The holiday season at Walt Disney World is just around the corner! If you are planning to visit during the holidays, here is your honest guide to everything you need to know. There is so much that you’ll want to see and do happening across all four parks and resorts. You won’t want to miss a thing! But we’ll also tell you the things you can probably skip, too!
While I’ll cover all of the highlights in this article, here is Disney’s official web page for all of the nitty gritty details.
Here is what you will need to know to plan your visit.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
When Does the Holiday Season Start in 2022?
The 2022 holiday season officially kicks off across Walt Disney World on November 11th, 2022. By that date, all of the decor will be up in all the parks and resorts, with the exception is Epcot (where the holidays officially kick off on November 25). By Nov. 11th everything will be all decked out, including all of the Disney Resorts and Disney Springs.
But, here’s a little known secret, the actual decorations begin to go up before November 11th. In fact, the parks start to transform into a winter wonderland the minute the Halloween decorations come down on November 1st.
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.
Holiday Events by Location:
When visiting Walt Disney World for the holidays, you will be consumed by all things festive, merry and bright. Every park, resort, and Disney Springs will be decked out in red and green and everything in between. You will find holiday treats and themed food and drinks at almost every location. As time draws closer, keep an eye on the link I shared above. Disney will provide all the foodie guides and everything you need to know about all those tasty treats.
For this article, let’s dive into what you won’t want to miss at each park.
If you are looking to be fully enveloped in the Christmas spirit and season, look no further than the Magic Kingdom. This iconic Disney park is a trend setter, always leading the way with holiday festivities and decorations, and Christmas is no exception. Plan to spend extra time on Main Street U.S.A and in the Castle hub area, where you’ll hear special holiday music, be able to grab a holiday snack and maybe even catch a snowflake or two.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
The main holiday event at Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, held on select nights starting November 8th through December 22nd. This is a special event that requires a separate party ticket if you are planning to attend. You can purchase tickets here.
The biggest draw for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is the entertainment. Entertainment that you won’t find outside of the exclusive party (with one exception). During these exclusive party dates, all of the special entertainment (parade, shows, fireworks, and holiday character meet and greets) only happen during the party. But here’s the exception, if you are planning a visit that includes dates from December 23 through January 1, any of the special entertainment that happens during Mickey’s Very Merry will happen during regular park hours for ALL guests. You will not need a special ticket on those dates to enjoy the holiday entertainment.
So, what exactly is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? This is a special ticket event that happens at night at Magic Kingdom when the park closes for day guests. Your party ticket gets you early entry into the park at 4:00 pm the day of your party. The officially party starts at 7:00 pm and runs until midnight. It features a special holiday parade, a fireworks show, a Christmas character show at the castle, “free” hot chocolate and cookies throughout the park, and unique character meet and greets. Most attractions are open, some even with special holiday overlays to celebrate the season. Here is some of what you can expect to be included with your party ticket:
- “Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration” stage show
- “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade”
- “Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks”
- Attraction holiday overlays
- Jungle Cruise
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
- Mad Tea Party
- Space Mountain
- Santa Claus Visits
- Dance Parties
- “Disney Junior Jingle Jam” dance celebration
- “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas”
- Intergalactic dance party at Cosmic Rays
- Special holiday treats
- and so much more!!
Is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Worth It?
Yes! If you’re visiting from November 8 through December 22 and you are primarily coming to enjoy the holidays at Walt Disney World, then the party will be really worth it for you to experience and include in your itinerary.
If your visit includes dates beginning on or after December 23rd, then you don’t need to purchase extra party tickets to enjoy the Christmas entertainment. Just be sure to plan a Magic Kingdom park day from anytime from December 23 through January 1 to see it.
If you just happen to be visiting during November or December because it’s convenient and the holiday festivities are NOT top of your priority list, then I don’t recommend you need to pay extra for the party. It’s really about the holiday entertainment and if that is not a focus of your trip, you’ll be able to enjoy the decor, music, and treats without the extra party cost.
While Magic Kingdom is undoubtedly iconic, Hollywood Studios has quickly climbed the ranks to become one of the favorites to visit during the holiday season. If you love retro and vintage Christmas, this park is for you! This park 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 the big dinosaur Gertie. Here’s where you find the massive park Christmas tree, amazing holiday cocktails, old-school holiday music (think Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams), and an old-world vintage charm that you will absolutely fall in love with. This whole area is pure Christmas magic, full of nostalgia. Be sure to come back at night and see how spectacular the lights glisten on the lake.
Sunset Seasons Greetings
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. While Hollywood Studios does not have holiday fireworks (or any fireworks), they do perform a projection show nightly on the Tower. Living by Disney actually loves this one (and highly recommends it) because it plays continually all night from dark to closing so it’s easy to fit into your park plans. They have four different mini-shows with various soundtracks and projections so make sure to stick around a see a few. 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.
EPCOT gets started a little later with their holiday festivities then the other three parks. Because the Food and Wine Festival runs until November 19th, Disney needs to wait until that ends to bring in any of the holiday entertainment, food, drink, etc. But once the Food and Wine ends, the magic of the holidays can be felt all across the park.
The Festival of the Holidays
The Festival of the Holidays kicks off on November 25th and runs through December 30th. 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.
Unfortunately, if you are visiting Walt Disney World prior to November 25th, you probably won’t see any holiday decor or food offerings in EPCOT. The massive park tree and holiday food booths don’t appear until after the Food and Wine Festival Ends and all of those booths and signage, etc comes down. You might get lucky and see the tree a day or two before the start of the festival, but it’s unlikely.
