The holiday season is my favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World. There’s just so much to see and do! From the spectacular decorations and displays to the heart-warming entertainment, the Florida parks definitely know how to get you in the Christmas spirit. Here’s a breakdown of this year’s festivities.
Nightly Castle Lighting: There’s nothing more magnificent that the site of Cinderella Castle lit up for the holidays. This year, Queen Elsa from the animated hit, Frozen, uses her powers to transform the castle into a sparkling ice palace. The structure is adorned in 200,000 shimmering white lights to achieve this effect which is the finale of a stage show featuring some of your favorite Disney characters. The event takes place nightly; check the park times guide or My Disney Experience app for the exact time.
Jingle Jungle Cruise: For the second year in a row, the infamous Adventureland Jungle Cruise celebrates with a themed experience that only those joke-cracking Skippers can provide. Unfortunately for them, their hearts are a bit sad and homesick this holiday season. As a result, they scraped up any decorations and gifts they could find to bring the spirit to the jungle. Even the cruise boats have been temporarily renamed; they are fun to look at. While doing so from the line queue, listen carefully and you might even hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background. During the voyage itself, the Skippers will entertain you with new jokes for the season. This attraction is open during regular operating hours and during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Decorations, Entertainment, & Friends: Be sure to spend time checking out the Christmas decorations throughout Magic Kingdom. The store windows along Main Street U.S.A. are fun to look at and can be quite elaborate. Many involve moving pieces and lighting elements. My favorites are those outside The Emporium. Green garland, plenty of red bows, and dozens of bright bulbs decorate along the street and overhead. Veteran guests will appreciate how the wreath garland is structured this year; in the past, it would connect from one side of the building to the other, but this is no longer possible due to the height of the new Festival of Fantasy Parade floats. While walking down the street, take in the live entertainment from the Dapper Dans and Trolley Parade. They honor the season with familiar tunes that will have you singing along. To round it up, Mickey and his friends can be found throughout the kingdom dressed in their holiday best.
Celebrate the Magic Holiday Edition & Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season: In addition to the beautiful decorations on Main Street, guests are treated to two holiday versions of the Magic Kingdom’s nightly entertainment options. Both Celebrate the Magic and Wishes will be enhanced with familiar sounds and tunes. Celebrate the Magic is a castle projection show and happens to be my favorite at the park. Be sure to find a spot close enough to the castle to enjoy all it has to offer including the Christmas extras. Similarly, Wishes fireworks will incorporate new elements to help you celebrate the holidays. Both shows are offered nightly; check the current listings for details as you often have the option of seeing the castle projection show twice per evening.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party: Through December 19, guests can experience a party like only Disney can throw at the Magic Kingdom. Complete with extended hours and additional entertainment offerings including the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Totally Tomorrowland show, and more, this is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays. You’ll find dance parties with favorite Disney and Pixar friends (including the addition of “Sandy Claws” for the first time this year), hot cocoa and cookies, and snow on Main Street. I can’t say enough about this party; it’s fantastic! Be sure to purchase tickets to the party as soon as possible before they sell out. If you are unable to get a ticket, note that you are treated to the special parade from December 21-30 as a regular park guest. It will take place instead of the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights: Christmas at Walt Disney World wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the Osbourne Lights. What began as a surprise for one man’s child has become a holiday tradition for thousands of guests from around the world. This massive display features millions of lights and dozens of animated and 3-D effects that “dance” to holidays tunes. You’ll find it at the Studios until January 4 on Streets of America.
Frozen Fun Continues: Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf have extended their stay at the Studios through the holiday season. Be sure to grab a FastPass for the Frozen Singalong and visit Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post for some well-deserved snow playtime and goodies. This would be a perfect option before it gets dark and visiting the Osbourne Lights.
Holidays Around the World: Storytellers from across the globe will help you learn about other cultures throughout World Showcase. It is a great way to honor traditions of one’s heritage during the holidays. This includes The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, Father Christmas from the UK, Père Noël, the Story of the Daruma Doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year, La Befana from Italy, and more. You’ll also find a gingerbread version of the U.S. Capitol in the American pavilion and specialty food offerings around the showcase itself. Visiting each country’s festivities can take the better part of an afternoon, so plan accordingly.
Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season: I have to admit that this is my favorite holiday entertainment option at Epcot. This energetic gospel group belts out familiar Christmas songs with a twist. They perform several shows each day through December 29 at the Future World Fountain Stage. Be sure to stop by as you won’t be disappointed!
Candlelight Processional: Three times per night at the American Gardens Theater, a 50-piece orchestra and amazing choir come together for a joyous retelling of the Christmas story. A celebrity narrator joins in to bring his or her own energy to the performance. Stars like Jodi Benson, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jonathon Groff are among this year’s line-up. Note that this is an extremely popular event throughout the entire month of December. Your best option to attain a seat is to purchase a dining package. Otherwise, it is very unlikely that you will be able to view it from the theater itself.
I hope that this breakdown will help you plan for your holiday visit to Walt Disney World. Remember that this is one of the resort’s busiest seasons, so make a plan and recognize that it is nearly impossible to see everything. Take time to peruse the sights and fully immerse yourself in the special events that are offered. Enjoy!