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 November 20, 2020.)
Before we get started, keep in mind that a lot has been cancelled, cutback, or changed at Walt Disney World following the reopening of the parks, and that remains true in December. Even though we’re starting to see longer hours and holiday entertainment return, the experience is still very different from last year.
Nevertheless, 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. There’s a ton going on at Walt Disney World in December, with festivals at Epcot, Christmas offerings in the other three parks, Disney Springs, resort hotels, and more.
In case it’s not obvious, we’re big fans of Walt Disney World at Christmas. This is reflected in December ranking as our #1 month of the year on our 2020-2021 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.
The potential for cold weather closes water parks for the winter, and in extreme circumstances, can cause flower beds and topiaries in the parks to be covered with plastic tarps to protect them (we’ve seen it happen!). Pack for a wide range of weather conditions and pay watch the extended forecast before your trip.
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.
Consequently, I’m going to keep this section short–if you want our comprehensive reviews, tips, tricks, etc., for Christmas, check out our Ultimate Walt Disney World Christmas Guide. That guide covers Christmas entertainment you can expect at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We’ve updated that guide so you can see what is and is not happening for Christmas 2020, and what we anticipate returning for Christmas 2021. It’s a good way to know what to expect and not to expect if you’re planning a trip this year–or getting an early head-start on next year.
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 crowd calendar section below.
DECEMBER 2020 REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS
For December 2020 closures, consult our Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar. Not much is listed as happening right now, but that’s a bit deceptive. There’s a lot of ongoing construction throughout Walt Disney World, beyond the scope of attraction closures.
In particular, Epcot is being reimagined–meaning a sea of construction walls. This will eliminate Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods. This has already kicked into high gear, and will continue to gain momentum throughout 2020. This won’t be finished until at least 2022.
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.
Outside of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has two attractions that will still be fairly new come Christmas 2020. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance are both now open. 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.
This is doubly true for December 2020, as the reopening and capacity restrictions have thrown another monkey wrench into things. We can still forecast general trends, but that’s about it. 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). However, that should not be as pronounced as normal this year.
Normally, the second week crowd surge is driven by Pop Warner, a youth sport event that draws tens of thousands of guests to Walt Disney World. However, it’s cancelled for 2020 (and maybe even 2021). This is a huge win for everyone else, as Pop Warner not only spiked attendance levels, but many of its attendees made the in-park experience unpleasant.
The third week of December 2020 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 won’t be too bad. Expect moderate crowd levels.
Still worse than the two weeks before it, but not bonkers. However, if you have the choice to visit any of the first three weeks of December, definitely choose one of the first two.
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 should see peak attendance and high numbers 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).
December 2020 Discounts & Pricing
Discounts continue during parts of December. In late November 2020, some great holiday season savings were released, with Half-Off Hotels for Christmas 2020 at Walt Disney World. Those are far and away the best deals right now (other presently-available discounts are also discussed in that post).
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! 😉
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you like Walt Disney World in December? Are you a fan of the holiday offerings at Walt Disney World? Will you be visiting for Christmas 2020, or are you holding off until 2021 when (hopefully) more of the normal guest experience and holiday entertainment is brought back? 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!