Christmas is my favorite time of year! (Although if you ask our son, he will tell you that Disney Halloween is first and Christmas is a close second.) The jubilant decorations at Walt Disney World go up overnight, changing an already magical landscape into a winter wonderland. This article features our favorite attractions and how they are decked for the holidays in Walt Disney World.
The Holidays in Walt Disney World
While most of this article features decorations and celebrations for the holidays in Walt Disney World, we would do a disservice to our readers if we did not touch on autism and the season. Visiting during this time has a few unique perks and many drawbacks.
While many children experience routine disruption during the winter break, going during this time further interrupts the daily schedule. The other thing to keep in mind is the crowd level. The holiday season is the absolute busiest time to visit Walt Disney World. In fact, many parks may hit their capacity on the holidays themselves.
Visit Guest Relations as soon as you step foot in any theme park to get the Disability Access Service. With the Disability Access Service, you can wait elsewhere for the big-ticket attractions. Our post about the DAS describes how to best use it with family members who have autism.
See our post about how the Disability Access Service benefits those with autism.
Familiarize yourself with the map so that you can make sure to get your child there quickly and in one piece. I prepare with lots of holiday and attraction discussions and videos to soothe the transitions.
Upon entering, Disney sells you unique and festive celebrations. For example, Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree ($6.99) is a scavenger hunt with stickers and maps. Around the World Showcase, 11 Chip & Dale figurines are looking for swag for their tree.
The giant Christmas tree is stationed at the entrance to the World Showcase as you cross the bridge from Future World. It always gives me a warm glow as I get excited about the holiday festivities in the World Showcase.
Living with the Land
This ride completely decks out the greenhouse for the holidays. From lights to ornaments to snowmen, they do a fabulous job!
The Snowman family makes an interesting contrast with the sand in the hydroponic garden.
This round wire topiary makes the perfect base for a hidden Mickey topped with reindeer ears.
A Koi pond is wrapped with garland and ornaments.
Snowflakes and stuffers fill the scientist’s lab.
Trees with icicle ornaments.
Check out all of the gorgeous holiday lights!
The bell’s toll summons you to the rose garden in the United Kingdom. Father Christmas tells his story while adorned with a crown of holly, a green suit, and fur. His beard is white as snow, and he carries a staff in one hand and a bell in the other. He explains the story of Christmas and how he rings one toll each year since the birth of Jesus Christ.
While this outdoor beer stand is a permanent fixture outside the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom, it is dressed up for the holidays with garlands. The pub is across the “street” from the tea shop and Christopher Robin’s bedroom.
The Japanese Shi Washu Holiday Kitchen features the amazing Chirashi Sushi Tree (which I ate three times). Chirashi (chirashizushi) means scattered- rice covered with fish, veggies, and other sauces or ingredients.
The tree features sushi-grade tuna, salmon, Ikura, and Yellowtail with vegetables on a sticky rice bed. While heavy on the sticky rice, it was fantastic. However, the flavor does not stack up to how gorgeous it is!
Unsure about Ikura? It’s salmon roe, or orange egg masses, with a juicy texture that pops with every bite and a rich flavor that melts in your mouth. They sound super creepy, but I swear that it is pretty delicious even to those who are not very adventurous when it comes to sushi.
The Magic Kingdom for the Holidays
Our favorite decorations are in the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World truly goes all out- even the popcorn courts are decked with holiday decor. They don’t just add poinsettias to the planters. Instead, they fill them with hundreds of poinsettias.
Walking down the middle of Main Street is a magical experience. If you spend time on Main Street USA during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you will experience snowfall (soap suds). Every inch of every building has some festive greenery, bows, or lights.
It is truly a sight to behold if you’ve never seen a Walt Disney World Christmas tree! Each theme park and resort features unique trees that are giant, reaching heights of 70 feet. The ornaments, garlands, lights, and stars differ depending on the tree’s theme, which varies by location.
The lamp posts along Main Street have a jolly Mickey Wreath. My children insisted on taking photos with these non-hidden Mickeys!
