Christmas is one of the best times of the year to go to Walt Disney World in Florida. Between the decorations and special events, Disney adds a whole new element of magic to the Christmas season.
If you and your family want to visit Walt Disney World while the Christmas festivities are taking place, it is important to get the timing correct.
Read on to learn all the ins and outs of when Walt Disney World decorates for Christmas.
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Walt Disney World Hotels
Walt Disney World Christmas decorations are a serious business, and the decor is put up strategically by following a particular timeline developed by the Disney World staff.
Officially, the Disney World holiday season begins on November 6th and goes through December 31st. However, decorating the entire Walt Disney World Resort is a massive project that is done in stages, with some steps starting as early as the fall.
Generally speaking, you can expect a hefty dose of Christmas cheer if you visit the theme park between November 6th and December 31st. It’s helpful to break down the Disney World Christmas decorating process to have an even clearer idea of what to expect.
Magic Kingdom is a fantastical and wondrous space, so festiveness is a must. During the Halloween season, the park is dressed up for its various popular Halloween events, including Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This means that the park staff has to quickly turn the park into a winter wonderland for early November.
Magic Kingdom is famous for having practically overnight transformations, with the castle being bedecked in lights and the Main Street Christmas tree already up by November 2nd or 3rd. The early date may seem excessive, but it’s a necessity due to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party starting on November 6th.
The change may seem instantaneous, but it is the result of gradual preparation that takes place throughout October.
If you happen to be celebrating Halloween in the Magic Kingdom, take a moment to look closely at Cinderella’s Castle. You will most likely notice the faint glimmer of dangling Christmas lights on a few towers, and probably a crane parked nearby.
While guests are experiencing a spookily decorated Magic Kingdom, the park staff is hard at work quietly hanging the lights up on Cinderella’s Castle, which can take quite a bit of time.
For those visiting the Magic Kingdom during late October, be prepared to take castle photos with cranes in the background.
In 2021, Walt Disney World made the move to decorate Cinderella’s Castle with light projections instead of string lights, a trend that may continue in the future.
Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade
For those who enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade, you may be curious to know how you can see it in person.
Spoiler alert: the Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade does not happen on Christmas. Instead, it is filmed far in advance of Christmas for ease of coordinating and logistics.
Typically, the Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade is taped during the first or second week of November. Multiple Christmas specials and promotions are filmed in the park during this time frame, and you can get special tickets to watch the official Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade while it is taped.
Outside of the official taping, the parade is typically run daily for guests during the week of Christmas.
Notable Magic Kingdom Christmas Attractions
Magic Kingdom goes all out for the holiday season, so there is plenty to do in the fairytale theme park.
Most of the biggest Magic Kingdom Christmas festivities occur at a special ticketed Christmas event, which for 2021 will be Disney Very Merriest After Hours. However, closer to Christmas Day, the park may hold these events during regular guest hours.
For fireworks fans, Disney has designed Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. This spectacular show features a fireworks and light show, accompanied by a Christmas music medley.
Another classic Magic Kingdom Christmas attraction is the Jingle Cruise. This cute twist on the Jungle Cruise ride features a special Christmas tour guide script and plenty of quirky Christmas decorations.
Totally Tinsel Tomorrowland Trio
Disney loves to do Christmas overlays on their major attractions, and the Tomorrowland area of Magic Kingdom goes into full holiday mode for the season. Guests can expect Christmas versions of popular attractions such as Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
Like the Magic Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom park has an official holiday season start date, typically November 6th.
Lights and decorations slowly begin to go up during late October, with the festive season officially kicking off in November. Visitors can expect to see the Tree of Life all decked out in a fabulous Christmas display.
Notable Animal Kingdom Christmas Attractions
After getting a bit of a Christmas facelift in 2018, the Animal Kingdom has become one of the best places to go in Disney World to celebrate the season.
Tree of Life Holiday Awakenings
Tree of Life Holiday Awakenings is a spectacular light show which features animated images projected onto the famous Tree of Life. The show displays sweet holiday vignettes that will charm you all through the evening.
Discovery Island Luminaries
If you visit Discovery Island during the holiday season, you will find Discovery Island Luminaries, a beautiful display of handcrafted holiday decorations. The decor includes colorful animal items and bird-shaped lanterns.
