When it comes to the holidays at Walt Disney World, there are three questions we receive more than any others. One of those is “when will Christmas decorations go up in the parks & resorts?” That’s what we’ll answer in this post. (Updated October 26, 2023.)
As people plan their Christmas trips months in advance, it makes sense that this would be important information. This year, Walt Disney World likely kicks off Christmas on November 11, 2023. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom starts a few days earlier, on November 9. By contrast, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays starts later–on November 24, 2023.
With only a few exceptions, it’s likely that decorations won’t be scaled back for Christmas 2023. Three years ago, travel plummeted and a number of modifications for health and safety were made. Then for the last two years, the changes are due to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which overshadowed both Halloween and Christmas in the process. With the World’s Most Magical Celebration over by November 2023, we’re optimistic Christmas will once again take center stage this year.
In a normal year, Walt Disney World’s Holiday Services team always gets a jump start on Halloween by putting up the more ambiguous decor in late October, and we’d expect that to continue in late October 2023.
This includes tinsel stars in Hollywood Studios, luminaries in Animal Kingdom, and gingerbread house construction at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, among other things. Some of this–like gingerbread house construction–necessarily occurs in October, as it needs to be ready for the start of the holiday season and takes a week or longer to complete.
Thus far, we’ve seen reports of only the critter lanterns going up in Discovery Island at Animal Kingdom as of October 26, 2023. This isn’t too surprising, but we’d expect decorations to start appearing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and select Deluxe Resorts this weekend. (Walt Disney World has already announced Giant Gingerbread Houses & Displays for Christmas 2023–expect work to start on those soon!)
If you’re hoping to see Christmas decorations at Walt Disney World is that they go up earlier than you might expect. No, not as early as the holiday aisles at Target or Walmart, but decorating usually begins immediately after Halloween has ended. Like, literally overnight right as the fall decorations go down.
One of the common misconceptions about Walt Disney World and the holiday season is that all of the decorations appear overnight, all at once. There are a variety of reasons why this is a persistent urban legend. For one thing, it used to be true. Back when Walt Disney World was just two theme parks and a few resorts, the Holiday Services team did almost everything overnight.
Second, because Walt Disney World still releases time-lapse videos showing the transformation of Main Street USA from Halloween to Christmas. In large part, that does occur overnight–but even that now usually takes two nights, not just one.
Finally, it’s a matter of guest perception. You can leave Magic Kingdom one night and see Halloween decorations on your way out and enter the next morning to see the scene magically transformed to Christmas. It’s an impressive sight to behold, and one that you might be convinced happens “all at once.” However, not all of the details are there at that point, nor are the other parks totally decorated.
Anyway, perception aside, the reality is that Christmas decorations go up pretty early in the parks.
Despite the Christmas 2023 season not officially starting at Walt Disney World until early November, the reality is that decorations will go up before then.
Last year, Diwali occurred early and Walt Disney World installed lanterns and marigold flowers in the Asia area of Animal Kingdom, in front of the Andapur Theater District, to illuminate this space for the special season. Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is celebrated for 5 or 6 days in different regions of India.
While those were the first decorations to go up for the holiday season at Walt Disney World last year, they were not the only ones installed in late October. Discovery Island Luminaries are also starting to go up at the front of the park, and there’s no real world holiday coinciding with their installation to explain why that’s happening. For the sake of reference, these were installed on October 24 last year.
This year, you can expect Magic Kingdom to be mostly decorated by November 1, 2023 and fully decorated by November 3, 2023.
This is a safe assumption because many decorations will go up as Halloween decorations come down. It’s also necessary to get Magic Kingdom done quickly because the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be held on November 9, 2023. Typically, the park is fully decorated by then.
Even before the first MVMCP, the first ‘Frozen Holiday Surprise’ will debut on November 7, 2023. In previous years, Magic Kingdom was fully decorated by the time that debuted. That should further narrow down the range that decorations will appear in the park, but we’d expect decorating to be done well before November 7, 2023.
(It used to be the case that the Christmas tree didn’t go up until after the ABC Christmas Day Parade was filmed, as cameras were placed in Town Square. That hasn’t been the case for years; now, the Christmas tree goes up in early November and crews manage to shoot around it.)
Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be next up after Magic Kingdom.
The timeline with both of these parks is a little less certain. Animal Kingdom and DHS have been known to put up more ‘ambiguous’ holiday decorations in late October (see above). In fact, the tinsel stars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are usually the very first decorations to go up at Walt Disney World, often appearing by the second to last week of October.
There are a lot of decorations that will be visible during the daytime hours, but the finished product won’t be ready and the lights likely will not be lit up at night until closer to the official start date of Christmas 2023.
Disney Springs also begins its Christmas offerings in early November. Sometimes that happens gradually, so expect some items not to be up until the following week. That’s the good news.
Epcot is the last park to get in on the holiday time fun, and that’s because the lucrative Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs until late November. Consequently, decorating for Epcot will begin shortly before Thanksgiving and finish by November 24, 2023.
Due to all of the construction at Epcot, do not expect the front of the park to receive extensive decorations this year. The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays should ensure that World Showcase receives its normal decor for each pavilion.
The resort hotels are the true wildcard. Last year, decorations went up about a week earlier than normal throughout the resorts. We are anticipating that this trend will continue, with almost all major hotels (Deluxe and Moderate Resorts) having their Christmas trees, gingerbread displays, etc. up by mid-November.
Gingerbread displays are usually prioritized, likely because these are accompanied by snack stand kiosks that generate revenue selling snacks. The dates for these are highly variable. The teams that do some of the fabrication and installation work usually start at Grand Floridian in late October or early November, then move on to the Contemporary, followed by the Crescent Lake resorts. This is a process, and takes longer than the rest of the decorations–even though there are far fewer resorts that get the gingerbread houses.
Usually, Holiday Services can do an entire resort in a single night, with teams deployed to multiple resorts simultaneously. This means that, for instance, Wilderness Lodge (usually done in mid-November) will be completely transformed into the Christmas spirit overnight–in the same evening that Coronado Springs, for example, receives its holiday decor.
However, due to the sheer number of resorts throughout Walt Disney World, even if Holiday Services decorates two hotels in a single night, the process would still take over two weeks to complete. Moreover, there are no hard and fast rules as to the order that resorts receive their decorations. It varies from year to year.
With all of that said, if you’re visiting on or after November 1, you’ll start to see some decorations at Walt Disney World. By that weekend, you’ll see even more items installed–the process should be about half-finished.
By November 4, 2023, you will find that the 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are either partially or fully decorated and some of the resorts are decorated. If you visit a week after that, you’ll have the same amount of in-park decorations, but now half of the resorts will also be decorated. Another week and the resorts will be totally decorated. Visit for Thanksgiving week or at any point in December, and everything at Walt Disney World will be decked out for Christmas!
What do you think of Walt Disney World’s ‘process’ for getting decked out for the holidays? Is November 4, 2023 too early for Christmas decorations? Are you excited to experience the holidays at WDW? 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!