The holidays were full of fun things to do, at school, at home, at work and around your local neighborhood. For us lucky Orlando families, we also have quick access to one of the most enviable places to celebrate Christmas in the world: Walt Disney World. It’s a lifetime dream for so many people to celebrate Christmas at Disney – and we can do it anyday, anytime.
Here’s a quick guide to the best Christmastime celebrations around Disney World. And yes, Disney is unapologetically and wholeheartedly celebrating Christmas. It’s everywhere and it’s all-encompassing. If you don’t get into the holiday spirit this time of year, you’d best wait to visit the parks until sometime in the new year. If you like Christmas, then you’ll LOVE Disney this time of year.
Here’s some ideas on where to go!
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom
The biggest Disney Christmas event is undoubtedly Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is a special event that runs 7pm to midnight a few times each week from November through December and requires a separate ticket from regular general admission for entry. Special features include the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, the Holiday Wishes fireworks, Celebrate the Season stage show, and complimentary cookies and hot chocolate throughout the park. Tickets are limited and price between $149-$199 per person.
Christmastime at The Magic Kingdom
If you can’t attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you can always just go to the (very crowded) Magic Kingdom park and check out all the great Christmas decorations and fun. Main Street is totally decked out with every type of Christmas tree trimming imaginable. Just walking up to the gate will impart an overwhelming feeling of holiday spirit.
Be sure to ride the “Jingle Cruise” which is the holiday themed version of the infamous Jungle Cruise. It’s the same ride you’ve been on before but with a whole new set of kitschy, corny jokes. There’s Christmas decor strung about the jungle scenes and there’s jingle-jungley jokes all the way around. Here’s one of our favorites:
“Here in the Amazon, things are larger than life, including these insects. Does anyone know what these are called? It starts with a B. No, not butterflies. They’re Bah Humbugs!”
To offset all of that walking around the park, you can treat yourself to all kinds of holiday-themed snack and treats, so keep your eyes out!
The best thing to see, by far, is what happens at the Magic Kingdom after dark. You want to stay past sundown to see Cinderella’s Castle transformed into a sparkling spectacle of glitter and sparkle!
Santa Claus at EPCOT
You can meet Santa Claus at a handful of locations around the Walt Disney World property, but there is something so magical about seeing him inside of the theme parks.
The Disney Santa is notoriously great because he actually takes the time to read over the letter or list and offer some witty banter, loud enough for Mom & Dad to hear, based on what he read. When my daughter said she wanted a pony this year, he told her he’d bring her a stuffed pony because they’re easier to cleanup after than a real pony. That might have gone over her 3 year old head, but Mommy was giggling at his easy solution. You can’t beat that!
EPCOT’s Candlelight Processional
My parents, in their 60s, absolutely LOVE to see the EPCOT Candlelight Processional every year. This is a musical show done at the large stage at the America Pavillion inside the World Showcase at EPCOT. It includes a live orchestra and a choir that sings classic Christmas carols in between the narrative storytelling of the classic Christian Christmas story by some rather well-known Hollywood celebrities (think Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.)
The Candlelight Processional performances happen 2 or 3 times a night and last approximately 45 minutes. If you want to get a seat you need to get there and get in line VERY early as the seating area fills up fast. If you want a guaranteed seat, book yourself a Candlelight Dinner Package. This is a prix-fixe meal that includes lunch or dinner at one of the nicer sit-down restaurants around EPCOT and includes a guaranteed seat at a select performance of the Candlelight Processional that same day. This is how my family does it and we make it into an all-out family event. My parents, my family and my brother’s family all show up for an early, long meal together, then the kids sneak over to meet Santa before we all settle in for the live music show at the end of the night. It’s a great, long full day for all, although I will warn that the younger kids find the show a bit “boring” since there’s no fireworks or famous Disney characters to enjoy. It’s just a classic Christmas candlelight show.
Holiday Dispays at the Disney World Resort Hotels
Want to get a taste of Disney holiday magic…. for free? Pop in to the resorts to check out their displays and it won’t cost you a dime!
Make a lunch reservation to be able to park at the resort you’re starting with, or park at a theme park (if you’re an annual pass holder) to avoid a parking fee!
Winter Summerland Mini Golf
Now this one is open year-round but it’s a special thing to visit during the holidays. The Winter Summerland Mini-Golf course costs $12 for kids and $14 for adults and includes 18 holes of either winter or summertime golf themed holes. At Christmastime you can expect a wait to play on the “winter” course but’s worth it. Lots of melty snowmen and Christmas light and decor abound. When it’s unseasonably warm for winter, a rousing family mini-golf game is a great pre or post dinner activity. After you finish the course, you can walk away with a mini candy cane for your efforts, whether you’re the winner or not!
Don’t forget to head to Disney Springs to complete the Christmas Tree Stroll! You will follow a map to all of the spectacularly decorated trees around Disney Springs and fill out the stickers as you go! Then go to a shop (noted on the map) when you are done for your completion badge!
First published 12/8/2015, updated 12/5/2023