Are you planning to visit Walt Disney World during the Holidays? Many people plan their vacations for November and December to be able to experience Christmas and New Years at Disney World. There are so many special things that happen during those two months.
But the problem is, there’s so much to do at Disney World just in general, that once you add in the additional holiday activities, there’s no way you’ll be able to do and experience everything. That makes it really hard to decide what should be on your must-do list for the holiday season!
So here’s a top 10 list for you to look over and add into your Disney vacation plans. These are all things that only happen during the Disney’s holiday season, and can’t be experienced any other time. For 2019 the season officially begins November 8th. Individual times and dates for these are all listed below. To view Disney’s official calendar and see park hours and showtimes click here.
1. Castle Lighting at Magic Kingdom
These castle lights CAN. NOT. BE. MISSED. They are the clear number one choice and if you only see one thing when you’re at Disney World during the Holidays make it the castle lights. I know you’ve probably seen lots of pictures of it. nd maybe you’ve watched the lights on YouTube, but I promise you, there is no comparison to seeing them in person. They’re stunning. The best way to see them is to catch the lighting show each evening. A Frozen Holiday Wish is typically held each night at 6:15 pm. You’ll see all your favorite Frozen friends as they ask Elsa to cover the castle in ice and snow. There is always an audible gasp when they light up. It’s pure magic.
2. Snow on Main Street
Now, Disney World is in Orlando Florida, so obviously we aren’t going to be getting any actual snow. But, the snow we do get can be enjoyed without freezing temperatures so I’d say that’s a plus. This is a smaller thing that people may overlook, so but I’m here to tell you don’t miss this. Because there is something so magical about standing in the middle of Main Street, with the castle all lit up in the distance, and the music playing and having this fluffy white snow falling all around you. Trust me- this simple moment will rank high on your “best moments of our Disney vacation”. To see the “snow” on Main Street- if you are visiting Walt Disney World from November 8th through Dec. 22nd, the only time they do the snow is during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Once the parties are done, from Dec. 23rd-Dec. 31st the snow will happen at regular intervals nightly for all guests.
3. Disney’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
Another thing that happens at Magic Kingdom, (the center for all the holiday celebrations) Disney’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is the largest cast of any parade you’ll see at Disney World. It’s huge and filled with classic holiday characters as well as all your Disney favs. It also featured scented floats that fill the air with scents like candy, gingerbread, and peppermint. The parade follows the same route as the other parades at Magic Kingdom, starting in Frontierland and ending at the front of Main Street. Less crowded viewing will almost always be towards the beginning of the route, with Main Street as the most popular. This parade is also a featured part of the Christmas party so if you are visiting Walt Disney World from November 8th through Dec. 22nd, you’ll have to catch the parade during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights. Once the parties are done, from Dec. 23rd-Dec. 31st the parade will happen each day (during the daytime) for all guests.
4. Magic Kingdom’s Holiday Fireworks Show
The show you can see will depend on when you’re visiting. There are two different shows that happen, one for Christmas and one for New Years. We have a new Christmas fireworks show debuting this year called “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks”. The show will incorporate fireworks going off all around you along with an original soundtrack and projections on the castle and Main Street area. And the New Years’ show, Fantasy in the Sky, is an amazing display with some of the biggest fireworks you’ve ever seen across the sky. It’s breathtaking. To see the Christmas fireworks show, it also only happens during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party for the first part of the season, but becomes nightly after the parties end. So, from November 8th through Dec. 22nd, catch the show only on the party nights, (see the dates here) and from Dec. 23rd-Dec. 29th you can see the show nightly at Magic Kingdom for all guests, and then on Dec. 30th and 31st, you’ll see the New Year’s fireworks show.
5. Sunset Season’s Greetings and Snow
Moving on to Hollywood Studios park, you’ll definitely want to catch Sunset Season’s Greetings. This is actually an easy show to fit in because it happens repeatedly from dark to park closing. It’s a projection show that happens on the Tower of Terror. The projections are combined with lasers and snow. I’ve already told you guys how darn magical some simple fake snow can be when it’s at Disney and this also creates an incredibly fun and festive atmosphere. The entire Sunset Boulevard area is transformed, and because it happens every few minutes and it’s such a large area, there is no waiting, no trying for a good spot, no blocked views. Just head over there and enjoy the show. There are several different segments so you can stick around and see them all. The projections are so well done and your little ones will love running around in the snow and watching them. You can see Sunset Season’s Greetings every night at Hollywood Studios from Nov. 8th to January 5th. Tip: the food stands on Sunset Boulevard usually offer fun seasonal treats and hot cocoa to enjoy while you watch the show.
