The holiday season at Disney World is one of the most popular times of year to visit, and when you check out the pics and information below, we think you’ll see why.
Not only are the parks decked out in the finest holiday decorations, you’ll also find unique seasonal entertainment, food, and even fun attraction overlays.
We absolutely love the holidays at Walt Disney World! Here’s what you can expect to see:
In this article
What does Magic Kingdom do for the holidays?
Magic Kingdom is home to the only specially ticketed holiday-themed event (Disney Very Merriest After Hours).
But, even if you don’t spring for the party, you can still find lots of other festive cheer spread throughout the park:
Disney Very Merriest After Hours (specially ticketed event)
For 2021, Disney replaced both the popular Halloween and Christmas parties with After Hours Events.
The Christmas version is called “Disney Very Merriest”, and although it has many similar aspects to the old Christmas Party, there are a few differences (like the price, the time of day it happens, and the number of characters available).
Since this event takes place AFTER the park closes, it can be a late night for little ones. In 2021, this new event will take place from 9:00 pm until 1:00 am for 24 nights in November and December.
And, it isn’t cheap. Tickets range from $169 plus tax all the way to $249 plus tax (depending on the day you attend).
For that price, you’ll get the holiday fireworks, the Once Upon a Christmastime parade, some character sightings, and of course, snacks.
The big man himself will be around – just not in the traditional way.
You won’t be able to sit with him, but you will be able to wave at him and have a conversation from a safe distance.
In 2021, Santa will appear in the gazebo just near Liberty Square (behind the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe).
Check My Disney Experience for appearance times.
Cinderella Castle projections
No, there will not be any Dream Lights or a Frozen Holiday Wish this year, but there will be projections on the castle:
Similar to the projections used during the nighttime shows, guests can expect to see Cinderella Castle transformed into seasonal favorite vignettes.
Note: the castle projections will alternate with the 50th Anniversary Beacon of Magic.
Jingle Cruise (Jungle Cruise attraction overlay)
The Jingle Cruise is back!
Attraction overlays are a new-ish phenomenon for Walt Disney World. But, if you’ve visited Disneyland during the holidays, you’ll have an idea of what it means.
During the holiday season, the popular Jungle Cruise becomes the Jingle Cruise and when you ride it, you’ll see a sprinkling of holiday-themed props and signage.
And jokes. We can’t forget the jokes. The jokes get a dash of Christmas, too.
Monster’s Inc., Laugh Floor will also see an overlay for at least Disney’s Merriest After Hours.
In the past, Tomorrowland Speedway and the Mad Tea Party have also had festive overlays, however, those did not make a return for 2021.
At Magic Kingdom, you can expect to see lots of decorations down Main Street U.S.A. and around the hub.
And this year, you can expect to see some lovely gold accents (in celebration of the 50th Anniversary) making their way into the festive decor!
What is not available for the holidays at Magic Kingdom?
In 2020, the Magic Kingdom had several holiday-themed cavalcades.
In 2021, though, things are different.
This year, the entire Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime parade is taking place during Disney Very Merriest After Hours, which means until the last party, there won’t be any holiday-themed parades happening during the day.
But, if you are lucky enough to be traveling between December 22 and December 31, you’ll be able to catch it without having to purchase a party ticket.
Here are the show times for the parade:
- 12 pm and 3:45 pm (Dec. 22-29)
- 12 pm and 3:30 pm (Dec. 30-31)
Here’s a look back at the Christmas-themed cavalcades we saw in 2020:
- Main Street Philharmonic: Toy Soldiers march down the parade route with the Main Street Philharmonic as they play holiday music.
- Santa’s Christmas Cavalcade: Reindeer lead the way as Santa Claus glides down the parade route in his sleigh.
- Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade: Mickey and Minnie (and friends) greet guests from their Christmas tree float.
- Goofy’s Scrumptious Cavalcade: Goofy and his friends cook up holiday fun from festive floats. Note: Goofy’s cavalcade is not available Tuesdays & Wednesdays.
- Holiday Trolley: The Dapper Dans in their holiday attire sing to guests as they ride the horse-drawn trolley up and down Main Street, U.S.A.
Here are some additional things that we likely won’t see in 2021:
- Tree Lighting Ceremony – Typically held once the tree is up at Magic Kingdom, during normal years there’s a tree lighting ceremony that would take place every evening at dusk (around 5:15-5:30). It didn’t happen in 2020 and we have not heard any word of it returning for 2021.
- Holly Jolly Trolley Show – While we don’t expect to see the typical Holly Jolly Trolley Show, we do hope we can see the Dapper Dans performing from the Main Street Train Station.
