Walt Disney World has announced details about Christmas–both what’s coming and what’s cancelled in terms of entertainment, decorations, food, etc. at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, and the hotels. This year, WDW will celebrate the holiday season from November 6, 2020 to December 30, 2020, which is actually the normal start date (albeit an early end date).
In this post, we’ll share what was announced and offer some thoughts about visiting–including park hours. We’ve been anxiously awaiting this news, and are pretty excited. While the low crowds that have resulted from various cutbacks by Walt Disney World have been nice, we’re ready for the holidays. Thankfully, we’ll get Halloween and Christmas pretty much back to back for the next four months.
The Christmas news is ultimately a mixed bag. This confirms some of our suspicions about cancellations of popular holiday-time offerings, but Walt Disney World is also doing more than expected. Plus, we can draw some positive inferences about other things (like park hours!) that have not yet been announced. Let’s dig into the details!
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. There will be no Cinderella Castle Dream Lights nor will Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party be held in Magic Kingdom. Pretty disappointing, but anyone who has followed our recent posts knew the writing was on the wall for both.
Additionally, Candlelight Processional will not be held at EPCOT. We reported over a month ago that the performers had been notified of this, so no huge surprise. Gingerbread displays will not return to the resort hotels this year, either. (That tidbit is a new-to-us development.)
Per Walt Disney World’s announcement, all holiday offerings that “draw big crowds will be on hiatus this year as well.” While the announcement does not officially address them one way or the other, we’re guessing that means the following will NOT happen for Christmas 2020:
- Merry Menagerie (critter puppets) at Animal Kingdom
- Tree of Life Winter Awakenings at Animal Kingdom
- World Showcase Holiday Storytellers (Santas) at EPCOT
- Sunset Seasons Greetings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- A Frozen Holiday Wish at Magic Kingdom
- Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs (see below)
Now, let’s turn to what is coming back, and new-for-2020 Christmas entertainment at Walt Disney World…
First, Santa Claus will make time for special pop-up appearances at each park and Disney Springs, waving and exclaiming holiday wishes to all. We’re guessing he’ll be incorporated into the character greetings and cavalcades–but will not be doing up-close encounters or meet & greets.
Some of Walt Disney World’s official announcement is vague, like the statement that guests will be delighted by the sight of “festive flotillas” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We’re guessing this means Discovery River Character Cruise with garland on the boats and the characters wearing scarves and other winter-time accessories.
Additionally, there will be holiday promenades at EPCOT and merry motorcades at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which should similarly offer holiday overlays on the current character greetings. We’d caution against getting overly excited for any of this. These should be nice touches, not bona fide Christmas entertainment.
From the sounds of it, Magic Kingdom will offering something more substantive. There, the character cavalcades will take on a special holiday twist, with Christmas friends on festive floats in their holiday finest.
Notably, these will include Gingerbread Men, Elves, Reindeer, and the iconic Toy Soldiers doing their march through the park, along with the Main Street Philharmonic, bringing musical holiday cheer for all to hear.
When dusk falls over Magic Kingdom, special projections will give a festive look to Cinderella Castle this year, providing a colorful backdrop for photos. The appearance of the castle will be transformed with a rotating series of designs including a whimsical Christmas sweater and a regal overlay of red, green, and gold ornamentation.
Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime has tested multiple times in the last few weeks after hours, minus the pyro. However, it does not appear that Magic Kingdom will present that full projection show. Probably a smart move, given that would cause guests to congregate on Main Street.
Moving along to food, Minnie Mouse will be hosting a yuletide feast at Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the return of Minnie’s Holiday Dine (which we absolutely love) beginning November 6, 2020. Santa Goofy will be there, along with Minnie and others in their holiday finery.
EPCOT will also celebrate in culinary style with highlights from the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays beginning November 27, 2020. Holiday kitchens will return around World Showcase promenade with favorites like American Holiday Table featuring Slow-roasted Turkey with Stuffing, Bavaria Holiday Kitchen with dishes like Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl, and more.
Continuing with EPCOT, guests will be invited to step inside World ShowPlace to enjoy the sounds of JOYFUL!, who present a journey through R&B, gospel, contemporary, and traditional Christmas and holiday music. Additionally, the Voices of Liberty will bring their incredible 8-part harmonies to the America Gardens Theatre stage for a special concert of favorite carols and songs of the season.
Walt Disney World has done a great job with health safety thus far, but given everything we now know, it seems downright irresponsible to have a group singing indoors. Then again, Walt Disney World still is not encouraging outdoor dining and offers an indoor Relaxation Station, which are other questionable decisions. At least the Voices of Liberty are performing in an open-air setting.
