Ultimate 2014 Disney World Christmas Guide


Christmas and the holiday season at Walt Disney World is a very special time of year. This 2014 Ultimate Guide will give you tips about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Candlelight Processional, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, and everything else Walt Disney World has to offer at Christmas!

We’ll include some of our tips and tricks for best-experiencing the Walt Disney World at Christmas-time, and we hope this thorough guide will prove helpful for everyone from first-time guests to yearly visitors. This isn’t merely the Disney-marketing copy you’ll find on every other site offering the same generic information about Christmas at Walt Disney World. Much like Captain EO, these tips are here to change the world. Or, at least, the way you experience the World at Christmas!

When To Visit



If you’re visiting Walt Disney World at “Christmas,” the first thing you’ll need to figure out is when you want to visit. There are quotes (they would be air quotes, but science has yet to invent a way to type those) around Christmas back there because the holiday season at Walt Disney World, much like the holiday season at your local mall, actually begins in early November and doesn’t conclude until after Christmas, in January.

Veterans know that the week leading up to Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are terrible times to travel if you dislike crowds. The idea that anyone should avoid these times at all costs, however, is actually a misconception that has been perpetuated for years and has just become repeated so often that it’s accepted. Both of these weeks can be great times to go, but only if they closely match your personality and touring style. If you don’t like being in dense crowds, these times of year are probably out. If you can’t get up really early and take a long midday break, these times of year are also probably out.

No matter when you go, you will also want to remember to pack for the season. Check out our Winter Packing Tips for Disney post for more insight on what to take on your trip. Just because it’s Florida doesn’t mean it won’t be cold!

Now, let’s take a look at all of the Christmas offerings at Walt Disney World for the 2014 season, plus how and when to best see it all…

The Toy Soldier's in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade during Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. More Christmas photos in our trip report: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/christmas-2012-disney-world-trip-report/

If you’re like us, and you don’t mind navigating heavy crowds (crowds are not the same as waiting in lines) Christmas and New Year’s weeks can be great to go for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the main draws for the hard ticket Christmas event, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (see below for details), are presented during regular park hours for free. Since these tickets cost around $60 each, if you have a large family that would otherwise attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, visiting during one of these weeks can amount to considerable savings.

Likewise, the day before and on New Year’s Eve, there are elaborate fireworks displays at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The parks are extremely crowded for these shows, so if you plan on watching them from inside the parks, make sure to stake out a spot early. We recommend watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the Ticket & Transportation Center or Bay Lake Tower’s Top of the World Lounge (open only to hotel guests), where crowds won’t be nearly as bad as they will be in the parks. Read our Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Spots post for additional locations.

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomChristmas on Main Street, USAWalt Disney & Mickey Mouse--Partners Statue with beautiful Christmas bokeh behind it!For more photos and information about Christmas at Walt Disney World, check out my Walt Disney World Ultimate Christmas Guide

Heavily extended operating hours is another compelling reason to visit during this time. When we visited between Christmas and New Year’s, the Magic Kingdom regularly opened at 7 am with Extra Magic Hours and one park was always open until at least 1 am (usually much later). Personally, I love this because I really enjoy taking photos of the parks lit up in their Christmas decorations at night (to take photos like the ones here, read my Tips for Christmas Photography post). Between 7 am and 9 am, crowds were incredibly light. We usually left by noon, at which time the place was a madhouse, but due to the low crowds touring efficiently, we had already accomplished everything we wanted to do.

We then walked back to our room at Bay Lake Tower and napped for a few hours waiting for the crowds to go down, returning in the late afternoon or early evening. This plan is easiest if you stay at a monorail or Epcot resort, so take transportation times into account if you won’t be staying at one of these resorts. By 11 pm, crowds were again manageable, and we stayed until park closing. Following this pattern, we never really encountered long lines for the attractions we wanted to experience. In fact, it was a downright enjoyable way to experience the parks. This odd sleep schedule will probably never work for anyone with kids, so we realize our advice here is probably not applicable to only but a handful of you who are as crazy as us.

Besides the crowds, there are a few other downsides to visiting during these two weeks. First is the room rates for on property hotels. These can easy eat away at any savings on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets. The second is holiday surcharges at buffets and some other restaurants around property. Definitely keep these costs in mind if you’re approaching this from the perspective of savings.

If you are visiting for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we highly recommend reading our Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World at New Year’s to avoid crowds and have a better experience.

Another misconception about traveling to Walt Disney World during the Christmas season is that the first two weeks of December are “dead.” This might have been true in the past, but it’s not so true anymore. Sure, there are certain days in certain parks with really light crowds, but there is also the Christmas Parade tapping the first weekend of December (and unless you’re crazy about the performers, you want to avoid this…it’s not nearly as fun as it might sound). Then, the second weekend you have the Pop Warner Football Championship and cheerleading competitions. If you can avoid these groups, you’ll often find lighter crowds in other parks, but if you happen to be in the same park as them, beware. In any case, that’s two consecutive weekends that will be busy during a time of year that is frequently touted as “slow.”

If you’re a first time or casual visitor with a family, I’d still recommend visiting during one of the first two weeks of December, but just keep in mind that these are not the “secret” best times of the year to visit that many other Disney sites contend they are. This is another myth that is propagated based on dated information and people simply believing and repeating what others have written without really thinking for themselves.

Another thing to consider when planning your dates if you’re a member of D23 – The Official Disney Fan Club, is its annual Magic & Merriment event, which usually occurs the first or second weekend of December. We’ve gone to this twice, and we think it was worthwhile (albeit expensive). Check out our D23 Magic & Merriment Review for more info and to determine whether you should schedule your dates around it!

Okay, now that you know when to visit (or now that I’ve further confused you and made the decision even more complicated), let’s figure out what you should experience…

Magic Kingdom

We’ll start in the Magic Kingdom, which does the most for Christmas out of all of the Walt Disney World parks. While it doesn’t do attraction overlays on Haunted Mansion or ‘it’s a small world’ at Disneyland, the park does get fully decked out, and it looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks to Jingle Cruise, Magic Kingdom finally has an attraction overlay for the first time since Walt Disney World stopped doing Country Bear Christmas!

Jingle Cruise – Jingle Cruise debuted in 2013, and is expected to expand even further in 2014! Jingle Cruise is a holiday overlay of the Jungle Cruise attraction at Walt Disney World. This overlay isn’t one in the traditional sense of the attraction receiving a bunch of decorations on its show scenes, but will instead feature a new Christmas-themed spiel from the skippers, who are “homesick” and wanting to celebrate Christmas. The queue will be decorated and the boats will receive Christmas-inspired names. While holiday overlays are divisive, we are big fans of the idea here and thought the Disneyland version last year was very well done, although definitely could have used more detail to flesh it out. The concept is minimally invasive, with its main component executed by the skippers, and it should be a ton of fun for repeat guests.

Castle Dream Lights – Even if you’re not attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you can enjoy the gorgeous Castle Dream Lights from early November until early January in a show beginning at dusk.

New for 2014 is “A Frozen Holiday Wish” show featuring the characters from Frozen conducting the Cinderella(?) Castle lighting. During this show, Queen Elsa will use her powers to transform the Castle into a glistening ice palace for the holidays, illuminating the castle with 200,000 shimmering white lights.

In past years, this short, cute little show has been worth seeing, especially since a lot of people didn’t know about it, meaning you could regularly show up only 10-20 minutes before the show and get a great spot in front of Cinderella Castle. This year, that won’t be the case. Walt Disney World has been promoting the show already, and we expect it to be very popular. The plus side is we also expect it to be more elaborate than in past years.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – If you’re visiting in November or early to mid-December and haven’t experienced it before, you should strongly consider Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. As mentioned above, tickets are expensive, but it’s a lot of fun and worth experiencing at least once. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is an after-hours party featuring all things Christmas, and it costs around $60 per person in your party, but it’s definitely worth experiencing at least once. Dates for 2014 start November 7, 2014 and run until December 19, 2014, with approximately 3-4 parties per week. Make sure to buy early, as some dates are already sold out this year!

