But which resort is more worth your time? Which one will give you the most holiday cheer?
We’re here to tell you who does the holidays better: Disney World or Universal!
Walt Disney World
The magic of Disney really shines during the holiday season. For many people, it’s their favorite time of year to visit (which is also why it’s one of the busiest times of year to visit). So let’s first break down what Disney does well when it comes to the holidays.
And some of these trees are absolutely HUGE. The trees in all 4 parks are really big…
…and there are also some massive beauties in the hotels.
Disney Springs has a really big Christmas tree too, plus they have the Christmas Tree Stroll you can see for absolutely free! There are 20 trees you can walk around and see that are themed to different Disney movies, rides, characters, and more. If you pick up a map with stickers (find out where here!), you can even win yourself a prize for spotting all 20 trees!
Speaking of themed trees, the trees in the other parts of Disney World are also expertly themed! If you look closely at the decorations, you’ll see why they fit in perfectly with where they’re located.
Now for another major decor element — the gingerbread houses! Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has an iconic giant gingerbread house that you can actually buy sweets from. There are people INSIDE the house that will sell you treats. How cool is that?!
Another fun gingerbread display is over at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, where they have a giant carousel made of the holiday sweet. The theming changes every year, and it’s truly a sight to behold!
You can also find a gingerbread display inside the American Adventure pavilion in EPCOT. This display includes a mini gingerbread model of the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial! There is also a mini American Adventure building and an EPCOT Festival of the Holidays Holiday Kitchen!
Did someone say Festival of the Holidays? Oh, right, we did! This is a festival held in EPCOT from November 26th through December 30th this year and focuses on how different cultures around the world celebrate the holidays.
There are Holiday Kitchens (like the food booths at Food and Wine Festival) that have holiday food from different countries and cultures. You can also take part in the Cookie Stroll, grabbing 5 different cookies from some of these kitchens to complete your journey. When you’ve collected them all, you get a free redemption cookie (and a couple OTHER prizes this year!!).
In addition to the food, the countries around the World Showcase are decorated differently for the holidays! So you get festive decor surrounding you while you’re eating and drinking around the world.
As for entertainment, storytellers are in their countries to share their holiday traditions and tales with guests. And there’s the famous Candlelight Processional! This is held during the festival at the American Adventure pavilion’s America Gardens Theatre. Celebrity narrators tell the story of Christmas while accompanied by a choir of talented singers!
In addition to Festival of the Holidays food, you can find festive items to eat all around Disney World, like reindeer treats and Christmas drinks. Seriously, there’s a LOT of food for the holidays, so you’re sure to find something you love during your trip.
Another cool thing Disney World does for the season is put holiday overlays on some of the rides! Living with the Land gets a merry and bright makeover, and the Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise.
Now, let’s move on to the things that could be viewed a bit more negatively. First off, we need to talk about the holiday party. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party was the separately ticketed event held on select nights in Magic Kingdom for years during the holiday season. It was canceled last year and again this year, but this year, we now have an After Hours event in its place.
The Disney Very Merriest After Hours event works the same as MVMCP ticket wise, but these tickets are definitely pricier than any of Mickey’s parties were. And, this new event is the ONLY way you can see special holiday celebrations in Magic Kingdom.
The holiday fireworks, parade, stage show, and certain ride overlays are only available during the After Hours event. We used to see the parade and fireworks during regular hours in the park — when you didn’t need a separate ticket.
Talking about the selectivity of entertainment brings us to the selectivity of decor in the parks. Disney World really only decorates the main areas of its parks for the holidays. Sure, Main Street, U.S.A., is absolutely beautiful with the lights and wreaths and snoap falling down, but then you walk over to Fantasyland and there’s nothing! Boo. There are touches of the holidays here and there, but we know Disney can do better than that.
We can’t forget to talk about the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle! Long story short, they aren’t there. Usually tons of lights get added onto the castle for the holidays, and it looks like snow when it lights up, but this year there are no lights at all.
This is pretty disappointing because the lights are one of, if not THE, most beautiful decorations during the holidays.
Now for Universal Orlando! It doesn’t really seem like people give as much attention to Universal when it comes to the holidays, but they should, because they do a lot to celebrate.
First of all, they have a mini Macy’s Day Christmas Parade go through Universal Studios. Are you kidding?! That’s so cool. They even have the giant balloons and everything.
Universal decorates a lot, too, from big Christmas trees to fun decor in the hotels.
But the absolute best part of their decorations are found in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
The Wizarding World becomes SO magical around the holidays, with garland and lights framing the buildings and even decorations themed to each store. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade both get decorations…
…but Hogsmeade is the only part of the Wizarding World that has permanent snow on the rooftops! That combined with the other decorations really just makes you feel like you’re a Hogwarts student taking a trip to Hogsmeade during the holidays. Which, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, is probably your dream.
And there is also special entertainment in the Wizarding World during the holidays. Celestina Warbeck changes up her normal show in Diagon Alley to make it a bit more festive, including some new outfits!
Back over in Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Frog Choir puts on a special holiday show as well.
And there’s a light show projected on to the Hogwarts castle at night! The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle is the perfect view while you sip some hot butterbeer. It’s magical in a way only the world of Harry Potter can be.
Moving from one universe to another, there is also Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure that is basically like stepping for into Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The lights line the quirky architecture to really give you that holiday-hoobie-whatty feeling.
And you can actually see the Grinch, too! A holiday icon that’s in the same league with Rudolph and Frosty, honestly.
There is also the live Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular you can catch a few times of day over here, which features the story of the Grinch and some awesome music. Oh, and there is a real dog playing Max, which is honestly the main reason you should see this show!
Universal just seems to put more effort into decorating multiple lands than Disney World, which we appreciate.
Another fun part of the holidays here is the Holiday Tribute Store. This is where you can shop for holiday-themed merchandise in a store that also has themed holiday rooms. Like, over the top theming! The store in itself is like an attraction.
The rooms include Santa’s Workshop, an area featuring Earl the Squirrel, the Grinch’s Lair, and the Yule Ball from Harry Potter!
The store also has some exciting themed treats for the holidays here you can snack on.
Universal has the Holiday Tree Hunt, too, where you can purchase a map and go on a scavenger hunt finding decorated holiday trees in the parks and in Universal CityWalk. When you complete the scavenger hunt, you get a special holiday ornament!
And the great thing about all of Universal’s holiday celebrations is that it’s all included during regular theme park admission — there is no major separately ticketed event like Disney has.
But if you want even more holiday fun, you can go on Universal’s Holiday Tour (starting at $69.99). This happens on select dates, and it’s a guided tour through Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
You can sip on hot cocoa with the Grinch and meet Santa Claus! Then, you get a special reserved spot for Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s and The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular. Plus, you get an exclusive on-stage holidays Q&A with the Whos.
Finally, end your night with an exclusive after-hours showing of The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle. Note that you do also have to have park-to-park tickets and reservations to do this tour.
So where does this leave us?
If you want a more unique experience, we’d say Universal is the place to be, with activities that you can’t really find anywhere else. Also, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then Universal definitely wins.
But if you love that special Disney magic that happens during the holidays, like the decorations and snow on Main Street, U.S.A., Disney is probably where you belong for the holidays.
Also, while Universal does have good holiday food, EPCOT has them beat with the Festival of the Holidays!
We hope this helps you decide where to spend the holidays this year if you’re planning a trip. Or, you could be like us, and just visit both resorts! Stay tuned to All Ears for more theme park news, info, and updates.
Which resort do you prefer to celebrate the holidays at? Let us know in the comments!