This December 2020 at Walt Disney World guide offers a free crowd calendar, tips for when to visit & avoid, weather, new attraction openings & closures, Christmas info, and more. We cover what’s happening at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. (Updated January 3, 2020.)
Early December is a good time to visit thanks to weather that is typically good (albeit cold at times), with relatively low crowds. It’s also the best month of the year in terms of seasonal events. That basically “just” means Christmas, but Walt Disney World really does the holiday season right.
In case it’s not obvious, we’re big fans of Walt Disney World at Christmas. This is reflected in December ranking as our #2 month of the year on our 2020 Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World. It isn’t just the best month–it has our favorite week of the year, too…
Before we were locals, we always made a point of an annual Christmas trip to Walt Disney World, and pretty much took it at the same time every year. As we see it, this is the sweet spot in terms of weather, crowds, special events, and more. We’ll cover that in the sections below.
Let’s take a look at what is going on at Walt Disney World in December, and how you can make the most of your holiday-time visit…
December Weather at Disney World
Weather at Walt Disney World in December is dicey. If you just go by historical averages, it looks like nice weather in the mid-50s to low-70s. The thing is, these are averages. In reality, the weather you experience likely won’t be a historical average. Packing this time of year is difficult, because you might experience weather in the 80s or you might have a cold front with frosty mornings.
During our late-November/early-December trip a few years ago, I packed all shorts and polos and we unexpectedly had lows in the 30s and highs in the 50s. As a result, I had to purchase new outfits from The Emporium, which wasn’t exactly cheap…and I was still cold! In fairness, this was an unseasonable cold front that hadn’t been experienced in years, but you’ve been warned! 😉 Check out our Winter Packing Tips for Disney post for more insight on what to take on your trip.
December 2020 Special Events at WDW
I’ll admit that I’m biased when it comes to December. For me, nothing else that Walt Disney World does in terms of seasonal offerings compares to the Christmas season. Sure, Halloween is nice and the other seasons have their appeal, but nothing compares to Christmas.
Walt Disney World does a lot for the holiday season, and comprehensively looking at each of these things is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice to say, it’s a great time to visit if you want to get in the Christmas spirit.
It also covers Disney Springs and the resort hotels, holiday hidden gems, and free things to do (including itineraries!) outside the park during the Christmas season. Seriously, go there for everything you need to know about Christmas at Walt Disney World!
In addition to this, there are a few events on the ESPN Wide World of Sports December Calendar, of which you should be aware. These are the types of youth events that only really are a draw for parents with kids participating in them, but we’ll also cover them in our December 2020 crowd calendar section below.
DECEMBER 2020 REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS
For December 2020 closures, consult our Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar. That won’t be accurate until a few months before December, and even then it might be a bit deceptive. There’s a lot of ongoing construction throughout Walt Disney World, beyond the scope of attraction closures.
This unprecedented overhaul has led us to address the question Should You Visit Epcot in 2020 or 2021? in a dedicated post. For most people, the answer will be yes, but it’s still worth going in with a realistic view of just how bad construction will be.
On the plus side at Epcot, three new films, three new restaurants, and one blockbuster ride will debut prior to Fall 2020. The ride comes via a huge expansion to the France pavilion that includes the family-friendly trackless dark ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
Outside of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has two attractions that will still be fairly new come Christmas 2020. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens this spring, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance debuted late last year. The latter is literally the best Walt Disney World attraction in decades–better than Avatar Flight of Passage.
December 2020 Crowd Calendar for Disney World
We don’t have a color-coded December 2020 crowd calendar for Walt Disney World at the top of this section because it wouldn’t tell the full story of attendance trends. If you spend the ~5 minutes reading this section from beginning to end, you’ll be far better prepared to avoid the worst of December crowds (depending upon when within the month you visit).
Crowd calendars are less reliable due to how Walt Disney World manipulates attendance patterns, staffing, closures, and ride capacity. Since Disney doesn’t release official attendance numbers, crowd calendars use school schedules, airport traffic statistics, hotel pricing & occupancy, etc., as proxies for crowds. This approach worked and made crowd calendars reliable for years.
More recently, wait times have no longer reliably reflect actual crowds due to said manipulation. We can still forecast attendance, but not wait times. This is like the difference between the actual temperature and the “feels like” temperature, but with crowds/waits. The “feels like” element will be what matters to most of you, but Walt Disney World crowd calendars don’t always get those right. With all of that in mind, here are our crowd calendar predictions for the best and worst weeks at Walt Disney World in December 2020…
The first week of December 2020 (November 29, 2020 to December 5, 2020) is our #1 week of the entire year to visit Walt Disney World. On the crowd calendar, this will be the week for the lowest crowds of December, and is unquestionably the best week of December 2020 to visit.
This first week used to be totally dead, one of Walt Disney World’s best kept secrets. Thanks to a mix of crowd calendars pointing guests towards those dates, savvy locals, Disney Vacation Members, and also due to Disney itself offering more discounts to lure people and groups down at this time of year, it’s not quite as incredible as it once was. However, this week still remains your best bet during the holiday season.
