Walt Disney World For the Holidays – Our Tips on What to See and Do at the Parks and Resorts

Hi everyone!

The holiday season at Walt Disney World kicked off about a month ago with the festive lighting of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, followed closely by the first nights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Osborne Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Over the last few weeks, decorations and activities have begun at other parks and resorts. Here are some highlights for those looking to enjoy the holidays at Walt Disney World this season! I’ve added links to many of the articles and embedded some of our videos. We tend to really kick it into high gear for 2 months, we love Christmas!

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party still has about two weeks of Parties left before the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and holiday shows are available to everyone around the Christmas holiday. Is it worth it? I suggest skipping the use of another park ticket if possible, and arrive to the Party at 4 p.m. well rested to make the most of the ticket. We have photos and video, along with Party tips and an article about the changes for 2013.  Cookies, apple slices, hot chocolate and apple cider are included in a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party ticket. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is on select nights through December 20.


Cinderella’s Holiday Wish Castle Lighting show is a must-see for those visiting the Magic Kingdom. It is included in a regular day ticket! Cinderella Castle never looks better than when it shimmers with lights.


The Jingle Cruise is the Christmas version of the Jungle Cruise. Don’t expect to see Santa hats on the elephants or hippos, there isn’t anything extra to look at during the cruise. The skippers tell holiday jokes and the queue and boathouse are decorated. Secure a Fastpass if the line is long, it’s fun but not worth an extra wait.


Epcot Holidays Around the World offers a strong draw in the Candlelight Processional. There are some major changes in the show this year, but it is still a moving presentation of the Christmas story. A celebrity narrator reads from the Bible, with a talented choir comprised of Cast Members and school groups.

Epcot is the one park that truly is a full-day holiday experience. The Gospel band Joyful can be found in Future World, and a new and very impressive Gingerbread Village in The Land features gingerbread depictions of Aulani, the Disney Magic cruise ship, the Eiffel Tower and much more! Around World Showcase, each country offers up their own holiday traditions. Most countries have a storyteller (Canada opted out this year in favor of a band at the Off-Kilter stage). Decorations can be found throughout World Showcase, and make sure to see the train display in Germany. This always is decorated for the holidays! Don’t miss out on great shopping, the World Showcase stores are my favorite place to pick up a gift. The Sportsman’s Shoppe at the United Kingdom is now stocked with Doctor Who merchandise, and Kit Heath has created some beautiful Disney inspired jewelry that can be found across the way. Each country offers unique merchandise! Cap off the evening with Holiday Illuminations.


We haven’t yet visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park yet this year, but we always enjoy Mickey’s Jingle in the Jungle Parade. There are animal-themed decorations throughout the park, and special character meet & greets (the characters dress in holiday outfits).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios offers the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, with millions of lights synchronized to holiday music! it’s definitely worth seeing each year. Santa Goofy meets during the event.

Downtown Disney is in the middle of it’s transition to Disney Springs, with construction walls up in many areas. I suggest taking transportation from your resort if at all possible. Santa is meeting at the Marketplace through Christmas Eve, with Santa Goofy taking over from there. There are some festive touches that include fun photo-ops. Make sure to stop in for a Holiday Sandwich from Earl of Sandwich (now available year round) along with other special menu items.

The parks are filled with holiday spirit, but many of the resorts shine just as bright.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort boasts a tremendous Christmas tree filled with Victorian decorations, along with the famous Gingerbread House (now in it’s 15th year!) Most resorts with displays serve holiday treats created by the pastry chefs, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort has a great selection – the gingerbread is from an Austrian recipe. Stop by in the early afternoon and you might find gingerbread decorating sessions in the lobby, and perhaps even chestnuts being served in front of the resort.


Disney’s Contemporary Resort has a wreath that can be seen on the monorail – it’s huge! Visit the 4th floor to view the Mary Blair inspired gingerbread tree. There is an expansive selection of themed treats here, including a Five-Legged Goat Rice Krispie treat and cookies shaped as children from “it’s a small world”. Hands down, for the selection of themed treats thoughtfully prepared, this is my favorite gingerbread location. Guests can also purchase a gingerbread kit that includes a monorail for a lesser cost than buying one elsewhere already prepared – and it’s easier to take home.


Disney’s Beach Club Resort’s unique gingerbread carousel is in it’s 14th year! Each horse has a themed name, like “Holiday” for a horse that includes Cinderella Castle made of sand on the saddle.

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort features a train set themed to both Disney and a seaside village (depending on which side you are on). Department 56 Disney figures add whimsy to the display.

Disney’s Boardwalk Resort changed up it’s gingerbread display this year. In past years, there was a fireplace that included characters like Daisy, Donald, Stitch, Chip & Dale (the display changed somewhat from year to year). In the past couple of years, a gingerbread house selling modest offerings of baked goods was added. And for 2013, it’s a carnival themed gingerbread booth selling a handful of different items.

The Walt Disney World Swan added a Nutcracker to it’s beautiful chocolate display this year, making for 1800 pounds of chocolate holiday cheer! And a tropical Santa greets guests on the causeway between the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels on select nights. We enjoyed the first tree lighting ceremony inside the Dolphin, along with samples of eggnog and delicious hot chocolate. This is Santa’s Favorite Resort!

Each park and resort is decorated for the season! It’s a wonderful time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, and to take in all that the holidays have to offer for 2013. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort around the Christmas holiday, ask about any special characters or events at your resort.