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.
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).
The Magic Kingdom tree doesn’t go up until after the first weekend in December because the first weekend in December is usually when the Christmas Day parade that you watch on TV is filmed. The area where the Magic Kingdom tree stands is used by cameras during filming so it would interfere if it was up any earlier.
To watch a video of the taping in progress, you can check out the video below. It’s not nearly as fun as the parade you’d see on a normal day at Magic Kingdom since there’s a lot of starting and stopping for filming, but it’s interesting to see all of the cameras everywhere.
Magic Kingdom: Castle Dream Lights and Cinderella’s Holiday Wish
At 6:15 p.m. every evening from early November to early January, the classic characters appear along with Cinderella to get the Castle Dream Lights lit up for the night in a 7 minute show called “Cinderella’s Holiday Wish.”
I don’t think Disney communicates the details of this show clearly because they want people to think this is part of the Christmas party but it isn’t. The party doesn’t begin until 7 p.m. and this occurs daily before that time.
Check out the show for yourself in this video:
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.
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 hot cocoa.
This is a special event with its own ticket. Tickets for 2013 went on sale on May 1. Advance purchase price is $62 for people 10+ and $57 for kids 3-9.
The party events begin at 7 p.m. and end at midnight. People with event tickets can enter Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m. to enjoy the park in its “regular” state before the party officially kicks off at 7. You do not need a regular park ticket to visit Magic Kingdom on this day if you have a party ticket and arrive at 4 or later.
2013 event dates are:
- November 8, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21 and 22
- December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 20
All special holiday entertainment shown during this party will be shown daily after the last party of the year (in 2013, the last party is on December 20 so daily showing will begin on December 21). Everybody with regular theme park admission will get to enjoy these things (and the busy crowds) without a special ticket.
Here are the events that take place during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party:
Mickey’s Once upon a Christmastime Parade
This special holiday parade takes place at 8:15 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Marching toy soldiers, reindeer, gingerbread men, classic characters dressed in their holiday best and Santa Claus himself appear in this super fun parade.
Parade tip: See the second showing of the parade for less crowds (plus you can spend time doing other things during the first parade). Secure a spot on Main St. toward the front of the park. Viewing from there provides the best ambiance: the brightly-lit castle as a backdrop, the storefronts decorated for the holidays and snow falling overhead.
Holiday Wishes Fireworks
This special version of Wishes fireworks takes place at 9:30 p.m.
Tip: Viewing suggestions for this show are basically the same as the regular fireworks show.
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
Shown nightly at 7:45, 8:45, 9:55, 10:50 and 11:45 p.m. on the stage between Space Mountain and The Carousel of Progress, this funny show lasts for about 20 minutes and includes Stitch, characters from Monsters, Inc., Buzz and others.
Celebrate The Season Show
This show appears on the stage in front of the castle at 7:45, 10:05 and 11:20 p.m. Lots of classic characters appear here, dressed in their holiday duds.
Meet and greet opportunities with Disney Characters
Throughout the entire party, there are opportunities to meet with lots of different characters.
If you’re into seeing as many characters as possible, KennythePirate.com has a great overview of which ones should be your highest priority, when to meet with them, how to avoid long lines, etc.
Character Dance Parties
Throughout the whole evening, 2 dance parties take place continuously.
Woody’s Hootin’ Holiday Open House dance party takes place at Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland.
Club Tinsel dance party can be found at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland.
For people who like characters, this is a fun way to interact with them. They won’t be signing autographs but it’s a chance to enjoy them in a different way than you normally would.
Many Magic Kingdom attractions will be open
Not all of the rides and shows will be open during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but many will.
Here are the attractions that will be open during the party.
- Adventureland – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Swiss Family Treehouse
- Frontierland – Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Country Bear Jamboree
- Liberty Square – The Haunted Mansion
- Fantasyland – Peter Pan’s Flight, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mickey’s PhilharMagic and It’s A Small World
- Tomorrowland – Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Stitch’s Great Escape, Tomorrowland Indy Speedway and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Some food options will be available
Some snack and Quick Service locations remain open for the party.
- Main Street – Casey’s Corner, Main Street Sweets
- Frontierland – Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe (open until 10), Westward Ho, Turkey Leg Cart and Frontierland Churros & Pretzels
- Liberty Square – Sleepy Hollow
- Fantasyland – Storybook Treats
- Tomorrowland – Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and The Lunching Pad
Tips for making the most of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
You have 5 hours to enjoy the special events that take place during this party so use your time wisely.
Things you should do:
- Watch the parade but wait until the second one since it’s less busy and you can do other things during the first one.
- See the fireworks.
- Attend the shows – they are exclusive to this party and can’t be seen any other time of year.
