Disney World is known for being one of the most magical places on Earth, and they handle their Walt Disney World Christmas time with that same magic. In a matter of days, or in some cases hours, parks and resorts transform into winter wonderlands, fit for royalty.
If you and your Disney posse are holiday experts, you may already know about the 70 foot tall Christmas tree in Main Street USA, or the Santa hat on the Dino in Hollywood Studios. But, as with anything Disney, a Walt Disney World Christmas is shrouded in more than a few Disney World secrets. Here, we’re unveiling a little of the magic. It’s not a spoiler exactly, but more a way to help you recognize and appreciate more of the special surprises that Disney World brings to this special time of year.
Transitioning to a Walt Disney World Christmas- Is It Really Overnight?
Despite the rumors, Magic Kingdom is the only Walt Disney World park that transforms overnight. Magic Kingdom is the most heavily decorated for Halloween, and those decorations do not age well. So, once October 31st is over, they have to go.
Magic Kingdom Christmas décor then begins showing up November First. Other parks are a little slower to get the party started, with Christmas décor appearing later in the month. EPCOT receives its holiday décor the latest, usually at the end of November, once the Food and Wine festival has concluded. All the resorts on the property are decorated between late October and Thanksgiving depending on the resort and the level. For example, the deluxe resorts usually receive décor first.
While Magic Kingdom does transform overnight, not the entire park does. During the first few days after Halloween, the exterior of all buildings will be covered in garland and wreaths, but not necessarily the interior. Inside many of the shops, Halloween merchandise is still sold for days before being removed. It creates an odd balance of spooky and festive.
Transforming Magic Kingdom for Christmas
During the transition between holidays, the Magic Kingdom seems to transform overnight. From Halloween night to November 1st, pumpkins turn into wreaths as quickly as the Fairy Godmother turned a pumpkin into Cinderella’s carriage.
With the Magic Kingdom transforming so quickly, just how does Disney do it without the help of a Fairy Godmother?
Answering this Walt Disney World Christmas time conundrum is fairly simple, really. The saying “many hands make light work,” comes to mind.
During the holidays, the Disney World resort employs an extra 90 cast members just to assist with holiday décor. There are also 41 cast members who work tirelessly year round to plan, design, prepare, set up, and take down the holiday decorations.
To accomplish the overnight transformation of Magic Kingdom, prep work is key. Prior to the quick transformation, spots are cleared for all the Christmas trees, so they can be placed quickly. Some statues are temporarily removed, along with some other year round décor. Most guests do not notice the missing pieces until the trees are taking their place.
To get all the beautiful holiday décor inside Magic Kingdom, semi trucks are driven right down Main Street USA and unloaded as close as possible to where each item is needed. Cast members unload the trucks quickly and even wheel the smaller Christmas trees around Main Street to where they need to go.
The wreaths and garland are decorated behind the scenes to ensure fast placement in the park. When being installed, cast members on the ground work simultaneously with cast members in boom forklifts to place the garlands, wreaths and lights where they need to go.
To accomplish the massive light effect of Elsa enchanting the castle, the nets of lights are actually placed in early October, many sources say. A crane is used to install the lights, which can take multiple days and ruin traditional Cinderella Castle photos. Due to this, the lights are placed prior to any Halloween or Disney World Christmas parties.
Why Does Magic Kingdom Receive Décor Faster?
Magic Kingdom receives its holiday décor the quickest simply because it has to. With only a week in between the typical Halloween party and the beginning of the Walt Disney World Christmas parties, the décor must be moved in quickly.
Another reason for the fast transformation inside the Magic Kingdom is due to the centrality of the décor. Unlike the other three theme parks, Magic Kingdom’s holiday decorations are centralized mainly to Main Street USA and the entrance. Amongst the other parks, decorations are spread out and take longer to install.
The Magic Kingdom is also the only theme park to be featured in the Walt Disney World Christmas Parade taping, which usually takes place shortly after Halloween.
Are There any Magic Kingdom Christmas Decorations that Are Placed Later?
The large Christmas tree inside the Magic Kingdom has to be patient for its installation inside the park. While the castle has been lit up, and wreaths hung for days, there is often still no giant tree. The famous Christmas tree is over 70 feet tall and stands just inside the entrance to the park between Main Street USA and the train station.
