In Florida, theme parks like Disney World are magical no matter what time of year you go, but you could argue that November and December are the most magical months. With the addition of Christmas and holiday cheer, the parks really know how to supersize the magic factor.
Naturally, supersized fun also means supersized crowds and the week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the busiest of the whole year. It’s not unusual for the Magic Kingdom at Disney World to reach capacity and to restrict admission on some days during the holiday week, so if you’d rather avoid crowds, you probably should stay away from the parks during that specific week.
Keep in mind that the parks do their best to accommodate the crowds by extending their hours, increasing the capacity of attractions, and offering more events to entertain the high number of guests. Plus, they do get decked out for the holidays as early as November when attendance tends to be lower.
Let’s explore what you can expect at each one.
Before we delve into the details for each park, it’s important to note that, as with nearly everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a curveball at parks and their holiday programming. At the time this was written, most of the parks are planning to proceed with their 2020 Christmas and holiday events, but that could change. Significantly, Walt Disney World has not announced whether or not it will offer the separate-ticket Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nor any of its other holiday features. More info about this year’s events are noted for each of the resorts below.
At the time of this writing, Disney World has neither confirmed nor cancelled any of its 2020 holiday events. Based on its decisions regarding other events during the pandemic, it's likely that it will not offer Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year, but will present Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays and other holiday programming. Check with the resort for the most up-to-date info.
No one does the holidays like Disney World, where every last detail is completely decked out. From November to January, lights will be strung, trees will be decorated, and other festive finery will be displayed across all of the different Disney parks. Events-wise, here's what each may offer for this year's holiday season:
- Magic Kingdom: Cinderella Castle typically gets an icy makeover and on select evenings starting in early November, the park presents Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The specially ticketed event includes the fireworks show, Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, as well as Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.
- Epcot: Getting into the spirit as well with its International Festival of the Holidays, one of Epcot's holiday highlights is usually Candlelight Processional, a nightly recitation of the Christmas story by celebrity narrators. Other features include Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree, a scavenger hunt, and holiday-themed presentations at many of the World Showcase pavilions.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: For the past few years, the Chinese Theater has ignited each evening for the multimedia show, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam. The Sunset Boulevard section of the park gets Sunset Seasons Greetings, a special dose of holiday whimsy with projections, special effects, and a sprinkling of Disney-engineered snow. And Buzz and Woody invite guests to celebrate Holidays in Toy Story Land.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: The safari-themed park usually celebrates the season with a Holiday Hoopla Dance Party in DinoLand U.S.A., special entertainment at Discovery Island, and Christmas at Pongu Pongu in Pandora – The World of Avatar.
- Disney Springs: The massive shopping, dining, and entertainment complex, Disney Springs, offers a Christmas Tree Trail and visits from Santa Claus. Many of the hotels will have special holiday presentations such as a walk-through gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian and a full-size carousel made of chocolate at Disney’s Beach Club.
Universal Orlando well be decked-out for the holidays from November 14 2020 to January 3, 2021. Both sections of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter get holiday makeovers with special shows and decorations, however the highlight of the season is the Christmas light show projected onto Hogwarts Castle. The park also offers Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s, complete with floats and balloons shipped down from the famous New York parade and at Islands of Adventure, visitors will be able to celebrate the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular which features a musical retelling of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
From November 21 to December 31, 2020, SeaWorld adds some holiday cheer to its marine theme park in the form of special shows, festive decorations, and live holiday music from classical musicians and carolers. "O Wondrous Night" tells the nativity story and younger kids will enjoy the show, "Sea Lion High: The Christmas Special." The skating show, "Winter Wonderland on Ice," also promises holiday cheer.
Other features include Sea of Trees, a display of decked-out Christmas trees with lights that are synchronized to carols and the park also presents "Shamu Christmas Miracles," a nightly holiday-themed show featuring the orca.
Legoland Florida, which is about an hour's drive from Orlando, offers a low-key holiday event with a huge Christmas tree made out of Lego blocks, the show, “Holly Jolly Jubilee,” appearances by Santa and a Kids' "New Year's Eve" (that will actually take place at a kid-friendly 7 p.m.) featuring fireworks and music. The holiday season at Legoland starts on November 29, 2020 and is presented on select dates until December 31. From December 26 to 31, you can also expect a special roster of events for New Year's Eve.
As at their sister park, SeaWorld Orlando, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer will fly into Busch Gardens. Visitors can meet him and his friends at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland from November 25 to January 3, 2020. They can also meet Rudolph's boss, Santa, and check out the twinkling lights and other festive decorations from mid-November to January.