When you add the magic of the holiday season to what is already the Most Magical Place on Earth, you get something that is truly special — and a whole lot of fun.
During the Christmas season, Disney World goes all-in with around 29 large custom trees (up to 70 feet tall), 596 smaller trees, hundreds of wreaths and more. In fact, there’s so much Christmas and holiday decor that there are teams and warehouses devoted just to holiday decorating.
Disney World is a world-class family destination 365 days a year, but it gets extra special at the holidays — especially for the 23 nights out of the year when the Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But even beyond the party, there are the decorated resorts, the life-size gingerbread house, special treats and more.
If you also need a little Disney Christmas, right this very minute, here are tips for visiting Disney World during all of the winter holiday fun.
Related: How to use points for Disney tickets
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
On 23 different nights from Nov. 8-Dec. 22, the Magic Kingdom closes to day guests at 6 p.m. and transforms into a place of holiday celebration for those with party tickets.
Just having regular park admission tickets to the Magic Kingdom won’t get you into the special evening party, as you have to leave the park before the party begins if you don’t have a ticket to the shindig. So on that note, make your party night a day when you chill at the resort or explore Disney Springs before heading to the Magic Kingdom — you’ll need your rest for the evening’s activities.
Tickets to the after-hours Christmas party get you into the Magic Kingdom beginning at 4 p.m. The party officially starts at 7 p.m, giving you a couple of hours to enjoy rides without missing any of the themed party fun.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party includes treats (snickerdoodle cookies, hot chocolate, sugar cookies and more) passed out at designated spots around the Magic Kingdom.
There are also special stage shows four times a night, 10 p.m. fireworks, two rounds of the Once Upon a Christmastime parade, Club TInsel dance parties and more — essentially it is the holidays on Mickey steroids.
Buy Very Merry tickets in advance
The Christmas party tickets sell out every year, so don’t drag your feet if you know you want to go.
In fact, for this year, most of the parties are already sold out with just a few nights remaining. If you are planning for next year, let this be your reminder to hit “Add to cart” as soon as the party dates are announced. As you are looking at the calendar, now is a good time to warn you that Christmas at Disney World is very, very popular. If you have the ability to avoid weekends and peak holiday weeks, do it.
In fact, the week of Christmas and New Year’s is the one week of the year we hope to never visit Disney World.
Also, know that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets are expensive. Prices for the remaining nights are about $180 per person, which is more than a daytime ticket to the park. You can make an educated guess as to which party nights are the most popular by checking the prices online. Pricier generally means busier, so go on a weekday night early in the season to enjoy slightly smaller crowds and lower prices.
Related: Best credit cards for theme parks
You can use points to purchase tickets to Disney World via cards or pay with a credit card that awards a bonus on entertainment purchases, such as 4% cash back on the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.
If you purchase your party tickets from Undercover Tourist, they should code as a travel expense, earning you 3 points per dollar on a Chase Sapphire Reserve or 2 points per dollar on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Alternatively, you can purchase discounted Disney gift cards and pay with those directly from Disney.
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Christmas treats included
During Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, they hand out several different included treats at various points in the Magic Kingdom.
These are goodies such as cookies and hot chocolate — different from the ice cream, soda and popcorn treats that were also included during the after-hours version of this party that happened during the heart of the pandemic.
It’s about the shows, not rides, but …
The parades, castle show and treats at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are the highlights. You can dance at Club Tinsel, sample all the treats, check out the holiday decorations without lots of crowds and let some of the rides wait for another day.
That said, there are a few rides you may not want to miss — such as Jingle Cruise, one of the few rides to transform into a holiday-themed experience. (Speaking of festive rides, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will feature “seasonal jams” over at Epcot.)
Additionally, you can make Genie+ reservations until the official park closing time, if you wish.
This year, I started stacking Genie+ Lightning Lanes to use from 4-6 p.m. since this was the only Magic Kingdom day of this trip for the family. By starting to reserve these around 8 a.m. in the morning, I had Peter Pan’s Flight, Jingle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean all ready to go for the family, so we knocked out a lot of rides in those first two hours. Spending the money to do that may or may not be worth it for your group.
