The special events at Walt Disney World can make your Disney vacation even more, well, special! Disney World has a ton of seasonal events that run for a limited time. From runDisney races to EPCOT’s many food-filled festivals to holiday celebrations, knowing what events are going on at Disney is an important step in planning your vacation. You might want to schedule your trip around being able to go to the Halloween party at Magic Kingdom, or you might want to avoid visiting EPCOT on the weekends during certain festivals (it can get really crowded).

Some Disney World Events require an additional ticket, but some events are included with park admission.

Holidays at Disney World

Holidays are a natural time to visit Disney World. Most people have vacation time to use, and going to Disney World is a great way to make a holiday more memorable. For certain holidays, Disney pulls out all the stops. Here’s how Disney World celebrates the holidays with special events.

Memorial Day Weekend

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Roller Coaster

This is an extremely popular time to go to Disney World, and it’s typically the kickoff of the summer season. In the past, Disney World has put on special events like their 24-hour day during Memorial Day Weekend, although they haven’t run that in a few years.

If there’s a new ride or restaurant opening, chances are good that Disney will try to open it around Memorial Day. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opened on Memorial Day Weekend.

Fourth of July

July 4th Fireworks at Magic Kingdom

July 4th is the time for fireworks in America, so Disney World ups their fireworks game. At the Magic Kingdom, you can see the “Disney’s Celebrate America” fireworks show on July 3rd and July 4th. At EPCOT, you can see their special Independence Day fireworks on July 4th only. Also look out for other special Fourth of July entertainment offerings.

Halloween Season

Magic Kingdom - Halloween Decorations

Halloween is less of a single day and more of a season at Disney World. You can see spooky decorations pop up starting in early August. The Halloween celebration will run until October 31. Most of the Halloween decorations will be found at Magic Kingdom, but you can also see some seasonal flair at Disney Springs while you grab a PSL from Starbucks.

Many Disney World resorts will run trick or treat events on Halloween. In the past, we’ve enjoyed the dance party that they hold at the Boardwalk Resort – it’s a quick walk from EPCOT as well.

Boo To You Parade - Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney World

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party transforms Magic Kingdom with silly and spooky fun. This party at Magic Kingdom requires its own ticket, which gets you into the park starting at 4 PM. The party runs from 7 PM through midnight and features the Boo To You Parade, the Hocus Pocus Spelltacular, special fireworks, Trick or Treat trails, and rare character meet & greets. We love this party because of its spooky but fun atmosphere, as well as being able to dress in costume at Disney World.

Magic Kingdom’s Halloween party runs this year from August 11 through November 1 on the following evenings.

  • August: 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29
  • September: 1, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 28, 29
  • October: 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31
  • November: 1

Do you want to know what to do at Magic Kingdom’s Halloween Party? Check out our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Guide, complete with character locations and party tips.

Christmas and Holiday Season

As soon as the calendar turns over from October 31 to November 1, Christmas season officially starts at Disney World. You’ll see special decorations at all four theme parks from the beginning of November through the first week in January. Get ready to up your merriment with our complete Disney World Holiday Guide.

Be sure to visit the resorts. Disney World goes all out in decorating the lobbies of their hotels, including giant gingerbread houses, huge trees, and seasonal music. The Grand Floridian and Contemporary Resorts have some of our favorite Christmas decorations.

At Magic Kingdom, you can pay to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which returned in 2022.  This hard ticketed event includes Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a stage show, free snacks, and shorter wait times. Additionally, Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and Mad Tea Party all will receive party-exclusive holiday theming. Tickets range from $149-$199. This event takes place on certain nights during November and December, running from 7 pm – midnight.

Disney World now has a second holiday party: Disney Jollywood Nights, which runs on select nights in November and December at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Like MVMCP, this is a separately ticketed event that runs from 8:30 pm – 12:30 am. There is special entertainment, such as a stage show hosted by Kermit and Miss Piggy as well as a Nightmare Before Christmas Sing-along.

Tip: If you visit Magic Kingdom during the week of Christmas (December 23-31), chances are good that Disney will show Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade to regular ticketed guests. For years, Disney has taken some special entertainment offerings from the ticketed holiday party and shows them for all guests during this busy week.

At EPCOT, you can celebrate the season with the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays (more on that below).

New Year’s Eve

Fireworks over Magic Kingdom

New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest days of the year at Disney World. Expect crowds to swamp the parks, which are open extra late this day. Expect certain parks like Magic Kingdom to reach capacity. So if you want to ring in the new year at a specific theme park, be sure to get to that park early enough in the day.

