It's the most wonderful time of the year, aka the holidays at Walt Disney World! All of the festivities throughout the resort typically kick off in early November (last year was Nov. 11, 2022). From merry decorations to characters dressed in their holiday best, there's nothing quite like Christmas at Disney World. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a separately ticketed event, is a holiday classic event at Magic Kingdom. Christmas cheer is spread throughout the entire resort — each theme park, the resorts and Disney Springs all transform for the holidays!
Overview of the Holidays at Walt Disney World Resort
The holiday season at Walt Disney World Resort usually begins around Veterans Day (mid-November) and go through Dec. 31. Each of the theme parks have special decor, entertainment, food and drink and more. The main highlight is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.
If you're planning on experiencing Disney World Christmas events in 2023, 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. Here's what to expect for the holidays while we await details for this year.
Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World Resort During the Holidays
Before we dive into the merriment, let's start with perhaps the most important topic: The best time to visit during Christmas at Disney World. Many people plan their visits to Disney World at Christmas years in advance. We highly recommend you start thinking about purchasing tickets and reserving Disney Park Pass reservations as soon as you're able when it comes to the holiday season! Park Pass reservations are here to stay, so you will need to pick which park you'll visit each day of your trip ahead of time.
In general, 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 Most Magical Place on Earth. However, there are better times to visit than others during the holiday season. The busiest days of the year hoppen around Disney World holidays. In terms of crowds, here are the busiest days of the season:
- The week of Thanksgiving, including Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving
- The week of Christmas, including Christmas Day
- The week of New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
If you can experience Disney World Christmas events on dates other than these ones, you'll be in better shape. If you can't, fear not! You'll definitely still have fun, as long as you do a little pre-planning to maximize your trip.
Here is a short list of more required reading if you're headed to the parks during these times:
- Your Guide to Disney World at Thanksgiving
- Tips for Managing Disney World Holiday Crowds
- Guide to New Year's Eve at Disney World
Read more about the best (and worst times) to visit Disney World for the whole year, and check out daily crowd levels, recommended parks and events on our Crowd Calendar.
Disney World Christmas Decorations
When does Disney World decorate for Christmas?
Decorating is a big-time affair all over the resort. The Disney World Christmas decorations start going up as early as mid-October, with Magic Kingdom undergoing a magical overnight transformation on Oct. 31 from Halloween to Christmas. Each of the parks has its own iconic tree as well as park-specific decor. It may take the elves several weeks to get all of the decorations in place, so keep that in mind if you're visiting very early in November. Some decorations may already be in place ahead of the official start.
The resorts, especially the deluxe resorts, get really decorated for Christmas. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Boardwalk Inn Hotel, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and Disney's Beach and Yacht Clubs all typically have spectacular, oversized gingerbread displays. The resorts also feature magnificent (and often gigantic) Christmas trees, each decorated in theme with the resorts. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge even gets a life-sized gingerbread baby giraffe and zebra! Select resort restaurants will also be offering holiday menus and specialty food and drink. Learn more in our complete guide!
No matter where you're staying, expect some gorgeous holiday decor to fit your resort. But word to the wise: Book a Disney Resort hotel for the holidays as early as possible!
When does Disney take down Christmas decorations?
The decorations in all of the parks and at the resorts typically start coming down during the first week in January (though you may still hear Christmas songs and see some decorations after that). Disney Christmas decorations are typically completely gone after the Disney Marathon Weekend, taking place from Jan. 3 to 7, 2024.
Christmas Festivities and Entertainment at Disney World
There is so much seasonal entertainment to unwrap during the holidays at Disney World!
Rotating seasonal projection effects don Cinderella Castle. Once it gets dark, different designs transition about every 15 minutes throughout the night. We recommend catching the projections in passing rather than waiting in front of the castle through a complete cycle to see all of them, as it's not a projection show. The projections are shown on nights when Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is not offered, alternating with the Beacon of Magic transformation celebrating the 50th anniversary.
The homesick skippers of the Jungle Cruise have decorated for Disney World holiday events! You'll find plenty of yuletide cheer and punny jokes as you board your boat. As a holiday tradition, you can cruise through the jungle aboard the Jingle Cruise.
For more details about treats, merchandise and more, check out our guide to the holiday festivities at Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays
Those of you wanting to learn more about the different ways that countries around the world celebrate the holiday season should visit EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Running late-November to late-December, the holiday traditions of the world's many countries come alive through music and story. Holiday Kitchens return with festive food and drinks, as well as the fan-favorite Cookie Stroll and more. Even the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction gets a special holiday playlist!
