It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It truly is. And what better way to spend the holidays than having a good old family Disney Christmas trip. Magical, right?
Well, yes it is. November and December offer perfect weather (a little bit cooler than usual – you might actually need a coat!), entertainment, festive decorations, scrumptious holiday snacks, and so much more.
But there is also a lot you need to know to start planning.
In this Disney World Christmas Guide I’ll share with you all that you absolutely need to know in order to plan a successful and memorable Christmas at Disney World.
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What day does Disney decorate for Christmas?
The 2022 holiday season officially kicks off across the Walt Disney World Resort on November 11th, 2022.
By that date, all of the decor will be up in all the parks, resorts and Springs, with the exception of Epcot (where the holidays officially kick off on November 25 – more on that later).
Magic Kingdom will be the first park to complete its holiday overhaul just in time for the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on November 8th.
How long are the Disney Christmas decorations up for?
The holiday festivities and decor will typically come down sometime during the first week of January, 2023. So there are about two full months of holiday cheer to enjoy.
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Planning a Disney Christmas Trip?
So how best does one start to prepare for a Disney Christmas trip, and what can you expect once you get there? That’s a great question.
It seems in years past the planning process has gotten a bit more complicated than it used to be, and if you miss a step, it could impact your family vacation.
Here are the TOP 10 MUST DO’s & TIPS for Planning Your Disney Christmas Trip
It’s best to be aware and prepare and that’s where this guide will help. Let me jump in and break it all down.
1. Make Park Reservations Early During Christmas Time at Disney
Park reservations do book up and reach capacity, especially during peak seasons. Plan accordingly.
2. Be Mindful Of Park Hopping And Park Capacity
I highly recommend adding the park hopper option to your park ticket so it gives the ability to move around the parks during your Disney Christmas trip.
Be aware however that parks do reach capacity often during the holidays (especially during the week between Christmas Day and New Years Day), so be sure to call 407-560-5000 at any time to check capacity levels before hopping.
Ready to plan your theme park trip? Watch the best vacation planning tips on YouTube. Get started here!
3. Learn the basics of My Disney Experience and Genie
Be sure to download the app to your phone and get to know the features before your trip, you will use it more than you can imagine.
Also, take some time to learn the fundamentals of Genie and Genie+ if you plan to use either during your vacation.
You will save a lot of time and frustration if you take a bit of time to research and understand the basics before you go.
MDE is used for the Genie planning tool, Genie+, Mobile Ordering, Mobile Key for your hotel room, and so much more!
4. Book Dining Reservations As Early As Possible
You can make reservations up to 60 days out from day one of your trip.
If you are having trouble finding what you want, keep checking. Be persistent. Guests cancel reservations all the time and things open up.
5. Pack Your Patience
When going to Disney World for Christmas, prepare for enormous crowd levels. This is especially true for the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
If you go into your vacation already knowing this, it’s half the battle. It will be crowded, lines will be long, tempers might flare.
Take breaks throughout the day and find a quiet place in the park to take a breather. It does help.
6. Have A Plan, But Be Flexible
Always have a plan, prioritize what is most important for you and your family. But also be flexible.
Things will change, things will happen and you need to be able to pivot if needed. Disney is magical no matter what.
Hipster Power Tip: The best way to handle a Disney Christmas trip is to roll with the punches.
7. Put The Phone Down
Enjoy what is happening around you and in front of you. Christmas at Disney World is pure magic and you don’t want to miss any of it.
You have worked hard to plan this vacation, be present and enjoy every moment of it!
Recommended: The Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Guide
8. Check Park Hours; Arrive Early and Stay Late
Park hours change all the time and are usually extended during the holidays. Know what time the park opens and closes each day so you can plan accordingly.
Be an early bird and a night owl all at the same time.
Take advantage of early morning entry (if applicable) and extended night hours. Take a break midday if needed and then head back to the park.
With park reservations, if you head back to your starting park for the day, you will be guaranteed re-entry.
9. Know The Transportation Options And Always Factor In Extra Time
There are thousands of Guests using Disney transportation at any given time, but during the holidays, that amount can rise exponentially.
If you are using the bus, monorail, skyliner or Minnie Van, the waits may be longer than usual.
Factor this in if you need to be somewhere at a specific time. If you think it will take 20 minutes, plan for 40. Always double or triple your time. Trust me on this one.
10. Have A Safety Plan For The Children
It’s easy to get separated in the crowds. Before the day starts, decide on a place to meet if this happens.
If you bypass your solo Disney trip and have children with you, introduce them to Cast Members.
