If you’re visiting Walt Disney World during winter months of November through February, you need to pack clothes for cold weather. This post offers an update on the freezing forecast for Christmas 2022, plus tips for dealing with chilly temperatures in Central Florida. (Updated December 22, 2022.)
“Winter” weather is once again returning to Orlando–just in time for the heart of the holiday season! A cold front is about to sweep across Central Florida, bringing with it cooler temperatures and lows in the 30s over the weekend. (It’s a very similar story in Southern California, but the difference is that this time of year is pretty consistently cold in the morning and evenings at Disneyland.)
Obviously that’s not “winter weather” by most standards, but it’s extremely cold for Floria. This will cause closures, impact crowds–and you may want to pack something other than just shorts and t-shirts. Here’s a look at the latest forecast, via WESH 2 Orlando…
December 22, 2022 Update: Meteorologists are forecasting extremely cold weather this weekend at Walt Disney World. Models indicate that on Christmas Eve morning, Central Florida will see lows in the 20s or 30s, with feels like temperatures dipping into the teens.
Accordingly, the National Weather Service has issued a Freeze Watch Orange and Osceola Counties (where Walt Disney World is located), along with most other counties in Central Florida. The Freeze Watch is in effect Friday night through Saturday morning, per the NWS.
If there was moisture in the air, snow would have been possible–a real white Christmas at Walt Disney World, not just the ‘snoap’ kind. However, in a rare turn of events for Florida, it’s expected to be too dry for precipitation.
“It’s got the potential to be one of the coldest Christmases we have seen in the last 30 years,” according to WESH 2 Meteorologist Eric Burris. While unlikely to set any all-time records, Christmas Day 2022 will easily crack the top 10 coldest on record.
High temperatures are expected to peak in the 50s on Christmas Day, which is rare for Florida. That last happened in 2020, and before that only in 2001, 1999, 1995 and 1993. The coldest high temp for Christmas Day was 36 degrees back in 1983.
If high temperatures remain in the 40s on Christmas Eve, it would be the first time the Walt Disney World area failed to climb out of the 40s since January 2014. As of right now, that’s what’s being forecast–making it one of the coldest Christmas Eves on record in Orlando.
Unsurprisingly, Walt Disney World has announced that Blizzard Beach will be closed this weekend due to low temperatures. As of right now, Blizzard Beach will only be closed December 23-25, 2022. The water park is currently scheduled to reopen on December 26, 2022 according to the official calendar.
It’s unlikely that actually ends up happening. Monday and Tuesday are currently forecast to be too cold for a likely reopening. The current low temperature for Wednesday is only 48 degrees with a high of 70, and that’s within the range of past closure temperatures for Blizzard Beach. That day could go either way, but our bet at this point is on a Thursday reopening. (On the other hand, it’s an exceedingly busy time of year, so perhaps Walt Disney World figures there will be enough demand even with frigid temperatures. That’s doubtful, though.)
Most tourists envision sunshine and warm weather when preparing for trips to Walt Disney World, but the reality this time of year is that you could experience a veritable roller coaster of weather in a single day. With temperatures in the 30s and 40s possible at any point through February, it’s important that you’re prepared for winter weather (minus the snow…hopefully!) at Walt Disney World.
The cold weather at Walt Disney World can be good news if you’re properly prepared, as crowds tend to be significantly lighter when the temperatures drop. Between locals who don’t own the clothing for colder days and tourists who don’t pack appropriately, a drop in temperatures results in a drop in crowds.
This is especially true in the evenings. A familiar story plays out with regularity this time of year at Walt Disney World: around lunch, the temperature is in the mid-70s, perhaps even the 80s, which is t-shirt and shorts weather for most people. By sunset, the ‘feels like’ temperature drops considerably, to around the low 50s.
An hour or so after sunset, Magic Kingdom can clear out on days that are abnormally frigid. We’ve had late nights when the park is a ghost town (we’ve seen Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a 20 minute wait on nights when the park was previously very busy during the day!), as the cold weather drives a lot of guests away.
Even if you’re from a cold weather state and are used to cold weather, you should not ignore these huge variances in temperature, thinking it’ll still feel fine. Your body will become acclimated to those 70-degree Florida daytime temperatures pretty quickly, making double-digit temperature drop once the sun goes down feel even more pronounced.
