(Article last updated: May 22, 2018)
The holidays at Disney World include 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.
In this article
- Animal Kingdom
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Disney Springs
- Special holiday tours
Decor during the holidays at Disney World
It’s a wild holiday time as decorations around the park frame new day-into-nighttime experiences, including Tree of Life transformations, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali Rivers Rapids and Expedition Everest. Guests will be greeted by a dramatic, animal-themed holiday tree, and festive garlands will have the park all a-glow with merriment.
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).
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."
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.
The only attraction at Disney World to get a holiday-themed overlay is the Jungle Cruise which transforms into the "Jingle Cruise" where you join " homesick Jungle Cruise skippers as they set out on a holly jolly journey packed with shenanigans."
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 International Festival of the Holidays
(Much of the information below is from 2017. We'll update with 2018 information as it is released.)
Formerly known as "Holidays around the World," the new Epcot International Festival of the Holidays will run from November 18 - December 30, 2018. Like other festivals at Epcot, it is included with the price of your admission. During the Epcot International Festival of the holidays you can expect to see the items listed below.
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 and for the first time, you'll be able to catch the magic over the Thanksgiving holiday. The dates for the Candlelight Processional in 2018 will be from November 22 through December 30th 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 (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.
Narrators for 2018 haven't been released yet but you can get the list of narrators and dining package booking info later this year at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/candlelight-dinner-packages/.
Reservations can be made at the link above or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
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.
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 treats in 15 themed Holiday Kitchens serving up traditional holiday foods and drinks from several different countries and regions of the world.
Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree
New for 2017, Chip and Dale's Christmas Tree Spree invites guests to search out special ornaments as they traverse the World Showcase. To participate, guests simply need to pick up a map (available from many of the shops in Epcot for $5.99) and then keep their eyes open for the ornaments. Once spotted, there are special stickers you can add to your map. After complete you can take your map to Disney Traders to exchange it for a special holiday-themed surprise!
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.
Special entertainment during the holidays at Disney World
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the nations of World Showcase, as each country’s holiday heritage comes to life amid joyful music and time-honored traditions. Guests will discover an entertaining celebration of Hanukkah in a new location along World Showcase promenade, where a fun and interactive band interweaves the music of Hanukkah with jazz, Latin, rock and even hip-hop influences. Other returning holiday favorites include JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season and Canadian Holiday Voyageurs.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!
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! returns in 2017 on select nights in November and December. The show 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 ($79 adults/$45 children). The party includes reserved viewing, desserts, specialty beverages and the chance to mingle with a VIP Disney Character.
Like Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, the best viewing for this show will be close to the Chinese Theater, so if you are interested in seeing this show make sure you claim your spot early.
Sunset Season Greetings
This new holiday experience features spectacular projections of Mickey, Minnie and other beloved Disney characters sharing their favorite Christmas stories as a snowy Sunset Boulevard twinkles with stunning holiday decorations. Holiday magic brings billboards to life and transforms the famous Hollywood Tower Hotel into scenes of the season – a giant pile of Christmas gifts, a gingerbread house and a frozen winter wonderland! A frosty summer-loving snowman might even make an appearance to share his holiday wish! This fantastic and heartwarming experience runs continuously throughout the night.
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 price starts at $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 2017, you can dine holiday style with Minnie November 6 - January 7.
Olaf joins Frozen Sing-Along
A new friend joins the cast of For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. Holiday fun continues at the Hyperion Theater as Anna, Elsa and Kristoff welcome Olaf to this popular sing-along celebration. Just for the holidays the show will include all-new songs from Disney’s new animated short "Olaf’s Frozen Adventure."
Christmas Tree Trail
From mid-November through the beginning of January, Disney Springs hosts a seasonal walk-through trail that includes lots of trees (expanded from 15 to 25 for 2017!) themed after a Disney character or story.
In 2017, Santa Claus is accepting Christmas wish lists and welcoming guests to his chalet newly located by the Christmas Tree Trail. From December 25-December 31, Santa Goofy will take over after Old Saint Nick heads back to the North Pole.
Stitch's Holiday Gift Hunt
The mischievous experiment 626 is at it again with an expanded scavenger hunt featuring four new stops, including a special stop at the more-magical-than-ever Disney Springs’ Christmas Tree Trail. A great activity for families older kids, it’s your chance to work together, decipher clues, and discover all the spots where Stitch is hiding. Complete the mission and receive a limited-edition button.
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
Yuletide Fantasy Tour
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.
Holiday D-Lights Tour
Disney's Holiday D-Lights includes a performance of the Candlelight Processional, 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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