- Castle Dream Lights and A Frozen Holiday Wish – The 50th Anniversary decorations have kept the Castle Dream Lights away in 2021. On the positive, no Castle Dream Lights also means no crane, but we will all miss seeing the beautiful lights!
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – Much like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party, this fan favorite has also been cancelled for 2021. But, don’t despair, too much. Disney has replaced it with a new offering called Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
What does Epcot do for the holidays?
Starting on November 26 and running through December 30, Epcot includes all of its holiday offerings under the umbrella of the popular International Festival of the Holidays.
Here’s what you’ll find there:
It’s back for 2021! After a year off, the Candlelight Processional and the Candlelight Processional Dining Packages are back!
For those unfamiliar, the Candlelight Processional is probably the most well-known piece of the Festival of Holidays.
During the 40-minute show, celebrity narrators read a presentation of the Christmas Story while joined by a huge choir and a 50-piece orchestra.
It is a beautiful holiday tradition that many families return for year-after-year.
Spaceship Earth Holiday Lighting Composition
Spaceship Earth’s beautiful new lights take on a festive feel with holiday-themed compositions that will run through December 30.
“Olaf’s Holiday Tradition” Scavenger Hunt
Guests wanting to join in can simply purchase a map from select locations (Mouse Gear, Disney Traders, or World Traveler at International Gateway) and then they will be able to hunt the World Showcase for holiday traditions that Olaf has misplaced. Once you complete it, you’ll be able to snag a gift!
Holiday Cookie Stroll
Perfect for those of us with a sweet tooth, all you have to do is collect five stamps after trying five different cookies on the list.
You must purchase the cookies but after five stamps you’re able to receive a complimentary Peppermint Minnie Cookie as a reward.
And, just an FYI – you don’t have to complete all 5 in 1 day. You can spread it out over multiple visits to Epcot if you wish.
Inside the American Adventure Rotunda, you can find recreations of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and The American Adventure building all created out of gingerbread.
Live performances (including Voices of Liberty, Mariachi Cobre, JAMMitors, and JOYFUL!)
During the day, you’ll have opportunities for other live performances. Make sure you check the My Disney Experience app for show times:
- JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season will perform holiday music in celebration of Christmas and Kwanzaa on the Showcase Plaza Stage.
- Voices of Liberty typically becomes the “Dickens Carolers” and can be seen singing holiday melodies in the America Gardens Theatre, but for 2021 they are limiting their performances to during the Candlelight Processional only.
- The JAMMitors typically modify their performances based upon the season. Currently, they can be found performing in the entrance plaza to the right of Spaceship Earth.
- Mariachi Cobre joins in the with dancers and piñatas for the Los Posadas festivities in the Mexico Pavilion.
What would the holidays be without food?
Much like what you find at other festivals, the kitchen kiosks will offer both sweet and savory choices, plus a selection of themed holiday beverages.
Here’s what you’ll see in 2021:
- American Holiday Table – American Adventure Pavilion
Enjoy a seasonal salute—dig into traditional dishes reminiscent of grandma’s cooking at the American Adventure Pavilion.
- Bavaria Holiday Kitchen – Germany Pavilion
Willkommen—help yourself to heartwarming holiday dishes and refreshing beverages at the Germany Pavilion.
- Chestnuts & Good Cheer Holiday Kitchen – Near Port of Entry – NEW!
Join in on the festivities when you visit this new location offering cinnamon-glazed nuts and holiday beverages.
- The Donut Box – Near Test Track Presented by Chevrolet
Enjoy a classic dessert dressed up in a little holiday cheer when you try one of our seasonally-themed donuts!
- Holiday Hearth Desserts – Near Port of Entry
Discover the hearth you’ll call home, with holly jolly desserts, hot cocoa and so much more.
- Holiday Sweets & Treats – Near Port of Entry
Rock around the Christmas tree with tasty desserts and festive sips sure to top the “nice” list.
- L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen – Between Morocco and France Pavilions
Propose a toast to life—sink your teeth into classic deli noshes with a side of New York flair.
- Le Marché de Noël Holiday Kitchen – France Pavilion
Feast on très magnifique fare, wine and specialty cocktails from the France Pavilion.
- Mele Kalikimaka – Near Port Of Entry
Savor the flavor of fabulous, festive food and beverages from the islands of Hawa i‘i.
- Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen – Mexico Pavilion
Feliz Navidad—celebrate with mariachi dancing and south-of-the-border fare at the Mexican Pavilion!
- Shi Wasu Holiday Kitchen – Japan Pavilion
Please your palate with an array of festive dishes and drinks served at the Japan Pavilion.
