Looking for a Disney World vacation that’s even more magical? Visiting Disney World during the holidays can add an extra level of cheer to your trip. With elaborate decorations, seasonal treats, and special events, the holiday season is one of the best times to visit Disney World.

However, the holidays at Disney also means heavy crowds. With so many offerings, it can also be hard to know exactly what you should prioritize during the most wonderful time of the year.

In our ultimate guide to the holidays at Disney World, Guide2WDW is here to give you the scoop on what makes this season so unique at the parks. We have expert tips on how to plan a Disney World vacation during the Christmas season, and we’ll highlight the best seasonal attractions and activities.

We’ll also let you know which holiday events are worth the extra money, and which winter offerings are free for all guests to enjoy.

Update 11-09-2023 – We’ve updated our Disney World Holiday Guide to include updated details for 2023, including Hollywood Studios’ new holiday party, Jollywood Nights.

When is the holiday season at Disney World?

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Guide - Guide2WDW Disney World Tips

As soon as the clock strikes midnight on the morning of November 1st, Disney World crews are in full force putting up holiday decorations across Disney World’s theme parks.

So as soon as Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins at Disney World.

However, all of Disney World’s holiday offerings won’t be available immediately on November 1st. Events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays don’t start until early-to-mid November. Santa starts making appearances at Disney World around November 11th. So if you plan to visit Disney World in the first week of November, you’ll see Christmas decorations pretty much everywhere, but you may miss out on some of the seasonal events.

While some of the holiday offerings end in late December, the holiday decorations will stay up until early January.

Should I visit Disney World during the holiday season?

Yes! There’s nothing quite like seeing Magic Kingdom decked out in garland, or catching the Christmas story from one of EPCOT’s holiday storytellers. While Halloween is relegated to Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs, pretty much every corner of Disney World property goes all out for the winter holidays. You’ll see elaborate decorations in all four parks, and even the resorts get in on the Yuletide action.

Here are some of the reasons Disney World just hits different during the holidays:

  • Holiday decorations in every park add an extra layer of magic and fun to a Disney vacation.
  • Certain attractions have holiday overlays.
  • All four parks, Disney Springs, and Blizzard Beach all offer limited seasonal treats and snacks.
  • Disney World’s Christmas fireworks and parade are two of their best entertainment offerings all year.
  • See characters in special costumes, such as Santa Goofy.
  • You can meet Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus in the same day.
  • The weather in Orlando is typically really nice.

However, the one big downside to this season are the crowds. We’ll cover this later, but the winter holidays are a popular time for Disney World for all the reasons I just listed. Plus, many people in America have time off of school and work during this season.

Which brings me to the next question.

Should I visit Disney World on Christmas?

December 25 is one of the most crowded days at Disney World. Lines for pretty much every attraction get extremely long, and every park will feel slammed. In fact, pretty much the entire week between Christmas and New Years will feature the heaviest crowds all year.

Personally, I have never visited Disney World on Christmas Day — even though I love visiting Disney World during the holidays. I prefer to spend Christmas at home, and try to time my visit during one of the less crowded weeks of the winter season. That way I can enjoy the holiday offerings without having to deal with the massive Christmas crowds.

Holiday Crowds at Disney World & The Best Time to Visit

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade - Disney World Christmas Guide

As I just mentioned, the holidays feature some of the busiest weeks of the year at Disney World. Pretty much every day from December 23 – January 1 will be a 10/10 for crowds, and you can expect each park to sell out of Park Pass reservations well in advance. These days will feature extremely long lines, as well as Genie+ availability for attractions quickly running out.

While this used to not be the case, the week of Thanksgiving is also an extremely busy week.

If you’re visiting in early November, keep in mind the dates for the the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, which takes place on November 2-5, 2023. runDisney events cause a spike in crowds, even on the days surrounding the weekends.

However, the holiday season does feature some lighter weeks.

Are you looking for the best time to visit Disney World during the holidays? In particular, the first two weeks of December have less crowds and shorter wait times. Early November is also a good time to visit, except for the Wine & Dine Marathon weekend mentioned above.

And while the holidays will have officially ended, the first week after the New Year holiday has ended in January can be a good time to visit. Many holiday decorations will still be up during this time, and most people will be getting back to work and school at this time.

