As soon as Halloween is over, we begin thinking about the next big holiday at Walt Disney World: Christmas. The Disney elves work a ton of overtime during the winter holiday season and literally overnight the parks are transformed from autumn to Christmas fun. Planning a trip or just want the scoop on the fun and merriment that goes on in the parks? Here’s how to Christmas at Walt Disney World.
While Halloween at Walt Disney World is my favorite time of year in the parks, Christmas runs a very close second. Quick tip, as soon as the autumn decorations are taken down at Magic Kingdom, you can expect those gorgeous Christmas decorations with Mickey touches to be up the very next day. If I’m being honest, last, year we celebrated both Halloween and Christmas during the same trip. So, there’s no reason to not begin the winter celebrations early. Here’s the scoop on how to Christmas in my favorite place on earth: Walt Disney World.
Most of the Christmas events revolve around Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) in Magic Kingdom. A hard ticket event, the park closes early on select nights and party ticket holders get to enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling of Christmas filled with lower crowd levels, fireworks, parades, and nighttime rides on popular attractions. Don’t want to spend the extra cash on party tickets? No worries, you’ll still get to see the decorations throughout the holiday day season.
So. Many. Tin. Soldiers.
It’s no secret that WDW parades and shows are worth finding a premium spot for- even if that means an hour or more in advance. This is especially true for Mickey’s Once upon a Christmastime Parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Grab a great spot along the parade route and watch Mickey & Minnie, as well as the rest of the gang, in their Christmas finest, AKA costumes you’ll only see them in during the party.
Here’s the fun from last year’s parade at the first Christmas party of the year from our YouTube channel:
Along with the popular Disney characters you’ll see, you’ll also have the fun of singing along to popular Christmas carols, spying ice skaters on Main Street U.S.A., and seeing life-sized tin soldiers playing horns and marching to Disney music. And, while w’re waiting, we like to send a “runner” (aka, Mr. Locke or myself) to grab drinks and snacks. This way, our spot is held.
Let it Snow- in Orlando?
Generally we’re thinking more about how not to melt when we visit Walt Disney World, but chalk it up to all of that magic that fills the air during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: it actually snows on Main Street U.S.A. during the Christmas parade. You’ll be able to see snow several times throughout the party, but you’ll only spy it between Town Square and Cinderella Castle.
Cocoa and Cookies Enough for Santa to Be Filled to the Brim
Another party perk to make it feel like Christmas even when folks are in shorts and tee shirts: all of the cocoa and cookies (and apple slices!) that you can down during the party. Tip: head to Tomorrowland to score a shorter queue.
Meet and Greet Sandy Claws and other Yuletide Happy Disney Characters
If you’re a fan of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas (it’s not just a Disney Halloween movie!) you’ll love the fact that he makes an appearance as “Sandy Claws” during the party. Don’t want to wait in line for the Pumpkin King? There’s plenty of additional meet and greet experiences with other Disney characters.
There are several elusive Disney characters that offer meet and greet experiences during the party. In the past, along with Jack and Sally, the Seven Dwarfs have always been super popular.
I Wish…I Wish…for a New Nighttime Show!
At past parties, we loved hanging around until the end of the night to catch “Wishes” fireworks display. And, while I’m sad to see its run come to an end, we’re all making way for the latest party spectacular – Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. Until the first party gets swinging, we won’t know a ton about the show, but this is the official word from Disney:
“Get in the Christmas spirit as your host—Minnie Mouse—invites you to take in a sparkling, yuletide fireworks display. Watch as the sky becomes alight with festive colors to the tune of some of your favorite carols like Deck the Halls and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
What does that tell us? If it’s anything like this year’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, there will be a new castle projection along with those beautiful Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Also to note, there will also be Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing.
Jingle (Cruise) All the Way
The only ride to theme out Christmas is the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom and, even if you’ve ridden the slow-moving boat ride on a normal, non-Christmastime day a thousand times over, it’s worth riding when the winter holiday season hits. The cruise skippers have even punnier than usual and the script is much more refreshing. Try to score a FastPass+ selection if you can; the ride is super popular this time of year.
International Yuletide Extravaganza
World Showcase in Epcot is such a fun (and easy) way to educate kids about countries they may have never visited before, but during the Christmas season WDW lets guests in on holiday traditions in all 11 represented countries. There’s costumed performers, specialty foods, and of course, holiday music.
How about a 50-piece orchestra, multiple choirs, and celebrity readers to tell the tale of the biblical story of Christmas? American Adventure Pavilion’s America Gardens Theater in World Showcase is exactly where you need to head to listen to the gorgeous retelling. Candlelight Processional is free with Epcot admission and shows the true meaning of the revered holiday.
Illuminate Your Holiday
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a beauty to see any time of year, but during the Christmas season Epcot has a special version of the light and fireworks display.
I’ll Tell You a Tale…
Also in world Showcase, storytellers (most of whom are portraying that country’s version of Santa Claus) give a lively description of how they celebrate the Christmas holiday. The storytellers are around throughout the day, so check the Times guide for wheres and whens.
Don’t Discount Disney Springs for Holiday Fun
Disney Springs (some folks are calling it the fifth gate and I’m completely warming up to the name!) is going all out for Christmas with Santa meet and Greets, live carolers, a Hanukkah Celebration at Waterview Park, and live entertainment. The best part about visiting Disney Springs for winter holiday experiences? It’s totally free- no theme park admission required.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Holiday Events
Last year, Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was (and continues to be) all the rage. During Christmas, guests visiting Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can expect to see Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear in festive holiday attire. In addition to holiday character greetings, guests can also enjoy the Toy Story Land’s new holiday decor, including including oversized cranberry-and-popcorn garland, a holiday card “selfie” of “Toy Story” pals, an oversized Hamm sugar cookie, Green Alien ornaments and more.
Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! – replaced The Osborne Family Spectacle of lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios a couple of years ago. Here’s the theme: Santa Claus is missing and elves Wayne & Lanny from “Prep & Landing” need to get him back to the north Pole and pronto. If you want to sweeten your visit, WDW is offering a Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Dessert Party, too. Bonus: you won’t have to attend a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom to see snow at WDW- there’s promises of snow at this show!
Santa Meet and Greets – Visit with Santa Claus on select days.
Sunset Seasons Greetings – Taking place nightly at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. New laser effects and “snow,” the experience also includes stories, songs and holiday cheer brought to you by friends like Mickey, Minnie and Olaf. Taking place November 8, 2018 through January 6, 2019.
Deck the (Lobby) Halls
While all of the on-property resorts decorate for the winter holidays and Christmas, a few of the Deluxe Resorts are worth hopping on a bus or monorail to check out.
Now, That’s a Tree!
If it’s a massive Christmas tree you want, it’s a massive tree you’ll get at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Each tree is themed out for its respective resorts and, while you’re there, check out the subtle details on the tree and lobby.
And if you can’t (or don’t) want to Monorail hop, there are super cute tress in the lobbies of all the other WDW Resort hotels, too.
Holy Gingerbread House, Batman!
I’m so in love with the Victorian theming at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, but it’s the 16-foot Victorian gingerbread house in the lobby that makes the space smell delicious. Bonus: from 10am-10pm everyday that the house is up you can buy holiday goodies straight out of the store front. No kidding!