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!
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 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 massed 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 pretty popular so if you know you want to attend consider booking a dining package for guaranteed seating at one of the shows.
Spaceship Earth Light Show
Since they started the gorgeous lights all over the Spaceship Earth as part of the 50th anniversary, they’ve been doing special seasonal shows for each Epcot festival. So it’s assumed they will have a new one for the holidays that will likely begin on November 25th.
These play repeatedly from dark until Harmonious begins each night. They will alternate with the 50th anniversary light show (which is also stunning) so make sure to walk up to the park entrance and hang around long enough to see them both. They are seriously gorgeous and I honestly feel like it’s worth it to make it a priority. (Note that if you wait until after Harmonious when you’re exiting the park, they will still have the lights on Spaceship Earth, but they will no longer be doing the actual show with the music and moving lights.) Be sure to see it before Harmonious begins.
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Overlay
If you haven’t yet had a chance to ride Guardians at EPCOT, you are missing out. The music alone is worth it! For the holidays, Disney is changing up the iconic Cosmic Rewind soundtrack to holiday music. It’s not clear yet whether this will begin on November 25th when The Festival of the Holidays starts, or when the holiday season for all of WDW begins on November 11th.
World Showcase Holiday Entertainment
Holiday entertainment as part of the Festival including Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, Las Posadas with Mariachi Cobra in Mexico, Chinese Lion Dancers, Olaf’s Scavenger Hunt, and the famed Holiday Storytellers Around the Countries.
These all will run from November 25 through December 30. Read all the details here.
Aside from the super adorable festive decor, Animal Kingdom only has two main holiday offerings. One of them also happens to be one of Living by Disney’s top 5 not-to-be-missed holiday things, so make sure and take at least a half-day trip to the park to see it. These are all scheduled to begin by November 11th but may start sooner.
Scheduled to begin on November 11th, these absolutely adorable puppets are wandering all over Discovery Island, right near 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. Live musicians stroll around as well, making this whole area so magical.
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 or 5:00 pm to see them.
Tree of Life Awakenings – Holiday Edition
Also scheduled to begin on November 11th, the second main thing at Animal Kingdom is the special projections and music 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 til closing so hang around a bit to see them. You can only see these on the front of the Tree closest to the entrance.
Disney Springs is super festive with decor and live music around every corner. It’s also one of the places that can feel the busiest, especially in the evenings. Unless shopping is your priority (or you have a day without a park ticket but want some Disney vibes), Living by Disney usually doesn’t put visiting here on top of the list anymore.
Christmas Tree Stroll
This used to be a Tree Trail that was really cute, but they changed it during the pandemic and now the decorated themed trees are scattered randomly all over Springs. The trees are still really cool and always decorated with neat themes, but it’s not the same having them all in one area complete with snow and music. It also takes MUCH longer to find them and see them now that they are placed all throughout Disney Springs. However, if you happen to be at Springs make sure to check out some of them as you walk along. I personally wouldn’t make a special trip just for them.
Santa and Holiday Entertainment
Besides the trees, they will do some “snow” fall each evening in certain areas plus Santa appears for meet and greets. You’ll also see some roving entertainers along with lots of live music all over making the atmosphere festive. (If not a little chaotic.)
Walt Disney World Hotels (Resorts)
Every resort is decorated in keeping with the theme of the resort and they’re so lovely you can make a whole day out of just visiting them all. But the ones on the monorail loop are the most convenient and so pretty. They are definitely worth a special trip, especially Grand Floridian.
Grand Floridian Gingerbread House
In the Grand Floridian lobby they build a giant life-size gingerbread house. It’s all real and everything is edible. It’s quite impressive! It makes the whole lobby smell amazing. They also sell gingerbread cookies and other holiday treats out of the little house. Since this is on the monorail resort loop it’s easy to pop by on your Magic Kingdom day to see it.
Fort Wilderness Campgrounds
If you have some extra time and you’re looking for something unique to do, consider visiting the Fort Wilderness campgrounds to see all the amazing holiday decor. All of the resort guests decorate their campsites with impressive and grand holiday displays. They go all out!
One of the best ways to see all of it is to rent a golf cart for the evening. (Find info on renting a golf cart here.) This will allow you the ability to get around the campsite to see everything. It’s so much fun! Living by Disney highly recommends it!! If you get hungry, add a reservation to the Trails End restaurant to your itinerary.
Just a note, the campgrounds do take some time to get to, so this is definitely a full night’s entertainment. If your time is limited I wouldn’t take away from park time for it, but it’s a great idea if you’ve never been, and want to see something new. The golf carts do book up quickly as it gets closer to Christmas, so if it’s something that interests you, I recommend you do that soon.
Those are the highlights of what you’ll want to factor into your plans starting in November. If you aren’t planning a visit this year, think about starting to plan a visit for 2023.
Most of the holiday events and entertainment are the same (or similar) from year to year, and I do think the holiday season is one everyone should visit at least once. Plus, next year we should (in theory) have the amazing Castle Dream Lights back since the 50th-anniversary celebration will be over. Those lights are reason enough to visit! How about booking a trip as a Christmas gift? A gift of Disney holidays 2023 sounds pretty awesome to me! And, if you book through a Disney travel advisor you can make monthly payments which will really help the cost seem more manageable.
If you considering, here’s a link to get a quote from Living by Disney’s favorite agency. Start planning today!