This means, if they get lost or separated from you, let them know they can seek out any of the Cast Members to help them.
What are the BEST weeks to visit Disney World during Christmas?
Are you wondering when the best time to travel to Walt Disney World might be for the holidays?
In my experience the first and second week of November and the first and second week of December are usually the best times to visit the parks.
The crowds tend to be lighter during these weeks. I emphasize the word usually because these days it is a bit harder to predict.
Since the pandemic, crowd patterns have changed significantly, and now with so many pandemic restrictions lifted after the last couple of years, 2022 and 2023 seem to be the years of travel.
Where can I find the best Disney Christmas treats during the holidays?
Disney always releases the sweetest foodie guides during the holidays. And don’t forget about all the uniquely themed (and tasty) cocktails to go along with those tasty treats!
You will find the most options at Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – it seems this is where the best of the treats are highlighted.
But during regular park days, you can find lots of delicious snacks across all four parks.
Which Disney Resort has the best Christmas decorations?
Have a day off from visiting the parks? Be sure to take time to tour the magnificent Disney hotels.
Each one is meticulously decorated and themed appropriately for that particular Disney Resort hotel.
They are just as much an event as the parks themselves. And they deserve to be seen. I would personally prioritize the Disney Deluxe Resort hotels such as:
- Contemporary Resort
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Wilderness Lodge
I think they go the extra mile in decorating for the season and you will not be disappointed.
More Disney Christmas Decorations to See
Although one of my all-time favorite Moderate hotel lobby’s is in the Destino Tower.
The reflective golds and shimmering jewel tones are absolutely gorgeous – you definitely need to stop by! It is magnificent during the holidays.
Made from real ingredients, this lifesize house not only smells amazing, but is an actual shop that sells gingerbread goodies to all Guests.
It is spectacular and worth the extra trip – it’s super easy if visiting Magic Kingdom. It’s just a quick resort monorail stop away.
When do the Disney gingerbread houses go up?
The Disney Grand Floridian Resort Gingerbread House is on display November 9th through January 1. You can get the full schedule for each gingerbread display at Disney here.
A Very Disney World Christmas: What’s happening at the parks for the holiday season?
There are so many things to do at Disney for Christmas across all four parks, it will be hard to get it all in this guide.
I’ll highlight the best of the best at each park; be sure to add these to your park itinerary when you visit.
Magic Kingdom at Christmas
The Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) is the highlight of the holidays at Magic Kingdom. It’s back in all its holly jolly glory.
After a 2-year hiatus and an After Hours version offered last year, Disney fans are delighted this popular event we know and love is back!
When does Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party start?
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party kicks off on November 8th, the first of 24 party dates scheduled this year!
What’s offered at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party?
Celebrate a Disney Christmas with special entertainment like “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade”, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, snow on Main Street U.S.A, and more!
You’ll also find lots of characters out in the park wearing their holiday best, unlimited cookies and hot chocolate and elaborate decorations across the park.
It’s fun for all ages! There is no better event to get everyone in the Christmas mood.
Event dates are selling out quickly. If you want to attend, you can purchase your tickets here.
More Disney Christmas Magic
Holiday overlays are also a huge attraction (no pun intended) at Magic Kingdom during the holidays.
While Disney can’t change attractions overnight, they can decorate them to get into the holiday spirit.
One of the best attraction holiday overlays at Walt Disney World is the Jungle Cruise (known as the “Jingle Cruise”) for the holidays.
The queue, the jokes, the boats and more all have a holiday twist that you can’t miss.
It is one of the most popular attractions during the holidays – Disney fans can’t get enough of the corny, jingling jokes! Be sure to make this attraction a priority!
Hipster Power Tip: If you are visiting during the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, all of the entertainment offered during MVMCP is free to all day Guests. Plan to include some of these into your Magic Kingdom itinerary.
Christmas at EPCOT
EPCOT gets started a little later with their holiday festivities then the other three parks.
Disney needs to wait until the Food and Wine Festival ends (on November 19th) to bring in any of the holiday entertainment, food, drink, etc.
When does the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays start?
The EPCOT Festival of the Holidays kicks off on November 25th and runs through December 30th.
Why We Love the Holidays at EPCOT
This festival is one of the shortest offered throughout the year, but it is the most celebrated and joyous of all the festivals.
There is nothing more spectacular than EPCOT (and the World Showcase specifically) during the holidays.
Similar to all other festivals in EPCOT, the holiday festival offers some incredibly delicious food and drink options at the various festival food booths (called “Holiday Kitchens”) throughout the park.
