Christmas at Disney World 2016

How The Florida Resort Is Celebrating the Holidays

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Disney World.
••• It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Disney World. © Arthur Levine. Licensed

Santa meets Mickey: It's a perfect partnership based on warm nostalgia and unabashed corniness. Like some idealized Currier and Ives vision tucked away in our collective conscious, Disney World delivers a holiday wonderland of epic proportions.

Dozens of impossibly perfect Christmas trees (they used to be real, but Disney replaced them with artificial ones a few years back), miles of garland, millions of twinkling lights, and other holiday signposts appear overnight and transform every corner of the resort.

See the resort all decked out. Go to the Photo Tour of the Holidays at Disney World.

Special holiday attractions and events abound throughout the parks and across the resort, but Disney's Christmas magic may best be appreciated in the unexpected discovery of some of its less-trumpeted features. For example, a fragrant and festive gingerbread house inside the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort bombards the senses. By itself, that may not be much of a revelation, but this is no ordinary house of cookies.

At 16 feet high, and comprised of thousands of gingerbread pieces, guests can actually walk inside the life-size Victorian house. No nibbling is allowed on the walls, however (not that it never happens; Disney's gingerbread repair squad spruces up the house daily). The curiosity doubles as a mini bakery and gift shop, and patrons can purchase edible gingerbread cookies and other goodies.

There are other Christmas creations throughout the World, including life-size carousel horses made from chocolate and gingerbread in the lobby of Disney's Beach Club Resort.

Are you planning to visit Disney World at Christmas time? Learn how to navigate through the different admission options, save some money, and land the best deal for your holiday visit with my overview of Disney's Magic Your Way Ticket Program.

The Holidays at the Magic Kingdom

  • The Magic Kingdom will celebrate the holidays Nov. 7 through Dec. 31, 2016.
  • Included with admission

The park will be spiffed up for the holidays with a huge Christmas tree at Town Square on Main Street USA. Cinderella Castle will be the backdrop for Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration. The show will include music and projected images on the castle followed by "snow." Note that the nighttime show is included with general admission to the Magic Kingdom from December 23 to 31. Prior to that, it will be available as part of the separate-admission Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (see below).

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

  • 2016 dates for the nighttime party: Nov. 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18,  27,  29 and Dec. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, and 22
  • Separate admission event at the Magic Kingdom. Discounts available for advance-purchased tickets on select dates.

The park will present a special Christmas parade complete with toy soldiers, gingerbread men, and, of course, Santa. The festivities will also include Castle Dream Lights, which will give Cinderella Castle an instant winter makeover including icicles. There will be a Holiday Wishes fireworks show, special performances, and complimentary Christmas cookies and cocoa (I don't mean to get all Scrooge on you, but with an admission price starting at $86, the goodies are hardly "complimentary").

The most popular Magic Kingdom attractions will be open for the events.

Official Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party info

The Holidays at Epcot

Candlelight Processional

  • 2016 dates: Nov. 27 to Dec. 30, several performances nightly
  • Included with admission

The solemn retelling of the Christmas story includes a choir, symphony orchestra, and celebrity narrators such as Neil Patrick Harris and Whoopi Goldberg. You can guarantee seating at the popular presentation by purchasing a dining package.

Holidays Around the World and More

  • 2016 dates: Nov. 25 to Dec. 30
  • Included with admission

In the multiculti spirit of the park's World Showcase, Epcot's pavilions present holiday traditions from across the globe. The nightly Illuminations show includes a holiday overlay. See my exclusive photos of Holidays Around the World.

Also, the park will present a gospel choir performing holiday tunes, and the nightly IllumiNations show will conclude with "Let There Be Peace on Earth" as well as "snow" showers in honor of the season. New this year will be Holidays Around the World Marketplaces, five booths that will offer holiday treats for sale from the countries represented by Epcot's pavilions.

Official Epcot holiday events info

The Holidays at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!

  • 2016 dates: Nov. 14 to Dec. 31
  • Included with admission

The park ended the popular Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights to make way for new lands themed to Toy Story and Star Wars. But it is replacing the annual holiday tradition with the new Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! The nightly show, which will take place in front of the Chinese Theater, will include large-scale projected video and images onto the theater of classic Disney films and holiday content, fireworks, and other effects.

Official Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! info