The holidays are here! Because of the decorations, special events, and ubiquitous treats, Disney World is one of the best places in the world to spend the holiday season. So, I’ve decided to make a list and check it twice of some of the jolliest things about Walt Disney World in November, December, and early January.
Whether Disney World is your family’s holiday tradition or you’re making Orlando your Christmas destination for the first time ever, here are 12 things you can do to make your holiday season just a little bit merrier.
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12) Putt Putt at Winter Summerland
One of my favorite things to do at WDW outside of the parks is putt-putt, mainly because Disney World has some fantastic mini golf courses. While Fantasia Gardens features some nice challenges, my family almost always opts for 18 holes at Winter Summerland, located near Blizzard Beach. The premise is that Santa and his elves are on vacation and wanted to enjoy some golf while in the Florida sun. Whether you pick the Winter course or the Summer course, each course features plenty of fun Christmassy theming. Winter Summerland is a blast no matter what time of year you go, but it’s especially appropriate during the holidays.
Tip: You can actually see the Hollywood Studios fireworks from this course.
While Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! doesn’t quite top my list of the best nighttime spectaculars at Disney World, it’s still a really fun, festive time. Featuring projections, lasers, and fireworks (naturally), this show turns the Chinese Theater into a dazzling display of Christmas cheer with some classic Disney characters.
10) The Jingle Cruise
For awhile, it seemed like Disneyland got all the fun with holiday attraction overlays. And, sure, they still have a pretty big leg up, but at least Magic Kingdom has the Jingle Cruise. This holiday overlay turns the Jungle Cruise from a fun river ride with animatronic animals and a bunch of really cheesy puns into a fun river ride with animatronic animals and a bunch of really cheesy puns about Christmas. If you ever wanted to see a gorilla decked in tinsel, this is your chance. The Jingle Cruise is fun and worth grabbing a FastPass for if it’s available.
9) Tour the Disney Resort Lobbies
Resort hopping is already one of my favorite free things to do at Disney World, and it’s even better during the holidays. Especially at their deluxe resorts, Disney goes all out with massive gingerbread houses and enormous trees. Also, each resort’s decorations has its own unique feel, so it’s definitely worth checking out a few different lobbies. If you can only do one, make it the Grand Floridian. They definitely have the biggest “wow-factor” in terms of decorations. Other favorites include The Contemporary, The Polynesian Village Resort, Yacht/Beach Club, and the Swan/Dolphin.
8) Get Your Picture Taken With Santa or Characters in Christmas Garb
From Santa Goofy to Mickey and Minnie in their Christmas sweaters, Christmastime at Disney World means there are a ton of fun photo ops around the parks. These pictures can make for a great family holiday card, and they are extremely fun for kids. Check the Disney World app and the park times guide for meet and greet locations. If you want to meet the Christmas MVP, Santa is at the Once Upon a Time shop on Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can also find him and Mrs. Claus at Epcot at the America pavilion.
7) Stroll the Tree Trail at Disney Springs
Head to Disney Springs, sip some hot cocoa, and stroll down the Tree Trail! This festive experience features twenty five Christmas trees, all intricately decorated to a popular Disney theme. From Frozen to Little Mermaid to Dumbo, try to find your favorite tree.
6) Enjoy Holidays Around the World at the World Showcase
Be worldly in your holiday celebrations with Epcot’s Holidays Around the World, found all throughout the World Showcase. Holidays Around the World lets you experience special displays, decorations, and delicacies from the holiday traditions of the World Showcase countries. And, yes, as with every seasonal Epcot celebration, there are food booths. However, my favorite part of this are the storytellers, who will perform their country’s story of Christmas. It’s a great way to learn about a diverse array of holiday customs, while still being entertained.
5) Stuff Your Face With Holiday Treats
Okay, good will towards mankind is all well and good, but the best part of the holidays is inarguably the food. Because this is Disney World, there are no shortage of fun, themed treats that will make you thankful you walked over 5 miles around the parks that day. There are too many treats to list out here, but definitely check out the food booths at Epcot’s World Showcase, the Nightmare Before Christmas Cake Pop at Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom, or the Egg Nog Custard at Storybook Treats. Besides, eating healthy is something for after New Years, right?
4) Sunset Seasons Greetings at Hollywood Studios
Ever since the Osborne Lights glowed away at Hollywood Studios, the holidays at that park just felt a little less festive. That changed this year with Sunset Seasons Greetings. Through projections, lighting, and snow, Sunset Boulevard is magically transformed each night into a winter wonderland. Be sure to keep your eyes on the Tower of Terror, which transforms through projections into a gingerbread house, a pile of gifts, and the Hollywood Toy Hotel. Also, head to Echo Lake, which has plussed its holiday decor.
3) Witness the Castle Lighting / Main Street at Night
While pretty much all of Disney World gets decked out for the holidays, my favorite decorations can be found on Main Street. Something about the garland and lights all adorned on Main Street at Magic Kingdom just feels like the epitome of Christmastime. Oh, and there’s also Cinderella Castle, which sparkles with thousands of lights. Each night, there’s a short Frozen show that lights up the castle, which is a goosebump-inducing moment for sure.
2) Watch the Candlelight Processional at Epcot
The Candlelight Processional is one of the more serious, elegant, and moving things that Disney does for the holidays. Each night, a celebrity narrator reads the story of Christmas, accompanied by a live orchestra and choir. It’s a stunning presentation, and it’s worth getting a dining package or showing up early to secure your seat.
1) Jingle Your Way Through The Night at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Or At Least Watch the Fireworks from a Nearby Resort)
If you really want to add some extra Merry to your “Merry Christmas,” Magic Kingdom’s holiday party is a great way to celebrate with the whole family. Featuring fun treats, live entertainment, and spectacular decorations, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a surefire way to make some holiday memories with your family. The downside is that it’s a ticketed event, meaning you need to purchase a ticket to attend the party. However, the Christmas parade and Holiday Wishes fireworks are almost worth the price of admission alone. If you can’t quite swing buying extra tickets, don’t worry. There are ways to see the Holiday Wishes fireworks from outside the parks, including at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and the Ticket and Transportation Center. No ticket required! Now, if that’s not a Christmas Miracle, I don’t know what is!
That’s it for the
12 days 12 ways to make your holidays merrier at Walt Disney World. What’s your favorite holiday tradition at the parks? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below.