More importantly, Florida cold is far worse than Northern states due to the humidity that comes with it. We cannot reiterate this enough. The “feels like” of even 50º weather in Walt Disney World is significantly colder than what it’d be in a Northern state. We aren’t simply Floridians who aren’t used to the cold weather–we spent years living in the Midwest and are no strangers to sub-zero temperatures and blizzards. Florida’s humidity makes semi-cold weather far less comfortable.
The difficulty of packing for Walt Disney World or Disneyland this time of year is the large variances in the weather. You could experience four seasons of weather during your trip…in a single day. Daytime temperatures could be in the 70s, whereas nights and evenings could be 20 or 30 degrees below that. That swing in a single day is a huge difference.
Most people aren’t going to want to carry the luggage that would be required to pack for every weather scenario, making what to bring a tough question. This post will cover a few things you should take on any winter trip to the Disney Parks, plus some additional items to consider when the weather is expected to be unseasonably cold.
While it’s incredibly unlikely to snow while you’re at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, temperatures in the 40s or 50s in Florida and Southern California happen much more likely than you might expect. Being caught off-guard by frigid temperatures in the parks sucks. Don’t think it can’t happen to you. As much as I hate to admit it, this has happened to me a couple of times, and I’m very diligent about checking the weather forecast.
For those of you reading this at the last minute (if you’ve already arrived at Walt Disney World and are surprised by the cold weather), you do have one option: heading to UNIQLO at Disney Springs and purchasing a coat and some warmer clothes.
UNIQLO is your least-expensive option on Walt Disney World property, and they normally carry sweaters, coats, jeans, etc. (Note that UNIQLO sizing runs small, so be sure to try things on before buying. Most of the time, you’ll need to size-up by one size.)
Alternatively, if you have a rental car and don’t mind venturing off-property, there are several outlet malls within a short drive. We favor Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets for a few reasons. First, they have a diverse range of stores (from Old Navy to Burberry). Second, there are plenty of options for inexpensive winter-wear (Columbia, Levi’s, Gap, Nike, etc.). Finally, there’s a Disney outlet that features deep-discounted items from the parks.
Of course, the best option is preparing with what you need before your trip. That’s where the rest of this list comes in handy. Note that this list only covers items specific to winter travel. For our full all-seasons packing recommendations, check out our Unique Disney Packing List post, which contains a lot of innovative and cool things for your trip that you otherwise might not have considered.
Before we dig into the practical (read: boring) stuff, let’s start with some highly recommended fun options to get into the festive spirit. This is downright essential if you’re attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Even if you aren’t, we highly recommend doing a full-day or at least an evening donning your holiday finery…or at least a rad shark sweater!
Novelty Christmas Sweaters – Every year, we wear new “ugly” (or some might say super stylish) Christmas sweaters during the holiday season. Disney itself sells some great (albeit pricey) designs. For cheaper non-Disney options, we highly recommend Blizzard Bay Ugly Christmas Sweaters. This brand is our favorite for budget-friendly ugly Christmas sweaters.
We’ve purchased several of these for $25-$35 each, and have had them for years. Here’s the Manatee Christmas Sweater that Sarah is wearing above; I’m also partial to this Gator Christmas Sweater, both of which are fitting for Florida. The Blizzard Bay brand offers quality sweaters–not just sweatshirts that look like sweaters–that hold up over time. They’re not heirloom caliber, but they’re better than you’d expect for novelty Christmas sweaters!
Another brand that we’ve had success with in the past is Alex Stevens Ugly Christmas Sweaters. However, in searching again for new designs in December 2022, many of their designs are disappointingly crude and juvenile (IMO). I’m hardly puritanical, but I think way too many of their new styles rely on shock value imagery instead of fun, cheesy, and good-natured humor. To each their own, though!
Christmas Mickey Mouse Santa Red Graphic T-Shirt — This is my go-tos for wearing underneath Christmas sweaters, since the weather isn’t usually right for those until the sun goes down. It’s cheap and looks far nicer than you’d expect for a shirt that costs for $13. (I’d recommend sizing up if you want a looser fit.)
Other Christmas Attire Trends – We have not gotten “into” either of these trends yet, but Ugly Christmas Suits and Matching Family Christmas Onesie Pajamas are both incredibly popular with guests at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. You won’t be out of place with either, and both make great material for family photos.
