Travel Tips | 10 Must-Do’s During Christmas at Walt Disney World

We’re already halfway through November, which naturally means that Christmas is in full swing at Walt Disney World. The parks and hotels have been decked, and Mickey and Minnie are ready for Santa. We’d love to know how they get all of those decorations up so quickly, but some things are better left a mystery! The Downlow team will be headed south soon and our holiday visit will include one of our favorite events, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas 2016.

If you are fortunate enough to visit Walt Disney World during the holiday season, here are 10 things you must experience on the trip:

Snow on Main Street U.S.A.
Probably the most amazing thing you can only find at Walt Disney World during Christmas time is snow on Main Street U.S.A. The power of Disney magic brings about snow flurries in central Florida. While Main Street U.S.A. already has the power to evoke nostalgia and memories through its beautiful décor, the snow flurries bring about an extra layer of Christmas wonder to any Walt Disney World visit.

Once Upon a Time and Holiday Wishes
During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and each night later in December, the nightly spectacle that is Once Upon a Time and Wishes gets a Christmas twist in a most magical way. The nightly projection show displays spectacular images on the castle, and in December the shows adds fantastic Christmas images set to traditional Christmas music. Soon after Once Upon a Time, Walt Disney World presents Holiday Wishes, which is a Christmas spin on the nightly fireworks presentation. Jiminy Cricket narrates a show that is meant to remind us of the true spirit of the season – love, family, and pixie dust. During the show, fireworks explode in sync with traditional holiday music like the Nutcracker Suite and Oh Christmas Tree, while corresponding projections dance on Cinderella’s Castle. These two experiences are certain to put you in the holiday spirit.

Holidays Around the World Showcase
From La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch, to the Sigrid, the Norwegian Christmas gnome, to Father Christmas of the United Kingdom, Holidays Around the World Showcase provides guests the opportunity to learn about the holiday cultures throughout the world, as well as the international spirit of the season. The Epcot Storytellers are available in each represented country to share the holiday tale of that country or region. In additional to Christmas stories, the Daruma seller teaches you about the customs of the Japanese New Year and the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs take you on an exploration of the Great White North. Learning about all of these customs is sure to work up your appetite, so be sure to experience the holiday cuisines of each country as you navigate around the World Showcase Lagoon, including the Gluhwein in the Germany pavilion, sweet tamales in the Mexico pavilion, or traditional gingerbread and peppermint bark in the American adventure pavilion. Finally, be sure to conclude your day exploring the holiday traditions from around the world with a viewing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth with its special Peace on Earth ending. The final song of this extravaganza is certain to remind you of the true spirit of the holidays.

Candlelight Procession
Held annually in EPCOT’s World Showcase, the Candlelight Processional is a Christmas tradition for many Walt Disney World guests. The Candlelight Processional is the telling of the Christmas Story in words and music. A mass choir and a live orchestra back a celebrity narrator who tells the story of the birth of Jesus three times an evening. Be sure to get in line early as you surely are not going to want to miss this performance. It is truly magical to sit in the America Gardens Theater and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas while listening to the beautiful words and music.

Gingerbread Houses
Nothing says the holidays like gingerbread – be it cookies, lattes, or houses. Walt Disney World constructs a gingerbread house like no other and they are on display only through the Christmas season. At the Grand Floridian, guests can see a replica of a Victorian house that is nearly the size of a children’s playhouse. Finally, Disney has erected a life-size carousel made of all edible materials at Disney’s Beach Club resort.

Osborne Spectacle of Lights Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM Holiday Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This one is still bittersweet. The Downlow team were HUGE fans of the Osbourne Spectacle of Lights at DHS. Unfortunately, this year marks the first year with no Osborne show as the backlot area where it was housed has been demolished and will soon be replaced with Star Wars Land. In Osbourne’s place, DHS will debut the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM Holiday Spectacular this year and we’re excited! The show runs from November 14 to Dec. 31, 2016, and will feature an array of state-of-the-art projections, fireworks and other special effects. This will be a can’t miss show for the holiday season.

Christmas Decorations at the Resorts
During Christmastime, the parks are not the only places decked out for the holidays. Each resort gets its own special holiday layover with a theme that reflects the theme of the resort. The elegant Grand Floridian is outfitted with a five story Christmas tree and a gingerbread house that is large enough to also operate as a snack stand. The Beach Club resort is a must see for its gingerbread carousel. It’s quite amazing to see a carousel made of cookies, chocolate, icing, and candy. Port Orleans French Quarter takes you right into the heart of New Orleans with its, purple, green, and red decorations. Finally, be sure to visit the most festive resort of all – Wilderness Lodge. The Christmas décor of the Wilderness Lodge is about as Christmas as you can get with its rustic decorations and plaid accents. A visit to Walt Disney World during Christmas is not complete without a tour of many of the resorts to take in these beautiful decorations.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
A hard ticket event that is offered most nights throughout December, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is sure to put everyone in the holiday spirit. During the party, guests can enjoy complimentary cocoa, gingerbread cookies, and apples while taking in the Christmas sights of the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is decorated so wonderfully for Christmas, and you can’t miss Cinderella’s Castle covered in over 200,000 LED white lights. Guests of the party can also experience Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, featuring characters dressed up in their holiday finest and a visit from the big man himself – Santa! Be sure to catch the parade from Main Street U.S.A. for an awesome surprise – snow! Another great aspect of the party is the opportunity for unusual character meet and greets, character dance parties, and the ability to walk on most attractions. If you are in Walt Disney World during the Christmas season, this party is a can’t miss! We posted pictures of the guide map for this year on our Facebook page!

Jingle Cruise
This year, Walt Disney World has again put a holiday spin on the world famous Jungle Cruise. The skippers are homesick for the holidays, so they have added decorations to the queue, the boats, and the tour. To make matters better, or worse depending on your sense of humor, the skippers have also added a few yuletide jokes to their repertoire. You’ll truly love this holiday overlay, and if you say you don’t you’re probably in da-Nile.

A Frozen Holiday Wish
Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and – everyone’s favorite snowman – Olaf arrive nightly in the Magic Kingdom to thank guests for welcoming them from Arendelle.  In appreciation of their welcome, Queen Elsa freezes Cinderella’s Castle.  The over 200,000 twinkling lights draped over Cinderella’s Castle come alive and turn the castle into a frozen  palace for the holidays.  The show is performed nightly on the castle forecourt stage.  But the accompanying fireworks and special effects, coupled with the beautiful LED-lit castle, ensure you can see the ice castle from many places throughout the Magic Kingdom.

Have you ever visited Magic Kingdom during the holiday season? If so, let us know in the comments!

Interested in a free Disney/Universal quote?

Ang Bertugli Spece, one half of the Dis Downlow team, is a travel consultant with Simply Enchanted Travel and would love to help you get started planning a dream vacation!

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