I absolutely LOVE Christmas, my favorite place to be this time of year is Walt Disney World. Disney is one of the most magical places on earth especially from late November through December when they go full on holiday mode. They always have the best seasonal decorations and treats during this time of year, you can always expect to find something new to keep returning visitors excited to come back. Even though COVID-19 has changed the way the parks operate and how the holidays will be celebrated it doesn’t mean that this year will be any less festive. From some of the old favorites to the brand new socially distant traditions here is a park by park break down on everything you should expect when visiting Walt Disney World this holiday season.
Magic Kingdom is one of the best parks to visit during the holidays because it is the largest park and there is so much holiday themed fun to do and see. There is nothing like walking down Main Street, U.S.A. during the holidays with the Dapper Dans singing and Christmas around every corner. Every year they offer amazing special daily events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, The Main Street Philharmonic March with Toy Soldiers, Tree Lighting Ceremonies, The Holly Jolly Trolley Show, Dream Lights Projections, A Frozen Holiday Wish, Santa Claus sightings and more. They even change the Jungle Cruise located in Adventureland to the “Jingle Cruise” with a different holiday story line for riders to enjoy. Don’t miss the holiday food, beverages and merchandise you can find all around the park.
During the 2020 holiday season don’t expect large crowd drawing attractions instead look forward to the new socially distant traditions Magic Kingdom has added that will make it easier for your family to have a fun safe trip. This year Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has been canceled (Check out my blog post on Is the Disney Christmas Party Worth It? to see if you think you are missing out on anything you wanted to see!) along with the Frozen Holiday Wish and the Castle Dream Light Projections. Even though these castle classics are gone for the year, there will still be holiday projections such as holiday sweaters and ornaments with red, green and gold throughout that will transition every 15 minutes to give the castle a holiday feel. Also instead of all of the long crowd drawing parades, expect to see many cavalcades (shortened parades) passing by during the day as you make your way through Magic Kingdom. These will feature some of the floats from Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas Parade (during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) along with The Dapper Dans on Trolleys, Santa in his sleigh and many other festive friends.
My absolute favorite park during the holidays is Epcot. This park offers the most exciting aspects of every holiday there is to celebrate, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or even the Lunar New Year! The traditions start with my favorite, the Candlelight Processional that retells the Christmas story through narration and song with special guest narrators such as Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris and others. There is also a Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays with full kitchens of food from around the world that people enjoy during the holiday season. The food here is so great and extensive that you may not have a chance to try it all so check out My Five Favorite Festival of the Holidays Snacks Youtube video to make sure you don’t miss out on the best this festival has to offer! As you walk around and explore EPCOT you will run into World Showcase Story Tellers in different countries who offer their own legends and traditions of the season. A fun, interactive way for children to explore the park is by joining in on “Olaf’s Holiday Traditions” Scavenger Hunt or the Holiday Cookie Stroll that ends with a complimentary cookie after you complete the five part confectionary collection. They also have daily live holiday performances with music from around the world at the American Garden Theatre and the Mill Stage in Canada of the World Showplace.
Thankfully this year EPCOT will not be changing too much, the only attractions being left out are the Candlelight Processional and the World Showcase Storytellers. EPCOT’s Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays will continue with all of the holiday kitchens open from November 27th through December 30th 2020 as well as the live performance from Voices of Liberty, Mariachi Cobre, JAMMitors, and JOYFUL! You should also look forward to more holiday-themed cavalcades and Santa Claus sightings periodically throughout the day. For more information on EPCOT during the holidays check out my blog post on Why EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays is my Favorite and Youtube Video on Why I Love EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios there are endless ways to get in the holiday spirit. Starting with the Sunset Greetings Show projected on the Tower of Terror that includes artificial snow and music, larger than life decorations on Echo Lake, Mickey and Friends and PIxar Motorcades, and an amazing night show, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, that is projected on the buildings and rooftop of the Chinese Theater. They also have marvelous interactive activities like the character dining Minnie’s Seasonal Dining at Hollywood and Vine, and the Frozen Sing-Along with an added Holiday Finale.
This year you should still expect the amazing decorations, the Frozen Sing-Along Holiday Finale and spectacular motorcades. Make sure to be on the lookout during the motorcade this year as they added Santa Claus in a red convertible to be the caboose for the event. Minnie’s Hollywood and Dine experience with be slightly different than a character meal as the characters won’t be walking from table to table but you will still be able to observe these characters in their festive outfits from a far. Walt Disney World has also had to tone down the Sunset Greetings Show to just lights without the music or artificial snow and cancel the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! that draw large crowds every year.
Animal Kingdom is not typically the park known for its holiday festivities but in recent years they have upped their game and now offer some great shows and interactive experiences. Here you can watch the Holiday Flotillas sail down Discover River with all your favorite Disney characters, Santa Claus, Discovery Island Drummers and more all dressed in their best festive attire. One of my daughter’s favorite attractions during this time of year are the winter animal puppet interactions. These life size puppets interact with guests and are accompanied by musicians right in the heart of Discovery Island. Walking around the park you can also catch performances by the exhilarating dance group Bollywood Beats or the Harambe Village Acrobats. As the sun sets overhead will be lit by the festive rooftop animal themed luminaries and a holiday themed light show called the Tree of Life Awakenings will project on periodically throughout the night. This park does a great job decorating the space with holiday spirit as well as offering seasonal food while keeping the nature-filled atmosphere at the forefront.
Luckily for Animal Kingdom, since there are no specific special events, not to much has changed this holiday season. Things that will not be taking place this year due to social distancing will be the winter animal puppet interactions, and performances by Bollywood Beats and the Harambe Village Acrobats.
Disney does not do anything half way and when the holidays roll around expect to be surrounded with Christmas cheer from the second you step foot into your hotel until the minute you leave. With terrific life size gingerbread displays that have people selling gingerbread cookies out of them at the Grand Floridian and trees trimmed to perfection with matching hotel themed decorations in every lobby the resorts do an amazing job of incorporating the holidays into every aspect of your stay. If you are looking for a resort to stay at during the holiday season check out my Youtube Video on the Best Disney Resorts to Stay at During the Holidays!
Unfortunately this year the gigantic gingerbread will not be displayed but these resorts will still be decked out in holiday decorations with garland, lights, and you guessed it, a whole lot of Christmas trees.
Normally I would suggest resort hopping just to see all of the creative ways Disney finds a way to decorate for this amazing season but this might not be allowed due to restrictions this year. Instead I would recommend visiting Disney Springs an outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. During the holidays you will normally find the Disney Springs Tree Trail full of decorated Disney themed trees but instead of a trail the trees, this year the trees will be scattered around the shopping center. If you find yourself near The Landing, West Side or Town Center during the evening you will encounter a magical snowfall experience too!
Even the guests at the Fort Wilderness go all out with their holiday decorations on their camper/cabin at their campsite that makes for a great holiday atmosphere. Here they’ll still be offering horse drawn “sleigh” rides through the month of December where you will travel along scenic trails in a festive “sleigh” decorated with lights and garland. Click here to reserve your ride.
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