Offerings during the party include:

  • Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade
  • Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season fireworks.
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas stage show featuring Stitch and friends.
  • Celebrate the Season stage show featuring the Fab Five and friends in their holiday finery.
  • character dance parties in Tomorrowland and Frontierland
  • Meet and greet opportunities with favorite Disney characters in Holiday attire, plus other special characters like Phineas & Ferb in Tomorrowland, Captain Jack Sparrow in Adventureland, and Duffy the  Disney Bear; if you’re lucky, you might also see our favorite characters in Meet & Greet form, the Country Bears!
  • Complimentary cookies, apple slices, and hot cocoa.
  • Snow on Main Street, U.S.A.
  • Many popular Magic Kingdom attractions with short waits.

Nights frequently sell out (the first night of the party is already sold out!), so we recommend advance purchase, which can also save you money! To purchase tickets, visit DisneyWorld.com/holidays.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party Tips:

  • If possible, do the party on a school night–these parties are usually less crowded.
  • Although Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party officially starts at 7 pm, the party ticket is valid for park admission starting at 4 pm. Arrive early, eat, and do a few attractions BEFORE 6:30 pm. At 6:30 pm, get in line for a character Meet & Greet if those interest you (our recommendation: Seven Dwarfs).
  • Most people will recommend that you watch the second parade instead of the first, which is generally good advice, but if you really enjoy parades, you should watch it twice, as you might be disappointed that you can’t watch it again if you just skip the first showing. It’s a really fun parade.
  • Watch the parade from the far end of Main Street near the Christmas tree (it won’t be up yet if you’re visiting in November), which gives you a great view of Cinderella Castle and the snow on Main Street during the party. These spots fill quicker than Frontierland and Liberty Square, but they are WORTH IT, especially for photos and ambiance.
  • Watch the Holiday Wishes fireworks from Main Street USA, between the two tip boards (these are a little less than halfway between the last buildings on Main Street and the Partners statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse in the hub).
  • Get your party merchandise from a shop other than the Emporium; don’t get it right when the party starts, but don’t wait until the end of the night (when some items might be sold out).
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas gets a lot of poor reviews, but experience it yourself to see if you enjoy it. We do.
  • If you’re planning on experiencing everything the party has to offer, including character Meet and Greets, don’t expect to ride many/any attractions. Save those for another day when there is not unique entertainment.
  • The Magic Kingdom has special lighting package and projections in multiple areas during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that aren’t out on non-party nights; these can make for fun and unique photos.
  • Tomorrowland Terrace is a great location to get cookies and hot chocolate without the long waits some other locations can have.
  • Everything Frozen-related will be incredibly popular at the Christmas parties, but the Anna & Elsa meet and greet should see lighter crowds than normal at the end of the night, and during the first parade.
We have a lot more tips on our dedicated Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party page. Check that out for plenty more information and photos of the party, too!
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade – This is an integral part of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but it’s also worth mentioning by itself in case you visit during the weeks that bookend Christmas, in which case you can see it during regular park hours. During the Party, it’s shown at night and features excellent lighting, ambiance, and SNOW on Main Street, USA, but during those two weeks, it replaces the daytime parade so obviously there are no lights nor is the ambiance as impressive.
While we strongly recommend watching the Parade on Main Street during the Party for full effect, during the Christmas and New Year’s weeks, you can watch it from anywhere along its route without much of a difference in the experience. The floats are very cute, and for the first time this year Princess Anna, Queen Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf from Frozen will be featured in the parade.

Holiday Wishes! – The Christmas fireworks, Holiday Wishes, are the highlight of the holiday season. These are shown “in full” during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (meaning with their perimeter bursts), but also for regular park guests during the weeks that bookend Christmas. Holiday Wishes is amazing in its ability to thematically incorporate fireworks so they fit not only the name of the show, but more importantly, with the accompanying song lyrics (I love the soundtrack to Holiday Wishes so much that I actually bought its CD!) While the fireworks play an important role, the lyrics truly deserve more than just a passing mention.

Celebrate the Magic! – The nightly light show on Cinderella Castle typically receives a special scene for Christmas. This segment (we think) is the highlight of the show. Past Christmas scenes have wrapped the Magic Kingdom icon in colorful bows and boughs, gift paper and ribbons, ornaments, candy stripes, strands of lights, gingerbread, and the infamous 25th Anniversary Castle Cake.

We recommend picking a spot a little closer to Cinderella Castle than where you’d watch the fireworks. Stand near the Partners statue for the best view of “Celebrate the Magic,” although any spot towards the Castle-end of Main Street should offer a fine view.

Epcot

‘Joyful! A Gospel Celebration of the Season’ – We believe that Joyful will perform on the Fountain of Nations Stage for the fourth straight year from the end of November until the end of December, even though no announcement has been made. Showtimes should be 1:15pm, 2:15pm, 3:15pm, and 4:15pm (daily).

It’s a fun show, actually, it’s surprisingly good, but it’s still not an adequate replacement for the gorgeous Lights of Winter that were deemed obsolete in 2009. (Boo, hiss!)

Candelight Processional – Candlelight Processional for 2014 should be great. This retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator, along with a mass choir performing seasonal melodies, and a 50-piece live orchestra performs nightly from the end of November 2014 until December 30, 2014 at 5, 6:45 and 8:15 p.m.

Our tip for Candlelight Processional would be to book a dinner package (they’re not too much of a premium if you were already planning on eating a table service meal) if you’re visiting when one of the popular narrators is in town. We were there for the second night of Neil Patrick Harris’ run a couple of years ago, and we saw people waiting in line FOUR HOURS before the show…and when it started pouring, those people stayed in line, and got soaked. Even Candlelight Processional cannot escape Frozen-mania, as at least one celebrity from the film will be a narrator this year!

We also note that your enjoyment of Candlelight Processional depends largely on whether you like the traditional Christmas story and choir Christmas music. We love the music (so much so that we also own this CD), but if you don’t like either, this may not be for you. Although the narrators show some personality, don’t expect Candlelight Processional to be “Comedy Hour with Neil Patrick Harris.” It’s not.

Visit our dedicated Candlelight Processional page for more information, photos, and dining information for the 2014 Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World.

Holiday Storytellers - Throughout World Showcase in Epcot, there are international storytellers (most of whom are that country’s version of Santa Claus) who share traditions and tales from their native country. These Santas and other characters appear dressed in location-appropriate outfits and describe what happens on Christmas Eve and Christmas in their homeland. In addition to the Santas, representatives at the American Adventure describe the celebrations of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

The Storytellers can be hit or miss, and whether you want to spend the time seeing listening to their stories will depend upon your personal preferences. If you are on the fence, we’d recommend starting your tour around the World Showcase in Mexico (instead of Canada) as the most engaging Storytellers are near the beginning of the tour that way. If you don’t enjoy those countries’ Storytellers, chances are that you won’t enjoy any of the rest.

Tips on which Storytellers to see, the order to see them, and other information and suggestions can be found in our Holidays Around the World at Epcot Tips article.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Holiday Tag – Everyone loves fireworks, especially when they’re accompanied by a score as great as that of Illuminations. Disney kicks the pyro into high gear during the Christmas season as the explosive “Peace on Earth” holiday finale, narrated by Walter Cronkite ends the show with a heart-warming bang.

