Theme Park Insider

Your Guide to Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World

November 29, 2015, 10:22 PM · Welcome to TPI’s guide to the 2015 holiday season at Walt Disney World. This is your guide to all the things available to you, your family, and friends at the Walt Disney World Resort during the month of December. TPI’s guide includes information on special events, parks, hotels, Disney Springs, tours, and our FREE crowd calendar.

December 2015 Walt Disney World crowd calendar

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (“Very Merry”)

This is Walt Disney World’s special ticketed holiday event (prices range from $69-$79). It takes place at the Magic Kingdom from 7pm to 12am on select nights. It DOES NOT require a Magic Kingdom ticket to attend — you can be in the park with a Very Merry ticket after 4pm. If you have a Magic Kingdom ticket, YOU MUST buy the Very Merry ticket to remain in the park after 7pm on nights where they have Very Merry.

Again on Very Merry Dates:

So what is Very Merry all about? They have various live shows, a special Christmas parade, the Frozen Holiday Wish lighting of Cinderella’s castle, Holiday Wishes firework display, and all the hot cocoa, apple slices, and cookies you can eat and drink, which is included with the ticket. However, the best perk of Very Merry is that it is a limited-ticket event, meaning the park is not nearly as crowded. The wait times are almost cut in half once regular ticket holders are out of the park around 8pm, making the wait times 20 minutes or less. Later in the night, around 10:30 pm you might not even see a line, even on sold-out nights. Tip: If you want to ride a ride earlier without a wait, go during the first parade. Also buy your limited merchandise early before they sell out.

Tickets can be purchased the day of the event, but tickets tend to sell out quickly. We recommend you buy tickets in advance. December 18, the last Very Merry, is already sold out. The only available dates are: December 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17. Discounts are available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members.

The Parks

The Magic Kingdom in December

Magic Kingdom: The park is decorated the same as when Very Merry runs. All the lights, wreathes and garland are up. Just about all the treats are available to purchase. The Jungle Cruise is still decorated and renamed Jingle Cruise. The Christmas parade and Holiday fireworks are also shown during the week of Christmas. Even the castle will be decorated in those amazing icicle lights throughout the month. If you have a Magic Kingdom ticket and don’t want to spend the extra $70-80, just go to the park at night, it’s just as nice. Those who stay at the Disney resorts can be there during their extra Magic Hours which extends the hours of operation on certain days, just like other parks. Check out their Christmas store located near the entrance to Liberty Square.

Epcot: Experience Holidays Around the World. Try foods and listen to stories from all the pavilions. The American pavilion has Mr. and Mrs. Claus, carolers, snacks, along with stories of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Canada has a musical group, China has their Lion Dance, France has Pere Noel, Germany has stories of the first Christmas tree and Nutcracker, Italy’s La Befana, Japan has the story of the Daruma doll and New Year’s traditions, Norway’s Christmas gnome story, Mexican Feliz Navidad dancers, and the UK has Father Christmas stories. The main stage by the fountains feature a Gospel celebration of the season. The Illuminations fireworks is modified to feature a Peace on Earth message. Ask for a schedule to see when all these great performers are taking the stage. The highlight of Epcot is their Candlelight Processional which is retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50 piece orchestra and mass choir. Guests this year include Neil Patrick Harris, Whoopi Goldberg, and Amy Grant (check out Disney's website for celebrity schedules). This is a VERY popular event. Tip: Show up early or grab Candlelight Processional dining reservations to ensure you can see your favorite narrator. Check out their Christmas store located in the Germany pavilion.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Disney's Hollywood Studios: Outside the park is a large Christmas tree. Inside is decorated with lights and garland. Frozen, although available all year, has a show which you can reserve Fastpasses. Do not miss the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. It’s a spectacular show of lights synchronized to music, playing for its final season. Disney also offers a dessert party called Very Merry & Bright Dessert Party, for an additional amount ($39 for children, $69 for adults). Check out themeparkinsider.com/flume/201511/4837 for more information. Check out their Christmas store located near Mamma Melrose Restaurant.

Disney's Animal Kingdom: Other than a large Christmas tree themed to Animal Kingdom and some garland, there isn’t much to this place in regards to holiday theming. There is a Santa Mickey and Minnie meet and greet, but we suggest visiting this place to either see all the wonderful animals or get away from the even more crowded other parks.

Hotels

A great way to spend an afternoon is to visit all the hotels. Some hotels are more decorated than others, so we recommend visiting the loop of hotels that are in front of Magic Kingdom. This includes The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary. All these hotels can be accessed through bus or monorail. The Grand Floridian is probably the nicest of them all as it has that classic Christmas feel. The hotel features a large Christmas tree in its lobby and a gigantic gingerbread house where snacks are sold. Chestnuts are usually roasting at night in front of the main entrance.

Grand Floridian gingerbread house

The Polynesian is not nearly as decorated as the Grand Floridian, but it has many smaller trees, garland, and small Christmas displays, all themed to the Polynesian lifestyle. If you want to shorten the tour, skip this one.

