The Complete Guide to the Holidays at Walt Disney World

Mickey and Minnie Christmas
Credit: Disney

The most magical way to spend a hard-earned vacation is at Disney World. Walt Disney World Resort offers so much more than just attractions and Mickey Mouse. Though Mickey Mouse is remembered as “The mouse who started it all,” the Resort in Orlando, Florida, has many unforgettable experiences.

Disney World is made up of four parks, including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. Each Park has their own unique theme with rides, dining, entertainment, and many more details. Branded as “The Most Magical Place On Earth,” Disney World is for all Guests.

When Walt Disney created the concept of Disneyland, the original theme Park that opened in Anaheim, California, he wanted a Park for Guests of all ages. To this day, his wish is still true, as the Park welcomes Guests from all over the world to enjoy its magic.

Disney World Christmas

Credit: Disney

Though Disney World is already quite magical on its own, the Parks do a fabulous job of making each trip you take an entirely new experience. At Disney World, attractions are constantly being reimagined or introduced. The same goes for dining options, entertainment like parades, nighttime shows, and even merchandise. If there is one thing the Parks are not, it is stagnant or even boring. With the everlasting changes being made, Disney is always giving Guests a new reason to come back for more.

Related: Disneyland Reveals Holiday Season Dates and Details

If it’s not a new attraction or eatery, it’s something just as exciting as a holiday. Celebrating the holidays at Disney can be special for many reasons. Disney transforms its Parks in what seems like overnight into a themed wonderland. What’s so special is being immersed in the holiday spirit with limited-time offers that you can only find at the Walt Disney World Parks.

Halloween at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Disney World is decked out right now for Halloween and the autumn season. The Parks, especially Magic Kingdom Park, allow Guests to celebrate with Mickey-shaped pumpkins, pumpkin spice treats, foliage, and decorated attractions. Magic Kingdom throws Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party from August to November. The event takes place on select evenings with a specialty ticket.

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Photo Ops

Credit: Disney

Guests who were lucky enough to get their hands on one get to trick or treat in the Parks, see characters in their Halloween costumes and have shorter wait times for some of Disney’s most iconic attractions. Disney’s Magic Kingdom also offers Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade and a stage show in front of Cinderella Castle, featuring none other than The Sanderson Sisters from Hocus Pocus (1993).

Related: Strategy Guide for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in 2023

What’s more, Disney will end the night with a fireworks show per usual, but with a spellbinding twist! Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular featuring villains like Hades from Hercules (1997) projected onto Cinderella Castle is like the icing on top of the wickedly delicious cake.

Holidays at Disney World

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party began on August 11 and runs through to November 1. If you were not one of the Guests who experienced the limited-time event, the Parks are still decorated during that time with exclusive options during the fall season. Moreover, while the season is nearing a conclusion, another one will pick up the themed experience at the Parks.

Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle Christmas

Credit: Disney

Once Halloween wraps up at the Parks, Disney transforms the Parks yet again in what seemingly feels like overnight. By November 9, Magic Kingdom, the same Park that just had leaves and Mickey-shaped pumpkins on display, will switch gears to Christmas lights and garlands. Up to December 22, right before Christmas, Disney World will offer decorations, Santa Claus, new sips and bites, and so much more to ring in the holiday season.

Related: Disney World Holiday Party Tickets Now on Sale

Visiting Disney World during any holiday is special, but its transformation into a winter wonderland is something to marvel at. The holiday season is already filled with so much joy and focus on spending time with the loved ones in your life. Disney only encourages you to do so more by visiting the Parks with your family and friends. During this special time of year, the Parks are a perfect place to create more memories and traditions.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Disney During the Holidays?

The ultimate question everyone has for visiting Disney World during the holiday season. First off, getting to visit in general, at any time when the Parks are decorated for a holiday, is a treat. Since the Parks are reimagined for a short period of time, it can be a different vacation from previous ones, even if you’ve visited during the holidays before.

Although Disney celebrates Halloween and Christmas each year at the Parks, plenty change from year to year. The variety and introduction of new experiences is what makes it so special while still keeping some classic features that carry the tradition on year after year. While the excitement is there to visit the Parks during these times, it is no secret the Parks can become chaotic.

Mickey Mouse Christmas parade

Credit: Disney

Of course, the closer to the holiday day, the Parks can have large crowds, which means long wait times for attractions. Additionally, it may mean difficulties getting reservations at restaurants or even obtaining a ticket for the special events happening.

Related: Celebrate the Holidays With Minnie at This Sweetened Party

This year, Magic Kingdom isn’t the only Park to put on an event for Christmas. Guests can explore Magic Kingdom with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is what Disney describes as “the most magical holiday tradition.” Along with this ticketed event, Hollywood Studios is offering Jollywood Nights this year for an evening of glam, glitz, and, of course, magic. If that’s not enough, EPCOT will have the Candlelight Processional as the World Showcase celebrates the holidays around the world.

Best Days to Visit

With not one but three events happening for Christmas at Disney, there is a sure need to know when is the best time to not only visit but get to experience all of these events. According to Insider, the best time to visit the Parks for Christmas is during early December. The crowds are low enough, and the decorations are set up where you can still enjoy the magic of a Disney Christmas minus the congestion.

Additionally, Insider reported, “Mid-December to the first week of January is the busiest time in Disney’s Christmas season.” It is no surprise that the Parks get busier closer to Christmas, which is December 25, and with the New Year coming shortly after.

Minnie Mouse Christmas

Credit: Disney

If your dates are flexible enough to visit when you can find lower crowds, another tip is to do so during the week. Since Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a ticketed event, it is only held on select nights. The same goes for Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios and the celebration in EPCOT. If you’re trying to do all, planning to visit the events held during the week rather than the weekends is a helpful way to endure fewer people.

Booking Your Trip To Disney

But what if this is your first time visiting the Parks during the holidays? You’ve gotten the dates down, but now what? There’s so much to offer, maybe even an overwhelming amount of things to see and do, which can become intimidating. Choosing your dates, booking your travel, and your Disney Resort stay are important.

If you’re looking for a Resort to carry the theme of Christmas, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort goes all out for the holidays. They display a life-size gingerbread house along with Christmas decorations. Of course, classics like Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, or any Disney Resort are a great option for staying in the magic of it all.

Once that is hammered down, on to the fun stuff like which Park, when, and what you will do.

Related: Gear Up for Christmas With This New Disney Popcorn Bucket

With three events offered at Disney World this year, we’ll do the heavy lifting and break down all the things to do at each. First and foremost, ensuring you have purchased your tickets for the Parks in advance is a must. Holiday events sell out quickly, as Disney saw with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

In knowing that, purchasing and reserving your Park days is just as important as booking travel and your stay. Additionally, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Jollywood Nights both require special event tickets that are different from regular Park entry. Guests must purchase a ticket for the event on the specific date they wish to visit to ensure entry. Without a ticket, the Parks will not allow Guests to enter.

As you create your to-do list for your Disney vacation during the holidays, note the following;

  • Disney Park tickets
  • Special event tickets
  • Flights/Car rental/Travel plans
  • Disney Resort stay
  • Holiday outfits

Once you’ve checked all the boxes, then the itinerary planning can truly begin! Let’s dive into all three events and how you can make the most out of your Disney World vacation during the holidays.

Magic Kingdom

The festive fun for all is almost here. Magic Kingdom’s tradition of celebrating Christmas during November and December never disappoints. The yearly event is the merriest celebration featuring parades, fireworks, and character greetings, just to name a few. What makes Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party so special is the magic of Disney, joined with tradition and the core value of family and friends.

It’s an event for Guests of all ages to enjoy with their special people and soak in the holiday essence. The holidays are all about traditions, letting your loved ones know how much you care about them, and spending that valued time together. Disney’s holiday celebrations only add an extra layer of love, joy, and pixie dust to the season.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

At Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the focal point won’t just be Cinderella Castle but the massive Christmas tree seen on Main Street, U.S.A. Festive additions like merchandise, PhotoPass experiences, and dessert parties are some specialties contributing to that icing on the cake. Two iconic attractions in the Park will also get a holiday makeover to celebrate the season. Space Mountain and The Jungle Cruise will partake in the holiday fun and some reimagining.

Magic Kingdom Disney World Christmas

Credit: Disney

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Space Mountain – Holiday Run!! Launches you on an adventure through the cosmos—accompanied by high-energy holiday tunes,” Disney writes for the classic attraction. Additionally, The Jungle Cruise will be called the Jingle Cruise. “Get ready to laugh on a Jingle Cruise packed with holiday-themed puns,” Disney details.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Disney celebration without your favorite characters. Special meet and greets, as characters are dressed up in their red and green attire, is the perfect family photo to send off to relatives. And once you’ve captured that, there’s more! A holiday event wouldn’t be so without special entertainment like Mickey’s Once Upon A Time Christmastime Parade. Following the typical parade route, Mickey Mouse and Friends join together to bring joy and season greetings to all watching.

Planning Your Itinerary

Cinderella Castle is always the perfect way to end the evening with one celebration Disney is best known for: fireworks! Enjoy Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Show premiering front and center.

Tickets for this event are already on sale and selling quickly. Though they are offered on select nights, the closer to the event, the more likely tickets will sell out, so it’s an event you’ll want to purchase once you know your dates. Tickets begin at $159 for the event and begin at 7:00 p.m. to midnight.

Once you’ve got Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Celebration booked, hop on over to Hollywood Studios to plan out the next celebration!

Hollywood Studios Jollywood Nights

Yule, be sad to miss this event! Hollywood Studios is offering this brand-new evening event they call a nighttime party. The party will run on select nights from November 11 to December 20. Tickets are also on sale for Disney Jollywood Nights, similar to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The tickets do sell fast, especially for a never-before-seen event like this one.

Hollywood Studios Jollywood Nights

Credit: Disney

“Step into a shimmering holiday scene with dapper décor and themed celebrations—where you can dance the night away,” Disney details. So what’s included in this holiday bash? Live bands, a nighttime spectacular, character meet and greets, and exclusive entertainment.

Related: Jollywood Nights Evening Extras Come at a Price

What’s most unique about this party are the hot spots and “swanky” venues Hollywood Studios will offer throughout the Parks. The elevated experience with glamorous decor, may we say, can be geared more towards older Disney Guests with these spots in Jollywood. Guests can “Revel in a jazzy setting at a limited-capacity, Hollywood-themed lounge—located at The Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant,” Disney mentions. Guests can “Drop into the The Hollywood Tower Hotel courtyard for a limited-capacity, otherworldly soirée.”

Enjoy your initial welcome by the DJ spinning on Hollywood Boulevard as Guests can stroll through the Park enjoying limited sips and bites. Some we are most excited about are the Spicy Korean Chicken on a Mini Funnel Cake, Christmas Tree Cookie Stack, and specialty adult beverages.

Hollywood Studios Jollywood Nights

Credit: Disney

Once you’ve partied the night away, your third stop for the holiday celebratory trip will be over at EPCOT.

EPCOT Candlelight Processional

Nothing quite says holiday celebration like doing so around the world. With EPCOT’s World Showcase, Guests have the unique opportunity to celebrate the holidays in eleven different countries all in one day. What’s more, this celebration doesn’t require an extra ticket. Unlike Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Jollywood Nights, Guests can enjoy the celebrations with a regular Park entry.

The Candlelight Processional is a riveting way to experience the holidays. Disney describes it as “the stirring story of Christmas with a celebrity narrator and glorious massed choir—accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra, herald trumpets, and the Voices of Liberty.” From November 24 to December 30, this is a show that will go past Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The times to enjoy this experience are 5:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 8:30 p.m., and a perfect event to enjoy your evening in EPCOT.

Living with the Land Christmas

Credit: Disney

Related: Celebrate the Holidays at EPCOT With Star-Studded Candlelight Processional

For daytime activities or in between scheduled programming like the Candlelight Processional, Guests can meet Santa, snack on savory and sweet flavors, and experience attractions in a whole new way. Living with the Land turns into Living with the Land – Glimmering Greenhouses, while Olaf is ready to go on a quest with his Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt.

International Festival of the Holidays

For the foodies, one of the most, if not the most, exciting parts is EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays presented by AdventHealth – Holiday Kitchens. Enjoy delicious bites from all over the world with these limited-time holiday kitchens. Flavors come from Germany, France, Morocco, China, and Mexico, to name a few.

EPCOT Christmas cookies

Credit: Disney

Sips and bites infused with the flavors of their culture’s holiday delights are the best way to explore how others celebrate the holidays. Even more so, what a cool way to instill some new family traditions with savory bites and sweets you have learned to love through your adventures at the International Festival.
And, of course, that’s not all. Add the Holiday Cookie Stroll to your day as you walk through the World Showcase. The purchase of five cookies or more will get you a matching stamp for your Festival passport.

Celebrate Christmas at Disney World

These three events are a sure way to enjoy the holidays like you never have before. Jollywood Studios is a brand new experience, meaning it can become a new family tradition starting this year. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a tradition that we’ll always keep close to our hearts. And EPCOT will always be the Park to explore, try, and revel in the holiday spirit.

With all of these tips and tricks, when will you be visiting Walt Disney World for the holidays? Do you have favorite holiday decorations in the Parks? Let us know in the Facebook comments what your favorite Disney Christmas tradition is.

About Sarahfina LoFaso

Sarahfina is an author, and adjunct professor with a passion for writing and of course, all things Disney! Cinderella is her favorite princess and movie, both the animated and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1997 version. In close second place is Hercules, tied with Saving Mr. Banks. Sarahfina enjoys writing about the history of Walt Disney and all the parks, along with food, dining, and resorts. Her favorite ride is the Tower of Terror, and her favorite restaurant right now is the San Angel Inn, in EPCOT. Most importantly, her must-have snack every Disney trip is the controversial turkey leg, because it reminds her of her family trips as a kid with her grandparents.