At Christmastime, Walt Disney World goes ALL in — not just at the theme parks, but also at the hotels. Each and every Christmas, Disney’s elves get to work making sure every bit of the resort feels like your home for the holidays. From Value to Deluxe, each Walt Disney World Resort hotel is decked out with unique, themed ornaments and decorations sure to catch your eye. Usually, the Deluxe Disney World Resort hotels get an extra-special dusting of Christmas magic with life-size gingerbread houses, carousels and more decadent displays. However, the gingerbread displays will not return for 2020 due to physical distancing guidelines. There's still holiday magic to be found, though! Below, we'll let you know what to expect from Christmas this year, but we've also left in details from previous years (including photos) in case you're planning for 2021 and beyond, when we expect all of the splendor to return!
Take a peek at the most decked-out Disney hotel Christmas decorations. Whether you’re staying on- or off-site, you can make like a frog and hop to any and all of the hotels to see the decorations. (And catch some savings if you book your hotel with us!)
What Should I Expect in 2020?
It probably comes as no surprise that 2020's holiday hoppenings are a little different, with health and safety top of mind. While the over-the-top gingerbread displays are unavailable in 2020, each hotel is still decking its halls with magnificent trees, garland, special holiday tunes (including a live pianist at Disney's Grand Floridian in the evenings), Disney pal pop-ups and more. You can find some unique treats at each of the hotels to ring in the holidays, from peppermint, to eggnog, to pumpkin. Some of the sweets even pay homage to the traditional gingerbread displays, including the mini gingerbread tree cookies and gingerbread carousel at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort (pictured below), a gingerbread Mickey at Disney's BoardWalk Resort and a gingerbread house kit from Disney's Contemporary Resort. Each resort will also have special, limited edition ornaments in the gift shops if you'd like to check some shopping off of your list!
In normal years, resort hopping during the holidays is a fun and festive day-off activity. But if you're looking to hop from resort to resort in 2020, your best bet is to make a dining reservation at the resort you'd most like to see, especially if you aren't using complimentary Disney transportation. Walt Disney World's official policy this year is that a dining reservation may be required to park at the resort, and depending on the location’s capacity, guests without reservations may be redirected to park nearby and walk, or take Walt Disney World transportation to the resort.
When Do the Disney Hotels Decorate and What Is the Best Way to Tour Them in Person?
Disney World begins decorating for Christmas the week after Halloween (yes, really), but most of the resort hotels aren't fully decked out until around mid-November. They are all on slightly different schedules, but if you know you want to visit them all, we recommend you book your stay for the week of Thanksgiving or later. Also, keep in mind that all of the delicious details listed below apply to last year's displays. The hotels will be decked out in decorations for the 2020 holidays, including iconic trees, but due to COVID-19, the gingerbread displays will not be out.
If you want to see all of the displays in person, we recommend dedicating a full day to tour them. Many of our favorites can be found along the resort monorail loop or in the EPCOT resort area, making it easy to hop from one to the next. We personally started out by parking our car at the Transportation and Ticket Center and hopping on the resort monorail. If you're using Disney transportation, take the bus to start at Magic Kingdom or one of the resorts along the monorail loop. (Our list below follows the exact order that we took!)
Once you're done touring the resorts around Magic Kingdom, drive or take Disney transportation to Disney's Hollywood Studios and take the Friendship Boat to Disney's Beach and Yacht Club Resorts.
Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations Near Magic Kingdom
Disney's Polynesian Resort (Reopening Summer 2021)
Note: Due to refurbishment work that will take place from October 2020 to Summer 2021, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort may have limited holiday decor this winter. Monorail service will not be available.
The Polynesian Resort (or "Poly" as Lily calls it) is a great spot to kick off your Disney World Resort Christmas decorations tour. Compared to the others on this list, the decorations are more subtle, but it's still worth a visit if you've got the time. Fans of "Moana" or "Lilo and Stitch" in particular will love the tropical-themed tree! The tree is wrapped from top to bottom with colorful leis, pink hibiscus flowers, pineapples, fish and starfish ornaments. Wreaths and garland also hang everywhere in the lobby and outside on the monorail platform.
The Grand Floridian is dressed head to toe in elegant Christmas fashion. We'd expect nothing less! The resort boasts beautifully decorated trees, wreaths and garland throughout, with a gigantic tree at its center. (We'll miss the gigantic gingerbread house this year!)