- Tangierine Café: Flavors of the Medina – Morocco Pavilion
Travel to the Morocco Pavilion for delicious kebabs and cocktails.
- Tuscany Holiday Kitchen – Italy Pavilion
Mangiare—savor a seasonal take on some of the world’s best-loved food and beverages at the Italy Pavilion!
- Yukon Holiday Kitchen – Canada Pavilion
Jingle your bells with delightful dishes and libations from the Great White North—at the Canada Pavilion.
- Funnel Cake – Between the American Adventure Pavilion
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a holiday classic: Pumpkin Pie Funnel Cake.
- Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company – Throughout EPCOT
Salute the season with the usual selection of coffees, plus a tasty holiday-themed treat!
- Refreshment Outpost – Between the China and Germany Pavilions
Chow down on this year’s holiday surprise: Coconut-Pineapple Cake with DOLE Whip. (Sorry, guess it’s not a surprise now.)
- Refreshment Port – Showcase Plaza
Savor the flavor of holiday poutine and toast the season with specials like Coquito Soft-serve, also available with Spiced Rum.
You won’t be able to meet him, but you will be able to see Santa and give him a wave! For 2021, Santa will be located just outside the American Adventure.
Make sure you check the My Disney Experience app for appearance times!
World Showcase Storytellers
In addition to Santa Claus, you can find a wide variety of storytellers spread throughout the World Showcase:
- Mexico: Las Posadas Celebration – Feliz Navidad! Join the fun and pageantry of Las Posadas with dancers, piñatas and the music of Mariachi Cobre
- Norway: A Mischievous Magical Barn Santa – Celebrate the season with laughter as a mischievous Barn Santa visits Sigrid, an unsuspecting Christmas storyteller
- China: Chinese Lion Dancer – Catch a glimpse of this colorful performance that brings good fortune and happiness in the Lunar New Year
- Italy: La Befana – Listen to the tale of La Befana, a kind-hearted witch who visits sleeping children on the eve of the Epiphany
- The American Adventure: Santa and Mrs. Claus – Enjoy a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, who have slipped away from their workshop at the North Pole to bring good cheer to you this holiday season
- Japan: Daruma Storyteller – Hear the fascinating story of the Daruma doll and the Japanese customs of the New Year!
- Morocco: Festivity in Morocco – Join in as a lively band recreates the fun of street festivals and the holiday season across Morocco
- Between France & Morocco: Hanukkah Storyteller – Join the storyteller Zachary as he shares legends, tells tales and sings songs, highlighting Hanukkah celebrations throughout the world
- France: Père Noël – Visit with Père Noël and rediscover the magic of Christmas through the letter of a delightful child
- United Kingdom: Father Christmas – Join Father Christmas as he rings in the season, sharing the traditions of the United Kingdom and good cheer
- Canada: Canadian Holiday Voyageurs – Explore holiday customs from across the vast regions of Canada on a musical tour of the Great White North
Living With The Land: Merry And Bright Nights
How do you make one of the best attractions in all of Walt Disney World get even better?
You decorate it for the holidays!
Living with the Land gets decked out with Christmas lights and decorations. It is a cute way to add a touch of the season to this beloved classic.
What does Hollywood Studios do for the holidays?
It is no secret that our favorite park for the holidays is Hollywood Studios.
And, to be honest, we don’t think you can get much more “Christmas” than what you’ll see here.
Without a doubt, the best decorations can be found at Hollywood Studios.
From the giant-sized Lefton figurines:
To the gorgeous wreaths, swags, and trees:
I mean, how cute is this?!
In the before times, Toy Story Land also saw decorations but like 2020, it doesn’t appear that those will be making a return for 2021.
Minnie’s Holiday Dine
Available from November 4 – January 3, 2022, you can dine with Minnie Mouse and friends at a “dazzling dinner party filled with holiday cheer”.
This will be a modified character dining experience, so the characters won’t be visiting your table but you will be able to see them dressed up in their holiday best from afar.
Holiday-themed motorcade with Santa
In addition to the Mickey and Friends and Pixar motorcades, Santa will join in on the fun with a candy-apple red convertible and a crew of festive elves.
Sunset Season’s Greetings
When the sun goes down, guests will be dazzled by a beautiful projection show on the Tower of Terror.
And, one of the best parts? The entire area gets sprinkled with snow (aka Snoap)!
Note: Sunset Season’s Greetings will alternate with the 50th Anniversary Beacon of Magic.
Frozen Sing-Along with holiday finale
The very popular Frozen Ever After Sing-Along gets a seasonal tag during the holidays!
