In this post, we provide an overview of Christmas at Walt Disney World. Particularly, this post covers how Disney transforms for Christmas, including the decorations, events, and merchandise you’ll only find during the Christmas season. This post does not cover tips for planning a trip during the Christmas season.
Links throughout give more specific information about Christmas throughout the resort, so if you have questions, click through! Now…let’s see what Christmas at Walt Disney World is like!
Christmas Across Walt Disney World Resort
When does Christmas at Walt Disney World start?
There’s no hard start date for the holiday season at Walt Disney World. Here are a few guidelines though:
The first decorations usually go up at Magic Kingdom overnight between October 31 and November 1 (this year we are expecting November 1 to November 2, instead)
A few days into November, Magic Kingdom is just about fully decorated
The first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party of 2019 is November 8
Holidays at Animal Kingdom will begin November 8 in 2019
The Epcot International Festival of Holidays begins November 29
Hollywood Studios holiday celebration begins November 8
Hotels are slower to decorate, taking one to two weeks to fully decorate
During the holidays, almost the entirety of Walt Disney World is decorated for Christmas. We cover the parks, hotels, and Disney Springs in more detail below (and even more in the linked posts). But you’ll notice touches throughout your experience. Even Disney’s Magical Express gets in on the fun:
Besides things specific to the individual parks and hotels, there is a line of holiday merchandise available across the entire resort. You’ll find all manner of items—t-shirts, spirit jerseys, hoodies, mugs, dish towels, ornaments, figurines, and so on—throughout the resort. Here’s a big gallery of some of the holiday merchandise:
Christmas at the Walt Disney World Parks
We’ll start with an overview of Christmas at the parks. Links open in new tabs.
Christmas at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is home to Walt Disney World’ featured Christmas event—Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This ticketed event is held on select evenings throughout November and December. It features unique entertainment, snacks (including free cookies and beverages), and character greetings. The first party of 2019 will be on November 8.
Magic Kingdom is also decorated heavily for Christmas beginning in early November. In 2018, most decorations went up between November 1 and November 3. Through that same link, you’ll find information on Magic Kingdom’s holiday merchandise, snack, and show offerings.
Finally, Magic Kingdom offers two unique holiday experiences. First, Jungle Cruise is transformed to the holiday-themed “Jingle Cruise.” Second, the nightly show “A Frozen Holiday Wish” is added to the entertainment lineup at the park.
Christmas at Epcot
Epcot doesn’t celebrate Christmas, per se. Rather, it hosts the Epcot international Festival of the Holidays. This festival includes Christmas decorations at most pavilions, as well as special holiday food and entertainment.
The highlight of the festival is the Candlelight Processional, a celebrity-narrated Christmas show held in the American Gardens Theatre. The festival will begin on November 29 in 2019.
Christmas at Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios’s Christmas celebration is “Flurry of Fun.” We’re huge fans of this celebration. It occurs throughout November and December, and is a park-wide celebration. Flurry of Fun began on November 8 in 2018, and the main two pieces of entertainment are currently scheduled to return November 8, 2019.
During the day, there are unique food (mostly cupcakes at Hollywood Studios’ quick service restaurants) and merchandise offerings, decorations, and character greetings. At night the fun really begins, as Sunset Boulevard is taken over by Sunset Seasons Greetings.
Christmas at Animal Kingdom
For the first time ever, Animal Kingdom is getting a thorough holiday treatment in 2019! Disney has announced that beginning November 8, 2019, Animal Kingdom will see a holiday transformation that includes:
extensive decorations on Discovery Island, including life-size, artisan-sculpted animal puppets
holiday-inspired Tree of Life Awakenings
holiday version of Donald’s Dino-Bash
Diwali decorations in Anandapur
holiday-inspired performances in Harambe
Christmas in Pandora, with “kitschy holiday decor”
We’re incredibly excited for this. Animal Kingdom’s holiday touches have always been limited but incredible. Last year, some of my favorite resort-wide decorations were found in Animal Kingdom.
Moreover, this overlay sounds like it will have some sturdy nighttime components, particularly on Discovery Island and Anandapur.
One of the areas Animal Kingdom struggles, in our mind, is keeping the park alive at night outside of Pandora and the Tree of Life. This isn’t a gigantic shift, but we’ll be glad to see people exploring the park after sunset to check out these decorations.
Christmas at the Walt Disney World Hotels
All the Walt Disney World hotels get unique decorations, including trees, during the Christmas season. Several hotels also get gingerbread structures of various types. Grand Floridian has the large, walk-in gingerbread house. Beach Club has a gingerbread carrousel. BoardWalk has a gingerbread Boardwalk facade.
Several hotels also have unique holiday merchandise, though honestly we haven’t been able to pin down any consistent pattern for this. Ornaments seem widely prevalent, but we’ve also seen mugs at a few hotels.
Christmas at Disney Springs
Like the rest of Walt Disney World, Disney Springs is heavily decorated for Christmas. Most every establishment has basic decorations, and several have their own themed trees, such as this one over at The Edison.
There are a variety of holiday events that take place, and we’ve gone ahead and grabbed the schedule for you:
If you want one place to shop for all your Disney holiday merchandise, you can’t beat Disney Springs, particularly World of Disney. But the highlight of Christmas at Disney Springs is definitely the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail, which features 25 Disney-themed trees. You’ll also find the Santa greeting over by the Tree Trail. Click through this gallery for pictures of each of the 25 trees!
What’s your favorite part of Christmas at Walt Disney World?
Learn More About The Holidays at Walt Disney World
Want to learn more about Christmastime at Walt Disney World? For starters, we've got a Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World, which introduces you to everything you need to know.
Need more specifics? You'll want to read about the park that gets the most Magical decorations in our post on Christmas at Magic Kingdom. You'll also want to read about Flurry of Fun—the Christmas celebration at Hollywood Studios—and the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.
But the flaghsip event of the season is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party—and our guide has you covered with everything you need to know. Or check out the quick version in our 12 Tips for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Last but not least, let's not forget that the celebrations don't stop at the parks! You can visit our post on Christmas decorations at the Disney World hotels to see how even the hotels get into the spirit!
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.
Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
When it comes time to book we’ll help you find discount Disney World tickets. Decide whether you need a dining plan in our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans! And at 180 days out it's time to book those Disney World Advance Dining Reservations!
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.