The Holidays at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom - Christmas Decoration - Disney World Holiday Guide

Magic Kingdom is our favorite park to visit during the holidays at Disney World. Cinderella’s Castle features special lighting, the entire park is decked out in special holiday decor, and there’s a holiday party on certain nights. The one humbug is that the party costs extra.

Here’s a rundown of everything to do during the Christmas and holiday season at Magic Kingdom.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – A ticketed special event at Magic Kingdom featuring holiday entertainment, treats, and special meet and greets. The two main attractions are Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade and Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks. Guests can also enjoy unlimited cocoa and cookies and holiday overlays of attractions like Space Mountain. You can find out everything there is to do at this premium event (and whether it’s worth it) in our Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Guide.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party runs on select nights from November 9 – December 22 in 2023.

  • November: 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 22, 26, 28, 30
  • December: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22

Frozen Holiday Surprise - Disney World

Frozen Holiday Surprise (New for 2023!) – Cinderella Castle will light up in a brand new way this holiday season. In this Frozen-inspired show, Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and the Snowgies will use a bit of winter magic to illuminate Magic Kingdom’s iconic castle. (OK, it’ll mostly be Elsa doing the magic, but that’s how group projects go sometimes). This will take place on both party nights and regular nights throughout the holiday season.

Holiday Decorations – The entire park is transformed for the holiday season, but the best decorations will be found on Main Street. You’ll see a massive tree and toy soldiers at the hub, and the entire street is adorned with garland.

Jingle Cruise – If your perfect gift is a stocking full of dad jokes, head over to Adventureland to ride the Jingle Cruise. Each scene features holiday enhancements, and the skippers change their entire spiel to feature holiday puns.

Meet Santa – In 2022, Santa met guests at Magic Kingdom at the gazebo in Liberty Square, near the Christmas shop. His location hasn’t been confirmed yet for 2023, but we would expect it to be the same this year.

Holiday Magic Shots at Magic Kingdom – One of our favorite Disney World tips is to always ask for the Magic Shot from PhotoPass photographers. These are unique photo poses that are enhanced through digital magic. In 2022, Magic Kingdom featured several PhotoPass Magic Shots this holiday season. None of these have been confirmed yet for 2023. We will update this guide once the information is available, but here are the locations for 2022’s Holiday Magic Shots.

  • Winter Confetti – Look like you’re blowing snow toward the camera. Available most locations throughout the park.
  • Tinker Bell – Have a holiday Tink appear on your hand. Available at park entrance, Main Street, in the hub, and at Sir Mickey’s Royal Portrait Studio.
  • Mistletoe – Available most locations through the park.
  • Snow Globe – Look like you and your party are inside a snow globe. Available at park entrance and in the hub.
  • Mickey Mouse lights – The lights on the Christmas tree in Town Square look like Mickey Mouse in the background of your shot.
  • Holiday Super Zoom – This super zoom shot takes a wide view of Magic Kingdom’s castle and zooms in to your party. It’s a very neat effect, and it’s located near the East Lawn and Plaza Restaurant in the hub area. ****Tip:Look for a Disney PhotoPass Cast Member holding a tablet.

Christmas Parade and Fireworks (December 23-31) – I mentioned that two of the biggest draws of the $149 per person Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are the parade and fireworks. Regular guests of Magic Kingdom can see these entertainment offerings during normal park hours on the week surrounding Christmas day.

The Holidays at EPCOT

EPCOT at Christmas - Guide2WDW

With not one but two EPCOT Festivals taking place during the holiday season, EPCOT is an amazing park to visit if you want to experience a tapestry of international holiday traditions.

Here’s everything you can do at EPCOT during the Christmas and holiday season.

The end of EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival – If you’re visiting in early to mid November, you’ll catch the tail end of EPCOT’s premiere foodie event, which concludes on November 19. Between November 1 and November 18, you’ll experience a unique stretch in EPCOT where the holiday decorations are going up and the Food & Wine Festival is still in full swing. Check out our EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Guide for more info on everything you can eat and drink at this event.

EPCOT’s International Festival of the Holidays – Taking place from November 24 – December 30, 2023, tis the season for food and fun at EPCOT. The park is adorned with cheery decor, and there’s a lineup of international Holiday Kitchens offering seasonal eats and treats. Some of the offerings highlighted below are also part of this park-wide festival, which is free to all EPCOT guests. You can read about everything there is to experience (and eat) at this year’s EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays in our guide.

