Christmas at Disney World: First Timer’s Guide

Disney World and Magic Kingdom at Christmastime

First time celebrating Christmas at Disney World in late November/December? You’ve got to be feeling all of the feels right now! While you’ve got so much fun to plan and coordinate, it can be overwhelming, no doubt. Here’s a quick and easy first timer’s guide to Walt Disney World at Christmas to help you make the most of your vacation!

Snow on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom.
Snow on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

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I’m almost embarrassed to write this, but we celebrated Christmas at Walt Disney World for the first time in 2016. I do have really good excuses, though: Food & Wine Festival and Flower & Garden Festival. While these two (and Halloween!) are our big annual draws, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in December was cause for an extra-special vacation. We mulled over places to go (back to Las Vegas? The beach?), but it was really a no-brainer to head back to our favorite place on earth.

I did my research just like any first timer did but still learned so much – including what to do, what to see and when, crowds,and where to eat! Here’s the scoop from a gal that can’t wait to celebrate Christmas at Disney World again!

Walt Disney World Crowd Levels in December

Giant Christmas tree at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Giant Christmas tree at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

Fact? We tend to plan all of our visits to WDW around crowd levels. Not only do lower crowd levels help my attitude stay in a much happier place, they can also determine just how much you’ll be able to see and do on your trip. As a rule for Walt Disney World, the closer to any major holiday, the higher the crowd levels. Our visit last December hit right at mid-month and the crowds were delightful – and probably the lowest I’d ever seen them.

Online crowd calendars like to use the 1-10 crowd level scale so I’ll use the same. Crowds for early to mid-December will be very decent (3 to 6 out of 10) but the week before Christmas through the first week of January will be peak crowd levels ( 7 to 9 out of 10). Translation? Lower ability to just walk on rides and attractions. The queues will be much longer, so make sure you take advantage of FastPass+ and lock in your first three choices to start.

WDW Temperatures in December

The giant Christmas tree on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom.
The giant Christmas tree on Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

Again, another amazing reason to visit Disney World in December: moderate temperatures. Living 1,000+ miles northwest of Orlando, we tend to melt in Central Florida’s heat and humidity. When we visited last December? We wore jeans and t-shirts most days. It was absolute heaven in the parks and is a major draw for us to visit again at this time. WDW park temperature averages for December are highs around 69 degrees F and lows of 52 degrees F. Keep in mind this is the average; I know families that packed shorts and tank tops for their Christmas visit and ended up having to purchase winter clothing compliments of a cold snap. If you have room for jackets in your suitcases, it definitely won’t hurt to bring them just in case.

Christmas Decorations in the Disney World Parks

Christmas decorations along Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom!
Christmas decorations along Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom! Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

While planning at least on Mickey’s very Merry Christmas Party is probably on your radar, you don’t have to see a single one to enjoy all of the gorgeous Christmas decorations. Magic Kingdom will be the most decorated and the giant Christmas tree in Town Square is worthy of waiting in line to grab a family photo with. Having written that, each of the four theme parks will have giant Christmas trees! PhotoPass photographers like to hang around them – perfect for folks with Memory Maker packages. But remember: you don’t have to have a Memory Maker package to take advantage of WDW’s pro photogs! All you have to do is wait your turn and ask nicely if they’ll take a photo using your camera/cell phone.

If you have some time to resort hop, it will definitely be worth your while. The deluxe resorts offer more in the Christmas decoration department but the Value Resorts are just as much fun. We began our December visit at Pop! Century Resort and ended it at Animal Kingdom Lodge and had just as much fun at both.

Last year, Disney Springs had plenty of Christmas splendor including several Christmas trees, Santa meet and greets, and a nighttime drone show.

One Thing you Must Do When Visiting Magic Kingdom for Christmas

Christmas at Disney World Cinderella Castle
The lighting of Cinderella Castle around Christmas is a must watch! Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

Whether you attend a Disney World Christmas party or not, the one thing you absolutely cannot miss the a Cinderella Castle Christmas lighting. Taking over six weeks to complete, 200,000 white, twinkly lights are draped over the castle and, each night during the holiday season, a small show happens before it’s lit up for the night. SO worth the while.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party Parade's Wreck It Ralph.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Parade’s Wreck It Ralph. Photo Credit: Steven Locke

I honestly thought nothing could compare to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in October, but man, was I wrong. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom is just as much fun – and it snows on Main Street U.S.A.!

MVMCP is a hard ticket event. Translation? You’ll have to pay extra to enjoy the fun but, if your budget allows, it’s 100% worth it. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade has Disney Characters dressed in their holiday finest, there’s unlimited cookies and warm beverages, meet and greets, and holiday music. bonus: the crowd levels are decent so you’ll be able to hop on most of the rides. As for the fireworks, “Holiday Wishes” is definitely one of our favorites! All of the Christmas music fun, combined with an amped-up fireworks display is worthy of purchasing a ticket alone. 

For 2017, MVMCP starts November 9 and runs through December 22. Ticket prices start at $89. There’s no Very Merry Christmas party on Christmas Day!  Save $7 on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ticket! with Undercover tourist

Holiday Dining at Disney World

Olaf Cupcake Christmas at Walt Disney World
Olaf Cupcake at Christmastime in Walt Disney World. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

While you will find holiday-themed snacks and beverages throughout the Disney World parks when you visit, there’s special meals that the parks whip up!

If you’re planning to stay in Magic Kingdom for the “Happily Ever After” fireworks during your visit, you might want to consider the add-on of a Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace. The hard ticket event includes all of the dessert you can eat with beverages and a premium fireworks viewing location.

Holiday Fun You’ll Only Find at Christmastime

The World Showcase in Epcot is filled with holiday decorations!
The World Showcase in Epcot is filled with holiday decorations! Photo Credit: Steven Locke

We’ve already discussed the holiday decorations practically everywhere, but there’s additional perks to visiting in November/December:

Jingle Cruise/Jungle Cruise – The ever-popular Jungle Crusie boat ride in Magic Kingdom turns to Jingle Cruise. Filled with holiday puns instead of the usual ones, the docks, boats, and scenes have holiday touches. If you really want the full ambiance, schedule a FastPass after sundown.

Candlelight Processional – 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.

Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! – replaced The Osborne Family Spectacle of lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last season. The theme is this: Santa Claus is missing and elves Wayne & Lanny from “Prep & Landing” need to get him back to the north Pole and pronto. 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!

First time celebrating Christmas at Disney World in late November/December? You've got to be feeling all of the feels right now! While you've got so much fun to plan and coordinate, it can be overwhelming, no doubt. Here's a quick and easy first timer's guide to Walt Disney World at Christmas to help you make the most of your vacation!

What are you looking forward to most this winter holiday season at Walt Disney World? Please let me know in the comments section below!

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12 Thoughts to “Christmas at Disney World: First Timer’s Guide”

  1. Christmas at disney sounds like the most magical experience in the whole world. Thanks for an awesome post & covering so many different aspects!

    1. Karyn Locke

      Thank you – and thanks for popping by the site!

  2. The Cinderella castle looks amazing all lit up and would be the highlight of my visit l think. I haven’t been to Disney in years, I tried to visit often when l lived in L.A. Fun times!

    1. Karyn Locke

      It’s tear-worthy, that’s for sure! Thanks for popping by the site!

  3. I’m a huge christmas fanatic – combine that with disney and i’m so swooning!

    1. Karyn Locke

      Haha, no kidding! It’s even more magical than normal, if that’s even possible!

  4. myisha

    Ive never thought about Christmas at Walt Disney World. For some reason I thought it would have been a bit more crowded. Everything looked so pretty.

  5. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I would love to spend it at Disney! I haven’t been there in over 15 years so I need to go back soon!

  6. Oh man! Christmas there looks incredible. I haven’t been there in years!

  7. You’re not alone. I went to school in Florida and still haven’t found my way to Disney World. I never even thought about going during the Christmas season but now you have placed an idea in my head! Pinning this.

  8. What great tips! Christmas at Disney can get overwhelming with the crowds but this guide is so helpful!

  9. Walt Disney World isn’t necessarily at the top of my list to visit but it does seem like Christmastime there is pretty with all the extra decorations.

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