December 2021 at Disney World: Crowd Calendar & Info

This December 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 October 11, 2021.)

Expect more of the same in December 2021, and it continues the 3-month trend beginning in October and continuing in November. Crowds will remain elevated across the board as compared to normal to due it being the second month of the World’s Most Magical Celebration (see our Guide to Walt Disney World’s 5th Anniversary) as well as the heart of Christmas season. However, as discussed below, it’s unlikely to be as bad as previously anticipated.

Additionally, the holiday season will also be a bit different than normal this year. Some elements have been cancelled or changed–the reasons for which are explained in our Preview of Christmas 2021 at Walt Disney World. With that said, December will still be a big month for Walt Disney World, and with both the 50th Anniversary and Christmas, there will be plenty to see, do, and celebrate.

In general, early December is a good time to visit thanks to weather that is typically good (albeit cold at times), with crowds that are normally moderate. 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 highly on our 2021-2022 Best & Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World. It also 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 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.

In terms of specific events, there’s Disney Very Merriest After Hours, the holiday event that replaces Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for 2021. We’re hopeful that MVMCP will return in 2022.

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 REFURBISHMENTS & NEW ATTRACTIONS

For December 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 unprecedented overhaul has led us to address the question Should You Visit Epcot in 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, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Harmonious have both debuted. Space 220 Restaurant is also now open at Epcot, as are Club Cool and Creations Shop.

Outside of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has two attractions that will still be fairly new come Christmas. 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 2021 Crowd Calendar for Disney World

We don’t have a color-coded December 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 this December, 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…

The beginning of December 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 to visit.

Keep in mind that “lowest” is a relative term–the entire 3 month stretch of October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021 will be well above average crowd-wise. (Equally as important, it’ll be downright high from an on-site hotel occupancy perspective, meaning discounts will be scarce.)

However, there are a few reasons were slightly more optimistic about the last 3 months of the year. First, there’s the reality that many longtime fans who are visiting for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary may be less focused on rides, instead prioritizing entertainment, dining, or shopping. Since wait times are usually a proxy for crowd levels, this could result in a disconnect between “feels like” crowds or congestion and wait times.

Second, many guests canceled their Walt Disney World fall and holiday season vacations due to Florida’s surging case numbers and the reinstated indoor mask rule (obviously, different people canceled for different reasons) at the end of the summer. While Florida’s numbers have been falling for the last month, the damage is already done in terms of cancellations.

When it comes to December 2021, the 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.

Our expectation is weekday crowds that are slightly above average–think 7/10 to 8/10 for the first week of December 2021.

All around Walt Disney World, crowds will begin to pick up the second week (December 5-11, 2021). 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 has been moved to Universal Orlando as of 2021 (and for all future years). This is a huge win for everyone else, as Pop Warner spiked attendance levels. Expect some participants to still visit Walt Disney World, but not enough to impact crowd levels in a meaningful way. Again, likely in the 8/10 range.

The third week of December isn’t terrible on the crowd calendar because of the way Christmas falls at the end of the following week. Expect moderate to high 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. Crowds will likely be in the 8.5/10 range.

All bets are off beginning the Saturday before Christmas. 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–you’re looking at a solid string of 10/10 dates. These last two weeks of December 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 Discounts & Pricing

Discounts continue during parts of December. In late November, some great holiday season savings were released, with Half-Off Hotels for Christmas 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 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 crowds aren’t as chaotic, and there’s 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!

Your Thoughts

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, 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!

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