Japan - Epcot Holidays Around the World

Holiday Storytellers – As you explore World Showcase, keep your eyes peeled for special holiday storytellers, who share the tales and traditions of winter holidays from their home countries. See Chinese Lion Dancers celebrate the Lunar New Year, Père Noël share Christmastime cheer in France, and discover an entertaining telling of the Hanukkah story between France and Morocco — among others.

Candlelight Processional – One of our favorite Christmas traditions at Disney World is the Candlelight Processional. Featuring a celebrity narrator, choir, and orchestra, this traditional telling of the Christmas story is holiday pageantry at its highest. This year’s Celebrity Narrator lineup adds Sterling K. Brown, Brendan Fraser, and Eva Longoria. Returning narrators include Simu Liu, Neil Patrick Harris, and John Stamos. Shows take place nightly at 5:15 PM, 7 PM, and 8:30 PM at the America Gardens Theater.

For more information such as the full narrator lineup and dining packages, check out our EPCOT Candlelight Processional Guide.

Meet Santa – EPCOT also features a meet and greet with Santa himself. In 2022, he moved to a new location, which he will continue to appear at this year. You can find Santa at the Odyssey Pavilion between Test Track and Mexico from November 24 – December 24 (I’ve heard he gets quite busy that night). Here’s the information for last year’s Santa meet and greet times, which we will update for 2023 once it is confirmed: Santa Claus will have a meet and greet in 60 minute increments at the following times: 11 AM, 12:30 PM, 2 PM, 3:30 PM, 5 PM, and 6:30 PM.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Holiday Remix – EPCOT’s newest ride (and only roller coaster) will feature a jingle bell rockin’ holiday soundtrack, which is a mashup of many favorite holiday songs, and create a new song with custom lyrics. We expect this to run November 24 – December 30.

Living with the Land Merry & Bright Nights – Each holiday season, Disney augments the tableaus in the greenhouse section of Living with the Land with holiday decorations, like oversized ornaments and “snowmen.” However, you should try to go on Living with the Land after the sun sets, as this section of the ride features festive and twinkling holiday lighting. This will run from November 24 – December 30, 2023.

Spaceship Earth Holiday Light Show

Spaceship Earth Light Show – Like previous EPCOT Festivals, Spaceship Earth will feature a new light show synced to music that plays throughout each night. Last year’s mini-show evoked wintery imagery, such as snowflakes, candles, and the northern lights.

Gingerbread Houses at The American Adventure – Every year, the lobby of The American Adventure features some incredible gingerbread displays.

Holiday Magic Shots at EPCOT – EPCOT also features several magic shots from PhotoPass photographers. These haven’t been

  • Tinker Bell – Have a holiday Tink appear on your hand. Available in World Celebration, near the World Showcase entrance near the monorail beam, and in the UK Pavilion.
  • Winter Confetti – Look like you’re blowing snow toward the camera. Available most locations throughout the park.
  • Mistletoe – Available at most locations throughout the park.
  • Snowglobe – Look like you and your party are inside a snow globe. Available at the entrance to World Showcase.

The Holidays at Hollywood Studios

Disney Jollywood Nights - Disney World Holiday Party Guide

If you want an extra dose of glitz to go with your tinsel, Hollywood Studios is an excellent holiday destination. Here’s how you can get festive at Disney World’s movie theme park.

Disney Jollywood Nights (New for 2023) – Disney World now has a second holiday party, this time featuring the glamour of Tinseltown. Running from 8:30 pm – 12:30 am on select nights in November and December, this separately-ticketed premium event will feature

  • Special entertainment like a stage show hosted by Kermit and Miss Piggy
  • A jazz club inside the Brown Derby
  • Exclusive treats and holiday cocktails
  • Jingle Bell, Jingle JAM fireworks
  • Shorter lines at the rides

You can read a full rundown of the event in our Disney Jollywood Nights Guide.

The event runs on the following evenings in 2023.

  • November: 11, 18, 20, 27, 29 
  • December: 4, 6, 16, 18, 20

Hollywood Studios Holiday Decorations – The entire park is adorned with special holiday decor, especially Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Keep an eye out for the Santa hat on top of dinosaur Gertie’s head in Echo Lake.