In our opinion, Illuminations is best at Christmas, and that’s due to the wonderful Peace on Earth tag. I get goosebumps every time I hear Walter Cronkite recites his lines: “During this glorious time of year there is one message that rings out around the world in every language. Peace on earth. Good will to men is a wish to hold in our hearts throughout each passing year. A gift of immeasurable value. A treasure being handed down with care, from generation to generation. And so our holiday wish is that everyone, everywhere share in the spirit of the season. Peace on earth, good will to men.”

The pyro is pretty impressive, too. Illuminations performs with the Peace on Earth tag nightly during the Christmas season, and it is not to be missed. Great views of the show are available all around World Showcase Lagoon. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before the show, and standing near the water’s edge in front of the Italy pavilion or on the bridge between France and the United Kingdom.

One other nice little touch at Epcot is the Gingerbread Village at The Land pavilion, which consists of sweet recreations of Walt Disney World Resort’s theme park icons. So…will the Hat be featured this year, or will something else. Perhaps this will be the big clue into what will be the next Disney’s Hollywood Studios icon!!! ;)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – These lights are a tradition at Walt Disney World, but their actual story goes back to Arkansas, with father Jennings Osborne putting on a display for his daughter, Breezy Osborne. Entering the Hollywood Studios backlot on the Streets of America, guests discover a virtual city of lights. On, over and among the cityscape buildings are millions of dazzling bulbs, dancing lights and animated displays synchronized to high-energy holiday tunes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios early November 2014 through early January 2015.

For the last few years, Disney has rolled out several enhancements to the lights including updates to the light canopy, color-changing buildings, and added use of 3-D technology and window snow-fall. These effects have all been incredibly well-received. Perhaps our favorite enhancement last year was Baby Sinclair from Dinosaurs inside one of the windows on the Streets of America (if you are children of the 90s like us, or you simply like things that are awesome, this is a pretty big deal), and Glow with the Show ears will work with the lights! This is perhaps the best use yet for Glow with the Show ears, and although other people aren’t crazy about these ears, we love them. Here’s hoping they catch on…

There will also be a Meet & Greet with Santa Goofy at the Osborne Lights again. You’ll be able to meet him in Goofy’s Winter Wonderland, a special area set up right in Tri-City Square. In addition to this elaborate Meet & Greet spot, an eighth song will be added to the rotation, a rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” We expect a few minor tweaks and plusses in addition to Goofy and the new song, so stay tuned!

The Osborne Lights can be very busy, especially earlier in the night. The lighting “ceremony” occurs around 6 pm and is usually nothing substantial (unless there’s a special guest in town the particular night you’re visiting), but it is insane to see the Streets of America go from being dark to brightly illuminated with the lights when they’re first turned on. If you’re there on a busy day, though, you will be packed in like a sardine when the lighting takes place (make sure to arrive on the Streets of America around 5:30 pm and stand by the tall tree halfway down the street–don’t sit on the curb, this isn’t a parade). If you don’t mind bearing crowds, go for this lighting. If you’d rather avoid crowds, visit the Osborne Lights the hour before the park closes. We recommend arriving at least this early because you can easily spend an hour exploring the Osborne Lights, looking for all the Hidden Mickeys and various references.

If you arrive an hour before close, you actually will (likely) get to see the lights for over an hour, if you’d like. This is because the lights typically stay on for 30 minutes to an hour after the official park close. However, we do not recommend banking on this and arriving to see the Osborne Lights 15 minutes before Disney’s Hollywood Studios is scheduled to close, because some nights the lights are turned right off and the area is quickly cleared. There are multiple nights when this area is rented out for private events following park close, and on those nights, there’s often a quick clear.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights Tips:

  • Avoid the Osborne Lights until 8 pm unless you really want to see the lighting ceremony.
  • For facts and “easter egg” information about the Osborne Lights,  listen to WDW Today Episode 802, which features an interview with John Phalen, Show Director of The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
  • See if you can spot the Halloween decorations, which were accidentally shipped to Walt Disney World when the Osbornes transferred the display to Disney.
  • See if you can spot the Angel that is unlike the others.
  • Don’t leave the Osborne Lights just because Disney’s Hollywood Studios closes; you can stay until the lights are turned off!
For more tips, information, and photos, visit our dedicated Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights page
Frozen Stuff – It’s not necessarily Christmas-related (at least in its current form), but Disney is hyping Frozen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as part of its Christmas offerings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is the same stuff that is normally shown at the Studios, so I’m not going to fixate on it. You can read about all things Frozen at Walt Disney World in this post.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Since it’s rarely open after dark, Disney’s Animal Kingdom doesn’t do a whole lot for Christmas, which is disappointing, as it seems lights would work well (they do at Animal Kingdom Lodge!). There are some lights up, and the tree (pictured above). Few people see that tree lit, so enjoy that photo!

Below are vague possibilities for things that might happen in 2014 for Christmas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Based on what I’m hearing right now, I expect absolutely nothing to happen at Animal Kingdom for Christmas. No parade, no meet & greets, no decorations. Nothing. It’s not even clear whether there will be a tree. I’ll update this section once more is known, but don’t hold your breath…

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade –  Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade was an overlay to the standard Jammin’ Jungle safari-style parade featuring all of the Disney animal-characters and high tempo beats. This parade will not run for Christmas 2014, at least in its previous form, but it’s presently unclear whether there will be a small replacement. Don’t feel too bad about missing it, as Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade was only really worth it for the fun soundtrack (which can be found on the same CD as Holiday Wishes). The parade itself was rather lackluster.

Santa Goofy’s Holiday Village – Normally, carolers sing and Santa Goofy, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Donald Duck (and sometimes Chip & Dale) greet guests for photos. The area where this used to take place was eliminated, so if this does happen, the characters would be placed in random locations.

Resort Hotels

Highlights include the Deluxe Resorts (Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk, etc.) but other hotels are spruced up with wreaths and trees decorated with miles of garland, ribbon and glistening ornaments. Custom-made “edible” decorations at the resorts change yearly. Make sure to take our free self-guided resort tour to see all of the best decorations!

Deluxe Hotels

Several Deluxe Hotels have either a large Christmas tree or a seasonal display that is well worth seeing. The great thing about most deluxe resorts is that they’re in close proximity to one another. You can easily reach the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary from the Magic Kingdom monorail station and Wilderness Lodge via boat. Similarly, the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk are easily accessible by foot or boat from Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. About the only Deluxe that is worth visiting that’s not easily accessible is Animal Kingdom Lodge.

We cover the details of each hotel’s display as well as a best plan of attack for visiting the hotels efficiently on our “Free Self-Guided Yuletide Tour” page. Definitely check this out if you want to visit the resorts to see their decorations!

Moderate & Value Hotels

There are some neat decorations at the Moderates and Values, and the decorations are all themed to the specific resort, which is pretty cool. If you have interest in a specific “style” of Christmas, you might want to check out a specific resort (for example, if you like New Orleans’ take on Christmas, check out Port Orleans French Quarter). Same goes if you’re a really, really big fan of Christmas decorations. Everyone else probably should bother making trips to the Moderates and Values to see their decorations. While neat, it just isn’t worth the time.

The one exception to this might be Fort Wilderness. There are some awesome displays put up by long-terms guests on the campground loop. If you have time one afternoon, take a boat over from the Magic Kingdom, have dinner at Trail’s End, and enjoy some of these cool displays.

Downtown Disney

Beginning in early November, Downtown Disney is decorated for Christmas as it entices guests to get in the “festive” mood when doing their Christmas shopping. Downtown Disney calls this “Festival of the Seasons.” In addition to the decorations, there is live entertainment, holiday carolers, a street party, and photo ops with Santa and Santa Goofy.