The Wilderness Lodge is another great hotel for Christmas decorations. The hotel features a large Christmas tree in its lobby adorned with Native American-inspired ornaments. Garland and smaller trees are around the hotel too. If you want to go all out, take a 25-minute sleigh ride for $79 a person. Be sure to get cozy in front of one of their many fireplaces located on each floor of the hotel.

The last stop is the Contemporary. Outside is a towering Christmas tree. The hotel also features a 17-foot-tall Frozen themed gingerbread house. Lights and other decorations are all around the lobby. Christmas day service is also available for Catholics and Protestants. Take a good picture of the not so hidden, hidden-Mickey hanging in the windows.

Already toured the string of Magic Kingdom hotels? Well, check out the Yacht and Beach Clubs, along with the Port Orleans Riverside resort. All the resorts are decorated in some form or fashion and often have holiday-themed food and drink.

If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can have your room decorated for Christmas including a Christmas tree and more. Prices vary.

Disney Springs

If you’re looking for a more economically friendly way to get into the Holiday spirit (and my second favorite to Magic Kingdom), visit Disney Springs. Parking is free. Throughout the park are tons of garland, wreathes and tons more lights. The area boasts three unique Christmas trees, Holiday entertainment, and Santa. This year’s addition includes picture spots where people can pose in life-sized Holiday cards. It truly is a fun place to be during the holidays. Be sure to check out Disney’s biggest Christmas store, Disney’s Days of Christmas, located on the east side. Did anyone else notice the parking garage themed to Christmas too? With red (spot filled) and green (spot empty)....

Special Tours

Disney’s Holiday D-Lights ($259): This tour lasts for roughly five hours and brings you to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios to view all of their lights. It also includes a holiday-themed buffet. It also features a very limited edition pin.

Disney’s Yuletide Fantasy ($99): This tour lasts three hours and tours you through Magic Kingdom’s and Epcot’s lights. Get to know how the decorating is done through cast members and visit some of the countries in Epcot to listen to their Holiday traditions.

For more information, including dates which these tours are available, and booking call: 1-407-939-8687.

What will you be doing at Walt Disney World this holiday season?

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Replies (9)

November 30, 2015 at 1:49 AM · Wow! What an awesome article! Definitely got me in the holiday spirit! Thanks!
November 30, 2015 at 6:58 AM · I highly recommend not to actually visit the parks on Christmas Day. Trust me, the crowds will be atrocious. Besides, both MK and Disneyland broadcast their Christmas Day parades on Live TV, so you can enjoy them at home. But I do highly recommend seeing the Osborne Family Lights, considering they won't be back again. Ever. Trust me, you don't wanna miss them.
November 30, 2015 at 7:57 AM · Appreciate the crowd calendar. Ive seen Splash Mountain with empty logs at Very Merry!
November 30, 2015 at 10:37 AM · This is great information! Thank you! Does the park have a capacity? For instance, if my family goes on a very busy day, is it possible to be turned away at the ticket counter? We are not annual pass holders.
November 30, 2015 at 10:46 AM · Great information! Osborne lights are a can't miss event and we love visiting the hotels as well. Grand Floridian is fun for the kids!
November 30, 2015 at 12:42 PM · @192.243.80.61

Parks do reach capacity. Usually they turn away guests depending on how many are at the park (they limit entrance according to their levels which goes up to 4). If you have a single day pass or plan on buying one at the gate, you will be the first one they turn away.

I personally predict Magic Kingdom will reach level 1 capicity December 25-January 3rd.

November 30, 2015 at 12:54 PM · To the anonymous poster IP - 66.87.123.124...The Christmas Day parades are NOT live. They are usually taped a week or two ahead of schedule. Disneyland is taping from December 11-13 and WDW, in an unusual scheduling move, already taped between November 10-13. Sorry to burst your bubble if you thought those were live. However, Christmas Day is still always one of the busiest days of the year, and parks on both coasts typically close for capacity even though the parades shown on TV have been in the can for weeks.

If the parks do reach capacity, they don't turn guests away, they simply prevent them from entering until people in the park leave. The gates can close due to capacity for a couple of hours at a time, but the solution to that problem is to make sure you're in the park early in the day. They can't force you out once you're in, so if you get to the gate at opening, there's a good chance you won't have any problems, just don't plan to do any park hopping.

November 30, 2015 at 6:58 PM · Oh my, I was up in the air about going this holiday season but it looks too amazing to pass up!! Thanks Jeff.
December 1, 2015 at 4:54 AM · @Russel Meyer

Thanks for correcting me. While it is kinda embarrassing that I was wrong, it would've been more embarrassing if someone said or did something because they were under the impression that the tapings we're live because I said it was so. So, again, thank you.

But still, live or not live, they still show the parades on TV . So you can still enjoy MK's holiday festivities on Christmas Day without having to worry about those crowds.

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