Christmas Accessories – If you’re not down with the sweaters, or want to take it a step further, grab an Illuminated Christmas Light Necklace. It’s just like the one they sell in the Magic Kingdom, but it’s a lot less expensive!
Now, let’s check out what you should pack for Disney during those winter months. First, some practical stuff, and then fun options to get in the festive spirit (in the event you’re visiting at Christmas-time)…
HotHands Hand Warmers –Perfect when you’re standing around outside waiting for a parade or fireworks on really chilly evenings. These hand warmers are cheap and effective, and last longer than a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. These might seem over the top for a normally warm-weather destination, but when the sun goes down, it can get cold.
Touch Screen Gloves – Post photos of Cinderella Castle lit up for Christmas to Facebook or Instagram without removing your gloves. Priceless. These gloves will keep your hands warm while allowing you to use your touch-screen smartphones.
Microfleece Travel Blanket– This is a really versatile option, and it’s worth grabbing a few. Thanks to its incredibly thin material, it packs easily in your backpack, and can be used to keep warm before parades/fireworks (or, if it’s not that cold, you can sit on it) to wrap around you on a chilly night, etc. The super cheap price makes this something you don’t have to worry about getting dirty!
Thermal Shirt– Packing a lot of cold-weather clothes can take up a lot of room in your suitcase, so instead of heavy coats and thick sweatshirts, we recommend inexpensive and lightweight means of keeping warm. Thin thermal shirts that keep your body heat close to you and can be worn under another layer of clothing are a great option. We recommend this one for men and this one for women.
800-Fill Down Coats –Our pick here is specifically an 800-fill goose down coat because it compresses really well and takes up barely any suitcase room. It’s smaller and warmer than fleece, and although a bit pricey, these last a long time and are perfect for cold weather.
In Florida or California, a down coat is more than enough to keep you warm even on colder nights. If you’re going to Disneyland Paris or Tokyo Disneyland in the winter, you should also pack a proper winter coat and use the down coat as a base layer. In France and Japan, temperatures drop below freezing on a regular basis (both parks get snow a couple of times per year), and a down coat alone will be insufficient for those cold nights.
Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Winter Hat – You can find cheap knit winter beanies just about anywhere, but I’m serious about my winter hats. I love this Mountain Hardwear hat with a wind-stopping layer; I’ve worn it in the mountains in sub-zero temperatures and it has kept me warm–it can handle Walt Disney World just fine.
Waterproof Shoes – These are probably overkill. I bought a pair for our first visit to Disneyland Paris a couple of years ago because I read that December in France is cold and rainy, and I was vindicated as it was cold and rainy, and my wet stayed warm and dry, but there’s a difference between Paris winter weather and Florida or California winter weather. I don’t typically wear these to the parks during the winter months (they are far from stylish), but they are a great option if you want to play it safe.
Long Pants – For some of you, this is a no-brainer; even in the summer you wear jeans. For those of you like me who savor the feeling of the wind rustling your leg hair, jeans are not something you typically pack when visiting Florida or California. The most practical option is convertible pants like these ones for men or these ones for women, which are great for hot or cold weather (and are nice for storage)…but are not exactly the most stylish option.
If you’re visiting during the winter months, regardless of the forecast, you will want to pack at least one pair of long pants as a safety net: you’re likely to encounter at least one sub-50s day on a weeklong trip in the winter. Unless you’re keen on the idea of dropping ~$50 on a pair of Disney sweatpants (and are okay with then wearing sweatpants to the parks), just bring a pair of long pants.
Finally, and once again, other packing “rules” for Walt Disney World remain in effect for the winter. For instance, not packing disposable ponchos is a cardinal sin if you’re visiting Walt Disney World any time of year (and down jackets do not take well to rain). Depending upon your sensitivity to cold weather and/or style preference, there are also other accessories you might want to pack. Some people love scarves, I find them to be an inefficient hassle. Some people love thick socks, I view these as ill-advised “moisture sponges.”
Not necessarily related to winter packing, but if you’re visiting for Christmas, consider packing some lights or other decorations to put in your hotel room window if you have the space in your luggage. A lot of people do this, and it can be fun! For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
What you recommend packing for a winter Disney trip? Do you have any experiences with unseasonably cold weather at Walt Disney World? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!