We have experienced Downtown Disney during the Christmas season, but not for a few years. When we last went, it was nothing special. It has improved substantially in recent years, but with so much construction occurring for Disney Springs in 2014, don’t expect a whole lot this year.

If you have extra time, I suppose you could consider checking out “Festival of the Seasons,” but due to the commuting time it takes to get to Downtown Disney, we recommend just skipping it unless you’re a local who can visit the parks anytime. And if you’re a local who can visit anytime…why are you reading this?!

cinderella-castle-christmas-lights-bricker copy

If for some reason you aren’t able to visit this Christmas, enjoy the entire season neatly compacted into a few minutes in our Christmas time lapse video. It’s just like being there…except not at all. You can also get in the festive spirit by decking out your Facebook profile with one of our Walt Disney World Christmas Facebook Timeline Covers.

For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.

For updates on Walt Disney World, the latest news, discount information, and tips, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

What are your top tips for enjoying Walt Disney World during the holiday season? Share your thoughts in the comments and please share this post with your friends if you found it helpful!

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116 Responses to “Ultimate 2014 Disney World Christmas Guide”

  1. Lori says:

    I’ve been to WDW more than 25 times, but had never gone for Christmas until 2011. It was AMAZING! We were there Dec. 16-23 were able to get 7 nights at Kidani Village for 88 DVC points. At least for DVC, the week right before Christmas is considered a “choice” week, so the points used is less than many other times of the year. We did attend the MVMCP, and thought it was great, but probably not worth the ticket price. My 11-year old daughter isn’t really interested in characters, so we got to do many attractions with no wait at all. Candlelight Processional was probably the best part of the whole week. Trace Adkins was an awesome narrator, and I would highly recommend seeing him. We did the dining package, which was well worth it to not have to wait in line for hours. And of course, the Osborne lights were wonderful. Overall, this was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken to Disney.

    Thanks for your great Christmas guide and your great website. Love it!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      How far in advance did you have to book your room, if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve heard from a few people that those weeks are incredibly difficult to book, because Disney originally “under-valued” the points for those weeks, and demand is incredibly high for them because they’re so low (same goes for Food & Wine Festival).

      We’ve never tried for those weeks ourselves, so I don’t have any first-hand experience!

      • Lori says:

        AKV is not our home resort, so it was less than 7 months out that I booked the reservation. When I tried to get BLT for that week, even at 11 months out, nothing was available, at least not the lower-point rooms. I was shocked that we could stay that week for so few points though. I’m sure it won’t be like that in the future.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Very interesting. I’ve heard AKV, OKW, and SSR are the least popular resorts at Christmas. The latter two are no surprise; however, AKV looks nice for Christmas! We stayed there two nights last December and at VWL for one night, and in both cases, we only got those nights after being waitlisted. Both were gorgeous for Christmas. I preferred Wilderness Lodge and Sarah preferred Animal Kingdom.

        As for the points changing in the future, they can’t. Well, they can day-to-day (a couple years back, weekend nights went down and weeknights went up, but the overall point “cost” for a week stayed the same), but the overall number of points that it costs to book a room for a week can’t increase or decrease. If it could, Disney would be able to render every Disney Vacation Club contract valueless by exponentially increasing the points it cost, which would totally defeat the purpose of DVC “locking in” vacation costs in the future. Annual maintenance fees can increase, but only as maintenance actually costs more. The only real way Disney has to adjust prices is raising the per-point buy-in cost for new members, but even then, if prices get too high, they risk people not buying or buying resale instead.

        So, in other words, those cheap nights in December will remain cheap and in high demand among savvy Disney Vacation Club members! :)

    • Jacky says:

      My husband and I always visit right before Christmas. We usually leave the 23rd and get there around 16th-17th. We have never experienced high dense crowds or any of the parks to be super full. Last year it was so empty we even asked the Cast Members at the hotel and they told us that people think this week is going to be horribly full and it’s not. We did see lots of people checking in on the 23rd.
      I usually do our DVC reservations around summer time. I don’t usually have a problem booking a room and YES the points at AKL go a loooonnnggg way. I love staying there so I don’t mind booking their.
      Surprisingly, I saw that the Boardwalks points were so much for the same days we are traveling this year. I waited to long to change reservations and of course when I went to change our hotel there were no rooms available.

  2. Amanda Susan says:

    The past couple of years when I’ve gone down in December, my mom and I have tea at the Grand Floridian and it’s nice to sit in the Garden View Lounge and seeing the gingerbread house. Depending on where you sit you can smell the gingerbread.

    I’ve been down every year since 2008 just for the Candlelight Processional, it’s my favorite thing Disney does and I wouldn’t call myself religious. It’s just the whole experience that makes it magical.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That sounds fun, but my concern would be that it wouldn’t be very relaxing because, whenever we’ve been, the lobby of the Grand Floridian is a zoo with other guests. What has your experience been as far as the lobby being busy?

      Agree on the Candlelight Processional being enjoyable regardless of religion. It’s definitely not my favorite thing (I wouldn’t wait in line even an hour for it), but it’s definitely worth experiencing.

  3. Ariadne says:

    I’m going this year from the 24th to the 3rd. Might be complete torture, but I’m ready. I’ve lived in florida years ago, and going during christmas wasn’t terrible, but has gotten worse during the years I believe. I’m excited though, we’re staying at art of animation, and I was able to book Be Our Guest for a christmas dinner. Hopefully the crowds will be manageable. I’m going with 7 people, 3 kids, aged 5,10, and 11. I’m printing this guide and your others to have with me. It’s been great for planning! Thanks!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Be Our Guest for Christmas dinner….talk about THE ULTIMATE CHRISTMAS PRESENT! :)

    • DONNA OWEN says:

      Hello,
      I’ve booked to go to Florida 20/12/14-03/01/15 with my husband, 13 year old son and our new baby that will be 9 months old then.
      Do you have any tips for me at all. We booked before I got pregnant so a bit worried about crowds etc.
      Where would you recommend to eat on xmas day? and what about the candlelight processional? we are going to do a dinner package to avoid ques.
      We are not staying in a Disney hotel.
      Any advice/recommendations would be a great help. Thank you
      Donna x

  4. Steph says:

    This guide is awesome! Thanks so much for all of the GREAT information!

  5. RaySharpton says:

    I really like your article. I have vacationing at WDW every year the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. I love everything that you described and I look forward to it every year. Fortunately, AllEars, Reunion2012, and RAPD have their meet and greets then at the same time I am usually there. Thank you again for the excellent photos and article.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The various meets that happen that time of year are pretty awesome. We’ve done Reunion the last few years, but unfortunately aren’t going to make it this year. :(

  6. Tenay says:

    I am hoping to go to WDW for the first time with my family in November or December of next year. My 3 son’s are all still very young, so crowds worry me. Because of this, I thought if we went in November maybe we could have less crowds and still get most of the Christmas offerings. What week/s would you recommend us going in November, which would have the lowest crowds, but still offer most of the Christmas events/lights/festivities? With young kids is it even worth going during Christmastime for our first visit or are long waits and crowds inevitable?

    Thanks so much for your help and your wonderful website. I love reading all your information and pictures!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      As far as what you’ll see in early/mid-November, you’ll see Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Osborne Lights. You’ll miss everything at Epcot and most decorations in the hotels (this is hit or miss, some might be up).

      I don’t think long waits are inevitable during the first couple weeks of December, and don’t mean to imply that. Crowds are still light most of the time. It just isn’t a scenario where every attraction is a walk on or only has a 10 minute wait, as many other blogs and travel guides suggest. That used to be the case, but it has not been true for the last few years. It’s still a slower time of year, but it’s far from “dead.” These days, there aren’t really any “dead” times of year at Walt Disney World anymore.