Bouncing from the parks to Disney Springs, guests will discover Christmas around every corner with a collection of elaborately-decorated Disney Christmas trees spread throughout this retail, dining and entertainment destination. (Our guess is that this is the alternative to Christmas Tree Trail.)
In the evening, there will be a magical snowfall in Town Center, West Side and The Landing to add an extra touch of wonder to holiday shopping. And to top it off, Jock Lindsey will once again be turning his hangar bar into Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar complete with delightful holiday décor and a delicious limited-time menu filled with festive favorites.
Finally, Walt Disney World resort hotels will be decked out for the holidays, with their lobbies featuring iconic trees and other festive flourishes. Definitely good news for fans of Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom, and other holiday favorites.
The lack of gingerbread houses is disappointing, but understandable given the logistics and how guests congregate around them. Plus, if we had to pick between the trees and the houses, we’d choose the former!
While there are some disappointing cancellations for this Christmas at Walt Disney World, all of that was to be expected. Same goes for most of the announced entertainment and offerings. Still, it’s nice to have confirmation and clarity on all of that.
This still leaves a couple of big unanswered questions…
First, what will in-park decorations be like beyond Magic Kingdom?
It would appear that Main Street will feature its normal Christmas decorations, aside from the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights. However, what about EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom? (Or even the other lands of Magic Kingdom, for that matter.) There’s no point in illuminated decor if the parks are closing before sunset, which brings us to the second question…
Second, what will park hours actually be in November and December 2020?
As park hours have been released week by week (through November 21, 2020 at this point), we’ve been operating under the assumption of a later than normal start date for Christmas. After all, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to close the parks right around sunset if there’s Christmas entertainment and decor.
Presently, Magic Kingdom is scheduled to close at 6 pm on November 6, 2020. Sunset on that date is 5:36 pm. In a normal year, the first showing of “A Frozen Holiday Wish” is presented at 6:15 pm in early November. That’s typically when dusk begins and the earliest time when it’s sufficiently dark for a castle lighting–or projections.
It seems unlikely that Magic Kingdom will continue closing at 6 pm, while starting the Cinderella Castle projections 15 minutes later. That would encourage guests to linger around after park closing and congregate on Main Street, which is obviously contrary to current health safety goals. (Even right now, Main Street is busiest the hour after park closing–imagine how much worse that would be if Cinderella Castle were cycling through projections.)
More likely, the November 2020 hours that have been posted on DisneyWorld.com thus far are merely boilerplate placeholders. That’s the most logical explanation, and there’s plenty of past precedent for it. (Basically, every single month for the last several years before this March!)
Short of Imagineering building some sort of literal bubble around Walt Disney World and artificially manipulating daylight and nighttime hours, that’s our best guess as to what’s happening and what will happen. (Of course, we wouldn’t put anything past Imagineering!)
Consequently, we’d expect park hours to be extended beginning November 6, 2020. The big questions are whether they will simply be adjusted for later openings and later closings, or if this will be a true extension. Additionally, will only Magic Kingdom see its schedule tweaked, or will this be done across the board at all the parks?
We don’t have any insight or credible predictions there. Our hope is that all parks will be extended. As we’ve stated countless times now, the current schedule with earlier closings makes very little sense given current guest demographics at Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, as with the Halloween announcement before it, these details of Christmas-time at Walt Disney World have us really excited. Not so much about the substance of the entertainment or decorations, but the fact that Walt Disney World is doing something, that it’s more than just decorations on Main Street USA, and the very real possibility that park hours will be extended.
Beyond that, one of the big things being cut is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, a hard ticket event that has become overcrowded and overpriced in recent years. The other major cut is Candlelight Processional, and that almost requires an expensive dining package to see. The lack of Cinderella Castle Dream Lights and reductions elsewhere are disappointing, but not nearly as bad as things could be given the circumstances.
In short, this news has us feeling at least somewhat reassured about the rest of the year at Walt Disney World. Of course, plenty still remains to be seen–including confirmation of evening hours–but we’re nevertheless more cautiously optimistic than we were when sharing our last Walt Disney World News & Rumor Roundup. Here’s hoping our renewed sense of hope ends up being justified!
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What do you think of this Walt Disney World news? Thoughts on mid-to-late November 2020 park hours? What about Christmas entertainment, decorations, and various offerings this year? Will you be disappointed if there aren’t lights up for the holidays? Do you like or dislike big-nose Figment? Hopeful that Journey into Imagination will reimagined at some point in your lifetime? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!