Magic Kingdom: Fireworks at Midnight (also runs on Dec 30), dance parties throughout the park
EPCOT: Countdown Fireworks at Midnight, dance parties and music throughout the park
Hollywood Studios: Fireworks at midnight
Animal Kingdom: No fireworks. The animals don’t care about our calendar anyway, and the pyrotechnics would disturb them.

EPCOT Festivals

Due to their popularity, Epcot’s Festivals have grown and expanded. If you’re visiting EPCOT, chances are that there will be a festival going on. These are some of our favorite things to do when we go to Disney World. Why should you visit EPCOT during these events?

  • Unique activities like the giant paint by numbers mural at the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.
  • Special decorations like the character topiaries at the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
  • Most importantly, the food! Each festival has its own special food offerings sold at booths throughout the park. Food is the headliner at the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, but every event will have its own must-eat items.

EPCOT International Festival of the Arts

EPCOT Festival of the Arts - 2023 Guide - Spaceship Earth Light Show

Dates: January 13 – February 20, 2023
Location: EPCOT
Included with Park Admission

The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is a celebration of all things creative. Get in touch with your inner-artist (pronounced arteeeest) as you take drawing classes, watch Broadway performers sing, and dine on visually inventive food items. Favorite activities include meeting Disney artists and illustrators, the Disney on Broadway Concert Series, looking at all the incredible chalk art, and, of course, eating at the Food Studios located around EPCOT.

Check out our 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts Guide, as well as the EPCOT Food Studio Menus for 2023.

EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

Anna and Elsa Topiaries - EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival - Disney World Events - Guide2WDW

Dates: March 1 – July 5, 2023
Location: EPCOT
Included with Park Admission

“Spring has sprung” is taken to a whole new level at the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival. The entire park is in bloom, as Disney’s horticulturalists (aka people who are good with plants) transform the park into a flowery fiesta. Try to find all the character topiaries, explore the butterfly garden, and attend the Garden Rocks concerts, featuring bands like The Guess Who, Little River Band, and Kool & the Gang. The Outdoor Kitchens are not to be missed, serving items like the popular Orange Bird sipper.

Check out our complete 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival Guide, as well as the EPCOT Flower & Garden Menus for 2023.

EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival

Seared Scallop - Scotland - 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival - Disney World

Dates: July 27 – November 18, 2023
Location: EPCOT
Included with Park Admission

Arguably the biggest event at Disney World, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is a culinary celebration like no other. The entire park is packed with International Marketplaces serving up small plates from around the world. Other must-dos include the Eat to the Beat concert series and Remy’s Hide & Squeak scavenger hunt.

Check out our complete 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Guide, as well as the EPCOT Food & Wine Menus.

EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays

Epcot Festival of the Holidays

Dates: November 24 – December 30, 2022
Location: EPCOT
Included with Park Admission

Tis the season for food and fun at EPCOT! The EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays brings global winter cheer to the entire theme park. Between the Holiday Storytellers located throughout the World Showcase, the Candlelight Processional featuring celebrity narrators, or the food offerings, this event is certain to get you in the holiday spirit.

Check out our complete EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Guide, as well as our Candlelight Processional Guide and the latest EPCOT Festival of the Holidays Menus.

runDisney Races

Cinderella runDisney promo at Walt Disney World

Did you know you can run a marathon through the Magic Kingdom? If you’re not quite ready to commit to 26.2 miles, runDisney also offers 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons. Even if you’re not planning on running, it’s good to know which weekends are race weekends at Disney World. These tend to be busier times, and they will affect traffic patterns in the morning.

Tip: If you’re interested in running a race, be sure to register as early as possible. Many of the runDisney races sell out

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Dates: January 3-7, 2024
Registration Fee Required

Features the Disney World Marathon, Half Marathon, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, WDW 10K, WDW 5K, Dopey Challenge.

For more info and registration, check out check out the WDW Marathon Weekend page on runDisney.com.

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Dates: February 23-26, 2023
Registration Fee Required

Features the Disney Princess Half Marathon, Enchanted 10K, Glass Slipper Challenge, Princess 5K, Pasta in the Park Party, runDisney Kids races, and Race Retreat.

For more info and registration, check out the Princess Half Marathon Page on runDisney.com.

runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend

Dates: April 13-16, 2023
Registration Fee Required

Features the Expedition Everest 5K, Race for the Taste 10K and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Sunrise Yoga.

For more info and registration, check out the Springtime Surprise Weekend page on runDisney.com.

Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend

Dates: November 2-5, 2023
Registration Fee Required

Features the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Disney Wine & Dine 10K, Disney Wine & Dine 5K, Disney Two Course Challenge, and Post-Race Party.

For more info and registration, check out the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend page on runDisney.com.

 

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