Disney Springs offers holiday entertainment, decorations, and the Christmas Tree Trail from November 8, 2019 through January 5, 2020 at Walt Disney World. This post covers info & tips, when we recommend visiting to avoid crowds, and what to do during your holiday visit to Disney Springs. (Updated November 7, 2019.)
In the last few years, Disney Springs has received a lot of new Christmas decorations. In addition to the 3D pop-up style holiday card displays, there are lights in all of the shrubbery around Town Center, garland hanging overhead, and a gorgeous “icon” Christmas tree, the newest at Walt Disney World.
Then there’s the Christmas Tree Trail, which is a maze featuring 23 individually decorated Christmas Trees, each with its own Disney-inspired theme. In addition to the trees, there are one-of-a-kind photo ops during this walk-through experience featuring music, falling snow, and more…
In terms of decorations, let’s start with the Disney Springs icon Christmas tree, which is located in Town Center–you’ll spot it as soon as you enter Disney Springs from the bus depot.
This tree is gorgeous. It’s elegant and lavish without feeling ostentatious. (It makes me wish Magic Kingdom would get a new tree, because the difference in quality between this and Magic Kingdom’s laughably dated, circa-1987 tree is really something.)
In terms of entertainment, let’s start out with the Christmas Tree Trail. This is located in the Marketplace with its entrance just outside Once Upon a Toy in the Marketplace. Once in this area, you’ll spot a pathway leading outside Disney Springs–it’ll be easy to spot because it’s where pretty much everyone will be heading.
The Christmas Tree Trail debuted a few years ago, and left a lot to be desired in its first year. In fact, at that time we said the Christmas Tree Trail felt like something assembled by drunken chimpanzees in a Home Depot parking lot with decorations from the clearance bin at Hobby Lobby. Ouch.
Not exactly high praise, and not even remotely accurate for this year’s incarnation of the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs. The concept here is the same: it’s still a bunch of themed trees with a temporarily walled-off area in the loop Downtown Disney bus loop. By and large, the concept remains true to its original incarnation.
What has changed is the level of attention to detail and degree of originality. There are many more ancillary evergreens with white lights serving as transitions between each themed tree display, and the walls to conceal the unused bus stops (or whatever’s back there now) are not just plain and unthemed.
The decor on these walls is my favorite part of the whole Christmas Tree Trail. They’re adorned with posters and faux advertisements that are nicely-designed and contain great references. There are clever, and look like they were designed by a fan—nods to Country Bear Jamboree, the Dreamport’s rainbow tunnel, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Dr. Seeker, and more.
It also helps a ton that the Christmas trees themselves have far more substance to them, and the themes are conveyed via more than just off-the-shelf things for sale in Disney Days of Christmas. In other words, the idea of the Christmas Tree Trail has remained the same, but the presentation has improved by leaps and bounds.
Fortunately, there is plenty of good holiday entertainment, and the Christmas Tree Trail being quarantined off from the rest of Disney Springs means it doesn’t blemish the otherwise excellent Christmas atmosphere. There is a holiday-themed DJ dance party, toy solider and snowflake stilt walkers, oversized roaming toys, classic carolers, a capella groups, and more.
And really, “atmospheric” is probably how the rest of the holiday entertainment at Disney Springs should be viewed. This is in part because you can’t really plan to see any of the aforementioned entertainment (save for the dance party, which occurs outside Once Upon a Toy). These performers all roam Disney Springs starting nightly at 6 p.m., but you don’t know where they will be at any particular time.
There are enough of them that you will randomly encounter them while perusing Disney Springs, which is probably the idea. We saw the stilt walkers, a capella group, a mobile piano man, plus a band on the main stage during our visit to Disney Springs, and we stopped to watch the latter three (the stilt walkers were on the move!) perform a couple of songs. It was fun, and certainly got us into the holiday spirit.
There were other things that we missed. Also at 6 p.m., there’s a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Fountain Stage. There’s a free scavenger hunt “hosted” by Stitch. There’s Santa’s Chalet where you can meet Santa Claus (and Santa Goofy the week after Christmas). There are cultural celebrations later in the season (consult a times guide) and live entertainment on a nightly basis.
As for when to go, weekdays are always our recommendation for Disney Springs. It tends to be significantly less crowded on weeknights because locals who don’t have Annual Passes head to Disney Springs on weekends as an inexpensive/free entertainment option. A surplus of locals plus tourists makes for the most crowded nights of the week–by far.
That’s not the only reason we favor weeknights. On weekends, the parks are open later, usually until at least 11 p.m. or midnight. By contrast, there are at least a couple nights per week during the holiday season when every park aside from Epcot closes at 7 p.m. Doing Disney Springs for a few hours after the other parks close is the perfect amount of time to see the nighttime entertainment, and maybe even a bit of shopping. This is especially true if you don’t have a Park Hopper ticket, and don’t want to go to bed at 7 p.m.
Note that this recommendation is just for the holiday entertainment and decor. If you typically visit Disney Springs for a half day or a few hours on your non-park day, you’ll still want to do that. We think it’s not a bad idea to go one morning (before the crowds show up) and then returning a different evening if you really enjoy wandering around Disney Springs.
In terms of Christmas shopping, we aren’t sure how practical it is to do gift shopping while you’re on vacation. Most airlines charge for checked bags and the vast majority of the regular stores at Disney Springs also existing in your local mall.
Instead, we recommend focusing on the Disney-owned stores here for purchasing unique items you’ll only find at Walt Disney World. Obviously, World of Disney is a favorite option. We also recommend The Art of Disney, Disney’s Days of Christmas (obvious one), Once Upon a Toy, Trend-D, and the six shops in Marketplace Co-Op.
One exception to our above tip to not bother with the regular stores is UNIQLO. If you haven’t heard of UNIQLO before, they are a Japanese clothing company with approachable pricing. Think of them like a mix of Gap, J.Crew, and Abercrombie & Fitch, with some cool Disney designs thrown into the mix. We first discovered them on a trip to Tokyo, and it became one of my go-to stores on that visit thanks to its mix of quality and reasonable pricing.
Unless you live on a coast or in Chicago, you probably don’t have UNIQLO near you, and this trendy brand is popular with “the kids” making its “ill threadz” a great gift that will ensure your status as a true hero on Christmas morning. Aside from that, if you don’t follow our Packing Tips for Winter at Disney post, UNIQLO is the best spot to pick up inexpensive sweatshirts, coats, etc. when you’re already at Walt Disney World.
Our overall impression of Christmas at Disney Springs is positive. The Christmas Tree Trail has improved considerably over the course of the last couple of years, and everything else is also done well. The decorations are plentiful and do a nice job mixing old and new. There is likewise a lot of roaming entertainment to get you in the Christmas spirit.
It now makes sense to devote a half-day of your trip to Disney Springs any time of year, something we’ve discussed in our Disney Springs Tips & Tricks post. The way the district now exudes a sense of Christmas that makes it an inviting place to visit during the holiday season means you could probably extend that half-day visit and still feel satisfied. The only downside is that Disney Springs can be absolutely packed (for good reason!) during the Christmas season–so plan your visit accordingly!
Finally, a few plugs. First, our freeVacation Kingdom at Christmas eBook is available for download! This free eBook is 90 pages, with 100+ photos, and tons of great tips & info for the holiday season at Walt Disney World. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here. Did we mention that it’s free?! 😉
Are you excited to explore the Christmas Tree Trail at Disney Springs? Thoughts on other Christmas decorations at Disney Springs? Any holiday entertainment or shopping that you enjoy at Disney Springs? 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!