6. Jingle Bell Jingle BAM
Hollywood Studios also has a holiday nighttime show on offer. Jingle Bell Jingle BAM is a projection show with a little bit of fireworks, and it’s shown on the big Chinese Theater. The show is really made for little ones which I think is needed since so many of the other options can be a little much for very young ones to appreciate. This show is super fun and festive and also has lasers and snow and a high energy soundtrack. There’s a large area with good views so you don’t have to overstress about getting a prime spot. See Jingle Bell Jingle BAM nightly at Hollywood Studios from Nov. 8th to January 5th.
7. Epcot’s Festival of Holidays Around the World
Moving on to Epcot for our next Disney World holiday must do, brings us to the Festival of the Holidays. If you’ve ever visited Epcot for any of their festivals, this is the same general idea. Special food and drink kiosks are set up around Epcot’s World Showcase so you can taste sip and eat your way around the World. Festival of the Holidays doesn’t get as much hype as the Food and Wine festival, but between us, I think the options here are actually better. Plus, you get some amazing weather to walk around and enjoy being outside. While you’re enjoying sampling all the treats, you can catch some of the special entertainment showcasing how the holidays are celebrated around the world. Don’t miss the cookie stroll, where you can stop by each spot and check off the cookie, and then collect your special bonus free cookie. There’s a super cute cookie jar souvenir too. Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays starts a little later than the other parks, from Nov. 29th to Dec. 30th.
8. Tree of Life Holiday Show
Moving on to Animal Kingdom park, there are new holiday options this year. One of my favorite things at Animal Kingdom year-round is the Tree of Life Awakenings. Projections combined with beautiful music that brings the park’s icon to life. And new this year, they’ve added new seasonal stories to the projections. They are a perfect reflection of what Animal Kingdom is all about- a unique combination of Disney magic, holiday music, and nature themes that combine in a truly beautiful way. This is another show that is easy to catch since it happens every few minutes from nightfall until a little after the park closes. Shown nightly starting Nov. 8th
9. Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Resort
Moving out of the park and into the resorts for these last ones. The Grand Floridian Resort is right next door to the Magic Kingdom and an easy stop during one of your Magic Kingdom park days. Each year they build a giant life-size gingerbread house in the lobby. The house is big enough to hold a little shop where they sell baked treats and candy. The most popular item is the gingerbread shingles, each one a replica of the roof shingles on the house and baked fresh each day. The entire lobby of the hotel smells like Gingerbread and you can often catch live holiday music in the late afternoon and evening. So worth a stop to pick up a little treat and enjoy the atmosphere. If you want to get there by monorail, whether from the parking area (Ticket center) or the park itself, just jump on the Resort Monorail line.
10. Wilderness Campground Holiday Lights Tour
The Disney World campgrounds are a unique place. Here each person rents their own campsite. But during the holidays especially close to Christmas, people decorate their campsites. And I don’t mean a little bit. They go ALL. OUT. Now before you get too excited about this idea, two things to keep in mind: one is that the campgrounds are not very convenient to reach, especially if you don’t have your own transportation. And it can take some time since it’s not located close by any of the parks, so it’s not a stop easily incorporated on your route. The second thing is the decor won’t really be up until around Thanksgiving so if you’re visiting in early November there won’t be much to see. However, having said that, if you have the time it is such a fun experience. Make sure you go in the evening, as this is similar to a holiday lights tour and needs to be after dark. You’ll be in awe of all the fun people have with their sites. You can also stop by the central campground area for a fire with smores and hot chocolate.
I hope you get a chance to try some of these fun ideas during your next Disney World holiday vacation! If you want to connect with me. I share my best Disney tips in a weekly email where I keep you updated on all the latest news. You can sign up here. And follow me on Instagram for real-time updates and tips from the parks each week.