    • Lois says:

      Hi, if you are still planning a 2013 trip to WDW and are concerned about the crowds check out the following: http://www.undercovertourist.com and click on crowd calendar. Then click on your month (say Nov.). It will show the main events happening at each park. For example, Nov. 28th shows the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (HS). HS stands for Hollywood Studios. Go up to the top of the 28th and click on HS. It will tell you the parks hours on that day and the crowd recommendation. Hope this helps. ENJOY!

  7. RaySharpton says:

    I have never been before Thanksgiving weekend, but I would guess that Thanksgiving week and weekend might be busier, especially if school is out. And I wonder if the MK new fantasyland area preview openings might make some days more busy, especially on MVMCP nights only in MK?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The weeks before Thanksgiving (besides the first weekend of the Christmas season) are generally lighter than the weeks after. I suspect New Fantasyland will be busy during MVMCP.

  8. Hilary says:

    Not going until next Christmas (well, a year to wait is better than forever!) but this has still got me excited. Great tips, as always.

  9. Betsy says:

    Last year my husband and I (both teachers) practically ran out of our final day of school before winter break on Dec. 16th and headed right for the airport and to WDW for our first Christmas visit. We left the morning of the 20th and found the crowd level to be a non-issue for us.

    The highlights for us were definitely the Candlelight Processional dinner package and the Osborne Lights. An unexpected surprise was meeting holiday themed characters in some of the resorts. We stayed at the Beach Club and got to get pictures with Christmas sweater attired Daisy and Donald in the lobby one afternoon. After dinner at Ohana another night, we met holiday adorned Lilo and Stitch in the lobby of the Poly. Did we just get lucky, or are these impromptu character greetings typical?? We’re going down again this Dec. 20th-22nd and I would love to meet more holiday themed characters!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      “Found the crowd level to be a non-issue for us.” <- Does that mean it wasn’t busy, or that there were crowds, but they really didn’t make a difference as far as your enjoyment went?

      As far as random character appearances in hotels, that’s rare, but not completely unheard of. When you get into busier seasons, you’ll see a lot of “surprise” entertainment all around the resort. I wouldn’t count on going back and standing in that lobby expecting Lilo & Stitch to appear like clockwork, but you’ll definitely see holiday-themed characters elsewhere.

      • Betsy says:

        “non-issue” for us means the crowds were there (comparable to Memorial Day weekend…less crowded than March spring break week) but they certainly didn’t bother us.

        I actually think Disney is at its best when the masses descend bc they are running on all cylinders. I get up early and have a plan so crowds don’t really affect my wait times or my enjoyment of the parks.

        I’ll let you know if I see more random character appearances this year!

  10. This is an awesome post, nice work. My husband and I actually live in Florida so we’re only a 3 hour drive away and we’re passholders, however we’ve only lived here about 3 years and we just discovered the greatness that is disney world two years ago. I grew up going to Disneyland so for me Disneyworld is like this whole new world of awesomeness and whatnot! I remember growing up, one could only dream of going to the place with the big ball…

    Anyways, we went to Disney World last year from 12/16 – 19th, and the crowds were fairly light. However, the Osbourne lights were packed, the line to have your picture taken by a disney photopass photographer was like 30 minutes, we waited as it was too incredible of backdrop not to. We’re going on the exact dates again this year and I am DYING to go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party on 12/16 hopefully. By the way, your Christmas party review post is excellent and I’ll be using it as a roadmap to create an itinerary, thank you!

    You must tell me are the cookies and hot chocolate as good as they look? Because they, and the parade of course, are the motivating factors for me losing weight before I go so I can gain it back while I’m there and not be totally shocked when I get home. Hope that last sentence made sense.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The cookies and hot chocolate are a matter of opinion. Personally, I think they’re great. They’re sugar-y and moist, and the hot chocolate tastes chocolate-y. However, if a pro food critic were scoring them, they probably wouldn’t fair too well. But for “free” and unlimited cookies, they’re pretty great! :)

  11. Jarrett says:

    We will be there in about a month and are going to MVMCP on 12/11 for our 1st Christmas trip. This post is full of invaluable information. Thank you so much for all of the great tips!

  12. There is so much amazing stuff around the winter holiday in Orlando. Disney really vaps up there shows and events with all these great attractions. I’m so glad I have a season pass. I would say from personal experience getting into Orlando just before x-mas you can get all the fun with 1/4 the crowd. 27-29 of Dec is the busiest time of the year near Disney.

  13. Alexsandra says:

    Thanks for the great tips. It is my first time visiting during Christmas (10-17 Dec.) and this helped me come up with a good game plan for Christmas touring. My family was going to skip the MVMCP since when we went to MNSSHP last year and showed up without a good plan so missed out on a lot of the fun stuff. Plus we had to leave right after the fireworks because my kids were too tired (15 months and 4 y.o. at the time). However after reading about your experience and applying your suggestions, I think we might just go ahead and get the tickets. I don’t know how many times I’ll get to go to WDW during the Christmas season and the Holiday Wishes and amazing Christmas parade looks like something we shouldn’t miss.

  14. CC says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I was wondering if you knew if the Once Upon A Christmastime Parade is going to be on Christmas week. We booked a stay at the Pop Century from December 23-26. Will the parade still be going on? It seems like it is only from Nov 9-Dec 23. Last time we went it was on Christmas. Please reply and thanks so much for the tips!

  15. MellissaSR says:

    I’d like to say thank you Tom for creating this blog it has ALOT of useful information. My Family and i are planning a trip to disney Nov 2013 maybe the week before Thanksgiving or The week of Christmas. Haven’t deiced yet. Travling with 1yr old 5 yr old and 10yr old. Which do you think its the best time for us to attend? I want them to be able to enjoy Disney at Christmas this is the fourth trip we have taken the first during the holiday season.

    Again i would really like to say THANK YOU for all the time you take to create and maintain this blog.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Lesser of two evils is the week before Thanksgiving. Both are really busy, though. Would any other weeks work? With kids those ages, you’re likely to have some meltdowns during those busy weeks.

      Glad you like the blog!

  16. Marisa says:

    I’m planning a large family trip (including kids ages 3, 4, 6, & 8) for Dec 23, 2013 for 5 days. My husband and I have been to WDW twice so we somewhat know what to expect but the others in our group have never been. I’m worried they will be disappointed if they can’t experience all Disney has to offer due to the large crowds during this time. I’m just wondering if it will be as unbearable as some people say.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yes, it will be. Any possibility you can move the trip forward? Even if you only move it forward by a week, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches.

      If you must go that week, make SURE you get to the parks before they open and do as much as you can in those first couple of hours.

    • Christi says:

      I can tell you that we arrived to a pretty nice crowd level on December 11th last year, and we left a pretty crazy crowd level on December 21st. If it got busier, I am glad we were out of there! We had an amazing time and did many of the things you mentioned, Tom. I am not sure I’d want to do it every year, as we are Disney nuts and really missed hearing the traditional park music in lieu of the Christmas tunes. I am a Christmas nut, too, and love all our home traditions… but since we tend toward the 10-day at a time Disney trips, I am just not sure that I can forgo that much of Christmas season to be at WDW during the holidays. But, I did love at least seeing it once.

      As always, Tom, I LOVE your photos!!

  17. Zoe says:

    Thankyou so much for this post, we are visiting this year 7th-28th December so hoping to get most of the parks done before spending Christmas Day in Magic Kingdom !
    Can anyone tell me what Christmas Day is likely to be like ?? Am I to expect to que from an early hour and is the park likely to close if it gets too busy ??? I don’t want to be turned away !!!
    Also can anyone recommend somewhere nice and Christmassy to eat for adults and children, I’m not fussed whether it be lunch or dinner but somewhere we can book for Christmas Day in the park !!!
    I’m sure I will think of lots more questions before we go !!!
    Thankyou !!!!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Expect Christmas Day to be pretty wild–it’s one of the busiest days of the year in one of the busiest weeks of the year.

