Can you visit the happiest place on earth on one of the happiest days of the year?
The answer is yes, Disney World is open on Christmas Day! All four parks and at least one of the water parks are all open for visitors on Christmas.
In fact, Walt Disney World is open 365 days a year, on all holidays. The only exception is unforeseen closures due to weather emergencies (usually hurricanes) or other circumstances, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Below, discover all of the magic of visiting Disney World in Florida during the holidays, particularly Christmas Day. The entertainment includes special events, parades, decorations, and much more.
What’s Special About Disney World on Christmas Day?
There is perhaps no better place to spend your family’s Christmas Day than one of the Walt Disney World parks. Let’s look at the components that make it so perfect.
Disney goes all out when it comes to decorating for the holidays. They begin putting up decorations in November, shortly after Halloween, and stay up through the New Year.
Disney erects a startling 1,500 Christmas trees during the holiday season across the parks and resorts. The most impressive are the four massive trees that stand at the entrance to all four parks.
These trees have themes according to the decor and attractions throughout the park itself. For example, the tree at the front of Animal Kingdom has African and Asian-inspired ornaments, while the one in EPCOT has elements from the 11 countries of the World Showcase.
The number of trees pales in comparison to the number of lights: 8.5 million. Twenty-five full-time, year-round cast members spend the year carefully designing, planning, and building all of the decorations, which go up in just a few nights.
Disney decks out virtually every attraction, kiosk, restaurant, shop, and even lamppost for the holidays. Wreaths and greenery, ribbons and lights, and red and green are everywhere you turn, completely immersing guests in the holiday spirit.
Parades, Shows, and Other Entertainment
The Magic Kingdom puts on a special Christmas Day parade every year called Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. It features many favorite characters, as well as St. Nicholas himself, riding on his sleigh. It’s also televised on ABC every year, which speaks to how much effort Disney puts into making it spectacular.
Animal Kingdom’s parade, Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, also becomes holiday-themed during November, December, and early January.
At EPCOT, guests can enjoy the International Festival of the Holidays throughout World Showcase. One of the best parts of this celebration is the Candlelight Processional, which features a celebrity reader each night reciting the Christmas story. There is also a 50-person choir. You can purchase tickets for special seating ahead of time or show up early and get in line.
At Hollywood Studios, Disney puts on a Frozen Sing-Along Celebration Holiday Show, where Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff relate the story of the holidays in Arendelle and sing some of your favorite songs from the films.
Throughout all the parks, characters dress in their finest holiday garb for meet-and-greets and pictures. Especially since the crowds are so large (see below), it’s all hands on deck for cast members, so you can expect to see all of your favorites, as well as some lesser-seen characters.
Food and Drink
Disney doesn’t stop at things to see and hear; there’s more to taste than you can sample in one day.
EPCOT is one of the best places for holiday fare. The eleven countries in World Showcase sell the winter and Christmas treats from their region. Disney even sets up special kiosks, similar to those seen during the Food and Wine Festival, to sell these treats.
In past years, this has included Maple Bûche de Noël in Canada, Steamed Fondue in a Bread Bowl in Germany, and a Chirashi Sushi Tree in Japan. There are plenty of sweet and savory treats throughout the park, including drinks like a Cranberry-Cinnamon Margarita in Mexico and several variations on hard ciders in Morocco.
The Disney chefs go all out in the other parks, too, mostly with sweet treats. Confectioners and bakers especially create beautiful and delicious desserts. In Magic Kingdom, try the Gingerbread Almond Cake Pop or a Mickey Cinnamon Roll.
In Animal Kingdom, you can get the Horchata Mousse Snow Globe, available only on Christmas Day. If you’ll be in Hollywood Studios, sample a Santa’s Belt Cookie. Those over 21 can enjoy a Christmas on the Beach or a Frozen Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate with Black Cherry Bourbon.
Don’t worry; Disney doesn’t neglect its stores and shops for holiday merchandise. Not only do they get their share of decorations, but they also sell tons of exclusive holiday-themed merchandise. If you visit on Christmas Day itself, you’ll be able to buy exclusive merchandise sold only on that day.
If you’re looking for Christmas and holiday souvenirs outside of the holidays, visit the Disney Days of Christmas shop. They sell ornaments, decorations, and all kinds of holiday delights all year round, so no matter when you visit, you can stock up for Christmastime.
There are special fireworks shows on Christmas Day at some of the parks. Usually, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks are only available during a special ticketed event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But on the night of Christmas Day, everyone in the park gets to see them. You don’t even need a special ticket.
EPCOT’s regular fireworks show is longer on Christmas with a unique holiday component, and at Hollywood Studios, you can watch Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Fireworks Spectacular, which goes off shortly before park closing.
Out of concern for the animals, there aren’t normally fireworks shows at Animal Kingdom. The Tree of Life Awakenings show gets a holiday theme, though, and you can see holiday flotillas on the waters.
Plan Your Christmas Day in Disney World
There’s nowhere better to be on Christmas than Walt Disney World, but we promise that you won’t be the only ones with that idea. Disney World parks, particularly the Magic Kingdom, are notoriously crowded on Christmas Day. That means that planning is an absolute must.
Make Your Reservations Early
As you may already know, the Disney Company requires all visitors to make reservations to enter any of the four parks. As you might expect, certain days are in greater demand than others, and Christmas is one of the most desired.
As soon as you know your family wants to visit one of the parks on Christmas, buy your tickets and make your reservation as soon as they become available. Don’t lose hope if you try to make your reservations and none are available. Check back frequently, as Disney may open more reservations, and other guests may cancel.
Keep in mind that you can only make reservations to visit one park each day. If you want to park hop on Christmas, be realistic and aware that you may not be able to do so if other parks reach capacity. That leads us to our next piece of advice: be prepared for crowds.
Be Prepared for Crowds
Christmas Day is one of the busiest for all four Walt Disney World parks. It is typical for the Magic Kingdom especially to reach capacity before noon.
Even with a reservation, we highly recommend arriving at the park early. Many families, especially locals, come later in the morning after opening presents. The main gate will be busy no matter what time of day you arrive, but earlier is better. That gives you the most time in the park.
Plan to spend the whole day in the park and wait in a lot of lines, not just for rides but for food as well. It might be a good idea to try to get a dining reservation around midday to escape the crowds and get off your feet.
If you’re visiting with young children, we recommend bringing at least an umbrella stroller, so they always have somewhere to sit down or even nap if they need to. Pack emergency snacks and beverages, and if you’re comfortable with it, an extra phone or tablet to keep them occupied in lines.
Enjoy the Resorts
It isn’t just the parks that go all out for the holidays; the resorts are also beautifully decorated. All cast members are in a festive mood on Christmas. Many resorts offer special events as well, including pool parties, unique dining, and more. If you’re visiting at Christmastime, check out what your hotel has to offer on Christmas Day, too.
Soak It All in
The most important thing about spending Christmas at Walt Disney World is creating beautiful memories with your loved ones. You will undoubtedly face large crowds, but you’ll also get to see some fantastic things, including special parades and shows, fireworks, and characters in costume.
Be sure to indulge in lots of Christmas treats throughout the day, as well. Take your time and soak in all the fun, and don’t forget to take many pictures with the Christmas trees and decorations.