Guide to the Holidays in Disney World: Festivals, Events, Things to Do

Mickey and Minnie Mouse aboard a holiday float in Christmas Parade at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
© Kent Phillips, Photographer/The Walt Disney Conpany

While the weather is hardly frightful, Disney World can be so delightful during the holiday season, especially since spending the holidays in the most magical place on earth is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Mickey sprinkles his own holiday fairy dust to create a magical landscape of Christmas fantasy throughout Disney World, turning it into a winter wonderland. 

Disney World glitters with spectacular holiday decorations and breathtaking light displays, from the theme parks to the resort hotels. From the decked out theme parks to the holiday shows and lights galore, this is truly the best time to visit Disney World. All your favorite Disney characters are in the holiday spirit, too. In fact, a special holiday Mickey and Minnie make an appearance in the Disney parade every year. Visit with Santa, celebrate with friends and family, and best of all, have an experience you'll never forget. 

Disney World during the holidays is loads of fun, but it can get a bit crowded so be sure to plan ahead as much as you can and get to the parks early. This is especially important if you're planning on heading to any of the special holiday events, like the Holiday Parade or Disney in the Magic Kingdom—secure a spot early so that you don't miss a beat. 

  • 01 of 07
    Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! light display at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
    © The Walt Disney Company

    Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! combines state-of-the-art projections, fireworks, special effects, and Christmas music to create a one-of-a-kind holiday experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The all-new nighttime spectacular uses the facade of the Chinese Theater for this dazzling production.

    Also, one hour prior to each performance, a new dessert party that corresponds to the theme of the show will be offered nightly in the courtyard of the Chinese Theater. Guests who books this special event enjoy holiday snacks, decadent desserts, and specialty beverages.

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    Trumpeters showcased with choir in the background at Epcot's Candlelight Processional presentation.
    © The Walt Disney Company

    No holiday visit to Epcot would be complete without experiencing the grand musical performance of the Candlelight Processional. The daily performance runs from late November through the end of the year and includes the storytelling of the Christmas story by celebrities.

    Explore the Holidays Around the World at Epcot:

    • Holiday storytellers are on hand at all 11 World Showcase nations to showcase the various time-honored holiday traditions from their country.
    • Mexico's festive mariachi band brings the Fiesta de Navidad to life while you enjoy Mexican cuisine.
    • The Chinese Lion Dance honors holidays such as the Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival.
    • Be inspired by JOYFUL! A Gospel Celebration of the Season with sounds of jazz and R&B on the Epcot Future World Fountain Stage.
    • Share holiday greetings and capture one-of-a-kind photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus at The American Adventure through December 24.

    Of course, there is no better way to end your day at Epcot than to experience the holiday version of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the fireworks, laser, and waterworks extravaganza.

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    Beautiful Christmas tree shines bright at Disney Springs.
    © The Walt Disney Company

    Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) is transported into a magical winter wonderland for the holidays. Join other holiday guests nightly at the Once Upon a Toy fountain (in the Marketplace), where toys magically come alive for an interactive holiday dance party on the plaza. Also, trade pins, watch the tree lighting, enjoy roaming entertainment like yuletide carolers, and more.

    Disney Springs is presenting Christmas Tree Trail, where guests can stroll among 15 custom decorated holiday trees, each dedicated to a popular Disney theme. Also, don't miss "Starbright Holidays - An Intel Collaboration," which is a lighted drone show in the nighttime sky.

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    Lifesize gingerbread house and huge Christmas tree at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort hotel.
    © The Walt Disney Company

    Each Disney World Resort hotel is decked out for the holidays with themed Christmas trees and holiday decorations. However, Disney's deluxe resort hotels are what are really worth seeing, particularly Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Wilderness Lodge.

    Step into the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and be met by the delightful scent of gingerbread. A life-size Victorian gingerbread house is always the highlight of that resort's holiday decorations. The 16-foot-high holiday house is the creation of the Grand Floridian pastry chefs where they mix 1,050 pounds of honey, 600 pounds of powered sugar, 800 pounds of flour, 140 pints of egg whites, and 180 pounds of apricot glaze to complete the structure.

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    Disney's Hollywood Studios Toy Story Land is illuminated in lights and decor for the Holiday Projection show. As the evening comes a laser show for all ages unfolds across the park. The Hollywood Tower Hotel is transformed into a projection that brings all your favorite characters to life — including Mickey and Minnie, the Toy Story gang, The Muppets, and Frozen. 

    The holiday projection show runs November 8th through January 6th. 

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    White and gold fireworks explode over a blue and white Cinderella Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom.
    © The Walt Disney Company

    If you haven't already, you'll want to make Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party a family holiday tradition. The special nighttime event is held select nights during November and December at Disney's Magic Kingdom and features sweet holiday treats, special stage shows, parades, snow flurries, and fireworks. This event requires a separate ticket. In 2018, dates are November 8th through December 21st.

    If you miss Mickey's Christmas Party, you can enjoy Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration that takes place on Cinderella's Castle Stage typically starting a few days before Christmas and ending on December 31. The unforgettable show is filled with Mickey's friends and medleys of holiday songs and magical projections on Cinderella's Castle.

    Looking for a little holiday fun? Try taking the Jungle Cruise, which has been turned into the Jingle Cruise for the holidays. Besides festive decor on the landing and holiday names for the boats, you'll be treated to a slew of seasonal jokes from the skippers.

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    Celebrate Diwali, the Indian festival of lights in the Magic Kingdom with a the fun-loving pals from Pixar's Up. The show will run November 8th through January 1st, 2019 and features engaging songs, cultural education, and lots of holiday cheer. Guests at the Animal Kingdom can also enjoy an exotic bird show and join the Wilderness Explorers in learning all about nature.