The Jingle Cruise Overlay
Our all-time favorite Magic Kingdom holiday decorations come from the Jungle Cruise’s overlay, now know as the “Jingle Cruise.” I eagerly look for the baubles in the queue as we wait! The khaki decor has a holiday theme, down to the “Here We Go A-Wassailing” sign prominently displayed.
I still can’t figure out what the khaki sign says (some version of Jungle all the way??) If you know- please leave it in the comments. We’ve been googling and scratching our heads for days!
Even the hut on the river has a holiday twist with its garlands, lights, and Christmas tree. This waterfront home has never looked better!
The Queue at the Jingle Cruise
Netting filled with holiday ornaments dangles from the rafters as you pass through the attraction queue at the Jingle Cruise. One of the fish traps is covered with lights and tinsel and resembles a chandelier.
The “ticket purchases” window to the Jungle Cruise features pine boughs and colorful Christmas lights. There is even a white mini Christmas tree and other trinkets inside the ticket booth. Although who supports white Christmas trees when you have evergreen and palm trees to choose from?
There is also a lovely tree made from wooden dowels. If you cannot use a live tree, you could always craft a tree at home Jingle Cruise-style. It’s my favorite tree, and I swear I will recreate it one year.
Red poinsettias are present in buckets in the queue, as well.
Below is another Christmas tree on display in the line for the Jingle Cruise. There are even gifts underneath.
I may not be a world traveler, but I learned some new things. Like, as you traverse the world’s rainforests, giraffes pull Santa’s canoe sleigh with sparkle presents.
Even the hat rack gets red bows and candy canes! My favorite part of Walt Disney World has always been the attention to detail. For our son with autism, our struggle with Jungle Cruise is that even the Fastpass line can endure quite the wait. We play games where we count Christmas trees (or bows, or whatever your family likes!) It helps to keep his focus off the crowds and the wait.
The boats’ holiday update includes the Fruitcake Zelda, formerly known as Zambezi Zelda, or the Nile Nellie’s transformation to Noel Nellie.
As always, the skippers are the best part of any Jungle Cruise, with or without the overlay. Their Jingle Cruise jokes do not disappoint- they are hilarious, as usual! See below for the video version of this transcript!
- Inspiration Falls- legend has it that if you stare into it long enough, even the coldest Scrooges will feel inspired to sing Christmas Carols. [Singing] Jingle Cruise Jingle Cruise Jingle all the way… I got like two, and honestly, that’s all the confidence I need. Sweet guys, let’s keep going.
- Into the Congo River- it’s the most dangerous river in all of Central River, so hang on tight guys ’cause we’re honestly going to see how far we congo together today.
- Oh, but it does look like the Pygmies did dash out for some last-minute holiday shopping. I think I can see what they’ll be getting for Christmas- Canoe? Sweet spears, am I right?
- Oh but it does look like someone is being gifted a dead tree for Christmas. That is nice, it is all wrapped up with a boa on top- how romantic is that?
As you stroll down Sunset Boulevard, look up! All of the buildings have gorgeous decorations hanging from the buildings. I love how every theme park has different decorations to match the overall ambiance. While the Magic Kingdom is warm and nostalgic, Hollywood Studios is glitzy and showy. The metallic tinsel is the unique touch for the park that represents “Tinseltown.”
Many traditional Disney characters have bright costumes during the holiday season. Dale is rocking a cute Christmas scarf and green Santa hat.
Walt Disney World Holiday Decorations
Even the resorts have amazing holiday decorations! Our favorite Christmas displays in Walt Disney World are in the deluxe resorts. The Contemporary Resort keeps its’ large tree outside. However, Disney adorns the lobby with smaller trees.
The Grand Floridian has a beautiful gingerbread house. Disney’s Beach Club features a gorgeous Gingerbread Carousel.
Pop Century and Art of Animation place Christmas trees in their large atriums stretching to the very top. These impressive centerpieces stop the show when passing through to get a meal or shop for wares.
Our favorite holiday snaps are from the retired Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights which ended following the 2015 holiday season. While we always love making new memories, our nostalgia is strong for those twinkling musical lights!
What are your favorite experiences during the holidays in Walt Disney World? Drop them in the comments!
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