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The Complete Guide to Disney World Holiday Events

by Mommy Frog on September 4, 2017 2 Orlando

Is it beginning to a look a lot like Christmas in your neck of the Frog Pond? Even if it's not, it's never too early to get a jump on planning your Disney World holiday trip! If you're headed to Disney World, anytime from the middle of November to the first of January, you'll want to take note of all the special holiday events and happenings inside the parks. Lucky for you, we've rounded them all up! Make sure to share this post with friend and family who'll be traveling to Orlando too. The more, the merrier.

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Magic Kingdom Christmas tree

Now before we get to the full list of activities, let's start by touching on perhaps the most important topic for your visit: The best time to visit and managing crowds.

Best Time to Visit Disney World Holiday Events for 2017 & Tips for Managing Crowds

As we like to say, any time you can visit Disney World is a good time to visit Disney World. We're always when we've got our bags packed and we're headed to the hoppiest place on Earth.  Now that said, there are better times to visit than others, especially during the holiday season. After all the very busiest days of the year happen during the holidays. In terms of crowds, here are the busiest days of the holiday season:

  • New Year's Eve
  • New Year's Day
  • Christmas Day
  • The week of Christmas
  • The Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • The week of Thanksgiving

If you can plan your Disney World holiday trip for dates other than these, you'll be in better shape. If you can't, fear not! You can still have a great time, but you've got to be better prepared—including mentally prepared — to handle these crowds. Here is more required reading for you if you're headed to the parks during these times:

You can read more about the best (and worst times) to visit Disney World for the whole year here. And don't forget, you can see daily crowd levels, recommended parks and events on our Crowd Calendar.

Disney World Holiday Happenings for 2017

Decorations at the Parks & Resorts

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Magic Kingdom treeDecorating is a big-time affair at Disney World. The decorations start going up the first couple of weeks in November, and each of the parks has its own tree. It takes the elves several weeks to get all the decorations in place, so keep that in mind if you're visiting very early in the month. Most of Magic Kingdom's decorations are in place by the first Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party of the season, which is Nov. 9, 2017. The other theme parks' decorations are usually in place by the Friday after Thanksgiving. The decorations start coming down after the first week in January, but you may still hear Christmas songs and see some decorations even after that.

The resorts, especially the deluxe resorts, get really decorated for Christmas. Disney's Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Boardwalk Inn and Beach and Yacht Club all have spectacular, oversized gingerbread displays, and each of the trees are decorated in theme with the resorts. In case you're wondering, 1,050 pounds of honey, 700 pounds of chocolate, 600 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, 35 pounds of spices, 800 pounds of flour, 140 pints of egg whites and 180 pounds of apricot glaze were used to make the grand dame of gingerbread houses last year at Disney's Grand Floridian. While there are no gingerbread displays at Disney's Wilderness and Animal Kingdom Lodges, their trees are massive and absolutely spectacular.

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Disney's Contemporary Resort Gingerbread House

No matter where you're staying, it's worth a visit to the deluxe resorts. This is easiest to do by car, but if you don't have one, you can use Disney transportation to get there.

By car: Head to Disney's Polynesian Resort (you can park for free for up to two hours). From there, take the monorail or walk to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Hop to Magic Kingdom, then catch a boat to Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Then, hop back to Magic Kingdom, where you can walk or take the monorail to Disney's Contemporary Resort. From there, hop on the monorail back to the Poly, then drive to Disney's Beach and Yacht Club Resorts. From there, walk to Disney's Boardwalk Inn, then back to your car and over to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Using free Disney transportation: Start at Ticket and Transportation Center, and take the monorail to the Poly. From there, walk or take the monorail to Disney's Grand Floridian. Take the monorail to Disney's Contemporary Resort, and then walk to Magic Kingdom. From there, hop on a boat to Disney's Wilderness Lodge, then take it back to Magic Kingdom. From there, take a bus to the Beach and Yacht Clubs, then walk to the Boardwalk. From there, you can walk or take a boat to Disney's Hollywood Studios and then catch a bus to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Take the bus back to Magic Kingdom and then hop back to Ticket and Transportation Center.

Finding Santa at Disney World

Just because your celebrating the holidays at Disney World, doesn't mean you have to miss out on Santa. He or his stand-in,  Santa Goofy, will be in and around the parks starting at the end of November through the end of December. You can find details on where to find him at Disney World, Universal and SeaWorld on this post, which we'll be updating with 2017 information as soon as it's available.

Disney World Holiday Events for 2017 at the Parks

Magic Kingdom Holiday Events for 2017

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Castle Dream Lights

JINGLE CRUISE

For the past few years, the homesick skippers of the Jungle Cruise have decorated for the holidays! You'll find plenty of yuletide cheers and still plenty of puny jokes as you board your boat and journey through the jungle aboard the Jingle Cruise starting in early November 2016!

ABC CHRISTMAS PARADE TAPING

Each year, ABC tapes part of its Christmas Parade from Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Usually this happens in early December. Last year, the tapings took place in all four parks. While the filming does tie up quite a big portion of the day and thus keeps many guests attendees off the rides, when filming is over expect waits to go up. Additionally, there is quite a bit of congestion from all of the filming. Unless it's a priority to be part of the taping, we recommend avoiding that park during filming.