      As for a place to eat that is Christmas-y, I’d recommend Biergarten in Epcot.

  18. Haley says:

    I’ve been to Disney multiple times, but this is the first time going around Christmas. We’re leaving as soon as we finish our Thanksgiving dinner, and will arrive mid-day on Black Friday, and will go into the park on Saturday. What do you expect the crowds to be like? Will we be able to experience ALL of the Christmas features (we will be there until the 2nd week of December)?

    On a side note: I came home at 2pm today and got right on your blog. It is now 5:38pm, and I’m still on it, with no intention of getting off. I’m addicted. I may have a problem HAHAHAH

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Crowds that first weekend you’re there will be bad, but after that things die down. Just hope you’re not in the same line as a cheerleading group or Pop Warner football!

      Everything will be going on during your trip. Have fun!

  19. Stephanie says:

    Thanks! This site is very useful! I see that this article is focused on Christmas 2012. Will you be updating it for 2013?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yes. With the exception of dates, the same advice will mostly hold true. Not much changes from year to year.

  20. Michele says:

    went to disney 11/9/11 and totally enjoyed it. Came home and decorated the house.. Now has reservations at ak lodge 12/1-12/8. Making our dining reservations in 3 days. can’t wait. Hope we get all our wishes.

  21. michele says:

    made our dining reservations today 6/4/13 for week of 12/1/13. wanted to get diner for candlelight procession that week. schedule was not out yet but reservations were booked and hard to get already. Told us to call to watch the internet for dates. shouldn’t dates be out now. 180 days.

    • Ivette says:

      Hello, You can’t find a reservation for Candlelight procession? My 180 days + 10 is in June 26, I’m really nervus about that.

  22. celina says:

    is it cold during the christmas season over there? which is the best week of december to go?

    • Sharlene says:

      Usually the weather is mild, but it can turn cold. We have been in early December and the daytime temps were in the lower 80s and we have been when the night time temps were in the 30s.

  23. Sharlene says:

    Actually in reference to the number of points needed to stay at a DVC resort during December always remaining low, DVC could raise them; but they would have to lower the points in another season so the points remain the same for the entire year. They can change them weekly, but not the total amount for the year. So December could become less of a bargain if they adjusted them.

  24. Junior says:

    This is a great article for first time and verteran disney guest. I have been close to 10 times since i was a kid, many times during the summer and i greatly appreciated the information on the winter events and happenings. They only bad part at disney right now is trying to get a reservation for certain restraunts. I tried to make a reservation with the Be Our Guest restraunt and it was filled at 160+ days before the day we were going. Still can’t wait to go. This will be my Fiance’s first visit to Disney.

  25. brianna smith says:

    My family and I are DVC members and have gone to Disney World every year during spring break, (usually leave for Florida on Easter Sunday) for several years now. This year we are leaving on Christmas Eve and staying until the 31st– are the crowds similar to Easter time or is it more busy. We are morning and evening park people so we plan to do the same during this trip, but was just curious.

  26. K Smith says:

    Lots of great information in this article! We will be at Disney Nov 21st-26th per my son who before shipping off to Navy boot camp wants to see the Christmas decorations and go to MVMCP. Any advice for that time of the year? We have done the Halloween party several times but this will be our first Christmas. We have tickets for the party on the 22nd.

  27. Paula finlayson says:

    We are going to Disney on dec.14 to dec.28. We have never been at Christmas and are very excited I have gotten all our reservations including be our guest and the candle light . I written out the self guided tour plan and we are doing the MVP can you suggest anything else I should do to be prepared. Thanks for all your great tips.paula

  28. Deb says:

    Would you recommend doing the MVMCP two nights in a row? We have never been at Christmas and are afraid we might miss something the first night. We have tickets for Thursday night and are not sure about Friday. Thanks for your advice! Love your blog and pictures!
    P.S. My husband is totally envious of your photos! And he is a photojournalist with his own production company! He wan’ts to know know your secret! He always looks at your pic and says “How does he get his shots so clear? What am I doing wrong?”

    • Tom Bricker says:

      We have done it twice on the same trip, but we’re serious fans of Christmas. In terms of necessity, I do not think it’s necessary to do the party twice in a single trip. You can accomplish substantially all of what you want to do during one night of the party.

      Maybe go to one party and then buy tickets to the second after that if you feel like going again?

      Thanks for the kind words on the photos! :)

  29. Carla says:

    Our family of four will be visiting Dec 21-25 this year!! Our son’s 9th birthday is the 21st! Do you recommend a fun place for a birthday dinner? Also we are thinking Magic Kingdom for Christmas Day (we have 5 day NON park hopper tickets)? Christmas lunch/dinner recommendations? We are staying off site also, so hope to be there at opening time to get the most enjoyment. Thanks!

    • Reservations might be tough at the last minute, but we’d recommend ‘Ohana or Biergarten (decorated for Christmas). For Christmas dinner, try Liberty Tree Tavern. They might do a special Christmas meal, but we’re not sure.

  30. Alex says:

    We are visiting for our first time from overseas from dec 5th-12th and now you have really confused me :/ are you suggesting we avoid MK altogether during the early part of the trip? Please help me out…..Alex

  31. Melios says:

    I love this blog. So much good info!I am visiting december 11-15 (leaving the morning of the 16th). I’ve been once as a kid and once as a teenager, both in the summer, and it’s been almost 15 years, so I’m excited. It’s my Husbands 30th birthday and his first time AND since it’s christmas, I’m trying to decide if we want to buy the tickets for the christmas party. I am trying to plan the trip in a way that it’s so good that He will agree to go back in september for our first anniversary. Will the christmas party help me in this endeavor or is it better to just do MK on a normal night? Thanks for any input you can offer!

  32. Paula says:

    Great tips and info – thanks! I’m going from 30th Dec this year and was wondering when the extra hours and extra shows (e.g. for Fantasmic) are added? Trying to plan fast pass plus and dining without knowing this is really hard. I’m planning to follow your strategy of rope drop with midday sleep then hop to another park but at this stage the calendar still has relatively early closing times, with early shows,

  33. Joe says:

    Sounds like you were at the Kali Rapids Theater for the Neil Patrick Harris Candlelight Processional that we were at. We had done the dining package for the show at the Biergarten so we did not have to wait too long in the rain. Alas we missed sitting under the overhang by one row. Suffice it to say a raincoat and snorkel would not have been inappropriate. That was our first year going at Christmas. This year we are going for our third Christmas trip. We are doing the NPH show again, this time a Coral Reef lunch. Even though we have done Disney at Christmas now twice, I still learn how to do it better through blogs, books and websites. Your right ups are the best out there. Your humor, insights and tips strike the perfect balance for me. Now mind you I am slightly off kilter but hey what a way to go through life. FYI we managed to snag a Be Our Guest reservation for our trip through dumb luck and persistence. I kept going back to nights that had no openings before and trying again. One day bang-o they had a spot. We also got us a California Grill reservation for 9:00 on the 1st of December. Going to be great. Keep up the good work. Keep fueling my insatiable appetite for all things Disney.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Haha, yep! We were there. We almost went back to watch the late show that night when the weather cleared (briefly), but decided against it…then it started pouring again, so I’m pretty content with the decision!

  34. Annie says:

    Do you know if A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas stage show featuring Stitch and friends is shown on certain days, during regular park hours? My husband and I will be at WDW 11/28-12/01 this year and on the Disney world website it shows that A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas stage show will show every hour, starting at 2:15pm, 11-28-11/30. We thought maybe it was a special “treat” for Thanksgiving. Do you know anything about this?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      It could be, especially if the Times Guide refers to it as A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. However, there are regularly dance parties on that stage that aren’t the same as the Christmas show.

