Christmas season is one of the most popular times to visit Disney World. And it’s no wonder since the holiday activities and events add so many special things to see and do. The parks are not only at their most beautiful, but the weather is at its best here in Orlando Florida. If you plan to visit during the Holidays at Walt Disney World here’s what you’ll need to know.
Disney has just released their full schedule for November and December. Most of the holiday events begin November 9th this year. Here’s a full list of everything by location so you can plan your visit!
My favorite park has the most iconic and classic holiday happenings. First is of course, those castle lights.
If you’ve followed me on social media then you know how I feel about these lights. They are my favorite. I love when they go up and miss them as soon as they’re gone.
Trust me when I say, as pretty as they are in pictures it’s nothing compared to seeing them in real life. I love to be there when they first turn them on each evening. You can hear people gasp. It’s pure magic.
Make sure you put some time in your schedule to soak up the castle area, take some pictures and enjoy Main Street after dark.
A Frozen Holiday Wish – this is the show that happens each night to first turn the castle lights on. Elsa “freezes” the castle during a Frozen themed show on the castle stage with Anna, Olaf and Kristoff. Begins Nov. 9-Dec. 31.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party– The flagship holiday event is a specially ticket party. Held three nights a week in November and goes to four nights/week in December. It lets you enjoy the park with limited-attendance and featured several special shows: Holiday Wishes fireworks, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Frozen Holiday Wish castle-lighting ceremony, and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration stage show. There’s also cookies and hot chocolate throughout the park. The party begins at 7 p.m. on November 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26 and 28, December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 22.
NOTE: most of the special events they do at the party (parade, fireworks, snow on Main Street, Holiday castle show) can be seen during regular park hours from Dec. 23-31!
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade – this is the parade that’s featured during MVMCP above. What a lot of people don’t realize is that after the parties finish up (last one is the 22nd) the parade is performed during regular park hours without a special party ticket. So if you don’t come to a party night definitely come Dec. 23-Dec 31 to see the parade and the snow on Main Street each night as well. The difference is that during the party the parade is at night and from the 23rd on it’s during the day in place of Festival of Fantasy.
Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration – This is the Holiday castle show that can be seen during the party and during regular park hours from Dec 23-Dec. 31
There’s some new things at Studios for this year. Disney just announced “Flurry of Fun” starting Nov. 9-Dec. 31.
NEW! Sunset Seasons greetings – a projection show on the Tower of Terror! Happening on Sunset Boulevard and will transform the Tower of Terror with projections showcasing characters such as Mickey and Minnie, Toy Story, Muppets and Olaf. Runs continuously throughout the night starting November 9th.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!- Returns each night, this nighttime projection show takes the place of the Star Wars fireworks for the holidays. Read my full review here. It happens at the Chinese Theater and features projections, some fireworks, laser lights, and lots of “snow”. Younger kids will particularly enjoy this show.
( TIP: They schedule this so you will have to choose whether to watch Fantasmic or Jingle Bam, so if you want to see both you’ll need two evenings at Studios.)
Jingle Bell Jingle BAM Dessert Party- They have a dessert party option for this show, but honestly I don’t feel like it’s really worth the money since getting a decent spot to see this show isn’t really hard and just getting desserts doesn’t justify the price tag. For me personally, you’d be better off saving your dessert party money for a show like Illuminations at Epcot where you do have to spend lots of waiting time to get a good viewing spot, and you’ll really enjoy that premium viewing area that you’re buying with your ticket.
Olaf visits the Frozen Sing Along: ‘For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration’ adds Olaf to this popular sing-along celebration. Just for the holidays the show will include all-new songs from Disney’s new animated short “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” I highly recommend this show- it’s fun one.
Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood and Vine – this character meal is the only one that changes their outfits and themes seasonally. Starting Nov. 6-Jan. 7 you can catch Minnie and her friends in their cute holiday outfits. This meal got a redo a few years ago and the food is much better than it used to be. So if you haven’t tried it in a while give a try. Make reservations in advance.
Visit Santa Claus: He meets guests at Once Upon a Time shop (the one back by Muppets and Mama Melrose’s) Nov. 9-Dec. 24 Santa Goofy will step in 25-Dec. 31. (You can also meet Santa at Disney Springs)
Holidays Around the World now has a new name: Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (which fits better with all the other “Festivals”.) This starts Nov. 19-Dec. 30, and is basically a smaller Food and Wine Festival that incorporates holiday traditions, entertainment and food from the World Showcase countries.
Holiday Kitchens – The food booths have doubled this year for the holidays- this year there will be 15 of them scattered throughout the World Showcase. Also new is having special options in the Odyssey building featuring snowflake sugar cookies and top of my must-try list: a warm apple fritter with cinnamon ice cream and caramel sauce. That sounds so good! I can’t wait to try it.
NEW! Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree – This is the latest scavenger hunt style game. You pay $5.99 and get a special map. There’s one item hiding in each country around World Showcase. Whether you find them all or not, you collect a special pin at the end of your hunt. This one features Chip and Dale who are collecting ornaments for their Christmas tree.
Candlelight Processional – One of the most popular Epcot traditions has a few new celebrity narrators in 2017. Pat Sajak, Matt Bomer and CCH Pounder will join the lineup of returning favorites like Neil Patrick Harris and Whoopi Goldberg. The Candlelight Processional is a retelling of the Christmas story as told by a celebrity narrator accompanied by 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir. The show takes place at the America Gardens Theatre each evening at 5:00 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Nov. 24-Dec. 30. If you know you really want a great seat for this show then the dining package is a good option. You will pay a set price for the meal depending on which Epcot restaurant you choose, and then you’ll get a reserved seating area for the show. You can still see the show without that, just be aware you will need to line up quite early to get a seat. I’d recommend arriving about an hour early, possibly more for the Neil Patrick Harris nights.
Holiday Entertainment – Throughout the World Showcase there are shows that highlight each country’s holiday heritage and traditions. Check the times guide when you get to the park for all the show times.
Fireworks Finale – The nightly fireworks display, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, will feature a special holiday ending.
They don’t add much holiday entertainment to Animal Kingdom but they do add some animal themed decor throughout the park.
Every corner of Disney Springs is decorated for the holidays and it’s just lovely. Definitely take some time to enjoy the scenery, shop and eat at some fantastic restaurants. No word yet on whether they will be doing the drone light show again this year, but it wasn’t part of the announcement as of yet.
(An Even Bigger) Christmas Tree Trail – honestly, this felt like such a thrown together add-on last year that I wouldn’t make a special trip to see it. But if you happen to be at Springs already you can walk down to the older end (near Earl of Sandwich) and see this trail of decorated trees with different themes.
Santa’s Chalet – Santa’s meet and greet (also at Studios) near the Christmas Tree Trail.
Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt – The mischievous experiment 626 returns to Disney Springs with an expanded scavenger hunt now featuring four new stops, including a special stop at the expanded Christmas Tree Trail.
Holiday Fun at the Resorts
Every Disney resort decorates for the holidays in keeping with their individual themes. My personal favorites that are really worth a special visit:
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort has a life-sized holiday gingerbread house. It’s in the resort lobby and they sell homemade treats from the little house. Combined with the orchestra that plays holiday music and it’s a great evening.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge they have a huge Christmas tree in the lobby and you can enjoy the giant fireplace (it’s actually cool enough to want a fire) and relax with a cup of hot cider and snack on holiday treats.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort has a life-size edible gingerbread carousel and Yacht Club has a holiday village with miniature train.