MICKEY'S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Magic Kingdom Toy Soldiers

It doesn't get any merrier than the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. These Christmas parties have gotten busier over the last few years, and with Disney increasing the number of tickets they sell for the event, this is likely to continue. Still, it shouldn't stop you from missing this major holiday event, where you can fill your belly with as much cocoa and cookies as you can manage, and the characters are all dressed up in their Christmas finest! Make sure not to miss Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, the Holiday Wishes fireworks show and the all-new Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration castle stage show. Except for the week between Christmas and New Year's, this is the only time you can catch this—and even more— Christmas entertainment at Magic Kingdom. We've got a whole separate guide just for the party, which includes tips and the best dates to attend the party. It is a must-read if you're thinking of going!

SPECIAL ENTERTAINMENT THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS THROUGH NEW YEAR'S DAY

After the last Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party of the year, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade will be shown at the Magic Kingdom. This merry parade will run daily Dec. 23 through 31 at 3:30 p.m. It's just that extra present for everyone who is celebrating their holiday at the most magical place on Earth!

Epcot Holiday Events for 2017

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

Those of you wanting to learn more about the different ways that countries around the world celebrate Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza should make sure to visit Epcot from the Nov. 19 through Dec. 30 for Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. The holiday traditions of the World's many countries come alive through music and story. You'll find different storytellers performing several times daily and can hear about Pere Noel in France, Julenissen in Norway, La Befana in Italy, Los Tres Reyes in Mexico, Father Christmas in the U.K. Of course, you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the American Adventure Pavillion.

HOLIDAY KITCHENS AT THE EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS

Snack and sample holiday cuisine from around the world at global marketplaces Nov. 19 through Dec. 30. Enjoy roast turkey and tender pork loin at American Holiday Table, food and drinks from the Caribbean at Three Kings Feast Marketplace (open through Jan. 5), carnitas tacos and horchata margaritas in Mexico — and so much more.

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Epcot Candlelight Processional

EPCOT CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL

One of the most joyful Disney World holiday events is the Epcot Candlelight Processional. This annual event pairs celebrity narrators with a full choir and 50-piece orchestra in a stirring retelling of the story of Christmas. It too begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 30. The show takes place three times each evening, and it does fill up. If you want guaranteed seating, purchase a Candlelight Processional Dining Package, which includes lunch and/or dinner and includes a 3-course meal or full buffet depending on the dining location.

HOLIDAY UPDATE TO ILLUMINATIONS

"IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" gets a musical finale, with "Let There Be Peace On Earth" ending the fireworks finale.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Holiday Events for 2017

Sunset Season's Greetings - Nov. 9 - Dec. 31

New for 2017, Sunset Season's Greetings will light up Tinseltown as snow falls, Sunset Boulevard twinkles and favorite faces come to life. Look above as the billboards begin to move into motion and tell a tale — brought to you by iconic characters sharing their love for the season. Look down to see the Hollywood Tower Hotel come to "light" as it tells the stories of these characters.

"Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam!"

Disney World Holiday Events 2016 - Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam

Elves Wayne and Lanny from ABC's animated special "Prep & Landing" are looking for Santa, who's gone missing! The holiday spectacular re-creates scenes from Disney films such as "Mickey's Christmas Carol," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pluto's Christmas Tree," "Bambi," "Cinderella," Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and more on the buildings and rooftops on and near the Chinese Theater. If you want more information, check out this post, which includes the best places to view the new show.

For more merriment, you can make reservations for the “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” Holiday Party, which includes light snacks, desserts and beverages plus reserved seating for the show on select nights.

Be sure to make your way to the back of the park for your Christmas shopping at "It's a Wonderful Shop," which offers Christmas and other holiday keepsakes year round.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Holiday Events for 2017

Disney's Animal Kingdom is perhaps the least spirited of Disney's parks, but you'll still find a beautiful animal-themed tree at its entrance. Mickey and Minnie don their holiday duds at Adventurer's Outpost, and you'll find their friends Santa Goofy, Baloo, King Louie, Donald, Chip and Dale around the park in their holiday finest. Stop into Tusker House Restaurant, which will have an African marketplace made out of gingerbread.

Disney Springs Holiday Events for 2017

HOLIDAYS AT DISNEY SPRINGS

Holidays at Disney Springs will return for its third year. The entertainment, shopping and dining area will be filled with festive decor, fun photo ops and the chance to meet Santa. He will be in a new spot just across from the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop (look for his pal Santa Goofy to do some stand-in work). You'll also find holiday carolers, Toy Soldier stilt walkers and other performers, plus a holiday dance party with DJ!

Make sure to take a stroll down the brand-new Disney Springs Christmas Trail, which will showcase 15 decadently decorated, Disney-themed trees. Right outside Once Upon a Toy, you can catch an interactive holiday dance party, partake in some pin trading and watch as a beautiful tree is lit nightly. The event is free to attend.

 

Are you excited about spending the holidays at Disney World? There are so many Disney World holiday events that you may find it's hard to pack them all in! Still, it's so wonderful to try. Let us know what you are most looking forward to and any questions you have?

Hoppy planning!

 

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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Comments
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Heather Smith-Queler Nov 22, 2015 at 4:03 p.m.

It would really mean a lot if I could get an address to mail a special letter and a couple pictures to regarding the theme park/Christmas/ special family...... Thanks Heather

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FrogBlog Nov 24, 2015 at 8:16 a.m.

Hi Heather,

Looks like you are missing a word or two here. Could you clarify?

Keep hopping!

Leap

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