Day 2: Disney Springs Morning – Aside from shopping, the main holiday-time draw at Disney Springs is the Christmas Tree Trail. This is located near Once Upon a Toy and offers a maze filled with 23 different Christmas trees decked out in Disney-inspired themes. In addition to the trees, there are photo ops throughout the trail, plus music, falling snow, and more.
The Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail is now a few years old, and gets better literally every year. It was a bit rough the first time, but it’s improved considerably since. It still has a rough around the edges feel (it’s in a walled-off area of the old bus loop) and lacks the polish of the resort decorations, but we nevertheless highly recommend experiencing the Christmas Tree Trail.
In addition to the Christmas Tree Trail, Disney Springs has a variety of other holiday decor in the Marketplace, the Landing, Town Center, and the West Side. You’ll find 3D pop-up “cards” throughout the Marketplace, along with other quaint decorations. Town Center features more modern and elegant decor, including the icon tree at Disney Springs, which is quite lovely. There’s also a variety of entertainment, albeit mostly later in the day.
Note that this 2-Day Self-Guided Yuletide Tour of Walt Disney World offers two options for doing Disney Springs, once at night and once in the morning. If you’re also doing Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you’ll probably end up doing it here, in the morning. (Unless you have another free night.)
The upside to going at night is that the Christmas Tree Trail looks better fully illuminated and with all of the effects going. The upside to going in the morning is that you’ll encounter a fraction of the crowds. Disney Springs can get packed, especially during the holiday season, and the Christmas Tree Trail is elbow to elbow on some nights.
A D-Luxe Holiday Feast – There’s no shortage of great holiday-inspired food at Disney Springs. From the famous Holiday Turkey at Earl of Sandwich to the many festive desserts at Amorette’s Patisserie. A smart option is probably grabbing a paper holiday food guide when you arrive to determine what you want to try.
One overlooked option is the Holiday Turkey Burger at D-Luxe Burger. No, this is not a fried turkey leg inside a grilled hamburger, as delicious as that might sound. It’s grilled turkey burger topped with fried butternut squash and mozzarella risotto, bacon cranberry jam, lettuce, and tomato. It’s smorgasbord of flavors, but it largely melds together into something good. Regardless of what you order as an entree, be sure to do dessert at Amorette’s Patisserie.
Polynesian Village Resort – From Disney Springs, catch the bus to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Unfortunately, the Poly lacks an icon Christmas tree and no longer does edible displays, but the decorations it does have are gorgeous.
These typically include garland and other decor with excellent tropical color schemes, plus a moderately-sized Christmas tree. We always make sure to stop at the Polynesian on our tours, but that’s partly because we love the Poly, in general.
Grand Floridian Resort – From the Poly, you can either way or take the monorail next door to Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, the Grand Floridian. Featuring the elegance of a fancy Victorian Christmas, Grand Floridian is also arguably the flagship holiday-time resort at Walt Disney World.
We’d argue that it is not, but it’s definitely top 2 or 3. The highlight of Grand Floridian’s decorations is unquestionably the life-sized gingerbread house. The gingerbread house is composed of staggering amounts of real ingredients, and takes months to prepare. There are also beautiful flowers, unique decorations, and one of Walt Disney World’s tallest and most grandiose Christmas tree on display in the lobby.
Contemporary Resort – From Grand Floridian, either take the monorail to Contemporary Resort or to Magic Kingdom, where you can get off and walk to the Contemporary. The latter is a good option if you want some photos outside the park, perhaps of the Train Station or decorations around the park entrance. (We’d recommend going directly to the Contemporary, but it’s up to you.)
At Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll find a gingerbread display of Cinderella Castle in the style of Disney Legend Mary Blair, the artist of the mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse and style of ‘it’s a small world’. It’s a pretty neat display, and there’s also an adjacent snack stand serving excellent peppermint chocolate cookie!
From the icon tree in the middle of the lobby to the serene holiday music all around to antlers in all of the decorating, Wilderness Lodge transports you thousands of miles from Florida to experience a true Christmas in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. Seriously, nestle up in a quiet alcove in front of a roaring fireplace–it might be 90 degrees outside, but you’ll feel like you’re snowed in on Christmas Eve.
For the best of both worlds, request a table overlooking the lobby, so you can gaze at that majestic Christmas tree while you eat. Alternatively, if you want a less expensive option, Roaring Fork is great. (It normally serves the Holiday Turkey Sandwich this time of year, which is festive and surprisingly tasty.)
Fort Wilderness – From Wilderness Lodge’s dock, take the boat over to Fort Wilderness (due to construction, the walking path is now closed). Walt Disney World has its own decorations here that are worth seeing, but the real star of the show is the displays put up by long-terms guests on the campground loop.
Before you dismiss this, thinking that you don’t want to see amateur decorations, give it some more thought. These ‘Fort Fiends’ go all out and put together some really clever stuff!
Gran Destino – Walt Disney World’s newest resort has a chic and classy overlay for its first holiday season, and we’re huge fans. We highly recommend taking an Uber (don’t even bother with Disney transportation, it’s way too convoluted) over here for a late night experience. You can enjoy the beautiful Barcelona Lounge in the lower level of the lobby with the Christmas tree as a backdrop, or head up to the rooftop Dahlia Lounge for a nightcap and unique view of the fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
That about covers it in terms of the best free places to visit at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season. With that said, there are a couple of potential spots we’ve missed. There are several on-site third party resorts, including the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Four Seasons Orlando that are good. These resorts offer great decorations and entertainment, but they’re difficult to access. Consider penciling them in if you have time and don’t mind grabbing an Uber or Lyft.
Finally, it’s important to note that Walt Disney World Christmas decorations change yearly, and what you see described and photographed here is not necessarily what will be offered this year or beyond. Not all of the displays are up as of the time of publication, so we’re not totally sure as to all of the decorations. Hopefully we’re pleasantly surprised by a few of these exceeding expectations, rather than the reverse being true.
Which other Walt Disney World resort hotels do you think are worth visiting at Christmas? Which resorts have your favorite Christmas decorations? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!