When it comes to the holidays at Walt Disney World, there are three questions we receive more than any others: “When do Christmas decorations go up in the parks & resorts?” That’s what we’ll answer in this post.
Aside from those specific questions, there are a ton of inquiries about the best and worst times to visit during the holiday season in terms of crowds, as well as a variety of inquiries about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, most of which question whether you need to purchase another ticket for it if you already have a park ticket. But we digress…
The good news 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 the last Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has ended.
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 takes two nights, not just one.
Finally, due to guest perception. If you 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 at Walt Disney World. This year, you can expect Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios to all be fully decorated by November 8, 2019.
This is the date when holiday entertainment officially starts in all three parks, and that’s the date when everything will be ready and “live.” Prior to that, Magic Kingdom begins its Cinderella Castle Dream Lights and Christmas Tree Lighting, will have its holiday background music turned on, and more as of November 4, 2019.
Both Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will start decorating prior to November 8, 2019 and 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 at least November 7, 2019.
Disney Springs also begins its Christmas Tree Trail on November 8, 2019. In the past, not all of its decorations have been up when the Christmas Tree Trail has begun. Expect some items not to be up until the following week.
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 November 23, 2019. Consequently, decorating for Epcot will begin shortly before Thanksgiving and finish by November 29, 2019.
Due to all of the construction at Epcot, do not expect Future World 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. For 2019, 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. Icon trees usually follow shortly thereafter, with other smaller decorations going up around the same time.
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 8, 2019, you will find that 75% of the Walt Disney World theme parks are decorated and some of the resorts are decorated. If you visit a week after that, you’ll still find 75% of the parks decorated, 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!
Finally, a few plugs. First, our freeVacation Kingdom at Christmas eBook is available for download! This free eBook is 90 pages, with 100+ photos, and tons of great tips & info for the holiday season at Walt Disney World. For more details on how to get this totally-free ebook, click here. Did we mention that it’s free?! 😉
What do you think of Walt Disney World’s ‘process’ for getting decked out for the holidays? Is November 8 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!