The special events are some of the biggest reasons to visit the Walt Disney World Resort. While most of Disney World's special events have traditionally fallen during off-peak times, many of the special events are a major draw. They are a reason to visit in and of themselves, and they do affect crowd levels!
We wanted to give you an overview of the major Disney World special events 2015 to help you plan When to Visit. This post also serves as your guide if you are visiting when a Disney World special event is taking place. These special events (as well as some of the smaller events) are listed on our crowd calendar, so you can see crowd levels and park recommendations on the days events are taking place. Special events are listed in the order that they begin throughout the year. Some of this year's dates have not been announced, but we'll add them here as soon as they are!
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend takes place the first weekend in January. In 2016, the dates are Jan. 6-10, and the races will be held Jan. 7-10. It is a full weekend (and then some) of races, including Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Walt Disney World 5K & 10K, Walt Disney World Half Marathon and the headlining race, the Walt Disney World Marathon. Disney's Health & Fitness Expo also takes places throughout the weekend. The courses of the longer races take runners through all four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Crowd levels are strongly affected by the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which brought in a reported 70,000 runners (not counting spectators) in 2015. Traffic around the theme park area is also affected by the Walt Disney World Marathon. If you visit during this special event, expect travel time between the Disney parks to take longer. Registration for the 2016 race opened on April 28.
Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend 2016 takes place Feb. 18-21. Inspired by the Disney Princesses, this event is designed with women in mind. Weekend events include the Disney Royal Family 5K, Disney Enchanted 10K, Disney's Fit for a Princess Expo, and the headlining event, Disney's Princess Half Marathon. The half marathon takes runners through Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and traffic around the parks is affected by this race.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is an annual event at Epcot each spring. In 2016, it takes place March 2-May 30 - an expansion of 90 days. In 2015, Anna and Elsa from "Frozen" joined more than 100 topiaries spread throughout the park. Outdoor food and beverage marketplaces, "outdoor kitchens," are returning again and will be scattered around the World Showcase. Botanas Botánico, an outdoor kitchen between France and Morocco, made its debut in 2015 with dishes such as Cachapas with Farmer’s Cheese, a sweet yellow corn pancake, and Seafood Ceviche with shrimp, scallops and grouper with mango and avocado. Guests were also amazed by the hundreds of butterfly species residing at the festival's screened butterfly house. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is included with regular admission to Epcot.
Epcot Flower Power Concert Series 2016 Full Lineup has not yet been announced.
Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - The Dark Side
Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend 2016 takes place April 14-17. This race weekend is inspired by Darth Vader and the storm troopers of Star Wars. Weekend events include the Star Wars 10K, Star Wars 5K, Star Wars Dark Side Challenge and the runDisney Kids Races, as well as the half marathon. Registration for the events opens on September 22!
Star Wars Weekends (Disney's Hollywood Studios)
Disney's Hollywood Studios plays host to the very popular Star Wars Weekends. The dates for 2015 were May 15-17, 22-24, 29-31, June 5-7 and 12-14. The event celebrates the legendary Star Wars Saga and the animated television series The Clone Wars. The 2015 host was James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels) who appeared every weekend. Highlights included a Character Processional through the park, Star Wars character meet and greets, Disney Characters in Star Wars themed outfits, autograph opportunities from Star Wars celebrities and much more.
Disney recently announced Star Wars weekend will not be returning in 2016 due to the construction of the all-new Star Wars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series (Epcot)
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series takes place every summer at Epcot; this year the dates were June 7 through July 25. Every night at the America Gardens Theatre, guests can sit back and listen to some of the world's greatest tribute bands. There are typically three performances on each night the event takes place. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series is included with regular admission to Epcot.
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series 2016 Full Lineup has not yet been announced.
Night of Joy (Magic Kingdom)
This contemporary Christian music festival takes place each September at Magic Kingdom with this year's event being held Sept. 11 and 12. Disney released details that the event will be expanded for 2016; concerts will be held in indoor and outdoor venues at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, but guests will still get admission to Magic kingdom during the event to access attractions and more. Dedicated transportation will be provided from Magic Kingdom to the Sports Complex. Night of Joy is a separately ticketed event and is not included with regular admission to Magic Kingdom.
Full 2016 Night of Joy Lineup has not been announced yet.