Hollywood Studios - Echo Lake Christmas Decorations

Life Day at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – While you won’t see traditional Christmas decorations on Batuu, you will see their denizens celebrating Life Day, which is the in-galaxy version of a winter holiday for Star Wars. Life Day is mainly commemorated through special merchandise and limited-time food offerings.

Santa Claus Motorcade – Look out for Jolly St. Nick cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in a bright red convertible.

Toy Story Land Holiday Decorations

Toy Story Land Enhancements – Toy Story Land gets in on the holiday fun with decorations like oversized ornaments and a giant Ham holiday cookie. Two of the land’s rides also feature holiday enhancements. Slinky Dog Dash adds jingle bell sounds as each ride vehicle passes by, and Alien Swirling Saucers features holiday songs and lighting.

Sunset Seasons Greetings – See Sunset Boulevard transform at night with vibrant lights and snow. The Tower of Terror features digitally-mapped projections that turn it into the “Hollywood Toy Hotel,” with scenes depicting Disney and Pixar characters playing on the building throughout the evenings.

Frozen Sing-Along Holiday Additions – During the holiday season, the Frozen Sing-Along features a new ending with Olaf.

Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine – Located in Echo Lake, Hollywood & Vine is a unique character dining location because it features seasonally themed meals. This is your chance to dine with Minnie, Mickey, “Reindeer” Pluto, and Santa Goofy — all naturally wearing festive holiday garb.

The Holidays at Animal Kingdom

Mickey and Minnie Festive Flotilla - Animal Kingdom Holidays

Compared to the other three parks, Animal Kingdom’s holiday offerings are a big more sparse. However, there is still plenty of winter wonder to be found in this Disney World park.

Festive Flotillas featuring Santa – While Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have cavalcades and motorcades, Animal Kingdom has character flotillas on the waterways around Discovery Island. Look out for characters like Mickey and Minnie on decorated floats. This is also where Santa makes his appearances throughout the Christmas season at Animal Kingdom. (This was at Animal Kingdom in 2022, and we expect it to be back for 2023).

Holiday Decorations – Animal Kingdom features some of the most unique holiday decor, ranging from subtle animal lanterns in Discovery Island to super kitschy decorations and lights in Dino-Land, USA.

A life-sized polar bear puppet at Animal Kingdom

Merry Menagerie – On Discovery Island, you can find penguins, reindeer, foxes, and a polar bear as intricately crafted puppets.

Tree of Life Awakenings – Holiday Edition – Beginning at dusk each night, The Tree of Life will come to life, glowing and sparkling with a special holiday display.

Holiday Meet and Greets in Dino-Land, USA – In previous years, this has been the spot to meet holiday versions of characters, such as Santa Goofy, Chip and Dale in Christmas sweaters, and more. We haven’t seen confirmation that this will return this year, but we will update this guide once we find out.

Diwali decorations in Asia – For India’s Festival of Lights, the Anandapur section features decorative lanterns that hang above guests. While these look beautiful during the day, you really should check them out as they gorgeously glow at night.

The Holidays at Disney Springs

Disney Springs during the Holidays

The festive fun this holiday season isn’t exclusive to Disney World’s theme parks. Free to enter, Disney Springs is a great place to visit during the holidays. Get ready to shop, dine, and jingle all the way.

We expect these holiday offerings to begin around November 11, but stay tuned once an official date is announced.

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll Scavenger Hunt – Throughout Disney Springs, you’ll be able to find 20 elaborately decorated Christmas trees. These trees will feature themes like The Lion King and Mary Poppins. But the best part is that there is a free scavenger hunt, featuring a holiday pin as a reward. Last year, you could pick up a Disney Springs Christmas Tree Stroll map at the following locations:

  • The Boathouse
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Under Armour
  • Amorette’ s Patisserie
  • Basin
  • City Works Eatery

Meet Santa – Appearing November 11 – December 24, Santa is available for meet and greets at Once Upon a Toy, near Earl of Sandwich. In 2022, the only way to meet Santa was by joining a Virtual Queue with the My Disney Experience app. We expect this to be the case again in 2023. Find out more in our Disney World Virtual Queue Guide.

Snowfall Every Night – Disney Springs features lovely holiday decorations, but it’s taken to the next level each night as “snow” falls in the Town Center.

Live Performers – Disney Springs will feature nightly musical performances on the main stage near the World of Disney store, as well as toy soldier stilt walkers.

Holiday Merchandise – You can find holiday-themed merchandise at Disney’s Days of Christmas, Marketplace Co-Op, and World of Disney.