There are not as many booths (or “kitchens”) as the Food and Wine offers, but there are still a lot of yummy options!
What’s offered at EPCOT Festival of the Holidays?
Don’t miss out on the Holiday Cookie Stroll – visit various locations around the World Showcase to get special cookies. Get them all and you get a free bonus one! It’s super fun and delicious, too!
The EPCOT Candlelight Processional is one of the most beloved holiday traditions found across all four parks at Walt Disney World.
Hear the story of Christmas presented by a celebrity narrator, accompanied by an orchestra and choir.
This amazing celebration of Christmas is shown nightly from November 25 to December 30.
Similar to the concerts that happen during other festivals, this is included in your Epcot ticket, but is insanely popular so if you know you want to attend consider booking a dining package for guaranteed seating at one of the shows.
Hollywood Studios at Christmas
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has quickly climbed the ranks to become one of my favorites to visit during the holiday season.
If you love retro and vintage Christmas like I do, this park is for you! Hollywood Studios is covered in vintage and festive decor. You’ll want to spend extra time at this park just to take it all in.
The most beautiful area is Echo Lake, near Gertie (the big dinosaur).
Here’s where you find the massive park Christmas tree, amazing holiday cocktails, old-school holiday music (think Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams), and an old-world vintage charm that you will absolutely fall in love with.
Why We Love Hollywood Studios at Christmastime
This whole area is pure Disney Christmas magic, full of nostalgia. Be sure to come back at night and see how spectacular the lights glisten on the lake.
After you take in the lights on the lake, be sure to wander down Sunset Boulevard to catch Sunset Seasons Greetings, a projection show on the Tower of Terror.
And now with the return of Fantasmic!, this area will be bustling at night.
I suspect it will be full of Disney Christmas cheer and festive vibes. Plus, I actually love the projection show and I highly recommend it.
It plays continuously all night from dark to closing so it’s easy to fit into your park plans.
They have four different mini-shows playing on a loop with various soundtracks and projections so make sure to stick around to see them all.
Watch how the whole street becomes a Winter Wonderland as it snows on Sunset Boulevard. The best place to watch is close to the Tower to ensure you see all the fun details in the projections.
Christmas at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom probably has the least holiday festivities of all the parks, but where they excel is the exceptional decor and overall holiday vibe.
The Merry Menagerie, adorable life-size animal puppets, have quickly become a crowd pleaser.
Scheduled to begin on November 11th, they can be found wandering all over Discovery Island, right at the entrance to the park near the Tree of Life.
These artisan-sculpted puppets of arctic animals—like penguins, reindeer, foxes, and polar bears are the most charming things. Videos or photos do not do them justice.
You just have to go and see them!
Why We Love Animal Kingdom at Christmas
Live musicians stroll around as well, making this whole area so magical.They are an absolute hit and quickly became a fan fave when they debuted just a few short years ago.
Keep in mind they do take some breaks throughout the day, so you may need to hang around the area to see them all. They also don’t stay out late so visit before 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. to see them.
More Holiday Offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Also scheduled to begin on November 11th, the Tree of Life Awakening – Holiday Edition, a special projection and musical show presented on the Tree of Life.
Like all the things at Animal Kingdom, this show is unexpectedly sweet and magical, and they have several different mini-shows that play from dark till closing so hang around a bit to see them.
You can only see these on the front of the Tree closest to the entrance.
Hipster Power Tip: Don’t forget to check out the festive decor at Disney Springs for Christmas this year! It’s a free thing to do at Disney for the holidays.
My Final Thoughts on Your Disney Christmas Trip
Christmas at Disney World is by far the most magical and joyous time to celebrate and visit.
There are truly so many things to do and see at Disney for Christmas, there is no shortage of fun to be had.
While planning a Disney Christmas trip can be intense, once you are there be sure to take it all in, enjoy the festivities, and treasure the time with family and friends.
Disney Christmas is pure magic. If you are going to visit Walt Disney World, make it during Christmas-time!
Until next time, Happy Holidays Hipster!
About the Author
Hi there! I’m Marnie from A Disney State of Mind, a creative Disney writer and blogger with 35+ years of travel and park experience.
I have a fierce and contagious passion for all things Disney.
I specialize in simplifying the complexities of planning a Disney vacation by sharing travel tips, park strategies, the latest park news, unbiased reviews, and advice to make the most of your Walt Disney World experience.
Follow all my adventures @adisneystateofmind on Instagram and Facebook.
(Original Article Date: November 14, 2014/Updated on November 20, 2022)