All about the holiday season at Disney World

(Article last updated: November 5, 2016)

The holiday season at Disney World includes a whole lot of different things - special events in the parks, beautiful decorations in the resorts and a couple of special tours.

Here is a guide to everything that takes place at Disney World during the holiday season, including tips and videos.

Animal Kingdom: Characters in holiday-themed attire

Meet Mickey and Minnie in their holiday themed attire at the Adventurers Outpost. Santa Goofy, Donald, Chip & Dale and Baloo & King Louie also meet in seasonal outfits during the holidays.

Magic Kingdom: Tree Lighting Ceremony

Once the tree is up at Magic Kingdom, there's a tree lighting ceremony that takes place every evening at dusk (around 5:15-5:30).

Magic Kingdom: Jingle Cruise

jingle-cruise-10

The Jungle Cruise transforms during the holidays into the "Jingle Cruise", complete with holiday themed jokes, decorations and background music and radio broadcasts for the queue.

Magic Kingdom: Castle Dream Lights and A Frozen Holiday Wish

Not only does the castle look different during the holidays, but there's a little ceremony that precedes the lighting of the castle.

From early November to early January, Queen Elsa from Frozen appears twice each evening to get the Castle Dream Lights lit up for the night in a 7 minute show called "A Frozen Holiday Wish." On non-party nights, this occurs at 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. On party nights, the times are 6:15 and 8 p.m.

I don't think Disney communicates the details of this show clearly because they want people to think this is only part of the Christmas party but the party doesn't begin until 7 p.m. and the first showing occurs daily before that time.

Tip: The best place to watch the stage show is close to the stage. If you want to be able to view the whole castle better, it's best to stand back a little bit further. Show up about 30 minutes beforehand to make sure you get a good spot to watch.

castledreamlightsshow

Magic Kingdom: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

The biggest event held during the holidays is the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) which takes place on select evenings at Magic Kingdom. It features exclusive holiday entertainment, snow falling on Main St., and complimentary cookies and cocoa.

Get all of the details about this party in my complete guide to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

Epcot: Candlelight Processional

In the outdoor American Gardens Theater in the American section of the World Showcase, celebrity narrators read a presentation of the Christmas story. A huge choir and 50-piece orchestra are also a part of this very moving event.

These are the narrators for the 2016 Candlelight Processional:

  • 11/25-11/27 – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • 11/28-12/1 – Neil Patrick Harris
  • 12/2-12/3 – Whoopi Goldberg
  • 12/4-12/6 - Edward James Olmos
  • 12/10-12/12 - Robby Benson
  • 12/13-12/15 – Meredith Vieira
  • 12/16-12/18 – Jim Caviezel
  • 12/19-12/21 – Joe Morton
  • 12/22-12/24 - Ming-Na Wen
  • 12/25-12/27 - Jodi Benson
  • 12/28-12/30 – Cal Ripken, Jr.

This 40 minute show takes place 3 times a day from late November to late December with show times at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m. (except for December 4 which will have shows at 6:45 & 8:15 p.m. only).

There is no cost to attend, although it is very popular so securing a seat can be a challenge.

One way to guarantee a seat is to book a Candlelight Dinner Package. This package includes:

  • Meal with appetizer, entree, dessert, non-alcoholic beverage (or, if the meal is a buffet, you get 1 buffet meal)
  • Reserved section to sit in during Candlelight Processional

People using the Disney Dining Plan can use 2 Table Service credits to pay for the package. Reservations can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

Here's a chart of what was available for 2016:

Restaurant Available to book for breakfast Available to book for lunch* Available to book for dinner** Price Range (adult/child)
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall $54.00/$32.00 for breakfast,
$69.00/$41.00 for lunch,
$69.00/$41.00 for dinner.
Biergarten Restaurant $39.00/$22.00 for lunch,
$53.00/$29.00 for dinner.
On Christmas Day, both meals
will cost the dinner prices.
Captain's Grille (located at The Yacht Club) $31.00/$17.00 for breakfast,
$47.00/$20.00 for lunch,
$64.00/$23.00 for dinner
Chefs de France $65.99/$17.99 for lunch,
$75.99/$22.99 for dinner
Coral Reef $69.00/$24.00 for lunch,
$69.00/$24.00 for dinner
Garden Grill $39.00/$23.00 for breakfast,
$57.00/$34.00 for lunch,
$57.00/$34.00 for dinner
La Hacienda de San Angel N/A $76.50/$17.50 for dinner
Nine Dragons $41.00/$14.00 for lunch,
$51.00/$18.50 for dinner
Restaurant Marrakesh $50.00/$21.00 for lunch,
$58.00/$21.00 for dinner
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room $58.00/$23.00 for lunch,
$58.00/$23.00 for dinner
San Angel Inn $57.25/$15.50 for lunch,
$71.50/$17.50 for dinner
Spice Road Table $50.00/$21.00 for lunch,
$58.00/$21.00 for dinner
Teppan Edo $62.00/$16.99 for lunch,
$74.00/$20.75 for dinner
Tokyo Dining $62.00/$16.99 for lunch,
$74.00/$20.75 for dinner
Trattoria Al Forno (located at The Boardwalk) $27.00/$14.00 for breakfast,
$58.00/$23.00 for dinner
Tutto Italia $64.00/$22.00 for lunch,
$70.00/$25.00 for dinner
Via Napoli $54.00/$20.00 for lunch,
$57.00/$24.00 for dinner
*Reservations will be between 1:45 and 2:45pm and you'll be able to attend the 5 p.m. CP
**You can attend CP at 6:45 (with dinner reservations between 3:30 and 4:30) or 8:15 p.m. (with dinner reservations between 5 and 6:00)

