“Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays… ” Since we consider Disney our second home, this saying couldn’t be truer. There are so many reasons why you need to visit Walt Disney World during the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” From glowing lights and decorations to fabulous special entertainment and food, no one does Christmas like Disney. Here are 12 reasons why you need to visit Disney for the holidays:
1. Holiday Decorations
There is absolutely nothing like seeing the Christmas decorations in Disney World. You could spend an entire day just resort hopping around to see each hotel’s unique display. I always encourage people to take a rest day from the parks and set aside time to take in all there is to see and do at these amazing hotels. If seeing all of them is not possible for your family, my suggestion is to focus on the monorail hotels and the Epcot hotels. (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht & Beach Club, and the Boardwalk). If extra time permits I highly suggest making a stop at Port Orleans French Quarter and Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The deluxe resorts set up massive Christmas trees, which make for some beautiful family Christmas card photos and postcards. Some hotels have added extras, such as life-size gingerbread displays and Christmas villages. Check out the Grand Floridian’s amazing gingerbread house!
The theme parks also go all out for the holidays with larger than life Christmas tree displays, garland, wreaths, lights, and music.
2. Special Holiday Fireworks and Entertainment
At any time of the year, Disney’s fireworks are second to none, but at Christmas, they are even more jaw-dropping. At Magic Kingdom, during the Christmas party (select nights November 8-December 22), you can catch the all-new Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show that will put you in the spirit with a medley of classic holiday carols. This fall, Epcot will be debuting a new fireworks show called Epcot Forever. In past years, there was a special “Peace on Earth” finale added to Illuminations, so fingers and toes crossed there will be a special holiday addition to the new show also. Hollywood Studios has bumped up their holiday A-game the last few years too with the additions of the Sunset Seasons Greetings projection show on the Tower of Terror, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! firework and laser show, and special Christmas themed overlays in Toy Story Land.
This year Animal Kingdom is also joining in the festivities and expanding their holiday décor to every area of the park. There will be life-size winter animal puppets during the day, sparkling white luminaries at night, a special nighttime Holiday Hoopla Dance Party in Dinoland and a celebration of the India Festival of Lights – Diwali in Asia.
3. Candlelight Processional
The tradition of the Candlelight Processional dates back 64 years to Disneyland’s first Holiday Festival in 1955. What first began as a small group of 12 Dickens’ carolers, quickly expanded throughout the next few years to hundreds of performers and visiting choirs. In 1960 the event evolved again, adding Dennis Morgan as the first celebrity narrator. It was also the first year they introduced the “Living Christmas Tree,” which for 21 years was comprised of the Western High School A ‘Capella choir until 1982 when that honor was taken over by the Disney Employee Choir. When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, they added their own Candlelight Processional in Magic Kingdom due to the massive popularity in Disneyland. In 1994 the Processional was moved to Epcot and remains to this day a must-see for Disney park goers. There are three performances each evening. Each night features a special celebrity narrator who reads biblical portions of the Christmas Story in between beautiful Christmas songs performed by hundreds of chorus members, the Voices of Liberty, a full orchestra and trumpeters. It is a feast for the eyes and ears, and even if you aren’t religious, many people still say the experience is extremely moving. This event is VERY popular and the early performances can fill up fast. That likelihood only increases when a well-known celebrity is slated to narrate the show, so if you want to be sure to get a seat, consider signing up for the Candlelight Processional Dining Package offered each year.
4. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
On select nights, the Magic Kingdom closes to day-guests at 6:00pm and hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party from 7pm to 12am. You must purchase a separate event ticket to attend this event, but it is totally worth it. You will have access to special rare character meets, two party-exclusive stage shows, various dance parties, a party exclusive firework show and parade, holiday treats, special ride overlays and low wait times. All night, fake snow (or snope “soap snow” as it jokingly called) falls down on Main Street and gives you that magical holiday feeling. There is so much to do at these parties, you cannot do it all in one night. A great suggestion is to have Kenny the Pirate create a custom made plan for your evening through characterlocator.com. This will take the worry out of planning and maximize your evening. All you need to do is provide him with the attractions, characters and shows you desire to see and he takes care of putting them in order so that you are able to do as much as possible.
5. Festival of the Holidays
I know it is a sad day when the Food and Wine Festival ends, but these days there is always an equally amazing festival to fill its shoes right around the corner. This year, from November 29th through December 30th, you can experience Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays complete with special music performances, holiday storytellers from around the world, special international themed food booths and much more. It is not to be missed!
6. Special Holiday Treats
Disney has some amazing snacks to indulge in all throughout the year, but they really kick it up a notch during the holidays. In every park and resort you will find something extra to try. So many of these are not only incredibly tasty but super cute and Instagram worthy. During the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party you can also find some awesome party exclusive treats available to purchase as well.
7. A Frozen Holiday Wish
I remember the first time that I saw the Castle Dream Lights for the first time. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There really is no photo that can compare to seeing the lights in person. Each night, Elsa, Anna and Olaf visit Cinderella’s Castle and light it up with thousands of ice lights.
8. Special Ride Overlays
This year during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, four attractions will be getting a special holiday overlay. The Tomorrowland Speedway will be decked out in lights and holiday décor, Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor will be debuting an all new themed show, Space Mountain will launch you into space with dazzling lights and high-energy Christmas music, and finally the Mad Tea Party will introduce four new holiday sets with themed lights and music.
9. Christmas Tree Trail
For the last few years, Disney Springs has set up an amazing (and free) Christmas tree trail. Located by the Marketplace, this trail has over 30 miniature trees, each themed to a separate Disney movie. You can walk through the trail at your leisure and take as many photos as you want.
About halfway through, there is a little cabin set up where you can meet Santa Claus. The wait time is usually posted outside. If you want to meet Santa, you will be given a pager and will be told to return when it goes off.
While you wait, continue to admire the beautiful trees and grab a snack at the small merchandise location set up within the trail. Last year we saw they had some unique festive flavors of cotton candy.
10. Holiday Themed Dining
One of the best holiday dining experiences is Minnie’s Holiday Dine at Hollywood and Vine. Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy dress in their holiday finest to greet their adoring fans. As the seasons change, so do the menu offerings and this buffet has a wide offering of dishes that will please picky eaters and those with more adventurous taste buds. Be sure to save room for the amazing desserts! There are lots of adorable options and a variety of flavors. You are sure to find something you love.
If you visit on a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, certain restaurants will also serve a special holiday menu on those nights. For example, check out Ragland Road’s holiday menu HERE.
11. Festive Merchandise
As soon as the last Halloween Party ends, the magic elves come out and start to deck halls with boughs of holly, mickey wreaths, lights, trees and of course merchandise! Each year Disney displays a lot of specially-themed merchandise for the holidays. You will find everything from generic Christmas season items to Christmas party exclusives. There are even special items made specifically for the Festival of the Holidays.
12. Special Character Attire
During the holiday season, many of your favorite characters will break out some festive holiday attire throughout the resorts and theme parks. At Epcot during the Festival of the Holidays, you can meet Belle in her red Christmas dress. Be sure to check the Character Locator meet times and arrive early because she is extremely popular when meeting in this gown. You also may find that other princesses will add small holiday bows or details to their outfits and in the cooler temperatures may wear a smock or cape to keep warm. As previously mentioned, Minnie and her friends will be all dressed up in their holiday finest at Minnie’s Holiday Dine. During the busy week of Christmas, many characters can be found roaming the lobbies of the Disney resorts also. You never know who you will bump into.
What is your favorite thing about the holidays at Walt Disney World?