As the party gets going and the night gets later, many rides will have waits in the 0-15-minute range, but if you have younger kids or don’t want to stay up late, use those first few hours wisely.
Go to the 1st parade if you aren’t sure you can stay up late
The two parades are at 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. and a good strategy is to go to the late parade during the Christmas party, but of course, not everyone wants to stay up late.
So in that case, I recommend lining up before 8 p.m. for the first parade if that’s your priority. Personally, I think watching this parade on Main Street U.S.A. is pretty special, though getting a curbside seat does require getting there early.
Don’t miss the fireworks show
The Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks display for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas is incredible.
In fact, it’s one of my favorite fireworks shows of all time. Even if you aren’t going to stay awake for the whole party, don’t leave before this show at 10 p.m. I’d say if you can’t stay up that late to enjoy the holiday-themed display, I’d skip the party this year, as this was one of the biggest highlights of the night.
The show is virtually guaranteed to put you in a festive mood with holiday music, projections, fireworks and the best darn display that money can buy.
Is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party worth it?
At around $180 per ticket, the evening party can easily cost over $700 for a family of four. Is that really worth it for some treats, parades and fireworks? Your budget will be the largest driver of this answer, but if you are already dealing in Disney pricing for your trip, it is worth it in some cases.
First, you have to be able to stay up a little late or it certainly isn’t worth it. If your group can’t be in the park from at least 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the earliest, then skip it.
Second, it’s more worth it if it can serve as your theme park ticket for the day. For example, a single-day ticket to the parks is generally $130-$150 per day, depending on dates, so if you are paying for this ticket instead of that then you’re “only” adding on $30 or so to your daily total – and that difference can be worth it if you are into all things holiday and fine with a late night.
Finally, you have to want to see the parades and fireworks and do all the special party things.
If all you want are rides, then definitely skip this pricier ticket. While it’s true the crowds are smaller and you can enjoy shorter lines for the rides, there are better ways to avoid lines at Disney if you are on a budget than ponying up for this ticket. All that said, I 100% love this party year after year and am always so happy to be soaking in all the aspects of the celebration.
Where to see Christmas decorations at Disney World
When the final Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party ended Nov. 1, Disney transformed the Magic Kingdom virtually overnight into a holiday wonderland. It takes a little longer for the decorations to make their way around the entire Disney World property, but by mid-November, there’s usually holiday decor at every turn.
Some Disney World Christmas decor highlights include Main Street, U.S.A., which is absolutely not to be missed. The Magic Kingdom alone has 590 garlands (measuring a total of 5,188 feet), 40 Christmas trees and 147 wreaths.
Other holiday must-visits are the life-size gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, the massive Christmas trees in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge (take the boat from Magic Kingdom) and Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Christmas tree and decorations in and around Echo Lake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
When you make a stop at the Grand Floridian to see those impressive decorations, you can even buy some gingerbread of your own to munch on as you take it all in — just be ready for a wait to check out, as it’s quite the popular spot.
If you just want to admire the view, then not surprisingly, the best views of the gingerbread display can be had early in the morning or late in the evening when the shop that sells the pieces of gingerbread is closed.
You can also head to Disney Springs to enjoy the Christmas Tree Stroll with 20 different themed trees. In fact, you can do a quest to find all 20 that comes with a special surprise at the end.
The thermometer may often say 85 degrees in Central Florida during the holiday months, but it still snows during the holidays thanks to Disney magic. While celebrating Christmas at Disney World, make time to play in the snow on Main Street, U.S.A. and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios. Sunset Seasons Greetings is pretty spectacular, as the Tower of Terror has been transformed with festive lights and projections.
For extra fun in the snow, check out the Frozen Sing-Along at Hollywood Studios, where it even snows indoors. And, during the holidays, there’s an extra-festive finale featuring Olaf.
Enjoy a holiday-themed meal
A good way to enjoy Christmas at Disney World without too long of a line is to make a dining reservation at a restaurant that goes all-out for the holidays. That way you get to sit down to eat while the characters come to you. One possibility is Minnie’s Seasonal Dining at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios.
