Any day at Walt Disney World is special, but when it’s a holi-day (sorry, couldn’t help myself), the theme parks really up the amount of proverbial pixie dust that covers the parks. From parades to themed shows, and don’t even get me started on the Christmas party, here’s 14 must do winter holiday experiences at Walt Disney World that will have you excited for the holiday season!
If it’s your first time visiting Walt Disney World or your 151st time, there’s always magic in the air. Then add a holiday into the mix and the magic is amped up times 100. And while my family loves visiting the parks any time of year, there’s always something extra special about visiting during the holidays. The temps aren’t as sweltering, the sun sets earlier allowing for more time to see those gorgeous, twinkling lights flanking the park streets, and the all over merriment is palpable. If you’re looking for “must-dos” during the winter holidays, here are 14 that aren’t to be missed.
Most of the holiday happenings in the Magic Kingdom revolve around Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), a hard ticket event. The park closes early on select nights and party ticket holders get to enjoy that warm, fuzzy feeling of Christmas while enjoying lower crowd levels, fireworks, parades, and nighttime rides on popular attractions. Don’t want to spend the extra cash on party tickets? No worries, you’ll still get to see the decorations throughout the holiday day season.
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So. Many. Tin. Soldiers.
It’s no secret that WDW parades are worth finding a premium spot for- even if that means staking a claim an hour in advance. This is especially true for Mickey’s Once upon a Christmastime Parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Grab a great spot along the parade route and watch Mickey and Minnie, as well as the rest of the gang, in their Christmas finest, costumes you’ll only see them in during the party. Along with the popular Disney characters you’ll see, you’ll also have the fun of singing along to popular Christmas carols, spying ice skaters on Main Street U.S.A., and seeing life-sized tin soldiers playing horns and marching to Disney music.
Let it Snow – in Orlando?
Generally we’re thinking more about how not to melt when we visit Walt Disney World, but chalk it up to all of that magic that fills the air during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. It actually snows on Main Street U.S.A. during the Christmas parade.
Cocoa and Cookies Enough for Santa to Be Filled to the Brim
Another party perk to make it feel like Christmas even when folks are in shorts and tee shirts: all of the cocoa and cookies (and apple slices!) that you can down during the party. Tip: head to Tomorrowland to score a shorter queue.
Meet and Greet Sandy Claws and other Yuletide Happy Disney Characters
If you’re a fan of Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas (it’s not just a Disney Halloween movie!), you’ll love the fact that he makes an appearance as “Sandy Claws” during the party. Don’t want to wait in line for the Pumpkin King? There are plenty of additional meet and greet experiences with other Disney characters.
I Wish…I Wish…for More Wishes!
If you and the fam love hanging around until the end of the night to catch the “Wishes” fireworks display, you’ll definitely want to stick around during MVMCP for “Holiday Wishes”. I feel that WDW ups the ante when it comes to fireworks shows during holidays and this one is spectacular.
Jingle (Cruise) All the Way
The only ride to theme out Christmas is the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom but they do a spectacular job at keeping riders ho-ho-hoing through the jungle. Even if you’ve ridden the slow-moving boat ride on a normal, non-Christmastime day a thousand times over, it’s worth riding when the winter holiday season hits. The cruise skippers are even punnier than usual and the script is much more refreshing. Try to score a FastPass+ selection if you can; the ride is super popular this time of year.
International Yuletide Extravaganza
The World Showcase in Epcot is always such a fun (and easy) way to educate kids about countries they may have never visited, but during the Christmas season WDW lets guests in on holiday traditions in all 11 represented countries. There are costumed performers, specialty foods, and of course, holiday music.
How about a 50-piece orchestra, multiple choirs, and celebrity readers to tell the tale of the biblical story of Christmas? American Adventure Pavilion’s America Gardens Theater in World Showcase is exactly where you need to head to listen to the gorgeous retelling. The Candlelight Processional is free with Epcot admission and shows the true meaning of the revered holiday.
Illuminate Your Holiday
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a beauty to see any time of year, but during the Christmas season Epcot has a special version of the light and fireworks display.
I’ll Tell You a Tale…
Also in World Showcase, storytellers (most of whom are portraying that country’s version of Santa Claus) give a lively description of how they celebrate the Christmas holiday in their country. The storytellers are around throughout the day, so check the Times Guide for wheres and whens.
Don’t Discount Disney Springs for Holiday Fun
Disney Springs (some folks are calling it the fifth gate and I’m completely warming up to the name!) is going all out for the holidays with Santa meet and Greets, live carolers, a Hanukkah Celebration at Waterview Park, and live entertainment. The best part about visiting Disney Springs for winter holiday experiences? It’s totally free – no theme park admission required.
Deck the (Lobby) Halls
While all of the on-property resorts decorate for the winter holidays and Christmas, a few of the Deluxe Resorts are worth hopping on a bus or monorail to check out.
Now, That’s a Tree!
If it’s a massive Christmas tree you want, it’s a massive tree you’ll get at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Each tree is themed out for its respective resort and, while you’re there, check out the subtle details on the tree and lobby.
Holy Gingerbread House, Batman!
I’m so in love with the Victorian theming at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, but it’s the 16-foot Victorian gingerbread house in the lobby that makes the place smell delicious. Bonus: from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. every day that the house is up, you can buy holiday goodies straight out of the store front. No kidding!
Ready for the winter holidays at Walt Disney World? Which experience are you looking forward to most? Please let us know in the comment section below!