Magic Kingdom has debuted several new character cavalcades for the Christmas season. This post will shares photos of each holiday mini-parade, tips for best viewing locations, our experience with crowds & physical distancing, and more.
This comes after the cancellation of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and with it the holiday fireworks, stage shows, parade, and other entertainment. That is Magic Kingdom’s flagship Christmas event, but it’s also a hard ticket party occurring after normal park closing that costs another $100+ per person to attend. Most of that holiday entertainment is not offered to regular daytime guests, save for those visiting during Christmas week.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party’s biggest entertainment offering is Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. This parade features several parade units consisting of floats and street-level elves, toy soldiers, reindeer, gingerbread men, and characters in their holiday finery. These cavalcades are not the full Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, but they collectively some of its highlights!
Before we dig into the details and photos of the Christmastime character cavalcades, I want to briefly discuss the holidays as a whole. Suffice to say, it feels like Christmas in Magic Kingdom. (It’s in the singing of a street corner choir…)
We addressed this in our Deluge Debut of Christmas 2020 at Magic Kingdom, but after the sparse Halloween decorations and festivities, it’s a huge relief to see Magic Kingdom fully decked out for the holidays, with Christmas background music, lights, garland–everything. It’s amazing what a difference this makes in terms of atmosphere.
At no time is this more delightful than sunset and dusk, when the last of the Christmastime character cavalcades running for the day and the lights coming on along Main Street. Seeing Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade from under the Christmas tree followed immediately by the Dapper Dans performing holiday medleys from the Train Station then Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade, capped off with the Cinderella Castle projections after that was something special.
The entire experience at Magic Kingdom is great right now and bursting with holiday entertainment, but that 1-2-3 punch was absolutely perfect. It’s hard to even properly articulate. Anyway, let’s backtrack to earlier in the day and run through each of the Christmastime character cavalcades, viewing locations, etc.
For Christmas, there are three new mini-parades joining the mix: Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade, Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade, and Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade. This is in addition to the standard Royal Princess Processional Cavalcade, which has garland on the floats and some princesses in their holiday finery.
There are also two other processionals: the Holiday Trolley Show and the Main Street Philharmonic featuring the Toy Soldiers. I guess these could be classed as cavalcades, but they’re not quite the same.
With the exception of Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade, which is off Tuesdays and Wednesdays (the two slowest days of the week at Magic Kingdom), each of these cavalcades runs daily from shortly after park opening through sunset.
Cumulatively, these cavalcades constitute about half of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Not too shabby for entertainment that’s included in regular park admission instead of being an upcharge.
These occur “randomly” but at consistent intervals and typically with the same sequence. Meaning you could camp out in the same spot for an hour or so and see them all–just with significant gaps in between.
We definitely don’t recommend doing that. There’s a lot of other Christmas entertainment along the parade route, so it’s very easy to start in Town Square and making your way through Main Street, Liberty Square, and Frontierland–stopping for character greetings and the cavalcades along the way.
If you do want to pick a spot to view the Christmas character cavalcades at Magic Kingdom, we have a few recommendations.
The first is sitting on the curb behind the Main Street Christmas tree. The cavalcades will come directly towards you, making this a picture perfect and unobstructed view. The downside is that it’s a popular spot and due to the quick nature of these processionals, our “secret spot” is never roped off. The upside is that guests cramming in at the last minute is less likely because this spot isn’t easily accessible in passing.
Our second recommendation is anywhere in the Hub or Central Plaza, but ideally in front of Cinderella Castle.
In our experience the last several months, this location is consistently the least crowded spot on Main Street. In large part, that’s because it’s inaccessible once the cavalcades reach Main Street, meaning most of those scrambling for spots cannot get to it. As such, if you’re in Liberty Square or Frontierland and you see the cavalcade coming, it might be worth falling back to this location.
Finally, on the corner in front of Main Street Firehouse, across from the Emporium.
This is another low-traffic location that also gives you a great view of the cavalcades coming straight towards you, and with the Christmas tree in the background. It’s far less popular than most other spots on Main Street, which is another plus.
In terms of worst Christmas cavalcade viewing spots, we’re not huge fans of Frontierland or Liberty Square.
