2020 Christmas Cancellations & Entertainment at Disney World
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!
Do you know when the end date is for Festival of the Holidays??
I will be arriving in January 4th..
I am curious why you consider the relaxation station not a good decision. Have you walked outside in the Florida sun in August ? We were at AK this August from early am and felt very safe both in the park and at the relaxation area that was the old pizzafari restaurant. It was cool quiet and we could sip our drinks and take off our masks and others were more than 10 feet away from us seated at tables. The section was cleaned as folks left and cast members wiped tables and chairs down. It was a much needed break after walking around in the heat and we live about 45 miles away and are used to the Florida heat in summer.
Hey Tom – sorry we missed seeing you at Galaxy’s Edge last Saturday! We were there and got on ROTR with boarding group 116!!! (booked it at 2:00 pm)
Have you heard any rumors about NYE festivities yet? We are planning our next trip for DEC 29 – JAN 5.
Well it’s disappointing that some things are missing, but I’m super excited for all the stuff we are getting under these circumstances.
This is so disappointing!!! No dream lights, no party, no parade and no fireworks yet the ticket prices basically remain the same, unbelievable! I am super disappointed that Disney hasn’t stepped up their game on other entertainment other than sporadic cavalcades and castle projections to make up the difference. Being stuck at the resort or Disney Springs every evening because the parks will ‘probably’ still be closing early is not very much fun. Where’s the magic Disney? I really wanted to justify our trip the first week of December but Disney is making it harder and harder to do!
I totally agree
The resorts have discounted prices a little bit but park tickets are full price
My family of 4 will cost $2000 for 4 days
I can’t hardly pay that for 1/2 the experience
We really wanted to take advantage of the low crowds and reduced hotel room prices
Yes all of these things missing are a bummer but you will never be able to see Disney at 25-30 % capacity again after this. You can actually here the music being played, not being overrun by other park goers and can walk onto most rides so yes arent open as late but you will spend less time waiting in lines therefore getting more bang for your buck. There are pluses and negatives for sure but we may never be able to enjoy a less crowded disney ever again.
Michael, you provided the words that make me want to keep my reservations for early December. Thanks. My story…I had Port Orleans Which closed, got upgraded to Wilderness, that closed and got upgraded to Polynesian, that closed and now upgraded to Grand Floridian. Not only is it my only chance at lower crowds but only chance to afford Grand Floridian! Now if I can only convince my party to go with masks on!
Jan, were going back during thanksgiving and we also wouldn’t normally be able to afford to go again either and want to go and experience it like this and be able to see the park uncrowded is an anomaly. I do wish they would have kept some things but I get it. I also don’t know that atbplaces like Disney if things will ever go back to normal like before, there’s probably going to be a new normal for a while. I wear a mask for 10 hours straight at work 5-6;days a week in a factory that’s always about 80 degrees, I don’t prefer it but it really isn’t that bad plus they are pretty strict about it there.
HA! Don’t kid yourselves? Ask the locals! Even at “25-30% capacity”, the parks feel crowded. Not walking around so much, but the lines are as long as ever because of all of the restaurants and shops closed and “normal” activities that draw people away from the rides not happening. Have you been reading Tom’s blog? I imagine it “may” be better during the week, but during the holiday season, there is no telling that. Plus, I read that it is’t 25-30% capacity of the “normal” Disney crowd, but rather the capacity of what they are legally allowed to have in the park, which is a much higher number of people, if you can believe that. Not to be discouraging, but please make sure you will not be disappointed if you travel all the way down here, pay full price, and then find the lines are not short like you hoped they would be.
I like the idea of projections–seems like a nice consolation price for the loss of an evening castle show. And we’ve always enjoyed MInnie’s various “Dines” at Hollywood & Vine. But I can’t help but be a little skeptical at how much holiday we’ll get to enjoy. Cavalcades seems to be the main thing they are doing, and without a posted schedule, I expect we’ll miss most of them while waiting in ride lines, just like we did with the regular non-holiday cavalcades on our recent trip (we really only saw one or two a day). Cavalcades may work well for locals who can devote plenty of time to just hanging out in the park, but when you are only staying a few days and your kids want to get through all their favorite rides with reduced hours and no fastpass, it’s hard to get lucky and see unscheduled and fleeting entertainment.
The “in short “ paragraph was confusing
after such a lengthy article . Glad I went to the last very merry Xmas party . Osbourne family Xmas lights or similar is greatly missed, as is everything that is discarded, for somthing new . I feel like the luster and magic is missing now . I’ll keep wishing for a recovery of some of the Christmas magic .
Three of my favorite things from the holidays are gone (party, houses, and candlelight) but it seems like Disney really did try to save and squeeze in as much as possible. I’m actually a little happy about the party. After seeing Disneyland without one, not having to pay or deal with crowds, it was more enjoyable not having to “get my money’s worth” running around like a crazy person. My attempt at finding a silver lining here!