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom)
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes place at Magic Kingdom on select nights each fall. The party's biggest highlights are watching Mickey's Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, Happy HalloWishes Fireworks along with trick-or-treating in the park and meeting the Disney characters dressed in Halloween costumes. The 2015 dates are September 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27, October 1-2, 4, 6, 8-9, 12-13, 15-16, 18, 20, 22-23, 25, 27, 29, 31 and November 1. The party is not included with regular admission to Magic Kingdom and requires a separate ticket. We recommended purchasing tickets in advance, since these parties do sell out.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival takes place every fall at Epcot. This year's dates are Sept. 25 through Nov. 16. The festival features more than 25 international marketplace kiosks, which offer tapas-sized portions of regional specialties as well as recommended wine and beer pairings. Guests can also spend time sharpening their culinary and beverage skills in seminars and partake in special dining experiences with celebrity chefs for an additional charge. Included with admission to the park is the Eat to the Beat! Concert Series, which features acclaimed artists. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is included with regular theme park admission.
There will also be the "Eat to the Beat" concert series during this year's festival. Here is the full 2015 lineup:
Sept. 25-27 - David Cook
Sept. 28-29 - Wilson Phillips
Sept. 30-Oct. 1 - Christopher Cross
Oct.2-4 - Starship
Oct. 5-7 - Smash Mouth
Oct. 8-9 - The Pointer Sisters
Oct. 10-11 - 38 Special
Oct. 12-13 - Rick Springfield
Oct. 14-16 - Sugar Ray
Oct. 17-18 - The S.O.S. Band
Oct. 19-21 - Air Supply
Oct. 22-23 - Fuel
Oct. 24-25 - Tiffany
Oct. 26-28 - Dennis DeYoung
Oct. 29-30 - Jo Dee Messina
Oct. 31-Nov. 1 - Everclear
Nov. 2-4 - Boyz II Men
Nov. 5-6 - Sister Hazel
Nov. 7-9 - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Nov. 10-12 - Hanson
Nov. 13-14 - Maxi Priest
Nov. 15-16 - Chaka Khan
Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend
The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend takes place on Nov. 6 and 7. The event combines the magic of a runDisney race with the festivities of the Food & Wine Festival.
Festival of the Masters (Disney Springs)
Festival of the Masters is held one weekend each November at Disney Springs. The open-air art festival features more than 150 award-winning artists. There are a number of activities for children and families throughout the weekend. Festival of the Masters is free to attend. The event was cancelled last year due to Disney Springs construction, so it is unsure if it will be returning for 2015.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom)
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a special event held on select nights each winter at Magic Kingdom. The 2015 times are 7:00pm-12:00am on November 8, 10, 12-13, 15, 17, 19-20, 29 and December 1, 3-4, 6, 8, 10-11, 13, 15, 17-18. The big highlights from this event are Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade (watch the video), Holiday Wishes fireworks (watch the video), Celebrate the Season Castle stage show (watch the video), and a magical snowfall over Main Street, U.S.A. There are also plenty of opportunities to meet your favorite Disney characters, some of whom are decked out in their holiday finest. Cookies and hot cocoa are included with admission to this separately ticketed event. It is recommended you purchase tickets in advance; it is common for nights to sell out.
Holidays Around The World - Candlelight Processional (Epcot)
Holidays Around The World - Candlelight Processional takes place each winter in Epcot's World Showcase; this place the dates are Nov. 27 through Dec. 30. Storytellers from many of the countries — such as The Monkey King in the China Pavilion, Father Christmas in the United Kingdom and Pere Noel in France -- recount holiday customs from their respective countries. Guests can have their picture made with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the American Adventure Pavillion. The Candlelight Processional is performed three times nightly and retells the story of Christmas with a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir. Holidays Around The World - Candlelight Processional is included with regular admission to Epcot.
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
(Disney's Hollywood Studios)
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is a special event held each winter at Disney's Hollywood Studios; this year the show takes place on Nov. 6 through Jan. 3, 2016. This massive display features millions of lights perfectly synchronized to music. Disney announced that this year is the finale of this event after a successful run at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is included with regular admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Holidays at Disney Springs
Holidays at Disney Springs is a special event held each winter; this event replaced Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney since the transformation to Disney Springs. This year's dates are Nov. 16 through Dec. 30. It offers live entertainment, festive decor, fun photo ops and the opportunity to meet Santa at a new location across from Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. There are holiday carolers, Toy Soldier stilt walkers and street performers and a holiday dance party with a deejay. Holidays at Disney Springs is free to attend.
We wanted to provide you this overview of the Disney World special events 2015, because the parties, festivals and events are some of the best reasons to visit! You will find more resources and tips for planning your Disney World trip inside our Orlando Planning Guide.
Tags: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, Star Wars Weekends, Epcot Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Night of Joy, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, Festival of the Masters, Epcot Holidays Around the World & Candlelight Processional, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Disney's Festival of the Seasons
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