Merry Menagerie is an enchanting show of artisan-designed winter animal puppets, including polar bears, reindeer, and more. Accompanied by live musicians, the Merry Menagerie adds some extra holiday cheer throughout the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios also brings out the Christmas decorations starting in early November. The park’s decor style is very immersive and a testament to the talent of Imagineers.
Notable Hollywood Studios Christmas Attractions
Hollywood Studios loves to put on theatrical and exciting events, and the Christmas season is no exception. If you are visiting Hollywood Studios during Christmas, you will have a lot to look forward to.
Sunset Season’s Greetings
Sunset Season’s Greetings is a charming light projection show on the Tower of Terror in the Sunset Boulevard section of the park. The show features favorite characters such as Olaf, the Muppets, and Toy Story characters. You can also expect to see seasonally appropriate appearances by the characters from Prep & Landing.
Minnie’s Holiday Dine
If you enjoy character meet and greets, this event is a must. Minnie’s Holiday Dine is a festive restaurant event filled with your favorite characters. This special meal is a fun opportunity to celebrate the season with Mickey and friends.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
Like many Christmas celebrations, the Hollywood Studios Christmas firework show, called “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s unclear when it will come back, this immersive and visually stunning fireworks and light show has always been a fan-favorite for guests during the Christmas season.
Epcot has a slightly different holiday decor timeline from the other parks. Due to the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival—a lucrative and popular Disney event—extending well into November, the Epcot Christmas season usually doesn’t begin until around November 20th.
It’s worth waiting for your Disney Christmas trip until Epcot is decorated. The pavilions in the World Showcase are beautifully decorated to show how each of the respective nations celebrates the winter holidays.
Christmastime in Epcot is a special opportunity to learn about other cultures and broaden your understanding of what it means to celebrate the season.
Notable EPCOT Christmas Attractions
EPCOT has some great Christmas attractions to experience during the season, particularly in connection to the World Showcase.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
The World Showcase is one of the best elements of Epcot’s Christmas festivities. In the International Festival of the Holidays, each country’s pavilion shares its seasonal snacks and treats. There is also a Chip and Dale scavenger hunt for those looking for some extra fun.
Candlelight Processional is a nightly performance where a celebrity narrator tells the Christmas story while accompanied by a large choir.
The show is beautiful and moving, and there is an impressive lineup of celebrities who participate. Be sure to check the schedule so you can buy tickets to see the show with your favorite star.
Living with the Land Merry & Bright Nights
Usually, Living with the Land is a soothing boat tour through a series of greenhouses. However, the ride is given a special makeover to become Living with the Land Merry & Bright Nights for the Christmas season.
Walt Disney World Hotels
Disney doesn’t miss a detail, so the Walt Disney World hotels are always well-decorated for the Christmas season in addition to the theme parks.
Each hotel is managed differently, so it’s challenging to identify a specific date for the Christmas decoration to go up. Overall, the hotels are all decorated during the last two weeks of November.
Each resort is extensively decorated to reflect the theme and style of the particular hotel. You should check out what each Disney hotel lobby looks like for the winter holiday season if you have the time.
Resort Decorations Worth Seeing
All of the Walt Disney World hotels are fully decorated, but the deluxe resorts are particularly beautiful during the Christmas season and should be visited during your trip.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort has some lovely decorations, including a gingerbread display inspired by the work of famous Disney artist Mary Blair. But the biggest reason to visit the Contemporary Resort at Christmastime is to enjoy their fantastic Christmas treats. You can look forward to festive snacks such as gingerbread loaves, cupcakes, and peppermint cookies.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
As a Victorian-themed hotel, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is gorgeous around Christmastime and will make you feel like you have stepped inside a Christmas card.
The main attraction is the fully functional and edible gingerbread house, which is 14 feet tall and has a snack stand for buying Christmas treats. Yum!
It is incredible how much work it takes to get Walt Disney World ready for the Christmas season.
The holidays are a magical time in the parks and show off some of the best work of the Disney creative team. With the decorating timeline in mind, you can get started planning your family’s Disney Christmas vacation.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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