‘Tis the season to be doing all the things, going all the places, and buying all the gifts. But what if you want a bit of time to relax and enjoy some sights and sounds? Take a trip down to Walt Disney World and see all the Christmas cheer they have to offer. Here are some fun ideas to get the holiday spirit started!
Christmas Tree Trail
Come follow the Christmas Tree Trail to see 20 beautiful trees around the neighborhoods of Disney Springs. From Toy Story to Minnie Mouse to Moana and Black Panther, you will find a tree to love! Be sure to pick up your map with stickers to ensure you see them all. Place the corresponding sticker on the map as you find each tree. When you finish you can redeem your map for a prize at one of the following locations (these locations are also where you can pick up the maps): City Works Eatery and Pour House, Planet Hollywood, The Boathouse, Under Armor, Basin, and Amorette’s Patisserie.
Be sure to check the back of the map, as there are many discounts available for the restaurants and shops at Disney Springs.
As Floridians, we often wish there was a bit of snow to help us feel more Christmas-y. Have no fear, at Disney Springs you can enjoy nightly snowfall.
Though it is a modified experience, you can meet and chat with Santa at Once Upon a Toy. Masks are required, and you can get in “line” in the virtual queue. I’d recommend joining that as soon as you arrive at Disney Springs!
There are also so many more holiday-themed food options at Disney Springs in addition to all the Christmas merchandise at World of Disney and shopping around all of Disney Springs. My advice is to always arrive as early as you can. Shops usually open at 10 a.m., but you can park before that and grab a snack (the Disney Springs Starbucks usually opens at 9 a.m.).
Want a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride? Hop on board a “sleigh” at Fort Wilderness during the month of December for a 25-minute excursion around the property. You leave from the new Tri Circle D Barn. It’s a sight to see in and of itself!
While there’s not as many as in past years, the gingerbread houses are back and very amazing! The best way to see these amazing creations (made by the Disney World baking team) is to make a dining reservation at either The Beach Club resort (where there is a gingerbread carousel themed around The Little Mermaid) or the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian gingerbread house is GIANT and has blue and gold touches to go with the 50th-anniversary theme! You can even buy gingerbread treats from inside the house.
If you choose the Grand Floridan option you can also hop on the monorail and go to the Contemporary and Polynesian to see their Christmas trees! Likewise, you could make a dining reservation at the Contemporary or Polynesian and then take the monorail to go view the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian.
Note: The following holiday experiences require a ticket and park pass reservation.
In addition to beautiful decor throughout the park, Epcot boasts a large American Adventure Gingerbread Display in the America pavilion. Beyond this treat, the popular boat ride Living with the Land gets a holiday overlay. Plants, vegetables, and fruit get a Christmas facelift that really puts you in the holiday spirit.
Grab a Festival Passport booklet, buy five cookies at specific food booths, and get a fancy cookie for free. This is fun to do with a group, that way one person doesn’t need to eat all the cookies. Don’t forget your stamp every time you buy a cookie!
Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays Candlelight Processional
This emotional event tells the traditional story of Jesus coming to Earth. The festival begins on November 26 and is narrated by various celebrities. The best way to get a seat for the event (which happens three times a night) is to make a lunch or dinner reservation at one of four participating restaurants at Epcot. When you make your reservation (menus are prix fix and require a credit card to hold your reservation) you are assigned a time to view the processional. The performances are held in the America Gardens Theater in the America pavilion.
Also back this year is traditional storytelling at most pavilions in the World Showcase. You will find dancers, a mariachi band, and traditional costumes in the Mexico pavilion. In the China pavilion, you will encounter the Chinese Lion Dance. The list goes on and on!
Olaf Scavenger Hunt
Arguably the most fun activity for kids, the Olaf Scavenger Hunt is available for purchase at Creations Shop, Port of Entry, and World Traveler at International Gateway shops. Use the stickers to mark the map when you find Olaf’s “traditions” in each pavilion. Redeem your map for a prize after completion!
See Santa, Donald Duck and friends, Chip and Dale, and the Island Drummers as they all cruise along Discovery River throughout the day.
This is my FAVORITE part of the holidays at Animal Kingdom. In the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, see life-size, artisan sculpted animal puppets brought to life by cast members. I am SO happy they are here this year!
Tree of Life Awakenings
Starting at dusk, stand in front of the Tree of Life and watch the projections dance on the tree to the beats of your favorite holiday tunes. It’s truly a sight to behold!
Sunset Seasons Greetings
Enjoy nightly holiday projections on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
Watch Santa cruise up Hollywood Boulevard in his candy apple red convertible during the daytime cavalcades.
Join Minnie and her besties at Hollywood and Vine restaurant for their best holiday meal! Please note that character interactions are modified — you can’t hug characters but they will stop and give you time to take a distanced picture and chat with them! Reservations recommended.
Enjoy a special finale to this fan-favorite sing-along that features Olaf!
There are so many limited-time treats available in Magic Kingdom (and throughout all the parks really)! From a Ginger Apple Funnel Cake to a Christmas Cookie Milkshake and Sundae, there is so much sugar to be eaten!
Seasonal Decor and Castle Projections
In addition to the giant Christmas tree at the entrance, garland, lights, and wreaths all around Main St., Cinderella’s Castle is awash in cheerful holiday projections as soon as the skies get dark. My favorite is when the castle looks like a giant present (maybe the gift of a Disney trip is a good idea this year?).
Disney Very Merriest After Hours
Now through December 21, you can indulge in the ultimate Christmas party at Magic Kingdom. The Disney Very Merriest After-Hours event takes place on select nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., with park entry as early as 7 p.m. With very low crowds, you can enjoy riding rides until your stomach says “no more!” There are also stage shows, Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, two parades (the first time parades have been offered since reopening in July of 2020), holiday treats, and character meet and greets. My son and I attended a party and had an amazing time.
There you have it, friends. Some of the best ways to celebrate the holidays in the Walt Disney World area. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below.
Ready to take a trip to the most magical place on earth? Let me know how I can help! As a travel planner specializing in Disney Destinations, my services are free to you, and it’s my obsession to know all that’s going on in the world of Disney, so I can help you plan your best vacation ever!