A Snapshot of the Holidays in Walt Disney World

Christmas is my favorite time of year!  (Although if you ask our son, he will let you know that Disney Halloween is first and Christmas is a close second.)  The jubilant decorations at Walt Disney World go up overnight, and they change 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

Our Favorite Snaps of Christmas 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 a whole lot of drawbacks. 

While many children would experience routine disruption anyway 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 would definitely prepare with lots of holiday and attraction discussions and videos to soothe the transitions.  

Epcot

Upon entering, Disney sells you on the 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.

"Christmas Tree Spree Maps Available Here" sign at Epcot

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 for the holiday festivities in the World Showcase.

Epcot Christmas Tree at 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!

Christmas lights in Living with the Land

The Snowman family makes an interesting contrast with sand in the hydroponic garden.Snowman family in Living with the Land in Epcot

This round wire topiary makes the perfect base for a hidden Mickey topped with reindeer ears.

Hidden Mickey with reindeer horns on wire topiary form in Living with the Land in Epcot

A Koi pond is wrapped with garland and ornaments.

Holiday garlands in Living with the Land in Epcot

Snowflakes and stuffers fill the scientist’s lab.

Stockings and snowflakes on Living with the Land

Trees with icicle ornaments.

Tree with ornaments on Living with the Land

Check out all of the gorgeous holiday lights!

Holiday lights in Living with the Land in Epcot

United Kingdom

The toll of the bell summons you to the rose garden in the United Kingdom.  Father Christmas tells his story while adorned with a crown of holly, green suit, and fur.  His beard is white as snow and he carries a staff in one hand a bell in the other.  He explains the story of Christmas and how he rings one toll for each year since the birth of Jesus Christ.

Father Christmas in a green suit with fur and a wreath on his head in the United Kingdom at Epcot World Show case

While this outdoor beer stand is a permanent fixture outside of 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.  

United Kingdom beer cart decorated with holiday garlands

Japan

Christmas tree sushi at Epcot Holiday Kitchen in World Showcase Japan

The Japanese Shi Washu Holiday Kitchen features the amazing Chirashi Sushi Tree (that 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.

Chirashi sushi tree from Japan Holiday Kitchen in Epcot

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.

Popcorn stands for Christmas in Walt Disney World

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.

Main Street during Christmas in Walt Disney WorldIf you’ve never seen a Walt Disney World Christmas tree, it is truly a sight to behold!  Each theme park and resorts features unique trees that are giant, reaching heights of 70 feet.  The ornaments, garlands, lights, and stars differ depending on the tree’s theme that varies by location. 

Christmas tree in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

The lamp posts along Main Street have a jolly  Mickey Wreath.  My children insisted on taking photos with these non-hidden Mickeys! 

Mickey Mouse Christmas lamp posts in Walt Disney World

 

 

 

 

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.

Here we go a wassailing in Magic Kingdom's Jingle Cruise

I still can’t figure out what the khaki sign says  (some version of Jugeal the way??)  If you know- please leave it in the comments.  We’ve been googling and scratching our heads for days!Jugeal the way on the Jingle Cruise by the docks

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 make your way through the attraction queue at the Jingle Cruise. One of the fish traps is covered with lights and tinsel and resembles a chandelier.

Christmas ornaments in the queue on Magic Kingdom's Jingle Cruise

The window for “ticket purchases” to the Jungle Cruise features pine boughs and colorful Christmas lights.  There is even a white mini Christmas tree and all kind of other trinkets inside the ticket booth. Although who supports white Christmas trees when you have evergreen and palm trees to choose from?

Jingle Cruise lights with evergreen bough and christmas tree in cruise operators

There is also a lovely tree made from wooden dowels.  If you are unable to 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.

wooden christmas tree in queue at Jingle Cruise

Below is another Christmas tree on display in the line for the Jingle Cruise. There are even gifts underneath.

Jingle cruise Queue with christmas tree

I may not be a world traveler, but I definitely learned some new things. Like, as you traverse the rainforests of the world, giraffes pull Santa’s canoe sleigh with sparkle presents.

giraffes with sleigh and santa

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.

candy cane, wreaths, and poinsettias adorn the walls of the Jingle Cruise (Jungle) queue during Christmas

The boats’ holiday update includes the Fruitcake Zelda, formerly known as Zambezi Zelda, or the Nile Nellie’s transformation to Noel Nellie.

Fruitcake Zelda on Jingle Cruise in Magic Kingdom

The Skippers

As always, the best part on any Jungle Cruise, with or without overlay, is the skippers.  Their Jingle Cruise jokes do not disappoint- they are hilarious per usual! See below for the video version of this transcript!

  • Inspiration Falls- legend has it that if you stare into it for long enough, even the coldest of 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’re going to 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. Oh but that is nice, it is all wrapped up with a boa on top- how romantic is that?

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood studios Christmas in Walt Disney World

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.”

Boughs of evergreen over Hollywood studios' Sunset Boulevard for Christmas in Disney World

During the holiday season, many of the traditional Disney characters have bright costumes.  Dale is rocking a cute Christmas scarf and green Santa hat.

Chip dressed as an elf for Christmas in Walt Disney World

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.

Christmas tree in the lobby at Disneys Contemporary Resort

The Grand Floridian has a beautiful gingerbread house. Disney’s Beach Club features a gorgeous Gingerbread Carousel.

Both Pop Century and Art of Animation place Christmas trees in their large atriums that stretch to the very top.  These impressive centerpieces stop the show when passing through to get a meal or shop for wares.

Christmas tree at the Pop Century Resort

Our favorite holiday snaps of all time are from the retired Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights that 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!

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for live updates as we travel around the world with our family. We can’t wait until we go back to experience the holidays in Walt Disney World.

We loved our Christmas Eve dinner at Epcot and the Ultimate Disney Christmas Package.

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7 Comments

  1. Brice Brandenburger
    Brice Brandenburger

    Excellent write-up. I absolutely appreciate this website. Thanks!

  2. Love this! I would love to go someday! Thanks for sharing! 😉

  3. Great post and perspective, I’d love to see Disneyworld decked out for Christmas! Halloween was awesome, I can only imagine Christmas being spectacular!

  4. I so love Disney World at Christmas! It is somehow even more magical than usual. I love how everywhere is totally decked out with holiday decor and the lights show they projected on the castle before fireworks was so amazing when I was there a few years back! 🙂

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