All around Walt Disney World, crowds will begin to pick up the second week (December 6-12, 2020). This is also Pop Warner week, which is a red flag for some Walt Disney World fans. Despite it being Pop Warner, the impact on crowds is not massive–it just can feel like that at times (more on this below).
The third week of December 2020 actually isn’t terrible on the crowd calendar because of the way Christmas falls at the end of the following week. This means that December 13-18, 2020 still won’t be too bad. Still worse than the two weeks before it, but not bonkers.
All bets are off beginning the Saturday before Christmas (December 19, 2020). This is when peak holiday crowds will descend upon Walt Disney World for the remainder of December. From this week on, every single day is a 10/10 on the crowd calendar. These last two weeks of December 2020 will be the busiest stretch of the year at Walt Disney World. This is one of the worst times of the year to visit unless you know what you’re doing.
This includes Christmas day. For some reason, a lot of people expect any holiday itself to be light in terms of crowds, and think they might be able to “outsmart” other guests by going on the holiday–the holiday itself is packed, too. If you dislike crowds, these two weeks are an awful time for you to visit.
With that said, I have a post discussing the Ins and Outs of Visiting Walt Disney World at New Year’s. This post will actually help you outsmart the crowds, and it applies to both weeks, not just New Year’s (just disregard the New Year’s Eve-specific stuff if you’re visiting during Christmas week).
In addition to these best and worst weeks on the crowd calendar, there are also trends of which you should be aware–specifically at Magic Kingdom. The park is leastbusy on days with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in the evening and more busy on days that the event isn’t happening. The Christmas Party is separately-ticketed, which causes Magic Kingdom closes early on these nights.
Many guests avoid Magic Kingdom on days with shorter hours, meaning lighter crowds before the party. These same guests then flock to non-party days in Magic Kingdom. Even though the park has longer hours on these days, you will get less done than you could before 4 pm on a party day. As such, avoid Saturdays in Magic Kingdom and any days that are in between two or more Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights.
We’d strongly recommend buying Park Hoppers and visiting Magic Kingdom during the day on Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party nights, and then heading to another park at around 4 pm. The downside to this is less time in Magic Kingdom at night, which is when it’s prettiest during the Christmas season, but it’s worth the trade-off.
Backtracking a bit, let’s cover Pop Warner. (If you are a well behaved attendee of this event, I’d recommend skipping the sentences that follow.) This is a football and cheer championship event held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports every December.
I realize I am painting with a very broad brush here. Think of it this way: have you ever voluntarily hung around a bunch of adolescent football players? What about teenage cheerleaders? If you answered no to both questions, there’s probably a reason you haven’t…right?
Well, as the saying goes, kids will be kids, and these kids are in large masses with minimal adult supervision. Expect rough-housing, questionable outfit choices, and general rambunctious behavior. To compound matters, there tends to be insufficient or irresponsible chaperoning. Just about anyone who has been in line behind one of these groups or stayed adjacent to their hotel rooms can confirm this.
The attendees can make certain resorts and areas of the park unpleasant if you’re in their midst. We’ve stayed at the same resort as Pop Warner guests, attended the same Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as their group, and even been in line behind them at Haunted Mansion. All were among our worst experiences at Walt Disney World.
However, these negative experiences were also a matter of bad luck. Other times we’ve been in the parks during Pop Warner week and didn’t notice the attendees at all. So much of this is simply a matter of luck, and being where their groups are or are not.
To minimize your chances of a negative Pop Warner experience, avoid the All Star Resorts and do not purchase Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets until a few days before your trip in early December. If you see a night sell out far in advance, that’s almost certainly because of a Pop Warner mass ticket buyout. Instead of cursing your bad luck on tickets selling out before your buy, thank your lucky stars you didn’t go that night.
If you are an attendee of these events and feel this is an unfair description of you, individually, it very well might be. Again, this is a generalization. Not every single individual in the group is going to be like this.
If you’re booking a room-only discount, you can decide for yourself which hotel might be best by reading our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews. To save money on airfare, we recommend ITA Software to search for the best prices. Obviously, none of this does you any good if you’re planning on visiting in a few weeks and have already booked your trip, but it should be useful for those of you considering a December 2020 visit to Walt Disney World.
Overall, December is a great month to visit Walt Disney World if you can work around all of the caveats mentioned above. This is one of those months with so many exceptions that they almost swallow the rule. It is true that the bad times (in terms of crowds and weather) can be really bad, but the upside if you can plan around groups and the last two weeks, and you’re willing to roll the dice on weather, is so great that it’s tough to consider December a “bad” month.
Our secret to visiting this time of year is starting your trip the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and ending it prior to Pop Warner starting. This is one of our favorite weeks of the year to go, and if you can manage to visit then, not only do you get all of the Christmas offerings, but low crowds, and a greater likelihood of good weather. Just don’t go around spreading that ‘secret’ too much, as it may not stay a great time to visit if you do! 😉
Do you like Walt Disney World in December? Are you a fan of the holiday offerings at Walt Disney World? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!