Take a look at a sampling of a show that was hosted by my pretend BFF, Neil Patrick Harris, who normally narrates CP for a couple of nights in late November or early December.

Epcot: Holidays Around the World Marketplaces

holidays

For most people, a trip to Epcot isn't complete without sampling food and drink from around the World Showcase. From late November through the end of December you can find special holiday "Marketplaces" serving up traditional holiday foods and drinks from several different countries and regions of the world.

Epcot: World Showcase Storytellers and other entertainment

From the end of November through the end of December, storytellers throughout the World Showcase spend about 10 minutes or so telling stories from their respective cultures.

The following storytellers and entertainment appear several times a day.

  • Mexico - Mariachis and dancers appear at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 4:00, and 5:00 daily
  • Norway - Sigrid teaches you about the Christmas Gnome, Julenissen at 2:15, 3:00, 3:40, 4:30, 5:45, 6:30, 7:05, and 7:45
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/asTeEcPjgjY
  • China - Chinese lion dancers appear daily at 11:30, 12:30, 1:30, and 2:30
  • Germany - Helga talks about the first Christmas and the tale of the nutcracker
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/x4PoPOC8MuQ
  • Italy - La Befana reflects on Christmas 2000 years ago. Presented daily at 12:35, 1:30, 3:20, 4:15, 5:50, 6:40, and 7:40.
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/SSUe5Hut-oY
  • The American Adventure- Mr. and Mrs. Claus are available and you can hear stories about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. Mr. and Mrs. Claus appear at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, and 7:30. Hanukkah story sessions are at 11:30, 12:15, 1:00, 1:45, 2:30, 3:15, 4:00, and 4:45. Kwanzaa sessions are daily at 11:15, 12:00, 12:45, 1:30, 2:15, 3:00, 3:45, and 4:30.
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/L2YZ5tYOoe8
  • Japan - the Daruma doll seller explains the Japanese New Year customs at 12:10, 12:50, 1:35, 2:20, 2:55, 3:45, 4:45, and 5:55 daily
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/XN62U_QbvbM
  • Morocco - Tour of Moroccan holiday celebrations presented at 12:30, 2:00, 2:45, 4:20, 5:30, 6:05, and 7:20 daily
  • France - Pere Noel recreates the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child at 11:20, 11:55, 12:30, 1:15, 2:05, 3:30, 4:20, and 5:05 daily
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/lGqeMUAkhHQ
  • United Kingdom - Father Christmas shares Christmas traditions at 12:30, 1:25, 2:20, 3:20, 5:40, 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 daily
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/9znjcZJTwk0
  • Canada - The Canadian Holiday Voyageur, a musical show presented at 11:20, 12:10, 1:05, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:30 daily

Epcot: special ending to Illuminations

The Illuminations nighttime show has a different segment on the end that doesn't play any other time of year. Skip to 13:09 on the video below to see it.

Epcot: Voices of Liberty Christmas Carols

The Voices of Liberty is an a cappella group that sings year round in the American Adventure pavilion in the World Showcase section of Epcot. During the holidays, they sing Christmas carols and favorite holiday songs. You can see them daily at 11:45, 12:30, 1:15, 2:00, 2:45, 3:30, and 4:15.

Epcot: Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season

From the end of November to the end of December, D'Vine Voices appear a few times every afternoon on the Fountain of Nations Stage at Epcot. Each show lasts for about 25 minutes and takes place at 1:15, 2:25, 3:25, and 4:25.

Hollywood Studios: Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!

After the departure of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights in 2015 we thought Hollywood Studios would be void of anything special for the holidays, that is until Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! was announced.

