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Is it beginning to a look a lot like Christmas in your neck of the Frog Pond? Even if it's not, it's time to get a hop on finalizing your Disney World holiday trip! Holidays at Disney World typically happen from early November to the first of January. If you're planning on experiencing Disney World holiday events in 2018, you'll want to take note of all the special holiday hoppenings inside the parks. Lucky for you, we've rounded them all up in one post! Make sure to share this post with friends and family — the more, the merrier.
Best Time to Visit Disney World Holiday Events for 2018 & Tips for Managing Crowds
Before we dive into the merriment, let's start with perhaps the most important topic: The best time to visit and managing crowds during the Disney World holiday events.
Now, we think any time you can visit Disney World is a good time to visit Disney World. We're always excited when we've got our bags packed and are headed to the hoppiest place on Earth. There are better times to visit than others, though, during the holiday season. The busiest days of the year happen during Disney World holiday events. 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 experience Disney World holiday events on dates other than these, you'll be in better shape. If you can't, fear not! You'll definitely still have fun. Make sure you're better prepared to handle these crowds, though. Here is more required reading if you're headed to the parks during these times:
- Spending the Holidays at Disney World? Top 10 Sanity-Saving Tips
- Your Disney World at Thanksgiving Survival Guide
- Guide to New Year's Eve at Disney World
Disney World Holiday Happenings for 2018
Decorations at the Parks & Resorts During Disney World Holiday Events
Decorating is a big-time affair during Disney World holiday events. The decorations start going up the first couple of weeks in November, and each of the parks has its own iconic 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. This year the party started Nov. 9, 2018. 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 (though you may still hear Christmas songs and see some decorations 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! Each of the trees is also 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.
No matter where you're staying, it's worth a visit to the deluxe resorts during Disney World holiday events.This is easiest to do by car, but you can also use Disney transportation to get there. And be sure to book a Disney resort hotel for the holidays before it's too late!
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 During Disney World Holiday Events
Be on the lookout for Santa during Disney World holiday events! He or his stand-in, Santa Goofy, will be in the parks starting at the end of November through the end of December. You can catch Santa at Disney Springs, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, Santa will be at Once Upon a Toy on Sunset Boulevard from now until Dec. 24. At Disney Springs, he is meeting on the Christmas Tree Trail until Dec. 24 (and you can take advantage of virtually holding your place in by giving your mobile number when you check in). At Epcot, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be greeting good little boys and girls during Epcot International Festival of the Holidays at the American Adventure Pavilion until Dec. 30. At Magic Kingdom, he greets during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party and may appear more frequently than that.
Disney World Holiday Events for 2018 at the Parks
Magic Kingdom Holiday Events for 2018
For the past few years, the homesick skippers of the Jungle Cruise have decorated for Disney World holiday events! You'll find plenty of yuletide cheers and punny jokes as you board your boat. You can cruise through the jungle aboard the Jingle Cruise starting early November 2018!
MICKEY'S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY
It doesn't get any merrier than the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. These Christmas parties have gotten much busier over the last few years. Still, it shouldn't stop you from missing this major holiday event. You can fill your belly with as much cocoa and cookies as you can manage, and see the characters 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 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 Christmas entertainment at Magic Kingdom during Disney World holiday events. We've got a whole separate guide just for the party. You'll find 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 is usually shown daily at Magic Kingdom for general guests. This merry parade is expected to run daily Dec. 23 through 31 at 3:30 p.m. It's just that extra present for everyone celebrating their holiday at the most magical place on Earth!
Epcot Holiday Events for 2018
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 visit Epcot International Festival of the Holidays through Dec. 30. 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 and Father Christmas in the U.K. Of course, you can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the American Adventure Pavillion. We've got a full guide to Epcot Festival of the Holidays for your planning pleasure.
HOLIDAY KITCHENS AT THE EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE HOLIDAYS
Food is one of the best things about Disney World holiday events! Snack and sample holiday cuisine from around the world at global marketplaces. Enjoy roast turkey and tender pork loin at American Holiday Table, food and drinks from the Caribbean at Three Kings Feast Marketplace, carnitas tacos and horchata margaritas in Mexico and so much more.
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 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. This includes lunch and/or dinner and a three-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. Illuminations WILL be ending summer 2019, so this may be your last chance to catch the holiday finale!
Disney's Hollywood Studios Holiday Events for 2018
SUNSET SEASON'S GREETINGS
Sunset Season's Greetings returns to 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!"
Elves, Wayne and Lanny from ABC's animated special "Prep & Landing," are looking for a missing Santa! A Larger-Than-Life Nighttime Spectacular features scenes from Disney films on the buildings and rooftops of the Chinese Theater. Some of the Disney films included are "Mickey's Christmas Carol," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pluto's Christmas Tree," "Bambi," "Cinderella," Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and more. There is a bit less pyro this year, but we still LOVE this show!
TOY STORY LAND HOLIDAY FUN
As though we weren't already in love with Toy Story Land, now we get to look forward to Christmas-y fun there too! Galactic holiday tunes on Alien Swirling Saucers, Christmas decor and special character garb deck the halls of Toy Story Land. Be sure to keep an ear out for some fun holiday audio on Slinky Dog Dash ... it's almost as if Slinky Dog is wearing sleigh bells! Who needs Rudolph?
ECHO LAKE HOLIDAY DECOR
Be on the lookout for the extra-large ornaments, colorful garlands and a giant Christmas tree centered on the water at Echo Lake. Even Dinosaur Gertie will be dressed for the occasion with a dino-sized Santa hat. SO CUTE.
Be sure to make your way to the back of the park for your Christmas shopping at "It's a Wonderful Shop." The shop offers Christmas and other holiday keepsakes year round.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Holiday Events for 2018
Disney's Animal Kingdom is welcoming new Diwali touches to its Up! A Great Bird Adventure show that we can't wait to check out. As usual, you'll find a beautiful animal-themed tree at its entrance. Mickey and Minnie don their holiday duds at Adventurer's Outpost. You can also find Santa Goofy, Baloo, King Louie, Donald, Chip and Dale around the park in their holidays finest. Stop by Tusker House Restaurant to see the African marketplace made out of gingerbread.
Disney Springs Holiday Events for 2018
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. You'll also find holiday carolers, Toy Soldier stilt walkers and other performers, plus a holiday dance party with a DJ!
Make sure to take a stroll down the Disney Springs Christmas Trail. The trail showcases 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 in the comments below!