So, with these announcements, what are your thoughts for the WDW Marathon races in early January? Rumors are that entires were reduced, but do you see any possibility of the races still happening?
It won’t feel like the holidays without Candlelight Processional and the Gingerbread houses. So disappointed….
There are definitely some positives for Christmas but also things we’d miss. It’s such a tough call for people who aren’t local and don’t go often, like us. We are big ride fans so parades and fireworks aren’t deal breakers. Although that’s when we normally take advantage of smaller lines 😉 Early closing hours and masks are big concerns for us though. We’re west coasters so staying as late as possible is our norm. Plus we were planning to do NYE in Epcot so late hours are a must! Guess we’ll stick with our wait and see plan. Tom any idea on Trader Sam’s opening? I know the Polynesian is closed but I wasn’t sure if that included Trader Sam’s. We’d be so bummed to miss it! Gotta love some tiki time 😀
I noticed they skipped New Years. I wonder what the plan is since the New Year typically happens after the new park hours.
Nicki – I stayed at the Poly last weekend and talked to a bartender there about Trader Sam’s. He said it doesn’t seem likely it will reopen before all of the renovations at the Poly are completed and from what I understand that will be at least June of 2021. The only rooms open at the Poly are DVC Villas , both pools are open. Ohana and Trader Sam’s are both closed… They will be closing the monorail stop in OCT when they start renovations on the Great House. If you are set on staying/dining/drinking at the Poly I would wait until next summer.
Thanks for the info Matthew. I was afraid of that. We weren’t planning to stay at the Poly (bucket list item though!!!) but we love Trader Sam’s! Sadly it’s looking more and more likely this trip will have to get postponed to next Christmas 🙁 With early closings and masks it just doesn’t work for us for the money. I’m so jealous you were just there though! Hope you had fun! 🙂
Tonight I am smiling. Of course I would like the parks to be open later at Christmas; at least a little. BUT I am so happy about it all starting on Nov 6 and the things they are doing are pretty great for me because yesterday I thought we got nothing. Am really happy about Minnie’s dine and can’t wait.
Everyone needs to handle things the way they see fit. I hate to say it, but for us it’s just not worth going to WDW right now.
Do you think Epcot should be avoided on weekends during holiday food festival? Long ago when I chose park tickets I had Epcot for Sunday in December. Now maybe I can try to change. What is the least crowded park on sundays in the temporary normal?
“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 favourites.”
So does this mean that you think Wilderness Lodge will receive their usual Christmas decor even though the hotel portion of the resort will be closed? Maybe just the tree in the lobby but not all the other little details all over the main resort building? I have a booking there for 23-26Dec, but it seems extremely unlikely that it will be open. We haven’t been moved yet though.
And this is your reply to another comment on this article:
“I think this Christmas season is the best time to visit Walt Disney World between now and at least next March.
Whether it’s still “worth it” is a personal call, but Christmas time is definitely the best bang for buck in terms of entertainment, weather, crowds, etc. Personally, I’d do it so long as I qualified for one of the various room-only discounts right now. If I didn’t, that’d probably tip the scales away from going. Your mileage may vary, though!”
We have never been to WDW at Christmas (though have experienced the season at DLR a few times). Reading your blog lures me to the low crowds, but it might be our only trip to WDW during the holiday season. (We did get a good discount for the WL, but it’s still by far the most I’ve ever paid for a WDW resort room!) The castle looks spectacular in your photos & I think missing that would really be disappointing. We would be travelling from Canada, so it’s also dependant on how the virus situation is down there. We are apparently allowed to fly in (the land border is closed in both directions, but the air border is only closed one way). We’d have to quarantine for 2 weeks upon return, which we could manage, but I’m still on the fence about not getting the full Christmas experience. And I guess the crowds won’t be as low on our dates as the rest of the Christmas “season”? Maybe my husband will just veto the entire plan & I won’t have to make a pandemic vacation decision…
A funny thing related to the last tidbit about the Very Merry Christmas Party becoming overcrowded and overpriced in recent years.
My wife and I went to MK for the Christmas Party for the first time about a week and a half before Christmas last year.
We were totally expecting it to be like the After Hours we took advantage of a few months before… ‘twas not the case at all.
We are very excited that Disney World is trying to do something this year to spice things up a bit. My wife and I are hoping to make the trip down from MA that we have scheduled for the beginning of November.
Always enjoy reading all your blog posts. Very informative!
My daughter and I had a similar “sobering” experience in 2016. We had expected low crowds and were very disappointed. Neither of us could see the stage shows and she (10 yrs old at the time) was pushed rudely out of the way during the parade by a mother with her child. Probably my fault for having unrealistic expectations. We made the best of it and took advantage of the short wait times for rides but overall it soured our experience and we would not do MVMCP again anytime soon.
I would love for Magic Kingdom to hand out a Christmas cookie to each guest