickets and secured your reservations, hop to it soon before Disney Park Passes are completely booked this holiday season!
Disney Very Merriest After Hours
New for 2021, Disney debuted Disney Very Merriest After Hours! The event includes four hours of holiday festivities, including themed characters throughout the park, special treats, holiday music and decor (including Snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A.) and, most importantly, the return of holiday fireworks with Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks AND Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade! The event also features a brand-new stage show called "Mickey & Minnie's Very Merry Memories," which has nods to previous holiday stage shows for a bit of nostalgic fun.
The After Hours events have a limited number of tickets to allow for lower wait times for attractions. This special ticketed event takes place from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on select nights, Nov. 8 through Dec. 21, and will replace Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in 2021. Event guests can enter the park as early as 7 p.m. and the event tickets do not require an additional day theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass reservation. Tickets went on sale in August, with a priority booking window for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests. Many dates have already sold out, so be sure to book ASAP for your December visit.
Christmas Parade and Characters at Magic Kingdom Park
With the return of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Disney Very Merriest After Hours, the holiday-themed characters are generally limited to the special-ticketed event. But don't worry, if you are visiting Magic Kingdom Dec. 22-31, you'll have a chance to see this incredible parade during the day! During those days, the parade will run twice, usually at 12:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. (or 3:30 p.m. on certain days). It's always so great to see this limited parade!
Even more exciting news — guests can have individual interactions with the one and only Santa Claus! Meeting at the Liberty Square Gazebo at select times throughout the day, you can tell old Saint Nick your wish list and take a photo with a PhotoPass photographer. This meet-and-greet is distanced, but Santa does a wonderful job of having meaningful conversations.
In addition to seeing characters in the parade and cavalcades, characters can pop up around the park and you never know who you may see! Recently some indoor character sightings have returned, so you can see your favorite characters (at a distance) in their themed location. The Dapper Dans also perform from the top of the Main Street train station.
Christmas Decor, Treats and Shopping at Magic Kingdom Park
You’ll find most of the Christmas decor as soon as you walk into Main Street, U.S.A — the iconic Christmas tree, along with toy soldier statues, wreaths and garland galore. Snow falling on Main Street, U.S.A. is a staple and will return during Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
Once it gets dark outside, Cinderella Castle transforms into a picture-perfect holiday backdrop. These festive projections will alternate with the Beacons of Magic for the 50th anniversary.
Jingle Cruise is back! The homesick skippers have decorated once again to show off their festive spirits, turning the tour into a yuletide adventure. Hop aboard the Eggnog Annie or Vixen Val, and sit back and relax as you listen to the punny yuletide jokes.
Holiday Treats and Eats
One of our favorite things about the holidays at Disney World is the seasonal treats! Check out the special treats for 2021:
Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies (Tomorrowland)
- Christmas Cookie Sundae – Christmas Cookie soft-serve topped with whipped cream, hot fudge, and holiday sprinkles (available Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
- Christmas Cookie Milkshake – Christmas cookie milkshake topped with whipped cream and holiday sprinkles (available Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
Golden Oak Outpost (Frontierland)
- Gingerbread Almond Cake Pop – Gingerbread almond cake pop dipped in white chocolate (available Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
Main Street Bakery (Main Street U.S.A.)
- Mickey Cinnamon Roll – Mickey-shaped cinnamon roll drizzled with red and green icing (available Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
Sleepy Hollow (Fantasyland)
- Ginger Apple Funnel Cake – Gingerbread funnel cake topped with apple pie filling, vanilla ice cream, and caramel sauce (available Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
The top hit among the Frog Family was the Gingerbread almond cake pop from the Golden Oak Outpost. Not only was it super photogenic, but it also satisfied our taste buds! Keep an eye out for even more holiday-exclusive treats at restaurants like Main Street Confectionery, Pinocchio Village Haus, Sleepy Hollow, Gaston’s Tavern, Storybook Treats and Auntie Gravity’s.
As for holiday merch, let's just say that all I want for Christmas is the Loungefly Holiday Treats Mini Backpack ... and the wreath Minnie ears ... AND the holiday sweaters. It's easy to get yourself decked out for the holidays from head to toe! The widest variety of holiday merchandise that we found was at the Emporium. (If you'll be hopping to Disney Springs during your trip, you'll find most of the Christmas merchandise at World of Disney.)
If you’re a popcorn bucket collector, then you'll love the Christmas Tree popcorn buckets. The 2020 version was white with Mickey and Minnie on it. This year, the bucket has a similar design but with gold in honor of the 50th anniversary! You can typically find the seasonal buckets at various locations not only in Magic Kingdom but other parks as well.
Tips for Visiting Magic Kingdom Park During the 2021 Holidays
- If you arrive at Magic Kingdom and Main Street feels too busy, you can typically take a shortcut by Tony’s Town Square Restaurant for an easy hopping path toward Tomorrowland.
- For the best parade viewing area, we suggest finding a spot at the hub near Cinderella Castle and avoiding Main Street, particularly if it's a busier day. For the least amount of waiting, catch it in Frontierland or Liberty Square so you can get back to hopping on more rides!
- Catch the cavalcades later in the afternoon. The morning cavalcades drew larger crowds when people were still coming into the park and then immediately stopping to watch (a cavalcade may very likely be one of the first things you see!).
- On that note, the cavalcades tend to come out in quick succession, so we recommend grabbing a snack and finding a spot close to the cavalcade route to catch them all. (Starbucks stop for the win!) If you hoppen to see one go by that you can't make (this happened while we were in line for the Haunted Mansion, and Lily was devastated), just remind tadpoles that these take place all throughout the day — you'll catch another one!
- If you want to do any holiday shopping, we recommend doing it earlier in the day. The line to get into the Emporium tends to be the longest at the end of the day, and with capacity limited, you may have a decent wait to get in.
- We mentioned this early on, but it bears repeating: If you plan on heading to Christmas at Magic Kingdom, book your Disney Park Pass reservation ASAP. Things fill up quickly!
Have you been to Christmas at Magic Kingdom Park? What was your favorite part? Be sure to share with us in the comments below!