This normally isn’t considered one of the best restaurants at Disney World, but with the Fab Five characters all dressed in holiday attire, it’s a fun and festive choice.
In years past, we did this meal and enjoyed crab legs, peel-and-eat shrimp, shrimp macaroni and cheese and more from the buffet, along with the characters in their holiday best. And of course, hugs are now back at Disney World.
Meet Santa at Disney
Given how many boys and girls visit Disney each holiday season, it makes sense that Santa stops in from time to time. However, lots of boys and girls want to meet Santa at Disney, so to avoid the three-to-four-hour waits of years gone by, Disney has a new system.
Santa is now available via a virtual queue with openings available at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for those at Disney Springs to come and pose for a photo and turn in a wish list.
If you are at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party you can probably find Santa’s outpost behind the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.
Santa can also sometimes be seen in the parks and will attend special breakfasts on certain dates at Maria and Enzo’s.
Epcot Candlelight Processional
From Nov. 25 to Dec. 30, a celebrity narrator leads the telling of the Christmas nativity story, and a live orchestra and choir make the holidays come alive within the America Gardens Theatre in Epcot at 5:15 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
You can guarantee seating by booking a Candlelight Processional dining package for lunch or dinner. Based on our experiences, you want to do this to guarantee a seat unless you are OK with lines and gambling with availability. Prices for the dining and seat packages range from $64 to $100 per adult and $28 to $51 for children, depending on the meal and restaurant.
You’ll find some of our favorite restaurants at Disney World on the list, such as Garden Grill and Rose & Crown Dining Room. Although it isn’t my all-time favorite food, the Biergarten Restaurant can also be an entertaining spot for a holiday meal. Some day-of packages are available for less at Regal Eagle Smokehouse and Spice Road Table.
The 2022 Epcot processional narrators are:
- Simu Liu: Nov. 25 to Nov. 26.
- Chita Rivera: Nov. 27 to Nov. 29.
- Raul Esparza: Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.
- Whoopi Goldberg: Dec. 2 to Dec. 3.
- Isabella Rossellini: Dec. 4 to Dec. 6.
- Daymond John: Dec. 7 to Dec. 9.
- Josh Gad: Dec. 10 to Dec. 12.
- Gloria Estefan: Dec. 13 to Dec. 14.
- Neil Patrick Harris: Dec. 15 to Dec. 18.
- Mariska Hargitay: Dec. 19 to Dec. 20.
- Cal Ripken Jr: Dec. 21 to Dec. 23.
- Marie Osmond: Dec. 24 to Dec. 26.
- Courtney Vance: Dec. 27 to Dec. 28.
- Angela Bassett: Dec. 29 to Dec. 30.
Keep in mind that the processional itself is free to Epcot guests. Buying a dining package simply guarantees a seat. You also need a theme park ticket and Epcot park pass reservation (or park hop) for this one. While it is a lovely evening, know that this is something that may not thrill some younger children.
The best time to visit Disney World at Christmas
The bad news mixed in with all this magic is that it gets painfully busy at Disney during portions of the holidays. Think five-hour waits for rides in pre-pandemic times and parks hitting maximum capacity.
Common sense will tell you when the parks are busiest during the holidays: over school breaks and on weekends. Also, remember that there’s a thing called Jersey Week that happens at the beginning of the holiday season in early November when there’s a weeklong school break in New Jersey. If you’re planning for the future, know that less-busy times include the week before Thanksgiving and midweek during the first two weeks of December.
December is the most festive time, with the Epcot Candlelight Processional up and running by late November. You don’t have to wait that long, however, as most of the Christmas decorations around the parks and resorts are up and the after-hours Christmas Party is in full swing by mid-November.
If you like Christmas, the winter holidays and all things Mickey Mouse, you’ll likely love Christmas at Disney World.
With the exception of 2020, we’ve gone during the holiday season every year for the last several years, so I can attest that spending a few days late in the year at Disney World can really jump-start the holiday cheer. There’s too much to see and do to take it all in on one visit, which is fine because there’s always next Christmas.