Things you should not spend time doing:
- Eating – there are lines for cookies and cocoa that really aren’t worth your time. Sitting in restaurants also makes no sense. Eat before the events begin so you can spend your time doing other things.
- Meeting Santa Claus – he meets next to City Hall during the day as well as during the party but there are really long lines during the party. Do it before the party begins.
- Doing things that are not exclusive to this party which includes meeting some characters and riding rides. These parties are usually really busy so do those things another day with less lines and focus on party events while attending the 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.
This 40 minute show takes place 3 times a day from late November to late December (in 2013, it begins on November 29 and ends December 30) with show times at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.
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
- Reserved section to sit in during Candlelight Processional
- VIP fireworks viewing
Candlelight Dinner Packages went on sale on July 9, 2013, and can be booked for lunch or dinner. People using The Disney Dining Plan can use 2 Table Service credits to pay for the package. Reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
Here’s a chart of what’s available:
|Restaurant||Available to book for lunch (reservations will be between 12:30 and 2:30) and attend 5 p.m. Candlelight Processional||Available to book for dinner and attend 6:45 (with dinner reservations between 3:30 and 4:15) or 8:15 p.m. (with dinner reservations between 4:20 and 5:45) Candlelight Processional||Price Range|
|Chefs de France||✓||✓||$30-60/adult for lunch, over $60/adult for dinner|
|Coral Reef||✓||✓||$30-60/adult for lunch, over $60/adult for dinner|
|La Hacienda de San Angel||✓||Over $60/adult|
|Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room||✓||✓||$30-60/adult|
|San Angel Inn||✓||✓||$30-60/adult|
|Teppan Edo||✓||✓||$30-60/adult for lunch, over $60/adult for dinner|
Take a look at a sampling of a show that was hosted by my pretend BFF, Neil Patrick Harris.
EPCOT: World Showcase Storytellers
From the first part 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 appear several times a day. Check your Times Guide daily to get specific times on each.
- Mexico – Los Tres Reyes
- Norway – Sigrid teaches you about the Christmas Gnome, Julenissen
- China – The Monkey King tells tales about the Chinese New Year
- Germany – Helga talks about the first Christmas and the tale of the nutcracker
- Italy – La Befana reflects on Christmas 2000 years ago
- The American Adventure- Mr. and Mrs. Claus are available and you can hear stories about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah
- Japan – the Daruma doll seller explains the Japanese New Year customs
- Morocco – Taarji shares the customs of Ramadan and Ashura
- France – Pere Noel recreates the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a child
- United Kingdom – Father Christmas shares Christmas traditions
- Canada – Lumberjack Nowell talks about his journey to find Santa at Christmas
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 13:15 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.
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.
Hollywood Studios: Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights
What began as one Little Rock, Arkansas, dad’s gift to his daughter has turned into a huge display of 5 million lights at Hollywood Studios.
After the state of Arkansas decided that Jennings Osborne’s lights were a nuisance, Disney brought the lights to Hollywood Studios and has added to them over the years.
The lights are located in the Streets of America section of Hollywood Studios and don’t cost anything extra to view. Around 6 p.m. during the holiday season, there’s a lighting ceremony where a guest will flip the switch to turn the lights on.
Every few minutes, the dancing light show begins and snow appears.
Tip: It can get really crowded in this area. Waiting to visit this section close to park closing is the best chance at avoiding crowds.
Animal Kingdom: Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade
Every day at 3:45, Animal Kingdom has a parade but it gets a makeover during the holidays (first part of November – first part of January usually).
Downtown Disney is decked out for the holidays. There’s also entertainment and a chance to meet Santa in his chalet near the World of Disney store.
Santa is available from mid-November through Christmas Eve until 10 p.m. On Christmas Day, Santa Goofy starts to appear and is available for a few days.
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
There are a couple of tours that only take place during the holidays and they allow you to see the behind-the-scenes of all of the holiday decor. You must be at least 16 to attend either of these tours.
Holiday D-Lights Tour
This tour takes you to see the 3 major holiday events – the castle lighting at Magic Kingdom, Candlelight Processional at EPCOT and Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios. Not only do you get to view each but you get to go behind-the-scenes and to eat dinner.
This tour is only available for a few weeks after Thanksgiving and just for a few days each week. The cost is $199/person and it can be booked by calling 407-WDW-TOUR.
Yuletide Fantasy Tour
This tour gives you a look at how the decor is done in some of the parks and resorts. The tour is $79/person, available late November through late December, takes place 9 a.m. daily except Sunday and begins at EPCOT. Book it by calling 407-WDW-TOUR.
Planning to visit during the holidays? Which activities are you planning to do? Talk about it in the comments.
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