When Does Disney World Decorate for Christmas?
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 January 8, 2023.)
Just in case you’re curious, the other most common question is: “How do you get tickets to see the ABC Christmas Day Parade live in person at Walt Disney World?” (Sorry, we have some bad news on that one.) Rounding out the top three, “when are Christmas decorations taken down? (Answered in our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World.)
As people plan their Christmas trips months in advance, it makes sense that this would be important information. Although dates are not yet official, Walt Disney World likely kicks off Christmas on November 10, 2023. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom usually starts a few days earlier. 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 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.
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 probably be held in the first week of November 2023. Typically, the park is fully decorated by then.
(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!
For comprehensive tips for planning your Christmas-time trip to Walt Disney World, check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World. 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 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!
Hi Tom, would you mind adding when you anticipate the decorations to be taken down in 2024 please? Thank-you
Hi Tom, We are taking our grankids to Disney World in January! Could you tell me how to book a reservation for my granddaughter at Bippidie
Boppidie Bop for her? I don’t see that option in my Disney app!!
At the risk of supporting something that is clearly cheap and easy, I’d be fine with turning some Halloween jack o lanterns around so they can be Thanksgiving pumpkins for a little bit.
Thanks for tracking the decorations, Tom! (That’s one less spreadsheet I feel the need to maintain.)
Some people cannot take Christmas off to travel and may enjoy the Christmas feel after the official holiday is over. Hoping for them to be up through the 14th. It’s always been a dream to do a Disney Christmas because my husband can’t take time off in November and December since Santa helpers drive the big brown trucks
When do they take the decorations down? I arrive in 1st jan and hope to see some and therefore trying to prioritise which parks to go to first but also know expedition everest closes on the 4th so need to put that as one of my first parks
I have heard that you cannot drive to the other resorts. We are staying onsite and that is one of my favorite things for the holidays, to just go an look at the decorations. I want to be able to drive to Animal Kingdom but we won’t have a dining reservation….we couldn’t even get Sanaa.
Jennifer Rozum – I am with you. I started trying online at 6am (I had heard 6am and 7am). It was obviously not open. I kept trying and around 7:20 it said sold out…..tried all our days and all places/meals.
Don’t give up on making a dining reservation! Tom wrote a great article, I think it was “What’s Up With ADR Availability?”. We go to WDW on Nov 5, which is my birthday, and we wanted to eat at Homecomin’ that day, or any day in the next week. Started looking on Sept 6 (my 60-day point), and every day after, multiple times per day. No luck, and I gave up around the end of Sept. Among other points, Tom’s article advised that all the available ADRs are not always put out on the 60-day mark. Also, we were looking for 2 people, but sometimes a party of 3 or 4 will have other times available. Both of those points mean don’t give up! I would check at random times’ and 10 days ago, wound up scoring an ADR at Homecomin’ on my birthday! Woot! Keep trying!
This is the article referenced: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/advance-dining-reservation-availability-disney-world/
(Eileen is right–keep trying!)
What is with Candlelight Processional being sold out on the day of release? We tried to get reservations for the dinner package at 0001 26 Oct and then periodically throughout the day until we called and got a recorded message that the dining packages and tickets for Candlelight Processional had been sold out. It has always been a highlight of our trip at the Christmas time. We have our park tickets and reservations and we tried for any possible day that we are there from 15 Dec – 26 Dec (and were unable to see later dates due to it not being 60 days in advance.) Any information?
The prices at Crystal Palace are $39.00 for adults and $23 for children 3-9 years of age.
Could you please tell me what the cost per person for
Buffet at crystal palace. Can’t find it. Only see price for family style. This is first time in 14
Years of coming to Disney that we will be here for Christmas. So excited but need price at crystal palace since 8 of us will be going thanks. Toni
Elsie, we normally do the monorail hotels 1st as Deluxe they seem to get decorations first (no guarantee). Then take boat from Hollywood Studios (no park admission required) do the resorts on the stop before Boardwalk (Yacht Club does a carousel of chocolate horses) then walk over bridge to Boardwalk & resort. Get back on the boat to Epcot & take the gondola to those resorts.
We always drive & plan for French Quarter & Riverside & carriage ride.
No park tickets required! Park at TTC for monorail- others you can park at resorts. Enjoy!!! No reservations required!
I am glad the Christmas will start to be set because we have never been there for Christmas because we work in retail and you could not take vacations in November or December now the jobs we have now let us go during these months
I have never been to any of the resorts to see the gingerbread houses or trees. I would love to do that this year now that I live in FL.
My question is.. do I have to be a resort guest or have a dining reservation to park and visit the resorts?
Also can you park somewhere and ride say the monorail to some of the resorts or again do I need a ticket or dining reservation?
Thank you so much
My 2 little boys and I will be there visiting Nov 6th- Nov 12th this year for our annual trip and we’ll be staying at the villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We are so excited about our trip and hope to see some Christmas decorations popping up! Thank you so much for the wealth of knowledge you always provide all of us. This has been especially helpful with the recent changes and with the new Genie+ and LLs! Maybe we’ll happen to see you and Sara in the parks and give you a wave and a hello!! Thanks a million for all you do!!
We Love this time of Year at the Disney Parks and resorts!!
To me and my kids November 8th will be perfect. That is our Magic Kingdom Day and we will be at the Christmas Party as well. Our only regret is that I really doubt the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House will be up. We love their gingerbread shingles a lot. One year I gave them out as presents to all my family members.
It is rather depressing to see decorations up 3 weeks post Christmas. Almost has a lazy feel, like no one has cleaned up. LoL. My decorations are gone on the 6th (12 days of Christmas) and by then I am ready for out with the old in with the new! We are visiting Jan 17th – (and we hv visted for Christmas in the past) so I hope to see no leftover Christmas and only 50th decorations!!