Utilizing some of the same technology that has made Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular so popular, (state-of-the-art projections, special effects, fireworks, fantastic music and, special for Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, snow), Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! tells the story of a search-and-rescue mission to get Santa returned to the North Pole in time for the big day and includes holiday moments from several Disney classics including “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Pluto’s Christmas Tree,” “Bambi,”  and Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

For guests wanting to make a special night of it, Disney offers a dessert party that is available for an additional charge ($69 adults/$39 children). The party includes reserved viewing, desserts, specialty beverages and 3D HoloSpex® glasses to use while watching the show.

Like Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, the best viewing for this show will be close to the Chinese Theater (where the Great Movie Ride is located) so if you are interested in seeing this show make sure you claim your spot early.

In 2016, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! is scheduled to be shown nightly beginning November 14th through December 31st.

jingle-bell-jingle-bam-01

Hollywood Studios: Meet Santa and Goofy Santa

If meeting Santa is on your list of holiday must-dos, you'll find a new opportunity to meet him at Hollywood Studios. In 2016, Santa will begin greeting guests at the Once Upon A Time shop located on Sunset Blvd from November 14 through December 24. Goofy Santa takes over from December 25 to December 31 to give Santa some time to recover from his big night.

goofy_santa

Hollywood Studios: Minnie's Holiday Dine

For the past several years, Minnie has hosted year-round seasonally themed meals at Hollywood & Vine including a holiday themed one. The Holiday Dine meal includes a buffet with holiday themed foods (including desserts), character greetings and photo opportunities with 5 of your favorites: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald & Daisy, all decked out in their holiday attire.

Minnie's Holiday Dine costs $46.99 per adult and $27.99 per child (plus tax and gratuity) and it is included on the Dining Plan. There is also Fantasmic! Dinner option (also available on the Dining Plan) that costs $53.99/adult and $32.99/child, plus tax and gratuity.

In 2016, you can dine holiday style with Minnie November 7, 2016 – January 6, 2017.

Disney Springs: Christmas Tree Trail

From mid-November (November 11th in 2016)  through the beginning of January, Disney Springs hosts  a seasonal walk-through trail that includes 15 trees themed after a Disney character or story. For 2016 the themes include:

  • Mickey and Minnie Mouse
  • Disney Villains
  • “Moana“
  • “Beauty and the Beast“
  • “The Little Mermaid“
  • “Cinderella“
  • “The Princess and the Frog“
  • “Alice in Wonderland“
  • “Frozen“
  • “The Jungle Book“
  • “Mulan“
  • “101 Dalmatians“
  • “Tangled“
  • “Mary Poppins“
  • The Muppets

Disney Springs: Nightly tree lighting and dance party

Every night during the holidays you can watch the lighting of the giant tree at the Once Upon a Toy fountain followed by a holiday-themed DJ dance party.

Disney Springs: Holiday-themed entertainment, window displays & Santa

From November 11th - January 8th 2016, toy soldiers and snowflake stilt-walkers, carolers and more will entertain guests as they shop Disney Springs. In addition, several windows in select stores will host elaborate holiday themed displays and you can also find special performances celebrating Kwanza (Dec. 26th & 27th) and Hanukkah (Dec. 24th - Jan. 1st).

Santa Clause (Nov. 11th - Dec 24th) and Santa Goofy (Dec. 25th - Dec. 30th) will be meeting with guests in their cottage which is located across from Ghiradelli's Ice Cream and Chocolate shop (near World of Disney). This Santa meet & greet is perfect for people that don't like standing in long lines as it lets you check in and receive a pager which allows you to shop nearby as you await your turn. Santa (and later Santa Goofy) meet from noon until 10:00 pm daily and your photos are included with Memory Maker.

Disney Springs: Nighttime Light Show

This brand new show was just announced for 2016 and although there aren't many details available yet, it looks amazing!

 

Resorts

The Disney resorts are all decorated for the holidays and many of the Deluxe resorts are worth a stop to check it out.

Some things you will find in some of the resorts:

  • Grand Floridian - a 16 foot tall gingerbread house sit in the lobby and smaller versions are available to purchase. If you visit just 1 resort, this should be the one.
  • Wilderness Lodge - a 60 feet tall tree fills the lobby (it takes 18 hours to put up!)
  • Beach Club - lots of decorations, including a large, edible carousel
  • Yacht Club - decor includes an edible train
  • Boardwalk Inn - an edible, miniature version of Atlantic City, complete with Ferris wheel, carousel, and beach sits in the lobby alongside other seasonal decorations
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge - gorgeous resort is made even more beautiful with a big tree with themed ornaments decorating it
  • The Contemporary Resort - a holiday village made of gingerbread and chocolate sits near the monorail platform

Special holiday tours

The Yuletide Fantasy Tour gives you a look at how the decor is done in some of the parks and resorts. The tour is $99/person, available late November through late December, takes place 9 a.m. daily except Sunday and begins at Epcot. You must be at least 16 to attend.