  35. Laura C. says:

    Thanks for updating this for the 2013 season! Our family of 7 (2 adults, kids aged 8, 6, 5, 3, 3) will be there the first week of December and I already read the 2012 version in anticipation, so I wanted to let you know there’s some ‘not as correct’ info. You have the new fantasyland opening happening, which was just last year unless they’re doing something else with it this year, too? Also fyi, the pop warner thing is the second week of December this year. Thanks for all you do! Love your blog and photos!

  36. There actually is an attraction at the Magic Kingdom getting a holiday makeover this year, the “Jingle” Cruise!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Wow, I can’t believe I forgot about that. The sad thing is that I was reading about it immediately before updating this, and it still didn’t click. I guess that’s the downside of updating a post rather than writing a new one. Added Jingle Cruise info above–thanks!

  37. Alex says:

    Thank you for another very informative interesting article that has cleared many of my questions up! We are staying at AoA from dec 4-12 but were concerned ant the extra cost of dvmcp on top of what is already a very pricey trip! I think we will just go to the MK on the other nights and be happy with that, thanks again. Perhaps wew will see you there!

  38. shawn says:

    Any suggestions on how to get the most out of Park hours, or how best to avoid crowds during the week leading up to Christmas? My wife and I are going for the first time, and I would love to get the most out of our trip. Thanks! And your blog has been super helpful in planning our first trip!

  39. MWeyer says:

    Managed to get to Disney World last year in early November but they were already prepping with the Osborne Lights up. THIS is a must-see, walking through those flashing displays is amazing, the artificial snow blown about making it better, worth the price of a ticket just to enjoy, especially with later Magic Hours.

  40. Mike says:

    This is a great guide. I loved reading through it. We were at WDW last Christmas and although it was very busy at times, with a little planning and some patience it is very manageable. We are a family of 5 with 3 children (16, 10 and 8) and stayed at AKV. It was our best vacation ever. I really wish we were going back this year, but I am planning our Christmas 2014 trip. This guide will help we through withdrawals this year.

    Keep up the great work!

  41. Sam Barber says:

    Hi we’re coming over from the uk on the 18 December and leaving on the 7 jan. Your site is great, very informative. Could you tell me when you think the best day would be to attend disney. Thanks

  42. Lynn says:

    I love all of the Christmas decorating at Disney World and we usually go at the beginning of December during the week when the crowds are down a bit. It is maddening though to have paid the full price to visit the Magic Kingdom on a given day and then be “thrown” out early so that the people who have paid another $60+ for the Christmas Party can come in. Shouldn’t we be reimbursed for the time at the park that we are loosing? Just being Scroogy I guess. The Choir concert at Epcot is great and we have paid to see it several times. However, if you just want to enjoy the music you can just sit outside the concert and just listen and they will also process in front of you. Be sure and get your picture taken with Father Christmas at Epcot. He is beautiful.

  43. Dan says:

    Christmas is my favourite time of the year at WDW! So gutted I won’t be there this year… I hope there will be plenty more pictures to come – keeping my holidays spirits lifted hehe

  44. simran says:

    i want to go to amrica trip in this holiday what can i do pleas help

    • Mitch DVC-AP-FL says:

      A little late now. Try to find a hotel off property but near Disney. Be careful, some days around Christmas Magic Kingdom actually gets full and is closed until late in the day until the crowds get smaller.

  45. Kyle says:

    This is almost an accurate article except I’d like to point out a couple of things that were said that actually work for us, 4 time Christmas visitors.
    1. Yes the resorts are pricey and fill up, however booking a year in advance helps a lot. We have stayed at various resorts and have saved $100-$250 per night by booking in advance.

    2. If your on vacation sleep schedules change. We have 3 kids all under 10, and the extra hours are perfect for kids. Sure you wake up early but we have done every ride at the Magic Kingdom before noon multiple times. Then you return to your resort eat and let the little ones swim. Believe me they will take a good nap after that. Then return to the parks after dinner. Everyone will be rested and we have been LITERALLY the only ones in Fantasyland after midnight! Not a single person in any line.

    3. Remember not everyone has multiple day or park hopper tickets so those people tend to go to the park with the extra hours for that day so those parks will be busier than those parks without the extra hours. So if u have a hopper and decide to do an afternoon, switch to a park without the extra hours and they will usually be less crowded.

  46. Mindy says:

    I was wondering what your thoughts are? Planning trip 2014 originally Nov 29-Dec 6. I think I got tricked into several sites talking about low crowds this week. And several people complaining last week through fb about crowds. I wanted your opinion better to change to Nov 8-15. Will we miss some of the Christmas cheer?! Going that early? It will be our first trip to Disney – traveling with 6 y/o, 4 y/o and 2 y/o?

  47. Tina says:

    We were looking at surprising our son next year with a trip . He turns 10 Nov 13th and we wanted to incorporate Christmas. Is it still good go go then or should we push it back to a later week?

  48. Jessica says:

    Wow! Guide to Disney at Christmas! You are amazing and have made me (the team leader and planner) the hero! :) Thank you!

  49. Jay says:

    Got park hopper for Disney dec2013. Should we go to MK on 24th or 25?

  50. Mitch DVC-AP-FL says:

    Well, not bad. DVC member, AP holder for many a year, been there oh, 100+ times. 10 Christmas seasons.
    Your review is not bad, although less than enthusiastic. And yes, I am somewhat local (an hour an a half away), but yet I am still reading this.
    We always stay on property (although the price increases have been growing exponentially.

    First, Downtown Disney, awesome this time of year. I stop there on my way back and forth between Orlando and Tampa whenever I can, it is one of the best places in central FL to get into the Christmas spirit (notice I didn’t say holiday).

    Best park for the Holidays, Magic Kingdom, by far, but Hollywood studios is also a must, mainly because of the Osbourne Family lights (just INCREDIBLE), they have gotten better over the past several years as they have converted to LED lights.

    Epcot, not bad, the candlelight processional is a nice experieince, though more of an adult activity as kids might find it a little less than exciting.

    Something to consider is a tour around Disney World Resort as many of the major hotels have very nice Christmas presentations, and there is a carriage/sleigh ride at Fort Wilderness, not widely advertised but very nice, especially if it is “cool”.

    Just my $0.02 to try to add to the Christmas experience at WDW, because here in FL, it truely is the best place to be.

  51. Cindy says:

    Can we still use the self guided tour guide if we are not staying at one of the park resorts?

  52. OB says:

    Hi, we reserved at Best Western at WDW. I’m told we can watch fireworks from the hotel. Do you have experience with this hotel?
    Thank you

  53. Jaime says:

    Does Magic Kingdom have anything “Christmasy” after MVMC ends on the 20th, or only the castle dream lights?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      After MVMCP ends, the entertainment that was shown during the party is run during normal park hours until New Year’s Eve.

  54. Sarah says:

    I have been stalking, er, reading your blog for three days now. You have shared SO MUCH awesome information. THANK YOU for taking time to build such a great site.

    My family of three has only been to Disneyworld once, three years ago, when my daughter was three. We live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, so it’s a really special trip. We went in late November for our 7th wedding anniversary and enjoyed the Christmas decor and spirit so much. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!

    Ever since leaving DW in 2011 we’ve looked forward to returning for our 10th wedding anniversary, which is November 2014! Now as I’m planning our next trip and it’s actually 2014 I am doing my research and your site is bookmarked and I’m sure I’ll be returning again and again throughout the year. Thanks so very much!