And, unlike the non-holiday version, this one has Olaf!
What about Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!?
Disney has been fairly closed lipped about the popular holiday-themed Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam!.
At this point, no official word has been released, however, the Walt Disney World website does mention that it will be returning in 2021.
But, all the latest rumors lead us to believe that it will not be returning for 2021.
What does Animal Kingdom do for the holidays?
Even animal Kingdom gets in on the holiday fun!
Merry Menagerie is back for 2021!
During the daytime, you’ll be able to see giant artisan-sculpted animal puppets.
And at night, the buildings are framed in gorgeous rooftop luminaries.
The popular flotillas will get a makeover including favorite characters decked out in festive holiday attire. Here’s what you’ll see:
- Santa Claus Festive Flotilla
- Donald’s Dino Bash Flotilla
- Chip & Dale’s Festive Flotilla
- Discovery Island Drummers Festive Flotilla
Animal Kingdom’s decorations are definitely worth checking out. They are different from what you see in the other parks, but their uniqueness is what makes them worth a 2nd look:
Tree of Life Awakenings
Also returning this year is the holiday-themed version of the Tree of Life Awakenings projections on the Tree of Life.
This projection show plays intermittently (alternating with the 50th Anniversary Beacon of Magic) starting at sundown.
Disney Springs for the holidays
Instead of the popular Christmas Tree Trail, guests will instead find the trees spread out throughout the entire Disney Springs shopping area.
Known as a Christmas Tree Stroll, maps of where to find the trees are available at participating locations in Disney Springs, including City Works Eatery & Pour House, Planet Hollywood, UNDER ARMOUR BRAND HOUSE, Amorette’s Patisserie, The BOATHOUSE, and Basin.
Click on the maps below for a closer look.
You can also find the trees on the map in the My Disney Experience app.
Let it snow! Disney Springs gets in on the snoap (aka fake snow) action, with flurries taking place each evening through Dec. 30 around Town Center.
Jock Lindsey’s Holiday Bar
And, don’t forget Jock Lindsey’s! Once again, this year they will get a special holiday-themed menu plus lots of fun decorations.
This year’s menu includes (each item available now through Dec. 30):
- Venison Slider – Sliders with venison sausage patties, arugula, tomato, and cranberry aïoli on house made buns
- Fried Brussel Sprouts – Fried Brussel sprouts with bacon vinaigrette
- Holiday Lights Deviled Eggs – Colored deviled eggs with tobiko, and shrimp
- Ham and Brie Flatbread – Shaved ham and brie cheese, pomegranate seeds, granny smith apples, apple vinaigrette, and watercress
- Cookies and Milk – Assorted Christmas cookies and coquito
- Lump of Coal Dessert – Cookies and cream ganache “coal”
- Elf Elixir –Tequila, crème de menthe, and half & half with cookie crumb and holly leaf sugar garnishes
- Claus Mo – Traditional cosmopolitan with a shimmery twist garnished with red and white sugar and a candy cane
- Yule Mule – Gin, ginger beer, cranberry juice, and rosemary simple syrup with a holly leaf sugar garnish
Santa may not be able to sit next to Santa, but you’ll still be able to get a photo with him at Disney Springs!
You’ll be able to find him at Once Upon a Toy, greeting guests Nov. 12-Dec. 14 from 10 a.m.- 9 p.m., and Dec. 15-Dec. 24 from 10 a.m.-11 p.m where you’ll be able to take a physically distanced photo with everyone’s favorite jolly old elf.
Beginning Nov. 12, you’ll join a virtual queue in the My Disney Experience app to meet Santa Claus.
Open the app, click the three lines at the bottom right of the screen, select “Virtual Queues,” tap “Join Virtual Queue,” and then go to the “Disney Springs” tab to join the queue.
Important: You can either join starting at 9 a.m. or 4 p.m and you must be at Disney Springs to do so.
DJs will play music at the AdventHealth Waterside Stage during the day and at night. There will also be performers in the evenings, including toy soldier stilt-walkers and snowflake skaters.
Food & Beverages
There are, of course, several locations to purchase limited-time, holiday treats.
