Celebrating Christmas at Disney: What to Expect

by Kathryn Blanco / Dec 12, 2017 / 0 comments

For me, Christmas has always meant gray skies and cold air, wood smoke and pine trees, home-cooked meals with hot chocolate, and, with a bit of good luck (or bad luck, if you’re the one doing the shoveling), a bit of snow. But how does Christmas in Disney compare? In some ways, the two are not that different. As long as you know where to look, there is plenty of holiday fun to be had at the Disney World Resort.

Christmas at Disney! What to Expect

The Magic Kingdom is a great place to start. As the center of magic in the most magical place on earth, it’s decked out splendidly for the holidays. Wreaths encircling candles line Main Street, U.S.A. and garlands of pine and flowers drape buildings.

Celebrating Christmas at Disney - Wreaths encircling candles line Main Street, U.S.A.

Don’t forget the giant tree surrounded by toy soldiers taking center stage just past the Magic Kingdom entrance.

Celebrating Christmas at Disney -  giant tree surrounded by toy soldiers taking center stage just past the Magic Kingdom entrance.

One of the most beautiful sights, though, is the Cinderella’s Castle at night, the blanket of lights making it appear frosted with icicles.

Christmas at Disney - Cinderella's castle at night

Of course, there are fun events as well. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime parade, for one, features a string of colorful floats populated by classic Disney characters preparing for the holidays (note: this parade is only shown during regular park hours in the week leading up to Christmas). Another great attraction to check out this time of year is the Jingle Cruise, a festive twist on the Jungle Cruise. The boats have all been renamed, the skippers stocked with holiday-themed puns, and both the friendly and not-so friendly members of the jungle are dressed up for the occasion.

Jingle Cruise, Christmas at Disney

Another great place to spend time in is the Main Street Confectionery. The same tasty treats are sold park-wide, but the confectionery has the feeling of a sort of home-base for baked goods and candy. Here, guests can watch cotton candy being spun, crisped rice being molded, and caramel apples being transformed into Disney characters. It’s an especially nice place to be around the holidays. Those willing to pay an extra $67-74 per person can also attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party after regular park hours. Guests attending will be able to view a special Christmas parade with Santa as a special guest. There is also a Tomorrowland holiday show, a Christmas show at the castle, and special fireworks, plus free hot chocolate and cookies. Most magical of all, a flurry of snow descends upon Main Street, U.S.A.

Christmas at Disney - decorated storefront

The Hollywood Studios is another great place to seek out Christmas spirit. Due to the popularity of Frozen, the park now contains a couple of events that bring a little bit of wintry weather down to Florida. One is the For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration show. Here, the newly appointed historians of Arendelle retell the tale of Frozen, not without a few bumps along the way. Guests are able to sing-along to the tunes of Frozen and the show’s finale includes a snow shower. Another great stop is Wandering Oaken’s Frozen Snowground. Picture a sandbox, but filled with icy snow instead. It may not compare to the winter visitors from colder parts might, but where else is there an opportunity to build a snowman in Florida? Plus, no shoveling! But perhaps the best Hollywood Studios holiday event is the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, a dazzling display of twinkling colored lights in all kinds of fanciful Christmas shapes. Evolved from the Osbourne family’s home display in Arkansas, the production became too big for a single family home and moved to Disney World for all guests to see. The Streets of America light up and blink in time with Christmas tunes – truly a beautiful sight.

perhaps the best Hollywood Studios holiday event is the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Those especially eager to experience all the winter fun can purchase the Disney Hollywood Studios Frozen Holiday Premium Package and get reserved seating for the sing-along and the Osbourne light show as well as Frozen-themed treats, pin, and lithograph. However, this does cost an extra $89 per adult and $59 per child (ages 3-9) for experiences that (other than perhaps the Osbourne lights lithograph and Frozen pin) are available anyway, just not with guaranteed seating (hot tip: for fans eager to see the Sing-Along but reluctant to pay extra for reserved seating, try the next-best thing and snag a Fastpass+ reservation).

