Who knows better how to make families happy, especially over the holidays, than Walt Disney World. The Christmas holiday celebrations at the Disney properties (Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom) are all exceptional, bringing happiness and helping create memories for you and your family. Whether you visit the parks for the fantastic parades, outstanding food, entertaining stage shows, holiday-clad character greetings, or holiday cheer, you are sure to love the Walt Disney World Christmas holiday celebrations.
The best free holiday park offering in our book is the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, which doesn’t require a special admission ticket. Between the four festivals at Epcot, they have mastered the art of dazzling in the guests through specially-themed menus from the World Showcase kitchens, magical Christmassy decorations throughout the entire park, and heaps of awesome things to see and do! The International Festival of the Holidays runs November 29th through December 30th.
Disney characters (Chip & Dale, Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey) and even Beauty and the Beast’s Belle are dressed up for the holidays in their Christmas best.
As with the Flower and Garden and Food and Wine festivals, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays has outdoor kitchens offering unique food and drinks. Some things to look for are cheese fondue with pretzel bread, potato dumplings, Panettone, and wild rice soup. The foods share a taste in the regions they originate from.
My favorite part of the Festival of the Holidays is the Holiday Cookie Stroll. When you purchase five different cookies, trace your completed festival passport for the coveted chocolate-dipped Santa Mickey sugar cookie. The cookie stroll cookie options are gingerbread, black & white, chocolate crinkle, pinwheel, and Linzer. I like the Linzer best, with a flavorful jam center.
At the end of the evening, grab a spot around the World Showcase Lagoon to watch Epcot Forever, the new Epcot night-time laser, kite, and fireworks show.
Epcot’s Candlelight Processional
A special holiday event at Epcot is the Candlelight Processional. A celebrity (with the help of a 50-piece orchestra) tells the story of Christmas for a night you won’t soon forget. This year’s celebrity narrators are Pat Sajak, Chita Rivera, Neil Patrick Harris, and Whoopi Goldberg, to name a few.
Pro Tip: Consider attending the Frozen-Ever-After Dessert Party for a designated place to watch the night time show, plus food and drinks for a nominal fee.
You’re in for a “Flurry of Fun” at Hollywood Studios as soon as you make your way down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, all decorated to the hilt and brimming with festive cheer.
Over in Toy Story Land, Andy’s backyard gets made over to celebrate Christmas through lights and fun decorations such as oversized popcorn and cranberry garland. At Echo Lake, Dinosaur Gertie dons a Santa’s hat, and Olaf makes an appearance at a Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, which includes all-new songs from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.
Sunset Seasons Greetings is a nightly event on Sunset Boulevard (and Hollywood Tower Hotel) with twinkling lights, a projection show, and stories from several Disney characters (Toy Story, Minnie and Mickey, Swedish Chef). The colors are outrageous and will leave you in awe!
Lastly, a fourteen-minute eye-popping projector and laser show, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, play in the center of the park. Scenes from Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Beauty and the Beast, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol are featured in this wonderful experience. Santa Claus himself ends the show. Oh, and did I mention that it snows, too? Hollywood Studios’ Flurry of Fun runs from November 8th to January 5th.
The festivities at Magic Kingdom, unfortunately, come with a hefty price tag. This $109-119 ticket is the only way to access the holiday privileges that come with the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. How it works is that the ticket allows you in the park late afternoon with a special wristband. Those without the holiday ticket must leave the park by 7 PM, leaving only ticketed attendees there between 7 PM and midnight.
The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party wristband enables you to meet and photograph rarely seen characters and the main ones (Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, and Dale) all glammed up in their holiday attire, enjoy complimentary cookies and hot cocoa (multiple holiday treat locations around the park), and partake in the exclusive activities. These include a fantastic parade, fireworks show, and even a cool snowfall on Main Street. Christmas is literally in the air with every inch of Magic Kingdom.
A few of our favorite holiday treats that are complimentary are the snowman pretzel at Tortuga Tavern and snickerdoodle cookie and eggnog at Pinocchio Village Haus. Festive treats available for purchase that sound appealing are the red velvet Santa Mickey waffle sundae at Sleepy Hollow and To Be Jolly Float (peppermint iced coffee with vanilla ice cream and crushed peppermint) at Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.
Do Not Miss Character Greetings
- Jack Skellington (Sandy Claws of The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Sally
- Minnie and Mickey
- Scrooge McDuck, Donald, and Daisy
- Captain Jack Sparrow
- Tiana and Naveen
- Rapunzel and Flynn
- Tweedledee and Tweedledum
- Doc McStuffins
- Snow White and Prince
- Pooh and friends
- Peter Pan
- Seven Dwarfs
- Ariel and Prince Eric
- Aladdin, Jasmine, Abu, and Genie
- Country Bears
- Cinderella and Prince Charming
- Mary Poppins and Bert
- Aurora and Prince Phillip
- Elena of Avalor
Parade special guests to watch for are Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Vannelope.
Take advantage of the smaller crowds at the park by riding as many rides as you can manage. Having been to this festival for many years, I’ve never a very long wait for anything, even Haunted Mansion, and it’s a small world. Keep in mind; you can still use your three fast pass options for reserving ride times.
The stage at Cinderella’s Castle is used for a holiday-inspired sing-along with all of your favorite Disney characters. Be sure to have your camera ready when the castle gets frozen over in the most beautiful display I’ve ever witnessed at Magic Kingdom. The lights are nothing short of amazing! The new Minnie’s Wonderful Christmas Fireworks Show follows.
Magic Kingdom Pro Tips
- If you play Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom, drop by the Magic Kingdom Firehouse and pick up your party-exclusive card.
- Plan accordingly; there are special food kiosks for this event, but most Magic Kingdom restaurants close by 8 or 9 PM.
- Bring a small flashlight. The park is exceptionally dark after-hours.
- Grab a spot in Frontierland for the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. This is where it starts and is typically less crowded.
- The Very Merry Christmas Party admission time is typically 4 PM.
- Buy exclusive holiday party merchandise such as trading pins, t-shirts, ornament, and Magicband.
The Disney World Christmas holiday celebrations mustn’t skip Animal Kingdom. This park has a few festive things for the holidays, such as life-size winter-animal puppets at Discovery Island and luminaries on building rooftops. The Tree of Life comes alive through lights and holiday-inspired music for all to enjoy.
At Dinoland, U.S.A., watch for Donald Duck and pals donned in Christmas attire to make your selfies and character photos decked with holiday cheer. In Pandora: The World of Avatar, Pongu Pongu features unique décor made from materials indigenous to Pandora. Other holiday-inspired photo-ops include Minnie and Mickey at Adventures Outpost and Dug and Russell from Pixar’s Up at Discovery Island.
More of Disney’s Magic
A visit to Walt Disney World during the holidays enhances your vacation with magical moments that you don’t have to stress over. Enjoy these and the gorgeous Disney World Resort hotel lobbies, too, as you ring in your holidays this season. From our home to yours, we are wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.
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