- White Chocolate Peppermint Éclair with White Chocolate and Peppermint Mousse (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Santa Mickey Dome Cake (available Nov. 5-Dec. 30)
- Holiday Mickey Mousse Mini Dome Cake (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Holiday Parfait – Bourbon white chocolate mousse, cranberry cherry panna cotta, maple chocolate ganache, and chocolate chiffon cake (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- NYE Petite Cake (available Dec. 31)
- Cherry Jubilee Bubble Waffle – Bubble waffle filled with scoops of vanilla ice cream, cherries jubilee fillings, and whipped cream (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Santa Hot Crêpe – Sweet crêpe filled with eggnog custard topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream (available Nov. 26- Dec. 30)
- Holiday Turkey Burger – Turkey patty, butternut squash risotto cake, bacon-cranberry jam, lettuce, and tomato (available Nov. 5-Dec. 1)
- “Oh Deer” Cookie Shake – Hazelnut liqueur, vanilla gelato, cinnamon beverage syrup, whipped cream, cinnamon, and sugar dusting with ginger deer garnish (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Snowman on the Beach Margarita – Silver tequila, key lime juice, crème de coconut, sweet and sour, graham cracker rim, chocolate pearls, and carrot sugar piece (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
The Daily Poutine
- Gobbler Poutine – Turkey, brown gravy, cranberry chutney, and cheese curds (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Olaf Hot Cocoa Surprise (available Nov.12- Dec. 30)
- Santa Mickey Piñata (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Gingerbread Ganache Square (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Peppermint Bark (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Chocolate Christmas Cottage (available Dec. 22- Dec. 30)
Outdoor Carts and Kiosks
- Mistletoe – Coconut rum, melon liqueur, blue curaçao, orange juice, pineapple juice, and Sprite (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Fireside Cider – Cinnamon whiskey, vanilla vodka, white cranberry juice, grenadine, and Ginger Ale (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Merry Margarita – Tequila, ginger liqueur, cinnamon beverage syrup, white cranberry juice, sweet and sour, and grenadine (available Nov. 5- Dec. 30)
- Peppermint Bark Nachos (Nov. 5-Dec. 30)
The Polite Pig
- Pumpkin Mudslide Cocktail and The Polite Pig Pie (Nov. 5-Dec. 31)
- Pumpkin Cupcakes (Now-Nov. 28)
- Nutella French Toast Cupcakes (Nov. 8-14)
- Cannoli Cupcakes (Nov. 15-21)
- Pumpkin Spice Boba Tea (Now-Nov. 15)
Vivoli il Gelato
- Red Velvet Cannoli and Red Velvet Peppermint Cheesecake Cookie Sandwich (Nov. 8-Dec. 31)
What is not available for 2021 at Disney Springs
- Christmas Tree Trail – While there won’t be a trail, you will still be able to see the Christmas trees – they’ll just be scattered throughout all of Disney Springs instead of concentrated in one area.
- Santa’s chalet – Santa typically meets guests in his own private chalet, but this year things are a bit different.
- Stitch’s Holiday Gift Hunt – In previous years, guests were invited to participate in a fun scavenger hunt (much like the ones offered at Epcot), however, it doesn’t look like those will be back this year.
Holiday decorations at the resorts
All the resorts get in on the action complete with gorgeous holiday decorations and festive drinks, sweets, and treats. And for 2021, the gingerbread houses are returning, too!
If you are looking to do a resort tour, here are some of our favorites:
Grand Floridian: Giant, life-size gingerbread house (open Nov. 10 through Jan. 1, 2022) packed with tons of details. You can purchase smaller versions and gingerbread ornaments to take home with you.
Oh, and there’s even a “Gingerbread House Menu,” where you can order festive treats!
Beach Club: Life-size spinning carousel made of gingerbread. This year’s theme is The Little Mermaid. This is open Nov. 1 through Jan. 2, 2022.
Yacht Club: Fun holiday village and miniature train.
Wilderness Lodge: Fan favorite and known for its decorations.
Boardwalk: One of our favorite lobbies with a gorgeous tree and tons of garland. Plus, they typically have a miniature display of the Boardwalk.
Ft. Wilderness: The only place you can book a holiday “sleigh” ride!
Special holiday tours
Unfortunately, the 2 holiday tours typically found this time of the year – the Yuletide Fantasy Tour and the Holiday D-Lights Tour, won’t be held in 2021.
Holiday Foodie Guides
What would the holidays be without all the tasty treats?
Disney puts out “Foodie Guides” to help you find everything that is available.
If food is your jam, make sure you check them out before you go:
Read more about the holidays at Disney World
Can’t get enough of the holidays at Walt Disney World? Check out these posts for helpful information and tips!
- All About the Holidays at Walt Disney World
- 5 things to look forward to this holiday season
- Complete Guide to Disney Very Merriest After Hours
- Overview of Epcot’s Festival of the Holidays
- Why you should consider purchasing a Candlelight Processional Dining Package
- Christmas at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Christmas at Animal Kingdom
- Where to Find Santa Claus at Walt Disney World
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