  55. Helen says:

    We spend our first day in Disney Saturday, Nov. 29th of this year. 4 and 2 children (5 and a month shy of turning 3). Will be crazy of us to go to Magic Kingdom that day?

  56. Tom Phelps says:

    We are planning for a December 2014 MVMCP vacation. On our last Holiday trip to WDW, we bought the MVMCP tickets in advance. The night we picked it poured rain. I think this time we will pick a series of days where the party is on twice or more and pay more when we get there. Hopefully we will get one good weather night. I don’t remember the Pop Warner Footballl kids or the Cheerleaders and Dancing kids. Perhaps they weren’t there back in 2007. My understanding from other sources is that it has the greatest effect on getting a room at a value resort. Since I cannot convince my wife to ever go back to a value resort that doesn’t matter to us. I like your picture taking spot but cannot figure out how you got it. Back in my 35mm slide days I sat with my film camera directly opposite your spot with the castle and partners statue behind me. That was a great spot to shoot the MSEP back then. When we went last year for the MNSSHP, that spot was roped off for VIP’s and so was the spot you recommended in this post. Do you think its different for the MVMCP vs the MNSSHP. Or did we just pick a bad night?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think you just picked a bad night (maybe there was a filming or something special that night?), I didn’t have any issue getting that spot for the 2013 parties.

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  58. Robin S says:

    We’re plannign on going during Veteran’s Day Week this year… I know there will be minimal Christmas decorations up at that point, but any idea when the resorts start decorating? After Thanksgiving maybe? I know we’ll be able to see Osbourne lights & MVMCP, but just wondering what else may be around that early in the “holiday season”! Thanks Tom!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Osborne Lights and MVMCP, and maybe some other park decorations. Resort hotels typically don’t decorate until Thanksgiving.

      • Christie says:

        I wonder if we put in a special request if they will change their ways:) I was really hoping your reply was early November. We are there until 11/12/14

  59. christine Walsh says:

    I’m planning to be there between Dec 31,2014 and Jan 2, 2015. Will I be able to see the Christmas parade and decorations. I’ll have my 4 year old granddaughter with me. What will be the best parks to go to with her at that time?

  60. I love reading an article that can make men and women think.
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  61. Sarah Blackmore, UK says:

    Hiya.
    Me and my boyfriend are having our first holiday with each other to Orlando this year (this is not our first visit though). We are going from 23rd Dec – 6th Jan for 2 weeks. For one we’ve not been away at christmas before and obviously for another, don’t know where’s good to go on what day here. We have Discovery cove booked for christmas day as it has a maximum capacity and it is our favourite place so why not be there on christmas day?! We are going to Magic Kingdom on christmas eve (buying a single ticket) would love to know what time it shuts on this day and wether we should day hire a car or taxi it…. Basically can you give any advice of hidden gems, where to go/eat thats abit different, where is best to spend new years eve etc? We are staying on I Drive and are not hiring a car for the duration so advice on taxis would also benefit us.
    Kindest regards
    Sarah and Jamie (both 26 if the age helps to advise us!)
    xx

    • LauraKath says:

      you should be able to check the park hours on Disney’s website, when you select parks, you can see the option of park hours, and then, more park hours (it allows you to select a date on a calendar.)

  62. Ashley says:

    Is Christmas in full swing by 11/07/14?

  63. Janette says:

    Thank you, after reading this you have confirmed my decision to swap from July to December for our visit in 2015. My son hasn’t been for 5 years ( he is now 11 ) and whilst he enjoys water parks his request this time was ” I want to disney myself out! ” So Disney him out we will. My next decision will be which resort, it’s a choice between GF ( mine ) AK ( husband ) WL ( son )
    Now I can have the happy task of planning and reading more fab information on here :)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Switching from July to December is a no-brainer. December is so much better than July in just about every regard: weather, crowds, atmosphere, etc.

  64. Jill says:

    Hi. I’m from Scotland and love your blog! I’m going with my family over Christmas this year. Our first day is 23rd Dec, therefore we miss Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party…will we still see snow on Main Street?!

    We have been to WDW many times but this is our first Christmas!

  65. Amanda says:

    First timer here… Planning on going over Christmas break from school with my hubby. Any suggestions on a cheap cheap hotel… close to disney?

  66. Len Mullen says:

    How Christmassy is Disney World the first two weeks of November? How are the crowds and weather? Our anniversary is 11/3 and we are torn between leaving early for Halloween and leaving late for Christmas. Sounds like Christmas starts earlier than I expected. Is it a gradual build up or will Disney be celebrating Christmas in full force in early November?

  67. Fi says:

    Hi, We just made a dinner reservation at La Hacienda in Dec for 7:45pm. Will they let us stay for “illumination until it finished? That was actually the main reason why we made reservation for dinner, to watch the fireworks. I just hope our reservation is not too early for the show!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Just eat slowly. The servers will try to push you through quickly, but so long as you’re still eating, they won’t actually ask you to leave.

  68. Mags says:

    Is there really not going to be fireworks at Magic Kingdom Christmas week this year? It is greyed out on the calendar and not a fast pass option! Disappointing and strange to me!

  69. bugmei says:

    Hi Tom,

    You mentioned you were able to take naps mid day, did you get a park hopper pass? I don’t have any idea about being able to go in and out of the parks unless you have a park hopper pass… pls. enlighten me. Planning to go there this New year’s eve with my sister visiting from the Philippines. Thanks so much in advance!

  70. Guy Desrosiers says:

    Hello Tom, a question about the new-year eves? What is the best park to smash the year. We have reservations for Epcot this year, but we hesitate between Hollywood studios and Epcot Center.

    thank you

    Guy

  71. Katie says:

    My mom and I discovered Christmas at Disney last year and it was amazing. We were lucky enough to see Neil Patrick Harris during the Candlelight Processional, and he had a few good jokes, but the best part was getting to see him sing along with the choir.

    One bit of advice if people are interested in the dining package that included VIP firework seating. If the wind is blowing in your direction at all, it is very likely that you will have a lot of firework ash rain down on you. The seating area has no cover, as opposed to finding a bench around the showcase that has trees around it. By the end of it we were covered in ash and had scorch marks on our shirts. Looking back it makes me laugh, but just be aware. Nothing beats Christmastime at Disney.

  72. hash K says:

    Hi Tom,

    Your Christmas Photography Tips post is really good!!
    I am currently planning to visit Magic Kingdom during January 2015.
    I would like to know usually till what date in Jan do they keep the Christmas decorations in the parks (for example: christmas lights, trees, decorations etc).

    Thank you!!

  73. Mouserly says:

    Thanks for this great compilation of tips. We went during the second week of December in 2013. Wish I would have found this post before that! But glad to know we did many of the things on this post. We loved it so much, we are going back in December 2015 and this time we have about four other families that want to go with us! Obviously our enjoyment was contagious.

    I also want to make a “small” plug for Fort Wilderness entertainment. We stayed there, in the cabins, so we were privy to all the marvelous things that go on there. We found much enjoyment out of the small things here – we rented a golf cart and rode around and looked at all the lights that the campers put up (some even have rented extra spaces for their walk-through exhibits!). Another night, we took the wagon ride. Only $8 a person and we rode through the campground, got lucky to see a parade of decorated golf carts (again, by the campers, who even deck out their own golf carts). The wagon stopped at a secluded beach where we watched the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. We got back to the main area of the campground in time to see the Water Pageant as it passed. Still another night, we went to the Chip and Dale sing along, roasted marshmallows, and watched an outdoor movie. It was a nice change of pace from the parks and some of our best memories came from these more casual times.

  74. Mouserly says:

    One more thing – the Jingle Cruise was one of my nieces’ favorite things. What a hoot! We rode it twice because we thought it was so fun. I hope they keep it.

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