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.
What Should I Expect in 2021?
While the gingerbread displays did not return for 2020 due to physical distancing guidelines, a select few have returned for 2021! We were so excited to see the life-size gingerbread house back at the Grand Floridian and the spinning carousel return to the Beach Club Resort. The resorts are truly starting to look like Christmas! 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!)
With some of the over-the-top gingerbread displays returning, you can expect each hotel to deck 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 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 2021, 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're 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. Although this year, decorations came early — the holidays officially began Nov. 12, but the Grand Floridian's massive gingerbread house was completed by Nov. 10, and Beach Club's carousel was out on display Nov. 1.
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
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.
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 onto the main attraction … the life-size gingerbread house! This year's house pays tribute to the 50th anniversary with EARidescent flair. The blue accents are such a nice touch! There's so much to admire with all of the details, including the hand-carved flowers, 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 2021:
- 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
- Lots of hidden Mickeys to discover
- Tons of creativity, Disney magic and pixie dust
I find the most impressive part of this gingerbread house is that it's actually habitable! Maybe not for living, but certainly for selling gingerbread. The Bake Shop sells gingerbread ornaments, cookies, house kits and more — all made using a classic Austrian recipe. Note that this popular location often has a line.
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.
Bonus Stop: After checking out Disney's Wilderness Lodge, take a boat over to Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground 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!
And finally, we have Disney's Contemporary Resort! Without the gingerbread house this year, the Contemporary has a little less decor, but there is still the giant tree outside and plenty of holiday-themed treats available for purchase. We loved the gingerbread house kit for purchase shaped like the resort (even with a monorail!) We were passing through the Contemporary to complete the circle regardless, but the lack of a gingerbread display means this is a quick final stop.
Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations Near EPCOT
We can’t figure out which display we were more wowed by ... Grand Floridian’s life-size gingerbread house or Beach Club's moving gingerbread carousel. We’ll have to call it a tie! Each year, the display changes themes —last year was Peter Pan and this year is The Little Mermaid! Many characters make an appearance, such as Sebastian, Flounder, Scuttle, Max and even the evil eels, Flotsam and Jetsam. Each horse represents a main character, including Ursula, Prince Eric, King Triton and Ariel herself. There's also a subtle 50th-anniversary theme with EARidescent snowflakes on top. The pastry chefs who worked over 600 hours on the carousel are recognized on Santa's Nice List. Can you guess who's on the Naughty List?
Crafted with care, the 2021 carousel includes the following ingredients:
- 432 lbs. honey
- 1200 lbs. rye flour
- 100 lbs. eggs
- 25 lbs. spices
- 10 lbs. simple syrup
- 200 lbs. icing
- 10 quarts egg whites
- 100 lbs. confectioner's sugar
- 50 lbs. dark chocolate
- 50 lbs. modeling chocolate
- 20 lbs. Grand Marnier syrup
- 200 gumpaste flowers
- 2020 pieces gingerbread
- 21 hidden Mickeys
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 and Village is the main attraction at Disney's Yacht Club. One side features a traditional New England snowy village, including an operating ski lift, glowing lights and Christmas shops. On the opposite side, 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.
We’re huge fans of The Boardwalk’s Christmas decorations, both inside and out. 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. In the past, there has been a gingerbread house display, but it is not out for 2021.
Holiday Treats at Disney World Resorts
With all this resort hopping, be sure to treat yourself with delicious holiday goodies at each of the resorts! We especially loved relaxing and enjoying our treats while taking in the lobby views. They were the perfect snacks as we went about our afternoon. If spending the entire day resort hopping, every resort has quick service options for a full meal.
Nearly every resort on property has specialty desserts and drinks available for the holidays. Items have a limited timeframe, so some items may only be available for Christmas week, while others are available all season long. Take a look at the menus or special signage for sweet holiday goodies. We can't wait to try all the treats — yum!
The Grand Floridian and Contemporary also offer gingerbread houses for purchase. For $35, your family can make their own gingerbread version of the Contemporary at home (and it's edible!). Spy the mini monorail peeking out!
The Grand Floridian also offers a signature gingerbread house display for $80 that is not edible.
Extra Tips About Visiting Disney World Resort Christmas Decorations
Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind as you tour the resorts:
- It took us about four hours to complete the Magic Kingdom resort circuit (the three on the monorail line plus Wilderness Lodge). This was at a leisure pace, with the most time spent at the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge.
- 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.
- The line for treats at the Grand Floridian gingerbread house was fairly long, so we decided to grab a quick treat from the Gasparilla Island Grill. This quick-service spot offers grab-and-go options and had holiday treats all ready to go. The holiday treat stand at Wilderness Lodge had no line, so we grabbed some gingerbread cookies then instead. If you do decide to wait for the Grand Floridian options (some of which you can only get there), we recommend having some of your party sit and relax, or take more photos of the lobby.
- Prepare to take lots and 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 — although the number of gingerbread houses was more limited this year, we still had a fun time, and hope even more can return next year!
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!