The Christmas decorations at the Grand Floridian remind me of my grandma’s house growing up … in the best way possible. The décor is complete with swans, delicate flowers and velvet bows, all in gorgeous pink and blue hues with golden accents. This beautiful combination perfectly embodies the sophisticated, classic style of the Grand Floridian.
Now on to the main attraction … the life-size gingerbread house! Last year, the house featured hand-painted art above each window featuring the Fab Five and classic princesses, as well as a miniature Christmas village featuring Santa. It felt like we spent hours admiring the detail put into everything, from the hand-carved flowers to the candy canes and snowflakes on the “siding” of the house — created by the Grand Floridian pastry team. It smelled delicious and even puffed smoke out of its chimney!
Here’s what went into this delectable display in 2019:
- 1,050 lbs. honey
- 140 pints egg whites
- 600 lbs. powdered sugar
- 700 lbs. chocolate
- 800 lbs. flour
- 35 lbs. spices
- 840 hours of labor to produce, cut and bake 5,089 shingles
- Tons of creativity, Disney magic and pixie dust
- 20 hidden Mickeys
A 12-minute video on loop shared a lot of behind-the-scenes photos and fun facts about the making of the house. We learned that the bakers do not add water to the dough so it lasts longer and prevents mold. Also, if you've ever wondered what happens to the house after the season is over, it goes to the Disney Tree Farm, where honey bees eat the honey off of the house.
I find the most impressive part of this gingerbread house is that it is actually habitable! Maybe not for living, but certainly for selling gingerbread. The Bake Shop sold gingerbread ornaments, cookies, house kits and more — all made using a classic Austrian recipe.
Wilderness Lodge may seem out of the way, compared to how easy it is to hop from resort to resort along the monorail route or in the EPCOT resort area. However, it is definitely worth the boat ride from Magic Kingdom! The rustic, national park-inspired theming already makes you feel like you've been transported out of Florida and into the Pacific Northwest. But then Disney adds a giant Christmas tree, a gingerbread cabin, a crackling fireplace and holiday music. It just feels like Christmas.
The towering Christmas tree is decorated with animal-inspired lanterns, moose antlers and red-and-black flannel print bows. For the best views, take the stairs up a level and circle around the second floor. There are even spots along the balcony where you can sit and soak it all in.
The resort has a Gingerbread Cabin display inspired by the national park lodges. Humphrey the Bear is hanging Christmas lights across the front of the cabin. On one side, there's a Mickey wreath made out of red and white poinsettias, while near the back of the cabin, Chip 'n' Dale are warming up next to a campfire. You can see their footprints in the snow!
Here's what went into the making of the newest gingerbread display in 2019:
- 144 lbs. honey
- 100 lbs. flour
- 40 eggs
- 20 lbs. egg whites
- 48 lbs. powdered sugar
- 150 lbs. sugar
- 30 lbs. almond paste
- 20 lbs. molding chocolate
- 50 lbs. fondant
- 5 hidden Mickeys
Bonus Stop: After checking out Disney's Wilderness Lodge, take a boat over to Disney's Fort Wilderness for some Christmas "site" seeing. The Settlement is decorated with garland and wreaths, but the best decorations can actually be found at the campsites! Campers have the freedom to decorate their motorhomes and campsites with elaborate inflatable displays and strings of Christmas lights. It's amazing to see how creative they can get. Just be mindful that it's their own personal property!
Cinderella's (Gingerbread) Castle made a grand return on the fourth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort in 2019. This wondrous display was inspired by the style of Mary Blair of "it’s a small world" fame. It took 10 days to assemble with a team of 39 Contemporary Resort bakers. There were hidden "Frozen" and "it's a small world" symbols, as well as nine hidden Mickeys!
This 18-foot tall display was crafted from the following:
- 657 lbs. sugar "snow"
- 423 lbs. honey
- 388 lbs. flour
- 26 lbs. spices
- 119 eggs
- 57 lbs. royal icing
- 47 lbs. rolled fondant
- 38 lbs. modeling chocolate
- 5,000 gingerbread shingles and Mickey peppermint swirls
- A sprinkling of Fairy Godmother's magical dust
Does that recipe have you drooling? Don’t worry — Disney’s Contemporary has you covered. To the left of the display is usually a treat station with a huge variety of cookies and sweets, including a plant-based gingerbread loaf in 2019, as well as sugar- and gluten-free options. Our favorite was the chocolate peppermint cookie! Adult froggies could add in a splash of peppermint schnapps, Fireball or Jim Beam Red Stag black cherry bourbon to their Frozen Hot Chocolate or Frozen Apple Cider.
Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations Near EPCOT
We can’t figure out which display we were more wow-ed by: Grand Floridian’s life-size gingerbread house or Beach Club’s moving gingerbread carousel. We’ll have to call it a tie! We were THRILLED to find a Peter Pan-themed carousel for the holiday confection's 20th year. Each horse represented a different character — Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Wendy, Smee and Captain Hook — and the amount of detail is incredible. Up high, you could see a skyline of London with the shadows of Peter Pan and the Darlings flying by the moon on top of the carousel. Lower, you'd find Tinker Bell in a lantern hanging by the hook of the Captain Hook horse.
As soon as we entered the doors of the Beach Club, we were able to smell every scrumptious ingredient that went into this unbelievable work of art in 2019:
- 100 lbs. honey
- 300 lbs. bread flour
- 100 lbs. eggs
- 10 lbs. spices
- 10 lbs. simple syrup
- 100 lbs. icing
- 10 qts. egg whites
- 100 lbs. confectioner's sugar
- 50 lbs. dark chocolate
- 50 lbs. modeling chocolate
- 200 gum paste flowers
- 2019 pieces of gingerbread
- 20 gold hidden Mickeys
- Lots of enthusiasm, energy and talent
Hands down, Disney's Yacht Club Resort has our favorite themed decorations. Trees, garland and wreaths alike are abundant with every type of boat you could imagine to match their nautical theme. No detail was forgotten … one sailboat even features a lifejacket! Binoculars and other perfectly matching ornaments hang upon the large lobby tree.
However, the annual Holiday Miniature Train is the main attraction at Disney's Yacht Club. The side facing the lobby features a traditional New England snowy village, including an operating ski lift, glowing lights and Christmas shops. On the opposite side facing the window, tadpole-friendly favorites such as the Fab Five and Elsa’s ice castle are on display. There is truly something for everyone to admire in this detailed winter wonderland.
The display operated daily on the following schedule in 2019:
- 6 a.m. – 8 a.m.
- 9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
- 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
- 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
- 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.
At the BoardWalk Inn, there is a gingerbread version of the BoardWalk entertainment area, complete with BoardWalk Bakery, ESPN Club, Flying Fish, Trattoria al Forno and Crest O' The Wave! You can even catch chefs Mickey and Minnie building gingerbread houses in the bakery!
The display featured the following ingredients in 2019:
- 42 gal. honey
- 364 lbs. whole rye flour
- 364 lbs. light rye flour
- 336 eggs
- 10.5 lbs. ammonium carbonate
- 336 lbs. bread flour
- 21.16 lbs. lebkuchen (gingerbread spice)
- 6 gal. egg whites
- 60 lbs. powdered sugar
- 0.75 lbs. cream of tartar
- 280 lbs. granulated sugar
- 40 lbs. fondant
- 25 hidden Mickeys
The Gingerbread Shop menu features traditional treats including a gingerbread Mickey, peppermint bark and sugar cookies, as well as German desserts such as Stollen and Spitzkuchen cookies. Wash it down with Warm Drinking Chocolate or a Gingerbread Martini.
We’re huge fans of The Boardwalk’s Christmas decorations, as well. A large tree on the outside lawn features traditional ornaments that remind you of something you’d find in your own home. In the beautiful Florida sun, this is the perfect photo-op! Inside, you'll find smaller corresponding trees, garland and swag. We found this to be the most traditional of the resort décor.
Extra Tips About Visiting Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations
- If you'll be holiday hopping in 2020, remember that face coverings are required at all Disney World Resort hotels unless you are stationary and eating or drinking.
- Know that every time you get back on the monorail at a hotel, you'll have to go through security. Pack light, or don't even bring a purse or backpack at all!
- Grab gingerbread shingles as the perfect souvenir gift to bring home to loved ones.
- Prepare to take lots of photos! Have extra camera batteries or a phone charger, just in case ;)
- It takes a lot of energy to resort hop all day! If you find that the tadpoles (or yourself) are getting tired, stop by the resort's snack stand first. Munching on a yummy gingerbread cookie will surely help with the little ones' patience levels.
Every year, we are amazed by Disney World’s resort Christmas displays and decorations — and we cannot wait to see what's in store next!
Which of these displays is part of your frog family’s holiday tradition? Let us know in the comments! We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Hoppy New Year. Check out our Disney World Resort Hotel comparison tool and book your discount hotel room with us!