One of the most joyful Disney World holiday events is the EPCOT Candlelight Processional. A celebrity narrator, a full choir and a 50-piece orchestra participate in a stirring retelling of the story of Christmas. Last year, celebrity narrators included Simu Liu, Josh Gad, Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, Gloria Estefan and more. 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.
Enjoy our full guide to EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays for your planning pleasure!
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Have a holly jolly time with the holidays at Disney's Hollywood Studios! Sunset Seasons Greetings returns with its colorful projections and laser effects! 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. Catch the show, which runs intermittently throughout the night and alternates with the Beacon of Magic projections for the 50th anniversary.
Catch Santa cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in a festive motorcade! And be sure to check out For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration for a special festive finale featuring Olaf. Various characters throughout the park may be sporting some holiday accessories as well!
Minnie Mouse once again hosts a yuletide gathering for all her friends at Hollywood & Vine. Santa Goofy returns, along with Minnie and more in their holiday best. The holiday version usually runs from early November to late December or early January.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
The holiday highlights at Disney's Animal Kingdom are the Merry Menagerie! Discovery Island comes to life with life-sized, artisan-sculpted puppets of winter animals that include reindeer, foxes, polar bears, penguins and more. These "Merry Menagerie" puppets are accompanied by serenading musicians, and they interact with guests to create a fun and festive atmosphere. We love how adorable they are, and we can even reach out and pet them!
Catch Mickey and Minnie cruising down the Discovery River on a festive flotilla. Santa Claus himself is making a special appearance by boat before he switches it out with his sleigh for his trip around the world on Christmas Eve. Characters in DinoLand U.S.A. also have festive outfits for the occasion!
At night, the Tree of Life awakens for special holiday-themed stories, which alternate with the Beacons of Magic projections. (Note: The awakenings may not be available if the park closes before it can get dark enough for the projections.) Find out more on what you can expect at Animal Kingdom during the holidays.
Don't froget about Disney Springs as you plan your holiday hopping tour! The entertainment, shopping and dining area is filled with festive decor, fun photo-ops and the chance to say hello to Santa, who is available for individualized time.
Make sure to enjoy the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll. The trail showcases decadently decorated, Disney-themed trees throughout the area. Our favorite would have to be the "Encanto" tree! Participate in the Christmas Tree Stroll scavenger hunt and find all 20 trees to receive a surprise! You may also run into holiday carolers, Toy Soldier stilt walkers and other performers.
Guests visiting areas within Town Center encounter magical snowfall in the evening. Jock Lindsey once again turns his hangar bar into Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar, complete with delightful holiday décor and a delicious limited-time menu filled with festive favorites.
Meeting Santa During the Holidays at Disney World
Be on the lookout for Santa at Disney World this holiday season! He will make special appearances starting mid-November through the end of December.
From afar, Santa cruises in a red convertible down Hollywood Boulevard at Disney's Hollywood Studios and voyages across Discovery River in a festive flotilla at Disney's Animal Kingdom. At Magic Kingdom, Disney Springs, and during EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, guests have a chance to have individual time with Santa and share what they want for Christmas (so be good for goodness sake!). New this year, you can even see Santa in his tropical best at Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park!
Festive Food and Seasonal Flavors at Disney World
Once you make your list and check it twice (your shopping list, that is!), keep an eye out for delicious seasonal food offerings and adorable merchandise that can be found all around Walt Disney World Resort. Each of the four parks, Disney Springs and the resorts offer delicious, almost-too-pretty-to-eat holiday treats, as well as the holiday merchandise collection.
Special Events During the Holidays
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
The beloved holiday event is back! Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party includes five hours of holiday festivities, including themed characters throughout the park, special treats, ride overlays, castle projections, holiday music and decor (including Snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A.) and, most importantly, a stage show (Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration), holiday fireworks with Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks and Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade!
This is a separately ticketed event after regular park hours. Event guests can enter the park as early as 4 p.m. and the event tickets do not require an additional day theme park ticket or Disney Park Pass reservation.
Are you excited about spending the holidays at Disney World? There are so many Disney World Christmas 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!
Related: Peek Inside the Most Splendidly Decorated Disney Hotels at Christmas
Related: Guide to EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays