Disney goes all out during the holiday season. From thousands of holiday decorations, special holiday menus, themed parades and characters dressed in their best holiday attire – it’s a very magical time to visit Walt Disney World.
My family loves visiting during this time – the weather is just right for us (not too hot or cold) and Disney resort prices are fairly low in early December and right after New Year’s.
Holiday celebrations and festivities kickoff on November 8, 2019 with some continuing into the new year – until January 5, 2020.
Below are our top recommendations for celebrating the holidays at Walt Disney World with kids.
Holiday Celebrations at Disney World Theme Parks
The Jingle Jungle Cruise in Adventureland
The Jungle Cruise boats have been decorated for the holidays and the Skippers have added holiday themed jokes to get Magic Kingdom visitors into the holiday spirit.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
This nighttime holiday party runs on select nights throughout November and December and is a ticketed event.
The party dates for this year are as follows:
- November 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24
- December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22
Party tickets can be purchased online in advance starting at $109/adult and $104/child.
Party guests can expect to see Santa Goofy, indulge on complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, see snow falling on Main Street USA and of course catch a glimpse of the big man himself, Santa Claus.
There’s something very magical about seeing it snow at Disney World – even if it’s not real! It doesn’t require us to wear five layers of clothing :).
We recommend purchasing your tickets sooner than later for this special event as some days sell out quickly.
While the party begins at 7PM, ticket holders are allowed to enter the park at 4PM. This is a great way to squeeze in your favorite Magic Kingdom rides before the celebrations begin.
For more information about this year’s Very Merry Christmas Party, head on over to Disney’s website.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
This special holiday parade features toy soldiers, dancing reindeer, Disney characters in their best holiday attire and of course an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus. This parade is only shown for Very Merry Christmas Party ticket holders and after the last party day, general guests can enjoy the parade during regular park hours.
Cinderella Castle Dream Lights – A Frozen Holiday Wish Show
Elsa from Frozen lights up Cinderella’s Castle every night in a curtain of sparkling ice-like LED bulbs. There are over 200,000 lights that turn the castle ito a shimmering and jaw-dropping ice palace. This short show runs daily at 6:15PM and includes appearances by Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff.
Daily Tree Lighting Ceremony
Every evening around dusk, there’s a tree lighting ceremony at Town Square. If you are at Magic Kingdom at this time, we recommend spending a few minutes to watch the 65 foot Christmas tree light up with thousands of bulbs.
If a visit to Santa is on your To Do list, you can catch him at Candy Cane Garden (right next to City Hall near the the main gates) between 10AM and 5PM. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ticketholders can also catch him on party nights.
International Festival of the Holidays at World Showcase
From November 29 through December 30, 2019, learn how each of the 11 countries around EPCOT’s World Showcase celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
Storytellers and musical performers such as Père Noël in France, La Befana in Italy, Father Christmas in the United Kingdom, Los Tres Reyes in Mexico, and the Holiday Voyageurs in Canada share their unique holiday traditions in short 15 minute shows.
For families with little ones, head on over to the American Adventure Pavilion to meet Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Holiday Kitchens & Cookie Stroll
During the International Festival of the Holidays at World Showcase, families should definitely check out Holiday Kitchens kiosks featuring seasonal food and beverages. Hot applejack cider with whiskey from the United Kingdom, teriyaki chicken karaage from Kabuki Cafe in Japan, panettone and moscato wine in Italy, stollen fruit cake from Germany and gingerbread and sugar cookies and peppermint park from America are a few of the tantalizing treats you can find during the holiday season.
This year, Disney is introducing a Cookie Stroll around the World Showcase. Visitors can purchase cookies at the festival kiosks and track them in the Festival Passport with stamps. Once you collect 5 different cookie stamps, you can get a special cookie from holiday Sweets and Treats for free! You can read more about the Holiday Cookie Stroll here.
This nightly show runs from November 29 to December 30, 2019 at 5PM, 6:45PM and 8:15PM in the outdoor American Gardens Theater near the American pavilion of the World Showcase. Celebrity guests retell the Christmas story with help of a 50 piece orchestra and choir.
There is no cost to attend this event but be aware that it is very popular so getting a seat can be difficult if you aren’t in the area in advance. You can find out more over on Disney’s site.
Holiday Character Topiaries
Scattered throughout EPCOT are festive topiaries that feature popular Disney characters – many of them can be found in the Future World section of the park.
Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at Santa’s Village in the American Adventure pavilion in World Showcase.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
Returning this year to Hollywood Studios is Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! – a Christmas nighttime show running from November 8, 2019 to January 5, 2020. This daily show takes place near Grauman’s Chinese Theater and features state-of-the-art light and laser projections, special effects, fireworks and of course Christmas music. Expect it to see snow as well during this show.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party
Enjoy holiday treats and drinks from a special viewing area during the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! show. Tickets for the holiday dessert party start at $89/adult and $53/child.
Admission to Hollywood Studios is required in addition to the dessert party ticket. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate if they are available. You can check out the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party page for more details.
Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine
Looking for a holiday themed character meal in Hollywood Studios? From November 8, 2019 to January 5, 2020, join Minnie Mouse as she hosts a holiday dinner with her friends Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Santa Goofy.
Hollywood & Vine dinner guests will be treated to holiday themed food, music, activities and decor for $52 per adult (ages 10+) and $31 for children (ages 3 to 9).
Sunset Seasons Greetings
Every night, watch Sunset Boulevard and The Hollywood Tower of Terror Hotel transform into a winter wonderland with colorful projections that bring Mickey, Minnie and Olaf’s holiday stories to life.
Families can expect to see falling snow and dazzling laser effects during this nightly holiday projection show.
Holiday Decor in Toy Story Land and Echo Lake
Check out the larger than life holiday decor and theming at Hollywood Studio’s newest land – Toy Story Land. Check out the holiday card “selfie” spot and how some rides like Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers are “dressed up” for the holidays.
Make sure to see your favorite Toy Story characters like Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear in their holiday attire too!
Holiday garlands, enormous ornaments and a Christmas tree sitting in middle of the lake can be found in the Echo Lake area. Make sure to get a photo of Gertie the Dinosaur who will be dressed up for the holidays.
Santa will be visiting Hollywood Studios beginning November 8 through December 24. Kids can tell him all about their holiday wishes at Once Upon a Time store. Santa Goofy will take over from December 25 to 31.
Animal Kingdom park will be decorated for the holidays up until January 2020. Make sure to check the holiday Festival of Lights (Diwali) in India, the Harambe holiday-inspired performances in Africa, the holiday displays at Pongu Pongu (Pandora – The World of Avatar), and the animal inspired lanterns, lights and puppets at Discovery Island.
Holiday Character Meet and Greets
Party with Donald Duck and friends at Donald’s Dino-bash at Dinoland USA and continue the celebrations at night at the Holiday Hoopla Dance party with Chip ‘n Dale at the Truck-O-Saurus.
Visit Adventurer’s Outpost to see Mickey and Minnie in their holiday sweaters. Make sure to make your FastPass+ reservation on MyDisneyExperience to avoid the long wait times.
Santa Goofy and Donald Duck can be found in Dinoland. Chip and Dale will be dressed in their seasonal best at Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Baloo and King Louie will be available for meet and greets in Asia.
Packing your own holiday sweaters (ugly or not)will make for a fun and memorable photos.
Holiday Celebrations at the Resorts
If you want to take a break from the parks, there’s lots to see and do at the Walt Disney World resorts. Every year, the Disney chefs and decorators spend hours creating jaw-dropping edible displays and trees at the resorts.
Check out the gingerbread holiday village at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, an edible version of Atlantic City with carousel and ferris wheel at BoardWalk Inn and the giant trees at Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge and other Deluxe resorts – each which are themed to match the corresponding resort hotel.
Catch a glimpse of the edible carousel at Disney’s Beach Club Resort made from chocolate and fondant.
Visit Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to see the 16-foot Victorian gingerbread house made from over 1000 pounds of honey, 800 pounds of flour, 700 pounds of chocolate and 600 pounds of sugar. Smoke even comes out from the chimney!
Holiday Celebrations at Disney Springs
The Disney Springs area will be decorated with seasonal decor, holiday trees, and visitors can take in a holiday performance from Toy Soldier stilt walkers and various musical acts.
There will be holiday themed photo ops, live performances by holiday carolers and a nightly interactive holiday dance party.
Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt
If you have several hours to spend at Disney Springs, we highly recommend picking up a free Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt booklet and stickers for the kids.
Complete the booklet by matching the corresponding gift stickers to select stores and locations at Disney Springs and get a prize from a Disney Cast Member.
Disney Springs Christmas Trail
Check out the 15 Disney-themed trees along the Disney Springs Christmas Trail and watch the tree lighting ceremony near Once Upon a Toy.
Special Holiday Tours
There are two tours offered during the holidays which take visitors on a behind-the-scenes look of the holiday decor and events around Disney World. Guests must be at least 16 years old to participate in these tours.
Holiday D-Lights Tour
For $289/person, Holiday D-Lights Tour guests can meet the Event & Decorating support team and see how major holiday events are put together. Running for a few days a week, this tour also includes a family-style barbecue dinner and a limited-edition keepsake pin.
Yuletide Fantasy Tour
This 3 hour tour is $149/person and takes guests behind the scenes to see how Walt Disney World parks and resort hotels are transformed into a winter wonderland for the holiday season. Yuletide Fantasy Tour guests can expect to visit Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and a Disney resort hotel.
Have you visited Walt Disney World during the holidays? What are some not to be missed holiday activities/events you’d recommend for families at WDW?