Guide to Holiday Happenings at Walt Disney World
Read on for everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays at Walt Disney World!
Walt Disney World has made the winter holidays a long period of celebration in its Parks and Resorts and in Disney Springs, with each guest area finding a special way to decorate and celebrate! In 2021, with Walt Disney World hosting The World’s Most Magical Celebration for the Resort’s 50th anniversary, expect holiday decor and events to mingle with the EAR-idescent decor of the anniversary festivities.
We’re going to cover a lot of ground here, so use the clickable links below to navigate to the Parks, Resorts, or Disney Springs. And if you’re getting ready to ring in the holidays at Walt Disney World, take a scroll with us from top to bottom!
Disney World’s iconic Park celebrates with seasonal decorations, special events, and a few attraction overlays!
The Disney Very Merriest After Hours events replace Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for 2021. These hard-ticketed events will span four hours after the Park has closed for the day. Disney Very Merriest After Hours events begin on November 8 and will be offered on select nights.
Event replaced in 2021 by Disney Very Merriest After Hours
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a hard-ticket event, which means you need to purchase a separate ticket to attend. The Party is pure magic at the Magic Kingdom and features a nighttime holiday parade, a flurry of snow on Main Street, USA, and seasonal entertainment.
Highlights of the event include:
- A Frozen Holiday Wish
- Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
- Holiday Fireworks (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
- A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show
- Meet and greet opportunities with Disney Characters
- Character Dance Parties
- Complimentary cookies and hot cocoa
- Many of the most popular Magic Kingdom attractions (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
- Holiday attraction overlays (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade celebrates the many festive moods of the holiday season. In addition to themed floats topped with familiar characters, guests will see marching soldiers and dancing snowflakes and reindeer.
In 2019, Disney added Pixar friends to the parade, making it all the more festive. The parade features original music as well as both classic and current holiday tunes.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade shows twice per night at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and runs for regular guests during the day in the few days before Christmas.
Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration is performed on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. Mickey and his pals host some of their friends for an unforgettable Christmas soiree filled with medleys of delightful classic and contemporary holiday songs, and magical holiday projections on Cinderella Castle building to a sensational, snowy finale.
Explore all the merriment of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2019 (including info about Minnie’s fireworks spectacular!) here!
Jingle Cruise — Adventureland (Confirmed for Disney Very Merriest After Hours)
The Skippers have grown homesick for the holidays, so they’ve again added holiday cheer to the Jungle Cruise queue and boathouse with decorations that have been mailed to them from home (plus a few they’ve created themselves).
The Skippers have also added a slew of new jokes to their tours that are the perfect way to get guests in the holiday spirit. Additionally, Jungle Cruise boats have been renamed with the holidays in mind, and if guests listen carefully, they may hear a holiday-themed radio broadcast playing in the background.
Jingle Cruise typically runs from early-November through early-January.
Also be on the lookout for holiday projections on some of your favorite rides.
EPCOT rings in the season in the eleven international pavilions of World Showcase during the International Festival of the Holidays. This event begins November 26 and will continue through December 30, 2021.
In addition to themed holiday decor in every country’s pavilion, guests who stroll World Showcase for the Festival of the Holidays will find celebratory eats at Holiday Kitchens, view storytellers from around the world (not confirmed for 2021), and enjoy entertainment that puts jolly spirit in the season.– including the melodious tones of Voices of Liberty.
Returning for 2021!
The Candlelight Processional is one of the Festival of the Holidays’ most beloved traditions. This is the retelling of the story of Christmas featuring celebrity narrators, a mass choir, and 50-piece live orchestra. Candlelight Processional is performed multiple times per night at America Gardens Theatre in the American Adventure Pavilion.
Celebrity narrators have included icons like Pat Sajak, Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, and more. To ensure a seat for this joyous favorite, Candlelight Processional Dining Packages are typically available with meals at select EPCOT restaurants, a special spot for fireworks viewing, and guaranteed seating for the heartfelt Candlelight Processional.
Chip and Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree
Chip and Dale are collecting ornaments for their Christmas tree — and they need your help! To get started, guests purchase a map and stickers from select merchandise locations, including Pin Central, Disney Traders and World Traveler at International Gateway (pricing typically $7.99 plus tax).
As you travel around World Showcase, be on the lookout for drawings or paintings of Chip and Dale gathering ornaments from holiday decorations in each World Showcase pavilion. Once you spot them, add the corresponding ornament sticker to your map. Then, take your completed map to Disney Traders and exchange it for a festive surprise, courtesy of Chip and Dale!
EPCOT’s new permanent nighttime spectacular, Harmonious, is expected to be wowing crowds for the 2021 holiday season after its October 1 debut. The show may include a holiday “tag” as the Park’s previous permanent show, Illuminations, did in the past.
Flurry of Fun celebrates the season from November 12, 2021, through early January (typically), with festive entertainment and exciting holiday touches around the park. Quirky decor — much of it harkening back to bygone eras — dots the Park.
- Jingle Bell! Jingle BAM! nighttime spectacular typically returns in mid-November. Status unknown for 2021.
- Sunset Seasons Greetings brings impressive projection effects and “snow” to the boulevard leading toward Tower of Terror. Guests watch spectacular projections of beloved Disney Characters – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Olaf and others – sharing their favorite seasonal stories as holiday magic transforms the famous Hollywood Tower Hotel into scenes of the season.
- Santa will headline a holiday motorcade through the Park throughout the holiday season.
In 2019, Animal Kingdom breathed new life into its holiday season, with new decor, a brand new holiday-themed Tree of Life Awakenings show, and more — including magical polar animal puppets. Character flotillas will also bring a magical touch to the waters of Disovery River.
All of these magical touches are expected to return for 2021.
Learn more about Animal Kingdom’s holiday offerings here.
Animal Kingdom’s Tasting Sampler
The Park’s Tasting Sampler was a way for guests to taste the flavor of the season the past couple of years! No information has yet been released for the 2021 Tasting Sampler, but learn more about the 2019 Tasting Sampler here.
The Christmas Tree Trail returned in 2020 to Disney Springs. The trail is a winter wonderland complete with a gentle snowfall, toy soldiers, singers, fabulous themed trees, and plenty of photo opportunities. In 2019, snacks along the Trail brought a festive, edible touch! In 2020, the Trail expanded to all of Disney Springs, allowed for more physical distancing (and more magic!).
Click here to see what Disney Springs has to offer for holiday magic!
Disney Resort hotels dress up for the holidays, too, offering an ideal home-away-from-home feeling during the season. Check each Resort for holiday dining offerings, themed decor, and special entertainment.
One thing you can expect perennially at the Resorts is a few impressive gingerbread displays worth seeing even if you aren’t staying in the dedicated Resorts. In 2021, “select” gingerbread displays will return after taking a one-year hiatus in 2020.
The most iconic display is the life-size Grand Floridian Gingerbread House, where guests can see the creations of the Resort’s pastry chefs and get a taste of the holidays at the Gingerbread House’s bake shop!
Another display not to be missed is the massive gingerbread castle at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The recreation of Cinderella Castle in gingerbread is fronted by Cinderella, Prince Charming, and everyone’s favorite Fairy Godmother.
At the Beach Club, guests discover a themed carousel made of edible materials like gingerbread and modeling chocolate. This is one of the most innovative gingerbread displays, and the theme changes year to year.
BoardWalk typically has a display of small gingerbread houses. And new in 2019 were displays at Wilderness Lodge and Saratoga Springs, so we’ll have to see which of the other Resorts adds displays in the future.
The American Adventure pavilion at EPCOT typically offers gingerbread recreations of American monuments and buildings.