Disney's Holiday D-Lights includes a performance of the Candlelight Processional, a trip on the Jingle Cruise, an opportunity to meet some of the staff that transform the Disney World Resort and a family-style barbecue dinner. The Holiday D-Lights tour costs $259 and is offered on select nights in November and December. You must be at least 12 to attend.

You can book both of these tours by calling 407-WDW-TOUR.

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Leave a Reply

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Brandon

We are heading to WDW Jan 4th-9th for the Marathon Weekend. Will Christmas decorations and the castle lights still be up?

Lauren

Hello! I was planning my trip for next year around the last week of October and the first week of November. I was wondering if In that week in November the parks will still be decorated for Halloween or Christmas? Thanks so much!

jodi goulding

not christmas

Emily

Hello, I am a little confused and I hope someone can help. I haven’t been to WDW since I was a kid and me and my husband are planning a five day trip in December 2016. We have about four days to visit the parks and I want to plan this out well. On the days that Magic Kingdom is having Mickey’s Christmas Party, the park closes at 7pm. Does that mean most of the rides will be down and people without special tickets just leave around 7pm? And MK will be less crowded during that day? I’m an early bird so we would get there at 9am and probably leave around 4 anyway. Just want to go on a day that is slightly less crowded. Thanks

Katie Greene

Do you recommend doing the candlelight processional dinner package or just lining up? I see it is 2 dining credits and trying to decide if it is worth it.

Thank you so much! LOVE your site!

Kathy

can you tell me when the Christmas decorations come down, planning a visit in January 2017, 1st -6th

Ashley Hall

Can you tell me when Disney tears down the Halloween stuff and puts up the Christmas stuff? We are going November 2-7th and I’m curious if we will see lots of Halloween stuff still, Have Christmas stuff up or if we can bank on being there during the in between time where there aren’t any decorations 🙂

Thanks!

Nickie

Shannon – are the storyteller/entertainment hours listed the same every year, or are those last year’s times? Just wondering if I can plan around these times, or if I should wait until times have been officially posted… thanks for all you do!

Nickie

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!

Susie

Is there a link to where we can find out what Christmas events will be available Nov. 14-20, 2016?

Jenny

We will be visiting WDW Jan 8-14, will the parks still be decorated for Christmas? I keep seeing until early January…thank you!

Heather

Our company gives us 2 weeks off, of course it’s the 2 weeks around Christmas & New Years (Dec 31 is my BDay). We were wanting to spend 8 days in WDW. Best dates for that?? Or avoid that all together? 2 adults. We’ve been at peak summer, how awful does Christmas compare?

Chad

Your site is awesome and has been so helpful on past trips. When will the park hours for December 2016 be announced and best/worst parks by day? Advance dining booking opens next week for the first week of December. We have some planning to do for our next trip so would love to have that information.

Rebekah Staats

We plan to go to WDW the week of December 4-10. Do you know when the parade is going to be filming and if it will be during this time? Also Will there still be fireworks on non-party nights at the magic kingdom or for those who aren’t doing the VMMCP? We really want to enjoy some of the Disney Magic but are on a budget and can’t do the extra for the party. Thanks!!

GoofyDad

The parade usually films the first weekend in December but last year they moved the date up to early November. So who knows when it will take place this year. And yes the regular Wishes fireworks show will happen on nights when there is no Christmas party.

Kim

Hello my family and i are going to WDW for the first time frim the 22/12/2016 tothe 29/12/2016 can u give me some advice how it would be there at WDW please thank you
And i do like how great your website is

GoofyDad

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the week between Christmas and New Years is one of the most crowded weeks at wdw. That’s not to say you won’t have a good time, but you should know what to expect before you head there.

Sarah

My family was just at Disney last week (Dec 6-12,2015). We wanted to visit a couple of the resorts to see Christmas decorations. We drove so we had our car to take to the resorts. We had no problem going to see the decorations at Animal Kingdom. The guard was very nice and told us where to go and park. When we went to the Grand Floridian we were told we could only come in if we valet parked for $25 or took the monorail from ticket and transportation center. The guard said they had no self parking. Just wanted to give a heads up to others who may be hoping to see the decorations ar Grand Floridian.

We are going to Disney world January 3 2016. When do they remove the Christmas Decorations?

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