Seasonal Treats – Don’t miss the festive treats, such as Holiday Mickey Mousse at Amorette’s Patisserie and Peppermint Chocolate Bark Soft-Serve “Nachos” at Swirls on the Water.

The Holidays at Disney World Resorts

Grand Floridian - Lobby - Christmas

Disney World’s Resorts go all out for the holidays, making lobby hopping one of our favorite free activities during the holiday season.

One of the best holiday traditions at Disney World are the giant gingerbread houses on display in the lobbies of certain resorts. The designs change each year, so we definitely recommend seeking these out even if you’ve seen them in years past.

Here’s a full list of where you can find the giant gingerbread houses at Disney World Resorts, including what the 2022 displays were.

  • Disney’s Grand Floridian – Life sized storybook gingerbread house with 25 hidden Mickeys. You can also purchase treats from this Gingerbread house.
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Mary Blair-inspired Cinderella Castle gingerbread display
  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort – A life-sized gingerbread carousel that actually spins.
  • Disney’s BoardWalk Inn – A miniature gingerbread recreation of the BoardWalk, including the BoardWalk Deli.

Where to Find Santa at Disney World

Santa - Epcot Holidays Around the World

If visiting or seeing Santa is on your holiday must-dos, here’s everywhere Santa is making an appearance at Disney World:

  • Magic Kingdom: Meet and Greet in Liberty Square, part of the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
  • EPCOT: Meet and Greet at the Odyssey Pavilion
  • Hollywood Studios: Appearing in a Merry Motorcade along Hollywood Boulevard
  • Animal Kingdom: Appearing in the Festive Flotilla on the waters surrounding Discovery Island.
  • Blizzard Beach: Meet and Greet in vacation outfit
  • Disney Springs: Meet and Greet at Once Upon a Toy

Find out more details in our Disney World Santa Guide.

Top Tips for Visiting Disney World During the Holidays

Santa Claus in the Parade - Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

  • Prepare for crowds – Like I mentioned above, Disney World can get extremely crowded during the holiday season, especially the week around Christmas. Set your expectations accordingly. Try to get to the park early and do the most popular rides first before the lines get extremely long. Then focus on less popular rides or experiences with little to no waits in the late morning and afternoons.
  • Get your reservations as early as possible. As we explain in our Disney Park Pass Reservation guide, you need to have a Park Pass reservation to enter the theme parks. Park passes will run out for the most popular days early, especially for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Make your reservations early so you can visit which
  • Consider visiting on one of the lighter weeks – Mid-November, early December, and the first week of January after the New Year break is over are all good times to visit while holiday decorations are still up.
  • Santa requires a Virtual Queue at Disney Springs – If you want to see Santa at Disney Springs, be sure to use the My Disney Experience app to join the virtual queue. You must be in Disney Springs to join, and the queue opens at 9 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, and 6 pm daily.
  • A unique Santa meet and greet – If you’re looking for a fresh photo opportunity for Santa, head to Blizzard Beach. Santa will be meeting with guests wearing his vacation outfit.
  • See Christmas Fireworks for free on party nights – Certain locations outside of Magic Kingdom will pipe in the soundtrack for the fireworks. So on nights when Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is taking place, try to get a spot on the Polynesian beach or a dinner reservation for California Grill. These are great spots to enjoy the fireworks without having to purchase a party ticket.

How To Simply Have a Wonderful Christmastime at Disney World

EPCOT Festival of the Holidays - 2022 Guide

Planning a trip to Disney World during the holiday season? This guide is just the beginning. Get in touch with our friends at Vacationeer for free Disney World vacation planning. Their travel agents can help you plan your vacation for no extra cost. They’ll make sure you get the most out of your holiday vacation at Disney World. Plus, they are Disney experts, so they’ll have their own recommendations and advice.

Since Disney World will most likely be crowded, don’t miss our Disney World guides, which help you learn the basics of planning a WDW vacation. Our Guide 2 Disney Genie and Disney World Lightning Lane Guides will help you spend less time waiting in line for Disney World’s best rides and attractions.

Plus, check out our famous Disney World tips section, featuring hundreds of pieces of advice to help you visit Disney like an expert.

Let Us Know Your Thoughts

Let me know in the comments below: Do you have a question about visiting Disney World during the holidays in 2023?