As these are two of Magic Kingdom’s substantive lands (both with popular attractions), there are more people in both midday than on Main Street. On top of that, there’s nothing special in the backgrounds of either, making them less ideal for anyone wanting photos or video.
However, the curb along Main Street takes the cake as the worst viewing location.
For one, the view is not as “clean” as standing under the Christmas tree; you’ll have other guests in front of you with arms outstretched, all angling for the perfect photo. More importantly, these spots fill up the most at the last minute, with guests heading down Main Street filling the available space and sometimes making this too crowded for comfort. That probably won’t be much of an issue on off-season weekdays in mid-November or early December, but it will on weekends and during holiday weeks.
We’ve experienced significant lapses in physical distancing as a result of the crowds. During most of the Halloween season (aside from the first day and weekends, basically), this wasn’t an going issue, but it likely will be more of one for Christmas. The cavalcades are better and the holiday season at Walt Disney World is busier.
Reasonable minds may differ on this, but I don’t think this is a particularly big deal. Disney is clearly trying its best with enforcement and being diligent with face mask and physical distancing reminders. Cast Members were walking up and down Main Street with signs and reminding guests about the health safety rules.
Nevertheless, more than just the “viewing dots” along Main Street fill with guests. Many people swoop in at the last minute to see and grab photos of the Christmas character cavalcades.
This is going to happen throughout the holiday season. It’s unavoidable. Avoid the cavalcades to save yourself the headaches and frustration if that’s a non-starter for you. Most guests we encountered in busier spots are still aware of physical distancing requirements, they just didn’t give a full six feet.
In other words, during the Christmas character cavalcades Main Street becomes more crowded than it should be with the current rules in place, but still far less crowded than it would be in normal times. In fact, there are still plenty of areas along the parade route with ample space for physical distancing (just look at the hub photos throughout the post).
We’ve seen shoulder to shoulder crowds four rows back for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Don’t let compressed crowds in photos looking down Main Street fool you–this is not perfect, but it’s literally nothing like parade viewing during “normal” times.
Another thing to keep in mind is that each of the Christmas character cavalcades passes quickly and very few guests are “camping out” for parade spots. These are brief encounters that are over within the span of a few minutes. They’re also entirely outdoors, and with everyone wearing masks.
To each their own, but it strikes me as odd that some people would be overly concerned with this scenario, but those same people have no issues sitting inside a poorly ventilated room without any patrons wearing masks to eat for an hour. Objectively, the latter scenario poses a far higher transmission risk. In trying to mitigate our risk, we still will not dine indoors at Walt Disney World; we have zero issues watching the cavalcades.
This isn’t to defend guests breaking the physical distancing rules, but more to point out that it’s not as bad as it might seem. Moreover, the reality of increasing crowds at Walt Disney World is that you’re going to have fleeting encounters with other guests. It is not possible to stay 6′ away from other people at all times.
If that’s something that’ll cause you discomfort or unease, you probably shouldn’t visit Walt Disney World yet. We view the theme parks as a relatively safe setting, but nowhere is 100% safe all the time. (Alternatively, take incremental steps to being comfortable with it–after ’emerging’ from home after several months this summer, we were much more skittish than we are now. It took time to ease back into public life.)
Ultimately, we’re really pleased with the Christmas offerings at Magic Kingdom, and the cavalcades are a huge component of that. While these cavalcades alone are not significantly better than their fall counterparts, so much more is being done for the holidays than Halloween as a whole. Walt Disney World has really stepped up its game between the two.
In fact, the holiday experience for guests who didn’t previously purchase Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets is better this year than last year. These mini-parades plus everything else makes for a more cohesive whole, and it truly feels like Christmas in Magic Kingdom. We’re quite thankful for that, as there’s a lot going on in the real world right now, and this provides a partial reprieve and another step towards normalcy. It’s also the greatest sense of escapism we’ve experienced at Walt Disney World in the last few months, and it couldn’t have come at a more welcome time.
What do you think of the Christmas character cavalcades at Magic Kingdom? Happy to see the iconic toy soldiers, reindeer, or gingerbread men back? Looking forward to seeing these and the other entertainment? Concerned about crowding and physically distancing breakdowns? Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World this Christmas, or are you sitting this year out? 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!