Perhaps the best park for a holiday experience is EPCOT – specifically, World Showcase. There, treats and traditions from all around the globe are represented. For those looking to experience Hanukkah or Kwanzaa festivities, the American pavilion does have a show for each, but admittedly the focus is almost entirely on Christmas, with the exceptions of China, Japan, and Morocco. Meet Santa Claus (in America), the good witch Old Befana (in Italy), Father Christmas (in the United Kingdom), Pere Noel (in France) , and Julenisse the Christmas Gnome (in Norway) to learn about gift-giving traditions in other cultures.

Christmas in Epcot

Visit Japan and China to experience New Year celebrations, or Morocco to learn about their own celebrations. The Voices of Liberty carol in the American pavilion, the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs perform in, you guessed it, Canada, and mariachi dancers perform in Mexico. Christmas entertainment abounds, not to mention all the delicious holiday dishes – such as German caramel s’mores, Norwegian rice cream, French gingerbread ice cream, and Italian panettone. But the crowning jewel of a World Showcase Christmas is the Candlelight Processional. School choirs from around the country and musical Disney employees, each holding flickering candles and dressed in shimmering robes, join in song on stage at the America Gardens Theatre in the American Pavilion. A celebrity guest reads the story of the nativity from the bible, interspersed with classic carols and accompanied by a 50- piece orchestra, concluding in the Hallellujah Chorus.

EPCOT candlelight processional, featuring school choirs

For those willing to wait on a standby line, the show can be viewed for free. However, due to its popularity, generally few seats are available except sometimes in the case of inclement weather. Otherwise, a Candlelight Processional dining package can be purchased for $35-75 per adult and $13-29 per child ages 3-9, depending on the restaurant and whether the reservation is lunch or dinner. This includes a full meal at an EPCOT restaurant and guaranteed seating for the Candlelight Processional. It does not, however, include the required park admission.

It is important, in considering opportunities for Christmas fun, to not overlook the resort hotels. Sure, the parks have plenty to do. But taking some time to go resort-hopping and see what the deluxe hotels, particularly the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT hotels, have to offer is an excellent way to take it easy for a while and soak in the happy holiday atmosphere. All are decorated with several Christmas trees and plenty of boughs of holly in the halls. The Yacht Club even has an intricate model train village set up in the lobby. While many hotels have some gingerbread, there are a few must-sees. Be sure not to miss the Beach Club, where there is a spinning gingerbread and chocolate carousel on display,

Spinning carousel at the Beach Club, Disney

or the BoardWalk, where a concession stand sells classic beachside boardwalk-style treats. The Contemporary has a new Frozen gingerbread and candy castle. But the most spectacular is the Grand Floridian. There, in the lobby, sits a life-size gingerbread house out of which Disney employees sell normal-sized gingerbread houses and other holiday treats.

life-size gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, Disney

lifesize gingerbread house, Grand Floridian, Disney at Christmas

The Grand Floridian also features a spectacular tree, looming above guests, stopping just short of brushing the soaring ceiling.

Spectacular Christmas tree at the Grand Floridian, Disney

Christmas at the Grand Floridian, Disney

All in all, while Christmas with Mickey Mouse may sound like a strange event, any family down in Disney for the holidays will find plenty to see and do. Although there’s nothing quite the same as being home for Christmas, things don’t always have to be the same to be fun. That’s the joy of new experiences. And between the crowds, the characters, and the abundance of Christmas joy, it can certainly be said that Christmas in Disney is an experience – one that can become a new tradition itself!

Celebrating Christmas at Disney



Read more: Christmas at the Disney Parks


Kathryn Blanco is the Disney Editor for Wandering Educators, and performed in the Candlelight Processional this past Christmas!


All photos courtesy and copyright Kathryn Blanco


Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2017