Because the Walt Disney World Christmas parade heads down Main Street, Disney must wait to place the tree until after to avoid obstructing any camera shots necessary during filming. In the past, the tree was installed before the tapings, but more recently has not been.
Walt Disney World Christmas Time in EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios
While the Magic Kingdom has the most festive reputation during Walt Disney World’s Christmas time, the other parks are not left out by any means. Each park on the property receives its own unique holiday touches.
EPCOT goes all out for the holidays. Each year, the countries of the World Showcase transform into their own Christmas celebrations. Traditional holiday food is served at kiosks inside each country, giving guests a chance to learn about and enjoy different cultures.
Each country also features live music numbers to celebrate the season and heritage. Traditionally, the Candlelight Processional celebrates the story of the first Christmas with a choir and full orchestra.
Hollywood Studios has taken a big blow recently when it comes to Walt Disney World Christmas decor. In the past, the buildings of New York Street were packed full of the Osborne Family Lights. Unfortunately, this phenomenal spectacular, complete with endless glittering illumination and even snow, had its final show in 2016.
Today, Hollywood Studios shows more vintage holiday décor reminiscent of the great screen age of the 1940s. Wreaths and traditional holiday ornamentation cover both sides of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. Toy Story Land sees a minor overhaul with holiday theming overlaid into the rides. In the past, large festive strings of holiday lights were strung overhead to adding to the toy-like feel.
Inside Animal Kingdom, massive trees are erected at the entrance of the park. They are adorned with African and Asian themed ornaments, usually animals. The buildings inside the park receive holiday overlays and lights, and many of the musical performers add some holiday songs into their lineup.
The nighttime hours inside Animal Kingdom during the Walt Disney World Christmas time celebration bring a new Tree of Life show with a holiday theme.
Celebrating the Holidays After Dark
One of the biggest draws of Christmas time at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This nighttime spectacular is special ticketed event, requiring a fee outside of general admission supplied by a theme park ticket purchase.
Since attendance is capped, it’s great way to experience the Magic Kingdom with fewer crowds. Throughout the party, Disney brings Christmas to life through special shows, a holiday-themed parade, exclusive snacks and even snow on Main Street. Free hot chocolate and cookies are available throughout the event as well as character meet and greets featuring some seldom seen characters.
The highlight of the event is the fireworks display. While Disney goes out of its way on a nightly basis to create spectacular nighttime spectacles, Magic Kingdom’s holiday party shows are above and beyond. Some may say the fireworks alone are worth the price of the ticket.
Disney World Christmas Time in 2022
When celebrating a Walt Disney World Christmas in 2022, you can expect some changes, particularly when compared to 2020 and the pandemic era.
Overall, it seems the decorations are not appearing as quickly as they have in the past. This is most likely due to changes brought in during the pandemic.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is returning for 2022, after being gone during the pandemic era.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins November 8th and continues through December 22, 2022. This after hours event requires a separate ticket to attend, but continues to offer many of the special Christmas touches guests loved to receive during Mickey’s Very Merry event, including special entertainment, the return of a Christmas parade and access to all of the rides you could wish for.
Likewise, EPCOT, the Candlelight Processional will return to EPCOT in 2022, beginning November 25, featuring celebrity narrators such as Pat Sajak, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chita Rivera and Jodi Benson. Guests can also sample season treats hailing from the countries of the World Showcase in the International Festival of the Holidays.
Walt Disney Christmas Party
Visiting Disney World at Christmas Time means you have the opportunity to join Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The party requires a special ticket, but allows after hours access to Magic Kingdom with less crowds.
The party features a specialty Christmas parade, fireworks show, and special character meet and greets with Disney characters in Christmas garb, and even Santa himself.
Specialty Christmas food options can be found scattered throughout the park and are included in the price of your ticket.
Additionally, guests can ride the rides with lesser waits due to reduced capacity in the parks during the party.
Is Disney World Open Christmas Day
One of the most common questions about Disney World Christmas Time is about whether or not Disney World is open on Christmas Day. The answer is yes!
Disney World is open on Christmas Day, but on this particular day, you may find it advantageous to avoid the parks. Christmas Day is one of the most popular days to visit the Disney World theme parks, as is the week leading up to, and after.
The parks often reach level 10 crowd levels leading up to and on Christmas day, and wait times can be a bit unbearable. For tips on how to handle these crowds, click here.
But, if you are planning a Disney trip over Christmas, be sure to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks spectacular on Christmas day.